« AnkstesnisTęsti »
league will remain a dead letter, and the victory over Germany will not have meant a step forward toward a new era in international good-will.
The nations struggling for the control of Constantinople are Turkey, Russia, Greece, Great Britain, France, and Italy.
The expulsion of Turkey from Europe was one of the war aims of the Entente powers, as set forth in their reply to Mr. Wilson's official request for information about what they were fighting for. Great Britain, France, and Italy had agreed by a secret treaty, concluded in 1915, to give Constantinople to Russia as a part of Russia's war booty. But the Petrograd revolution and its aftermath led to a renunciation of the claim to Constantinople by the de facto Government in control of Russia at the time of the Turkish collapse. Consequently, the city was occupied by the other Entente powers, jointly. Three years later, British, French, and Italians are still there.
So are the Turks. The sultan goes to prayers on Fridays with all the show of former days. The Sublime Porte functions; at least as well as the League of Nations is functioning. Police authority is divided with the Allies, but the Turks still distribute the mail and collect the taxes. If one European power were holding Constantinople with the certainty of remaining, the Turks would feel ill at ease. As they have three occupying powers, each hating the others and trying to oust the others, why should the Turks worry?
It is true that after eighteen months of bickering the premiers of Great Britain, France, and Italy agreed at
San Remo upon a compromise of interests which was afterward presented to the Turks as the Treaty of Sèvres, and signed on August 10, 1920. But the treaty has never been ratified and put into force. The Italians did not want it, and said so frankly at the time. After Constantine returned to the throne of Greece, the French determined to revise the Treaty of Sèvres. Among the Moslems of India, the British have encountered formidable opposition to taking Constantinople away from the Calif of the Faithful. The Turks, fighting successfully against the Greeks in Asia Minor, making trouble for the French in Syria and the British in Mesopotamia and India, are sure that they will keep Constantinople. And now, having recovered from the scare of losing the last foothold in Europe, they boldly tell the world that they insist upon the retention of Thrace to protect Constantinople and of Smyrna as the port of Asia Minor.
If the Turks are driven out of Constantinople, however, the strongest claimant is Russia. Despair over the failure of the adventurers they backed and contempt of Bolshevism have led statesmen and publicists into the sad error of believing that Russia is eliminated from the struggle for Constantinople. It requires a remarkable ignorance of the spirit of Russia, of Russian history, of Russia's economic needs and latent power, to think that Russia is out of the running in the race for Constantinople.
When the Bolshevist régime falls, and Russia "returns to the family of nations," as Mr. Colby loved to put it, the French are going to bring up the question of the indebtedness of the defunct régime. The United States supports France in insisting upon Russia's
recognition of her international obligations. The new Russian Government will argue that it is a poor sword that does not cut both ways. If Russia from 1917 on has been in the hands of a band of adventurers, branded as outlaws, then the disappearance of the Bolshevists restores the status quo of the beginning of 1917. Russia, in her right mind again, will honor her international obligations, but she will expect also what is due her. What is due her? Constantinople.
The British Foreign Office, which sees facts as they are, anticipated this embarrassment two years ago. It was bad enough to be blackmailed in a critical period of the war into promising Constantinople to czarist Russia, but it would be a calamity to British interests if this strategic position were in the hands of a strong and flourishing liberal Russia. Believing that the Turks could not be maintained, the British, with their usual realism, decided that the way to checkmate Russia was to give Constantinople to Greece. Her geographical position made Greece a vassal of Great Britain. With the Greeks in Constantinople, the British would have no difficulty in remaining the power behind the throne and using this power to further their own commercial interests at the detriment of the interests of rival nations. The British regarded Greece as a kind of protectorate, financially and militarily under the control of Great Britain. This scheme was spoiled by the fall of Venizelos and the subsequent serious defeat of the Greek armies in Asia Minor.
