Do You Want The Next War?
We are marching toward war with Russia. We can avoid it—but only by convincing Russia that we don’t want it, says Shapiro
L. S. B. SHAPIRO
Maclean's European Correspondent
I HAVE just returned to Canada after a long assignment in Europe and the Middle East, in the course of which I have toured the most explosive of the world’s trouble spots. Let me make myself exceedingly clear about what I found:
The Western Powers and Russia are marching toward war. The pace is as yet slow, but it is steady, and although a considerable distance must be traversed before the point of mortal contact is reached, there can be no‘question but that we are marching toward war.
Let us not delude ourselves. Every so-called diplomatic move now being made by Russia and by ourselves is not diplomatic at all; it is a preparation for war, a jockeying for strategic advantage in anticipation of war. The statesmen in Paris are not discussing peace treaties; they are building defenses for the future war.
In Iran I asked a highly placed American military figure why Russia was going to such lengths to gain control over oil wells in northern Persia. Surely the Russians have ample oil production in the territories already under their control. “The answer is,” said the American, “that Russia is not after these particular oil wells. She is merely moving to prevent the Western Powers from keeping control of them. As we learned in the recent war, the essence of making modern war is to deprive the other fellow of oil.”
The Russians wanted title to one or more of the Dodecanese Islands, and we protested this demand
on the lofty grounds of Turkish and Greek rights and the self-determination of peoples. What we meant was that we didn’t want Russia to have a military position in the eastern Mediterranean. In the event of war it might turn out to be a thorn in our side, as Malta was a thorn in the side of the Germans.
Both sides are making a great to-do about Trieste and are arguing eloquently about ethnic, moral, political and national considerations. It is all fraudulent nonsense. We are not discussing the Italian peace treaty at all, although that is what it is called on the agenda; we are thinking of possible war with Russia, and the Russians are thinking of possible war with us. Every peace treaty with the Balkan countries, every discussion of the future of the German nation, is balked by supreme suspicion and fear. We are not really discussing the peace treaties arising out of the last war; we are making the preliminary moves toward the next war.
Russia, scarcely camouflaging her efforts, is making huge propaganda among the Kurdish tribesmen in Turkey, Iraq and Iran. Russia doesn’t care a kopek about the Kurds. She is trying to weaken Iraq, which is under British influence, and she hopes to undermine Turkish national solidarity; both for the purpose of improving her (Russia’s) position in case of war, which, if it begins at all, will begin in the general area of the eastern Mediterranean.
Both sides are caught up in this game of holy vocabulary and vicious deception. It may be said that this has been the way of diplomacy for 300 years, that international parleys have never been, in essence, anything except the diplomatic phase of the
subseqeunt war. This time, however, the process is much more flagrant than ever before; at least, so it seems to one who has campaigned in the most vicious of all wars. It would appear that we have learned nothing from this war with its 20-odd million dead. In truth, our international morals have deteriorated. World diplomacy is more brash than ever before; the road to war is more clearly marked; we are even denied the breathing space of peace, which, under medieval diplomacy, was considered necessary to the breeding oí a new generation of doomed warriors.
How long are we allowed this time.'’ Certainly not the 21 years we were allowed after the Great War. The estimates vary from six months to 10 years. One of the greatest of French statesmen recently told his colleagues confidentially that he believed war between Russia and the Western Powers would break out before the end of 1946. A popular estimate among British and American diplomats is that the war will come in five years, this figure being based on the notion Continued on page 8
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that Russia will not take that final stride into fatal contact until she has mastered the problem of the atomic bomb. The world’s war weariness may extend the figure to 10 years, for modern war cannot be undertaken without a full-blown war spirit among the peoples involved.
Here, then, is the situation in all its desperate nakedness. But—and this “but” is the forerunner of hope—we are still marching toward war and not yet into war. There is yet time for the marchers to be diverted from the mad rendezvous upon which their distant vision is set. We have that time—we and the Russians— allowed us by the war weariness of the world. Time means hope. And hope lies in compassion rather than passion, in self-examination rather than blind accusation.
