FROM JUNE 3 TO JULY 3
ITALY AND THE LEAGUE
End of Sanctions. —Long before the close of June it became clear that the League sanctions against Italy would be lifted at the special session of the League Assembly called to meet on June 30. Recognition of Italy’s war gains was a more serious matter, opposed by the smaller states and setting a bad precedent for the future, but it appeared likely that this would be left for separate negotiations among Italy, Britain, and France, the powers primarily concerned.
The calling of the special Assembly session was at the request of Argentina, whose Foreign Minister, Senor Lamas Saavedra, took a strong stand against recognition of territory acquired by warfare and indicated that Argentina would leave the League if such action were taken. In England the decision to abandon sanctions was reached at a Cabinet meeting in mid-June. In his difficult speech of explanation in the House of Commons Foreign Minister Anthony Eden stressed the point that nothing could be gained for Ethiopia by continuing the sanctions, and that frank recognition of their failure was the only practical course to preserve the League and avoid a break with Italy. Naturally the Foreign Minister and other British Cabinet leaders justified their surrender by emphasizing anew the menacing situation in the Rhineland, though Mr. Eden in his speech made no mention of Germany’s failure to respond to the recent British questionnaire. The decision in London was warmly supported in Ottawa and Dublin, and also later in Paris, though France felt that she should have been consulted beforehand to maintain the united front of the two powers.
League Revision Proposals. —Failure of the League sanctions against Italy gave rise to various proposals for revision of the League. England and certain American members, notably Chile, favored dropping Art. XVI of the Covenant, with its provisions for compulsory support of sanctions against aggressors, and Art. X with its guarantees of the territorial integrity of all member states. The French proposal was that “a group of powers—whether that group originates from a given geographical situation or from a community of interests—must be ready itself to employ all its strength” against an aggressor, while at the same time the whole League would remain obligated to apply economic and financial sanctions. This last proposal, though retaining elements of the association of nations envisaged by the League founders, would tend inevitably toward the old pre-war system of military alliances. In truth the League has suffered a series of severe reverses in the Manchurian crisis, in the Chaco war, which was only ended by American intercession after the mutual exhaustion of the participants, and finally in the African conflict. It has been fatally handicapped by the non-participation or defection of the United States, Germany, and Japan; and the small states which looked to it for protection, especially those of Central Europe, are now seeking support elsewhere.
Public Opinion and Foreign Policy. —The failure of British diplomacy in the Ethiopian crisis has been cited in more than one quarter as an example of the danger of mixing foreign policy and domestic politics. In simple terms, the Baldwin government embarked on the sanctions policy in response to the big pro- League and pro-peace vote of last year. The Hoare-Laval compromise was rejected for the same cause. But when Italy showed that she meant business, and that nothing would stop her short of a blockade and actual war, the pro-sanctionists experienced a quick change of heart, and evidence would seem to indicate that British public opinion has now swallowed the Ethiopian failure with no great qualms. The danger of public opinion as a guide to foreign policy is that it is highly emotional, unrealistic, and subject to change. In this country, similarly, the Bryan peace treaties and Kellogg-Briand pact were greeted with much acclaim, but efforts to “implement” them and give them some practical value made no popular appeal. Perhaps the sharpest indictment of public opinion, as a factor in British policy, is contributed by Andre Geraud (Pertimax) to the July number of Foreign Affairs. This public opinion, he writes,
Constitutes a force which is illogical, sentimental, and capricious. The fact that it is quiescent at one moment seems only to mean that the next moment it will break out with greater fury. Its highs and lows are unpredictable. It has no fixed point of reference. Yet as it gyrates it carries both Parliament and Cabinet with it. This is dangerous, because Germany and those who are determined to resist her both count on having British opinion on their side; and in the end one or the other will necessarily have been deceived.
It is as though a badly stowed cargo could sink the European ship by shifting violently from side to side, now to starboard, now to port, like a sort of battering ram.
That Britain has certain fundamental principles of foreign policy and may revert to them is suggested by another article, by the diplomat Harold Nicolson, in the same magazine. These principles as he outlines them are, first and foremost, protection of communications and trade by powerful air and sea forces; auxiliary to that, guarding against the securing of hegemony in Europe by any one power; and corollary to this second principle, keeping a watchful eye on Germany and extending a helping hand to the smaller European states.
