Articles

THE GREATEST DANGER IS IN EUROPE

Even while the guns thunder from Asia this searching analysis shows the peril in Europe where fear is stronger than the will to fight

MATTHEW HALTON October 15 1950
Articles

THE GREATEST DANGER IS IN EUROPE

Even while the guns thunder from Asia this searching analysis shows the peril in Europe where fear is stronger than the will to fight

MATTHEW HALTON October 15 1950

THE GREATEST DANGER IS IN EUROPE

Articles

Even while the guns thunder from Asia this searching analysis shows the peril in Europe where fear is stronger than the will to fight

MATTHEW HALTON

CBC European Correspondent

PARIS—Recent headlines, easily read by the light of flames from a cold war suddenly turned hot, have directed the world’s attention to Korea and the rest of Asia. But Europe is still the hottest, most dangerous area in a world full of danger.

It’s no mistaken local pride that makes Europeans of the West claim for themselves this nervous distinction. They are frightened.

Paul Reynaud, of France, recently spoke for many Europeans when he asked: “It should be Russia who’s

afraid of us, not us who are afraid of Russia. What is the matter?”

What is the matter?

Why is the famous continent defenseless today, except for the incalculable shadow of the atom bomb, and as frightened as she has ever been before?

Europe includes the 50 million Britons, still as tough, stubborn and valorous as any people in the world. It includes the 42 million Frenchmen, still in many ways a proud and vigorous race. It includes the 50 million West Germans, perhaps the best military manpower in the world. It includes the 27 million people of Spain, which has the largest army in Europe. It includes the 46 million Italians, who though not martial could be far from negligible. It includes the 18 million Belgians and Dutch. All these people share a desire to resist the advance of Russian Communism. Behind them is the mighty potential of the United States and Canada.

Yet this is the most dangerous hour in the history of Europe since the fall of Rome 1,500 years ago.

Let the Kremlin give the word—and the temptation to move before the West is armed must surely be

gnawing at Soviet leaders—and the dark would plunge down over Europe, probably forever. The American Superfortresses in East Anglia would take off at once with their atom bombs, but Western Europe would be overrun within a few weeks.

What is the matter? And what can be done?

The immediate answer is that we have not got the essential 50 divisions behind the Elbe although in recent weeks a quickening awareness of the danger has been reflected in a brisker pace of preparedness. Attlee has increased Britain’s Western defense force to three divisions; Truman has indicated willingness to increase the U. S. contribution; at the same time Churchill called for up to 70 divisions including two or three Canadian units. St. Laurent gave Canada’s official position-she’d send no troops at this time, only arms.

The fact is that Europe lacks the morale and the dynamism to do this big job alone. If Atlantica— Western Europe and North America—were a working entity with a coherent governing intelligence the spark could be there.

This entity is growing up before our eyes, fast. But Korea has shown that we need large bodies of soldiers now—and we have to fortify Europe’s morale somehow before she will make the effort to save herself. That means we must have many British, American and Canadian divisions east of the Rhine.

General de Lattre de Tassigny, commander-in-chief of the land forces of Western Europe, told me: “Europe needs dollars, arms and trained men, but above all she needs an idea, the idea that she can be saved.” The Europeans do not want

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to be liberated again. That is a hard and unpleasant thing to say, but it is the key to the problem. What was liberated would be the ashes of civiliza-

Here then is the vicious circle of impotence and defeatism that somehow we must break, and break swiftly. The morale is to the physical as three to one, but the Europeans will not have the morale until the 50 divisions are in being and the divisions will not be there until there is a new morale. We talk comfortingly of the overwhelming numerical superiority of the nonCommunist world over the Communist world but the grim fact is that only the United States, Britain and the countries of the Commonwealth have the will to resist alone. Europe will have the will to resist only when she has the means to back the will. And seldom has there been so much to do in so short a time. Let us hope Winston Churchill was wrong when he said in July, “Time is not on our side.’“ If time is not on our side we are lost today.

