13 MARCH 1897, Page 6

THE POLICY OF GERMANY. I T is beginning to be clearly

understood in France, Italy, and Austria, as well as England, that the pivot of European politics, or at all events the grand difficulty of European politics, is the untamed will of the German Emperor. It is he who desires to "punish" Greece ; he who protects the Sultan from coercion ; he who thwarts the sensible and moderate English plans for preserving at once peace and the Eastern Christians; he who eggs on Russia to action, as yet only diplomatic, stronger than her Emperor quite approves. William II. is there- fore an object of intense study to many acute per- sons who, however, almost always retire at least partially baffled. The man himself, they say, can be fairly compre- hended, but not his policy. He is like many of the new millionaires, conscious in every fibre of the enormous forces at his disposal, desirous beyond measure that the world should recognise how great is his position, full of schemes, both practical and dreamy, for enlarging his area of activity, and full also of vanities, all the greater because they are in part justified by powers which are considerable and multiform, though, from a certain con- fusion in applying them, they do not become first-rate in any department, and their display in an Emperor has an effect of oddity. A rich young man with a taste for yachting, who occasionally preached a sermon to his crew, or wrote a patriotic poem, or painted a forest-scene for a theatre, would probably be considered " very clever if a little purposeless," but such whims in a master of legions affect the general imagination with a sense of surprise which, owing partly to a limitation in observers' minds, is not altogether pleasant. Still the Emperor is a more or less intelligible figure, and some at least of his motives are intelligible too. His hostility to this country, for example, which manifests itself on every occasion, is not beyond explanation. No German cordially likes either Englishmen or Americans until he has settled either in England or America, when he speedily assimi- lates the country of his adoption ; and the Emperor is very German. He is harassed in his plans, too, by the com- parative poverty of his dominion, he longs for ships, colonies, and commerce, and be cannot get rid of the idea that Great Britain might with advantage be deprived of her overplus of those possessions. Why should she have South Africa as well as India and Australia ?—that is surely more than her share, especially as the Monroe doctrine leaves no room for a German dependency on the half- occupied Western Continent. Tropical possessions are of no use except as exchangeable quantities, for the Germans will not settle in hot lands, and the art of peacefully ex- tracting revenues from deltas full of dark men seems as yet to be an exclusively British monopoly. Germany wants lands that Germans can plough, and as Englishmen and Americans either possess or protect them all, the mighty Emperor looks askance at both, and asks for a fleet which would place him in a dominant, or at least an equal, position. He could get it perhaps if ho were very patient and silent, and built a ship or two a year ; but then the grandeur of his plan would not be visible, and it is the Emperor's necessity not only to become great but to be seen becoming so, and to have it acknowledged that his growth, owing to some unusual quality in him, is a result of his own volition. He puts forth his plans, therefore, in the gross, and is obliged to withdraw them because they create " consternation " not only in Parlia- ment, but among his own advisers.