What Does Russia Want?
WHEN General Eisenhower was confronted with a crisis among his allies, as happened on many an occasion, he would preface his discussion of the problem with war correspondents with these words: “Now you’ve got to put yourself in the other fellow’s place, try to look at it from his point of view, and then try to reconcile your point of view with his.”
If the new war is going to be averted it will be by trying to look at the problem from the other fellow’s point of view and trying to reconcile our point of view with his. What does Russia want? What are the ultimate objectives of her leaders? What do we want? What are our ultimate objectives?
It will not do to approach the problem by considering the Russians the villains of the piece and ourselves the pure in heart. That approach is neither practical nor truthful; it can only whip all of us faster along the road to war. We know we do not want war. It is my belief that the Russians do not want war—neither the Russian people nor their all-powerful leaders.
We are suspicious of Russia’s moves and motives —with good reason. It is my conviction that Russia is suspicious of our moves and motives— with sufficient reason. One must not forget that if there are Russian political philosophers who believe that the democratic capitalist system must be destroyed, there are powerful influences in our western civilization who believe that Russian Communism must be destroyed. Suspicion and distrust are growing and expanding. If the crisis point is reached before the world is ready for a new war, we may yet resolve it in the conference room. If we move forward as we are doing now, camouflaging our moves and motives in the silken robes of peace parleys, deliberately delaying the showdown until the world is once more ready for war, then nothing can prevent the worst of all possible tragedies.
Well, what does Russia want? We do not have to grope and guess; we have a good idea with substantial evidence to back it.
Several months before the Germans attacked Russia (June 22,1941), Molotov travelled to Berlin in an attempt to reach a definitive settlement with the Nazis. He met with Ribben trop and they held a series of the frankest possible conversations, the sort of conversations only the representatives of totalitarian powers are in position to conduct.
In May, 1945, hot on the collapse of Nazi Germany, a dramatic search was made for the official German Foreign Office transcript of these conversations. American, British, French and Russian Intelligence teams were independently assigned to the search. The search was top secret and top important. The Russian interest was obvious; the Kremlin wanted to prevent its allies from knowing the details of its negotiations with the Nazis. The American-British-French interest was not difficult to assess. We wanted to know what was—and probably is—in the minds of the Russians.
That document fell into the hands of the Americans. It is now buried somewhere in the archives of the State Department in Washington. For its own diplomatic reasons, the State Department publicly denies the existence of the Continued on page 48
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document. I am in a position to affirm that it exists, and to detail some of its most pertinent points.
Molotov asked of Germany certain territorial concessions in the event of a German victory (won with the aid of Russia’s moral and perhaps military support). He asked for the Karelian Isthmus in Finland; Lithuania; Latvia; Esthonia; all of the Polish territory Russia occupied in September, 1939; Buko vina; Bessarabia; a fortified base on the Dardanelles; all of Iran and enough of Iraq and Saudi Arabia to guarantee Russia’s domination of the Persian Gulf and the approaches to the Gulf of Aden.
t. This was—and remains today—the key to Russia’s diplomatic and military moves in the Near and Middle East. It is important to note that Russia demanded these territories in anticipation of complete German victory over Great Britain. It is entirely logical to assume that Russia regarded a German victory over Britain as merely preliminary to a grand clash between Russia and Germany. We know too well how thoroughly realistic Russian diplomacy is.
Therefore the list of Molotov’s territorial demands reveals the master plan by which Russia felt she could withstand the hostility of the Fascistdominated world surrounding her.
It will be seen immediately that Russia has followed this plan closely, militarily and diplomatically, since 1941. She has seized and incorporated into the Soviet Union all the territories listed in the plan—except the coveted positions in the Near and Middle East. It is here that Russia has been momentarily halted. It is here that she is putting forward her most intensive diplomatic-military effort. It is here that the fuses are smoldering on the powder kegs of the next war.
