Russia and Ourselves



IN THIS country, we are conscious of haying made a fatefully wrong decision in 1920 by rejecting responsibility for the peace, and we are intent on not repeating our mistake. That, of itself, represents a partial cure of our minds, and it is a great contribution to the peace. Indeed, it is an essential contribution, for without being in this state of mind, we should have no prospect of peace whatever. But going on from there, some of us — and many people in other lands — have discussed the machinery of the coming peace as if we were making it for the world of 1920. Our thinking is shaped by the League of Nations, its experience, constitution, and procedures. Being the only human experience of a broad scope in making peacekeeping machinery, this is bound to be our starting point.

But this kind of thinking also presupposes the kind of world that emerged from the last war. We must be clear about it: that world has gone. What we are coming into is a world with an entirely different allocation of power. And we must make our machinery for the power which will use it, or the power will refuse to use the machinery, and our efforts will be wasted.

After the last war, there were eight powers in the world. Not all were equal. Germany was weak; Russia had begun the revolution which was to keep it weak for years; France was hardly convalescent; Italy was even feebler; China was just facing the devastating illness which attends social regeneration; Britain was exhausted but had its vast navy and its empire. Only the United States and Japan came out of the war with increased strength.

The point about the eight powers is not that they were weak or strong, but that there were eight of them. And the ideal of the design of the peace machinery after the war was to turn seven powers, plus the smaller powers, — which were relatively stronger than they are today, — against any single power that set out for conquest.

A world of eight major powers, and many lesser powers, in the thinking of that time, could be only a world of unweakened sovereignties. The major powers were not going to subordinate their independence to a world organization. And the hope of the lesser powers lay in their being defended against any single power by the community of powers.

The hope of peace — viewed altogether as a technique in the application of force — lay in having everybody join against the aggressor. But the word “everybody” has to be particularized. It consisted primarily of the major powers. Any single major power could undermine the whole operation. France and Britain were not willing to risk war with Italy over Ethiopia. Previously, Britain and the United States— the key powers affected — were not willing to risk war with Japan over Manchuria. If they had been, the United States, even though not a member of the League, could have counted on action by the League.

Even in a world of eight powers, where the arithmetic was against an aggressor seven to one (not to mention the minor powers), the peace machinery of itself was not enough. If any single power turned aggressor, the rest of the powers were at once beset by unwillingness to correct a small evil at a big risk. That was the failure; that is why we found ourselves so soon in World War II. And now that we are again designing peace machinery, some of us are again thinking of a world like that of 1920, hoping that this time nations will take the big risk and nip the small evil in the bud.

But we live today in an entirely different world of power. We have lost the arithmetic of seven against one. We have come into a world where the power is concentrated as never before in human history. After this war the United States and the Soviet Union will be the only two truly major military powers on the globe. After them will rank Great Britain, with a navy half the size of our own; China, if it creates internal unity, and can finance both industrialization and a military establishment, will in time achieve a measure of power; and finally France will be something more than a minor power, but considerably less than a major one by the yardstick of the nineteen-twenties.

Germany, Japan, and Italy will be gone from the list altogether. Germany and Japan may be gone for good. None of the minor powers of the nineteentwenties will be stronger than it was, in military terms. Relatively, the small powers are now dwarfed. The peace system no longer rests on the possibility of pitting seven major powers and many minor ones against any single delinquent. The system no longer expresses a world of many sovereignties voluntarily pooling their individual wills for the common good.

We are entering an epoch in which collective action against a major power is machinery to make World War III, not to preserve peace. It is not, and cannot be, police action. For a collective war against any one of the great powers would be World War III, and would be the very refutation of the concept of peace. So we must approach our study of the machinery of peace in full knowledge of the fact that we are not planning for peace in the nineteen-twenties, and that it will not suffice to make peace in the nineteen-fifties unless we do more than correct the mistakes made twenty-live years ago.


THE dictatorship of the powers is nothing we need to discuss evasively. There is no doubt about it, the small states are relatively much weaker vis-à-vis a great power than twenty-five years ago. They also are weaker because there are three — not eight — powers in the field.

