The Cold War and Its Origins, 1917-1960 - Vol. 1

By D. F. Fleming | Go to book overview

CHAPTER IV
FASCISM APPEASED 1934-1938

The U.S.S.R. at Geneva . In his speech of September 18, 1934, accepting membership in the League of Nations, Litvinov plunged to the point of Russia's interest in the League. "War," he said, "must appear to all as the threatening danger of tomorrow. The organization of peace, for which, thus far, very little has been done, must be set against the extremely active organization of war. Everybody knows now that the exponents of the idea of war, open promulgators of a refashioning of the map of Europe and Asia by the sword, are not to be intimidated by paper obstacles." Then he stated in strong terms his belief in the indivisibility of peace and his belief that "any war will bring misfortune to all countries, whether belligerents or neutrals."

What Litvinov said in these years at Geneva was convincing. At Geneva I listened to him in League meetings many times, sharing the impression of others that he was sincere. He spoke in English, so that inflections and emphasis could readily be connected with his words. But did he truly represent his Government? The answer was that he did, because the success of the League and Russia's preservation from aggression were so obviously related. As Sumner Welles put it: "When the Soviet Union entered the League, even the most obstinate were soon forced to admit that it was the only major power which seemed to take the League seriously. The Soviet Government seemed to believe that the Covenant of the League meant what it said."1

Barthou Killed . A few days later, October 9, 1934, the one man whose firm policy could have prevented the Second World War was killed at Marseilles, along with King Alexander of Yugoslavia, by a representative of the Croatian Ustaschi, a movement with fascist connections in Rome, Budapest and Berlin. Barthou, as French Foreign Minister, saw clearly that Hitler could not be restrained by words, no matter how appeasing, but only by power. He saw, also, that the necessary power could be obtained only in Moscow. He it was who brought Russia into the League and laid the basis for a Franco-Russian Mutual Assistance Pact. Barthou was a strong man, of the Right in French politics. He might have stopped the decay of France and changed the whole course of world history had he lived.

After him came the shifty Pierre Laval, who, in April 1935, finally did sign a treaty of alliance with Russia, so hedged with reservations that it virtually nullified French aid to Russia. Then he procrastinated in ratifying it, finally throwing the treaty into the Parliament instead of sending it to the President,

____________________
1
Sumner Welles, The Time For Decision, New York and London, Harper, 1944, p. 31.

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