The Foreign Policy of Germany
Reply of Mr. Montague Norman to a Reuter representative:
"There will be no sensations except those you invent."
Before explaining the foreign policy of Germany it is necessary to describe briefly the mental attitude of the Nations of Europe towards each other, as expressed by their Press and their politicians, - an attitude that has been clearly revealed by all that has happened in connection with the Spanish civil war. This civil war has inevitably resulted in different nations taking sides, Germany and Italy supporting Franco, and Russia and France the Government in Madrid, while in this country both sides are represented. From the beginning of the civil war armament manufacturers in all countries have been busy supplying munitions to both sides. In addition to munitions thousands of volunteers have poured into the country, more especially from Italy where the people and the Government are both violently pro-Franco. Our Government, by setting up the non-intervention committee have tried to restrain the flood of armaments.
Germany was the first to propose that all Governments pledge themselves to restrain to the best of their ability the entrance into Spain of volunteers, and after considerable delay the non-intervention committee adopted that policy.
Since the date when that pledge was given both Germany and Italy have been repeatedly accused by the French and English Press and by prominent politicians, of having broken faith in this matter, on no evidence except the excited statements of the Madrid Government, and the rumours collected and transmitted as facts by the journalists.
The most outrageous statements have been published, from the accusation that the bombing raid on Guernica was ordered from Berlin, to the accusation by Litvinoff that the Italian Government were responsible for the pirate submarines.
Anything in the way of unreliable rumours can be excused to the Madrid Government, suffering from war hysteria, but the accusations in our Press and by prominent politicians are a different matter.
Let us probe a little deeper into this mental attitude of distrust. France has busied herself making "mutual security" Pacts and lending large sums for the purchase of arms to various nations, so as to secure an overwhelming combination of force directed against Germany. The assumption underlying this policy is that owing to the rapacious instincts of Germany, Peace can only be kept by the threat of war, and by collecting on one side the biggest battalions. Our military alliance with France is made on the assumption that the German Nation is ready at any moment to make an unprovoked aggressive attack on France, an action of which the German Nation has never been guilty.
The same atavistic conceptions of the relations between nations is to be found in the League Covenant itself. In that Covenant the Nations solemnly pledge themselves to refer disputes to the League and accept the League's decision, and even if this prove impossible, to delay war for so many months. Yet in Articles 10 - 16 it is assumed that the responsible Governments of these Nations are capable at any time of making unprovoked attacks on each other and therefore according to the suppositions of the League Policy, Peace can only be preserved among these treacherous ruffians by organizing under the League an overwhelming military force composed of a similar collection of scoundrels.
If the members of the League cannot be trusted, the mutual security pacts are worthless, as all agreements and arrangements between people or nations with the mentality of crooks is unreliable.
I do not propose to be led here into a discussion of the complex and highly disputatious question of Japan in Manchuria and Italy in Abyssinia, but in so far as Europe is concerned, since the formation of the League of Nations only three cases of unprovoked aggression have taken place in Europe, - the seizure of Vilna by Poland, of Memel by Lithuania and the occupation of the Ruhr by France.
That wars may arise in Europe is quite possible. The Treaties of Versailles and Trianon have sown the seeds of numerous wars, but the first step towards Peace is that Nations should accept and believe the honest intention and desire for Peace and for fair play of other nations. That we have departed so far from this reasonable attitude is not due to the peoples of Europe, but to their Press and their politicians.
If I print in a newspaper that Mr. Jones is a liar and a treacherous scoundrel Mr. Jones is able to bring an action for libel, but there is no law of libel for Nations or the rulers of Nations, and the most that can be done is for the aggrieved Government to demand an apology. When a very distinguished politician calls Hitler a gangster in the House of Commons there is no redress.
Evil speaking, lying and slandering is specially forbidden in the Prayer Book but apparently it does not apply to Nations or the Governments of Nations. When M. Blum made a speech while still Prime Minister, in which he promised Czechoslovakia that in case of an unprovoked aggression by Germany, France would declare war, he assumed that an unprovoked aggression was just the kind of thing that Germany would indulge in. We have been told in the French Press that Germany intends to make war on Czechoslovakia, that next spring she intends to attack France, that she is preparing for war against Russia to conquer and annex the Ukraine.
