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Ir needed the horrible disaster of the Khodinsky Plain to remind Nicholas II. that he is but a man. Such would have been the ancient envisagement of the calamity, and we are still so far in bondage to the theory of Nemesis that, though we may not put it so bluntly, the explanation corresponds to a lurk ing sentiment in most minds. For even to those who go no further for their political conceptions than the illustrated newspapers, there was something almost awfully solemn and impressive in the pictures of this small, slight young man as the centre of such dazzling glory. The remotest ends of the earth sent their greatest and most imposing figures to do him homage. There were his own subjects of every race and creed-Russians from all the Russias, Finns and Lapps, Courlanders and Poles from the fringes of his European dominions, Cossacks and Tartars, Kalmucks and Mongolians, Emirs from Samarcand and Bokhara with centuries of mysterious romance in their train, and half-starved savages from the remotest north-eastGreeks and Catholics and Protestants, Mussulmans and Buddhists and Pagans. The absolute power exercised by the young man over all these has passed into a commonplace of rhetoric. But there was also a second group which, to many minds, bore even more significance than the crowd of recognised tributaries. There were the unofficial vassals, the representatives of thrones and principalities and powers nominally free, but, in plain truth, almost as subservient to the lightest whisper of their master as the meanest moujik struggling for his life and a tin mug with bon

bons on the Khodinsky Plain. From Count de Montebello downwards, Prince Ferdinand and Zia Pasha, Li Hung Chang, Count Yamagata, and Abbas Mirza, uncle of the new Shah-they were all moujiks in their degree, and they were all struggling for a tin mug with bonbons. In this assembly, as among the recognised subjects, there was more than a parade of empty vaingloriousness. Each envoy stood for a very real factor of the Emperor's power-the outer circle, as it were, of his liegemen, not less abjectly obedient than their acknowledged fellows.

The coronation came aptly as the visible embodiment of a complete and almost world-wide authority, such as no Emperor of Russia has ever wielded before. It happened to coincide with a series of brilliant diplomatic triumphs following so hard on one another's heels, that what would have supplied foreign politics for a year's meditation has become merely one point in a sequence the successor of the last and the usher of the next. During the months that Nicholas II. has been on the throne and Prince Lobanoff has been at the Chancellery, they have made huge strides towards empire such as might have sufficed for half a century. Or perhaps it would be more true to say that with the advent of the new Emperor came the harvest of what had been sown long before, and all the crops began to be garnered together. Peace or war, Russian aggression never stands still, and it is most characteristic of her patient and far-sighted diplomacy that she reaps more in peace than at the close of her most successful wars. To explain

this ceaseless and pauseless advance upon all her neighbours, they tell us that she wants an open port on an open ocean that it is absurd to ask an empire like Russia to put up with an outlet to the sea that is blocked by ice four months in every year. But that is no answer to the accusation, if accusation it be, of universal aggression. The possession of such a port is not the end but the means. There is no end to Russian ambition; each point won is a stepping-stone to the next. Eastern Siberia has no glut of merchandise struggling for a vent at Vladivostock, nor would Constantinople be any better fitted for the export grain trade than Odessa. The port may foster a trade as yet in its infancy, but this is just another reason for saying that it is not the goal of Russian aspiration, but only a milestone on the road. If not for empire and for competitive trade, why seek an open port at all? Still less can the constant absorption of new territory be explained by any superfluity of population in the old. It is nothing, after all, but the genuine earth-hunger, the lust of unlimited dominion. England is accused of it-probably without truth, since, if England could win markets without possession, she would be too grateful for the opportunity. Conquerors like Alexander and Napoleon have been inspired by it. In our own days whole nations have been bitten by it, as in Africa, because they have realised that even the world's surface is limited, and that they must peg out their claims now or never. But Russia has been hungering and thirsting for the whole earth ever since Russia was. She pursues her unchanging aim by peace or war-most surely, as has been said, by peace. The reign

of Alexander III. the Pacificator, and the activity of M. de Giers, were a perpetual struggle for empire. And if Nicholas II. and Prince Lobanoff appear more enterprising, it is only that now is the time to garner, when before it was the time to sow. And all the sheaves are coming home together. If it is a port that is wanted, Russia has now the choice of half-a-dozen. If it is territory, there are several desirable empires waiting to be carved up. If it is universal hegemony, it is hers. Russia is the arbiter of the world. The Powers that are collectively in league against her are individually as desperately anxious for their tin mug as are her direct dependants and allies. Such as have most reason to dread her, and as command the force which might throw her back, are silent and bewildered. From one end of the world to the other she has established a kind of divine right. There is even a new language fitted to the new cult. "A service to the peace of the world" is the new name for an act of complaisance to the Tsar, as "treachery to the common interests of civilisation" is the brand of such as seek to thwart him.

