Foreign Affairs

Part of Civil Estimates, 1946 – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 5th June 1946.

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Photo of Mr Reginald Paget Mr Reginald Paget , Northampton 12:00 am, 5th June 1946

I do not propose to follow the arguments of the last two speakers. We have heard put, with great sincerity, both the Russophil and the Phil-American case. I can only say that I view the policy at present being pursued by both those great nations with almost equal alarm. I think that the polices of both, at the moment, are a great danger to the world.

The first point I want to deal with is that foreign policy is fundamentally a question of security, and when one has to consider it in those terms, one should distinguish between what one would like— the policies we would like—and the policies which are available to us. As Socialists, we, on this side of the House, can express very shortly the foreign policy which we would like. It is the foreign policy which was expressed centuries ago by Tom Paine—the policy of the " Parliament of Man." We believe profoundly that one day it must come, and that the folly of national sovereignties must be swept away. We cannot have that now. Britain, on her own, cannot establish the " Parliament of Man."If we cannot have that world Government, then we should like collective security. I believe that the situation in the world as it is at the moment makes collective security equally unrealistic. The conditions of collective security do not exist. The conditions of collective security are that the many are infinitely stronger than the one. That was the situation between the wars. With a little courageous leadership, the League of Nations could have worked, because the many in the League were always incomparably stronger, right up to the end, than any one, and if the many had stood together, they could always have coerced the one.

That is not the situation in the world today. All the rest of the world cannot coerce the Americans, and it cannot coerce the Russians, and, in that situation, I do not believe that a system of collective security can work. I believe that U.N.O. may do very useful jobs in its cultural committees and economic committees, but, for my own part, I say quite frankly that I would like to see the Security Council dissolved as soon as possible. We have a world which, in fact, is a world of power stresses, with competing power forces. That is the world as it is, as anyone who has been watching these Conferences knows. You do not stop these power stresses merely by labelling them " U.N.O.," any more than you can make petrol safer by labelling it " barley water." You make it very much more dangerous. I feel that the conception of U.N.O. as a security organisation has only the effect of concealing dangers, and concealing the conflict of power that really exists.

If the prospect of collective security is pretty remote, we have to rely for our security upon our policy. The right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary is compelled to power politics because there is no other policy available. He has to make an alignment of power upon which our security must depend. In that position we have again to look and see what policies are available to us. Our traditional policy, that which we have pursued for over 200 years, has been to spread out our meagre forces in an extended line almost around the world. It has been the case that at the start of every war we were unprepared, but finally we won the last battle. That has not been a mere coincidence. It has been cause and effect. We have won the last battle because we have occupied the peace by building up our economic strength. The measure of our unpreparedness has been the measure of our potential reserve, and, therefore, in the final phase of every great war our potential reserve has become conclusive.

That is not a policy which is available to us today, because it is a policy dependent upon the balance of power in Europe. Someone else had to be there —in latter years it has been France—to take the first shock. Unless there was that somebody else in Europe to take the first shock, the first battle would have been the last. That is the situation we are facing today. We have to concentrate our forces, because for the first time in 200 years we have to be prepared to take the first shock. The last person who has any right to complain about our drawing in our forces from India and Egypt and the Eastern Mediterranean; is the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill), because he did it. In the crisis of 1940, we found in the right hon. Gentleman a most inspiring leader, and as a result of the victory gained by the Russians at Stalingrad and by our own forces in Egypt we fundamentally achieved that for which we went to war in 1939. We had prevented any single Power from obtaining military dominion on the continent of Europe and in the Middle East.

Then the right hon. Gentleman called upon us to redouble our efforts. He announced the policy of demanding unconditional surrender. In a further two years of struggle we have achieved that very thing to prevent which we not only went to war in 1939 but to prevent which we have fought to prevent for 200 years —the establishment of a single military Power dominant in Europe. That is the situation. It was M. Talleyrand who warned political leaders who were also commanders in chief not to allow their political objects to vary with their strategic successes. That was the very thing which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford did, and, therefore, he cannot complain that it is necessary now for this country to concentrate her forces, and that it is no longer possible for this country to set a world policy. It is necessary for her to adapt her policy to the world policies established by the Great Powers, Russia and America.

