IN a number of respects the international atmosphere has lifted a little. The change appears to be due to the success of the Hopkins-Stalin conversations, as a result of which the Big Three are likely to meet again in the near future.
One may guess that the change has come about this time owing to the increasingly firm attitude of the British and American Governments, and in so far the result, however small, must be considered of far greater value than the cordiality through Western appeasement which marked Teheran and Yalta. Unfortunately Russia at those meetings was allowed to bargain at so inflated a figure that quite minor concessions at the present time wear the aspect of excellent concessions.
It may be worth while noting some of the diplomatic victories gained by Russia, victories which, we may take it, will be finally confirmed as Russia's minimum price for some working measure of international collaboration in the settlement of Europe and in the
International Peace Organisation. These victories include : the recognition of the Baltic States as part of the U.S.S.R. ; the partition of Poland ; a virtual Russian protectorate over a Poland enlarged in the West to eat deeply into former German territory; the formation of a Russian bloc covering Southern Europe up to the Adriatic on the West, up to the Southern German border in the North and down to Greece in the South—a bloc which will confirm the authority of Tito, a Russian-trained Communist in theory and practice. Nor is it yet clear whether the disproportionately large slice of Germany entrusted to Russia will be administered in harmony with the general Allied control of Germany or in such a way as to extend Russia's European Empire half-way across Europe. Iran, Turkey and the Near East remain as possible further bargaining points. In addition to this, one must note that Russia will easily get away with her intentions of scaling oft her immense European zone so that there can be no question of any guarantee within it of President Roosevelt's Four Freedoms nor of Mr. Churchill's basic political liberties which be enumerated in Italy as the criterion between the totalitarian and the libertarian state, in other words, between Fascism and anti-Fascism.
It is an extraordinary and vett, menacing record, and it desperately narrows the territory of any possible useful co-operation between East and West. Yet it is on that very narrow territory that international peace and the hopes of mankind for a juster era have to be built. It seems a poor result indeed for six years of blood and devastation—poor for us, that is, not for Russia, On the other hand it must not be overlooked that Russia is still very dependent on foreign capital and that+ the fantastic increase of her centralised empire raises internal problems (not least the opening of the eyes of Many Russians to other standards of life and the opening of the eyes of some Europeans to the truth about Russia) which may not be easily solved.
Repatriation of Russians
\ATE suggested above that such small progress as may be being made in persuading Russia to co-operate with the West. at any rate to the extent of preventing a general recognidon of complete failure in San Francisco and in Germany, was due to an increasing firmness on our side. -FieldMarshal Alexander showed the way in the Tito dispute. and it seems that Moscow hastened to advise a policy of accommodation. The attitude of Stettinius and Eden towards the arbitrary imprisonment of the 15 Poles has led Moscow to ascertain that these patriots were after all only guilty of minor transgressions, though in this case we shall not be happy until the men are enabled to leave Russian-protected territories or at least allowed to converse freely with British and American representatives. And now the deadlock over negotiations has been broken, though one must reserve one's judgment as to the real meaning of the Soviet offer. Something of the same relative firmness is to be found in the Foreign Office's unambiguous reply to Colonel-General Golikov's complaint regarding the British treatment of liberated Soviet citizens.
This last matter raises, however, points of the deepest human significance which have not yet been clarified. They cover not only military personnel, but the much greater number of " displaced persons " wham the Russians claim as citizens. We know that Soviet Russia places extremely little value on human life and human liberty and that she is accustomed to deal very summarily with any person coming within her jurisdiction whose record is not wholly pleasing to the Communist Party. Among the men, claimed by Russia, who fall into British or American hands there are very many who know quite well that death or slavery awaits them if they arc delivered into Russian hands. Some have bad records. from the Russian point of view, because of their
nationality ; others have spiritual, moral or political grounds for objecting to the Communist ideology which, for civilised people, cannot be accounted the same as loyalty to Russia.
The plain fact is that conditions of human life and liberty in Soviet Russia are such that it would be a crime against the human person for the British and American Governments to repatriate any person whom Russia may claim if that person can show honest grounds for preferring to semain beyond the reach of the Russian police. This is a point upon which we can be firm since it is scarcely conceivable that Russia would risk any serious reprisal against British prisoners whom all the world knows to be desirous of immediate repatriation to their free homeland.
THE Soviet standard of pohtical behaviour raises another point • that may grow in importance as Allied behaviour is assessed in after-years and as it will bear on the shaping Of postwar history. There can be different opinions about the trial and punishment of the different categories of war criminals. Probably most people are agreed about the necessity this time of trying and punishing all who are guilty of definite atrocities and all who were responsible for plain persecution of the innocent. More difficult is the posidon of politicians who are considered to have caused the war or who ordered and carried out acts of aggression in defiance of the law of nations and treaties. And it may not be wise to press too far the case of those (all, too common on every side in war) who exceed what is traditionally considered legitimate in fighting. Those, for example. accused of attacking undefended places might well plead that aerial warfare has involved this practice on a mammoth scale. But. however all this be, there is one reflection which must strike everyone and will be increasingly dwelt upon in the future: it is the participation of Soviet Russiain the administration of all this justice. Life and liberty, we repeat, are held very cheaply in Russia, and things happen there which, whether they are less had or worse than what has haltpened under Nazi Germany, are It least known to be very far below the code of the Western nations which is the standard accepted for judging of war and international criminals. It is not to be supposed that Russia at war follows a higher code than Russia at peace and in her internal administration.
In view of the balance—or rather unbalance--of power • which now threatens Europe and the world it is surprising that there is such persistence in policies of bitter repression against defeated Germany, of schoolmarmish non-fraternisation and of unprecedentedly severe threats of just punishment (with Russia a participating judge) whose ultimate effect can only be to make. any real union of Western Europe impossible in our day. And this danger is becoming all the steam? in that any real understanding between Britain and France is difficult to achieve owing to the artificial nature of French politics which are fundamentally more concerned with recriminations over the past than with the
creation of a sounder future. This makes de Gaulle, on the one side, more touchy and plays into the. hands of the Communists, on the other.
If the Labour Party with its socialist tradition rightly understood its business it would surely stand today for a peace policy of reconciliation between man and man on the basis of a common moral code, such as has been put forward by the National Peace Council in its plea for a Constructive Peace and signed by large numbers of eminent people, many of whom ate very far from being pacifist.
A Constructive Peace • THE seven points of their appeal are
worth publicising. For our part we can only deplore the contemporary division and weakness of religious faith which deprives such a programme of its natural grounding in a common conviction that every person is created in God's image and called to a supernatural perfection through leading a good life in harmony with God's will as revealed by natural reason and the teaching of the Church. Add the Holy Father's spiritual leadership to the following points and sanity would be restored to the world. These arc the points: (1) The bringing of adequate relief to distressed peoples everywhere according to their need and the acceptance by those more favourably placed of the restrictions upon their own standards of living necessary for this purpose; (2) The abolition of poverty and. unemployment and the raising of standards, both economic and cultural. through the maximum use and equitable sharing of all available resources; (3) The achievement of . political and economic freedom for India and for all dependent peoples;
. (4) The development within a wider co-operation of a closer unity between, and common services for, the peoples of Europe, as of other related areas;
(5) The international control of armaments to ensure their progressive reduction in all countries in conjuatcLion with. the transfer of world resources to productive uses; (6) The promotion of education in the responsibilities of world citizenship; and (7) The setting-up of the international organisations necessary to the fulfilment of 'these tasks and the limiting of national sovereignties in order tp render their work effective.