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Lenine. But abandoning the fight against Moscow and establishing official relations with Lenine have been used against the Baltic Sea republics as reasons for considering them pro-Bolshevist and withholding recognition of their independence. For Latvia and Lithuania had to follow the lead of Esthonia and Finland, and anticipated the RussoPolish treaty by a few months. The treaties have now been published. They contain no provisions more advantageous to the Bolshevists than those of the Russo-Polish treaty of Riga.
The Englishmen at Dorpat last January worked just as strenuously as their Allies to prevent Lenine from getting the Esths to make peace; but once the treaty was signed, they accepted the situation and sought to make the best of it. Not under the spell of the quixotism that seems to inspire our State Department in its foreign policy, and having no valid reason, as the French had, to maintain the integrity of Russia and refuse to deal with Bolshevism until money owed by the old régime was paid or acknowledged as a legitimate obligation, the British recognized the independence of the Baltic Sea republics and entered into diplomatic relations with them. Italy, impatient for some solution, no matter what, of the Russian imbroglio, followed Great Britain's lead. France did not dare to stand out against de facto recognition. To abstain from diplomatic intercourse with the Baltic Sea republics would have been to renounce the economic exploitation of these countries in favor of the British. So the Baltic representatives are received at the Quai d'Orsay, and French diplomats are working at Libau and Riga and Reval to prevent a British trade and banking monopoly in Lithuania, Latvia, and Esthonia, and to throw a monkey-wrench in the works of the British naval machine which is aiming at the supremacy of the Baltic Sea.
All this has not come about in a minute. The changed attitude toward the new political status quo in the eastern Baltic and toward the question of trading with Russia is due to the remorseless working of economic laws which prove in the long run more powerful than the combinazione of statesmen. Politics naturally yields to economics, for trade is
the raison d'être of the foreign policy of nations. Prejudices die hard. The influences working against the stability of the Baltic Sea republics at London and Paris are still strong. French opposition among anti-Bolshevists, Russian bondholders, and amis de la Pologne is still active. A reactionary group in Great Britain, led by Winston Churchill, is ready to sacrifice the Lithuanians, Latvians, and Esths to whatever Russian Government may be able to stamp out Bolshevism and replace Lenine and his associates. The Russians who pulled the strings for the Entente in the various anti-Bolshevist fiascos still watch the development of the Baltic situation and refuse to admit any diminution of "integral Russia." Polish propaganda ridicules the right of the Baltic races to separate existence.
Under these conditions, the observer of European international politics who believes in a square deal for everybody deplores the Colby note of August 10, 1920. None questions the good faith of Mr. Colby and his associates in their anxiety to convince the Russian people of our detachment and good-will and to try to reconcile our implacable opposition to Bolshevism with our affection for Russia. Our State Department undoubtedly meant well, and thought it was making a masterly move; but one does not need to go farther than the Encyclopædia Britannica, certainly an impartial source in the present debate, to convince oneself, by glancing over the admirable summaries of historical facts from the best sources, of Mr. Colby's unfairness and inconsistency in announcing in the same document that the policy of the United States is to preserve at all costs "Russian integrity" and at the same time to maintain Poland's territorial integrity by "the employment of all available means." After reading in the Britannica the stories of the formation of the two political organisms of 1914, Austria-Hungary and Russia, compare Mr. Wilson's note of September 7, 1918, to the Austro-Hungarian Government. Did not the Romanoffs as much as the Hapsburgs build their empires upon the ruins of small races of alien blood and institutions and religion? If the moral sense of the world demands
the liberation and restoration to nationhood of races in slavery to Austrians and Hungarians, how can Mr. Colby declare that the policy of our Government stands for the return to slavery of nations whose life was extinguished by the Russians? We asked the blessing of God upon our arms to assure us the victory because we were fighting for humanity. In our prayers we put no limit on our philanthropy.
On July 4, 1918, when President Wilson received the representatives of subject races at Mount Vernon, he made a solemn pledge in the name of the American people to all subject races. A Lithuanian stood with the others before Washington's tomb. Neither in that speech nor in any other did Wilson say, "You understand, of course, that the victorious allies mean to free and restore only the subject races whose freedom and restoration will be at the expense of and to the confusion of our enemies." Had he said this, it would have been a manly confession-to avoid false hopes and false pretences of what was afterward evident at the peace conference, that the yearning for humanity was a sham and the proclamation of the doctrine of self-determination a falsehood.
moral issue was simply bunk to make people feel good and arouse them against the Germans. Because races were conquered by the Romanoffs, have they less right to freedom than if they were conquered by the Hapsburgs and Hohenzollerns?