It is an understatement to say that the small nations do not like it. They do not like the world they are entering; and if words could change it, they would produce words in a flood such as has never before inundated the human race. They would order, coax, plead, exhort, and pray the big not to be big and the strong not to be strong. They want the equality which it does not lie in their own power to create and safeguard. They want their sovereignty protected despite their powerlessness to protect it, in a world where there will be such power as has never before been known.

In any world security organization that can be designed for the present day and age, there can be no coercion of any of the great powers. And the sovereign will of the small powers can be expressed only if supported and enforced by the great. I am putting this bluntly, but I can think of no machinery that can obviate, reduce, or alter the great concentration of power we are facing, other than a world war. It is irrelevant whether or not you or I like it. I may think it would have been better to have made the peace function after the last war, and to have relied on the arithmetic of seven to one. But nothing anyone can say or do will bring back that lost opportunity.

Today we live in an entirely different world, and we have to secure peace in that world or all go down together in the destruction of civilization. In that world the strong are not to be talked out of their strength, and the hope of the weak depends altogether on the use to which the strong dedicate their power. To the end that they use it wisely, the common good being also their own good, there can be pleading, exhortation, and prayer. But it cannot be done by organizing power with which to threaten or to assail one of three great concentrations of power.

Two possibilities suggest themselves as to the future of a world security organization under the conditions described. The great powers might set up a dictatorship for the express purpose of maintaining peace, consulting with no one else and making the world organization no better than a debating society. Or they might dedicate their power to the establishment of a world of law and order.

A dictatorship of the big powers which simply forbids war, and which undertakes to enforce its decree, could keep the peace beyond doubt, though only as long as the great powers could agree with one another. As a system, this would be preferable to no system whatever, or a halfhearted system like the League of Nations. The necessity of preventing another world war is the most urgent before mankind today.

A dictatorship of the great powers as a concept offends us, even though it should be dedicated to the one task of maintaining and enforcing the peace. But I should not rule it out of consideration, for I believe that if the United Nations fail to find themselves happy in a world security organization such as they are likely to get, the wartime Big Three may well undertake to maintain peace without the others until such time as a world organization can be devised which meets more general satisfaction.

The Big Three certainly will maintain their dictatorship so far as Germany and Japan are concerned, to keep them from going to war, or even from acquiring military strength. That is not to be turned over as a responsibility to the new organization. If the San Francisco Conference proves to be indecisive, one should hope and pray that the Big Three do carry alone the responsibility of stamping out aggression from any quarter.

Fortunately, we do not need to spend much time with this idea, for the alternative to it, a beginning of the establishment of a world of law and order, appears both possible and near. But here again we must be clear about the limitation in this term “law and order” as applied to world relationships. In our domestic life, no individual is stronger than the law, and there is ample power to coerce anyone who tries to be. On the international level, the power to coerce all states equally will not exist. Law enforcement against those with very great power will not be possible. What would result would be world war. If one of the Big Three launches on a career of conquest, world war should result, and undoubtedly it would. That would not be coercion to enforce law. It would be war for freedom from domination. But to plan now for such a world war and describe it as planning for peace would be both a contradiction and an unforgivable stupidity.

One cannot carry into world relationships the domestic concept that the power to coerce all states equally is the essential principle. The means to do it are not at hand. So far as the Big Three are concerned, there can be equality before the law in a world organization only on a voluntary basis. That does not shut out the possibility of creating a world relationship of law and order. On the contrary, there is much hope for it. It would certainly be foolish to sweep the Dumbarton Oaks proposals aside because the world organization to be set up would lack the power to coerce all nations equally.

The responsibility for the security organization rests mainly with the governments and peoples of three countries, the United States, the Soviet Union, and Great Britain, and indeed chiefly with two of them, the United States and the Soviet Union. And it is more to the point to be discussing what these governments and peoples are likely to do than to be arguing about this or that device in the peace machinery itself. For if the United States and the Soviet Union truly desire to work together for peace based on a system of law, the peace machinery will function; and if they do not truly desire to work together, the peace machinery will not function.


THE prospect may dismay many of us. We have been hoping we could make a 1920 model of the peace with 1945 improvements. We find instead that the machinery does not matter so much as our future relations with the Soviet Union. Our dismay, however, is due to our thinking in the wrong direction. It is not due to any basic impossibility of maintaining friendly coöperation with the Soviet Union.

