The Conflict of Foreign Policiesin the Balkans and Near East


By RUSSELL BARNES, Foreign Affairs Commentator, Editorial Staff, The Detroit News

Delivered before the Economic Club of Detroit, Detroit, Michigan, November 12, 1945

Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. XII, pp. 200-205.

BEFORE I get into a discussion of the topic I am supposed to discuss, I might tell you a little story about Anzio, since we have Lieutenant Noonan with us. Anzio didn't come off as was expected. Possibly General Knudsen, I may be talking a little out of turn here, but I hope you won't turn me in to the War Department. There is nothing very secret about this anyway.

But the Anzio operation was scheduled to coincide will the crossing of the river at Cassino. The purpose of the Anzio operation was to strike inland and cut Highways 6 and 7, as Lieutenant Noonan probably knows, but the Germans, as was too often the case, outsmarted us at Anzio and Cassino. We landed at Anzio and figured that the Germans would attempt to throw us into the sea immediately, but

the Germans did not. They diverted everything they had toward forcing us back across the river at Cassino. They succeeded and we were stuck at Cassino until the next spring.

This is Armistice Day, and the natural connotation of Armistice Day, of course, is war. So I think it might be fitting to devote a few minutes to a consideration of the big war picture. In other words, are we going to have another big war?

I am not asking whether we are going to have more wars, because all of you who read the newspapers know that we have half a dozen wars in progress now in one place or another in the world.

Now, the first point I want to make is that there is a good chance that we may avoid another big war, at least for a generation. I believe there is a good chance we may avoid another big war, such as the one from which we just emerged, for another generation, because the three powers capable of fighting such a war, Russia, the United States and Britain, are too exhausted to go into another such conflict for a long time, if they possibly can avoid it.

Secondly, I am of the opinion they are all too scared to risk another big war at this time. I don't anticipate the military experts of any of the powers would risk another big conflict until they have had more time to think through the potentialities of the atomic bomb and rockets.

I don't believe that as the situation stands now the military men know exactly what atomic power combined with rockets can do and I think they will want more time to study it out before they will risk throwing their nations into war.

Now, another thing which leads me to believe that we may avoid a big war for at least a generation, is that the three powers which could fight such a war are now fairly weir off in the way of natural frontiers and raw materials; there isn't any need for them to risk a major conflict which might turn out disastrous.

As for the United States, I think we will all agree that we are not going to fight an aggressive war.

The one chance is we might become engaged in conflict with the Russians or the British over the bases that our military men think we should have to protect ourselves against the future. But I don't anticipate anything of that kind is going to happen.

Great Britain is the weakest of the three powers. In fact, Great Britain, I am sorry to say, is in a very serious situation economically and politically. I believe there is less chance of the British going into another big war even than the United States.

As for Russia, the Soviet's situation is also very precarious. I doubt if the Russians would risk a big war over anything except formation of a Western combination against them, or some other step that would actually force them to fight. I don't think there is anything basic in the positions of any of the three big powers that would lead them to fight for at least another generation.

That doesn't mean, however, we are going to have world peace. None of these three powers that I have mentioned is in a frame of mind where it is willing to sacrifice any of its sovereignty, any of what it considers to be its national rights, or any of the territories or bases that it thinks it needs for the next war. Not one of them, in my opinion, is willing to make any such sacrifice now in favor of world peace. On our own side, we are demanding that we keep bases in the Pacific, and there is demand that we keep some of the bases in the Atlantic that we took over from Britain. We are talking about universal service to build up a big army for the future. In fact, we are behaving entirely as though we expected another big war to come. Now, I am not condemning that at all. In fact personally I think we should prepare. All you have to do is look at the behavior of the powers that could fight a war, and you find that they are behaving as they have always behaved—preparing for the next war.

