11 JULY 1931, Page 4

War Debts

THE suspense of the la4t fortnight Or 'more, while the negotiations in Paris luti're hung in the balance, has been comparable to the anxiety, with which the World, particularly -Europe, watched and waited on the fluctuating battle of wills at the last Conference at The Hague. Whether the Young ' Plan should be accepted in order to relieve Germany of her burdens to the point at which they would be bearable, or whether the world should risk her Second collapse, were questions that kept us on tenterhooks for many days. Twice the French nearly left The Hague, being exasperated by the stubborn harshness of the British negotiator, who stood up for this country so splendidly that an onlooker might have exclaimed : " C'est magnifique, mais—c'est la guerre ! " He nearly lost us everything by his inability to " negotiate " or " confer " in any sense understood by his foreign colleagues. Our diplomats know that it would be Worse than useless to approach a 'Latin Government saying "Somebody has got to pay up. We have done our share" (which provokes argimient); "We are going to see' that you 'do' not shirk your share" (which creates instant and violent antagon- ism): The Only way to deal successfully with a proud people, having a feminine sensitiveness and craving for sympathy, and accustomed to cultivate polished manners, is to say i "We are very sorry. Through no fault of 'ours, much less of yours, sacrifices Mirt be made. Here is an opportunity for you to show your Usual noble 'magnanimity. We only want to know how we can help to make them least hurtful to you." After such an opening one may be sure that a people like the French will do their best to be accommodating in the end. They may demand the recognition of theories " en principe." They may try little devices for mitigating 'at someone else's expense the sacrifices which, after all, 'do not fall upon the negotiators but on the people to whom they are responsible. But in the end they have reserved to themselves the pride and pleasure of generous benefactors.

So have negotiations ended in Paris. Tout vient point d qui sail attendre. President HOM'rer, deeply impressed by the instant urgeney of action if Germany was not to collapse .and' bring down with her, like the Philistines of Gaza, the other countries of 'two spheres, Wanted all to be in' train by July 1st. Such , " hustling" seemed to many to be asking too much of an elderly Europe, but Within a week Of his date he has been able to announce the acceptance of, his propOSals by all the principal creditor nations. We can forget now that France jibbed after her first acceptance, for she has now agreed handsomely enough. We can forget her obstructive pleas on behalf. of some smaller nations, and only remember that she raised a difficulty which has still got to be dealt with presently. We can forget that she raised a tiresome objection to the inclusion of 'reparations in kind within the moratorium, and' only remember that experts have still to 'settle how that can be done with the least sudden shock to German labour arrangements and French economic expectations. Let us forget that she made tentatively whit sounded like dictatorial demands of the Bank for International Settlements, and seemed anxious to avoid the obligation that she undertook at The Hague to' support the Bank with a substantial deposit in such ,to' as may now arise. We need only remember that she is going to honour that obligation in the spirit, if not quite according to the letter. And let us remember that all these points are small ones compared with the fact that the Secretary of the United States Treasury has reached agreement in Paris on the most important matter of the day. There lies the memorable cause for satisfaetion.

We and others are entitled_ to rejoice,, but no one can yet sit down with folded hands in complete satis- faction. In the United States Mr. Hoover and. his Administration have still to face Congress and get ratification of their action taken in eniergeney, We do not grudge him a sting in the tail of his inntiunce- ment of the moratorium as successfully made operative as from July 1st. He says there that the burdens: of armaments "amount to several times the amount of inter-governmental debts." We May, indeed We should, connect these things in our minds with the Disarmament Conference of next February : but in spite of all the political implications that are inevitable in anything to do with Reparations, the moratorium must_ be treated first and foremost, if not all the time, as a business matter of high_ finance. To attain economic success therein is an end great enough in itself, and the success musk not be risked by the intrusion of any avoidable politics, of arriere-pensees or ulterior aims. We look to Mr. Hoover to do his best to avoid those risks being introduced by Congress, whose obvious desire will be to assert itself as something more than what would be called there the " rubber-stamp " of the Executive. , Then on this side of the Atlantic all is not plane-sailing. There must be a good deal of conferring and, patient discUssion of detnils in the final allocation of sacrifices. The Paris agreement itself provides for negotiations between France and the B.I.S. over the guarantee fund required by the Young Plan, and for a committee of experts, as we have mentioned earlier, to consider deliveries in kind and "to reconcile actual needs with the spirit of President Hoover's proposal." Furthermore, .Belgium has always had some small or even substantial preference in the agreements and plans connected with Reparations. She will not expect to find that the senti- ment which prompted this treatment has ceased to exist. _Then there are the smaller creditor nations of Near- Eastern Europe. Their claims for Reparations and _their reconstruction loans are subject to very complicated arrangements reached at or after the last Conference at The Hague, Their financial margins are not so great that they can be expected to accept any large unexpected sacrifices at short notice. Already M. Venizelos is turning westward, but not only to add lustre to Byronic celebra- tions at Newstead, where he will find a warm welcome as the most brilliant Hellenic representative possible. He has also been saying that Greece and her neighbours cannot accept M. Hoover's proposals as they stand, and we know by experience that when he arrives in Western Europe, he not only illininiates it by- his presence, but he always gets his way too with the states- men of "the Powers," who are less agile-minded, as .` befits their greater weight. . There is therefore much hard work yet to be done, _ financial. work needing good heads for business, and diplomatic work that will call for infinite patience. But Europe has now, thanks to Mi. Hoover, a hopeful spirit in which to _attack the Work. People may notice . that the excitement of three Weeks ago has cooled while the negotiations dragged in Paris. But if we can imagine the jaded and hopeless spirit in -which any such work as remains' would have been reluctantly approached a _ Month ago, we can measure with deep thankfulness the advance of the nations in confidence, both in them- selves 'and in One another: and that is half the battle.