If peace depends primarily on what we and the Russians will be thinking and desiring a few years hence, we can start shaping those thoughts and desires now. Nations are not whimsical. Their conduct is the product of their basic conditions. Their thoughts reflect their fundamental needs. Their fears express t he memories of their experiences.

What we in this country fear about the Soviet Union rises in part from our own experience with the subversive organism the Russian revolutionaries implanted in this country. On the other hand, what the Russians fear rises from memories of our armed intervention in their land, and our participation in the cordon sanitaire laid around the Soviet Union after the revolution.

Indeed, present attitudes are based more on memories than on current knowdedge, both in Russia and in the United States. We in this country have many disagreeable memories about Soviet behavior. We recall the ruthlessness of the Russian terror, the campaign against religion, the purges, the pact with Hitler, the partition of Poland, the attack on Finland.

But the Russians have their disagreeable memories, too. Belatedly admitted to the League of Nations, they saw from the inside the hypocrisy of the disarmament campaign. Before that, they watched the Japanese go into Manchuria with the blessing of Great Britain, while t he United States, in the t hroes of a depression, ventured no prompt or emphatic reaction. They beheld the impotent wringing of old men’s hands as Mussolini swallowed up Ethiopia.

They saw’ the frightened paralysis of the democracies over the fascist war rehearsal in Spain. When the same old men prepared to offer up another League member, Czechoslovakia, to the diplomatic aggression of Hitler, the Russians were not consulted, even though they had treaty relations with France. They knew that the Britain of Chamberlain was willing to buy peace in Western Europe at the price of turning Hiller against Russia in the East. If memories are an education, the Russians have been well taught that their security depends, not on collective systems, but on their own efforts alone.

It. is not necessary for my purpose to enlarge the catalogue of memories on both sides. The point I wish to make is that if we and the Russians are to project into the future only what we remember from the more distant past, there will be no cooperation, and hence no peace. We must eagerly ask if there are not fresher memories, memories of a more significant nature, to shape our future relations with the Soviet Union.

We are fighting at the side of the Soviet Union. To have lost the war would have consigned us to a dire future — something we should do well to remember. For if Germany had conquered all Europe and linked hands with Japan in the Indian Ocean, we should not have been able to defeat them both alone, and we should not have lived the life of a free people even though we might have escaped the devastation of war. It would have been progressively a fascist world, and we either must have joined it or have been prepared to fight it.

We are not winning the war by our efforts alone. It is a coalition victory, in which the Russian contribution has been as essential as our own. True, we have contributed to the Russian victory. We did this, not for Russia’s sake, but for our own. Russia has contributed to our victory. It has done this, not for our sake, but for its own. Nations behave always in selfinterest. But if it was self-interest to win the war, in precisely the same way it is self-interest to maintain the peace — self-interest for ourselves and self-interest for the Russians. And the two nations must now prepare themselves for a relationship which I believe ranks far ahead of the Dumbarton Oaks machinery in being essential to the peace.

You may ask, How can we in this country be sure that the Soviet Union sincerely wishes to maintain the peace? You may put the question still more cogently. You may remark that the Russian Army, being such a force on the field of battle, will be a force at home after the war, and that some armies in the past, taking over political leadership, have become militaristic and gone in for imperialism. So, if Russia now expands from its already unprecedented power to be the greatest imperialism in human imagination, how can we work with it? Must we not then unite all non-imperialistic nations against it? You see for yourselves where these questions inevitably lead. They are feeder roads of the highway to World War III.

No one with any modesty will undertake to predict what will happen inside Russia after this war. What will happen depends not on Russia alone, complex though that is, but on a vast array of forces outside Russia. If we in the United States base our thinking, our behavior, and our policy toward the Soviet Union on the assumption that the Soviet Union is going imperialist, we shall be preparing for World War III. And to prepare for that war is to make fairly certain that we shall wage it. To indulge in that kind of thinking, in the shadow of the death and desolation which reign over this globe at this moment, would be worse than moral and intellectual bankruptcy.

If we cannot forecast precisely the evolution inside the Soviet Union, we can analyze present trends. And the case is overwhelming for the statement that Russians want peace because only in peace can they raise their standard of living and only in peace can the Russian people enjoy their long-delayed reward for the sacrifices and privations of the last twenty-five years. The case is overwhelming for the statement that this is the burning aspiration of the rank and file of the Russian armies. And why should the Russians go imperialist? They lack no resources. They lack no space. They are not hemmed in. They want security first of all, for without it they cannot have peace. They are not going to entrust their security to any other nation or nations, because they want it beyond doubt, so as to live in peace.

