Washington Memo

ERNEST K. LINDLEY February 1 1947

Washington Memo

ERNEST K. LINDLEY February 1 1947

Washington Memo


BOTH high officials and “experts” on the lower levels feel decidedly encouraged about the prospects of organizing peace. This revival of optimism is due, of course, to the softening of Soviet policy. The better informed do not profess to know how far or how long the Kremlin will withdraw. But all are agreed that there has been a withdrawal, or recession, and that it is on a broad enough front to be significant.

The prevailing view is that the tum in Soviet policy was caused chiefly by the persistent firmness of the United States and Britain, and by Soviet internal weaknesses. According to this analysis, the rulers of Russia became convinced that they had extended their line to the point where the risks outweighed the possibilities of immediate gain.

Soviet internal weakness is not a new factor in the calculations of American policy-makers. The late President Roosevelt counted heavily on it. He was convinced that the Russians would be compelled to devote most of their energies to internal reconstruction and economic development for many years to come. He believed that they would eagerly seek the aid of the industry and technology of the western democracies. He thought the problem was to overcome an inferiority complex or fear psychosis by showing the rulers of Russia that the western democracies would not try to overthrow them but, on the contrary, were willing to overlook ideological differences and help them to develop their own economy within the Communist political framework.

Roosevelt wondered before his death whether his tactics were correct. He saw that the Russians were running out on the Yalta agreements, on Poland and the Continued on page 48

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Washington Memo

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Axis satellites. The effrontery of the Kremlin puzzled and angered him. But he did not part with his conviction that the Russians faced a tremendous problem in internal reconstruction and development. This same conviction contributed to the decision made at the beginning of 1946 to adopt firmer tactics in dealing with the Kremlin. President Truman, Secretary of Ktate Byrnes, Senator Vandenberg—all who influenced the change in American tactics believed that the hard outer crust of Russian policy covered a soft economic and technological core.

This belief was reinforced by many events and observations during 1946: Soviet plundering of occupied areas, Soviet demands for reparations, the reports of UNRRA employees in White Russia and the Ukraine, the many articles appearing in the Soviet press about housing and production problems, food shortages, and political troubles in the Ukraine and in some other areas, and the report that the Soviet scientist originally assigned to take charge of the atomic energy project had been exiled to Siberia.

Washington policy-makers do not doubt that the Russians will continue to he hard, suspicious, crafty bargainers and propagandists or that they will seize any safe opportunity to weaken the western democracies and enhance Russian power and Communist influence. They believe, however, that the Kremlin has decided to reduce its immediate risks and write off some of its failures, thus making possible some progress in organizing the peace. They believe also that under pressure the Russians will make further concessions

The emphasis which Soviet diplomacy is laying on disarmament is interpreted hert* as an effort to suppress or reduce the complicated long-range instruments of war which make American power effective across the oceans and through the skies. Any step in that direction would make the Russian foot soldier relatively more important throughout Eurasia. The Kremlin’s interest in getting rid of the more advanced weapons is considered all the more intense because Russia cannot expect to compete in producing them for some years to come.

Public opinion in the United States favors a reduction in armaments. Apart from broader considerations, the con-

stant pressure to reduce federal exj penditures and taxes works toward disarmament. But there are no indications yet that public opinion will force extreme one-sided disarmament, such as after the first world war.

The prevailing view is that international control of atomic energy is the touchstone which will show whether it is feasible, or safe, to disarm gradually, by international agreement. The only major point in Bernard M. Baruch’s program which has failed to muster almost unanimous support is abolition of the veto on punishment. It is agreed on all sides that violators of the atomic energy pact must he swiftly and surely punished. But some take the pragmatic view that this will happen anyway, veto or no veto, since a major violation would be, in substance, an act of aggression which other nations could not ignore if they expected to survive.

Taft Woos Labor

Most union leaders see that it would now be unwise to bolster wage demands with strikes. They know that more strikes will incite public opinion and compel Congress to pass drastic legislation. The whole position of the unions may he at stake in Congress during the next few months. Union strategy should be directed, therefore, toward losing as little as possible through legislation rather than toward obtaining wage increases.

Actually, if labor remains quiet, it will not suffer much at the hands of Congress. The Republicans got part of the labor vote in 1946 and want to keep it and add to it in 1948. Senator Robert H. Taft of Ohio, chairman of the Senate labor committee, favors j moderation. Indeed, that is the main j reason he chose this post when he could ! have been chairman of the committee ! on finance, which is usually considered more important. He is a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination and he is known as a conservative. He wants to show that on matters affecting labor he is “middle of the road,” and therefore for the unions a lesser evil than many other members of both parties. During the railroad strike last spring it was Taft who accused Truman of being extreme— even unconstitutional—in his request for authority to deal with the crisis. He will resort to the same tactics again, if Truman gives him an opening.

President Truman’s personal prestige rose to its highest point in many

months as a result of his firmness with John L. Lewis. But his victory solved nothing permanently because the government’s actions were based on temporary wartime powers. The central problem is how to prevent industrywide strikes which quickly bring the national economy to a halt and imperil the health of the people and the national security. It is a problem which most of the politicians in both parties prefer to duck.

Mr. Truman now has a compact administration of men who are loyal to him. He does not dominate them. He

does not try to. He listens to them. He uses his cabinet meetings to discuss general policies as well as to hear the specific problems of the various branches of the government. But when a decision is made, it is faithfully observed by all, with none of the undercover sniping and backfiring which was characteristic of the Roosevelt Administration and of the Truman Administration until now.

No person of influence in the Administration now is very far either to the left or the right of the middle of the road. The balance has swung from

slightly left of centre to slightly right. Underneath party labels, the balance in the Administration corresponds closely to the balance in the new Congress, although both parties have members on both the right and the left of the Administration. Mr. Truman can move quite a distance in any direction without causing any crisis in his Administration or even subjecting it to serious strains. This gives him a tactical advantage over the Republicans in Congress, who are strung across the whole political front except the extreme left. The Republicans, more-

over, are already beset by rivalries between old and new senators and representatives—many of the new ones resent being told what to do—and among candidates for the presidential nomination in 1948.

Mr. Truman is a doughty gentleman. He refuses to concede t hat t he Republican sweep in the Congressional election of 1946 necessarily foreshadows a Republican victory in the presidential election of 1948. He has learned a great deal in his 20 months in the White House. The next 18 months will see some very interesting manoeuvring, -fa