12 AUGUST 1905, Page 4


uNLE SS some great change in the attitude of the Russian Government takes place during the next few days, we fear that the prospects of peace must be pronounced to be very slight. The Russians seem never to have heard of the fable of the Sibylline Books, and to imagine that by refusing now to pay a moderate price for peace they are in no danger of having the price raised when at a later date the need for peace is brought home to them with crushing force. Their attitude is to regard the war as a minor matter,— a mere colonial struggle which, however disagreeable, cannot affect Russia or her Government in essentials. They have never been vitally touched by the defeats, they say, and therefore it would be absurd to get into a fuss and agree to panic terms in order to obtain peace. There is a story that when the Russian army was at the gates of Constantinople, and the Turkish Empire in imminent peril, one of the Sultan's advisers, who was strongly opposed to making any terms with the Infidel, used the following argument. He told the Sultan that all the talk about the absolute necessity for making up his mind to an immediate peace unless he wished to see the Russians actually enter the city was absolute nonsense. "Your Majesty," said he, "I have at this very moment come down from the roof of the Palace, which, as your Majesty knows, commands a view over a vast expanse of country. Yet, look in what direction I might, I could not see the slightest trace of any enemy. Your Majesty then may depend upon it that all the rumours about what the Russians can do and are going to do are mere exaggera- tion. You may safely make up your mind to take things quietly and not be forced into yielding unworthy con- cessions through baseless threats." That is apparently the present attitude of the Russian Government. They cannot see the Japanese army from St. Petersburg, or even from Kharbin, and therefore they axone that it is ridiculous to expect them to give way to°the Japanese demands. The fact that the Japanese have won a few victories thousands of miles away from the heart of Russia does not entitle them to dictate terms.

If this attitude is maintained, it is clear that there is little likelihood of peace being made. That it will be maintained is, we regret to say, indicated by the striking telegram published ° in Thursday's Daily Telegraph,— a telegram which there is every reason to believe was inspired directly by M. Witte. According to the special correspondent, the Russians are determined upon three things. In the first place, they will under no con- sideration agree to the cession of Saghalien to Japan. Next, they will give no indemnity. And thirdly, they will only allow Japan to take so much of Manchuria as she has already conquered and at this moment occupies with her troops. In other words, Russia will not even allow Japan to keep all that she has conquered. If peace is to be agreed upon, it is only on the condition that Japan surrenders Saghalien to Russia ; but as a matter of grace and favour, the Russians will allow the Japanese consider- able fishing rights in Saghalien. Possibly these are only " bluff " terms, and in the end Russia may consent to make much larger concessions. We confess, however, that the way in which they are stated seems to us to indicate that the Russians are still quite unprepared to face the facts of the situation, and really believe that they are in a position to dictate terms to Japan. Needless to say, the terms we have just set forth will not even be discussed by Japan. We therefore will not deal with them in detail, but will consider instead what Japan's lowest terms are likely to be. To begin with, it is quite certain that she means to keep Saghalien. She has conquered and occupied it, it once belonged to her, she can hold it by means of sea power, it is enormously rich, and her people have a sentimental attachment to the island. We understand, for example, that in the national war anthem sung by the Japanese troops the recovery of "the island" is included as one of the chief objects of the war. Next, it is certain that Japan will not be content merely with Korea and those portions of Manchuria; including Port Arthur, of which she has already possessed herself. Her answer to the Russian proposals in this respect is sure to be a polite "Thank you for nothing !" "You are offer- ing us what is already ours, and what we have never had any intention of parting with." It is also, in our opinion, certain that Japan will require Russia to evacuate Northern Manchuria and retire behind what was her boundary before 1900. Lastly, it is certain that Japan will insist on an indemnity. This is with her a matter not merely of prudence, but of honour. The very fact that Russia has declared that to pay an indemnity would be an acknowledgment of defeat which she could- not endure to make in the case of a Power like Japan is calculated to render Japan determined to receive such an acknow- ledgment of her victories. She feels, besides, that an indemnity in gold will be necessary in order to provide her with a fleet powerful enough to secure the peaceful possession of her new Empire.

Whether it will be possible to arrange any compromise between these two conflicting views as regards the terms of peace remains to be seen. For ourselves, we are not very hopeful. What makes us specially pessimistic in the matter is the firm belief of the Japanese that if the Russians will not buy peace now they can be made to pay much higher terms six months or a year hence. The Japanese feel themselves in a position to say to the Russians :—" You can have peace now without losing Vladivostok and the Amur provinces which you took from China in the fifties.' If, however, you persist in the war, and we not only drive you beyond the southern bank of the Amur, but actually force you three or four hundred miles up the valley of the river, we shall be obliged to demand much harder terms. Under these conditions they will include the forfeiture of the whole of Eastern Siberia, and you will be confined to the regions beyond Lake Baikal. But though there is no logical objection open to such a declaration and course of action, we doubt whether the Japanese would be wise, if they could avoid it, to pursue the policy just indicated. The cost would be tremendous, and the results achieved far from adequate. It does not always pay to beat your enemy as completely as you are able to beat him, or have a moral right to beat him.

In our opinion, the prime difficulty in the whole matter is that the Japanese are inclined to be too logical in their demands, and to make those demands fit the actual facts too strictly. They will ask, we fear, for every ounce of the pound of flesh to which an abstract consideration of the facts entitles them. On the other hand, the Russians are likely to be equally illogical, and to ignore too com- pletely the essentials of the situation. While the Japanese will be too syllogistic, the Russians will be too visionary and too impracticable. If this should prove to be the case, the war may go on till the Japanese army penetrates to a point beyond which it will be unable to strike without undue attenuation. But when that point is reached the condition will be virtually one of stalemate. Russia will be terribly humiliated and terribly weakened, but Japan, on the other hand, will be held in a kind of enchanted circle.

To put the matter in another way, we cannot help thinking that the Japanese will do well to remember that the Russians are at the present moment in the position of the gambling noble who, when he was asked why he was such a fool as to put his last hundred pounds on the turn of a card, replied :—" What is the use of a hundred pounds to me ? I cannot live upon it for a week. Therefore I may just as well try to win back with it a sufficient .sum for my needs. I cannot be worse off than I am while it, and nothing else, is in my pocket, and I may be a great deal better off if the luck turns." In the same way, the Russians are quite sincere when they argue : "We cannot be worse than beaten, and therefore we may just as well fight for another year and see what fate will bring us as accept the terms which the Japanese now offer." But though we think that the Japanese would be wise to recognise that the Russians are in the position of the gambler, we are bound to say that we do not believe that anything practical must necessarily come from such recognition. It is impossible for the Japanese, as we have said above, to accept the Russian terms as outlined in the Daily Telegraph, and therefore, if those are the final terms, Japan can have no alternative but 'to procreed with the 'war,—remembering, however, that the inffiction of worse terms on Russia than she now offers will in reality be a very poor consolation to her for another year of war. It is the old story of dealing with a ruined litigant. You may get any amount of damages out of him nominally, and may pile up countless costs, but that is very little satisfaction if you know that in the end he will be quite unable to pay them.