Before the peace conference opened, the French aim was to become the
dominant power in the eastern Mediterranean. Frenchmen of the old school and young illuminati alike had never forgiven Great Britain for seizing Cyprus and doing France out of the Suez Canal and Egypt. Virtually without exception, my friends, even those most in sympathy with the British, believed that the forte of Great Britain after every war was to reap where she had sowed not. Others discovered and founded new lands, conquered and developed old lands, and then, when the peace treaty was signed after a war,-any war,-the choicest bits were found to have entered into the joy of the pax Britannica. After this war it was going to be different. Canada and India, many islands and Egypt, were past history. The Near East had been culturally French since the Crusades. From Saloniki to Beirut, France was determined to reign supreme. Palestine represented the very last concession it was possible for the French to make. Of course the French did not hope to possess Constantinople, but they were not going to let the British settle themselves on the Bosporus, as they had done at Gibraltar and Port Said, in Malta and Cyprus. For this would mean British domination of the Mediterranean and the Black seas, and for British capital and British goods the priority in markets which had been traditionally French.
Right up to the time of the armistice and afterward, until the collapse of Baron Wrangel, France hoped for the miracle of the rebirth of her old ally. This would have solved the Constantinople question for France. As long as Venizelos was in power in Greece the French did not despair of preventing Greece from becoming infeodated to
Great Britain. Although seriously embarrassed in Cilicia and Syria by the attacks of the Turkish Nationalists, the French held off from espousing the cause of Turkey with the idea that, failing Russia, Greece at Constantinople might prove the means of relaxing the increasing stranglehold of the British. This hope died with the return of Constantine, whom the French will never forgive or trust.
But another factor was at work in the Franco-British rivalry in Constantinople and the Near East the importance of which was decisive. This factor has complicated the French attitude toward the future of Constantinople and the realization of French dreams throughout the Near East. From April, 1919, until June, 1921, the aspirations of France in the eastern Mediterranean have had to be subordinated to the more important consideration of coercing Germany. With successive French premiers Mr. Lloyd George has played a skilful game. He has balked every time France has wanted to speak firmly to Germany, balked on the Rhine occupation, the Saar Valley, the entry into Frankfort, the taking over of the Ruhr Basin, the upper Silesian settlement, the amount and method of payment of the German indemnity, the trial of war prisoners, and enforcing German disarmament. Much of his opposition was sincere and based on common sense, but every time he gave in to the French he did it on the basis of do ut des, and one after the other the French aims in the Near East suffered diminution at the expense of British aims. It was not through intrigues and a skilful working out of policies in the Near East that the British gradually gained control of Constantinople and extended
the frontiers of Mesopotamia and Palestine, but by agreeing to back the French in some new demand upon Germany. The Treaty of Sèvres itself is the result of one of these compromises.
The French are beginning to see, however, that they have sacrificed their ambitions in the Near East without the compensation of gaining what they wanted in Europe. Especially do they see that they have been led to allow the British to become the controlling factor in Constantinople. It looks like another Egypt, but in a far more aggravated form. Alive to the peril of having to abandon Constantinople to the British, because France cannot afford to oppose Great Britain, French diplomacy is now determined to restore the status quo ante bellum. English and American writers, who do not understand the character of the French and the motives of French foreign policy, attribute all this astonishing change of attitude to the fear France has of Turkish intrigue in Syria and to the resentment of the French against the Greece that has welcomed back Constantine. These are undoubtedly factors that have helped to win a popular approval in France for the Near-Eastern policy of the Government, but the real reason why France espouses the Nationalist cause is the determination to get the British out of Constantinople.
I am not conjecturing. The trend of the French press, inspired by the Government, leaves no room for doubt as to what is prompting France to send arms and money to Kemal Pasha and to insist that the Supreme Council disapprove the military plans of King Constantine. To cite only one of a number of significant editorials, the
Paris "Temps" of June 11 said that Great Britain's aim was to control the straits in order to have free access to southern Russia and the oil-wells of the Caucasus. The "Temps" asserts that Great Britain's policy "is primarily dictated by the desire that a government which is under her control should be in power at Constantinople. France and Italy seek, on the other hand, to obtain the freedom of the straits by negotiation between the two belligerents."
Returning to the charge two days later, the "Temps" declared that if the Greeks were given a free hand and won a victory over the Turks, Constantinople would become Greek. Then, asks the "Temps," "Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?"
