WHAT do the Balkan peoples think of the Allies, what do they think of the Germans; above all, how can they contribute to winning the war against aggression? These were a few of the questions in my mind when I made a recent tour of the Balkans, the replies to which will be found in the following pages.
My outstanding impression, after talks with leading Balkan statesmen, British diplomats, students, journalists, and working men in the Balkan countries is that fear – fear of the Nazi Air Force –dominates their minds.
Even those inter-Balkan animosities born of recurring conflicts, racial prejudices, suspicion, and territorial aspirations began to lose their meaning in face of possible Nazi aggression. Neutrality –Balkan neutrality – was becoming a watchword in the five Balkan States.
But Balkan neutrality which feeds the Nazi aggressor with the products of its oil wells, fields, and mines is not enough for the Allies. Some more positive policy is needed if the Allied blockade of Germany is not to be rendered partially ineffective and if these countries are to be spared the fate which awaits every neutral nation if Germany were to emerge victorious.
A more positive Allied policy in the Balkans is beset with difficulties and brings very definite dangers to the Balkan States.
There is not one Balkan State which wants Germany to win the war. But nor is there a Balkan State which wishes to see a battle-field made of its territory.
An appreciation of the Balkans' as well as the Allies' point of view is an essential preliminary to sound judgement of possible developments in the Balkans. These developments depend inter alia on Hitler, Mussolini, and Stalin, the military efficiency of the individual Balkan States, the extent of German espionage, the character of leading Balkan personalities, and above all on their judgement of the Allies' ability to render them speedy, effective aid in an emergency.
These States export goods to the value of £110,000,000 annually. If Germany is able still further to assert her economic domination by the planting of experts in the Balkan countries for more intensive development of oil, agricultural, and mining resources the total can be considerably increased. Already Germany draws goods from them to the value of £50,000,000 a year without interference.
Britain recently summoned her Balkan diplomats to London to see what could be done to stop this hole in the blockade. The British Government has founded the English Commercial Corporation (Enco) to intensify the economic war against Germany in the Balkans.
But, for the reasons given in the following pages, economic activity alone will not solve the problem. From the point of view of the Balkan countries. Allied cash is poor compensation for the devastation of Balkan towns and the Balkan countryside by the Nazi Air Force which would inevitably follow compliance with Allied wishes.
It is possible that before these lines go to Press Hitler, Mussolini, or Stalin may have solved our economic difficulties for us, substituting them by military problems, for it is inconceivable that any Balkan country would yield, to aggression without an attempt at resistance.
In that case the capacity of the Balkan States to resist aggression until effective help can reach them is a first consideration which has been studied in detail in the following chapters.
No estimate of the military strength or powers of resistance to Nazi economic domination of the Balkan States can be made, however, without a knowledge of the relations between the separate States on the one hand and relations with the Great Powers on the other.
The author hopes that this book will contribute to a knowledge of Balkan problems and also to realization on the part of the British public that failing successfully countered aggression by Germany, Italy, or Russia in the Balkans speedy action by the Allies to prove that the Nazi war machine is not invincible is essential if we are to prevent them becoming economic appendages of Nazi Germany.
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