The Ambassador in Turkey (Skinner) to the Secretary of State

No. 590

Sir: If appearances count for anything we are getting nearer and nearer to a general European war. Protracted discussions based on [Page 210] legalistic considerations seem only to embitter the situation. Disarmament proposals have been made and pushed to one side for years without any visible results. The fundamental cause of this unrest is land hunger, a subject which is approached gingerly, if at all, in current negotiations. This is the present situation of the principal powers today:

The United States: We really want peace on earth and good will to men.

Great Britain also wants peace, especially on the Continent of Europe. She has had a hand in the partition of Africa, took the lion’s share of the spoils after the Great War, and now, if it will keep Italy quiet and inclined to cooperate in Europe, is unlikely to complain unduly of the latter’s encroachments upon Ethiopia, always provided there is no interference with the headwaters of the Blue Nile.

France wants peace in earnest, she wants Italy to cooperate in Europe and shares Great Britain’s feelings about Ethiopia.

Italy wants peace but talks about war and expansion. She especially desires territory in Africa and says so. Turkey fears that she has eyes on Asia Minor.

Germany speaks vaguely of peace and by her course appears to want to keep the world under the threat of war. She has said in various ways that she has no intention of engaging in war to obtain territory, but at the same time she rearms heavily and menacingly and causes it to be known that she wishes more territory in Eastern Europe. Germany has kept Austria in a ferment for years and she keeps the small Baltic states in a state of perpetual alarm. Until recently she was in the habit of making demonstrations on the Polish frontier indicating her desire for the return of Danzig and the Polish Corridor. She also wishes the return of Memel from Lithuania. Recently she has gone into a ten years agreement with Poland to keep the peace between them. This marks a departure from her former attitude, and the willingness of Poland to accept her present professions raises suspicions in many minds that back of this Polish treaty lies a gentleman’s agreement respecting other matters. Nothing can be proved, but, rightly or wrongly, many people think that the two countries share in the hope and will assist each other in realizing this hope, that Germany shall have back Danzig and the Polish Corridor, while at one and the same time Poland is to be compensated by a part or the whole of Lithuania running to the sea, thus providing Poland with a substitute Corridor as proposed by the German Ambassador Nadolny, and furthermore, Poland is to have a large slice of the Ukraine running down to the Black Sea.

[Page 211]

Poland is thought to have agreed with Germany as mentioned above, but not without some searching of the heart on the part of influential persons who do not see eye to eye with Marshal Pilsudski.63

Russia wants peace in order to develop her own resources and to be able to promote communism in other countries.

If the foregoing states with moderate correctness the general situation there is no more possibility of maintaining peace for an indefinite period by attempting to reduce armaments than there is of getting rid of disease by abolishing medicine. The first and indispensable condition to the maintenance of peace is to obtain a declaration from every European power that for twenty-five years, she renounces any possible claim to additional territory either by way of annexation or the setting up of protectorates or zones of influence. If such declarations could be obtained, and only the President of the United States could ask for them with any prospect of success, the world would settle down to economic recovery and military establishments could be reduced to the level of each country’s real needs.

Respectfully yours,

Robert P. Skinner
  1. Josef Pilsudski, Polish Minister for Military Affairs.