During the war one of the telling indictments against Germany was her friendship for and alliance with Turkey when the Armenians were being massacred. Germany was held responsible for the massacres on the ground that she could have stopped them had she used her influence with her ally. This was true; but is it not equally true now that France must bear the opprobrium, and in a measure the responsibility, of the Armenian and Greek massacres of 1920 and 1921? A French general negotiated with the Nationalists in Cilicia without stipulating that the massacres should cease. French diplomats have negotiated with the Angora government of Kemal Pasha, conniving at the massacres of Armenians and Greeks. The sole The sole thought of the Germans during the war was to use the Turks and not to run any risk of offending them by protesting against the massacres. This is exactly what the French are doing
Italy has been watching with disgust and alarm the doings of France and Great Britain in the Near East. To the Italian it seems preposterous that either France or Great Britain should aspire to dominate the Mediterranean. Great Britain is in the Mediterranean only by right of conquest, while France has a wide Atlantic outlet. Both Great Britain and France have colonies all over the world. Italy, on the other hand, is a Mediterranean state, the only one of the great powers which is Mediterranean. She has virtually no colonial possessions in comparison with those of her allies. She is the nearest power to the eastern Mediterranean. is her neighbor and rival. The grain of southern Russia is essential to her existence. Invoking the historic after the geographical, economic, and strategic arguments, Italy has a better claim to be the predominant power in the Near East than France or Great Britain. Britain. French and English get as well as give in their diplomatic tiffs. Italy feels that she is frozen out altogether. Only two of the great powers have any real claim on Constantinople, and those two are decidedly not Great Britain and France. Italian public opinion is willing to concede the reasonableness of the Russian claims, but if these are not granted, considers that Italy is the next heir to the Ottoman Empire. Italy was at Constantinople before the Turks came. If any Europeans return, why not the Italians, whose Galata Tower still rises by the Golden Horn?
Italians understand to perfection the principle of whacking up, and the treaty of 1915 shows that they entered
the war with the idea of sharing its spoils. But for them the spoils have not been forthcoming. Wherever it was a question of their share, they were confronted with the ideals of the war, and were told that the principle of self-determination must prevail. As an example of this cynicism, they cite Mr. Wilson's Fiume declaration, written in the same week that Shantung was handed over to Japan. And since the peace conference it has been explained to them that Egyptians and Moroccans have not the right to self-determination, but Albanians have. At Paris, when Signor Orlando was pleading for Smyrna, he answered the argument of injustice to Turkey and Greece by asking the English how they justified their presence in Hong-Kong.
"That was long ago," was the answer. M. Clemenceau assented. Signor Orlando quickly got back at him.
"But do you not base your right to Alsace-Lorraine on the ground that a title won by force cannot plead prescription?"
The Italians have learned since 1918 that to British and French statesmen there is only one law, the law of might, and only one title, the title of conquest. Italy, not being strong, has had to bow to her more powerful allies. Italy, not having any conquests worth while, has not been able to make swaps, as the French and British have done. So Italy's Near-Eastern ambitions are not being realized. Thoughtful Italians feel that within the next generation Italy will be compelled to fight for the control of the eastern Mediterranean, with Greece certainly, and probably also with France and Great Britain, or remain permanently an economic slave in her own ocean.
Because her navy is unable to cope
with those of her allies, Italy has to keep quiet. She can take no active part in the struggle for Constantinople, and can only hope that the Turks will smash the Greeks in Asia Minor and that Great Britain and France will come to blows. The state of mind in Italy as a result of the game Mr. Lloyd George has been playing with successive French premiers is well illustrated by the Turin "Stampa," the organ of Signor Giolitti. Says the "Stampa,' apropos of the British concessions to France in Germany in return for a free hand to be given to Great Britain in Constantinople and the Near East:
In both camps it would be the triumph of an Imperialist policy which would foster new wars and end in rendering illusory the very agreement between the contracting parties. . . . It is not necessary to point out, besides, the injury to Italy, to Germany, to Turkey, and even to Greece (really reduced in that case to British vassalage) implied by this hypothetical division in zones of influence of a vast world stretching from the Rhine to the Euphrates, from Cologne to Bagdad.
American newspapers and magazines have been full of stories of friction between British, Italians, and French in upper Silesia. The facts are indisputable. General Lerond, obeying orders from Paris, has helped on the insurrection, and has tried to protect the Poles at every point. Italians have been killed, and most of the British officers have resigned and gone home, disgusted at the unfairness of the French. The League of Nations has done nothing, following the deplorable example of inertia or impotence given in the cases of Fiume and Vilna. The faith of the blindest optimist in