More recently Churchill put the situation squarely to the world: “The supreme peril threatening the world is in Europe.” He said the danger in Europe was closer than in Korea and on an incomparably larger scale. “It is a melancholy thought,” he added, “that nothing preserves Europe from overwhelming military attack except the devastating resources of the United States.”

France As a Neutral?

There are brave and great men in Western Europe trying valiantly to bolster the will to resist the Red pressure. There are men like Ernst Reuter, the good bold mayor of west Berlin, who told me this spring: “Nothing is

lost! Don’t talk to me about ‘inevitables’ and ‘the logic of history’! Men make history. But only a great act of courage and will power will save us— something comparable to, but far vaster and more courageous than, Churchill’s offer to France in 1940. I mean an effective, working council of the West.” There are men like de Lattre de Tassigny, who is making a fierce and remarkably successful effort to infuse the new French Army with that spirit of the offensive which died on the approaches to Paris in the ghastly drain of World War I. There are men like Paul-Henri Spaak, of Belgium, who toils for action in Western defense instead of words.

But defeatism has made its inroads in Europe. A leading British Methodist, Dr. Donald Soper, said the other day: “Better that the whole world

should go Communist than that there should be a third world war.” His speech was angrily denounced, but throughout Europe there are many who quietly wonder whether he is not right.

In France, Italy and Germany this pessimism is widespread. It will be dissipated as our strength grows; but it is plain that we need speed when even such a newspaper as Le Monde, the best in France, can carry as it did last winter a series of articles “examining” —though explicitly not “advocating” —a policy of neutrality. There are all too many people who say, as a German priest said to me: “The barbarian

invasion is inevitable and there’s nothing we can do.”

The defense of Europe must be studied under the three headings of economics, armies and morale. There are danger signs in each.

The economic recovery of Western Europe has been astonishing; it would have been called impossible three years ago. Marshall Aid, plus the native energies and skills of the Europeans, has won a great defensive battle against Communism. Since 1947 the dollar gap has been halved. West Europe’s industrial production has increased 30% (Britain’s is 50% higher than ever before) and agricultural production 20%. Exports have risen by 50%. The production of steel, textiles and most other basic commodities has gone up and up. Controls have been lifted. The shattered economies of only five years ago have been repaired. The $10 billions of E.R.P. funds have not been wasted.

But it must be remembered that this has been only a delaying action against Europe’s growing and frightening economic problems. These problems, serious enough now, will become progressively more serious. Even now there are pessimists among American E.R.P. experts who see no long-term solution. Agricultural production is still below the pre-war level. And there are more people—20 millions more than in 1939. West Europe’s population is increasing at the rate of about 2 Yi millions a year, and the average person eats 10% less than before the war. The threat of overpopulation is now ever present.

And as the population grows, and as people demand more and more, not less and less, the resources of the continent are declining. When and if Marshall Aid ends the situation will be most precarious. There will still be a dollar gap of over $2 billions a year. The improved indices of production look so spectacular only because they were so low when recovery started; each new improvement now requires greater and greater effort. The elastic grows tauter.

There is already serious unemployment in Germany, Italy and Belgium. In the coming years immense efforts and more skilled techniques will be needed to improve agriculture in every way, to reclaim land, to find industrial substitutes, to save and harness water supplies and above all, to encourage emigration. Europe’s economy is no longer a naturally expanding one. It is delicately poised, at the mercy of almost any trade wind that blows.

Yet the growing numbers demand ever higher wages, ever better social services, an ever fuller life. At best the problems were grave—and now Europe is asked to rearm. “The danger is,” say the French economists, “that the cost and effort of defending Europe may so ruin economic recovery that she will not be worth defending.” It is heartbreaking for Britain to have to postpone her rewards after the magnificent economic recovery she has made; for France and Italy, with their millions of Communists, it is outright dangerous.