The Cause of the Trouble
What are the powder kegs of the next war? If I may be allowed an oversimplification in the interests of clarity, they are Russia’s demands for domination of the Dardanelles and her scramble for warm-water ports in the Middle East.
Here is a test for the peoples of the world, still bleeding and penitent after the last slaughter. Are our statesmen capable of negotiating a settlement on bits and pieces of the earth’s surface which seem so minuscule in the light of the Gargantuan tragedies that would flow from another major war?
I contend that the problem allows of solution. Though I have just returned from a sojourn at the thunderhead of the troubled area; though I know that Turkey will not hesitate to precipitate a world war in defense of her just sovereignty; though I have seen evidence of the machinations of Russian agents throughout the Middle East, I am convinced a solution can and must be found.
The solution does not lie in appeasement; it does not lie in creating a 1946 Munich Pact which would destroy Turkish and Iraqi sovereignty as surely as our last major attempt at appeasement brought Czechoslovakia to the gallows. Such a move would result only in an intensification of world-wide rearmament; it would postpone, but at the same time make more certain, the inevitable clash.
There is another way.
Russia’s demands, as outlined in the Ribbentrop-Molotov document, were based on the anticipation that she
would be surrounded by a hostile world, and we must recognize that she has not been diverted from that master plan of 1941. Then we must ask ourselves why she has not been diverted from it. The answer comes easily enough. It is simply this: Russia still regards herself as being surrounded by a hostile world; at least, by a world of which she knows little and which she regards, in her own curious, eastern way, as plotting and working toward her destruction.
I have talked to Russian agents in the Middle East, to Russian officers in Germany, to Russian civilians in Turkey and to Russian diplomats in Warsaw and I have come to recognize the deep conviction with which they suspect the motives of the Western Powers. They have been weaned on the Lenin philosophy of a war between two worlds, and they are saturated with the vodka of Stalin’s fear and suspicion. I have been dismayed by their inscrutable eyes which deny the friendliness of their words and the cordiality of their smiles.
What Does the Russian Think?
Only once have I felt that I penetrated the crust of one of them and saw what went on inside. It was in Cairo in April. Our discussion became lively. Finally I blurted out, “You people who regard yourselves as the hated enemies of Fascism—on what moral grounds do you justify the August, 1939, pact with Hitler? The pact that all but delivered Europe and probably the world into the hands of the Fascists?”
He replied amiably: “My dear
fellow, if an acquaintance of yours paid an assassin $10 to crawl into your bedroom window and murder you; and you managed to forestall the assassin by offering him $20 to turn around and do murder on your acquaintance—do you think your acquaintance has the moral right to accuse you of conniving to kill him? That, in a nutshell, is the Munich Pact. You bribed Hitler to do murder on the Soviet Union. We merely bribed him right back to do murder on you. And you have the nerve to discuss moral grounds with me!”
If Russia could be convinced that this (if it ever was so) is no longer the case, that we of the democratic West are deeply determined that we can live in the same world with Communism, that the people of the Western Powers are not bound to a high policy of ultimate war against Russia, there is a chance — a good chance — that she would be dissuaded from the policy of surrounding herself with a security
belt. If such a miracle can be turned, the other matters, the minor matters, the patchwork problems of an island here, a port there, a fortified base yonder—all these difficulties will fall away and cease to exist.
This is the only basis for peace in our time, the only rescue from the war we are slowly, surely, blindly, brutishly approaching. If the next war is precipitated purely by suspicion and fear, then we will have failed in our simplest test, and we will deserve what we get. And what we get will not be pretty.
How must we go about dissipating the suspicion and fear that are dominant in the Russian mind? If we are honestly anxious to arrange a world where democracy and communism can exist side by side, how can we thrust this idea through the iron curtain?
