FROM JANUARY 10 TO FEBRUARY 10
AMERICA AND THE WAR
AID FOR BRITAIN —On February 9 the “Lease-Lend” bill or, to use its actual title, the bill “to further promote the defense of the United States,” was passed by the House and appeared assured of passage in the Senate without vital modification. After inclusive definitions of the terms “defense article” and “defense information,” the bill in its essential portion (Section III) read as follows:
(A) Notwithstanding the provisions of any other law, the President may, from time to time, when he deems it in the interest of national defense, authorize the Secretary of War, the Secretary of the Navy, or the head of any other department or agency of the government:
(1) To manufacture in arsenals, factories, and shipyards under their jurisdiction, or otherwise procure, any defense article for the government of any country whose defense the President deems vital to the defense of the United States.
(2) To sell, transfer, exchange, lease, lend, or otherwise dispose of, to any such government any defense article.
(3) To test, inspect, prove, repair, outfit, recondition, or otherwise to place in good working order any defense article for any such government under Paragraph 2 of this subsection.
(4) To communicate to any such government information pertaining to any defense article furnished to such government under the proposed bill.
(5) To release for export any defense article to any such government.
(B) The terms and conditions upon which any such foreign government receives any aid authorized under subsection (A) shall be those which the President deems satisfactory, and the benefit to the United States may be payment or repayment in kind or property, or any other direct or indirect benefit which the President deems satisfactory.
The only changes approved by the House were (1) to set a 2-year limit in contracts and a 5-year limit on deliveries; (2) to require approval of chief Army and Navy officers before any transferring from existing stocks; (3) to limit to $1,300,000,000 the shipment of articles originally ordered for our Army and Navy; (4) to stipulate that the bill does not authorize entry of American vessels into a combat zone, or convoy by American warships.
SOVIETY PLANE EMBARGO ENDED —In a note to the Soviet Ambassador made public on January 21, the American State Department announced the ending of the “moral embargo” placed by the President in December of 1939 on the shipment of aircraft and aircraft materials to the Soviet Republic, as a nation then engaged in bombing attacks on civilian populations. The withdrawal of restrictions presumably would not mean a renewal of plane shipments to Russia, since all American aircraft production is now destined for British or home defense. The move was interpreted rather as designed to improve relations with the Soviet Republic and encourage a neutral or favorable Soviet policy in the Balkans and Far East.
Further Export Restrictions. —Effective February 3, the President in January extended United States export restrictions to cover a large number of metals including copper, brass, bronze, zinc, and nickel, as well as potash and potassic fertilizer materials. This order extended the restrictions to practically all metals of value in defense. It was stated in Washington, however, that despite the license restriction on export of petroleum products, Japanese purchases have increased in recent months, amounting to nearly $9,000,000 in November, 1940, as compared with about $7,300,000 the month before.
Blockade Aid Sought. —It was announced in January that Britain was considering a request that the American nations agree to the establishment of a British contraband control station in Trinidad. The object would be to control, not American exports across the Atlantic, but shipments of cotton, oil, and other American products now going to Vladivostok through the Panama Canal. These, it is alleged, release Russian stocks of the same goods for export to Germany, and the possibilities of such traffic have been increased by the new Reich-Soviet trade pact. The British would also like to see a more complete freezing of all credits of Nazi-controlled nations in America, and might even suggest that American nations deny their ports to ships engaged in traffic with Axis nations in defiance of the British blockade.
UNITED STATES AND LATIN AMERICA
River Plate Regional Conference. —A regional conference of the River Plate, including delegates from Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay, with Chilean, Peruvian, and United States representatives as official observers, opened at Montevideo on January 27 for a 10-day session. Political questions were excluded and the primary aim of the conference was to break down economic barriers and increase the flow of trade, especially from land-locked Bolivia and Paraguay to the Atlantic. While designed to increase co-operation and mutual support among the participating neighbor nations, the conference was represented as in no way hostile to the economic aims and hemisphere defense plans of Pan-Americanism. Conference committees took up a large number of projects, mostly intended to ease tariffs and banking restrictions, and to facilitate Bolivian and Paraguayan export trade. Some trouble arose over Bolivia’s proposal that she receive unrestricted liberty of transit through conference countries for “immigrants, merchandise and materials of all descriptions.” The last category was taken as referring presumably to munitions of war, and was challenged by Paraguay as raising political issues.