When we read carefully the Colby note, which is meant to justify the refusal of the State Department to follow the example of our associates in recognizing and dealing with and helping the Baltic Sea republics, we can challenge its logic as well as its misrepresentation of the American idealism expressed by President Wilson during the war. Poland and Finland were portions of "integral Russia"; so was Russian Armenia; so was Bessarabia. Without consulting Russia, we have recognized the independence of Poland, Finland, and Armenia, and have agreed to the inclusion of Bessarabia in Rumania. The State Department expert will respond that Poland and Finland had a special status under the Treaty of Vienna. Why go
back in regard to Russia only to the Treaty of Vienna? In making the treaties of Versailles and St.-Germain we canceled the Treaty of Vienna. We ignored this treaty and all other treaties in dealing with subject races of Austria-Hungary and Germany. The attempt to justify partiality of treatment between Poland and the Baltic Sea republics on the ground of the Treaty of Vienna fails even if we did accept the Treaty of Vienna as the law and the prophets. The Grand Duchy of Lithuania enjoyed an individual status in the Russian Empire by virtue of arrangements made before the Napoleonic period and not infringed upon until 1830. The charter of Lithuania was not finally abrogated until 1848, and the title of Grand Duke of Lithuania was assumed by the Russian czar on a par with that of King of Poland and Grand Duke of Finland at coronations. This acknowledgment of the separate identity of Lithuania in the empire was never given up. The late Nicholas was crowned Grand Duke of Lithuania.
From a historical point of view the American State Department has no ground to stand upon in regarding Lithuania as a Russian province and at the same time holding that Poland is an independent kingdom. The relations of the two countries toward the Russian Empire are strikingly alike. Both lost their independence through the partitions of the eighteenth century, after having been for centuries great and flourishing empires. Both are Catholic countries. Both suffered horribly from czardom during the nineteenth century. Both were battle-grounds during the late war. Commander Gade, an American reserve naval officer who represented us in the Baltic provinces and has since been able to impress his personal opinions upon the State Department, justifies the non-recognition policy on practical economic grounds. He maintains that these countries cannot exist independently, and ought not to be encouraged in their aspirations for nationhood, because Russia needs them as an economic outlet to the sea, while much of their prosperity must come from transit trade. Commander Gade has advanced this point of view earnestly and plaus
ibly. It appeals to American common sense, which believes that in union there is strength.
But we forget the treaties of Versailles and St.-Germain. One may have his own opinion about the advisability of the policy of émiettement (breaking in pieces) of political organisms that represented the economic evolution of past centuries. We are committed, however, to just that policy. It is too late to question it. I have never been an unreasoning and sentimental pleader for the doctrine of self-determination, but I have maintained, as a student of nationalist movements, that the effort to limit the application of self-determination to races whose liberation helps the fancied interests of a few great powers is disastrous and makes impossible the establishment of peace. Political expediency is never more than a temporary makeshift. Old problems are solved only by creating new ones. It stands to reason that we cannot in one breath lop off frontier provinces from Germany on the ground of the alien character of their inhabitants and destroy the Hapsburg Empire on the ground of the right of its various elements to an independent existence, and in the next breath tell other, and neighboring, subject races that they have no future outside of the Romanoff Empire. Lithuania has a better economic raison d'être than Poland and Czecho-Slovakia. Lithuania and the other Baltic Sea republics have precedents that refute the argumentation of Gade and our State Department not only in regard to their right and ability to exist independently of Russia, but also independently of one another.
If the reader will take the map of Europe and look at the location of the German Empire and follow its river courses in relation to Belgium and Holland, and then compare the similar situation of Russia in relation to Lithuania, Latvia, and Esthonia, he will readily see how the Gade position, which our State Department has foolishly adopted, resembles the position of German economists toward Belgium. Standing between a great empire and the sea is no reason to deny the right of a race to nationhood. The Dutch and a part of the Belgians are very much closer the Ger
mans racially than the Lithuanians and Latvians are to the Russians and Poles. The access to the sea argument for a big fellow crushing the life out of a little fellow I thought we had definitely scotched. It is disconcerting to see it crop up in our own country in official circles. The other two parts of the Gade economic argument are also refuted by Belgium and Holland. These countries have existed economically, flourished, and been able to defend themselves against Germany, England, and France. And they have existed now for nearly a hundred years as separate entities. Why should not Baltic Sea states get along as well as North Sea states? The Baltic Sea already has little states less extensive in territory and some of them less populous than the new Baltic Sea republics.