If we are to do this then I think that it is important that we should try to understand what this Russian policy is. Two things seem to be agreed, more or less, about Russia. On the one hand it is said her policy is not expansive, and that what she is worrying about is her security; and, on the other, it is said, " Of course, that is perfectly absurd, because no one would dream of attacking Russia."That seems to be treating Stalin as though he were a nervous spinster looking for burglars under the bed. I do not think that is the way Stalin's mind works. If we tried to look at this situation through Russian eyes, I think we would get a better idea of the motives behind Russian policy. When the Russians look at America they see the vast industrial military strength of the American nation. They see that strength being guided by two parties who are divided by no greater fundamental principle than the mutual desire to appoint the local crossing sweeper. They see those two parties are, at bottom, corrupt. They see that an economic crisis of the gravest character is facing the American people. They see that the Americans are bound by an archaic Constitution which prevents their Government taking any edequate steps to deal with the economic crisis. They see this situation, because they have been brought up in a Marxian school, with a materialistic view of history and they see an opportunity for an American demagogue, an American Colonel Peron who is going to say, " Away with these parties. Away with this Constitution. If they put you into this economic misery it is only by doing away with them that I can get you out of it." When even Mr. Jim Farley begins to anticipate that sort of thing is it to be wondered at that the Russians fear it? If that situation arises, then they assume that there is someone like Peron ready to establish himself as a revolutionary dictator in America—and the way out of the economic problem, always, has been a foreign war.

For reasons like that, they see that America has begun to make Japan, where they are in exclusive control, the favoured corner of Asia. The Chinese may starve, the Indians may starve, the Burmese may starve, but not the Japanese. Is it to be wondered at that the Russians say, "This is an instrument against us. That is why it is being maintained"? When they look to the other end of Europe is it to be wondered at that they say, " You shall not do the same with Germany "? It is no use for us in Britain to put forward new schemes to make Germany work. The whole Russian policy is that Germany shall not work. They desire chaos there, because they think that in chaos lies their security. They want in Germany the opposite to Japan. We have to face the realities, and not imagine little schemes of how to cooperate with the Russians to make Germany work, because we have opposite intentions. Further, in this most dangerous aspect of the situation the Russians remember what happened to Hitler when Hitler became involved in war in the East, leaving Britain as an American base on the back doorstep. We, too, remember what the Russians did when they thought that Finland might be an enemy base on their back door.

I believe that, at this time, the danger in which this country stands is greatly underrated. I do not think that we can afford to neglect the possibility of the Russians, purely for security reasons, trying to deal with the only danger spot in the West where they have not got a 5th column firmly planted. It is a situation which we have to face. We have to be adequately garrisoned here in Britain. I believe that that is the most important contribution which we are making to the peace of the world. I do not believe there would be any threat to world peace so great as a Britain inadequately garrisoned or with an insufficient concentration of forces here in this island. For that reason I believe it is folly for us to distribute our forces throughout the world. We can no longer afford that policy. I entirely agree with the view put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Cocks). The Americans have established their Monroe Doctrine. It has given them a profound sense of security. The result is, as the hon. Member for Louth (Mr. Osborne) said, that there is very little prospect of the Americans disturbing the peace of the world, at the moment, because of that security. If the Russians were allowed a Monroe Doctrine on their frontiers, I believe that that also might give them a sense of security and that they might settle down too on that basis.

What is the alternative? What is the use of our sticking our noses into Poland and saying, " Hold an election "? We cannot do anything about it. We cannot make them do it. We have no power to implement any demand in that direction. Surely, it is commonsense that, instead of merely stirring up futile trouble that cannot lead anywhere, we should recognise the state of things as it is, and say, "This is your affair and your Monroe Doctrine." Outside that area, economically speaking, the Western bloc may operate. This can never be a power bloc, which is a bloc opposed to another power bloc. The Soviet Power bloc has its fifth columns and Communist Parties planted in all the countries in the Western bloc, it is futile to imagine that the Western bloc can make any effective power contribution. One has only to remember 1940, and how completely successful the Communists in France were in preventing the French resisting what was more an ally of the Russians at that time. If it were the Russians themselves, the Western Countries would be incapable of fighting, since they must fight not only on the foreign front, but upon the home front. If we look to our own security, and do not interfere in the Russian or in the American areas, where there is no advantage to be gained by either of those two countries, then I think the Russians and Americans may both settle down in their areas. There is no real object for their aggression. At at later period when they have had a chance to settle down it may be possible to arrive at a more satisfactory world system.