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Both these officers are at the top of their professions, and are highly rated by professional soldiers and sailors in other countries. If the position is not too far gone to be retrieved, they are doubtless the men to do it, and it would be folly on the part of Japan to make the blunder, which has cost the Russians so dear, of underrating their foe. In the opinion of many men who should know Russia, she will be able slowly but surely to pull herself together, and will set her teeth as we did after the black week of the Boer War, and like us will resolve to “see this thing through.” But her task is immeasurably harder than ours, as her enemy is infinitely more powerful, and has the aggressive qualities which were totally lacking in the Boers, and the absence of which was the cause of their final overthrow. The physical and strategical problem is likewise infinitely harder for Russia in the Far East than for Great Britain in South Africa, as is shown by the admirable aperçu of the position by Mr. Spenser Wilkinson in a recent number of the Morning Post: Japan must and will now if she can go on to destroy that Fleet (i.e., the Russian fleet in the Far East), and so obtain the command of the sea, which Russia can then not wrest from her. After that will come the land war, and here a second awakening awaits Russia. The centre of gravity of the Russian Empire is in Europe where she has a population of rather more than a hundred millions. In Asia she has, perhaps, twenty-two millions of subjects, but of these seventeen millions are in Caucasia and Central Asia, and less than six millions in Siberia with its five million square miles—a population of about one person and a fifth to a mile. The whole of the resources which Russia can employ in the land war must be taken from Europe by land. The position will be like that of England in 1899 if the Cape to Cairo Railway had then existed and if after the battle of Colenso there
had been no way of getting reinforcements to South Africa or of supplying the
Army except by single track railway from Cairo.
two continents without the resources of sea transport? That is the problem
before her. It would be no disgrace to any Administration to fail of its solution.
The war in the Far East has instantaneously altered the political
The atmosphere of Europe, though at present it is impossible to guess the extent of that change. The two Powers immediately affected by the war are naturally Great Britain and France, seeing that their respective allies are endeavouring to destroy one another. The French, speaking generally, are passionately anxious for the victory of Russia, and have been profoundly moved by her reverses, all the more as they were led to believe that there would be no war, or alternatively that it would be a Russian picnic. The destruction of what has been hitherto
regarded as a wing of the French Navy has been a rude shock to France. On the other hand the English are heavily pledged to the Japanese cause, and are correspondingly elated by the Japanese successes. We were fully prepared for the war, though we hoped there might be peace, and we had complete confidence in the ability of our ally, but few of us anticipated such early and startling successes, and the incapacity displayed by Russian strategists has caused as much surprise in London as the ineptitude of Russian diplomacy. The English and the French people are we believe equally anxious to remain spectators of the great Far Eastern drama, and their Governments are resolved that the war shall be localised. At the same time it will require the utmost vigilance in both nations to resist the machinations of the tertius gaudens in Berlin, who is working night and day for an extension of the struggle so as to embrace the allies of the belligerents. If France can be manoeuvred into the conflict, England would necessarily become involved, and a worldwide conflagration would be alighted from which Germany alone would stand to profit. The real crisis will come when Germany, who has constituted herself Russia's bottle-washer (the Potsdam Party in the Cabinet please take note), largely with the object of exiting French jealousy, makes some diplomatic proposal to France in the interests of Russia which will compel the French Government either to identify itself with the Russian cause in the Far East, or run the risk of being replaced by Germany in the Dual Alliance. The St. Petersburg correspondent of the Temps thus warns French diplomacy of the troublesome days ahead :
The German Government are taking advantage of the existing circumstances to overwhelm Russia with protestations of friendship. They will even go further, and address to her an offer of those services which rather place people who receive them under an obligation than bind those who render them. They may prove to the Russian Government that their neutrality is benevolent and more valuable than that of France. In order to check these tactics, it will require all the skill and tact of our Minister for Foreign Affairs, who finds himself in the presence of what is perhaps the most delicate problem which ever a Minister had to solve—namely, to spare France a war, to retain an alliance for her, and to save the peace of the world.
The war in the Far East has excited anxiety as to possible developments in the Near East, and this dread is
The - Near East believed to have been a contributory cause to the ear frightful panic which recently shook the Paris and Berlin Bourses. According to the Times Vienna correspondent, a cool observer in an admirable observatory, it was suddenly assumed that because Japan and Russia had gone to war, Turkey and Bulgaria would take one another by the throat, while the Dual Monarchy was accused of having fomented an Albanian rising, which was to provide her with a pretext for occupying Novi Bazar, to which Italy would reply by seizing Prevesa and Durazzo. Then the pendulum swung with equal violence in the opposite direction, and the world was informed that Turkey and Bulgaria had practically joined the Peace Society, that the Dual Monarchy was wholly unready for war, that there was no Albanian rising, while nothing was further from Italian thoughts than designs upon the Albanian coast. Therefore the peace of Europe was more firmly established than ever. But the Times Vienna correspondent declares that “the present buoyancy is as exaggerated as the previous alarm.” The only change in the Balkan situation is the fact that one of the promoters of the Mürzberg Programme of Reforms, viz., Russia, is engaged in the Far East, though how far this may impair her influence in the Near East will depend on events. The Russo-Japanese War is certainly no guarantee of peace in the Balkans, and last autumn, “when for the third or fourth time within six months the open breach between Turkey and Bulgaria had with difficulty been averted, it was believed by the most competent authorities that the spring would bring war in the Balkans.” Indeed the conviction is said to have been expressed in influential Russian circles that the Mürzberg Programme would remain a dead letter until Turkey had so crushed Bulgaria as to prevent her from sustaining the Macedonian cause, and all that cautious people are disposed to say to-day is that the conflict for which Russia was prepared, if she did not secretly desire it, between Turkey and Bulgaria, is unlikely to break out before “the mountains grow green.” As we point out further on in commenting on Lord Lansdowne's declaration in the House of Lords, the crisis in the Near East seems to offer the Governments of France and Great Britain an opportunity of cooperation of which they ought unhesitatingly to avail themselves. Such an entente would steady the general situation, and diminish the chances of an Anglo-French conflict, while we might see an era of real reform initiated in Macedonia.
