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Three weeks ago, as the British-French military mission was on its way to Moscow to try to conclude a three-way alliance with the U. S. S. R., another British mission was reported heading for Danzig. No one knew anything about it, except that its leader was a certain Professor Riley, and that it was vaguely economic. In Tallinn, Estonia, a reporter of the Swedish Aftonbladet credited the mysterious Professor Riley with a startling declaration: “In Britain we are by no means convinced of the vital necessity of Danzig for Poland. . . . The Commission has undertaken its trip under Government inspiration. I’m convinced that the results of our inquiry will have the greatest influence on the future position of Britain with regard to Danzig.”

Who was Professor Riley? Guesses began to fly: perhaps he was Durham University’s eminent Chemist Harry Lister Riley (no; reporters found him vacationing in Northumberland); a Government bigwig, sent, as Lord Runciman was to Czecho-Slovakia in August 1938, to find that the disputed area wasn’t worth squabbling over (Downing Street denied it); a personal emissary of Neville Chamberlain’s sent behind his own Government’s back to pave the way for a second Munich agreement; perhaps just a crank.

As the British-French-Russian military talks got more & more press notice, Professor Riley got less & less. Russia’s witty Defense Commissar Kliment Voroshilov received the British and French delegates with sparkling good will. They dined and wined each other. The Russians took their visitors to the annual “aviation holiday.” Everyone was in great good humor; every one thought the alliance was all but accomplished.

But this week Professor Riley was back in the news. The Russian press suddenly bristled with charges that Britain sought another Munich agreement. This time it would be between five big powers, with the U. S. included, the U. S. S. R. not. Why had hypocritical Mr. Chamberlain sent this Riley man to Danzig without even consulting Parliament? “Signs of a serious set-back to the attempt to get Russia into the peace pact front have to be recorded today,” Correspondent G. E. R. Gedye cabled the New York Times. He could scarcely have expected how momentously right and wrong he was to be proved in the next 48 hours.

Late Sunday night—not the usual time for such announcements—the Soviet Government revealed a pact, not with Great Britain, not with France, but with Germany. Germany would give the Soviet Union seven-year 5% credits amounting to 200,000,000 marks ($80.000,000) for German machinery and armaments, would buy from the Soviet Union 180,000.000 marks’ worth ($72,000,000) of wheat, timber, iron ore, petroleum in the next two years. And at Monday midnight the official German news agency announced from Berlin:

“The Government of the Reich and the Soviet Government have decided to conclude a non-aggression pact with each other. The Reichsminister of Foreign Affairs, von Ribbentrop, will arrive in Moscow Wednesday to conclude the negotiations.”

To the bewilderment of almost everybody else in the world, and the consternation of the nontotalitarian four-fifths of it, the announcement was confirmed in Moscow next morning. Russia had got into a peace pact, but not with the nations she had been doing the public dickering with.

A nightmare which the European democracies and their satellites only whispered about was the alliance of great Communist Russia with great Fascist Germany, a mighty cordon of non-democracy stretching one-third around the world from the Atlantic to the Pacific. There was no comfort in the hindseen reasons which made this Red & Black team if not inevitable, at least understandable:

1) Russia wanted as much peace as she could get, even at the expense of pulling her punches in Spain from 1938 on. If she joined the Allies, it might work out that she had merely balanced the European war scales; joining Germany tipped them, she could hope, to an imbalance the lighter side would not dare to challenge.

2) Russia, while suspicious of Germany, was suspicious of the democracies. Joseph Stalin having served notice in March that he did not propose to be pitted against Germany by the Allies, only so that both countries might be knocked out after each had knocked the other groggy.

3) Russia’s rulers still smarted at being uninvited to Munich, where, according to high diplomatic humor, the democracies looked the totalitarians knowingly in the eye and nodded in the direction of the Ukraine.

4) Russia, and her raw materials, and Germany, and her industries, make an economic combination.

At any rate, if either Joseph Stalin or Adolf Hitler—who have led their countrymen to believe that the other is the devil unchained (but not so deliberately recently)—needed any sales points to make the deal palatable at home, they were available. General belief was that they would scarcely take the trouble. They did not even bother to reveal who had undertaken the preliminaries to the greatest and quietest diplomatic about-face in modern European history.

Effects. The actual causation of the Russo-German treaty remained under cover, but the lid blew off on speculations as to its possible effects.

In Europe the effect was to put the squeeze direct on Poland, Hungary and the Balkans (see p. 21). They became almost indefensible to the Allies even if Russia’s peace pact with Germany was only a peace pact. It gave Adolf Hitler his greatest victory since the bloodless European war began, it gave him a triumph to celebrate at his Nazi Party Congress of Peace at Niirnberg Sept. 2, and it left Britain and France gasping.

In Asia the effects of the treaty might be two antitheses. It might send Great Britain into the arms of Japan, in an effort to stop the Axis on the Pacific, having been forced to retreat 4,000 miles westward from the Vistula. Or it might blow Britain all the way out of the East if Japan and Russia patched things up and the Rome-Berlin-Tokyo Axis was relabeled to read Rome-Berlin-Moscow-Tokyo.

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