All that is natural enough, and comprehensible ; but the Emperor's first care, as one of the greatest of European Sovereigns, must be his European policy, and that policy is, to outside observers at all events, a subject of in- finite perplexity. It is so difficult to understand what end, as a permanent object, his Majesty is driving at. At first it all seemed so clear. Pressed on two frontiers by States of the highest military resources, the German Emperor, as War Lord, increased his own military reserves, developed to an extraordinary degree his resources in artillery, strengthened his direct hold over the armies of the smaller States, compelled Italy—this was a mistake— to exhaust herself in preparations, and by refusing to renew the Secret Treaty with Russia and promising help to her if attacked from the South-East, bound Austria to himself with hooks of steel. He then proclaimed every- where that his policy was peace, and sat for a short time at the head of the three united armaments, the unques- tioned and trusted arbiter of Europe, and in a certain way of the world, for Great Britain, without joining the Triple Alliance, approved it, and so made it an effective force everywhere from New York to Pekin. One hardly sees, if the Emperor had been content, why the situa- tion, which, except perhaps to France, was quite en- durable, should not have lasted fifty years, and have made the world, as it would have made the world, almost ric her than it is good for the world to be. The Alliance would in time have become so solid that men would have accepted it as part of the natural order of things. But the Emperor was not content. The celebrated telegram to Presi- dent Kruger revealed his discontent, drove England abruptly from its position of " benevolence " towards the Alliance, and shook the Alliance itself, which has never been so strongly cemented since, the remaining partners to it feeling that neither their convenience nor their dignity had been sufficiently consulted. The Emperor had acted for himself, or, if you will, for Germany, without any regard for Austria, which desired British support at Constantinople, or for Italy, which relied' on Great Britain to protect her in the Mediterranean against naval descents. A certain distrust of William II_ began to manifest itself among his allies, which was partly relieved by his denunciation of secret treaties with Russia, but has never been wholly removed, and will scarcely be removed by his present attitude. What is the meaning of that ? Many will reply, the preservation of European peace ; but surely a Monarch who wanted peace would have made the way of retreat easy for the Greeks, whereas every movement of the German Emperor has been in the direction of making retreat a humiliation for King George. Others will say it is hatred of the Revolution ; but surely to risk the establishment of a republic in Greece, and wake in Italy all the lingering fires of Garibaldism, is not the way to combat, much less crush, the spirit which causes revolutions. The German Emperor, on that theory, is actually compelling or persuading Lord Salisbury to risk a Parliamentary defeat as a safeguard for European Conservatism. He is moved, say many observers, solely by hostility to Great Britain ; but that explanation must be an unjust one, for how can pressure on Greece really injure the permanent interests of Great Britain, or render it easier to diminish the preponderance derived from possession of the largest fleet ? We cannot believe that the only motive is sympathy with the Sultan, though that undoubtedly enters into it, the Sultan being for the moment the most prominent defender of the divine right of Kings to govern wrong ; but the Emperor must be well aware that in provoking Greece to a land war he is not protecting the Sultan. It seems impossible that he should wish for a war in which if the Allies -won Austria would get much and Germany nothing ; while it is nearly as impossible that he should be seeking an alliance with Russia, for that would be a desertion of Austria, Vienna and St. Petersburg having as yet arrived at no kind of compromise. A real alliance with Russia might protect Germany upon the French side, but it would make of the Hapsburgs deadly enemies, and it is only with the Hapsburgs that the German people approve alliances. They distrust while they admire the French, and they positively hate all Slays. There is, indeed, one theory which would ex- plain the facts, but it is almost as impossible as the others. If William II. sees that a compromise between Russia and Austria can be arranged, then, indeed, an alliance of the three Emperors would place the Eastern world at their feet, relieve Germany from its fear of France, and, as the Sultan must accept any terms offered him, for years to come maintain the European peace. But then that new combination would, if completed and carried out, aggrandise Russia and Austria, while leaving Germany without advantage,—a situation which the Emperor would certainly not accept. The other Emperors could not give him colonies, especially if France and England rushed together, and there is nothing accessible by land, as we pointed out last week, which Germany greatly desires to take. She does not want unwilling provinces, and does want room for the overspill of her growing population. She cannot, however, obtain that room by any war which her armies could wage and win by land. If she could defeat the United States at sea. she might have all Brazil, and if she could drive England from the water she might have her pick of colonies, but by land there is nothing left to be obtained which is not already filled up with an industrious population.

The attitude of the German Emperor in Europe is, in fact, a puzzle to which we frankly confess we have as yet discovered no key, unless, indeed, it be this. It is possible that the Emperor has no policy and is merely fidgeting, that he cannot yet see his best line, and is only determined for the sake of his repute among his own subjects to appear to be well in front. He is half inclined to an affiance with Russia,, half inclined to protect Turkey, nearly ready to smash Greece as an effective coup, a little disposed to cut the concern, or, in diplomatic phrase, " to resume an attitude of complete reserve," and see how the world likes that. He is undecided whether the Greek armies will be most impressed by seeing Achilles buffet Ulysses, or seeing him sulking in his tent, or hearing that he does not think King Priam treated as Kings, whether Greek or Trojan, ought to be, and till his decision is made, he only insists that every Greek who passes should lift his helmet in salute. That theory certainly explains a good deal of his action, and still more of his newspapers' talk, but then it is a theory rather derogatory to his repute for greatness. Really great men never fidget, and very rarely expend energy upon adversaries too small to hit back with effect. We presume, therefore, that in time we shall know what his Majesty actually wishes, and what number of trained men he will expend in securing all his wish. At present, and with his present action, he must remind diplomatists a good deal of the Turk's account of the Frank, as an unaccountable and uncomfortable work of God whose use the Almighty would reveal in his own good time.