This language sounds extravagantly, but it is hardly a word more than the truth. And it is well worth the while of Britons to consider in a little detail the factors which have combined into what may be very literally called this commanding position. It is Britain that this position threatens, beyond any doubt-not perhaps by the choice of either Russia or of ourselves, but certainly by the imperative necessities of our relative positions in the world. In the Eastern hemisphere Great Britain and Russia are the only two expansive Powers in any real sense. There are others, such as France

and Germany, which resist absorption, and even seek out barren spheres for the expansion that never comes. But the fact that such Powers resist absorption is only the more reason for certainty that the time will come when there will be no room left for the simultaneous enlargement of both. The moment may come in the twentieth century or in the twenty-first, but come it must and will. And however the advocates of an AngloRussian understanding may delude themselves or others in London, there is no delusion in Petersburg. "Hostility to England is the alphabet of Russian policy," says the forward school; "an understanding if you will," say even the most moderate, "but it must be an understanding, not of common interest, but of rivalry." That such an understanding must be either impossible or useless will be argued later; at present we may endeavour to see what the dangers are against which, whether by understanding or by opposition, we have to guard ourselves.

The beginning of the Russian "boom was, of course, the French connection, growing almost imperceptibly, from ordinary


tesy on the one side and slavering sentiment on the other, through the nebulous limbo of rapprochement and entente, into full-grown, full-armed alliance. To what extent and in what conditions this alliance is valid it is at this moment neither possible nor important to determine. What is important is, that French people and French deputies believe that Russia and France are one, and that Prince Lobanoff is quite content to suffer them to think so. To see how far the alliance goes we must see it in operation, and that we shall hardly see without a European war. It is true that

the diplomacy of the two countries plays together, as in Constantinople or Cairo; but on the other side, French and German diplomacy have played together for two years in Africa against Great Britain, and between France and Germany there is certainly no alliance. Nevertheless it is in such diplomatic concert as is to be found between Messieurs de Nelidoff and Cambon at Constantinople, between the French and Russian representatives on the Caisse de la Dette at Cairo, that the practical working of the alliance has hitherto been best seen. It has brought Russia no very palpable advantage in Europe, but it has secured her flank there and given her a very useful leverage for work elsewhere. International rivalries during the last few years have shifted almost entirely from Europe to Asia and Africa. This is due partly to the completion of European military systems and the mutual fear springing from them, which results in an equilibrium neither stable nor unstable, but rather what the statist calls neutral equilibrium-where a body is impelled by any force, there it remains so soon as the force is exhausted-and partly to the conviction, already noticed, that those who wish to take up unoccupied patches of the earth must do so in this generation or never. The French alliance freed Russia to enter into the scramble with both hands.

A few weeks ago it looked as if by this alliance Russia had not only defended her European flank, but had actually broken up any possibility of danger from that quarter. The Triple Alliance appeared to be on the point of falling to pieces. Germany had plunged into the torrent of colonial rivalry, and it washed her up alongside of

France and Russia. It may be that she was impelled to improve her relations across the Rhine and the Vistula by a wholesome respect for the increasing solidarity of the Franco-Russian combination. But in the main the Kaiser's policy appears to have been determined by rivalry with this country in Africa. This rivalry dated from the days of Angra Pequena and Walfisch Bay and Dr Peters's futile raid on Uganda. It had been embittered when Mr Rhodes forestalled German concession-hunters at Buluwayo. It was stirred into new life by the unlucky agreement which Lord Rosebery or Lord Kimberley concluded with the Congo State in the early months of 1893. This wild and blundering arrangement brought France and Germany together: they protested simultaneously against various parts of it, and they protested successfully. Association with France led up naturally to an introduction to Russia, and as naturally we found the three Powers taking common action in the Far East. Meanwhile bad blood grew worse between this country and Germany, until it issued in the outbreak of January last, as everybody knows.

