25 NOVEMBER 1938, Page 19


[To the Editor of THE SPECTATOR] SIR,—The question of the military value of the Soviet Army at the present moment, which has been debated in your columns by Mr. J. Baker White and. Mr. H. P. Vowles, is plainly one regarding which the ordinary Englishmen can form no opinion except by a calculation of probabilities. Our War Office may possibly have direct information supplied by its secret service, but the general public has not before it any statement by an eye-witness who is of unquestioned technical competence, has had ample opportunity for observation and is above suspicion of partisanship. We are therefore reduced to guessing on the basis of a few facts broadly known. It is admitted that a considerable number of officers in the higher ranks have recently been executed on charges of treachery— precisely how many is, a question on which Mr. Baker and Mr. Vowles disagree—and it seems antecedently probable that, whether the charges are true or false, the morale and leader- ship .in an army. mould be adversely affected by such a purge among its chiefs. There is, however, another conspicuous fact to which I have not seep attention called in this con- nexion. Russia has failed, to, help China in its time of agony

by any effective diversion. Those who think it discreditable to Great Britain that we failed to save Czechoslovakia, must logically think it far more discreditable to Russia that it has failed to intervene for China, for Czechoslovakia was far away from us and inaccessible to our forces, whereas China is Russia's next-door neighbour with a long common frontier. It is difficult to believe that Russia would have remained inactive, while China was overrun by the Japanese, unless Stalin had recognised that Russia at the present time is incapable of effectual military action outside its own frontiers.