6 FEBRUARY 1886, Page 8


THERE is a feature in the new situation now arising in the Balkans which has not received much attention in London, but which may possibly be the key to a good deal of diplomatic action. This is the increase in defensive strength acquired by the Turkish Empire. We have all along pointed out that the Sultan, for some unexplained reason, had a friendly feeling towards Bulgaria, which increased with the Bulgarian victories ; and the reason is now explained. The Sultan has signed a decree which, under decorous forms, concedes all or nearly all that the Bulgarians have been fighting for. Prince Alexander has been created Governor-General of East Roumelia, with the full powers of Lieutenant-General of the Sultan, and with special authority to remodel the "Organic Statute" at his discretion,—that is, as is well understood, to fuse the Administrations of the two Bulgarias. It is true the appointment is nominally for five years, but the decree is so worded that the Sultan is bound to make no change except on the demand of Europe ; and as change would create a rebellion, he certainly would make none. Prince Alexander, therefore, is henceforward Prince of the two Bulgarias, with a country almo4t, twice as large as Belgium, with three millions of subjects, and with an Army of 150,000 men, of whom 100,000 have actually been in the field, and have exhibited unusual courage, endurance, and capacity for rigid discipline. He is stronger than Victor Emanuel when he began his task. The Prince has won a great success, but he has pur- chased this at a certain price,—viz., by accepting the rank of a Field-Marshal in the Turkish Army, by agreeing, on certain public occasions, to appear in the uniform of that rank, and by pledging himself in writing to hold his forces at the disposition of the Ottoman Empire. For purposes of defence, therefore—say against a Russian invasion —the Sultan gains a new and formidable Army which it would cost an invader a hundred thousand men to destroy, and which, as against any Power seeking to subjugate Bulgaria, would undoubtedly fight hard. That is a great change ; for although modern armies are enormous, no General can disre- gard a hundred thousand soldiers under a trusted leader; and it is increased by the geographical position of Bulgaria. In his new capacity as a sort of Prince Palatine of Turkey, Alexander of Bulgaria is the natural guardian of the Balkan Passes ; and to cross them in defiance of his Army would be a feat probably too great even for the Russian Guard, which, we must remember, was severely tried by the Ottomans under Suleiman Pasha.

This, however, is not all. There is reason to believe that the Sultan has imbibed, either from Sir W. White or some

other observer, an idea that it may be possible to place his

empire in Asia beyond danger by a new arrangement in Europe, and that he is disposed to grant concessions to the Princes of the Balkan Peninsula on condition that they accept Prince Alexander's position, and agree to a military federation under himself as Emperor. It is stated that the Turkish Commis-

sioner at Bucharest, who is helping to arrange terms between Servia and Bulgaria, has hinted at this proposal ; and a report was afloat not long since that a similar one had b3en made to Greece. King Milan, according to this policy, would

receive Old Servia and a Field-Marshal's ; and the King of Greece, Epirus, with the same military rank, and with the same obligation to stand by the Sultan. If these suggestions were accepted, it would only remain to grant Macedonia and Albania their autonomy, and the Sultan would hold a throne guaranteed by the five leaders of five Armies, forming an aggregate of at least 400,000 disciplined men, half of them as good as any troops in Europe, except the comparatively few picked regiments which form the core of the great Armies, and all of them supported in rear by the Asiatic troops of Turkey. The Balkan States would, in fact, be federated for military defence under the Sultan, yet retain to the full their autonomy and their exemption from Turkish interference.

As a method of distributing European Turkey without imperilling the Sultan's sway in Asia, and without allow- ing either Russia or Austria to eat up the Peninsula, that scheme is decidedly able ; and if, as we partly guess, it is Sir William White's, he deserves every credit for a plan which would free the Christian populations with- out insurrection, without allowing the military Empires to aggrandise themselves, and without the grand perturba- tion which must attend any attempt to assign Constanti- nople to a new owner. The plan would be in full accord with English interests, and by no means opposed to those of France, whose rulers have no wish to see Austria move southward, and so become more dependent upon Berlin. But there are still three great obstacles. The first, possibly the weakest, is the jealousy of the States, which is now most bitter, but which might be soothed by grants of territory, and by the autonomy of Macedonia, the province over which they are in secret quarrelling. The second is the inherent corruption of the Court of Constan- tinople, which never adheres finally to any policy unless there is money in it for the Pashas, and there is no money in this ; but this might be mitigated by a grant to the Sultan of a Civil List from each Province in lieu of tribute. And the third is that it would be resisted strenuously by the two mili- tary Empires. Austria would lose her chance of Salonica, and Russia her ultimate prospect of acquiring Constantinople. The latter Power is already furious at the new position acquired by the Bulgarians ; and if this were solidified by a federation directed to prevent invasion, she might be tempted to place everything at stake upon the result of a great war, or to join cordially in a grand scheme of forcible partition. That is the weak point of the scheme ; but the distrust between the Empires still makes for peace, and may prove incurable ; and the first step towards federation has been successfully accom- plished, for the Bulgarias have been united upon condition that they both accept the plan.