SOME diplomatic tensions among the major powers are easing. This change may be attributed to the wisdom of the decision at Potsdam to turn over to the foreign ministers of the Big Five the job of solving the larger problems left by the war. The earlier practice, which found Washington, London, and Moscow shouting at each other across seas of misunderstanding, has yielded to more normal diplomatic procedures.

Other factors encourage this moderating of the tension in big-power relations: —

1. Russia’s thirty-year pact of friendship with China and the solutions worked out by Moscow and Chungking are having a tonic effect upon every nation in Europe. The Sino-Russian settlement is accepted there as new evidence of Russia’s anxiety to maintain the unity of the Big Five.

Russian policy, however abrupt and rigorous toward Great Britain, appears disposed to favor every possible step helpful to Russo-American relations. The action taken by Secretary of State Byrnes in protesting arrangements for the elections in Bulgaria produced an about-face not only in Sofia but even more conspicuously in Moscow.

2. The extension of diplomatic recognition to Finland by Washington, upon the heels of Bulgaria’s reversal of policy, presages approval by the United States of Russia’s settlement with that junior partner of the Axis. This is a diplomatic feather in Stalin’s hat.

3. The success of the mission of General de Gaulle to the United States clears the fogs of misunderstanding between two ancient friends, fortifies moderation in France as the election approaches, and heartens all Frenchmen worried about domestic rehabilitation and empire security.

4. The decision taken at Paris by the Big Four to postpone settlement of the Tangier issue for a period of six months puts another cause of contention on ice for the time being. This move halts a squabble in which Russian and British Mediterranean interests collide and which involves the policy of the Big Four toward Franco Spain.

Tangier now reverts to its international status under the agreements of 1923. Russian and American interest in the solution of the issues there is recognized by the establishment of a four-power commission to take over management of the zone. Though ultimate Spanish interests are preserved, Francisco Franco’s regime at Madrid gets from that fact no comfort whatever. This plan is the result of a plea put forth by his implacable foe: the Republican governmentin-exile.

The Tangier accommodation reached by the Big Four puts Franco on notice that, within six months, the major Allies expect to see the last of him and his Falangist cronies at Madrid. To point up the hint, both President Truman and Foreign Secretary Bevin of Britain have gone out of their way once more to denounce his regime.

Franco is showing interest in the Spanish Pretender. But a restoration of the monarchy will scarcely spell peace for a Spain in which the economic and social situation continues to disintegrate rapidly under the impact of crop failures and industrial stagnation. Mexico’s recognition of the Spanish government-inexile shows Franco how the wind is blowing.

The war criminals

Another moderating influence in Big Four diplomacy is the approaching trials of war criminals. Despite delays and obstructions, plans are proceeding for the convening of the court of Allied justice at Nürnberg. Moscow made no effort to conceal distrust in the earlier stages of preparation for these trials. The Russian press (which is usually the voice of official opinion) feared the trial might prove a farce. Precedents in World War I certainly are not reassuring on this point.

Mr. Justice Jackson, the American Trial Commissioner, has dispelled these doubts by bold foresight and an unremitting tenacity of aim. As a result, when the court convenes a few weeks hence, one of the most important principles ever given status in the domain of international law will be recognized — the doctrine that aggressive war constitutes a criminal conspiracy against the peace of the world on the part of the members of the government responsible for starting hostilities.

Publication of the first list of German defendants to come up for trial under the indictment carries the principle to its logical conclusion by recognizing that guilt in modern war is shared alike by political leaders, their industrial partners, their military agents, and their diplomatic advance guard.

Plans of the Trial Commission make it clear that Allied justice will not rest content with bringing the two dozen notorious ringleaders of Hitler’s Reich to account for their crimes. Culpability is being assessed at three levels. High-ranking Nazis like Göring, von Papen, Krupp, and von Ribbentrop occupy the first of these.

At the second level are mustered several hundred Party officials and Army officers who are accused of hideous crimes executed either by themselves or directly by their orders in various parts of Europe. These include commandants of concentration and death camps, Gestapo squad leaders, and several local gauleiters of lesser infamy than the notorious Julius Streicher, whose crimes have earned him a place among the higher-ups.

At the third level are included special Army and Party formations having a particularly grisly record for cruelty, together with the entire rank and file of the SS organization. These several thousand are under mass indictment. They will be tried through representatives; that is, a small selection of officers and noncoms will symbolize the whole group. Their sentences will be imposed upon every member of the organization now in Allied custody.

The importance of these trials extends beyond the issue of individual cases. They present a powerful means of bringing home to the German people a thorough understanding of the enormity of their crime against civilization and human dignity. Properly used by the Allied authorities in occupation zones throughout the Reich, the trials may help the German people to a clearer understanding of the moral, social, and political values essential to regeneration.

While these developments explain the improved diplomatic atmosphere as autumn opens, it would be a mistake to imagine that suspicions have vanished. No great power permits its interest to go by default. An instructive illustration is found in the swirl of electoral activity all over the Continent. Diplomacy, ever alert to new avenues for action, begins to take note of the ballot box.

Europe’s new socialism

France, Bulgaria, Hungary, Rumania, Yugoslavia, Greece, Czechoslovakia, Belgium, Poland, Austria, and Italy will all hold elections. In some instances, as in France, the polling will occur soon. In most others it may not take place until late autumn or early winter. There will be no elections in the Netherlands until next spring, because of difficulties in compiling registers.

