The Charlotte News

Wednesday, September 27, 1939


Balkan Bloc

Probably Is A Move To Attempt To Force Peace

What the negotiations reported from Bucharest may mean is far from clear.

Benito Mussolini has plenty of reason to want to be neutral in reality and to build up a neutral bloc in the Balkans. His people are dead set against fighting, according to all the reports, and especially against fighting for Germany. Again, Italy is a Catholic country, the home of the Papacy, and any line-up that found Italy even remotely aiding Russia would be certain to breed unrest at home, if not worse.

Entry into the war on either side would likely be anything else but profitable for Benito. Chances are that the British and French would wreck his country in a relatively brief time and wipe his flag off the Mediterranean Sea. On the other hand, if Germany won he would stand to be deprived of the last vestiges of his independence, and to see his country made a vassal of Great Germany, something else that would be likely to end in revolution.

As for the Balkans, including Turkey, they are all caught in the squeeze between Germany on one side and Russia on the other--despite the Rumanian gesture of defiance in the Calinescu case, are pretty obviously frightened by the example of what happened to Poland--want desperately to avoid fighting against hopeless odds and at the same time to maintain their independence. Where their sympathies lie is pretty certain. With the exception of Bulgaria, they would undoubtedly like to see the Allies win, for the good reason that that offers their only way of preserving their independence in the long run. But they don't want to get crushed in attempting to further that victory at this stage of the game, and nobody can blame them.

As for Russia, her game is anybody's guess, but just now it seems to be to play jackal to the German mad dog, hang on the flanks and grab off a good share of the booty at each kill.

Ultimately, however, it is doubtful that either Italy or Russia plans to be really neutral. (Russia already isn't, of course.) In the light of the dispatches from Berlin, perhaps the best guess as to the meaning of this new move is that Mussolini and Stalin are planning to back the Hitler "peace ultimatum" to the Allies with at least the tacit threat to hurl the whole weight of the new bloc against them if it is refused. That is to say, this is probably a move to force an ignominious peace. And the Balkans are supporting it because such an arrangement would at last give them a new breathing spell.

There is no reason at all to suppose that the Allies will even consider it. It would mean ruin in any case. And moreover, the combination is probably not nearly so formidable as it appears to be from enumeration of its membership, for a more ill-assorted group was never found. The Allies have every reason to hope that it would promptly go to pieces if any effort were made to force it into striking.

The main danger is that under the guise of neutrality, the Italian-Soviet leaders will succeed in using the bloc as a base of supplies for Germany--a thing which would draw the war out to great length.

In Czech-Land

Correspondents Find Good Order But A Trace Of Irk

Few things can happen in this war which would bring more downright grins to American countenances and greater gratification to our sense of justice than for the Bohemians and Moravians--the Czechs of Czechoslovakia that was--to rise up against their German masters and cause a considerable diversion from within. Our characteristic feeling for the under-dog in any fight, not to mention the conviction that Czechoslovakia got a dirty deal both from its conquerors and its betrayers, would assure prolonged and spirited applause for any such internal rebellion.

But is there anything to indicate that the Czech people are only waiting a favorable opportunity to revolt? Could they, with any chance of success, if they would?

The British Ministry of Information has sought to give the impression that sporadic revolt was already in progress and that it was only a question of time until the thing reached proportions serious to Germany. Likewise, there have been reports that the Germans were taking no chances with the loyalty of Czech troops and were placing them between German regulars--which is to say in the position of men who must face the enemy or be shot from behind.

Actually, there is reason to believe that both these reports are erroneous in fact, though not altogether so in tenor. The most reliable information yet to come from abroad about the Czechs came from American correspondents who were taken to Prague itself, the old Czech capital, to see with their own eyes (under the direction of a Nazi President-Protector) what was going on.

They learned from the President-Protector that not a single Czech soldier was "engaged directly" for Germany--probably for the very good reason, which the correspondents were unable to communicate, that Germany feared to trust any number of them with arms. They found the cities quiet and very busy. Citizens who were casually approached on the streets had heard nothing of disorders or street battles in the larger cities.

In fact, the conclusion would be warranted that all is amiable in old Czech-land except for reading between the lines of the Associated Press man, who observed in concluding his dispatch (innocently for the German censor's benefit) that the Czechs were "apparently adjusting themselves as best they could to German domination, which obviously is irksome to many Czechs."

What if we do want to believe that it means something. Maybe, after all, the AP man wanted to say something.

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