Navies and Trade Routes. —As an instance of the influence of naval power on the movement of trade, it is interesting to note that the aerial and submarine threat to British communications through the Mediterranean, emphasized in the recent strained relations between England and Italy during the Ethiopian warfare, has led the British to consider once more the route around Africa as a main line of traffic with the Orient. As has been pointed out in an article by Mr. Hector Bywater, the Cape route as compared with the Suez route is only 10 per cent longer to Melbourne, 37 per cent to Hongkong, and 44 per cent to Singapore, though to Calcutta and Bombay the percentages of increase are respectively 51 and 77. Since last August there has already been a considerable shift of trade to the longer route, the increased fuel cost being partly compensated by saving of canal tolls. A change of this nature would affect British naval dispositions, and would mean a renewed importance for Cape Town as an intermediate base.
There is no indication, however, that Britain is ready to surrender her grip on the Mediterranean. Tenure of the approaches from east and west is still a vital factor, though Malta has lost much of its value and the ports of Cyprus are within 250 miles of the Italian air bases in Rhodes. Negotiations for a Mediterranean accord, which as described by the French Foreign Office “would give no nation hegemony,” are already under way, and its basic ideas have been outlined in the press as follows:
(1) British naval supremacy would remain assured. The Italian fleet would be divided into three units or squadrons, only one of which would be stationed near waters that might interest Britain. The other two would be stationed in the upper Adriatic.
(2) Italy would have the superior air position. She would keep permanently about 100 planes in Libya and another 100 would be divided between Sicily and the Aegean islands.
(3) Land forces in Egypt and Libya would be limited to 75,000 men by each country, of which one-third would be motorized.
(4) The British may fortify Cyprus and Alexandria in addition to Malta.
France Shaken by Strikes. —Labor pressure on the Blum Socialist Government in France took the form of widespread strikes, the chief aim of which was apparently to ensure quick adoption and execution of the reform measures of the Left program. Although at one time some 1,500,000 workers were on strike, the number at the close of June was reduced to about 180,000. “With calm and dignity,” according to the Socialist Minister of the Interior, “the French workers completed the greatest social conflict the republic has ever known.” But concessions to workers have increased production costs to an extent that will handicap French export trade and business recovery. New government measures provided for collective bargaining, minimum wage, a 40-hour week, and vacations with pay. Munitions manufacture is to be nationalized, and measures are promised to free credit, halt hoarding, and check the flight of capital abroad.
The new Cabinet announced on June 5 was of record size and included three women under-secretaries. It was supported by a vote of 384^210. The foreign policy statement on June 23 was unexpectedly friendly toward Germany, and suggested acceptance of German peace overtures at their face value. The government promised co-operation with England, maintenance of armaments adequate for defense, and promotion of collective security by regional agreements in the Danube basin, in Western Europe, and in the Mediterranean.
Italian Cabinet Changes. —On June 9 Premier Mussolini turned over three of the seven Cabinet posts he has personally headed, giving up Colonies, Foreign Affairs, and corporations, and retaining only the Army, Interior, Navy, and Air ministries. His son-in-law, Count Galeazzo Ciano, took over the Foreign Office, and the pro-League Under-Secretary Fulvio Suvich was dropped. Marshal Badoglio resigned as Viceroy of Ethiopia to reorganize home forces and take charge of a big mobilization timed to coincide with the League meeting in early July.
The Future of Austria. —While England and France were desperately bent on coming to terms with Italy, in order to restore the united “Stresa front” against Germany, rumors persisted that Premier Mussolini was discussing a compromise with the Nazis over Austria, or might consent to a restoration of the Hapsburgs that would grievously upset France’s Little Entente allies. Against a return of the Hapsburgs the Little Entente at a conference in June decided it would at once take armed action, but against an Austro-German union it would not move unless supported by one or more of the major powers. The hopes of the Balkan states for security were pinned chiefly, however, on the belief that Germany would not be ready for aggressive action within the next two years.
New Soviet Constitution. —The democratic trend of present Russian domestic politics would seem clearly indicated by the new Constitution which was made public in June and will be considered for adoption by a special All-Union Congress in November. In its present form this Constitution provides for a parliament of two houses, the Council of the Union elected by popular vote on the basis of one deputy per 300,000 of population, and the Council of Nationalities composed of from two to ten members for each of separate -republics in the Soviet Union. In addition to popular election of the lower chamber, the constitution provides other democratic institutions such as equal legal rights for women, popular election of judges, freedom of speech and press, and freedom of religion. A special article provides that each of the eleven republics composing the Soviet Union “retains its right freely to secede from the U.S.S.R.” The Supreme Council, composed of the two parliamentary bodies, elects a Presidium of 37 members which is the chief executive body, though it in turn appoints the Council of People’s Commissars, a kind of cabinet whose members head the manifold activities of a socialistic state. It is stated that the constitution was made public early in order to promote general discussion before its final adoption. It remains to be seen how much of its liberalism is window dressing, and how its democratic features are to be co-ordinated with the one-party dictatorship that has ruled Russia since the war.
