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economically efficient, and ambitious to extend its frontiers or spread its influence, the danger being directly proportionate to the degree of its power and efficiency, and to the spontaneity or "'inevitableness" of its ambitions. The only check on the abuse of political predominance derived from such a position has always consisted in the opposition of an equally formidable rival, or of a combination of several countries forming leagues of defence. The equilibrium established by such a grouping of forces is technically known as the balance of power, and it has become almost an historical truism to identify England's secular policy with the maintenance of this balance by throwing her weight now in this scale and now in that, but ever on the side opposed to the political dictatorship of the strongest single State or group at a given time.

... the opposition into which England must inevitably be driven to any country aspiring to such a dictatorship assumes almost the form of a law of nature

By applying this general law to a particular case, the attempt might be made to ascertain whether, at a given time, some powerful and ambitious State is or is not in a position of natural and necessary enmity towards England; and the present position of Germany might, perhaps, be so tested. Any such investigation must take the shape of an inquiry as to whether Germany is, in fact, aiming at a political hegemony with the object of promoting purely German schemes of expansion, and establishing a German primacy in the world of international politics at the cost and to the detriment of other nations.

If it be considered necessary to formulate and accept a theory that will fit all the ascertained facts of German foreign policy, the choice must lie between the two hypotheses here presented:

Either Germany is definitely aiming at a general political hegemony and maritime ascendency, threatening the independence of her neighbours and ultimately the existence of England;

Or Germany, free from any such clear-cut ambition, and thinking for the present merely of using her legitimate position and influence as one of the leading Powers in the council of nations, is seeking to promote her foreign commerce, spread the benefits of German culture, extend the scope of her national energies, and create fresh German interests all over the world wherever and whenever a peaceful opportúnity offers, leaving it to an uncertain future to decide whether the occurrence of great changes in the world may not some day assign to Germany a larger share of direct political action over regions not now a part of her dominions, without that violation of the established rights of other countries which would be involved in any such action under existing political conditions.

In either case Germany would clearly be wise to build as powerful a navy as she can afford.

The above alternatives seem to exhaust the possibilities of explaining the given facts. The choice offered is a narrow one, nor easy to make with any close approach to certainty. It will

, however, be seen, on reflection, that there is no actual necessity for a British Government to determine definitely which of the two theories of German policy it will accept. For it is clear that the second scheme (of semi-independent evolution, not entirely unaided by statecraft) may at any stage merge into the first, or conscious-design scheme. Moreover, if ever the evolu

tion scheme should come to be realized, the position thereby accruing to Germany would obviously constitute as formidable a menace to the rest of the world as would be presented by any deliberate conquest of a similar position by “malice aforethought."

It appears, then, that the element of danger present as a visible factor in one case, also enters, though under some disguise, into the second; and against such danger, whether actual or contingent, the same general line of conduct seems prescribed. ...

There is one road which, if past experience is any guide to the future, will most certainly not lead to any permanent improvement of relations with any Power, least of all Germany, and which must therefore be abandoned: that is the road paved with graceful British concessions -concessions made without any conviction either of their justice or of their being set off by equivalent counter-services. The vain hopes that in this manner Germany can be conciliated” and made more friendly must be definitely given up. It may be that such hopes are still honestly cherished by irresponsible people, ignorant, perhaps necessarily ignorant, of the history of Anglo-German relations during the last twenty years, which cannot be better described than as the history of a systematic policy of gratuitous concessions, a policy which has led to the highly disappointing result disclosed by the almost perpetual state of tension existing between the two countries. Men in responsible positions, whose business it is to inform themselves and to see things as they really are, cannot conscientiously retain any illusions on this subject.

[From Curzon: The Last Phase 1919–1925 by Harold Nicolson, Houghton Mifflin

Co., 1934)


By Harold Nicolson


It was his (Curzon's) superb direction of foreign policy during his last year of office which not only restored British prestige in three continents, but renders him one of the most interesting, as one of the most perplexing, of British Foreign Secretaries.

The Lausanne Conference re-established his reputation and his selfconfidence. His handling of that Assembly will always remain among the classic examples of expert diplomacy.

