ARMS LIMITATION AND PEACE PROJECTS
Mussolini’s European Pact.—Outstanding among efforts to pour oil on the troubled European waters during March were two proposals: One the MacDonald “compromise” scheme for arms limitation, and the other Premier Mussolini’s plan for a new concert of the four major European powers. The latter was brought forward during the visit of Premier MacDonald and Foreign Minister Sir John Simon to Italy on March 17-19. Plainly it called for a difficult operation—a revision of the Versailles Treaty which would at the same time satisfy Germany and secure the consent of France. The scheme was drawn up in considerable detail, including agenda for a four-power conference of Great Britain, France, Italy, and Germany, should its acceptance ever reach a point that would make such a conference worth while. Its main proposals were summarized as follows:
Article 1. The four Western European powers— Germany, France, Great Britain, and Italy— undertake to realize among themselves an effective policy of co-operation with a view to the maintenance of peace in accordance with the spirit of the Briand-Kellogg pact and the “no force” pact; and undertake to act in the domain of European relations so that this peace policy shall be adopted in case of necessity by other states also.
Article 2. The four powers confirm the principle of revision of the peace treaties in accordance with the League of Nations covenant in case a situation susceptible of leading to a conflict among states should arise. They declare at the same time that this principle of revision can be applied only within the framework of the League of Nations in a spirit of mutual comprehension, solidarity, and reciprocal interest.
Article 3. France, Great Britain, and Italy declare that, in case the disarmament conference shall reach only partial results, the equality of rights recognized in behalf of Germany should have effective value, and Germany undertakes to realize this equality of rights by stages which will be fixed by successive understandings to be concluded among the four powers through the ordinary diplomatic channels.
The four powers undertake to reach similar understandings relating to Austria, Hungary, and Bulgaria.
Article 4. In all questions, political and nonpolitical, European or extra-European, as well as in the colonial domain, the four powers undertake to adopt, as far as possible, a common line of conduct.
Article 5. This political agreement of understanding and co-operation, which will be submitted if necessary to approval by the parliaments within three months, will endure ten years, and it is understood it will be renewed for the same period if it has not been denounced by one of the contracting parties one year before its expiration.
Article 6. The present pact will be registered at the Secretariat of the League of Nations.
It was notable that the scheme offered little voice in the conduct of European affairs to the lesser states. And it also envisaged armament and territorial concessions to Germany without much provision for the security on which France has always insisted. The mere suggestion of a readjustment of frontiers in Central Europe sent Foreign Minister Titulesque of Rumania hastening to France for reassurances. These he presumably received, for in the French press great doubt was expressed whether the dubious co-operation of Italy and Germany promised in the Italian plan would be adequate compensation for granting equality to Germany and throwing over the whole system of alliances built up by France since the war.
British Arms Limitation Plan.—In a desperate effort to save the foundering arms conference, Premier MacDonald came to Geneva in mid-March and with an appeal of great eloquence presented a new draft treaty of 96 articles—described by the British as a salad of all the proposals, Hoover, French, Japanese, Italian, and British, which have been placed before the conference. The treaty, from 10,000 to 12,000 words long, was notable for its definiteness in figures; in its main outlines it could be summarized as follows:
(1) Military effectives—200,000 each for France, Germany, Italy, and Poland, with 200,000 and 50,000 additional to France and Italy, respectively, as colonial powers; 500,000 for the Soviet Republic, and lesser numbers for smaller states.
(2) Limitation of material—mobile land guns limited to 4-inch; coast defense to 16-inch; tanks to 16 tons; with provision for destruction of prohibited material within three years.
(3) Aircraft—500 each for France, Italy, England, United States, Russia, Japan, with a scheme for complete abolition of military craft.
(4) Navies—in general, to hold to the situation created by the Washington and London conferences until another conference in 1935; the smaller powers keeping to 1932 strength, and France and Italy coming into the London treaty.
(5) Security—provision that breach of the Briand-Kellogg Peace Pact is a matter of interest to all nations, and that in the event of a breach there should be a conference among the parties if any five of them, including one at least of the great powers, so request.
Adjournment of Arms Conference.—On March 27 the disarmament conference agreed to accept the British draft treaty as a basis for discussion at its next meeting, and adjourned until April 25. It will then take up the clauses of the treaty providing for a universal consultative and non-neutrality agreement. The adjournment ended a session of slight accomplishment, with a growing tendency of the Continental states to align themselves in two camps—Italy, Hungary, and Germany against France and her satellites. Japan notified the conference of her increased needs arising from the situation in j the Far East (with the suggestion that Manchukuo would need a navy). Germany, it was suspected, was more ready to have the conference break up without results than to have all nations bound to progressive and drastic reductions.
Plans for Economic Conference.— During conversations in London at the close of March between Premier MacDonald and Norman H. Davis, President Roosevelt’s ambassador-at-large, it was decided that the planning committee for the world economic conference should again get together early in April, and that every effort should be made to call the conference itself before the end of May. The emphasis thus placed on the solution of world economic problems was in line with the evident policy of the American administration, which has inclined to put international debt settlements into the background as subordinate to and dependent on the vital problem of general world recovery.