I have discussed this mental attitude at some length because it is so universal that it is assumed as a matter of course, and the grossest insults against a friendly Power are allowed in Parliament with no protest from our minister of foreign affairs.
In discussing, therefore, the foreign policy of Germany, I am handicapped by the reply that Hitler in his speeches is telling lies to deceive Europe. It is no use stating that his foreign policy is thoroughly understood and accepted by the German people. The reply is that they are ordered with the dread of imprisonment to deceive foreigners, and quotations torn from the context and taken from Mein Kampf are given as proof of their duplicity. No one in Germany, including Hitler himself, regards the extreme foreign policy in Mein Kampf as a guide to German foreign policy to-day.
Let me in spite of these disadvantages do my best to explain.
We have seen that the Nazi movement is one welding the German people into a living organic State developing their own nationality and culture.
From this devotion to their own nationality comes a respect for other nations. Hitler expressed the faith within him when he said God has created different nations that each should fulfil its own life and culture as its contribution to civilization. He therefore regards the conquest of another Nation as a crime against the national idea, and territory so acquired as a source of weakness to the conquering Nation, because alien elements are introduced into the national life and the conquered people have to be held in subjection, thus destroying their right to fulfil their own national life. He points out that Europe has been engaged for centuries in territorial conquests and in the end the nations have retained their original boundaries.
He regards war for territorial conquest in Europe as a crime against civilization and a useless and unwise expenditure of force. I believe that if Alsace and Lorraine were offered to Germany as a gift she would refuse. He therefore quite truthfully says he cannot conceive of any possible cause for quarrel with France.
On the other hand the German Nation is intensely interested in the conditions under which Germans are living under alien rule, and it has long been obvious that the Germans in Austria and the Germans in the Sudeten German area would ultimately become members of the Reich. Wherever Germans are living they wish them to become converted to the Nazi conception of a State, but that does not mean disloyalty to the people among whom they dwell. On the contrary it will make them better citizens.
There is nothing aggressive towards other Nations in the Nazi faith, and many passages in Mein Kampf have been misunderstood because Hitler is discussing the German people in alien lands.
This conceptions of the true attitude of the German Nation to other Nations is thoroughly understood in Germany. If we examine the foreign policy of Germany, we find this new conception running through their political action. Hitler has introduced a new idea of the relations between countries in his Peace Pacts, a Treaty between two neighbouring States not to make war on each other for a term of years. This Treaty contains no obligations to act as allies against other Nations. It is the only genuine Peace Treaty ever suggested, all other Treaties being alliances for purposes of war. This idea is transforming the whole political situation in Europe.
Germany will never sign again a Treaty like the Treaty of Locarno which pledged the members to war under certain circumstances, nor join the League of Nations while Article 16 is operative. She alone of all Nations in Europe is free from obligations to make war under certain circumstances. The extent to which we are committed no citizen of this country knows.
Germany has offered these Peace Pacts to all her neighbours including ourselves. In addition Germany has agreed to a navy only one third the size of ours, and has pledged herself to respect the neutrality of Holland, Belgium and Switzerland. She has established very friendly relations with Italy as they both dread the spread of revolutionary Communism, but she will form no Treaty or Alliance involving possibilities of war.
Germany is very far removed in her mentality from a Pacifist policy. She believes in armed national defence and quick reprisals to an outrage like the bombing of the "Deutschland", but her conception of the right relations between the Nations of Europe is so new and the mental attitude of the other European politicians towards each other so atavistic that it is a difficult mental gulf for them to cross, and yet it is plain ordinary common sense.
A striking instance of German diplomacy is the agreement that she has made with Belgium. Under the Treaty of Locarno, France and England were pledged to go the assistance of Belgium if attacked, and Belgium was equally obliged to go to their assistance. France and England proposed to Belgium the renewal of the old arrangements but Hitler dropped an explosive bomb into the negotiations by announcing that Germany was prepared to pledge herself to protect the neutrality of Belgium without any conditions. The Belgians being astute diplomatists used this to compel France and England to drop the clause requiring assistance from Belgium in case they were attacked, and France proceeded at once to spend vast sums on a line of forts between herself and her old ally. The Treaty between Germany and Belgium has now been ratified. Germany pledges herself not only to respect Belgian neutrality but to go to her defence if she is invaded, thus protecting her from an act of aggression by France. As the Daily Express says, the new Independence of Belgium is Independence from France.
