TOPICS OF THE DAY.
THE FOUNDATIONS OF OUR FOREIGN POLICY.
WHEN the war is over it will become necessary for the nation to give its most serious attention to the foundations upon which our foreign policy should rest. We may be able to put off the decision for a little, but before long it will be imperative for us to face the question of our international relations. We agree with "Celebes," the writer in the Fortnightly Review whose foreign articles have of late attracted a great deal of attention, that in all probability what will force us to a decision will be the question of the Persian Gulf. " Catches " tells us that "the matter of fundamental importance is to realise that the Persian Gulf is the focus of the whole great problem in the future relations of the three Empires,—those of the King, the Kaiser, and the Czar." It will be impossible for us to refuse to come to any decision on the matter, or to insist simply on the maintenance of the status quo. If we were to try to play the dog-in-the-manger to the whole of the rest of the world, and to declare that neither Germany nor Russia should have access to the Gulf, we should simply court a coalition between those Powers directed against ourselves. If we decide merely to prevent Russia going to the Gulf, we shall be obliged to allow Germany to do so. What, then, we have got to consider is whether it is worth our while to prevent the appearance of Russia in strength on the shores of the Persian Gulf.
Let us first look at the matter from the point of view of those who desire to take the anti-Russian and pro-German attitude. In the first place, it must be remembered that if we exclude Russia from the Gulf we must do it alone. Germany, it is certain, will not join us in opposing Russia. She may be very friendly im secret, and she will, no doubt, be delighted to reap all the benefit she can from our action, but she will not herself move a finger against Russia. She cannot possibly offend her Northern neighbour. She dare not, that is, incur the enmity of Russia and her ally France. What Germany dreads of all things is to be crushed between the upper and nether millstones, and any private assurances by her rulers that she would stand by us if the need should arise in our task of driving back Russia would, be absolutely worth- less. The Germans, say what they might in the abstract, could not and would not join in a war against Russia with regard to the Persian Gulf,—a war, remember, which the other two Powers in the Triple Alliance would never dream of declaring to be within the compact. In other words, the notion that we could set Germany at Russia in order to gain our ends is utterly inadmissible. We have no temptation big enough to offer Germany as a ground for helping us to coerce Russia. But if we got into a struggle with Russia and France it is by no means certain that Russia would not be able to offer sufficient bribes to the German people to form a, coalition against us which their statesmen, even if they desired to do so, could not resist. Germany desires the command of the sea, and she desires oversee colonies. Russia, as the great land Power, with no desire to command the sea, would not per se object to the command of the sea passing from us to Germany, while the break-up of the British Empire would give Germany all the transmarine posses- sions she could possibly desire, and yet leave plenty for Russia and France. Truly the project of a German alliance in order to keep Russia under control is the most unreal that ever yet entered the brain of a diplomatist. But it may be said : "If Germany once entered into an alliance to support us, she would most certainly keep her word." We do not agree. Germany may conceivably have got free from the Bismaxckian tradition of carrying "national selfishness" up to the point of breaking faith, but even if she has she could not, as we have said, keep faith under the fear of a war with Russia and France, which could be avoided without any sacrifices if she remained neutral, and if she took sides against us would actually secure to her immense material benefits. Depend upon it, we cannot obtain allies in the work of excluding Russia from the Persian Gulf. If and when Russia, moves we must, if we decide to withstand her, do the work alone, and at the same time expose ourselves to the danger of a combination against us. Let us next consider the results of coming to teems with Russia and allowing her a free hand in Southern Persia and on the Persian shores of the Gulf. We s4 a free hand advisedly, for we regard the notion of trying to get the Russians to take something they do not want instead of something which they really desire to be the most foolish of all courses. It is suggested, for example, in some quarters that we are to tell Russia that she may have Northern Persia if she will promise never to ask for Southern Persia,—entirely ignoring the fact that Russia, has no use for Northern Persia except to get at the open water in Southern Persia. But if we come to an under- standing with Russia and allow her to have fortified ports on the Persian Gulf, we are told that we shall be handing her the keys of India, and we are reminded that Captain Mahan has declared that Russia in the Persian Gulf would menace India by being on her flank. We do not recall the passage in Captain Mahan's works alluded to, but even if he said what he is alleged to have said, we