In all these countries politics flourish. The impact of the Labor Party victory in England continues to make itself felt. For the first time since the end of the German war, parties on the political left in Europe are finding an alternative to a complete swing toward the doctrines of Russia. European socialism is the conspicuous beneficiary of this notable political shift. Accordingly the Socialists and newly formed parties from the resistance groups, eager for a new deal for Europe but hostile to the Communist solution, are swinging into action. In France, Belgium, Holland, and some other countries, a battle is shaping up, against political partnership with the Communists for election purposes.

This is one of the most important trends in the history of contemporary Europe. It points up the principle enunciated by Secretary of State Byrnes in his objection to the electoral arrangements of Bulgaria’s present government: that elections should be free of restrictions which favor a self-appointed combination of parties to the detriment of full canvass of public opinion.

The ferment in European politics by no means implies successful resurgence of reaction, or a circumspection at Moscow traceable to the advent of the atomic bomb. The realists at the Kremlin have not weakened, but have strengthened, Russia’s position by recognizing the uses of moderation. There is another good reason for Moscow’s attitude about European political affairs at the moment. Recent shop elections in Vienna, where Communist expectations ran high, have turned out the reverse of what was expected. The Viennese Socialists were easy winners in the factory poll; the purged Christian Democrats (Catholic resistance party) ran second; the Communists emerged far in the rear.

Local resentments stirred by the boisterous behavior of the Red army of occupation are finding political expression. Significantly, Moscow ordered her Army Command late in August to restore discipline in the Army of the Balkans and directed that Army officers and Russian soldiers be at once segregated from each other in all relationships — including Army clubs.

Germany out in the cold

The Allied Control Commission at Berlin is hampered by contradictions in policy higher up. In executing agreements on reparations in kind, especially in industrial equipment, Russia continues to move German equipment back into her own devastated areas to rehabilitate them.

This policy, begun when the Red Army stormed into the Reich, now enjoys the sanction of Potsdam. It is being copied by France in her own zone. Unfortunately it includes railways. As a result Germany’s battered transportation system is undergoing systematic new devastation throughout the Russian zone as rails are shipped east to restore railways ruined by the retreating Nazis.

The problem is not one of concern for German industry so much as one affecting mutual exchanges of available German materials, between zones, among the Allies themselves. Only by operating all four occupied zones as an overall unit, and by balancing food distribution with a flow of coal and other supplies back and forth from one zone to another, under direction of the Control Commission, can the Allies achieve their objective of a decentralized, self-sustaining Reich without embarrassment to themselves in their separate zones. The breakup of German heavy industry is a primary aim.

But the Allied program must speed rehabilitation of German agriculture and light industry to take the load of supporting defeated Germans off Allied shoulders. To maintain at least a good skeletal transport system throughout Germany is imperative. General Eisenhower’s terse warning that the United States will have to ship wheat to Germany this winter is a reminder of the realities involved in this situation.

The Germans are headed for a winter of coalless homes, and by spring they will be face to face with famine. Though they will receive little sympathy from the Europe they plundered and ruined, the feeling that they deserve what they are getting will not solve the Allied Control Commission’s problem. The threat of the Nazi underground will materialize as the pinch grows severe.

After two months of experience at Berlin it is plain that what the Control Commission needs most is more freedom to work out joint plans on the spot without interference from Moscow and London. General Eisenhower enjoys a freer hand in this respect than do his colleagues from England, France, and Russia. He is making excellent use of it. The conference at Frankfort indicates that the turning point in our policies has been reached in the American zone much sooner than many dared hope.

Elimination of Nazis from political posts is well advanced. But the heat is not being turned on against an equally dangerous group: the business Nazis. Many of these, enjoying immunity because of their technical knowledge, have worked themselves into posts of importance where their arrogance elicits protests from anti-Nazi workmen. The new Frankfort program promises to put an end to this situation.

The Army’s experts get results

The success achieved by the American commander’s staff is explained by a steady improvement in the competence of the Military Government officials themselves. They have justified expectations in their ability to learn quickly. A high proportion were capable administrators and executives back home, and many possess substantial political experience. As the role of the Army in the American zone diminishes and that of the Military Government (manned mostly by commissioned civilian experts) expands, order is emerging from chaos.

Lieutenant General Lucius Clay deserves high praise in the occupation program. He is a tough, tenacious, resourceful, and energetic West Pointer, with years of practical experience in the Army Engineers. He was the driving genius behind the War Department’s procurement program, and right-hand man to James Byrnes during the latter’s tenure as War Mobilizer.

As General Eisenhower’s chief deputy, General Clay directs the whole mission of the American occupation forces in western Germany. The progress made in the American zone at Berlin is due to Major General Floyd L. Parks, who is in charge there. His tact and administrative common sense have achieved an effective liaison between the American forces and the directors of the Russian, British, and French sectors.

Obstacles of a serious nature are identified in the decisions made at Frankfort. The ban on “political blocs” seeks to prevent repetition, in the American zone, of practices which already stir dispute elsewhere in Europe. Communist-dominated combinations of parties are not welcomed.

The second difficulty arises from a different quarter. Interference by the German clergy, protests lodged by them with the Military Government on behalf of notorious Nazis placed under arrest, obstruction, and persistent propaganda countering the realities of German defeat are reminders that German churchmen represent inveterate German nationalism.