I should like to clear one point before I go on. I said I thought we were moving out of a phase of big wars, and we might avoid all big wars for a generation. I do anticipate, however, to be cursed in the months and years ahead with a regular epidemic of small wars; wars such as the present civil war in China; the one between the Jews and Arabs in the Middle East; and revolutions in Latin America. I think there is going to be a great deal of civil strife in ail the nations, and that at the root of that civil strife will be class struggle.

In fact, to risk a broad generalization, I believe we are possibly passing from a period of national sovereignty into a period of class sovereignty. Now, I don't like that situation any better than I imagine most of you do. But, nevertheless, you do find the classes in all of the countries becoming conscious and opposing other classes within their own countries from the angle of class consciousness. I fear that a period of internal struggle within the countries, which may be just as bad as a big war, or almost as bad as a big war, is on. I think we might as well face it, and the prospect is going to be with us, until, to risk another generality, we discover once and for all whether capitalism is dead and whether the world is passing out of the capitalistic phase and into the phase of some form of socialism. I am convinced that here in the United States we are in that struggle. I think that die struggle is much farther advanced in other parts of the world than it is in this country, but it is also true historically that there has always been a time lag of about a quarter of a century between the old world and the new world. That may account for the fact that the struggle isn't as far advanced in this country as it is abroad.

Now, I hope that isn't true, and my personal opinion is that if we can settle down and do a job of social and economic engineering provide decent security and decent income for the mass of people in this country the system in this country may not have to be changed.

But I think it does hang on the ability of all factions in the body politic, in the body economic, to work out solutions of labor and other problems so that decisions are not thrown back on governments. If such matters go to political decision, I don't think I have to tell any of you where the power, the political power lies. If we are going to continue to be a democracy, and each man has one vote, there is no doubt that the working classes and the middle classes in this country have far more votes than other elements.

I don't want to put myself on record as against the shift from capitalism to socialism. Frankly, I don't know. What I am trying to say here is that the trend is toward socialism and if the trend is to be resisted in this country, we have got to make our system work a little better than it has worked in the last quarter century.

Now, in the Mediterranean, we had a great deal of contact with the Russians. AFHQ was responsible for the Balkans and for Central Europe.

I hesitate, in an open meeting here, to give any clear expressions to a lot of things that went on, but I will say this, that we did not find, for example, that we could work with the Russians with the ease that we could work with the British. The Russians were very mistrustful of both the British and the Americans. Now, I frankly can not blame the Russians too much for their basic attitude of mistrust towards this country and towards the British. I don't think you will either if you will look back over what went on in this country and in England since the last war. Our papers were full of stories of the Red Menace; one of the worst things you could call anybody in this country was a Bolshevik or a Red. We had been told, or given the impression, that all Russians had horns. The Russians, watching the United States and Great Britain from Moscow, got the idea, of course that we were bitter enemies of Russia and of the Russian system. During that period the chief fear of the Russians was that there would be a Western combination built up against them. In other words, that Russia would have to face attack from the Germans, British, Americans, French; in fact, from all Western nations. That was the chief phobia of the Russians up until the time of this war. And, of course, the situation was not helped out any by Munich. The basic arrangement at Munich, as I have always understood it, was that the Germans were to go east and attack the Russians, and the Germans were to be given a free hand in Eastern Europe, if they would go eastward rather than coming westward against the British and French.

So, all in all, we did give the Russians a pretty clear idea that we did not like them, and if we had opportunity we would like to try to smash them. The same thing went on in Britain. Well, the result of all that was this present Russian mistrust of the United States and Britain.

I think the Russians are appreciative of all the fine words that we give them, all the promises of cooperation, and all the rest of that. But I am convinced they have got to be shown a succession of good deeds, that we do not intend to enter any combination against them, before they are going to drop this mistrust that they hold towards us.

Now, this may be a little sensational, but, in my opinion, jf there are any elements in this country that think Russia" should be smashed, this is the time it should be done. In other words, we have got the armies, the air force, and the navy. So has Britain. But if we are not going to try to smash Russia, if we do not strike now, then, I think we had better, in all decency, try to work with Russia, try to show her by specific deeds that she does not need to fear any attack from this country.