But Lithuania, Latvia, and Esthonia, by asking for the recognition of their independence, do not close the door upon the possibility of a Russian federation or a federation among themselves. In this time of upset and confusion they are asking simply for a free hand to look out for their own interests. As Russian provinces, with no separate international status, they could resist neither Bolshevists nor Russian reactionaries. They would be in the plight of the rest of Russia now, and to-morrow, when the reaction comes, have to submit to a return to the old intolerable conditions, alien landowners and alien office-holders grinding the life out of them. The Baltic Sea republics may develop into vigorous independent states, or they may return to membership in the political organism of a new and regenerated Russia; but in the meantime they have to live, and when the moment for the reconstitution of integral Russia comes, these subject races will know by experience whether independence is possible or preferable from an economic point of view, and will be able to lay down political and social stipulations if they feel that it is wisest to go back to Russia. The best thought in Great Britain is in favor of looking upon the Baltic Sea republics in this light. The British Government stands for giving them a chance. The AngloSaxon instinct says, give them a chance! Why do we have to tolerate such an unjust and stupid policy as that outlined in
the Colby note? One is thankful that President-elect Harding has promised "a complete reversal" of American foreign policy. For our honor as well as for our interests, the election of Harding is a great victory. We may not be able to take on the defense of the small nations the world over; at least we shall refrain from giving official sanction to stifling their aspirations.
In an article in this magazine advocating independence for Poland, when the Poles had no friends in Entente official circles and Americans regarded the resurrection of Poland as a dream in the category with the restoration of AlsaceLorraine to France, I warned the Poles against the danger of an inordinate territorial appetite.1 A year later, when the Russian Revolution had made encouragement of Poland a diplomatic possibility for the Entente, I heard M. Roman Dmowski, at the Comité National d'Etudes in the Cour de Cassation, Paris, set forth the aspirations of Poland. M. Dmowski spoke as if two racial units alone, the Russians and the Poles, faced each other from the Baltic to the Black Sea. He limited the problem of the future border-lands between Russia and the Central empires to the recognition of Poland's independence and the backing of Poland's claims at the peace conference. Dmowski did not mention the Lithuanians and the Ukrainians. This was the beginning of a policy that has ruled the Polish attitude toward the eastern frontiers of their state. The Poles insisted in the west on the inclusion of every district inhabited by Poles. In the east they have regarded the ethnographical argument as nonexistent.
Poland claims all the Russian borderlands, including Lithuania, as part of historic Poland. The Ukrainians and Lithuanians, whose ethnographical territories are thus refused them, claim also to have ruled all these lands at one time. The Lithuanians deny ever having been conquered by the Poles or having formed more than a personal union with the Polish state, and declare that they were victims of the partitions not as a part of
Poland, but as an independent state. The historic argument applied to the Russian border-lands is very much like that used by the Balkan States in their rival claims to Macedonia. At some time or other each in turn was the upper dog and owned the disputed territories.
The ungenerous attitude of Poland toward all her neighbors is peculiarly disheartening. One would think that the Poles had suffered so much from the hands of their masters that they would instinctively refrain from playing the detested rôle themselves. But one must reluctantly admit that the Poles seem to have learned only how to employ the brutal methods of their own conquerors. As Russians and Germans acted toward the Poles, so have the Poles been acting toward Lithuanians and Ukrainians. We remember how the Poles pilloried the colonization schemes of their Prussian masters. Exactly the same schemes they are adopting in turn toward weaker races. The seizure of the capital of Lithuania by General Zellgouski has led to a new war. The Poles have taken on as enemies all their neighbors, Germans, Czecho-Slovaks, Ukrainians, Russians, and Lithuanians. The state they are trying to form contains so many alien elements in juxtaposition geographically to "brothers of blood" that it is bound to collapse under the weight of a circle of irredentist movements. The Poles ought to have made friends of the Lithuanians. By Zellgouski's move, if not disavowed and punished, Poland will find the Baltic Sea republics allied against her either with Germany or Russia or both.
What is the moral for us? If our Government intends to give active aid in the establishment of peace and reconstruction in Europe, we cannot pursue a different policy in the Baltic from that of Great Britain. We must recognize and seek to strengthen the Baltic Sea republics, incidentally looking around for opportunities for trade in Eastern Europe. If we are going to disinterest ourselves in the politics of Europe, and look for a field for our diplomatic and commercial activities elsewhere, let us stop putting in our oar where we do not intend to row.
1 See the "Reconstruction of Poland" in THE CENTURY for November, 1916.