The answers to these questions are tied up with the answer to still another question. What do we of the Western Powers want? Do we know? Do you know? To be quite frank, after a considerable experience with diplomats, generals, politicians and plain people, after a spell of mixing in what is curiously known as high places, I am not at all sure that we want unalloyed friendship with Russia on a basis of mutual aid and trade. We say we do— but do we? Until we make up our own minds it is going to be pretty hard to reach under the iron curtain and help dissipate Russian suspicion of us.
The answers to some of these questions will probably come thundering back in this direction. Friendship with Russia, indeed! Russia—that sends spies to Canada, that has agents provocateurs stirring up trouble in the Middle East, that is shamelessly threatening Turkey, that has balked at every definitive settlement of European affairs—how can we have unalloyed friendship with that kind of Russia?
It’s Our Move
It depends on how much we want peace; on how much we honestly detest war. We of the Western Powers are the dominant people on earth in point of progress and industry and mass education. I contend it is up to us to begin the promotion of confidence—if peace is what we really want. We have the means, the intelligence, the compassion (I hope) and the power.
The whole problem of Russia and ourselves — massive as it is — sits clustered at the feet of a mighty power —the atomic bomb. We have it; the Russians, as far as we know, haven’t got it. This weapon can penetrate an iron
curtain. It is more persuasive than a hundred armored divisions, more frightening than a breakdown at a peace conference. It is something that has already penetrated the iron curtain. It can be a messenger of good tidings or evil, depending on how we wield it without using it. It is a weapon so fabulous that its handling can promote the ultimate in fear and suspicion, or its reverse, relief bordering on love.
Our statesmen sit face to face with Russian statesmen in Paris, in New York and Berlin, in Washington, London and Moscow. The communiquas sometimes record that “the conversations were conducted in a cordiai atmosphere,” and we see a picture of Messrs. Bevin, Molotov and Byrnes grinning amiably over a cocktail or arm in arm on the steps of the Luxembourg Palace.
In the next war the youths hurtling along in jet planes and atom-driven tanks will probably remember those pictures and they will grin bitterly—just as those in the slit trenches of the last war used to remember the pictures of Hitler and Chamberlain at Godesberg and Munich.
Let’s Cut the Cant
I wonder what would happen if Mr. Bevin suddenly dashed his cocktail glass into the Louis XV fireplace, slapped aside Mr. Molotov’s proffered hand, and cried: “To hell with it! We’re going to war one of these days, or one of these years. You know it and I know it—and every intelligent person in the world knows it. And yet we’re sitting here talking peace treaties. To hell with it, I say ! I for one refuse to be a party to this ghastly fraud for one more minute.
“If you want to sit down and talk peace, let’s do it. But don’t cry crocodile tears about the Kurds when it’s the Persian Gulf that you want, and I won’t rant about the holy sovereignty of Trans-Jordan when it’s the Mediterranean lifeline that I need for my country’s existence and prosperity. I know what you want, and you know what I want. We’re not fooling each other. We only like to make believe we are.
“If you want to talk peace—fine! If you don’t, I’ll get out of here, and I’ll start collecting my divisions and my bombers, because I know you’ll do the same thing the minute you go through that door. Then we’ll have a war that will finish all of us, but at least we’ll die with our intelligenceuninsulted— not like a lot of blind idiots, who guided one another by the hand down into the pit of doom, whimpering that we didn’t know where we were going. Do you want war or do you want peace? . . .”
It can’t be done that way. I wish it could. But the pattern can be followed through within the framework of diplomacy and protocol. There is no bar on plain talk at an international parley. And plain talk, no matter how belligerent, would be the birth pains of confidence and the beginning of hope.
Here this discussion ends. A thousand facets of the problem and a thousand other avenues of approach have been overlooked in the hope of highlighting the main problem, the real problem—the world’s steady march toward the new war. If the reader feels that I have been pro-Russian in my handling of this matter, I can only plead that it is more important to avoid the new war than it is to set down a thesis on Russia’s sins and shoddy behavior. And in taking the line that I have I am taking my inspiration from General Eisenhower. You’ve got to put yourself in the other fellow’s place.
Well, do you want to fight a next war—or not?