But also because they want peace, the Soviet leaders give top priority in their foreign policy to coöperation with the United States and Great Britain. They are going to work with us not because they like us — some of us they do, and some they do not — but because of their self-interest. To work with us, they must dedicate themselves to a world system of law and order, a system based on principles, as they have done in joining with us in the Dumbarton Oaks program and the Yalta declarations. But in doing so they still are wrestling with the habits of thought formed in the last twenty-five years. Plenty of Russians have plenty of suspicions, just as plenty of Americans have them. For a time, the Soviet foreign policy always seemed to be going in opposite directions. But last November, Stalin made his great speech to the Russian people, dedicating Soviet foreign policy to cooperation and to the establishment of a world society for the maintenance of peace and justice.


WE IN this country can choose whether to work with the Soviet Union as partner or whether to surrender to memories and fears. What we decide will also help decide matters for the Soviet Union. These are interdependencies. We too can go into plans for the peace because Soviet thinking and Soviet aspirations entitle us to do so. But we cannot work effectively for our self-interest if fears and suspicions govern our minds. We cannot make a partnership work smoothly save with a sense of its value. If we appreciate it, we can evoke the temperateness which will keep it running smoothly. So far we have this temperateness at the higher governmental levels, and do not have enough of it in Congress or in public discussion generally.

A phrase is going the rounds that there can be no lasting coöperation between two systems so fundamentally different as the Russians’ system and ours. It is stated solemnly as a cosmic law. But so far it is only a guess. No intellectually honest man can say it is more. What experience we have points the other way. We got along with Imperial Russia — the Russia of the Tsars, of serfdom, black reaction, and suppressed liberties — throughout our history, and the association was useful to us.

I grant that our relation with Tsarist Russia proves nothing about the future. But as to the future I should like to hazard a comment. We do not know what our own economic system will be like ten or twenty years hence, and we know we face tremendous problems which may change it. And we do not know what the political and economic system of the Soviet Union will be. The rigors of dictatorship in the Soviet Union have been accepted there because of the peril which has beset that country for twenty-five years. The peril is being removed. Modern Russia will be secure. Security brings relaxation. It is more, rather than less, likely that internal rigors in the Soviet Union will relax.

In the broad sweep of evolutionary change, the Russians may be approaching an epoch of the enjoyment of wider liberties, just as we may be approaching an epoch in which the state will inescapably assume greater responsibilities for the economic life of the nation. This, I grant you, is speculation. But I say it also is speculation to say that two dissimilar political and economic systems cannot coöperate fruitfully. It is just as reasonable to expect success from coöperation with the Russians as it is to despair of achieving it. It happens that peace lies down the one avenue of thought. War lies down the other.

If we genuinely expect to maintain peace, we shall do well to re-examine our thinking about the Soviet Union, to make sure that we are sufficiently aware of the Soviet Union of today, and of the trends of today, and of the promises of tomorrow as discernible today. I am convinced one cannot overstress this good relationship on all levels with the Soviet Union. In the world security organization, the structure and superstructure will rest on a foundation as tenuous and fluid as these human attitudes. Let me repeat: therein is the great difference between Dumbarton Oaks and the League. The League had a good, solid arithmetic basis, seven and more against one. Human attitudes in any one or two countries did not make or break the system. In theory, it could enforce its peace if any single power turned brigand, for no one power could dare flaunt the united powers of great and small. But now we are to have a concentration of powers, with the United States and the Soviet Union beyond coercion. And there is no force whatever for the maintenance of the peace which does not have its origin in the voluntary will of the governments and peoples of these two countries. What people think, say, argue, and fear becomes decisive. We all take on a tremendous responsibility. The sum of our individual thoughts and words is on a par in importance with the sanctions of the United Nations. And for this reason one is entitled to urge that we re-examine our attitudes toward the Soviet Union, and to urge that the Soviet Union reexamine its attitudes toward us. For it is in the realm of the mind that the peace must be kept first of all, if it is to be kept in any other realm.