What is behind the Russian's desire, of course, to set up this buffer zone stretching from the Baltic down to the Black Sea and the Mediterranean, is a desire to get a buffer which will give them defense in depth, and give them the help of the armies of those countries, in case we should attack Russia in order to smash Communism.

Now, I personally do not blame the Russians too much for that. In the face of the record we have established of hostility towards Russia, I feel we, in their position, would do the very same thing.

Furthermore, I think that in the light of our own behavior, the Russians are entirely justified in telling us to stay out of that part of the world. We have told European nations to stay out of the Western Hemisphere, because we don't want them over here as a threat to our own security. We have gone almost as far in the Pacific in telling the Russians that we are going to run Japan; that we are going to take those bases in the Pacific, and the Russians should stay out. So, I think the Russians are entirely within their rights, from their point of view in insisting that they have governments under their own control in such countries as Poland, Roumania, Hungary, Yugoslavia, and Bulgaria.

That does not mean that I condone or defend the tactics that the Russians have used in those areas. In fact, just the reverse. They are completely ruthless. They don't operate with standards of decency such as are common in this country and elsewhere. They have their own definition of what democracy is. They have their own ideas of the treatment that should be given to political opponents. That, I do not defend, and I don't think anybody else can defend, from our point of view. From their point of view, they are probably justified in what they are doing, because they are trying to grab control of those territories, and hold to them, from a

minority position. They know very well that if it comes down to honest elections they will be outvoted. The Russian game is to grab control of those countries, and, by the use of terrorism, propaganda, and other tactics of which theyare masters, to dominate those countries indefinitely, if they can.

I think, on the other hand, despite what I said, that the Russians are justified in their attitude they take in their desire to hold that buffer territory, that we are entirely correct in our insistence of free elections, and insistence that after governments are set up under free elections, that those governments be permitted to govern independently.

But what we are going to do, if it comes down to trying to back up with force our insistence that the elections be honest, and that the governments be representative, I don't know. My guess would be that we are not going to send troops over there to try to force the Russians to change their tactics or try to insist on free elections.

In Italy, where I know the situation a little more intimately, I am certain that the Communists are in a very small minority. But I am also certain that if we pull our armies out of there, that there will be a period of chaos, that the Communists and the left parties will strike, and there it quite a good chance that they may take over control of Italy. In fact, I think the only way to preserve what we call the western liberalism in Italy is to keep troops in there.

Now, why should we keep troops in there? They are necessary because propertied, middle class Italians are afraid to participate in the new government. They fear we are going to pull out, and if we do pull out, they will be left exposed to the ruthless tactics of the left parties when they, come in. So, the Italians are simply waiting to see what we are going to do; whether we are going to keep troops in there to protect them until they can get their own government set up.

Now, there is one other point I would like to make this gathering. Reading the newspapers and reading the magazines from this side, too frequently I encountered the statement that the United States, that Americans in Italy, were simply the tools of British policies. Now, how that got started and how it got spread, I don't know. I happen to know that record from the inside, and I know the charge is erroneous.

In the initial stage, I don't know just how much part we had in making the deal with Bagdolio and the King, I don't know, because I wasn't at Algiers at that time. But I do suspect we were not too anxious to make that deal. That belief is based on some documents I saw in which the British expressed a viewpoint that since they had backed us in North Africa, in the Darlan deal, it was up to us to back them in the Bagdolio-Victor Emmanuel deal. Now, I would judge from the fact they were putting that demand in, that we did not go too strongly for Bagdolio and the King. After that when I was in the inner councils, to a certain extent, I would insist that American policy was not dominated by the British In fact, it would be my judgment that we did more to determine the policy towards Italy than did the British.

