- The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 7 Feb 1944, p. 269-283
- Fotitch, His Excellency Constantin, Speaker
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- Item Type
- Problems in Yugoslavia. Views about the future organization of world peace; Yugoslavia's modest contribution in that regard. Yugoslavia's geographical position in a region of Europe where many past conflicts originated. Eliminating the cause of possible future conflicts. An analysis of the reasons which brought about the failure of the peace system established in 1919 and the speaker's views of what people in Yugoslavia expect to see after victory in order to achieve peace in that better, future world for which we have all suffered untold sacrifices. A brief review of events, beginning with Yugoslavia's entry into the war in April, 1941. The situation which existed at the close of the last World War. The methods and the behaviour of Hitler and Mussolini, something quite new to the international scene. The failure to recognize them as a real menace by those chiefly responsible for maintaining peace. Two basic problems for those responsible for world leadership: security, and the problem of equality of well-being. Learning from the mistakes made between the first and second World Wars. Problems particular to small nations. The sentiments of the Yugoslav people toward the Anglo-Saxon nations. Making good the provisions of the Atlantic Charter. The sentiments of the Yugoslavs toward Russia. Close friendship and constructive collaboration between Yugoslavia and Soviet Russia. The people of Yugoslavia devoted to the democratic concept of life. The hope that the new international organization will discard any kind of balance of power or the division of the world into zones of influences, which the speaker feels would lead to a third world war. Assumptions about the structure and organization of the future world organization. Reasons why collaboration among small nations was difficult and even impossible during the period between the two world wars. The need for unity. The need for a careful consideration of both achievements and mistakes. Holding fast to that which proved to be good and rejecting forever that which proved to be bad.
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- 7 Feb 1944
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- THE SMALL NATIONS IN WORLD AFFAIRS
AN ADDRESS BY HIS EXCELLENCY CONSTANTIN FOTITCH, YUGOSLAVIAN AMBASSADOR TO WASHINGTON.
Chairman: The President, Mr. Eason Humphreys.
Thursday, February 7, 1944
MR. HUMPHREYS: Forty years ago, the founders of this Club wrote a Constitution, the first article of which says: "The organization shall be called 'The Empire Club of Canada'."
If that name should imply any limitation of outlook today, and many other occasions in the past, will make it plain that the Club's interests are by no means limited.
Today, Yugoslavia occupies our attention, for we are honoured by the presence here of His Excellency, Constantin Fotitch, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, Royal Yugoslav Embassy, Washington.
His Excellency's career is distinguished and most interesting. Born, of course, in Yugoslavia, he graduated from the University of Law, Bordeaux, France. Our guest began his military life in 1912 and entered the diplomatic service in 1915. His Excellency's extensive diplomatic duties took him to Berne, Switzerland, in 1917, to Paris in 1918, and to London in 1921, afterwards returning to Paris as Delegate to the Peace Conference in 1924.
Later His Excellency became head of the League of Nations Division, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Counsellor of the Legation at Rome.
Returning to Geneva, he assumed a number of very important offices, afterwards acting as Under Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1930.
Then as envoy, His Excellency went to Moscow, remaining there until 1935, when he was appointed to Washington.
Our guest has had a distinguished military career, too, having received many military and other awards, the details of which have appeared in your announcement card.
Gentlemen: I have the honour to present His Excellency, Constantin Fotitch, Ambassador of Yugoslavia in Washington, D.C., who will speak to us about: "The Small Nations in World Affairs and Their Role in the Future Organization of the Peace."
MR. FOTITCH: I was extremely pleased to be able to accept your invitation and to have this opportunity of addressing the members of the Canadian Empire Club. A little more than one year ago it was my privilege to speak here in Toronto at the invitation of the Canadian Club and I was especially gratified to find what keen interest was shown by that distinguished Canadian association in the problems of my country. I feel sure that your invitation also is due to the interest which your Association has in our problems and I am very glad to come before you to discuss, in the light of my personal experiences in the period between the two World Wars, not merely our actual problems but our views about the future organization of world peace. We know that the contribution which a country like Yugoslavia can make toward a goal of such a magnitude as the future organization of the world will be a modest one compared to the part which must be played by the principal members of the United Nations. But, even though modest, our contribution will be probably of some value on account of our geographical position in a region of Europe where many past conflicts originated, one which must be taken seriously into consideration in the light of past experience, if the cause of possible future conflicts is to be eliminated. You may have expected me to choose as the topic of my address the present condition in Yugoslavia, the heroic resistance of her people to the enemy, and the many confused aspects of our internal problems. Even though I may disappoint you, I will set aside those problems and devote my remarks to the more general subject of an analysis of the reasons which brought about the failure of the peace system established in 1919 and my views of what we in Yugoslavia expect to see after victory in order to achieve peace in that better, future world for which we have suffered untold sacrifices.