The fourth Session of the first Parliament of the present reign ... was opened by the King in person, accompanied The Opening the Queen, in full state ceremonial on
of Parliament. February 2. Although the weather was unfriendly, nothing could mar the magnificence of the scene in the
House of Lords during the reading of the Royal Speech which was of unusual length. Special emphasis was laid upon the understanding between Great Britain and the French Republic, with whom an arbitral agreement had been recently concluded, which “apart from its intrinsic value affords a happy illustration of the friendly feelings prevailing between the two countries, of which striking proofs were given during my visit to France and that of the President of the French Republic to Great Britain.” Similar arbitral agreements were being negotiated with Italy and the Netherlands, and the boundary dispute between Portugal and Barotseland, had been submitted to the arbitration of the King of Italy. The recent determination of the Alaska Boundary dispute was “a matter of congratulation that the misunderstandings, in which ancient boundary treaties, made in ignorance of geographical facts, are so fertile, have in this case been finally removed from the field of controversy.” After reviewing General Egerton's successes in Somaliland, where we had received the cordial co-operation of the Italian Government and the Emperor Menelek of Abyssinia, the Speech made a discreet allusion to the crisis in the Far East, which could not conceivably wound even the most sensitive susceptibilities: “I have watched with concern the course of the negotiations between the Governments of Japan and Russia in regard to their respective interests in China and Korea. A disturbance of the peace in those regions could not but have deplorable consequences. Any assistance which my Government can usefully render towards the promotion of a pacific solution will be gladly afforded.” Then followed a cautious allusion to the Near East, approval being expressed of the revised scheme of Macedonian reforms which had been pressed by the AustroHungarian and Russian Governments, with the concurrence of the other Powers, signatories of the Treaty of Berlin, “and accepted, after a regrettable delay, by the Porte.” It was hoped that the winter respite from fighting would enable the adoption of those practical measures of amelioration “which are so sorely needed in these unhappy regions.”
The Royal Speech expressed satisfaction at the action of the Legislatures of the Australian Commonwealth and the Colony of New Zealand in giving effect to the Naval Agreements entered into at the Conference of Colonial Premiers in 1902, whereby these Colonies assumed “a larger share than heretofore in the general scheme of Imperial Defence,” the further action of the
The Empire and the Estimates.
New Zealand Legislature in giving a Preference to the products of the Mother Country being also mentioned, while sympathy was expressed in the sufferings of our great cotton industry owing to the insufficiency of the supply of the raw material, which it was attempted to supplement by efforts in various parts of the Empire. The foreign and Imperial paragraphs concluded with a reference to Colonel Younghusband's political mission to Tibet “to secure the due observance of the Convention of 1890 relating to Sikkim and Tibet,” which was approved by the Chinese Government, who were despatching an official from Pekin to meet the British representative. The review of internal affairs opened with the declaration that the Ministerial Estimates for the current year had been framed “with the utmost desire for economy,” as “the burden imposed on the resources of the country by the necessities of naval and military defence is undoubtedly serious,” and the House of Commons was informed that “the possibility of diminishing this burden is being carefully considered in connection with the general problem of Army and War Office reform.” While we are all equally anxious that there should be no waste either upon the Army or upon the Navy, because extravagance is the enemy of efficiency, it can scarcely be said that this emphatic pledge, which will inevitably be followed by large supplementary estimates, is calculated to inspire confidence in the Government's appreciation of the present critical international situation. This is not the moment for an ostentatious official advocacy of cheeseparing, though we fear it indicates that the present Government has neither the capacity nor the courage to enlarge the present narrow basis of our Revenue. This year's deficit offers a golden opportunity to British statesmanship to follow the example of other communities, who have long since discovered the means of compelling the foreigner to finance a substantial portion of their armaments. Under the existing régime, Great Britain probably bears the whole burden of the German Navy through the taxation imposed on our trade by Germany, while Germany makes practically no contribution towards our Navy, owing to our altruistic abstention from taxing her trade. So long as we remain paralysed by our fanatical or cowardly adherence to exploded economics British Chancellors of the Exchequer will continually find themselves in those revenue difficulties which cause this undignified whining over the Estimates.