Peru-Ecuador Dispute. —In recent months there has been increasing friction between Ecuador and Peru over their conflicting claims to a vast 100,000 square mile area of jungle territory east of the Andes, occupied by Ecuador but long claimed by Peru. The main significance of the dispute lies in its international aspect. According to a recent issue of Hemisphere, the Peruvian claims have received German support, chiefly through the Spanish Ambassador at Lima, and this support has been hooked up with Germany’s strenuous efforts to maintain her Lufthansa and Sedta airlines in the Pacific countries against United States competition. On the other hand it is charged that United States support for Ecuador has been offered in return for base facilities in the Galapagos Islands, but this has been categorically denied. In view of the situation the Peruvian Congress in January increased its defense appropriations from a normal $8,000,000 to $46,000,000, to be provided for by special loans.
Laval Rejects Vichy Terms. —On February 8 it was announced that Pierre Laval, the Vichy Vice-Premier who was ousted last December, had refused Marshal Petain’s offer to restore him to a post in the Cabinet and make him member of a three-man cabinet committee with broad powers. It was considered unlikely, however, that M. Laval would attempt to set up a rival government in Paris. Admiral Jean Darlan was appointed next day to Laval’s old post as Vice-Premier and Foreign Minister. The restoration of Laval at Vichy with sweeping powers was apparently Germany’s prerequisite for further “collaboration” talks; but, on the other hand, the complete acceptance of Laval and his policies was more than the Petain Government was ready to stand for at this time. American influence was held partly responsible for this stiffened attitude, and there were loud criticisms of Admiral Leahy’s alleged activities from the pro- German Paris press. Included in Germany’s collaboration terms, according to reports from Vichy, was the suggestion that Reich troops be allowed to cross unoccupied France and use Tunisia as a base in north Africa. To this, General Weygand declared in a broadcast from Algiers, France would “never agree.”
While awaiting a renewal of negotiations with the Reich, Marshal Petain continued his internal reorganization by naming on January 24 a “national council” composed of 188 men from all professions, agriculture, labor, and industry, but including only 68 former parliamentarians and practically no representatives of the old Left Front. The function of the new body was to be wholly consultative, and its meetings were to be private. A committee of 40 was also appointed to organize, within two months’ time, a new all-national party, to be called the Rassemblement National, which would correspond to the familiar one-party system in other dictatorial regimes. From Paris, however, came the news that a rival party was being started in the occupied regions, called similarly the Rassemblement National Populaire, which was approved by the German authorities and had for its mission the support of collaboration and Laval.
CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE
Meeting of Dictators. —The meeting of the German Führer and Premier Mussolini which took place somewhere near the Brenner Pass on the week-end of January 19 was as usual shrouded in mystery, but was generally connected with plans for further support by Germany, either in the Balkans or elsewhere, for her hard-pressed ally. According to the communique, there was “a comprehensive exchange of views.” The Italian press said the possibility of American intervention was discussed. There was some talk of a military reorganization in which Italian forces would be included in a German supreme command. Italian governmental difficulties were suggested later, toward the close of January, by the departure of Foreign Minister Count Ciano for active military service in the air corps, and the similar shift to active service of several other Italian cabinet members and high officials. In his radio address on January 30, eighth anniversary of his assumption to the German Chancellorship, Herr Hitler included threats of a heightened U-boat campaign, of Germany’s intention to attack every ship “with or without convoy” bound for England, and of certain victory for the Axis in 1941.
New Soviet-Reich Pacts. —On January 10 European press dispatches published authorized summaries of a new Soviet-German “enlarged economic agreement to run until August 1, 1942,” which was expected to provide for “an amount of mutual deliveries considerably increasing the level” reached as a result of the trade pact of last year. It was also announced that agreement had been reached over the adjustment of property claims arising from the shift of populations after the establishment of Soviet sovereignty in Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia; and that a settlement had been made of the new Soviet-German frontier, which would follow the old frontier between Lithuania and Poland, and between Lithuania and East Prussia.
Rumanian Iron Guard Revolt. —During a period extending through the fourth week of January, Rumania was again plunged in bloody turmoil by an uprising of extremist members of the Iron Guard. The revolt, quite possibly with encouragement and financial assistance from abroad, was apparently directed primarily against the Government for its surrender of Transylvania and its present complete subservience to German control. Anti-Semitism and discontent over high prices were contributory factors. Trouble began when a Greek resident in Bucharest killed a German staff officer in a tavern brawl. When Iron Guard members were afterward discharged from the police force, there followed several days of desperate street and house warfare between rebel guards and government troops, with a death roll estimated at about 2,000. After the suppression of the revolt the Antonescu Government declared chief responsibility rested with the Iron Guard leader Horia Sima, who was Vice-Premier under Antonescu, and with two subordinate officials, who were accused of using the rebellion in an attempt to overturn the government. At last account, Horia Sima had escaped arrest. Other rebels under arrest were given the choice of suicide or “mass punishment.” It appeared that the chief immediate result of the outbreak would be to bring Rumania more completely under German dictation.