We entered this war in April, 1941, when the situation of the Allies was very dark and probably at the lowest point in the course of this war. Great Britain stood alone with Canada and the other Dominions; the United States and Russia were neutral; France, Belgium, Holland, Norway, were overrun by the Axis which seemed to be at that time at the height of its military strength. But we chose unhesitatingly to resist the Axis for the preservation of our freedom and of our concept of life. We considered that when issues such as these are involved there can be no compromise if a nation intends to remain free and preserve its integrity. It was not the first time such a choice has confronted my country and I count it a high privilege to have been born in a community in which a sense of historical perspective was strongly developed, one whose geographical situation and inherited instincts were such that it never evaded an issue and was always ready to accept the consequences of whatever action it took.
I would like to dwell f or a moment on the situation which existed at the close of the last World War. Europe was changed not only because of the war and not only be cause an assembly at Versailles so decreed, but because society had reached a new maturity. Many new nations were born. It was difficult to remember the names of all the new capitals. But if anyone visited these hitherto little known cities he could observe that they seemed alert and active and life in them proceeded at full swing. The task of organizing these new countries was far from easy. Some of them had not enjoyed national independence for many years; some had never before been independent. But hope and faith were strong enough to overcome these difficulties. An organization composed of many nations, new and old, made its headquarters in Geneva and set to work to create the structure of an international society.
I had the privilege of being associated with those responsible for the creation of this new international society and also with those who were responsible for making it work. As one of the representatives of a small nation, which was a member of regional groups such as the Little Entente and the Balkan Pact Alliance, I had the opportunity of discussing international problems with statesmen such as Aristide Briand, Sir John Simon, Arthur Henderson, Stresseman, Titulescu and Benes. Year after year I went to Geneva, sat at the same table and discussed the same problems of minorities, disarmament, economic reconstruction, emancipation of mandated areas and so forth.
During this time, menacing and ever darker clouds began to gather in the Geneva skies above the heads of the statesmen sitting in the Palace of Nations. Even between 1924 and 1935 it was easy to sense that from behind those clouds would come world catastrophe. Forces hostile to Geneva were chiefly responsible for this catastrophe, but one must admit that very little was done in Geneva itself to prevent it, even though Geneva was the meeting place for half the world. The League of Nations itself was unfortunately not prepared to deal successfully with the task of maintaining peace. President Wilson and those who drafted with him the Covenant of the League realized rightly that "peace is indivisible" and they had planned a universal organization. Unfortunately, from the very beginning, the League failed to achieve its universality through the absence of the United States of America from Geneva, as well as the absence of Soviet Russia. Although most of the nations represented at Geneva had gone through the agony of a cruel war in which human losses had reached totals unknown in history, some of the nations which were defeated in the last war, practically all of whom are to be found today in the ranks of Germany's satellites, began from the very beginning to undermine from within the League the new international order, one which certainly was incomparably more just than that which existed prior to 1914. Their endeavors were soon greatly to be encouraged by Japan, and by Germany and Italy which under the leadership of Hitler and Mussolini, sought to demolish the newly constituted international organization in order to satisfy their imperialistic ambition for domination, and in the case of Nazi Germany to wipe out their defeat. On the other side those who had suffered in the war as allies to bring about victory for democracy did not feel that they had the necessary strength to resist the cunning onslaught of their former enemies, who, with Italy and Japan, built up the association of the so-called "have-nots".
People who would once have roused themselves in the face of danger, now dozed on, hoping that things would work themselves out, that time would solve all. Even those statesmen who saw what was ahead and were not concerned with their own careers, were afraid to advocate bold steps which nobody was ready to take. Thus it was that nothing was done to curb Mussolini and Hitler when it would have been an easy task, and though it was already clear that it would be far more difficult later.
The methods and the behaviour of these two dictators were something quite new to the international scene, and the statesmen of the countries chiefly responsible for the maintenance of peace, failed to recognize them as a real menace.
For example in 1930, at a time when the insolence of Mussolini towards France and my own country went beyond even that to which we had become accustomed, we approached one of the greatest French leaders and suggested that he should call Mussolini's bluff and insist upon full apologies. Such a humiliation might well have led to the collapse of the boastful Fascist leader. We felt sure that all peace-loving nations would receive the news of Mussolini's downfall with great relief and general satisfaction. But the great Briand shrugged his shoulders at our proposal to show the disdain the felt for Mussolini and told me, "No, it is not yet time. Do as I do; the more violent and insulting he is, the more I keep telling him of my friendship towards him." Unfortunately, disdain and contempt were not enough to rid the world of Mussolini.
