Editorial: Russia and the Straits

That element of comedy which relieves almost every tragic situation, appears at last in the ultra-tragic situation on the Continent. For generations the British policy of preserving the “balance of power” in Europe has led our chivalric masters to adopt an attitude of protection and support toward certain ”small nations,” which wet-nurse attitude has afforded fools and sycophants a splendid opportunity to erect and nurture a theory of British love of “right” and “justice” that has precious little foundation in actual fact. What monumental sacrifice was undertaken in our grandfathers’ time (and at our [the working class] grandfathers’ expense) to argue Russia into a right state of mind concerning the sacredness of Turkish soil, and what farce has since been played, over the reeking graves of butchered “small nations,” to maintain in his pestilential power the “sick man of Europe,” whose rotten carcass happened to bar the way of Russia to the Mediterranean ! And what British blood has deluged the plains of Flanders and the Low Countries to maintain their “involiable rights” (in fiction) because (in fact) their acquisition meant a disturbance of power, military and commercial, that did not recommend itself to British chivalry !

And now Time, like the corner-men in the Nigger minstrel troupe, supplies the comic relief without which both the “Spanish onion” song and the high tragedy of international politics are insufferable. British policy is on the horns of a dilemma. Cherished traditions come in conflict. The Russians want the Straits of Gallipoli and the Germans want Belgium. It is deucedly awkward, don’tyeknow, and if that wild scramble to the Peninsular had only succeeded the situation might have been saved. The Turks might have capitulated on terms that would still have left them masters of their fate, guardians of the “holy places,” benefactors of the Armenian and other poor devils who would be so much better off under the rule of the gentle Russian. But the Churchillian “gamble” fell through. The paeans which eulogised the marvellous way in which the British caught hold of the turkey at Gallipoli were outdone by the chants praising the clever way they let it go again, and the attempt to save the “sick man of Europe” from himself and the Russian bear collapsed. And now British chivalry has had to decide between Germany and Russia.

The problem was brought within reach of the minds of British statesmen by one or two existing facts. In the first place, Germany, the enemy of the moment by reason of her superior industrial development, had already gained such ascendency in Turkey as rendered her conquest eventually of the historic sea outlets a foregone conclusion—and better Russia than Germany. On the other hand opportunity was ripe for Russia, who found herself provided with both the excuse and the means to carry out her long-cherished aspirations. She had only to divert her strength to the purpose, leaving the other occupants of the cockpit largely to fight themselves to a standstill, and she would soon have accomplished what her great love for Christianity has impelled her to essay more than once before. The knowledge of these things, no doubt, helped to maintain that united front, that common effort on behalf of international freedon, those bonds woven out of love of honour and justice and the rest ; but that delegates should find it necessary to come from Russia in order to make bargains in the matter of plunder speaks volumes concerning the real nature of those bonds and the difficulty of keeping them intact.

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