I have stressed the power factors of the peace because they must be understood before an era of law and order can be ushered in. But the United Nations organization, as outlined in the Dumbarton Oaks proposals, is only one part a relationship of power, and there are many parts of the system out of which law can grow. We are bound to be thinking primarily of coercion, because that is the key to the system of domestic law enforcement. But coercion is only a segment of it. Law grows out of association, conflict, and the principles established in settling conflict.

The United Nations organization sets up procedures and machinery for settling disputes without coercion, which should be the main preoccupation in a world of peace. The machinery will be better than that of the League of Nations if the international court plays a better-defined part in it. The world court of League days was sometimes used as a political instrument, not as a purely objective judicial body. When the annexation of Austria by Hitler came before the court, its jurists voted according to the foreign policies of their various countries, not according to the interpretation of the treaties involved. And while this startled Americans, accustomed to the objectivity of our Supreme Court, it did not startle Europeans, for most European states are not federations, in which a supreme court has an organic function of interpreting the law between individual states.

If the world court can be lifted to a higher level by the United Nations, and confine itself to interpretations of the law as does our Supreme Court, a start can be made in building up the laws of world relationships. And here the question of coercion does not need to arise any more than it does with the Supreme Court, which has no coercive power in deciding between states. In our federation, our states have learned to accept voluntarily the rulings of the Supreme Court. So if the powers, great and small, submit themselves voluntarily to a rule of law, there should be a wide range of conflicts which can be settled without raising the issue of coercion.

But this too is a question of spirit rather than machinery. There must be a tone to the way the United Nations organization works that of itself inspires confidence, and that tone is not to be acquired at the start, or to be achieved by exhortation. It may come when some strong nation voluntarily alters its policy or conduct because the United Nations, through their organs, have interpreted the law in a way requiring change. That will be the voluntary limitation of sovereignty by which international association can extend the foundation of law on which international order will be based. It may be that we shall not know how firm our United Nations organization is until some strong nation goes through this voluntary acceptance of a legal decision that goes against its policy. It might even be that it will devolve upon the United States one day to set the example in doing this. And then the test of the public of the United States will be the test of the system of law. For it will have to approve a change in its national policy because of the higher claim of law in the international field.

Such a test is bound to come in many countries. What we, as individuals, decide at any time we are involved, and what individuals in other countries decide when their national actions are under scrutiny, will be the measure of the success of the security organization. So here again the machinery will not be enough. What we want of the machinery will determine its effectiveness. The details of the relationship of the court to the new United Nations organization have not yet been worked out, and may not be in San Francisco. But this surely is the essence of a system of law, and the wider the appreciation of this fact, the more surely the machinery will work.


BEFORE closing, I want to open another subject, not organically concerned with Dumbarton Oaks, but so much a part of the peace that any discussion of the peace that omits it is delinquent. It is the subject of international coöperation on the level of economics. Here it is that many conflicts between nations have their origin. To build machinery for settling international disputes by law and then, if necessary, by coercion, and not to consider thoroughly the economic problems out of which many disputes arise, is to make of the organization a college of physicians dealing with the last stages of illness and not at all with the business of staying well.

I have described the concentration of coercive power in the world to come. The concentration of productive capacity is even greater. And so the responsibility for the peace, in so far as it is affected by economic policies, is committed to the nations with the greatest productive capacity. Here we face an even greater change from the world of 1920 than in the matter of coercive power. And we must be well aware of this change. We dare not think in terms of the world after the last war.

After the last war, productive capacity was much more widely distributed. The last war did not lay waste the productive capacity of a large part of Europe. It did not wear out a great part of the machinery that remained. And what is still more important, it did not focus the attention of common people on a higher standard of living and on greater economic security. Physically and psychologically the world has come through what amounts to a revolution.

After the last war, the United States found itself for the first time in its history a creditor nation. I say the United States found itself in this position, but I doubt whether more than a small fraction of the people knew the fact or would even have known what the fact meant if they heard it. For we never formed a national policy, with the assent and understanding of the public, as to our behavior as a creditor country. Our bankers made loans, but they made them not always wisely or with the national good in view. And our Congress promptly passed tariff legislation that could only have been justified by our being in dire straits as a debtor nation.