“Peace Campaign” Weapon

In this respect the totalitarian governments have an immense advantage over the democracies: they can force their peoples to accept guns instead of butter and, at the same time, through their absolute control of the mediums of public information, persuade them they are having more butter than the democracies. But in democracies the people vote for the party that offers them the most.

Russia spends 13% of her national income on her armed services (the percentage would be far higher if she paid her soldiers $1,200 a yeâr, as the United States does, instead of only $40) but Britain and the United States are just getting around to 10%.

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The Communist leaders in Western Europe are now exploiting the fears of the average man with revolting hypocrisy and with Machiavellian cunning and ruthless determination. In actual numbers the Communist parties of Free Europe have been decreasing. With 2 million party members in Italy and 750,000 in France—which means a strength at the polls of three times those numbers—they are still strong enough, but they are losing numbers. What they have lost numerically, however, they have more than made up in militancy and organization. And they have had much success in what is now their main task—the encouragement of defeatism and non-resistance.

Their latest weapon is the “peace campaign.” Many millions of Europeans, including many who should know better, have signed the “Stockholm peace petition” demanding the abolition of all atom bombs. The fact is, of course, that the Red armies would be at Calais and Marseilles next month if the United States did not have her stockpile of atom bombs. But with bottomless cynicism the Communists pursue their campaign of trying to condition the Europeans to defeatism, or at least to the shouldershrugging attitude of the millions who, though not Communists, just do not care enough to fight back.

Only confidence can dispel defeatism. Only strength can give confidence. And the strength and confidence will only come, I believe, when the 50 divisions are on the Elbe and when a considerable proportion of them are British and American. The West has heard the tocsin. The United States and Britain are now turning their energies to the greatest peacetime arms programs in their histories. The only question now is whether our watching enemy will allow us to rearm in peace. “Shall we have the time?” asked Churchill at Strasbourg. “No one can say for certain. But to assume we are too late would be the very madness of despair.”

The best sign that Russia does not intend to attack in Europe now is— touch wood!—that she has not in fact attacked. Clearly—touch wood!— the Kremlin is afraid of atom bombs. Yet the awful temptation must be there; the Politburo must always be calculating the fatal comparatives. Just as Hitler attacked before he was fully prepared, on the grounds that the balance of strength would never again be so much in his favor, so too the Russians must be wondering whether, in spite of the atom bomb, now is the time to go.

The balance of strength is certainly appalling today. If the hour struck, we are told, Russia could throw 50 welltrained and fully equipped divisions across the Elbe at once, 12 of them armored, and within three months she could have another 100 divisions in the field. Russia has 30,000 tanks and the best of them are the best in the world. The aggressor would be far superior at first in numbers of both tactical and strategic aircraft.

Against this the West would :have seven divisions ready for immediate action in Germany—two American, two British and three French. Twenty divisions altogether could be scraped

Continued from page 36 Canada is currently spending slightly more than 3% and it seems likely parliament will increase this to around 5%. Canada and the United States can afford both guns and whipped cream. And even Europe’s standard of living, if it were cut by as much as a quarter, would still be far higher than Russia’s. But cut it, even for defense against destruction, and the Communist vote goes up.

together in Western Europe today—■ three British, two American, five French, five Italian and five or six Belgian, Dutch, Danish, and Norwegian— but only seven would be fully trained and equipped and in the crucial position at the crucial time.

Monty Makes Headway

In 1939 France regarded 100 divisions as the necessary minimum for her eastern front. Today she has five, two of them armored. She has two more divisions in North Africa and elements of others, including some airborne units. Nearly 100,000 of her soldiers, including the best officers and N.C.O.’s, so badly needed in Europe as the cadres of a new army, are in Indochina. The new army, specializing in its training on toughness and morale, is excellent. (Montgomery has described French training as the best he has ever seen.) But its equipment is discarded American equipment. It still has not much of a tactical air force. The United States, one gathers, has developed remarkable new weapons which give infantry 15 times as much firepower as it had 10 years ago, but she is not yet sending this equipment to Europe lest the secrets fall into Communist hands. Finally, the period of conscription in France is only one year, soon to be lengthened to 18 months. Even in Britain, with her long tradition against conscription in peacetime, it is a year and a half and will soon be increased to two years.

