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it necessary to safeguard herself by ententes and agreements; Germany thereupon perceived her own vulnerability in the sphere of her vast oversea trade. This weakness once recognised, it became a commonplace of self-preservation to add to her navy. This act, in turn, however, aroused England's attention suddenly to Germany's importance both in commercial and naval matters, and we then began to scrutinise her possibilities for aggression. In some such way as this the snowball' has grown, and the game of snowballing' goes on.
It was under these circumstances that the Government, responding to the pressure of public opinion, withheld its assent from the Bagdad Railway scheme, while Venezuela left behind it a fresh legacy of bitterness. Every increase of tension between the two Governments redoubled British anxiety to strengthen and extend coûte que coûte the system of ententes and alliances, and German zeal to quicken the pace of naval construction-and so the story has gone on page by page and chapter by chapter.
After France-Russia. The rise of Japan to the status of a first-class Power was largely advanced by the benevolent assistance of England. She emerged from the war with greatly enhanced prestige, but Russia, not only checked, lay crippled and prostrate after her military and naval sacrifices. The Eastern neighbour had for the time being ceased to exist as a military Power. The sudden menace on that frontier which chilled even Bismarck's audacious spirit was for a season gone. France was isolated in Europe. What if Germany might be tempted to try conclusions with her only formidable military rival left?
The situation produced the solution. The power of Russia was for the time being paralysed. The immediate effect was to ease and therefore strengthen Germany, to unbolster and consequently weaken France, and to open up an approach between England and France and an abatement of their antagonisms. Our predominant trade interest in Morocco, even Morocco itself, was one of our concessions to secure the French entente.
This method of disposing of an entire country with which Germany for years had made great efforts to establish traderelations was resented by her, and it naturally became the point at which Germany chose to test the solidarity of the dual understanding. The entente, however, held, and after some critical months the Act of Algeciras more or less confirmed France in her Moroccan prospects. The situation left Germany resentful, and every day which saw Russia impotent urged English and French statesmen to a great effort to help Russia through her difficulties and to bring her out on the side of the entente.
It was a difficult and delicate task which now fell to Sir Edward Grey, who contrived to reach an understanding with Russia which involved interests in Persia.
On this occasion it was Austria that applied the first test to the reality of the new triple entente by the annexation of Bosnia. This stroke of policy was the culmination of the abandonment by Austria of the policy of common Austro-Russian action in the Near East. It struck a blow at Russian interests, and offered her no compensation. It placed us in a very difficult position alike as signatories of the Treaty of Berlin, as friends of the new régime, and as would-be backers of Russia. If we objected to the annexation we estranged Austria; if we held back we offended Russian susceptibilities.
Sir Edward Grey decided to take a strong line against Count Aehrenthal. How far he was influenced by his care for Russian susceptibilities, how far he desired to exhibit his friendliness to the new régime in Turkey, and how far to uphold the moral rights of Europe against the breakers of solemn covenants, it is impossible to say. In any event the result was plain. We received a rebuff and blow to our prestige, and for the moment the triple entente practically ceased to exist. We had indulged in protests and menace, but gave no hint of enforcing our attitude by military and naval intervention. Russia had never intended fighting for what were primarily her interests, not ours. France has few interests in the Near East, and could hardly be expected to be enthusiastic for war. Months of diplomatic intervention and wire-pulling left the situation in a highly critical and explosive condition, and Austria stood mobilised and armed at the gate.
Germany selected this moment to end the tension by intervening in the situation, and announced herself the pronounced ally of Austria: that was the answer to our remonstrances. There came no reply from London, Petersburg, or Paris to this demonstration; war was averted, and an episode which left the two central Powers dominant in Europe came to its close. This time it was prestige and not territory we had been obliged to sacrifice to the idea of the triple entente. We had lost the friendship of Austria and earned nothing in exchange.
Nor can it be said that we were particularly successful in our diplomatic relations with Turkey. The cordiality with which she received our new Ambassador in Constantinople afforded unmistakable signs of a desire for a renewal of our former terms of intimacy. Our diplomatic intercession in matters concerning the Bagdad Railway, in which Turkey was financially largely interested, was not a particularly happy manoeuvre; nor had she occasion to feel gratified at the ill-success which attended the efforts of financiers in this country to float a Turkish loan, which had it received official and more general support, must inevitably have greatly strengthened our position with that country.
To sum up, in the three great diplomatic encounters between
Great Britain and Germany which have taken place since the South African war, we were more or less successful in the first and the last and failed in the second. During that same period we kept Germany out of Asia Minor and out of Morocco. Indirectly, through the rise of Japan, we checked her ambitions in China; while the Germans at least believe, and perhaps with some substratum of truth, that the British Navy has been a force operating to prevent a Colonial adventure either in South America, the West Indies, or the Portuguese African possessions.
On the whole, then, we have succeeded in our game, if that game was to check German expansion.
In order to balance the account we must write off several items : (1) We have placed a foreign Power across our Mediterranean route to the East.
France at Toulon and Bizerta, with her consolidated NorthAfrican position, obviously controls the Suez route far more effectively than would Germany at, say, Bizerta and Kiel. In the latter case the German fleet is cut off from its Mediterranean object or squadron by these islands. In the former case we have nothing but the guns and dockyards of Gibraltar and Malta to oppose the French fleets, based in one case directly on the whole resources of France and in the other on a vast North-African seaboard territory. Lord Rosebery, no doubt, had this vital consideration in mind when he criticised Lord Lansdowne's Moroccan policy in an important speech after the conclusion of the AngloFrench Treaty.
