30 JULY 1948, Page 5


AWIDE range of epithets has been used to describe the behaviour of the Russian authorities in Berlin, but if I had to plump for a single word to define its salient characteristic I should choose "Asiatic." The whole pattern of pretexts and excuses, the dis- ingenuous explanations which nobody is expected to believe, the half- sly, half-bold acts of passive provocation in the shape of traffic checks and so on, the multiplication of formalities to do with passes and permits, the huffy, prearranged walk-outs from inter-allied meetings, the delays and the reasons given for thtm (" Unfortunately General Kvashnin is on leave ")—the whole bag of tricks, which when they are performed in Europe seem gauche and childish and unreasonable, would be perfectly congruous to an Asiatic setting. They are in fact exactly the same tricks that the Japanese used to play on us in China a decade ago, and they are played with neither more nor less finesse. The chief difference is that we knew the Japanese to be Orientals and therefore liable to behave oddly: whereas we still can't help expecting the Russians to behave—even when they behave badly—like Europeans. This is a habit of mind we might well dispense with.

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