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Editorial – Balkan Rot (video)

8 March 1941

Mexborough & Swinton Times – Saturday 08 March 1941

Balkan Rot

Bulgaria has followed Rumania under the Axis umbrella. Once again Hitler has been able to work by terrorism and guile. The Balkan countries have had ample opportunity to form a solid phalanx against German aggression, but they are incapable of unity and are likely to share for a season the fate of Scandinavia and of the Netherlands, the fate of wishful thinkers who shut their eyes and ears to danger and duty.

When this tyranny is overpast and liberty restored to Europe by the heroic efforts of Britain and gallant remnants of the subjugated peoples it will still be questioned by history whether Europe deserved to be redeemed. Bulgaria was rotten ripe for capitulation, as was Rumania, and it seems too much to hope that the miracle of Greek heroism will be repeated in Yugoslavia when Hitler’s shadow falls.

These are grave events and it is idle to pretend that they do not strengthen the strategic position of Germany. Every one of these occupied countries represents stabling and fodder for the idle and sprawling German armies, and man-power for German industry. Moreover every invasion is a fait accompli which brings into immediate operation the Nazi “new order” without postponing it to a “peace” conference. A German victory would confirm these gains and leave Germany free to exploit them. No one is more keenly aware than Hitler of the impossibility of establishing his new order except by conquest and permanent occupation. A “new order” founded on right, reason, and justice is humanly impossible, or the League of Nations would have accomplished it. The League represented an ideal of which the world, including the League, was not worthy.

We say this now because we know that in time to come, when Hitlerism has been overthrown and the slayer of the dragon is overwhelmed with adulation, there will be much talk of a new and nobler and finer League. Let us not deceive ourselves; this war has revealed the essential baseness, meanness, and cowardice of the political hotchpotch we call Europe ; it was on clear-sight knowledge of European decadence that Hitler founded his great design. Only in Britain and Greece has he found firmness and faith, and on those rocks his schemes will split. When all his conquests have been reviewed it will be seen that nowhere has he succeeded, nowhere has he even ventured, not even against the weakest of his victims, without the use of treachery and guile.

The disappearance of Bulgaria into the Axis has given a sharper edge to the new shape taken by the war since the defeat of Italy. Russia has good and deserved reason to regret the new move. There is something exquisitely cynical about the Soviet’s rebuke to Bulgaria, who, it seems, should have resisted a German aggression which the immensely more powerful Soviet Union dare not resist.

Russia, the traditional protector of the small Balkan countries, has stood by and seen two of them swallowed—even shared in the Rumanian meal, Russia’s acquiescence in the destruction of Bulgarian independence is final proof that Russia’s position in this war is founded not on peace, nor on policy in the nobler sense, but on naked fear, for Russia was the peculiar patron of Bulgaria and had every interest in preventing the disaster that has befallen the Bulgarians. Soviet Russia, like the rest of Europe, relies in the last resort on a British victory for ultimate escape from Nazi domination. Both Russia and Italy, when tested in the field, have revealed their military rottenness, and the independence of neither country will survive a German victory. The development of German strategy in the Balkans will depend on a number of factors. If Turkey is staunch, the Nazis will concentrate on the limited objective of Greece for the moment; if Turkey can be browbeaten or outwitted Hitler may be tempted to Napoleonic enterprises in Asia. But Greece must come first, and there Hitler will have the satisfaction of meeting the British. There it may be that we shall see the beginning of the crucial struggle. On the development of that struggle will depend the course of the war in the West.

Swift, powerful, and effective strokes in the Balkans, such as were delivered in France last summer, would enable Hitler to return, before it is too late, to his main task and objective in Britain. But in the Balkans he must encounter British sea power, British air power, and a powerful British land force. Let him falter or fail there and the imponderables will come into play, for the whole world is waiting to turn and rend him when the British lion has sufficiently wounded and disabled him.

We shall be wise, however, to assume that Hitler will avoid, if at all possible, a major campaign away from the main theatre and the need for vigilance here, where alone Hitler can hope to win the war, increases with the approach of spring. It is said that he will not dare this or that. He will dare nothing until he must—for he risks battle only in the last resort —but when he must dare. then he will certainly dare