VOLLOWING the recall of Lit
vinov from the Russian Embassy in Washington, there has been a much greater disposition in the press to admit openly the deterioration of relations between Soviet Russia and Britain and America. It is generally conceded that Stalin's removal of two such prominent diplomats as Maisky and Litvinov, both of them associated with the widening of the Soviet's horizon, so to say, cannot be accounted for by Stalin's reputed desire to have these advisers by him. The fact, too, that they are replaced by younger diplomats of the new school who are probably even more directly the mouthpiece of postpurged Russia is in keeping with the view that the Soviet is desirous of taking its own line in the difficult days ahead. The view is generally taken that the cause of this coolness is to be sought in the British-American failure to open up a second front on a large scale, and the Soviet press has certainly left no doubt on the score of its deep disappointment about this. Whether this explanation goes the whole way or not is another matter. Stalin is much too intelligent and experienced a ruler not to realise the strategic difficulties in the way of a grand offensive in France or the Netherlands and the appalling consequences of any failure to follow up what must be costly beginnings to an amphibian operation of this sort against the untouched German Army of the West. Nor can he fail to appreciate the immense progress made by the Western Allies since the African landings, a progress which in fact has scarcely been less decisive (if far less costly) than the great Russian victories themselves. There is no reason why he should not trust Churchill and Roosevelt to take every sound measure to defeat the Axis in the West, since it is so obviously in our own interest that this should be done. The preliminary results in the elimination of Mussolini and virtual defeat of Italy are not to be sneezed at.
Deeper Differences THE differences must go deeper than this, and since they cannot he cured without facing up to them there is no reason to conceal them. They centre round the different postwar policies of the Western and Eastern Allies. At the present moment. for example, we think that the difficulties are much more about the nature of the second front than about the question of why a large scale offensive has not materialised. And this difficulty finds its explanation in post-war policies. The question is whether we go all out in the West or in the Balkans. Evidently the chances of rapid progress are much greater in the Balkans and the cost will be much smaller. We can szeure a large bridgehead with comparative ease and build up rapidly a powerful base for operations that would soon be striking at Germany proper. There are obvious reasons however why this choice of ground would not he pleasing to the Soviet, since it may be said to come within what is called the Soviet sphere of influence after the war. It may well be that the final decision (no doubt already taken) about where the second front is to be will mark the degree of our willingness to respect the Soviet view.
In fact the difficulties between the Soviet and ourselves date from the breach over Poland, and here we face an obvious source of difference in that we are pledged to the full restoration of Polish integrity and, in general, to the full independence of all small nations, whereas Soviet Russia may feel the need to strengthen her frontier and adopt a policy towards the countries near her which will afford her an outlet rather than become another cordon sanitaire. It is to be observed (whether there be anything in it or not) that with the overthrow of Hitler and Nazism there would be certain advantages for the Soviet in its taking the view that the main purpose of the war is ended. She could then ask for release from earlier commitments and bargain for arrangements and frontiers that would suit her better than the letter of the Atlantic Charter as it affects small countries.
We do not think there is very much in the Left press contention that the Soviet is annoyed at our not actively fomenting popular revolu tions in Western Europe. Such a view relates itself to an earlier stage of Soviet history, and Stalin is probably perfectly content with our doing what we like in the West if he can make his own arrangements in the East.
But however we look at it, there is no sort of doubt that an early meeting between Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin is highly desirable. The difficulties are great. but they will grow tougher if they are not frankly discussed while there is still time.
THREE-PARTY CONFERENCE THE lack of any definite informs' tion in formal and informal statements following the Quebec Conference indicates that the conversations were almost exclusively on strategic and military topics. And this to some extent explains the absence of Soviet Russia. The fact that the latter country is not at war with Japan alone would make it difficult to engage on three-sided discussions about questions largely relating to the problems of the Far East.
But there is no doubt that public opinion is dissatisfied with the continued inability or reluctance to stage a conference between the three great Allied Powers, a conference which is even now only vaguely hoped for. Public opinion is right. Highly important as military conversations obviously are, the frank round-table discussion of wider issues of policy is even more important, and these are clearly quite impossible without the presence of Stalin.
We have failed throughout the war to realise the immense importance of the right ideological and political approach to war problems. We have failed to understand that battles can be won and lives saved by intelligent propaganda. At all periods of history the negative approach of " unconditional surrender " would have been foolish, indicating a bankruptcy of intelligence. To-day when popular opinion (even in dictator countries) has been continuously flattered, such a negative approach is even more absurd. In Italy we have had the opportunity of dropping this approach with the overthrow of Mussolini and Fascism. This event should have been followed up with the offer of terms, clear explanations of our inability to neutralise the country and indications, at least, of Italy's future
status in a world restored to peace. We are unable to believe that intelligent approach along these lines would not have resulted in Italy's withdrawal from active support of the Axis by this time. But all this is dependent upon
agreement on a policy. Whether such agreement would result from a free and frank discussion between Britain, America and Russia is uncertain. What is certain is that such agreement will never be promoted by the present refusal to face up to the difficulties.