Curzon, on leaving London on November 17, 1922, had one essential objective in view, namely the restoration of British diplomatic credit. To that main objective all other considerations were subordinate. In order to attain his objective it was essential for him to achieve success upon the three points which (rightly or wrongly) were regarded by world-opinion as the central issues between Great Britain and Turkey. The first was the freedom of the Straits. The second was Mosul. The third was the alliance between Angora and Moscow. If Curzon could capture these three strategical positions, he had won his victory. If he failed to occupy these positions, then it would be many years before our prestige could be restored.

The odds against him were tremendous. He was faced by a Turkish Delegation entrenched behind three formidable convictions from which it seemed impossible that they could ever be dislodged. Their first

conviction was that Turkey was the conqueror of the world and could claim a conqueror's peace. Their second conviction was that not Russia only, but also France and Italy, were Turkey's allies. Their third conviction was that the British people, in repudiating Lloyd George and Churchill, had demonstrated that they also would in no circumstances oppose Turkish desires.

Even more disturbing was the consideration that Curzon could rely on small support from home. Not

only did the popular press proclaim to the world, and to the Turkish Delegation, that Curzon had against him the united weight of British public opinion, but the Cabinet of Mr. Bonar Law was hesitant, uncertain, discouraging, frightened and supine. 'It will', wrote Curzon on the day after the Conference opened, 'be a long and desperate struggle.' He entered upon that struggle, disarmed, unsupported and alone. He had little confidence in the prospects of his own success. 'I do not think', he wrote to Lady Curzon on the second day of the Conference, 'that I shall ever be Prime Minister, nor am I fitted for it. The chances against a success here are so great that my shares will go down.'. ..

Curzon's main asset, and one of which he was abundantly convinced, was his own pre-eminence. It was essential, he felt, that he should himself preside over the Conference, at least during its initial stages. Not only would he be enabled thereby to control developments, but, once he had imposed his personality, his dominance would enhance British prestige. Yet there was a serious difficulty which obstructed this his first, and perhaps most important, tactical move. The rule was that a Conference held on Swiss territory should be presided over by a Swiss citizen. The Federal Government had been careful to renounce that honour in advance. It had thus been agreed during the Paris conversations that the presidency of the Conference should be exercised in strict rotation by the Powers who had organised the Conference', or in other words by Great Britain, France and Italy. Curzon evaded this rotation with consummate ingenuity. From the first moment he announced that it would fall to the 'senior representative of the ‘Powers which had organised the Conference to preside at the meeting which would follow the opening ceremony. No other delegate had the courage to enquire upon what qualifications that 'seniority' was based. At the second plenary session of the Conference, at which its own procedure was to be determined, it was thus Lord Curzon who assumed the chair. He suggested that it would be more convenient if the Conference were to constitute itself into three main Committees. The first Committee would deal with territorial matters and would be presided over by himself. The second Committee would examine the capitulations and minorities and Marchese Garroni would occupy the chair. The third Committee would discuss financial and economic matters under the presidency of M. Barrère. 'Our plenary sessions', announced Lord Curzon, 'will be extremely rare.'

Curzon then proceeded to point out that it would be impossible for the three Committees to sit simultaneously since the more important delegates would have to attend them all

. He proposed, therefore, that the first, or territorial, Committee should sit to begin with, and that the Conference should wait before embarking upon the work of the other Committees until the first had made some progress'.

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He made this announcement with such unruffled lucidity, with so innocent an assumption of reasonableness, that it was not until they read the minutes next morning that the other delegates realised that Lord Curzon, with a skill which compelled their admiration, had collared the presidency of the Conference for himself. There were in fact no further 'plenary sessions. The Conference always functioned in the form of a Committee. And of the three Committees, that of which Lord Curzon was chairman occupied a central position both in space and time. .

That was an important advantage to have obtained. It carried with it the organisation and timing of the agenda. Here again Curzon displayed unrivalled technical capacity. He so arranged the time-table that the subjects in which the Turks were in a weak position should be taken first: whereas the subjects in which they were in a strong position or could hope for Russian support were postponed. Thus by the time that the Conference came to approach its more delicate problems, Curzon had been able to establish his own authority, to demonstrate the solidarity of the European Powers, and to discover from what angle, and in what manner, the Turkish Delegation could best be tackled.