So we stayed out of the League and we went on thinking and acting according to our habits as a debtor nation. The two basic errors went hand in hand, and both of them were contributory factors to the coming of World War II. So it is not enough for us to correct one error by joining the security organization of the United Nations. We also must correct the error of not living wisely as a creditor nation. But here we must take in an essential idea. Today we not only are a creditor nation on a vast dimension: we are the only creditor nation. After the last war, productive capacity was pretty well distributed. Today the greater part of it that is up to date is in our country.

I put the two terms, creditor nation and productive capacity, into juxtaposition purposely. Being a creditor country does not mean just making loans and investments abroad. In the world of tomorrow it means, in the first place, sharing our productive capacity. We have done it in the war. We have been the arsenal of democracy. And we found we possessed resources to create a productive capacity so great that we have done a major part in supplying the war and at the same time have kept our civilian consumption almost to the peacetime level.

When the war ends we shall have a productive capacity far exceeding the needs of our own civilians as measured by pre-war standards. Without foreign trade, it is not going to be possible to employ our population at anything like the rate the war has employed it. We cannot devote all our productive capacity to ourselves. We are not self-contained. We cannot hope to set up an island of prosperity of our own in a sea of want. Unless we help the world to get back on the road to prosperity, we ourselves cannot look forward to sharing this prosperity as we need to do for our own well-being. And if we fail to do so, we cannot hope to avoid the conflicts which are the fertile ground of war.

Being the only great creditor country and the possessor of the greatest modernized productive plant, and having demonstrated that we can perform miracles in producing the instruments of destruction, we shall have to undertake the miracle of restoring and expanding the world’s production. I doubt that most Americans have given this aspect of the peace enough thought.

We shall have to lend and buy on a scale never before conceived. The lending must enable foreign countries to buy from us what they most urgently need: capital goods. They must restore and modernize their equipment if they are to employ their populations. We must buy from them at least to the extent of permitting them to pay the interest and the amortization of their debt to us. To do this on the scale needed will put a strain on our system of private enterprise far greater than it has ever borne. But it will not be done by that system, or any other, unless the American people see the magnitude of the undertaking and bend to it with a will.

There is too much longing in this country to get back to 1939. But 1939 has gone, just as 1920 has gone. We are not going to get back to anything with which we are familiar. We are going forward into something we never have experienced. Our maturity, wisdom, and foresight will be put to a tremendous test. We still suffer in this country from too much sense of inferiority. We have come into our destiny, and it is a destiny of leadership. We should be ridiculous if we succumbed to petty emotional rivalries with other countries, and were thrown off our stride by criticism and ingratitude. Our first duty is to our own future. But our own future is bound up with the future of many other countries, and our duty to ourselves can be spelled out, in part, in terms of our duty to others.

America has gone through a great education in the last years. We learned that we could not stay out of a world war. We learned thereafter that we cannot hope to avoid another such war if we stay out of the peace. And to this lesson we must add the third: that we must shoulder, pretty much by ourselves, the chief responsibility of putting the world in a condition to create wealth. By saying that we shoulder the chief responsibility, I do not mean that we can do it alone. We must have coöperation and wisdom from every quarter. But we cannot leave it to the help and wisdom of others. The great impetus by which the human race starts convalescence from this worst of all wars must come from us. And it must come with more vigor and in much greater measure than the current discussions about it in this country suggest.

No man living knows for a certainty that we are to get peace. We do not know that we are to have effective collaboration with the Soviet Union. We do not know that we are going to offer effective collaboration ourselves. We do not know that the new peace machinery will be applied. We do not know that the will operating that machinery will be steadfast. And we do not know — not by any means — that the people of this country are prepared to shoulder their economic responsibilities. But we do know that this is the road to peace, and that winning the peace is a lifelong undertaking, in which day by day we broaden our knowledge, sharpen our intelligence, and temper our spirits.

We are familiar with the statement that war is won by the last battle. The peace is not like that. It never is won, finally and for all time. But it can be lost by a single battle. In this world of concentrated power, forfeit of the peace will be our destruction. And if we do not know that we shall be able to work with the Soviet Union, we can set ourselves to it as a primary task. If we do not know that the will will be present to make the United Nations organization function, we can set ourselves to strengthening it as a primary task. And if we do not know we shall rise to our economic responsibilities, we can set ourselves to rally public support for a sound policy. What each of us understands and does is woven into the cloth of the future.