I can tell you this, for example: After we entered Italy we received a directive from the British to be tough with the Italians; that the Italians had brought the disaster on their own heads; that they were making a nuisance of themselves by insisting that the Germans had treated them better than we were treating them; that they were not showing too much desire to get back to work; that actually most of them still were Fascists, and so on. That directive was soon followed by another from Washington opposing the tough line. As a result of conferences and a theater decision, the tough directive was dropped, and we shifted over to a directive totry to do all we could for the Italians. That was one instance at least in which American policy prevailed over the British.

There was another incident which I am not too happy to relate, but which I think you are entitled to know. During our national campaign, Mayor LaGuardia and others went on the air and promised increased rations for the Italians. They were going to step up rations from 200 grams of bread to 300 grams a day, among other things. Well, they took no steps whatsoever to implement those promises. The promises of more food came in over short-wave, and were published in the newspapers. But Washington did nothing toward putting the material in Italy to carry out the promises. The Italians constantly demanded when they were going to get this, when they were going to get that.

We got out of the muddle, because the Germans did us a left-handed favor. They wouldn't let us in the Po Valley; held us up at the line of the Appenines. We had huge stocks of food stored to take into the Po Valley. But we were stuck on the Appenines line for the winter, and were able to make good, to a certain extent, on the promises that had been made to the Italians during the campaign, by taking that stockpile of Po Valley supplies and using them to step up the bread ration in liberated Italy.

I mention that not only to give you a little inside story of some of the difficulties of the army abroad, but also to emphasize that there is too much loose talk in this country about international affairs, when the people who do the talking either are not responsible for what they say, or are trying to truckle for votes to some particular hyphenated American group.

Now, I think the time has come when this country should stop such things. I am not talking about the Italians, the Poles, the French, the British. I simply think it is dangerous to the future of the country to play around too much with a minority in this country, promising them a lot of things for their brothers overseas, just to get votes or to get circulation for newspapers.

I don't like to make comparisons with the British, but I think the British are far better disciplined and think more clearly nationally and internationally than we do. The ordinary Briton thinks first of the policy of his country. He may not like what that policy is, but he either goes along with that policy or keeps his mouth shut.

Now, to get back to the policy in the Mediterranean again. We did not go along with British policy in Greece. Greece had been set up as an AFHQ operation, a joint operation. Suddenly in Washington they decided that it would have to be purely a British affair, that the Americans were not going along. That was rather embarrassing, coming as late as it did, although it was probably correct policy. But, in our own operation, for example, we had set up 180 people to go in, mixed American and British, with their equipment. Right at the last moment, we had to sort that out, withdraw the Americans, and let the British go on alone. It was not very good manners on our part. If they did not want to go along with the British into Greece, they should have decided that question months before, rather than at the last moment. The British never figured on fighting in Greece. I think that the impression may have been conveyed that they were going in to help throw the Germans out. It was not a fighting expedition at all. It was to go in on the heels of the German withdrawal, and help the Greeks set up a regime which would be friendly toward the British. The British desire, of course, was to hold Greece and Crete, or, at least, dominate Greece and Crete, for the purpose of protecting Mediterranean routes.

I have also suspected, although I haven't any evidence of this, that there was a deal between the Russians and the British that the Russians would stay clear of Greece and the British would stay out of Yugo-Slavia. In any event, that is the way it worked out. All of the time the British were fighting inside of Greece, the Russians weren't giving Greek left-wingers any help. In Yugo-Slavia, there is also no doubt that the British supported Tito and played the Partisans, when their old friends had always been the Serbs, who opposed Tito. The United States did not go along in that policy. We tended to oppose Tito and the Partisans, and we tended to veer toward the Serbs.

When we got into Venetia Giulia, the British wanted to let the Yugo-Slavs take that part of Italy. The Americans refused to go along on the deal, holding that if this were permitted, Tito would be the first post-war aggressor, in that Yugo-Slavia would be permitted to grab off a chunk of Italy, without going through proper legal channels. We had our way.