With this in mind he decided that the first subject for discussion should be that of Thrace. His selection of this problem, and the mastery with which he handled it, were so characteristic of his tactical ingenuity that it is worth while examining in some detail the discussion which took place.

No subject was better calculated to place the Turks in a false position from the very start, or from the very start to demonstrate the solidarity of the European Powers. On the one hand in demanding, not Eastern Thrace only, but Western Thrace as well, Ismet Pasha was asking to have restored to him a European province which Turkey had lost some ten years ago. On the other hand, not only were France and Italy bound by the Paris conversations and those of Territet to oppose this claim; not only were Greece, Rumania and Jugoslavia determined that no such extension should be permitted to Turkey in Europe; but even Bulgaria, Turkey's ex-ally, was prepared to join with the other Balkan States in rejecting any such disposal of a province which she hoped, one day, to recover for herself.

At the first meeting, on November 22, Ismet Pasha was asked by Lord Curzon to formulate his demands. He claimed the whole of Eastern Thrace plus the Karagatch-Demotika section which Turkey had ceded to Bulgaria in 1915. He also asked for a plebiscite in Western Thrace. The Greeks, the Jugoslavs and the Rumanians joined in opposing this claim.. Lord Curzon then called upon the Turkish Delegation to reply to these objections. Ismet Pasha, disconcerted, answered that he would prefer to reserve his reply. This gave Lord Curzon the opening for which he had been waiting. He begged Ismet Pasha ‘in all friendship and regard' not to delay the proceedings of the Conference by reserving his replies for subsequent meetings, and he exhorted him to confine his claims to the demands of his own national programme which the Powers were perfectly willing to concede ‘and not to render the negotiation more difficult by persisting in demands which it would be quite impossible to grant'. He then in a rapid but detailed analysis sketched the past history and present condition of the two Thraces and summarised the reasons why the Allied and

European Powers could not possibly allow the question of Western Thrace to be raised.

At the next meeting Ismet Pasha read a long and highly involved reply in the course of which he made some passing reference to the possibility of establishing demilitarised zones in Thrace. Before the Pasha could quite realise what had happened Lord Curzon was thanking him warmly for his helpful 'proposal and suggesting that a sub-committee of experts should at once meet under the chairmanship of General Weygand to work out upon a map the demilitarised zones which Ismet Pasha had 'suggested'. Ismet Pasha was so astonished by the rapidity with which he had been committed to the principle of demilitarised zones that he merely blinked acquiescence.

what, by this first operation of the campaign, had Curzon actually gained? He had induced Ismet Pasha to advance, in his very first statement to the Conference, a demand which would be regarded by British and world-opinion as excessive and unjustified. It was a demand which was not regarded as essential at Angora, and which, if persisted in, would have produced a third Balkan war. He had shown the Turks, in the very first round, that Europe was not incapable of unity and determination, and he had ranged against them Great Britain, France, Italy, Japan, Greece, Jugoslavia, Rumania and even their former ally Bulgaria. He had established his personal authority and impressed the Conference, not merely with his unsurpassed knowledge of detail, but with his alarming skill in debate. He had treated Ismet Pasha with courtesy, at moments with gay friendliness, and at times with solemn exhortation. He had established the principle of demilitarised zones in such a manner as to make it appear that this principle was a cardinal point in the Turkish programme. And he had placed his finger upon the weakest point in Ismet Pasha's armour, namely his inability to reply to statements or proposals without long previous consultation with the other members of his delegation.

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[From "The British Foreign Office” by Gordon A. Craig, in The Diplomats 1919

1939, edited by Gordon A. Craig and Felix ert, Princeton University Press, Princeton, 1953]


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By Gordon A. Craig For the professional diplomats Lloyd George had . . respect; and his disregard extended even to their methods, especially to their penchant for exchanges of views by means of formal correspondence and carefully drafted notes. "I wish the French and ourselves never wrote letters to each other,” Lloyd George said in 1920. "Letters are the very devil. They ought to be abolished altogether.

. . If you want to settle a thing you see your opponent and talk it over with him. The last thing you do is write him a letter.” Moreover, the Prime Minister was firmly convinced that it did no good to leave the talking-over to the professional diplomats. “Diplomats were invented simply to waste time,” he said during the war. "It is simply a waste of time to let (important matters] be discussed by men who are not authorized to speak for their countries."

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