are not convinced. No doubt if Russia were to place and keep in the Persian Gulf a fleet stronger than we could place in the Indian Ocean we should lose the command of the sea, and then Russia would be able to menace India. But why should we assume that Russia will be able to do this ? Certainly the possession of ports on the Gulf will not give her that sea-going strength which alone secures the command of the sea. Ports axe not ships. Italy possesses the best ports in the Mediterranean, but these do not give her the command of the sea. Russia will not menace India from the Gulf till she commands the sea, and she will not command the sea till she has built a Navy big enough to defeat ours. When she has done that she can have ports where she will. Till she has built the ships her fine ports will be of no avail. They would, if organised as naval bases, be very useful, no doubt, but they could never of themselves give the command of the sea. The real problem, then, is,— Can Russia build a fleet which will give her the com- mand of the sea ? If she cannot, then we need not keep her from the Persian Gulf. Of course no one can say definitely whether Russia will or can build a Navy capable of beating ours, but we may remark that if we keep her out of the Persian Gulf we are giving her another very strong incentive either to make a Navy of great power, or else to ally herself with naval Powers. In other words, if she can get to the Gulf without the command of the sea, she will not trouble to obtain it. If she cannot, we give her a very strong reason to do her best to challenge our sea power. To put the matter shortly, an anti-British policy in St. Petersburg is a menace to India. The possession by Russia of ports on the Gulf is no menace unless there is also an anti-British policy. But is it not also reasonable to suppose that when Russia is on the Persian Gulf, and finds Germany there also owing to the extension of the Bagdad Railway—we should not, of course, dream of opposing the construction of such a railway by Germany —she may be inclined to turn her attention to Ger- many and the problem of German control over Turkey rather than to India ? We are, after all, not the only Power in the world, though we sometimes seem bent on convincing Russia that we are. As to the direct benefits to be secured by allowing Russia to go to the Persian Gulf, and coming to an understanding with her generally. •re have dwelt on them so often during the past five yearr ihat we shall say no more on the subject; but we may porn I, out the very great indirect advantages which we should secure by not having to be perpetually "placating" Germany for fear of her joining with Russia against Great Britain. Our diplomacy during the last few years has been virtually based on the principle of feeding Germany with con- cessions. The plan is an expensive one. .First a few unconsidered trifles are thrown out; but when these get used up, as they soon do, the concessions tend to become very substantial. But if we come to an understanding with Russia there will be no sort of need to be always smoothing the path of Germany Before we leave the subject of the foundation of our foreign policy we should like to point out in regard to Germany that it is in the nature of things impos- sible for us to go hand in hand with Germany for any great length of time. The Germans want the place in the sun which we possess, or at any rate a very large share of it. It is no discredit to the Germans 'that they desire .whatt we have got, but it would be foolish not to recognise the fact out of a chivalrous desire not to embitter international feeling. The Germans themselves are under no illusions in the matter. They hate us as a nation because they know that they mean if they can to rise at our expense. It may be base, but it is a part of human nature to profess dis- like of those with whom you know that you must enter on a desperate struggle. A man bent on a fight always likes. to cal .• his antagonist hard names. Germany wants, in the first place, sea power, and. all that sea power gives, and this she can only obtain from us. Next, Germany wants a great commercial expansion, and this she thinks she cannot obtain except through our overthrow, for she will not believe that trade gives a double blessing, but holds instead the Protectionist doctrine that only the seller and the producer really benefit. Next, Germany wants to challenge the Monroe doctrine and obtain power as well as trade in South America, and she knows that if and when it comes to a struggle we shall stand by the United States. Finally, a great part of the German nation cordially dislikes the liberal ideas on which the British Empire is founded. Official Germans regard us as virtual anarchists, and hold that we set a terribly bad example to the rest of the world. Now, we do not think it wicked, but, on the• contrary, hold it to be most natural that Germany should feel as she does towards us. We do not want to abuse Germany or - the Germans, nor do we think that they deserve it. All we want to insist on is that it is impos- sible for us to expect friendliness from Germany. She is our rival. She wants to win from us. Therefore let us recognise facts, and. banish the notion of working with Germany against Russia, or indeed any other Power. A German alliance is the least stable ground on which we can lay the foundations of our foreign policy.