So there is Europe, rich, famed, glorious and virile in so many ways, Europe which could not survive another occupation; there is Europe with seven divisions and at the mercy of a Kremlin calculation.

All this is not to say that nothing has been moving. The Western Union

Defense Headquarters under Montgomery has made some headway against the walls of inertia and fatalism. Real progress has been made in such things as the co-ordination of armaments, signals, training and tactics. Truman’s intention to send more divisions to Europe was a good sign. So was the conference of foreign ministers on European defense.

The framework for the defense of Europe does now exist and the plans are good. But they are the plans for what would be done if it could be done.

We have not got the large bodies of well-trained, well-equipped troops to do it. We have not got the 50 divisions on and behind the Elbe.

And the divisions must include Americans and Britons. France has openly rejected the original Atlantic Pact principle of “balanced, collective forces,” of specialization—the principle that France should provide at first the bulk of the European army while the Anglo-Saxons provided the navies, air forces, weapons, atom bombs and money. We come back to morale, and to the memories of the two world wars. The French balk at the prospect of taking almost alone the shock of another invasion. They cry for a general pool of money, arms and men on the basis of equality of sacrifice in blood as well as in gold.

A worried French politician put the matter to me like this: “France could have 12 divisions in place within a year if the will were there and the will would be there if the United States and Britain would undertake even half such an effort. If 12 French divisions, eight American and perhaps two Canadian, six British, three Belgian, two Dutch, and one Danish were in Europe now the whole climate of {he world crisis would be bettered overnight.

“Save Europe and you save all; lose

Europe and the United States and Canada are alone in the world. Such an effort would hold the fort until Germany is integrated into the Atlantic community and takes her place in the defense of the West.”

That brings us to the stickiest and trickiest problem of all: the problem of Germany and German rearmament.

History is full of mockery, but when has there been such a reversal as this, with the former allies struggling anxiously for the body and soul of Germany? Can it be only five years ago that we had the beaten German down at last in his reeking ruins and swore that he should never rise? We vowed a Punic peace; our soldiers were forbidden at first even to talk to German children; Roosevelt actually initialed the Morgenthau plan for the reduction of Germany to a land of peasants and cowherds. But a greater menace has made short work of retribution.

We are in Berlin and on the Rhine and the Elbe not as custodians but as guarantors and friends. In Berlin especially today the Anglo-Americans and the Germans form almost a mutual admiration society. German delegates have just been to Strasbourg as welcomed members of the Council of Europe. And the question of the hour among growing numbers of the nonGermans is not even “Shall Germany be armed?” but “How and how quickly can it be done?”

Germans Had a Skinful

To discuss all this with the Germans themselves is both fascinating and terrifying. During a recent trip to Germany I questioned many ordinary Germans about it. What did they think of the fact that so soon after the war they were back in the Western family as courted allies, already at Strasbourg, and soon, probably, to be rearmed within the Atlantic Pact? Many times came the expected but galling reply: “We told you so! We

fought the barbarians. We tried to hold Asia at arms length—and now you need us. Goebbels was right after all.” It served no purpose to tell them that Nazism was as evil to us as Communism. (One woman even told me that the West had “stabbed Germany in the back” by fighting her. On the other hand, many Germans say the war was all Britain’s fault for not stopping Hitler in time.)

When I referred to the fact that the Western conquerors had poured about $3 billions worth of food and supplies into Germany since the war I got this reply: “Yes, but not for our sake. Only to prevent us from going Communist.” And to that, of course, there is little to reply.

But here is the irony within the irony of Germany’s new and reversed situation: Many of the German people,

whose last rearmament terrified Europe, are not too anxious to rearm now that Europe needs them.

