The Letters and Friendships of Sir Cecil Spring-Rice, a Record

The Letters and Friendships of Sir Cecil Spring-Rice, a Record

The Letters and Friendships of Sir Cecil Spring-Rice, a Record

The Letters and Friendships of Sir Cecil Spring-Rice, a Record

Excerpt

During the early months of 1905, while Russia's domestic affairs were so exciting, a great diplomatic movement had been silently developing.

It is worth while to glance back at the letters (for instance that to Roosevelt on Sept, 14, 1896), in which Spring Rice, then at the Berlin Embassy, described the obsequious servility of other European powers to Russia, for that brings out in strong relief the complete shifting of poise in the balance of forces. After Mukden, all the great European powers felt themselves unstable. France, before that, had leant confidently on the mass of Russia. The Czar controlled innumerable hosts, the means to equip them with modern weapons, and a staff trained in the modern school of war. Also, even more than the Kaiser's, his word was law; no simulacrum of a parliament hampered his authority. Yet after long preparation, his hosts had been beaten, and not by superior numbers, in a battle on the modern scale, against Asiatics, to whom modern war was a new study. With defeat came disorganisation, moral and material, to the beaten country--all the more crushing because its place in the world rested on military prestige.

By the end of the nineteenth century, Europe had become an armed camp. Great Britain lay partly outside it, supreme on the sea; but the limits of her power by land had been rudely disclosed in the South African War. Till 1904, the last word among the continental forces had rested with Russia. Germans might think themselves by superior efficiency more than a match for the colossus, but France was on their other flank. Now, after Mukden, with the colossus so shattered and shaken, Germany determined that the last word should be hers. By the still recent and untried entente with England, France had gained, if not a new ally at least a friend, where France had always seen an enemy. Germany's first impulse to self-assertion had been to show France how little security this new friendship could promise.

So in 1905 the Kaiser went to Tangier and claimed his right to intervene in the Mediterranean Africa, where England and France had just arranged matters (with Spain's concurrence) between themselves. Italy, the other member of the Triple Alliance, was at this time almost completely disabled. Adowa had been her Mukden, and the Abyssinian victory left her without confidence or prestige.

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