Dardanelles Conference. —The conference to consider Turkey’s request for re-militarization of the Turkish Straits and virtual abolition of the 1923 Straits convention met at Montreux on June 22, Premier Stanley Bruce of Australia was selected to preside. Of the signatories of the 1923 convention Italy alone was not represented, and in view of her absence the conference adjourned until after the special session of the League Assembly at Geneva. In brief, the Turkish proposals are that the Straits be refortified, that the present guarantees for the free passage of submarines and aircraft be changed to a prohibition, that not more than a single cruiser and two torpedo boats of any non- Black Sea state be allowed at one time within the Straits, and that on the other hand the warcraft of the Soviet Republic and other states on the Black Sea, enjoy much freer right of egress into the Mediterranean, Turkey would have the right to close the Straits when she judged herself threatened by war, after “notifying the League for all required purposes and informing all the signatories” of the new convention.
There is no doubt that in the outcome Turkey will regain a large measure of control, but over the passage of warcraft into and out of the Black Sea conflicts of viewpoint are sure to develop between Britain and Russia, and Italy also, with her special interest in oil supply through the Straits, has signified her unwillingness to accept any agreement which, as a Mediterranean naval power, she has not helped to arrange.
UNITED STATES AND LATIN AMERICA
Arms Embargo Ended. —The measures of neutrality adopted by the United States during the Ethiopian warfare—in particular the embargo on munitions export and the withdrawal of protection from American citizens traveling on vessels of belligerents—were ended on June 20 by a presidential proclamation. This announced that the conditions which led to the adoption of the measures, i.e., the state of war in Ethiopia, had “ceased to exist.” Though subsequent to the British Cabinet decision in favor of lifting the sanctions, the American action, it was stated, had been decided upon earlier and independently.
In the general field of American neutrality policy, the Senate Munitions Committee ended its work early in June with a report recommending various measures for maintaining and strengthening the present enactments. These recommendations included (a) extension of the prohibition of loans to belligerents to cover loans made indirectly through foreign nonbelligerent states, (b) limiting the export of all commodities to belligerents (other than medical supplies) to the normal peace-time requirements, (c) clearer definition of the term armed merchantman and refusal of clearance for armed merchantmen carrying passengers from American ports. As indicated to some extent during the African war, it would appear a highly difficult procedure to restrict by legal enactment the increased volume and profits of American neutral trade in war time.
Foreign Policy Planks. —As regards American foreign policy in general, it may be noted that the Republican party platform definitely pledges non-participation in either the League or the World Court, and fails to repeat the 1932 plank in favor of “implementing” the Kellogg Pact. The Democratic platform makes no mention of Court or League, but endorses the “good neighbor policy,” “true neutrality,” and Secretary Hull’s bilateral treaties for increasing foreign trade.
Nicaraguan Upset. —Rivalry for political control in Nicaragua between President Juan Sacasa and his kinsman General Somoza, head of the Nicaragua National Guard, was ended by a military coup which forced the President into exile. Under General Somoza’s dictation a new government was organized with Dr. Carlos Jarquin as Provisional President and with the General himself as the Liberal party candidate for President in the regular autumn election.
During the crisis the United States adhered strictly to its present policy of nonintervention, and when the Chilean and Peruvian governments made representations against our intervening, the State Department expressed regret that these governments had not better informed themselves as to American policy.
China’s Threefold Dangers. —The difficulties of Marshal Chang Kai-shek and his government at Nanking were further increased in June by the mustering of large armies in South China and their threatened invasion of the Nanking-con- trolled provinces to northward. Though presented by the Cantonese leaders as a move to rouse all China against Japan, there was more than a suspicion that incentives and munitions came from Tokyo, and there was a certainty at least that civil strife could only serve to render China more completely helpless against Japanese domination.
After skirmishes in Hunan province the Southern forces halted and there ensued a typical period of diplomatic dickering between Nanking and Canton. Most reports from China, however, insist that “civil war is inevitable” and would probably come before the plenary session of the Kuomintang set for July 10. Faced by the “Red” rebellion in the Northwest, the threat of civil war in the South, and the Japanese penetration in the northern provinces, Marshal Chang labored under the difficulty that a concentration of forces in any one of these regions would expose him to aggressions elsewhere. At the close of June Chino-Japanese relations were again on the point of rupture over the attack on two Japanese smuggling vessels by the Chinese Customs authorities.