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Russo-German Agreement a Mistake.

Genoa Conference. – in the House of Commons on 25th May 1922.

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Now I come to a flash of light, which the Conference itself cast upon the sinister possibilities of leaving this question alone. I am referring to the Russo-German Agreement. I am not going to discuss it on its merits. I think it was a great error in judgment, but what I have to say on that subject. I have already said, and I do not think it is necessary to repeat it. It was a mistake, undoubtedly for Germany, but that is not, the aspect of it which I want to bring to the notice of the House of Commons. I am not going to dwell upon the silly forgeries of military conventions which take no one in. It is not necessary. The effect of that agreement is in itself a. portent. Let hon. Members consider for a moment what the agreement means. Here you have two of the greatest nations in the world, whether you regard territory, population, or potential power and resource, both out of favour, each having done something which has discredited them with the other nations of the world., not quite received into the full society of nations, peace signed, a nominal equality, but there was a sense of the superior nation and the inferior nation—the nation that sat above the salt, and the nation that sat below it. These are the fundamental facts. There may be good reasons in both cases. It is the sort of society treatment of persons who behave discreditably. You felt that in the Conference, and they felt it together. There was a community of misfortune. There was a community of debasement. There was a community of what they regarded asmale fides. There was a difficulty as to getting them on to Commissions. Pariahs are more gregarious than paragons, who have a sense that they do not require society, but, those on whom discredit falls want society and friendship. This may ripen into a fierce friendship.

What does that mean? I want the House to understand thoroughly its possibilities. Germany is disarmed and if necessary, you could disarm her still more. I will not say you could take every gun away—you find that difficulty in Ireland—but you could take most. You could render her perfectly impotent, but there is one thing you cannot do, and that is to prevent the re-arming of Russia if the nations are driven to despair. Germany cannot re-equip Russia economically. She has not the capital. It needs the West. That is not the case with armaments, where you have every natural resource in one country, and every technical skill in the other. It is necessary that we should look at all the possibilities of the situation, and I hope the warning I have given to-day may not be quoted a few years hence. It is my sincere hope that no occasion will ever arise which will make it necessary to go back, and refer to the warning which I uttered as to the danger of the possibilities of that situation. The average man cannot be excited to hope or fear by the possibility of something happening years hence. It is the business of statesmen to look ahead. That. is why I am appealing to the House of Commons, which has responsibility on behalf of a great nation and a great Empire—a responsibility not merely for that Empire, but a responsibility which extends to the whole of Europe, to think as to the dangers lurking in this situation, and to provide against them.