ROME BOMBING OVER ?
WHEN the Holy See acts as an in
termediary between Powers, it of course takes no special responsibility for the sincerity of these Powers, At the same time it would be hard to believe that the Vatican would be willing to transmit a message from a Government on its own doorstep unless it was satisfied of its honesty. Thus we think that its good offices in the matter of Rome being declared an Open City should be given great weight in the Allied reception of Italian undertakings.
Though. nothing official has come through, it is believed that London and Washington are taking a favourable view of the matter, and the published list of Italian undertakings in regard to Rome should satisfy us that Rome in this condition would be considerably less dangerous to us than Rome bombed according to the precision type of bombing which alone has, happily, been used against the Eternal City.
Let us hope we may now take it that the bombing of Rome is wholly a question of the past.
THE SOVIET LOOKS BACK A NUMBER of significant changes ". in the outlook of Soviet Russia are involved in recent measures and proposals emanating from that country. It should be noted that, whether these materialise or not according to plan, the new spirit is still extremely significant. Thus there is no question of the fact that Russia wishes to return rapidly to a conception of marriage and family life that breaks clean away from early Soviet days and links up with the older Christian tradition. This change has doubtless been stimulated by the imperative need for a rapidly increasing birth-rate to compensate for war losses. Likewise the far-reaching plans for the restoration of liberated areas, besides being excellent propaganda to the people of the world including the enemy peoples, seem to envisage educational reforms along unexpected lines. We hear, for example, of the idea of reforming military colleges along the lines of Tsarist Russia! Given the background suggested by these changes, a real return to something of the religious outlook of once " Holy " Russia is not out of the question—but our own Left anti-clericals will have to find some new text-books!
PORTUGUESE TROUBLES nNE of the countries which is nNE of the countries which is ONE the effects of prolonged war most sharply is Portugal. There is a tendency to think (especially among Catholics perhaps) that the Salazar regime is impregnable. Unfortunately that is not the case. Salazar's merit does not consist in his having created a perfect regime, for that he has not done, but in having done so much for a country handicapped by many obstacles in the way of progress. In addition to the legacy of disorder and illiteracy left him by the liberal republic. he has been faced with grave problems arising from the country's economic poverty and particularly her lack of adequate transport. These problems have been immensely increased by the three years of Civil War in Spain and by the world war. Portugal's natural markets have been thrown into confusion and the close link with Nationalist Spain has meant far more economic loss than gain, for Portugal has felt it to be her duty to give all help possible to her suffering neighbour. At the moment her economic position is grave, and no regime can be immune against trouble and revolution when food is scarce. Though tl.: recent strikes have been exaggerated by a press not loath to see changes in Portugal, they have caused much concern in Portugal itself. Salazar has not been without enemies. and his regime has not been of the kind that drives all opposition below ground. With the oncoming of winter a situation may arise which will give a good opportunity to both Liberals and Communists to try their hand at changing the regime. Both these opponents unfortunately believe that Allied victories will work in their favour, and if they go by the general tendency of our press they have reason for so thinking. Salazar has given Portugal peace and considerably more prosperity than plenty than any alternative regime could have afforded her. It will be tragedy if the seven years of war among her neighbours result in the upsetting of his fine work. It is to be hoped that the Allies will do all they can to prevent this—and Catholics might well say a prayer to Our Lady of Fatima that she may protect a land which recently has
.eived such special approval and blessings from the Holy Father.
HUNGARY TT is worth noting that one of the A countries now coming in for special Allied interest is Hungary. Especially in Left papers one will find ever more frequent mentions about its backwardness, its hostility to Communism, its dealings with the Axis. and so on. And the B.B.C. itself has broadcast a warning to Budapest about its liability to be bombed.
We do not wish to suggest that Hungary is not in need of considerable reform nor that its siding with the Axis must not be taken into account, nor yet that we can overlook the unpleasant policies of certain Fascistic leaders and parties. But we also recall that Hungary is largely a Catholic country, that it got the worst deal after the last war, that it suffered a Communist rising, that it is agricultural, that it is a friend of Poland (with whom it is not at war), that throughout there have been strong witnesses, both among Church and State, against racialism and tyranny, and that today its people are more and more looking to us. The question is whether we follow in regard to that country a policy determined by influences hostile to Christianity and tradition or one determined by understanding and the need to make real friends in a vital sector of Europe.