In conversations with the British ambassador in Washington, questions relating to the world economic situation took precedence. There was some talk in March of French payment of the $19,000,000 defaulted last December, but Premier Daladier indicated that he wished first a reversal of the Chamber’s action of December 14, and also a clear expression of the views of the new American administration.
Japan Quits League.—After approval of the cabinet’s action by the Privy Council, Japan on March 27 formally notified the League of Nations of its decision to withdraw from that body because of “irreconcilable” differences over Manchuria. The note insisted that the League authorities had disregarded gross errors in the Lytton report and had made the mistake of considering China as an organized nation, instead of allowing the operation of the covenant to vary with varying conditions. At the same time Japanese officials declared that Japan was still ready to cooperate with the western nations and had no desire of embarking on a policy of isolation.
In the Japanese press the political difficulties involved in the split with the League were regarded as less serious than the financial strain due to increased military expenditures and the boycott of Japanese goods abroad. This, it was thought, might bring about the downfall in Japan of the whole system of private ownership. As regards control of mandate islands in the Pacific, Japanese officials did not raise the question, but declared that, if raised by others, it would be met by Japan’s inflexible determination to keep the islands. At Geneva, on the other hand, it was pointed out that the League Council had definitely ruled that control of a mandate does not constitute sovereignty, and that Italy, Germany, and other states would never admit a principle in accordance with which England and France might lay claim to their mandate territory.
America to Act with League.—On March 14 the American State Department accepted the invitation of the League to participate in the deliberations of its advisory committee of twenty-six on Manchuria. Minister Hugh R. Wilson was named as American representative, but without the power to vote or to take any action binding on his government. It was pointed out, however, that this latter restriction applied also to the other members of the committee. The Soviet Republic had previously declined an invitation to take part. In its subsequent meetings the advisory committee proceeded to take up the question of an arms embargo, and the practical application of the principle of non-recognition of Manchukuo, which it was agreed would bar all international relationships—financial, postal, commercial, or diplomatic.
Chinese Governmental Changes.—The complete fiasco of Chinese defense measures in Jehol led at last to the downfall of the young Marshal Chang Hsueh-liang, who on March 8 resigned as military over- lord in North China and left for Shanghai. President Chiang Kai-shek, who was in Peiping at the time, placed the Nanking War Minister, General Ho Ying-chin, in charge of the northern forces. At Nanking, later in the month, former Premier Wang Ching-wei was again made premier, or president of the Executive Council, as well as chairman of the Central Political Council, a position which, during Wang’s absence abroad, had been held by Finance Minister T. V. Soong.
Warfare on Jehol Border.—The capture of Jehol city was accomplished on March 4, when according to press reports 5,000 Chinese troops surrendered to the first body of 120 Japanese who entered the capital. Subsequently the Japanese advanced southward and occupied without much opposition the Kupei, Sifeng, and other passes through the Great Wall into China. Further advance toward Peiping was threatened in case of further hostilities on the part of the Chinese forces; but the departure of President Chiang Kaishek from Peiping indicated his unwillingness to provoke such an advance, and the Japanese for the present appeared unready to arouse further hostility of the western powers by occupation of North China.
SOUTH AMERICAN WARFARE
League Condemns Peru.—On March 18 the League Council, ending its efforts at conciliation in the Leticia dispute, adopted the report of its special committee which recognized the Leticia corridor as Colombian territory and recommended the withdrawal of Peruvian troops. Imitating the Japanese example, the Peruvian representative, Dr. Francisco Garcia Calderon, thereupon withdrew from the council. Another committee was created, with Sean Lester of the Irish Free State as chairman, which was to invite the co-operation of the United States and Brazil. With both these countries represented, the committee subsequently took up the question of sanctions, and decided to inquire among nations concerned as to the feasibility of an arms embargo against Peru. A deterrent to such a measure in the case of the United States, as the American representative Hugh Wilson pointed out, was that a resolution giving the President power to declare an embargo had not yet been adopted by both Senate and House.
Meantime Colombia by the middle of March was reported to have concentrated some 10,000 troops along the Putumayo River in readiness for offensive operations. On March 27 the Peruvian outpost of Guepi was captured by two Colombian gunboats, aircraft, and a landing force. A few were killed and wounded on both sides, and 24 Peruvians were taken prisoners. This was the first Colombian incursion into Peruvian territory.
Chaco Hostilities.—During March Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and Peru, which had been concerting on measures for settlement of the Chaco warfare, proposed to both belligerents a 60-day truce preliminary to negotiations. Each warring nation, however, was suspicious lest the other secure special advantages, and Bolivia negatived the proposal by refusing to evacuate her occupied territory. At the close of the month the A-B-C powers were still at work on their proposals, with support from the League and the American neutral commission in Washington. In the fighting zone Bolivia’s offensive continued but without decisive gains. Paraguay lost 3 or 4 outposts but still clung to Fort Ayala (Nanawa for Bolivia), which had long borne the brunt of Bolivian attacks.
