22 SEPTEMBER 1939, Page 4

THE UNHOLY ALLIANCE A NUMBER of people have hastened to explain

rather unconvincingly after the event that they had always expected that Russia would take some such action as she took in Poland on Sunday. If the expectation was in fact entertained it was well concealed. The Russo-German Pact and its implications of course pro- voked speculation. The partitioning of Poland between the Nazi and the Communist States was always a possi- bility. But the treacherous and cynical attack, heralded by the contemptible and threadbare pretence, invoked with sickening monotony by the Nazis in like condi- tions that an oppressed minority demanded succour, occasioned generally as much surprise as it did anger and disgust. There may be an explanation of the course Stalin has taken ; there is and can be no shadow of excuse. One single explanation there certainly is. A brigand from the east has struck a bargain with a brigand from the west for the division of the spoil, and the first has laid hasty hands on the portion marked out for him lest he should find it already in possession of the second. So the redemptive work is accomplished. What the British Communist daily is pleased to call " the heroic liberator " has conferred on perhaps a third of the Polish people the blessings of that unchequered freedom under which every Soviet subject pursues his individual bent at will, and displaces hammer and sickle for the Polish eagle.

So the fourth partition of Poland has been effected. Thus does Herr Hider honour the thirteenth of those Fourteen Points of President Wilson's whose non- observance is the subject of his bitterest reproaches against France and Britain. So swift and comprehensive is the revision of the Treaty of Versailles. Where the dominant motive on the part of each of the leaders engaged in dismembering Poland's bleeding corpse is so unmistakable it may seem superfluous to look for any other. Yet the cases of Hider and Stalin are not identical. Hider has been marking down victim after victim for destruction in methodical order. His pro- gramme has been punctually carried out. The Pact with Poland, with every undertaking it embodied or implied, was duly denounced, lying excuses for intervention were broadcast to the world, and intervention took the form of mass-invasion, accompanied by what President Roosevelt in language of studied moderation calls the " inhuman barbarism " of the bombardment of open towns unassociated with any military objective. Nothing here surprises. It is the Hitler method. But that Stalin would prove so apt a disciple—though the Russians are not charged with bombing open towns—was not fore- seen. The Soviet Union has not so far shown itself acquisitive of territory. There is no ground for think- ing it would have initiated an attack on Poland. And it is reasonable to suppose that the main purpose of the felon-stroke of Sunday was to prevent territories which Hider in Mein Kampf had declared his intention to acquire from falling into Hitler's hands.

To that extent Stalin's crime is a few shades less black than Hitler's. But to employ such language means postulating the existence of certain moral standards which for Berlin and Moscow are no more than subjects of derision. That is the essential fact to be borne in mind by any who are disposed to ascribe the events of the past week in part to the failure of British diplomacy. Our diplomatists are not equipped, and never can be, to deal with such situations. Unless they can assume that agreements they conclude will be duly honoured nothing is left them but to threaten or cajole. Hitler and Stalin have made peaceful international intercourse impossible, for it cannot exist if pledged words are meaningless. Germany, which had a treaty of non-aggression with Poland, summarily denounced it. Russia, which had a Qimilar treaty, merely ignored it. We are driven inexor- ably back to the primitive expedient of force, for it is clear that nothing will lead either Hitler or Stalin to abide by an undertaking except fear of the consequences of breaking it. Both of them may live to recognise that honesty would have been a safer policy for themselves.

But at present they are left to the enjoyment of their spoils, and it would be folly to underrate the gravity of the situation their criminality has created. The Polish campaign is over. However long Warsaw or some hard- pressed but heroic section of an army may hold out, there could be no withstanding a double attack in front and rear. A truncated Polish State may or may not remain; if it does it will be only because neither conqueror de- sires contiguity with the other, and both consequently see good reason for the survival of a buffer State, in tutelage to Moscow or Berlin. No one can prevent that for the moment. By the first article of the Anglo-Polish agreement of August 25th, which enacts that if one of the Contracting Parties becomes engaged with a Euro- pean Power in consequence of the aggression by the latter against that Contracting Party, the other will at once give all the support and assistance in its power, we are as much bound to help Poland against Russia as against Germany; but it would be physically and geographically imposible, and the Polish Government has not expected it. Today Poland must accept whatever lot her con- querors mete out to her. Her permanent state will be settled at the peace conference that ends the war. But the fact must be faced that though the defeat of Germany might and would result in the restoration of freedom to whatever Polish territory Germany holds, the problem of forcing Russia to release her prey would still remain.

Meanwhile the effect of the rape of Poland on the general military situation has still to be revealed. Opposite views have been expressed pn that. As against the natural assumption that large German forces will be released for service in the west, there are those who hold that suspicion of Russia will necessitate the retention of a considerable German army in Poland. That depends, no doubt, on whether other secret compacts exist, affect- ing the future, for example, of Rumania or other Balkan States. The whole of eastern Europe, from Helsinki to Athens, is profoundly alarmed, for the very existence of every State is menaced by aggressive dictatorships to which moral standards mean nothing, and formal pledges less ; and though the smaller States might in combination be capable of resistance, they unfortunately seem in- capable of combining. German and Russian co-operation may be short-lived. Neither Hitler nor Stalin can have a shred of confidence in the other. Such evidence as there is suggests that, so far from there being agreement between Berlin and Moscow regarding the moment and method of Russian intervention in Poland, Stalin moved when, and because, he thought the Germans were getting too far east. It is of some significance, moreover, that the Russian troops have covered the whole length of the Polish-Rumanian frontier, thus cutting off all contact between Rumania and Germany. The question of whether there is to be effective pressure on Bucharest by Berlin will be decided at Moscow. The value of Russia's help to Germany can easily be exaggerated. Her army is unlikely to fight outside the territories it at present occupies, and economically Russia has no great surplus over her own needs ; even if she had she would find difficulty in moving it over her inefficient railroads. Germany may get wheat from Russia if she can pay for it ; and petrol in limited amounts. But she is hardly likely to get them on credit in the middle of a war. And her capacity to pay in goods—in the middle of a war— is extremely restricted. It is a long way from Berlin to the Siegfried Line. It is a long way, too, from the Siegfried Line to Poland, but it is there that the ulti- mate fate of Poland will be decided.