TOPICS OF THE DAY.
PEACE IN THE BALKANS.
WE had strong hopes last week that the conclusion of peace between Turkey and the Allies was a presage that peace would also be kept among the Allies themselves.
The events of the week have strongly confirmed us in this optimistic view, and we feel now a reasonable assurance that for the present at any rate there is no danger of any one of the Allies flying to arms to vindicate her special interests. There will be a great deal of grumbling and a great many hard words, a great many threats, and great deal of general anxiety, especially for the financiers of Europe, but in the end peace will be maintained, and it will be maintained for the best of reasons. In the last resort, peace is for the moment the interest of every one of the Powers. It may be said that in spite of this war may come, and no doubt it may, for we fully admit that peace is almost always the true interest of all States, and yet how often wars break out ! In the existing situation, however, if we look a little more closely, we shall see that there are many safeguards to prevent an actual outbreak. In the first place, we are convinced that every one of the Balkan statesmen, though each is, of course, fiercely anxious to get the better of his rivals in the interests of his own country, recognizes that war would be an untold calamity. The danger, of course, is that in spite of that the states- men in question, to save themselves or their particular parties, or we had almost said their heads, from an angry populace, may be forced into a war which they feel would probably be as disastrous to their own nations as to their antagonists. Happily the statesmen, if things come to such a pitch, have got a good many resources, or as it were buttresses, against popular madness. In the first place, in case of an absolute deadlock they have always got before them the possibility of invoking Russian arbitration. For various reasons it would be extremely difficult for any one of the Powers to refuse arbitration by Russia if it were proposed by the others. Each and all of them are under obligations to Russia, and the population of Bulgaria, Servia, Montenegro, or Greece, whichever it might be, however enraged, would find it impossible to over- throw a Minister merely because he had assented to asking Russia to settle a frontier line. No doubt the Russians might well be excused if they shrank from such an arbitrament, but we must remember that for them too it would be very difficult to refuse the role of arbitrator if, as would be the case, they were ultimately asked by all the parties concerned. But even if for any reason the resort to Russian arbitration in the case of a deadlock were to prove impossible, there still remains the Concert of Europe. Arbitration in that case could not be refused, for the very good reason that it would probably in the last resort be imposed by the Great Powers. Naturally enough, and in all probability rightly, the Great Powers are not at the present stage of affairs going to hector and tell the Balkan Allies that they must not exercise that most enjoyable of all the rights of Sovereign States, the right to punch each other's heads. He who would deny that right prematurely to a Balkan Power not very long emerged from a state of vassalage would be in danger of being regarded as a kill- joy. But though the Powers at present say nothing about insisting upon peace or being determined that they will not allow another war in the Balkans, we can hardly doubt that if the armies are on the point of coming into collision they would step in, and say that any State proved in their judgment to be acting unreasonably must be forcibly reminded of its duty to the civilized world.
It is not for us to attempt to do what the greatest and best-informed of European statesmen shrink from doing, that is, suggest a partition of Macedonia which will be fair to all parties. Newspaper people are believed to have cheek enough for almost anything, but such a notion suggests a cheek beyond even the dreams of journalism. But though we are not going to attempt such a task, we cannot help thinking that when the frontier line is finally drawn, as we believe it will be, by statesmen and not by soldiers, it will be found that Greece and Servia, will be in touch and that a piece of Bulgaria will not be wedged between the two most " allied" of the Allies. We know, of course, that it is exceedingly difficult to draw a frontier line which will accomplish this without, as the Bulgarians would say, robbing them of that to which they are entitled not only morally and ethnologically, but also under the secret treaty. At the same time, it is inherently unreason- able that Servia should be barred from her natural access to the Agean. by a wedge of Bulgarian territory. An inland Power like Servia might make arrangements with one Power for railway facilities to the open water. If, however, her route has to pass over the frontiers of two Powers, one of which is specially inclined to be hostile, such access to the sea would become a mockery. To be specific, Servia wishes to reach the port of Salonica with the least possible amount of friction, and to do this she may reason- ably ask that a spearhead of Bulgarian territory shall not be thrust into her side. No doubt it is much easier to say this in the abstract than to carry it out in the concrete. A glance at a shaded map of Macedonia showing the way in which the mountains and valleys run will quickly indicate what we mean. However, these, though difficult problems, are, we believe, not beyond all solution. We must always keep in mind one very important con- sideration. The Great Powers, since they are forced to join in the delimitation between Turkey and Bulgaria, and are also forced to draw the Albanian frontiers, will in the last resort be obliged to see that the new frontiers between Bulgaria and Servia, Bulgaria and Greece, and Greece and Servia are well and truly delimited, and are capable of proving the foundation of a lasting peace. Very likely in any case they will not prove permanent frontiers, but at any rate there ought to be a possibility of permanence in them, and not an impossibility. But such an impossi- bility is only too likely to be the result if the Allies are left entirely to themselves in the matter of frontier-drawing.
We note with interest the suggestion made by the Sofia correspondent of the Times that the meeting between the four Prime Ministers of the Allied States, which it is hoped will take place at once, shall be held not at Salonica, the capital of Macedonia, but in the peaceful seclusion of Mount Athos, " where they would meet on neutral ground, and each, if he wished, might find abode in a monastery of his own nationality. The tranquil atmosphere of the holy mountain would be conducive to a peaceful frame of mind which the pro- fane crowd. of noisy politicians, inquisitive journalists, and bellicose militaires would vainly endeavour to dis- turb, even if admitted within the sacred precincts.'
Apart from the mediaeval charm of such a proposal we welcome it as a suggestion of no small practical import.. ance. Mount Athos, it is already arranged, will become a kind of holy buffer State, and therefore it is most appropriate that it should begin its career by playing the peaceful role indicated in the words just quoted. The monks, we hope, may be trusted not to fight among them- selves, on the Tibetan model. They are, we believe, for the most part very pious and genial communities, and there is little or no danger of any one of their religious citadels, abodes which fit Tacitus's description of the Mount of Zion, tempi= et am, being carried by a religious escalade. " The Peace of Mount Athos "—that is a title which we trust may soon be given to the Balkan settle- ment.