S0 NATO AND RUSSIA have found it possible to collaborate! It takes me back to the days when Nato was founded as a crucial defence against Soviet aggression, which was sweeping across Europe and seemed about to engulf the whole continent.
I was close to the scene, though not having much influence; I was minister for the British zone of Germany, working under Ernest Bevin the Foreign Secretary. During the Council of Foreign Ministers 1947 I sat next to Ernest Bevin, possibly a little behind him — the other leaders being Marshall, American Secretary of State; Bidault, French Foreign Secretary and Molotov, Russian Foreign Secretary.
During the negotiations, Bevin and I were invited to dinner at the Russian Embassy. I sat next to Molotov, Bevin next to me. In those days the ladies were kept below the salt.
At one point Molotov asked me, always, of course, through the interpreter, and very courteously: "Have you studied Karl Marx, Lord Pakenham?" (as I then called myself) I replied: "Yes, I used to lecture on Karl Marx as a university teacher, but I am afraid that I am not a Marxist." Then Molotov (still very courteous) said: "I could hardly expect to find a good Marxist in the House of Lords." Ernie Bevin had listened long enough: "That's where you are wrong, Mr Molotov — the House of Lords are the only people in England who have got time to read Karl Marx."
Molotov then said: "Mr Bevin should study the works of Marx in the commentary of Hilferding." Ernie Bevin knew the answer to that one: "I have read Hilferding and I have found him tedious."
But Bevin was determined to reach a settlement with the Russians, if it was humanly possible. There came a moment in the prolonged negotiations when Marshall threw down his papers and indicated that it was no good going on. For the one and only time, Bevin turned to me for advice. Knowing his reluctance to give up trying for a settlement, I suggested that he should tell the conference that he must consider his position. But when Bidault strongly endorsed the line taken by Marshall, Bevin felt that there was no option and agreed to terminate the conference.
Next day he reproached himself (something very unusual with him) for giving lip too early, but he set to work at once to build up an effective resistance to the Russian menace, and on that morning Nato was born.
At the moment of writing, we stand on the verge of a great moment in history. When I say "we" I am presumptuous enough to speak for the world. For the first time, 19 nations have combined to stop the persecution of a large minority in a foreign country, where their own interests were not apparently concerned. If all goes well it will be a signal triumph for humanity.
I have lived through two great wars. In each case the cause was just. An aggres sor threatening many countries had to be stopped at all costs. It may be said with truth that we went to war in 1914 for the sake of Belgium. In 1939 for the sake of Poland. In neither case was Britain directly threatened, but in each case we could see where aggression would end, although the issue was much clearer in 1939 than in 1914.
It may be said that the Gulf War was a war to rescue a country at the mercy of an aggressor, but all sorts of interests were at stake. In the present case, few would argue that the Serbian dictator threatened major powers, including America and Britain, but the Nato alliance has represented in this case a profound moral indignation, which has taken shape in a deadly form of warfare.
I myself have always left it in the hands of those better equipped to judge, whether the use of ground troops would become necessary. I would have supported such a course if it were deemed unavoidable. There is no one whose opinion on such a matter demands more respect than that of the military historian John Keegan, defence editor of The Daily Telegraph. To his immense credit he has publicly admitted that he was wrong in thinking that bombing would not be sufficient.
In the event we seem to have achieved what appears to be a miracle, to have won a war without losing a single man or woman. If so, all honour to those concerned, most of all, in the eyes of myself and countless others, to the present Prime Minister.
President Clinton in a physical sense was still more important, but he had difficulties with his Republican majority in Congress. For all one hears, it needed our own Prime Minister to stiffen his resolve, but such comparisons are odious. Hats off to everyone, very much including the bombers, who played any part whatever in bringing the human race a step forward in the search, which will never end, for universal peace.
HAVE HAD several political heroes but I have regarded none of them as infallible. Winston Churchill made a unique contribution to winning the war but his previous record on India makes sad reading. Clem Attlee, whom I have called an ethical giant, confided in me late in life: "I ought to tell you that I have never like the Germans. Vi and I once had a German maid we were very fond of, but she was an exception." Eamon de Valera, the top of my list, made the supreme mistake of sending Arthur Griffiths to the negotiations with Loyd George in 1921 instead of going himself. But I am talking of politicians, not religious giants. I am not aware of any failings of Cardinal Hume — in all our minds at the moment — though he would be the last to agree with the implications of such a statement. I have ventured to send to him, in hospital, the following lines: No honours would Basil Hume Of his own volition assume But they made him OM And this Prince of Men Receives the spiritual plume