The growing threat of German aggression which a war-weary world did not at first perceive, and even when it did perceive was too exhausted to meet; was one of the chief historical features of the period between two world wars. Another important feature was the fear of social upheaval.
Some people and some nations shrank from taking the strong measures which alone could have checked aggression because they feared that if the war broke out, or even if they made adequate preparations for crushing aggression, they would be unable to preserve their social gains. They could not accept the alternative of "guns or butter" presented them by the Germans.
Others on the contrary shrank from inaugurating essential social changes because they feared these would be accompanied by social upheaval. They thus lacked the inner strength which would have enabled them to meet the threat of Nazi aggression.
It should have been quite evident that the Germans when they resumed their march to power would not come to a halt when they had reached the stage they had occupied at the beginning of the first world war, but that they would attempt to reach the goal they had in mind when they entered the first World War, that of world domination. World politicians, however, overlooked that fact because in the actual return of Germany to international life, they saw mainly a counter-balance to the policy of other powers, because they considered that every fresh international crisis would lead to social disturbances and because they were mistaken about the true nature of German ambitions.
Various nations during the past few hundred years have appeared on the stage of history and played the part of world conqueror. But all aimed at creating states in which the principle of "statehood" was set above the principle of nationality. That was the case even with Napoleon, although he led a French national people's army which was proud of having thrown off the shackles of feudalism. Every conquering nation had in the past desired to create a universal state and the same might have been expected from the German nation. The German nation, however, waded into the fray through blood and human sacrifices, drunk with nationalistic frenzy. For the first time in the history of Europe, one nation attacked the rest not in order to rule them; not in order to be the first among the nations, but to be the only nation. This was carrying the idea of nationalism to its extreme. The world must never again allow any nation to threaten general security by the development of such an extreme form of nationalism.
If the two features mentioned above provide the world with an example and a warning; if new factors which might become dangerous are not ignored or neglected when they appear; then the world should be able to utilize the good which lies within it when it sets to work to create new international machinery. Looking further into the future, those responsible for world leadership will have to solve two basic problems: (1) The problem o f security, which is the problem of how to preserve peace and eradicate all influences which might threaten it. (2) The problem of equality of well-being, which is the problem of how to assure to every member of the international community the fruits of civilization, both spiritual and material. Without effective international co-operation on one side and true social and economic reforms on the other, the world will not be able to pass from a historical epoch which has been marked by cruelty and strife to one which will be marked by peaceful progress and spiritual and material well-being.
From the mistakes made between the first World War and from the cruel experiences of the second World War, we may assuredly learn the lesson of how to approach the problems of peace which confront us now. For the small nations, even more than for the great, one obvious lesson is that we can no longer look for security which will insure us an independent life, and the right to progress, in political or economic isolation. We can no longer pursue the old and discredited mirage of security and "freedom from fear" through alliances of our own armaments. In the pre-war years we spent more than 50% of our national income and wealth for armaments and in doing so were forced to lower the standard of living of the whole nation. In our efforts to achieve security we practically brought national progress to a halt. So the only salvation in the future lies in an international organization which will assure a lasting peace by preventing aggression. It is an ideal for which I am sure we small nations would gladly surrender any of the more exaggerated aspects of sovereignty. The Atlantic Charter, the Declaration of Moscow and the recent meeting of the democratic leaders in Teheran, have laid the moral basis for a new international order.
The problems of small nations, although different, are no less complex than the problems of the large nations. Since the population of small nations is not numerous, they are not in a position to defend themselves from aggression and therefore they can exist only in an international system based on justice and order provided as well that they are sufficiently mature for such a system. In their internal life they must attain harmony, and in their external life, at least up to now, they have had to adapt themselves to the desires and specific temperaments of their large neighbours.
The extent to which the sentiments of a nation differ even toward its best friends, can be seen from the example of my nation. Thus, the Yugoslavs in temperament and psychology are most closely related to the Russians, and they feel toward them a warm sentiment of a kind which exists between hardly any other two nations. They are also linguistically so close to the Russians that the Russian language seems to them only a mild variation of their own language. The Yugoslavs feel the same warm sentiment also toward the French though in less degree. They won their freedom physically and spiritually under the tri-colors of the French Revolution; and this they have not forgotten. When the Serbians broke into national revolt near Belgrade in 1804, an event which led to the first free Yugoslav state, these deep-rooted historical sentiments were responsible for their first diplomatic act, which was to send envoys to Russia and France. The fundamental policy of the new country was thereby established and it has never changed since. Without exception, at all times of crisis, Serbia stood shoulder to shoulder with the Russian people and liberal-minded France. Serbia always represented a stumbling block to German invasion. Yugoslavia, too, has shown in the present world crisis that she has not ceased being a stumbling block. In March 27, 1941, under most difficult circumstances and almost barehanded, this small nation again took up arms in defense of her honour and liberty, and her fighters are still battling for the same principles.
