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Showing posts from August, 2019

Eighty years ago, Hitler's friends wobble whilst Britain (accidentally) flags its firmness

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Hitler’s decision to invade Poland that he had revealed to his military commanders at the Berghof remained concealed, so the rest of Europe could only observe the outward signs of the final crisis: the last, open German demands on Poland, sundry German delaying tactics to keep its opponents guessing, the frantic attempts by other powers – above all Britain - to avoid a conflict and the more-or-less ambiguous moves by countries more usually friendly to Germany to reserve their positions. For outsiders there were still grounds for hope, but not optimism. There was a crumb of comfort for the peace camp from the announcement by General Franco that Spain would remain neutral in any conflict. The German-Soviet pact was given as a pretext, but the ravages of the Civil War which had ended only a few months before, left Spain in no position to pose any threat to France or even to defend itself. Italy’s attitude was harder to decode, but here too optimists had something to work o

Eighty years ago, all the isms become wasms

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Before Europe strode forward into the new, twentieth century horrors of its own making, it took a step back to the diplomacy of the eighteenth century. Just as the “diplomatic revolution” immediately before the Seven Years war in 1756 saw traditional alliances overthrown, the German-Soviet “Non Aggression Pact” changed the face of the European political chess board. The move was all the more astonishing as it overrode the long-standing ideological hostility between capitalist Fascism and socialist Stalinism. In the words of a wag at the British foreign Office “all the isms had become wasms.” It should not have come as a surprise; the dilatory and uncommitted British attempts to build a front against Hitler with the Soviet Union had served to do little beyond convincing Stalin that Hitler spoke the same language as he did and that Chamberlain didn’t. The totalitarian dictatorships had far more in common than seemed outwardly possible. Hitler had long ago  destroyed any form o