Death of Greek Premier. —General John Metaxas, Premier and virtual dictator of Greece since August, 1936, and attributed chief credit for Greek success in the Albanian campaign, died suddenly of a throat abscess at Athens on January 29. He was 70 years of age. His successor as Premier was Alexander Koriziz, governor of the National Bank of Greece, who pledged continuation of his predecessor’s policies in foreign and domestic affairs. General Metaxas was in youth a military student in Germany, and was a devoted supporter of the Greek monarchy. After assuming dictatorial powers, he built up Greek defenses, spurred national loyalty by establishing a youth movement, and firmly rejected the Italian demands in the ultimatum of last October.
Japan Settles Thai War. —After failure of French efforts at direct negotiation, Japan stepped in to settle the border warfare between Thailand and French Indo- China, and arranged an armistice which was accepted by French and Thai representatives on January 30. The armistice agreements were signed aboard the Japanese cruiser Natori in Saigon Harbor, while a squadron of 6 other Japanese warcraft were assembled off the Indo-China coast. In accordance with the armistice terms, a Thai delegation of 17, a French delegation of 6, and a Japanese delegation of 11 met at Tokyo on February 7 to negotiate the final peace. It was understood that France would be disposed to accept the Thailand demand for “lost territories,” on the understanding that a formula could be found that would “not seriously impair French prestige in East Asia.” While outwardly a third party, it was evident that Japan would engineer the settlement and stood to gain from it a dominant position in the French colonial area. Japanese demands, as reported in the press, included: (1) a virtual monopoly of Indo-China’s production of rice, rubber, and coal; (2) a free hand in exploiting the colony’s mineral and other resources; (3) Japanese inspectors in all French customs houses; (4) a Japanese naval base in Cam Ranh Bay; (5) an extension of air base facilities.
The diplomatic significance of the affair appeared to be that Japan, after weakening Indo-China’s meager defenses by instigating the border warfare, had seized the role of mediator as proof of her “dominant position” in East Asia; that German pressure had been brought to bear on the Vichy government to submit to Japan; and that Japan was taking over in the French area as part payment for her pledges to the Axis powers. Japan is convinced that British Far Eastern interests must be left to American protection, and will endeavor for the present to make her advance southward along the lines of least resistance.
Civil Strife in China. —Friction between the Nationalist Government at Chungking and the Chinese Communist forces has developed during the winter into a serious threat to the solidarity of Chinese defense. Trouble began in late November with orders from Chungking that the Communist New Fourth Route army should march northward out of the lower Yangtze Valley. There was a subsequent conflict with Chungking troops which resulted in the defeat and disbanding of the Fourth Route forces and the wounding and capture of its leader, General Yeh. Similar moves have been made more recently to reduce the “branch office” established by the Communist Eighth Route army in Kwangsi province, in South China. Apparently the aim of Chungking is to prevent the extension of communistic influence beyond the northwestern area. According to an interpretation offered in the January issue of Amerasia, the action against the Communists may be instigated by a strong procapitulation group within the Chungking Government, who wish to get the Communists out of the rich Yangtze Valley area before making a highly unpopular peace deal with Japan. Possibilities of such a deal were delayed by the American and British loans of last November, but continued Chinese resistance is contingent on further foreign support. The Chinese internal conflict is renewed with every weakening of Japanese pressure, but serves to encourage Japan’s hopes for breaking Chinese unity and thus extricating herself from the war on favorable terms. Naturally, British and American counsel at Chungking is all for unity and the weight of this counsel may be strengthened by the recent sending of a special American representative, Mr. Lauchlin Currie, who is to confers on financial matters.
America and the Orient. —In an article on “European Factors in Far Eastern Diplomacy,” in the January Foreign Affairs, Professor A. Whitney Griswold, of Yale, concludes that the outcome of the war in Europe will be the decisive factor in the Orient. Of American influence in the outcome he writes:
Until the United States has built its new army, navy, and air force, this sense of prudence will probably continue to direct its major attention— apart from that devoted to its own defense program—to the defense of the British Isles. This will not preclude maintaining, and perhaps even strengthening, the moral and legal embargoes on the export of certain strategic war materials to Japan. Neither will it preclude Export-Import Bank credits and the continued sale of war materials to China, the concentration of bombers and submarines at Manila, the continuous mobilization of the fleet at Pearl Harbor, political arrangements for the use of British and Dominion bases in the Pacific, and opportune conversations with the Soviet Ambassador. Add all these probabilities to the Far Eastern capacities and propensities of the other powers already itemized, and how much do they weigh? Enough to force Japan to evacuate China? Hardly. Enough to prevent Japan from sapping Britain’s capacity to resist Germany from the rear? Perhaps. Enough to ensure the security of the Philippines? Probably. To bring the Far Eastern scales of power into balance? No. That can only be done in Europe.