Nazi Rule Established.—Following its success in the elections of March 5, the Nazi-Nationalist coalition in Germany proceeded quickly to clear the way for its unhampered rule during the next four years. The municipal and communal elections of March 12 resulted in a similar easy victory, the government ticket securing a majority even in “Red” Berlin and a two- thirds majority in the Prussian upper chamber. On March 12—Germany’s Memorial Day—the President decreed that the republican red, black, and gold flag should be replaced by the old imperial black, white, and red, with the Nazi swastika superimposed.
In Bavaria, Premier Held by presidential decree was forced to resign and General Franz von Epp was made Nazi federal commissioner. Similar action was taken in Saxony, Baden, and other states. Meeting in the garrison church at Potsdam, the new Reichstag on March 23 virtually scrapped the Weimar Constitution by passing an “enabling act” which gave the government full power to enact laws by decree, without constitutional procedure, so far as such laws did not deal with the institution of the Reichstag or Federal Council as such or modify the prerogatives of the President. Treaties were to go into effect without legislative consent. And all these dictatorial powers were to continue till April 1, 1937. All constitutional guarantees, legislative control of money bills, even the powers of the president, went by the board. In fact, the Chancellor became the German government. The Reichstag thereupon adjourned sine die. As might be expected, the tone of Chancellor Hitler’s speech to the Reichstag was sobered by his responsibilities. He called for friendly relations with foreign powers, declared “the question of monarchic restoration as indiscussible at present,” and gave assurance that the existence of the Reichstag and Federal Council was not threatened, that the prerogatives of the president were to remain untouched, that the federal states would not be abolished, nor would the rights of the churches be curtailed.
On only one point did prospects of a clash appear between the Nationalist and Nazi members of the cabinet; this was as to whether Vice Chancellor von Papen or the Nazi leader Wilhelm Goering should be the next premier of Prussia. Settlement of this question was postponed until the end of April.
Anti-Jewish Campaign.—The accompaniment of Hitlerite rule in Germany which aroused greatest resentment abroad and created the chief possibility of immediate friction with foreign governments was the intense anti-Jewish campaign undertaken by Nazi followers throughout the Reich. Jewish shops were pillaged, homes searched, and arrests made by uncontrolled bands of brown shirts—all of which was accompanied by outrages and acts of personal violence which were inevitably exaggerated in reports spread abroad. This so-called “anti-German propaganda” in foreign countries stirred the Nazis to new fury. The National Socialist Headquarters in Munich (as distinct from the government—like the Communist party in Russia) proclaimed a systematic boycott of Jewish business establishments, goods, professional men, and trades men, and the creation of a policy of limiting Jews in schools and professions to their proper proportion (about 1 per cent) of the total population. The boycott lasted only one day, April 1, but was to be renewed unless “atrocity propaganda” ceased outside Germany.
Fears of Nazi Coup in Austria.—Despite the great strength of the Austrian Socialist party, the success of the Hitlerite movement in Germany aroused fears of a Nazi putsch in Austria, supported by pan-German sentiment, which would throw the country into the arms of Germany. To forestall this, Premier Dollfuss early in March dissolved Parliament, assumed dictatorial powers, and when a rump parliament met on March 15 cleared out the gathering by means of police. Apparently Premier Dollfuss could depend on both police and army support in dealing with Nazi disturbances, as well as with the armed Schutzbund organization of the Socialists and the Heimwehr of the Clerical Fascists.
Royalist Control in Greece.—The parliamentary elections of March 5 in Greece resulted in a slight majority—135: 111—for the Royalist party over the Venizelist republican coalition. The plans of M. Tsaldaris, leader of the Royalists, for organizing a new ministry were temporarily interrupted by the attempt of General Nicholas Plastiras (former minister under Tsaldaris) to set up a military dictatorship. This lasted only 18 hours, after which M. Tsaldaris resumed his work of establishing a cabinet, which is pledged to respect for the republican constitution.
Anglo-Soviet Friction.—Relations between England and the Soviet Republic were strained by the arrest early in March of 6 British electrical engineers on charges of bribery and responsibility for breakdowns in Russian electric plants. Two, including Allan Monkhouse, chief of the Metro-Vickers Co. staff, were speedily released, but 4 others were held for trial in April, despite British official protests and threats of rupture of trade relations. Meanwhile, there was a considerable exodus from Russia of American engineers, with even less prospect of diplomatic protection, and a tendency in Washington to postpone the question of renewal of relations with the Soviet Republic.
India Question before Parliament.—On March 17 the British government published as a White Paper the draft of the new constitution for India, providing a federation of all the Indian states, with a central legislature and cabinet as well as legislatures for each of the 11 provinces. About 38,000,000 Indians, or 27 per cent of the adult population, are to vote for the provincial legislatures, and 6,000,000 for the lower house of the federal legislature. The Viceroy retains power to override the cabinet on questions of defense, foreign relations, finance, protection of minorities, religion, and similar matters. The proposals—condemned by British “die-hards” as a surrender and by Indian Nationalists as a sham—were debated 3 days in the House and then referred to a joint committee of Parliament.