THE EUROPEAN SITUATION.
Wsuppose the journalists and financiers of Europe must be right, and while the former are singing prose paeans to peace, the latter are keeping all Stocks at unprecedented levels ; but we cannot see it for ourselves. There is nothing in the situation even to suggest peace' except as a temporary condition. The Emperor of Russia has, it is true, withdrawn General Kaulbars from Bulgaria, and the Regents, freed from his daily menaces, draw long breaths of relief ; but the with- drawal removes only one of the more important elements of danger. It is not now possible that the General should over- tax even the Regents' patience, or that a Bulgarian mob, wild at his incitements to treason, should put him to death. With this exception, however, all remains as before. The Bulgarians cannot elect their own Prince, and will not elect the Asiatic noble whom the Czar proposes. The Czar will try to master Bulgaria with even more ardour than ever because of his apparent failure. He cannot give up Bulgaria if he would, for it is his road to Constantinople ; and if he gives it up so that a Confederation of the Balkans can be formed, his road, which is also his people's road, may be barred for ever. We may be perfectly sure that an autocrat like Alexander III. —who is not mad, as the journals say, but is furious with disappointment—will not relax his efforts to succeed, if only to prove to his subjects that he is irresistible ; and every effort he makes, whether through a purchased party in Bulgaria, or through the Sultan, or through an insurrection in Macedonia favoured by Greece, will always bring him at last face to face with the same obstacle. He cannot rule in the Balkans, either visibly or effectively for his purposes, without first of all compelling Austria-Hungary to acquiesce. It is that fact, and not General Kaalbars, which is the danger to the European peace. The Russian Government, which just now is the Czar, must either give up its design—which is to make of the Balkans an outwork to facilitate its march on Constantinople—or it must fight Austria first. Austria can always, while the Balkans are free, prohibit the march ; and the Hungarians will always compel the Haps- burgs to do it. There is no escape from the necessity, if, as now seems certain, the Hapsburgs have abandoned their idea of a partition ; and those who believe that the Czar will accept the first alternative, misread all recent history. He has not risked so much, and deviated so widely from the forms of diplomacy, in order to be beaten now ; and if experience may be trusted, his impulse under his defeat will be to do some violent act which will erase its memory from the minds of his subjects and the world. Nothing but a sense that the danger is too great, that the task is, in fact, impossible, will force back the Czar on his own steps ; and there is no certainty that this im- possibility is visible to his own mind.
Let us look at the facts a little as they may present them- selves to a mind anxious to be tempted into a daring, though not quite a desperate resolve. The idea is that the Czar is faced by a "European coalition," and that before such a coali- tion he will, as a fairly well-informed statesman with able counsellors around him, be sure to shrink ; but in his mind there may be no coalition to face, hardly even an alliance. We in England may think that France is no match for Germany, that the French peasantry would allow no war, or that Germany could fight France and help Austria at the same time ; but the Russian Emperor may not think those things. He would not be a foolish man, though he might be a mistaken one, because he thought that Russia and Germany once com- mitted, France would attack at once ; for Prince Bismarck thinks so too, and said so in the most open manner, using Marshal MacMahon's expression that in such a contingency "the ChassepOts would go off. of themselves." Nor is it foolish, though it may be erroneous, to believe that if France did attack, Germany would have little force to spare for the assistance of her Austrian ally. The French
Army is as strong as it will ever be made—probably twice as strong as it was in 1870—the French for- tresses are fall of materiel, the French have a popular, though not a fully tried General, and France, taught by experience, may make the campaign far longer and more diffi- cult than the last. Those who believe that she cannot turn Metz, because she will respect the neutrality of Belgium, under- stand neither the capacity nor the unscrupulousness of her Generals. With all at stake, they will not think much of European law. It is true, Italy is now a State, and Italy is in the coalition, and has great prizes to gain ; but unless England chimes in with a will, Italy might lie, possibly would lie, at the mercy of the French Fleet. It is on the water that Italy would need strength as against a great maritime Power ; nor, with Genoa and Naples bombarded and Sicily lost, could she enter effectively upon a war of invasion. The war may resolve itself very easily in the Czar's mind into a war with Austria alone, backed by the English Fleet in the distance, and that may not strike him as so excessively formidable a risk. His Generals do not think so. His strategists have been preaching the necessity of the war ever sines the " colossal ingratitude," as Prince Schwarzenberg is said to have called it, of 1855, and the Russian people have a deep hostility to Austria as a Power which is at once German and oppressive to Slays. The English change their opinion about Austria about once every five years ; but the Russians never do. Austria will certainly not invade Russia, which always fights with a kind of limited liability; she is very slow, for all her improved Army, as was shown in the short Bosnian cam- paign; she has no great and trusted General ; her vast Army is like the Army of a coalition ; and she has a historical habit of suffering great defeats. The Emperor of Russia would not be foolish in believing, though he might be wrong, that he could inflict a great defeat on Austria in Galicia before either Germans or English could interfere, and that the Hapsburgs, if defeated in a great battle, with Bohemia half in insurrection and the Slav majority in Hungary wildly excited, would, as they did in Italy and after Sadowa, make a rapid peace, by surrendering not terri- tory, but influence beyond their borders. They gave up Italy in 1870, and Germany in 1866, and they might give up the Balkans, Bosnia excepted, in 1887. The Austrian Court, in fact, dreads long wars, which bring out all the diffi- culties of its composite Empire ; while Russia is comparatively unhurt by delays, which enable her Reserves to traverse the vast spaces of her dominion. With Austria submitting, England could not go on alone ; and the Eastern side of the Balkan Peninsula would be occupied without difficulty, or difficulty only from Turkey, which would no longer have the Balkan passes to defend. There is no folly in these ideas, if the Emperor entertains them, though there may be material error ; and we see no reason for supposing that they are absent from his mind. He will try other means first, no doubt, for the winter is drawing on ; but his preparations never cease ; he has warned his agents, as far east as Corea, that he wants no Asiatic complications ; and when once more faced by the one obstacle, Austrian resistance, which is always rising in his way, he may resolve to risk an effort which, great as it undoubtedly is, would, if he succeeded, release him from most of the dangers by which he is surrounded, and even allow him to paralyse the Nihilists by proclaiming some kind of a Constitution for his vast Empire.
It is, of coarse, quite possible that there may be peace, for the Czar may turn his attention to Persia, across which country lies the alternative Russian road to the open water, or he may hesitate until new troubles in France deprive him of his opportunity ; but the optimism which at present reigns everywhere, except, it would seem, in Vienna,- seems to have little justification in the facts. They talk of the condition of the Black Sea Fleet, but the Czar would not invade Galicia in ships ; and of the position of the finances, but we have heard all that for nearly half a century. Armed nations do not abstain from war for want of money, and if the rouble sank to a shilling, the armies could still be fed ; while it is almost a maxim of statecraft that victory puts the finances straight. It does not from the social point of view, but it does from the administrative, for a victorious Govern- ment can both tax and retrench, as in a time of hum- drum peace it would never venture to do. Look at French taxation before and after Sedan, or the Indian revenue before and after the great Mutiny. We do not
believe Russia will be stopped by want of money, and feel certain that her Czar, who never wins, but always feels his failures, will not rest until he has in some way or other blotted out the civil campaign in Bulgaria, which has ended in so total a temporary destruction of Russian prestige among the Southern Slays.