Germany has entered into the closest relations of friendship with Italy, and Yugoslavia has signed a Peace Pact with Italy and Bulgaria on the German model. Bulgaria has signed a Treaty of Friendship and of arrangement for mutual arbitration with Turkey, and Turkey has signed a Peace Pact on the German model with Persia, Iraq and Afghanistan. We alone have failed to realise the implications of a Peace Pact, and have shown more hostility to Germany since we signed it than we did before.
In none of these Treaties is there a hint of an alliance for purposes of war.
The Pax Germanica now extends from the Channel to the Baltic, from the Baltic to the Mediterranean, and to the frontiers of India.
Ultimately the Peace Pacts will result in the denunciation of the mutual security pacts. Poland having signed a Peace Pact both with Germany and with Russia is getting restive about her mutual security pact with France, which she realises is an obligation that might force her into war against a friendly neighbour.
The great mass of mankind ask for Peace and security abroad, and law, order, and efficient government at home.
Alone among European nations by her home and foreign policy Germany is securing this for the peoples of Europe and therefore the smaller nations are clustering round Germany.
There is another aspect of this question that requires to be dealt with before leaving it.
It is probably true that in 1914 the outbreak of war was very largely due to those in military command in the various countries involved. The last serious war in Europe had been in 1870. It was quickly over, the loss of life was according to our present standards insignificant, and it did not profoundly disturb the economics of Europe or even of France. Those in command of the armies of Europe in 1914 envisaged a war like that of 1870 and if they did not deliberately promote war, did nothing to avert it. After all war is a soldier's business.
To-day the situation is very different. Those in responsible command in Europe dread the idea of war, as they realize from their intimate knowledge what a fearful business it will be. The demand for war comes not from the Totalitarian States, not from the dictator or the soldier, but from the parties of the left in the Western Democracies. The whole policy of France was formerly directed to the oppression of Germany and the creation of a divided Europe, and the danger of France setting fire to Europe was much increased by having a party of the left in power including the Communists.
Daladier had to break with the Communists before he could get his Peace Pact signed.
Athens we know was forced into the Syracusan war by the mob, and to-day it is the parties of the left who are always clamouring for war. They work themselves into a state of hysteria over the sensational, unverified and one-sided statements published by the Press, and pass resolutions at public meetings urging war on the Government.
At the end of the Abyssinian campaign I was present at a meeting of the Council of Action with Mr. Lloyd George in the chair, a body which consists of Nonconformists and Liberals. They carried a resolution with one dissentient vote, which I gave, in favour of a blockade of the Suez Canal and the Red Sea by our fleet. This would not only have meant war with Italy but as Italy was already in possession of Abyssinia, would have meant serious complications with other Powers including the U.S.A.
At a meeting of the Labour Party not long ago they carried a resolution in favour of our expenditure on armaments because, the leaders explained, if returned to power they would require these armaments to make aggressive war on nations like Germany whose form of Government they did not approve, or undertake ventures like attacking Italy or Japan.
The absurdity of their attitude towards the use of bombing planes by Japan is that we are building a huge fleet of bombing planes to use in exactly the same way if there is war in Europe, the proposals of Germany to limit the use of bombing planes to the actual battle areas having been rejected or at any rate ignored by our Government.
As General Goering said when addressing the war veterans, "I believe that those who rattle the sabres have not participated in war."
In pre-war days we used to complain of the German Emperor rattling the sabre. To-day the rattling is done by the Labour leaders in England, and the real danger of war in Europe would be the success of the Labour Party in a general election. While pretending to be in favour of peace they are the firebrands that might set Europe alight.
It is madness to have the mob of the left attacking and insulting Nation after Nation in public meetings, and our foreign office entering into commitments in Europe unless we are prepared at once to introduce conscription. We sent our half trained boys to fight trained soldiers in 1914 with the result that in the war of attrition that Earl Haig was always talking about three English soldiers were killed for one German. Is the same slaughter of our youth to take place again? Why can we not go quietly about our lawful occasions and leave other Nations alone?