The same situation existed in Western Italy, because the French came across that frontier and seized certain territories in Western Italy. They wouldn't let AFHQ military government go into those sections of Italy that they had occupied. We tried to^get them to withdraw and they wouldn't withdraw. They were finally forced to withdraw when we cut off supplies. That is something that has never been published, and I don't know whether it should be published now, but, nevertheless, that is what happened. And the French withdrew from Western Italy on the understanding that there would be no publicity connected with it.

American policy in the Mediterranean has been that all determinations of territory should be made in the peace conference in the Council of Foreign Ministers, and nobody, the Yugo-Slavs, the French, or anybody else, should be permitted to occupy territory and hold it prior to legal determination of the claim.

Everything considered, I think that American policy in the Mediterranean has been smart. I am certain that it has been aggressive, when it was necessary to be aggressive. I don't feel that we have anything to be ashamed of in operations in that theater, except when we have made promises as to what we were going to do for people, and then have taken no action to back them up.

Now, I think that concludes what I have to say without opening up territory that I don't want to get in, except this: I know you are all interested in the Palestine question, in the whole Middle East question. There are a few things I can tell you there that I don't think have ever been published, which you may find interesting.

One is that the British hoped that the minority questions in Europe could be so worked out that it would be possible for the Jews to return to their own homes in Europe, and it would not be necessary for Jews to emigrate from Europe to get to some sanctuary. Now, that was the British hope and that is what the British were, and I think, even now are trying to achieve. In other words, they want to meet the problem by establishing tolerance and decent conditions for minor minorities in Europe, so it isn't necessary for the minorities to flee Europe.

Of course, the British have a selfish idea in that point of view. The basis of British policy in the Mediterranean, is holding the Middle East. They want to hold the Middle East, one, because of the oil that is there, and, second, because unless they can go through the Mediterranean, the Suez Canal, to get to the Pacific, they are forced to go all the way around South Africa, which makes their transportation problem far more complicated.

Now, the best card that the British can hold is friendly relations with the Arabs. The Arab peoples extend all the

way from India through the Middle East, across Northern Africa, to the Atlantic. If the British can make a deal with the Arabs; if the Arabs support British ambitions in that area; then the British stand a better chance of holding the Middle East and the Mediterranean route. So, as a matter of practical politics, you have got on one side the Zionist desire to set up a Jewish sovereign state in Palestine, and, on the other side, you have the British desire to remain on good terms with the Arabs, all the way from India through to the Atlantic in North Africa.

I don't think there is very much doubt which way British policy will sway, because I think that they will figure from an Empire point of view that they need the Middle East and the friendship of the Arabs more than they need the friendship of the Zionists. But, as I said, they would have a way out if they could restore decent conditions for the Jews in Germany, Poland, and other European countries. That is the line I think they are going to take.

The next point is that the military opinion in the Middle East is, if it comes to a showdown, the Jews will win the first victories, because they are quite well-armed. In fact, they are armed all the way up through light artillery. They picked up a lot of these arms when the French were defeated in Syria, and they bought arms from troops stationed in the Mediterranean. When some soldier was hard up and needed a little money, he could always sell his rifle or anything of that sort for considerable money. Secondly, they made arrangements with certain individuals in the British Army, in control of ammunition dumps, so that they were able to run considerable supplies of arms out of Egypt, across the frontier into Palestine. It seems to be a fact that the Jews are better armed and better trained than the Arabs, Miliary opinion is that if it comes to a showdown, the Jews will win some rather surprising victories. But, they are quite likely to be overwhelmed in the end by superior Arab manpower. That is, unless, of course, troops are put in to protect them and police the area.

The British, of course, have got that responsibility. They have troops in there and I think they will keep troops in there. But I thought it was a little bad taste on the part of President Truman to lecture the British on how the situation in Palestine should be handled, and then refuse to send troops to help them do the job.