The sentiments of the Yugoslav people toward the Anglo-Saxon nations may be defined as follows: The English they remember as their powerful ally of the last war. They were, moreover, the only unconquered European enemy of the Axis when Yugoslavia entered the present war. The Yugoslavs, a people whose islands and mainland are surrounded by many hundreds of miles of seashore, admire the English for their seamanship, their determination, their organizing ability and for the way in which they have spread their civilization to the farthest corners of the world. The United States is admired as a country in which Yugoslavs see reflected qualities similar to those of their own land, whose progress sets a standard which they hope to obtain. Yugoslavs, like the Americans, are born equal, free from class distinctions and social prejudices. A large group of Yugoslavs immigrated to the United States in past decades and have constituted a link between the two nations. We cannot forget either the fairly large number of our citizens who settled in Canada. Owing to their presence your country has had an opportunity to appreciate the qualities of our people and they have, I am told, brought their share to the development of the Dominion. It is through them as well as through our association in the two world wars that our two countries have been brought nearer together in spite of their geographical remoteness.
Thus there should be faith that our great Allies will help the Yugoslav people to choose for themselves their own way of life, and the conditions under which they wish to live, thus making good the provisions of the Atlantic Charter which in the hours of darkness of the long years of Nazi occupation of their country remains for them the guiding spirit and the inspiration of their unyielding resistance to the enemy.
To illustrate further the sentiments of the Yugoslavs toward Russia, I would like to recall an experience which I had in 1922 during the conflict between the Greeks and the Turks in Asia Minor. The late Nikola Pasic, Prime Minister of Yugoslavia and one of the country's greatest statesmen, told me one day when I was secretary in his office, the following incident: "The Allies are asking me to send two divisions of our army to fight on the side of Greece. I am obliged to decline this, not that we do not love our neighbour, Greece, but, although our men would fight for Greece, it could happen that this conflict would turn in a way in which the Soviet Union would become involved, with our men finding themselves in the fight against her. Our people would never agree to meet the Russians as enemies."
It is interesting that Pasic uttered these words at a time when no diplomatic relations existed between the two governments. We must bear in mind that even during the present war, in our country, though occupied, the Axis leaders have been unable to send, by force or by persuasion, Yugoslavs of orthodox faith to fight against the Russians. The good feeling which exists between the Russian people and the Yugoslavs might be compared with the confidence which an elder member of a family has in a younger member.
It is evident that the only possible future policy for Yugoslavia, and one that is certain to receive the popular support of the nation, is that of close friendship and constructive collaboration with Soviet Russia. Yugoslavia needs encouragement from the Russian people to find its place in international life, and their confidence to find internally that national harmony which will make the Yugoslav nation a useful member of the world community.
A little nation with such complex aspirations and heritage as Yugoslavia, will find domestic tranquility when it has healed the wounds of the past through measured and even-handed justice and when it has so ordered its economic and social affairs that there can be no danger of a repetition of past mistakes.
Our people are profoundly devoted to the democratic concept of life and above all they wish to live as free men because they feel that only in freedom they may attain that higher level of social justice for which they have always been striving. We hope that our nation will achieve in the course of time a new unity based on its fundamental national virtues and an equitable share of all in their national prosperity.
No doubt, the chief responsibility for the success of the new international order will depend upon the four great United Nations with whom we hope to see France soon taking that place to which her long history as one of the centres of European culture and civilization entitles her. Ever since the French Revolution, French influence in Europe has been more widespread than that of any other European nation. This influence, psychologically and spiritually, is not erased even today, and common suffering has made it stronger. It would be a fatal mistake to think that owing to present conditions, European countries, which are occupied by the Axis or are its satellites, and living in perpetual fear, have lost their capacity for full participation in international life. They have shown the stuff of which they are made, their good or bad qualities, their heroic self sacrifice or their temporary spiritual degeneracy. They almost perished from one or the other, but they have enough vitality to rise again. After the German defeat all these nations will expect to find a place in the world community. They will want to choose freely their own way of life in order to assure their social progress and material prosperity. Those who have failed in their duty will have first to cleanse themselves of all traces of their past. Those who have made untold sacrifices and have preferred brutal aggression to compromise with the aggressor will expect that all injustices done them will be repaired. After that they will, all of them together, become useful members of international society.
