That Mr. Chamberlain should have begun his premiership by inviting Hitler to send his Foreign Minister to London was matter enough for comment. That the invitation should have been accepted was to he expected, but was at least interesting. That the acceptance once given should have been cancelled at the last moment is a " sensation " of the iirst magnitude. For that kind of thing simply " is not done " in international affairs, and even Hitler's Government cannot perpetrate it without being reasonably suspected of very dark designs indeed.
Graver than its mere discourtesy is what it implies or may imply on the part of Germany.
The immediate occasion of the cancelling of Baron Von Neurath's visit was the reluctance of the Four Power naval. committee to accept without investigation the German account of the attempts to torpedo the warship Leip zig. It seems that there are weighty technical reasons for caution. But Hider insists on action without investigation, and drastic action at that. And British hesitation is made the occasion for keeping back his Foreign Minister. The action scarcely tallies with the announcement of a few days earlier that one of the objects of the visit was to discuss Spanish affairs.
But it is only too probable that the real explanation of the action lies in its European setting. Not for a long time had there been a concurrence of circumstances so favourable to a German coup. Stalin had executed a batch of his best Generals, and the Russian army is staggering under the blow. General Franco had just taken Bilbao, and this looks like a turning point in the Spanish struggle. And France was in the throes of a political crisis. (Even the Germans can hardly be so foolish as to think that the French nation would remain divided if it were actually involved in war, but they may think that they have caught it impotent to decide to fight).
Such a combination of events may well have seemed to provide a chance in a million. And the procedure seems familiar. The Times quotes an ominous precedent In March, 1935, Sir John Simon and Mr. Eden were to visit Berlin. Almost at the last moment the German Government postponed their visit. In the interval before it was actually paid the reintroduction of conscription had been proclaimed.
Where will the blow fall this time, if blow there is to be? Danzig, CzechoSlovakia and Austria are all likely subjects in the East, and the cancelling of Von Neurath's conversations with Austria looks bad. Spain itself is the obvious objective in the West. The encouragement and the pretext are already provided. Prodigious demands for retribution and for precautionary measures could constitute the mode of operation.
Our readers know well enough that we utterly distrust the Spanish Reds and fervently wish them defeated. But we have also made it clear on previous occasions that we cannot regard the Nazi Government's intervention on the Nationalist side as anything but an accidental alliance, so far as the spiritual issues of the struggle are concerned, and that we could not look upon its extension of the war outside Spain as anything but a catastrophe, seeing that under the circumstances no clear spiritual issue would be raised. If that is really what Hitler is after we disclaim all sympathy with him in advance.
But in truth we are in the last degree unsympathetic to his method of recurring coups, whatever his objective.may be this time. It is intolerable that Europe should be kept continually on tenterhooks by melodramatic walkings out and buttings in, by sudden conferences with military chiefs and Saturday afternoon treaty denunciations. It is significant of the demoralisation of international politics that such things should be accepted now almost as a matter of course.
We have never advocated an antiGerman policy. We have said over and over again that there can be no stable settlement in Europe unless Germany can be brought into it and that every German peace offer should be explored, warily but thoroughly. But it is almost hopeless to have dealings with a power that is unceasingly throwing her weight about in this way. The Kaiser's Government behaved in that way in the decade before 1914 and we know what that led to. Hitler's Government is doing it even more insanely. It rests with itself whether the frontier with barbarism is to be drawn at the Vistula or at the