It is very easy to sit back on this side of the water and tell Britain, Russia, France and China what to do in their territories. Words are cheap when you do not have responsibility. But I think we should quit our moralizing unless we intend to back up what we say with troops. £ But, I frankly rather pity the British because of the situation they are in. They are in difficulties all the way from the Atlantic through the Middle East, to India, and now they are helping the Dutch in Java, and having to handle the whole load pretty much alone. I don't know whether we want to maintain international order at the expense of smothering nationalistic aspirations of subject peoples. But, if we do want to maintain international order, then we should get in.

I think I will stop there. I have a few minutes if anybody would like to ask me any questions.

Mr. Robins wants me to tell you what PWB is. The letters stand for Psychological Warfare Branch. We were a staff section in AFHQ. We acted, broadly speaking, as an advertising agency or a publicity bureau for the Army.

On the propaganda side, we operated radio stations all the way from Jerusalem, through to Rabat in Morocco. We had eighteen stations at one time, ranging from 100 k.w. down through 50, and into as low as fives.

In addition, we printed and distributed about four billion leaflets. Those leaflets were aimed to depress the morale of enemy troops and were intended to maintain the morale of civilian populations and partisans, and, in addition to that morale phase, they also carried instructions to the partisans what to do.

We also operated all the newspapers in Italy, bringing in all the news, distributing all the news and censoring—I don't like to use the word, but nevertheless it is accurate as to what we did—censoring the Italian press in order to keen out news which we thought might create disorder in Italy,

Now, the thing behind that is simply this: We had a battle line up north. That line had to be supported by materials landed in Naples, Bari and other ports, trucked overland over to the Army fronts. It was necessary to maintain order in those back areas. We could either maintain order by using troops to police, or we could use propaganda to keep the people quiet and free troops for the front line service. In Italy, we used propaganda. By propaganda, I want to make clear we simply did this: All we did was to keep out of the paper any story which we thought would create disorder. We did not color the news. The news the Italians got was the news released by AP, UP, INS, and other services. But if we thought there was some story which would stir up trouble, we would suppress it.

On the radio side, as the Germans withdrew they demolished all the radio stations. We followed in with Army units, set up new transmitters, and staffed the transmitters technically, put in program staffs, and operated the radios.

When we opened up a new city, we first established one Allied newspaper. In that we gave the Italians all of the news, more news than they ever had before because Italian newspapers, like most Latin newspapers, are rather allergic to printing the news. They would rather print essays and poetry and architecture and stuff like that, rather than hard news. It was our policy to give them hard news. As more print paper became available, it all had to be imported from this country, we established Party newspaper for each of the political parties.

This was done deliberately. It was done in order to stimulate political discussion and get democracy going again in Italy.

Last January 15, we took all controls off the Rome newspapers. We couldn't take them off the newspapers in the remainder of Italy, because communication lines were down and we still had to use military channels in order to transmit news. It was March 15, before channels were set up so that the Italians could distribute their own news. At that time we pulled out all control, all connection with the Italian newspapers and Italian radio south of the area immediately behind the fighting line.

One job we did, to give them a free press, or, at least, leave a contribution toward a free press, was to block re-establishment of the governmental news-monopoly. We organized a cooperative news agency modeled after the AP. and owned by all the newspaper publishers. We deliberately got representation all the way from the extreme left around to the extreme right. We did that so that the news agency would have to stick to the truth. If they got too far to the right, the left editors would raise hell, and if they got too far to the left, the right editors would raise hell. We left the Italians a news agency owned by the publishers, something that they have never had before, in place of the old government monopoly.

Now, when I left Italy in September, the only operations we had left were distribution of films. It being a military theater, the companies had not been able to come in and carry on their own business, so we distributed all films for

them and collected the film rentals. When I left we were holding about two million dollars for the American film companies for pictures we had distributed for them.

The other operation was up in Venetia Giulia, where we were running the radio and printing newspapers. We were there, as I said, because of the American insistence that that territory should be held in trusteeship until the peace conference. We probably will continue in Venetia Giuiia until the peace conference decides whether the territory should be Yugo-Slav or Italian.