There are various explanations of this and the first brings us back once more to fear and fatalism in face of the ever-present shadow of the Russian juggernaut; back to our vicious circle of impotence—Germany wants to take a dynamic part in the defense of Europe only when she is sure Europe can be defended.

The German masses, for the present at least, have had a skinful of war. In the last struggle, in which Britain lost about a quarter of a million troops killed and 60,000 civilians, and the United States more than 300,000 troops, Germany lost about 7 millions over all. And the fear of the Russians is even more harrowing than the memories of the recent past.

In places in Westphalia and the

Rhineland you can still see the washedout outlines of a slogan that we found painted everywhere when we crossed the Rhine in 1945: SIEG ODER

SIBERIEN (Victory or Siberia). When I mentioned this to a German as we drove through the Ruhr one day he said: “It is still our nightmare. If

the Russians come again they will transport millions of Germans and other West Europeans to the east.”

Official Germany opposes rearmament except on its own terms. Chancellor Konrad Adenauer and his West German Cabinet demand, as the basis for a German contribution to defense, a peace settlement, the restoration of full sovereignty, and an equal place in the Atlantic Pact. Ex-officers’ associations all over Germany, including a group led by former Panzer General Kurt von Manteuffel in Düsseldorf, are clamoring for rearmament—again on their own terms. The German Socialist delegates at Strasbourg, with better reasons and motives, also opposed the piecemeal introduction of German troops into a Western army. First, they said, get West Germany safely tied up in a federation which will harness her strength but confine her fury.

It will all come. It is all on the way. And what else can we do? The Communists have had a remarkable and disturbing success in the Russian zone in their efforts to identify Communism and German nationalism. There they have a German army. There are already 200,000 troops in the People’s Police and more than 50,000 special stormtroops in the Red S.S., armed with artillery and Russian T-34 tanks. On our side the Americans have already begun to arm German volunteers. They are enlisting 26,000 Germans as guards for bridges, airdromes and military depots. It is the first step on the inevitable road.

The Face of Russia

The rearmament of Germany will have three obvious dangers. The prospect of it might possibly be the deciding factor in a Russian decision to stake everything now. A rearmed Germany might someday provoke a war against Russia to regain her lost unity, her lost provinces and her revenge. Or a rearmed Germany—and this spectre is already haunting Europe —might make a deal with Russia.

Certain groups are openly saying: “Our future is with the East. The scientific, industrial and military genius of the Germans in league with the masses, the space and the raw materials of Russia would make the most powerful combination the world has ever seen. Nothing could stop us. And when victory was won against the West we would soon dominate the Russian herds.” There’s a nightmare for you, while you’re having them!

In Berlin I asked Mayor Reuter what he thought of the danger of the Germans and the Russians coming together. He said: “You can forget it. One must never underestimate the neo-Nazis and their complete political amorality, but the German people have seen the face of Russia much too closely ever to like it.”

But hate is not always lasting—as we are learning ourselves. National Communism would be no harder for the Germans to swallow than National Socialism; and even Reuter qualified his assertion with the sober words: “Nothing will be safe or certain until we are all bound together in a federation of the Western world.”

And so we return to the question posed at the beginning: Why should

Europe tremble? What must be done? —and to the twofold answer. The situation will be redressed only when we have a real army on the Elbe. No matter what the cost, no matter what the effort, we must have those 50 divisions, with strong British and American components, deployed in Europe. Only that will put heart into Western Europe and it is heart she needs. It may be asked how Britain and North America with all their commitments and preoccupations can put many divisions into Europe. I don’t know how but I am sure they must do it.

The second imperative is to press on swiftly with the creation of Atlantica. A powerful and imaginative initiative from the United States and Canada is needed, and it is needed now. Events and needs have run ahead of even such bold and hopeful schemes and ideas as the Schuman Plan and the Council of Europe and the Atlantic Pact. To reenthuse Europe, to tie up Germany, even to produce the machinery of effective action, requires something more than we have yet done. It is easier to write the words than to achieve the reality.

But it must be achieved. ★