1 OCTOBER 1948, Page 3


WHERE, after all the speeches and Notes of what may prove an historic week, do we in fact stand ? There has been the identical Note from each of the Western Foreign Ministers to M. Molotov, summarising the heads of the agreement concluded at Moscow and broken at Berlin, and announcing the decision to refet the whole question to the Security Council. There has been the formal letter to the Secretary-General of the United Nations requesting that the dispute between the Western Powers and Russia be placed on the agenda of the Security Council, to be dealt with—a significant choice—under Chapter VII of the Charter, headed " Action with Respect to Threats to the Peace, Breaches of the Peace and Acts of Aggression." There has been a series of speeches of the first importance in the United Nations Assembly by Mr. Marshall, M. Vyshinsky, Mr. Bevin, M. Schuman and M. Spaak. And simultaneously, five days after the important defence debate in the House of Commons, comes the announcement that the Defence Ministers of the five Brussels Treaty Powers, at their meeting in Paris this week, decided on a common defence policy, and in order to give effect to it resolved to set up a permanent organisation, to " include the nucleus of a land, air and naval command, with a permanent military chair- man." The fact that American and Canadian officers of high rank were present at the discussions as observers, and that the Italian Foreign Minister, Count Sforza, speaking in the Chamber of Deputies at Rome on Tuesday, hinted strongly that Italy might associate herself with the Brussels Pact, lends the decisions arrived at a far-reaching importance. That there is inherent in them the smallest shred of an aggressive intention no sane person west of the Iron Curtain can imagine for a moment. It is hard, indeed, to see how anyone east of the curtain could. They represent a prudent—and belated—co-ordination of purely defensive measures against a danger which it is earnestly hoped will never arise.

But the possibility that it will arise is not to be excluded. The prolonged conversations in Moscow have reached deadlock, for reasons which it may or may not be profitable to explore. The full account of them published in the United States, though not yet in Great Britain, confirms the widely prevalent suspicion that the agreement which appeared to have been reached with Marshal Stalin was diligently and successfully sabotaged by M. Molotov, with the result that the Berlin conversations between the Military Governors, which were intended simply to implement in detail the broad accord reached at Moscow, revealed as wide a gap as ever between what the Western Powers expected and what Russia was prepared to concede. Whether the explanation is that the manoeuvre was prearranged between Marshal Stalin and his Com- missar for Foreign Affairs, or that M. Molotov had no hesitation in giving to Marshal Sokolovsky in Berlin directives radically different from those agreed on with Marshal Stalin—all part of the mystery of internal relationships in the Kremlin—the situation created is the same. The Russians refuse to raise the blockade of Berlin, the Western Powers are resolved to maintain the air-lift through the winter ; not that that settles anything, or that the conflict of wills can continue indefinitely, but that no other course than continuance of the air-lift is possible for the Western Powers and no other course than the continuance of the blockade appears to be contemplated by Russia. It is in such circumstances that the dispute goes to-the Security CounciL It goes after counsel has been darkened, or the air cleared, as varying opinion may have it, by the notable series of speeches delivered in the United Nations Assembly. It was an occasion when plain speaking was calculated to do more good than harm. Affirmation of the inflexible resolve of the Western Powers, American and European, to defend their rights, while refraining scrupulously from any move that could be interpreted as aggres- sion, were likely to make a good impression on neutrals, and some impression on some of Russia's eastern satellites, and might con- ceivably cause Russia herself some misgivings. No complaint could be made of the tone of any of the Western Power speeches. Mr. Marshall was firm but studiously restrained, Mr. Bevin more vigorous in attack, but never beyond what the facts warranted ; M. Schuman followed the American Foreign Minister rather than the British, but his declaration of France's resolve to vindicate her undoubted rights was unequivocal ; and M. Spaak, for Belgium, in a speech as powerful as any delivered, stated fear- lessly the case against Russia as one of the ablest statesmen in Europe sees it and one of the most gallant of the small nations of Europe is prepared to stand by it. The plain fact that Russia at every conference, on every committee, in every organisation, official and unofficial, prefers an orgy of propaganda to any attempt at accord, and sets herself to destroy every bridge which other parties endeavour to build, is undeniable. That men as intelli- gent as Marshal Stalin and M. Molotov believe secretly for a moment in the " American imperialism " which they are per- petually denouncing is incredible. The fundamental question is posed, as Mr. Bevin demonstrated, whether Russia has decided that, in accordance with Marxist-Leninist doctrine, there can be no compromise between a Marxist society and the rest of the non-Communist world. That would not necessarily, or even probably, mean war ; it would inevitably mean for a time a divided Europe—for a time only, since there is little question that as the West became re-established, thanks both to Marshall Aid and mutual co-operation, more than one country east of the Iron Curtain would realise the disastrous unwisdom of segregation. But acceptance of such a division of Europe is not forced on us yet.

Out of all the whirl of words and the conflict of Notes two critical challenges to the United Nations emerge. The Assembly has to consider M. Vyshinsky's call to general disarmament, the Security Council to discuss the great issues laid on by the Western Powers' Note. The Vyshinsky proposal was characteristic. It recalls similar moves by M. Litvinov in League of Nations days. Two British Ministers have made differing comments on it. Mr. Bevin said at once in the Assembly that such an offer must inevitably be received with suspicion, in view of the breakdown of the discussions both of the Military Staffs Committee and of the Atomic Energy Commission, as the result of Russian recalcitrance, and of the impenetrable secrecy in which all Russian activities were con- ducted behind a virtually closed frontier. Mr. Shinwell held that even in the circumstances in which the Vyshinsky proposals were put forward " they should be tested for sincerity." There is in fact no conflict between those two attitudes. Both are right, and both are endorsed by the action decided on. The Vyshinsky proposal has been placed on the Assembly agenda and referred to the Political Committee. There it will be exhaustively explored. The Russians must produce a concrete plan. It must be examined in detail and not rejected if there are any possibilities in it. It must, in short, be " tested for sincerity," and no doubt will be, but always in the light of the over-ruling fact that disarmament does not bring peace ; it is confidence in peace that brings disarmament automatically.

But the task of the Security Council overshadows all others. Hope must not be abandoned before the discussions have begun. At least a deadlock has been broken. Further direct talk between the West and Moscow would manifestly be futile. On new ground, with new associates, with publicity substituted for secrecy, with the field of discussion not so far limited that much wider issues than the Berlin situation need be excluded, the conversa- 'ions are capable of taking a new turn. There is room for no false hopes. Publicity no doubt means high-power Soviet propa- ganda. That must be expected, and discounted in advance. But the Western Powers, who rightly said they would not negotiate with Moscow under duress, are untrammelled by that resolve, -for they are not negotiating with Moscow, but taking part in SeCurity Council discussions entered into on their initiative. Russia, on her side, has to justify herself in the eyes of the world. She has had time, moreover, to reflect on her own prospects, with the blockade ineffective in driving , the Western Powers from Berlin, in starving the- Berlin population or in breaking its spirit, and with various rifts and strains manifest within the fabric of her Eastern alliances. The discussions may break down. The United Nations itself may break up. In that case we should be driven, as Mr. Bevin said, to proceed on a regional basis, agreeing with those with whom we can agree, and working with those with whom we can work. But that time has emphatically not come yet. _ A successful issue to •the Security Council discussions is not excluded. Faith in that possibility must not be rejected while an inch of foothold for faith remains.