I hope that the new international organization, in order to assure mankind a lasting peace, will definitely discard any kind of balance of power or the division of the world into zones of influences. This, especially in Europe, would inevitably lead to a third world war. Only as members of an international organization the smaller nations can keep out of power politics and avoid becoming instruments in imperialistic plans of one great nation against another.
We assume that this future world organization will have as its basic law the Atlantic Charter and as its highest authority a World Council in which, in addition to the four big democracies, there will be found two or three European countries elected as representatives of groups of nations related economically, spiritually or culturally. The participation of smaller nations would be much more effective if it were accomplished in this manner than through the cumbersome method of simultaneous participation of all of them. This arrangement could be supplemented by the invitation of smaller nations to participate in deliberations concerning problems of direct interest to themselves whenever such problems came up for discussion.
In order to prevent aggression and avoid friction caused by disagreements, this international organization should rely on a special tribunal whenever problems not specifically of a political nature arise. The settlement of international problems, both those of a political nature and those which are not specifically political, must be made compulsory if aggression in the future is to be prevented. One of the major reasons for the failure of the League of Nations was that the Covenant did not contain adequate provisions for making arbitration or recourse to the Permanent Court of International justice compulsory. Thus problems which at their origin might have been solved through compulsory international machinery were left in abeyance with the result that the sentiments grew in intensity and feelings became more embittered which, of course, brought fresh obstacles to good international understanding.
Decisions of the World Council, the Tribunal and any other expert bodies established would be effective only if there existed international force strong enough to compel a recalcitrant member to respect international laws and oblige him to defend his rights only through established international procedures.
For the Balkans and South Europe, in my opinion, hope for the future lies in some specific form of association based upon geographical considerations, provided all possible suspicions of creating political conspiracies could be dissipated. This could be accomplished in such a way that any political implication would be effectively eliminated, and at the same time full freedom given for the growth of common spiritual and economic aspirations. In times of peace three persons talking together in the street does not mean a conspiracy, but the enjoyment of the social opportunities of a free city. The same thing applies to nations. Such an association among the Balkan peoples would only be possible provided peace and security had been achieved and a common democratic outlook been adopted by all of them. Thus, Bulgaria, Rumania, and farther to the north, Hungary, will have to rid their political systems of all those elements which have been friendly to the Axis and which have driven their countries to be the accomplices of aggressors. The reason why collaboration among small nations was difficult and even impossible, during the period between the two world wars, was not so much territorial disputes and minority problems as the differences in political thought and social outlook amongst them. For instance, between Yugoslavia and Hungary sincere collaboration was rendered more difficult not so much on account of Hungarian territorial claims as on account of the difference of our social and economic organization. Yugoslavia was a country where the land was distributed among small landowners. This was achieved through an agrarian reform in those parts of Yugoslavia which before the war belonged to the Austro-Hungarian Empire, while Serbia itself had from the first always a country of small independent landowners. Hungary, on the contrary, remained mostly a country of big landowners who had a decisive influence on Hungarian policy. It was difficult for them to work together with Yugoslavia which was a believer in agrarian democracy.
I have tried to explain how, between two great wars, the world became conscious of its unity. Large and small nations were ready and able to live together. The strength and influence of the great nations were not diminished by the fact that the small nations, too, played their part to the full. On the contrary the great nations found, for the first time, that their influence was no longer considered by the small nations to be an instrument of tyranny but of protection. For their part the small nations saw that they too had a task to perform. And on many occasions they performed it in as high-minded a way as the great nations performed theirs. This does not mean that the international relationship which existed then was free from imperfections, maladjustments, egoisms or fears among the small and large nations; yet there was no need for a cataclysm such as this one to have come about. Still less does the experience of the two pre-war decades prove that peaceful international existence is impossible.
At the same time, I firmly believe that we must not forget that the formation of the first association of nations in the world was followed by a new cataclysm. We should not consider continuing along the same old lines just as if the war had not come about. Carefully considering both accomplishments and mistakes, we should hold fast to that which proved to be good and reject forever that which proved to be bad. One of the first lessons that we might learn from the experiences of the past is that it is as much to the interest of great nations as of small, that both alike should enjoy international freedom, together with the obligations and duties that come with it.
I hope that in this war we will learn the lesson that a lasting peace and a better future for mankind may be attained only if close collaboration and solidarity among the United Nations, who have throughout this war endured the same sacrifices and efforts, is continued after the victory. I, for my part, cannot believe that humanity can go through such an ordeal without learning this lesson.