Behind the Iron Curtain – Chapter XI (second part)

40. Russia’s present pressure towards the Mediterranean.

For the present the situation is not unlike that of the past. For reasons of opportunity, as in 1915, England has had to yield to Russia – her ally against Germany – and to let her occupy Rumania – allied to Germany just as Turkey had been in 1915. Great Britain has abandoned of her own will the positions for which Lord Palmerston started the Crimean War in 1854.

The United States who during the first World War were so proud of not having taken part in the interallied London agreements, qualified by them as “imperialistic”, were now obliged to give in and to admit the Russian imperialism.

By crossing Rumania Russia has reached the Adriatic Sea through her vassal Yugoslavia and is now claiming the harbour of Trieste which she could not even have dreamt of in 1878. Through its vassal Bulgaria, Russia is separated from the Aegean Sea only by a narrow Greek corridor of 45 km[1]. Further to the East, Russia tried to impose its conditions on Turkey in order to gain control over the Straits, similarly to 1853 and 1877. Great Britain’s tolerance showed it had abandoned the positions that were the basis of Lord’s Beaconsfield threatening Russia with war and forcing it to give up its conquests in 1878.

The situation today differs from the past, consequently Great Britain and the USA are in a very delicate position. The Russians have for the first time in their history openly acknowledged their future ambitions. They have taken their access to the Mediterranean as an accomplished fact and went further. On September 18, 1945, at the London meetings of the Council of Foreign Ministers, the Russian Foreign Minister Molotov claimed individual trusteeship in Tripolitania, namely the right for Russia to establish a naval base on Southern Mediterranean shores, as well as a direct contact with the Arab world in Africa. Furthermore, Mr. Molotov affirmed Russia’s interest in Eritrea, namely in the Red Sea and claimed Russia’s right to participate in the administration of the former Italian colony. The possibility that a naval base in Dodecanese be yielded was also discussed. One should also remember the attempts sometimes mentioned as being made by Russia in order to get an important stock of shares of the Suez Canal, shares now in French and Italian hands. By all these claims Russia clearly disclosed her intention of being actually present by own bases and regular rights on the routes of the great World Trade and especially on the Imperial Route to India. A single glance at a map shows that this presence might easily turn into direct control.

It might seem natural that a British reaction should appear in such a situation. The Great World Power policy of Palmerston, Beaconsfield, Salisbury, Balfour and Winston Churchill might be expected to prevail over the policy of timorous isolation of Aberdeen, Derby, Grey and Neville Chamberlain.

There is however, an important change in Europe as compared to the past. On the whole Continent, there is no power left which might resist Russia and upon which Great Britain and the United States might rely in order to re-establish an approximate balance of power. Napoleon III’s France is now reduced to a France beset by electoral questions and overruled by the Communist Party, managed and subsidized by Russia. Bismarck’s Germany exists no longer and the Russians are the masters in Berlin. Great Britain and the United States nevertheless discovered two last countries on the Continent, two last obstacles on Russia’s way southwards. These countries were Greece and Turkey. Notwithstanding their good will and resolution, it seems rather improbable that they might hinder Russia’s access to the Mediterranean by their own means. A summary examination of the situation would show that such a role is far beyond their possibilities. Should Great Britain and the United States really wish to stop Russia in her way southwards, they would be unable to avoid a direct intervention, either by the method of Beaconsfield or by that of Palmerston.

Blogger’s Note: the text in italic was missing in Manu’s English version. I translated the corresponding Romanian text and added it. I used the following link as a reference:

http://www.wilsoncenter.org/topics/pubs/ACFB29.PDF


[1] We should mention that the Greek corridor, Western Thrace was claimed by Bulgaria at the Paris Peace Conference (1946).  This is an odd situation – a defeated country claims territory belonging to a conqueror.

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