This fact alone made the form which the German protest took at Agadir a matter of imprudence. Did Germany imagine that, having imperilled the Suez route to India, and having allowed France to take up a flank position on our West African trade-line, we could afford to put another Power on the edge of that one route left to us? We paid toll to France in the Straits of Gibraltar; were we going to pay tribute to Germany for the Atlantic and the Cape?
That the relations of European Powers are not immutably fixed the history of the last seventeen years is in itself a living proof. There is in fact no European Power with which we have not been on bad terms successively in the last 150 years. Does the new diplomacy think only in decades? And is our present friendship with France fixed as by the laws of the Medes and Persians which alter not? Alas! the mere mention of a formal enactment reminds us that all our sacrifices have not even purchased from France such security as a formal treaty of alliance brings. And that we consider France a powerful force, and not a decadent nation, is proved by the mere fact that we have sought her friendship at such a tremendous cost.
(2) We lost in a week our old historic and valuable friendship with Austria. Even Orders carried by the suave hands of Lord Rosebery will not give us back what we lost over Bosnia.
(3) We have further diminished our influence in the Mediterranean by our tacit acquiescence in Italian aggression in Tripoli.
(4) We are engaged in watching to-day in silent acquiescence the Russian advance on the Indian Ocean-an advance the frustration of which has been the object of British statesmen for half a century.
In a word, while our communications with India have been weakened at one end they are being threatened also at the other by the presence of Russia on the flank of our Indian Empire. This is indeed a heavy price to pay for checking German expansion.
Again, only this month came in the sudden news that Mongolia had been formally or informally annexed; yet there have been at present no Bosnian heroics over this rumoured episode.
(5) Our whole position in India, the Far East, and the Pacific has been thoroughly weakened by the withdrawal of the greater part of our naval strength in those waters.
The primary reason of this withdrawal has been the naval necessity of concentrating our fleets in home waters in order to keep the narrow seas against the high-sea fleet. This weakening of our power in the Pacific virtually compelled us to renew the Anglo-Japanese alliance, which had otherwise done its work in keeping Russia back from the Sea of China, and would probably have been allowed to lapse. The effect of the renewal of the alliance has undoubtedly been detrimental to our prestige in the East in the following respects:
(a) The provisions made for Japanese assistance for the defence of India have had the worst effect on Indian opinion.
(b) We can no longer assert the right of British subjects to commercial concessions in China for fear of offending Japan, who is a keen competitor in these ventures.
(c) Australia is alarmed at the rise of Japanese power and at her own defenceless position. America views our policy with suspicion; and finally, the visit of the United States fleet to Australia set going some thoughts on both sides of the Pacific.
(d) We relinquished our naval station in Chinese waters and surrendered our supremacy in the Pacific to Japan.
All these developments can be traced more or less directly to apprehension in the North Sea.
These items in the debit account must bring home to any mind the fact that we have made vital sacrifices in world-politics for our success in checking the extra-European expansion of the German Empire. Has it been worth it? Were there not inherent causes in the situation arising out of the Japanese war which insensibly
drew France and England and even Russia closer together; and if Germany was rightly considered the storm-centre, why should it have been impossible to treat directly with her?
In stating this case for argument I must not be taken to imply that the policy of ententes and alliances has been wrong from start to finish. In decisions which make for friendship or enmity, the tempers of nations or individuals are factors as important as the real interests which divide or unite them.
The feelings which the Jameson Raid incident and the animosity displayed during the South African war had aroused, left embers which could only die by degrees. Indeed, one subtle effort was made to lay the foundation of a great 'world's peace' policy by a commercial and political understanding between England, Germany, and the United States. Mr. Joseph Chamberlain' came forward as the champion of this conception, but his Leicester speech in 1899 was frostily received by the Press of the United States, and German diplomacy' failed to respond by a similar and simultaneous pronouncement of support to that policy. The secret of German lukewarmness is disclosed in the German Press comments on Mr. Chamberlain's speech. Every nation,' Bismarck once shrewdly remarked, 'must eventually pay for the windows broken by the Press.' This remark is peculiarly appropriate to this international incident. The attitude of scuttle taken up by German statesmanship over this incident drove the lines of
'I have almost as many friends in the United States as I have here, and I can conceive of no greater disaster which would befall the two countries, or which could befall mankind, than that they should find themselves in a hostile attitude towards each other. The same sentiments which bring us into close sympathy with the United States of America may also be evoked to bring us into closer sympathy and alliance with the Empire of Germany . . . and if the Union between England and America is a powerful factor in the cause of peace, a new Triple Alliance between the Teutonic race and the two great branches of the Anglo-Saxon race will be a still more potent influence in the future of the world. I have used the word 'alliance' sometimes in the course of what I have said. But again I desire to make it clear that to me it seems to matter little whether you have an alliance which is committed to paper or whether you have an understanding which exists in the minds of the statesmen of the respective countries. An understanding, perhaps, is better than the alliance, which may stereotype arrangements which cannot be accepted as permanent in view of the changing circumstances from day to day. ... Both interest and sentiment unite us to Germany; but in the case of nations alliances do not rest upon interest alone. . . . The world is not governed entirely by interest, or, in my opinion, particularly by interest. Sentiment is one of the greatest factors in all our affairs, and there is no reason why the sentiments of the two countries should not be in accord.'—[The Times, December 1, 1899.] 2 Prince Buelow in the German Reichstag said, with reference to England: 'We are entirely prepared to live in peace and friendship with that Power on the basis of complete reciprocity and mutual consideration. But it is exactly because our international position is a favourable one that we must utilise it to make ourselves secure for the future.'-The Times, December 12, 1899.