This breach affected the Triple Alliance, and therefore Russia's European position, in two senses. First, there was the new friendliness of Germany-or rather the revival of the old Bismarckian friendliness; and secondly, there was an unequalled opportunity of turning the screw on Italy. Italy was never a very whole-hearted member of the Alliance, nor could be unless it were quadrupled by the accession of England. Ten years ago her navy, especially if reinforced by such a fleet as Austria commands, might conceivably have sufficed to keep France from

invading her at any point she pleased. To-day it is quite inadequate for that purpose, and each year sees it fall farther behind. If Germany and England were to fall out, what was the use of Germany to Italy, seeing that the Kaiser was far more able to involve her in hostility with France than to defend her if she were attacked? The conclusion was obvious. If Germany joined the Dual Alliance, Italy must join too; even if Germany were refused by the allies, Italy would still-failing any hope of the British fleetdo better to agree with her adversary quickly. We have been told again and again by our special correspondents that the counsel of prudence had become an actuality; that Italy had come in and made her submission to Russia with the rest.

And after the disaster of Adowa such a result might have been reasonably expected at any moment. The chronic necessities of the situation were rendered acute by the Russian relations with Abyssinia.


Into the history of this queer connection it is not necessary to enter minutely, although the whole affair is an admirable lesson in Russian diplomacy. Russian traders and Russian travellers had quietly percolated through Abyssinia for years; some of the bashful traffickers even went by way of Persia to escape observation. has been notorious for years that Menelik has been armed from Obok by Russia's good friends the French; and doubtless here again the allies worked in concert. of these underground workings there suddenly cropped up a certain Prince Damto, personally conducted by M. Leontieff, on a mission to gladden the Emperor with the gift of Menelik's Order of Solomon's Seal—as it were a prize


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at a flower show. The authori- sustained a check. It is difficult ties at Moscow were vastly inter- to explain exactly what happened ested to discover that the Abys- between Italy and the other memsinian Church was a long-lost sister bers of the Triple Alliance, and of their own (which it is not in between Italy and England. But, the least), and much ecclesiastical judging from the evidence of the unction was outpoured upon the Italian Green-book, perhaps it was fortunate Damto. The deputation this. The Kaiser was unwilling returned with the politest of mes- to go the whole way towards corsages for Menelik. Then came diality with the Dual Alliance, or Adowa and the Red Cross mission else his overtures were not favourto the wounded Abyssinians. The ably received. Thereon he would Abyssinian methods of ambulance have pressed King Humbert, are hardly more orthodox than when he met him recently at the Abyssinian Church, and the Venice, to maintain the Triple Russian army surgeons were cer- Alliance in opposition to the tain to find their patients either tendency of Rudini, his new Prefully recovered or eaten by sor- mier-and therewith to persevere rowing relations. But no matter; in the African policy also as far as the expedition sailed. It is true might be. Italy asked England that the nurses all turned back, to help her with a demonstration but the soldiers went on. All against the Khalifa, which would, this was but the thinnest veil over and did, relieve the pressure on the menace to Italy. Russia had Kassala. Lord Salisbury agreed, got a footing in the country from by way of keeping up a counterwhich Italy had just been thrown poise to France and Russia: this out neck and crop. If Italy would explain the unexpected wished to get back, she could either cordiality of Germany with regard do it by purchasing the favour of to the Soudan advance. The Russia with her adherence, or at- Triple Alliance, in short, was set tempt to do it at the cost of her on its legs again by Lord Salisenmity. Or else she could resign bury, and Russia was disappointed. her African ambitions altogether Such, at least, is a possible readand make her peace with Russia ing of the events of the past few or not as she chose. The one weeks. Yet, even if it be correct, spirited and dignified course, which Italy is badly weakened, and with was to smash Menelik at Axum, her the anti-Russian combination was not taken. For the rest, Italy in Europe. Moreover, the very díscould either keep her sphere of courteous publication of the recent influence with Russia's leave, or Green-book, and the studious omisstand the chance of being ousted sion therefrom of all that might ofwhen Russia saw a favourable fend France or Russia, shows that moment. Russia is not as yet Rudini, at least, is all for the an African Power, but be sure Russian connection. And in she would have no objection to Abyssinia Russia has fitted a becoming one especially when thumb-screw which she may twist thereby she could command the upon Italy whenever she will, and Indian route through the Red Sea, also-should Menelik be willing while France dominated the Cape to lend his formidable power to line at Madagascar. the Khalifa- upon British supremacy in Egypt.

But here, it may possibly be guessed, Russia, for a wonder,

It is not in Europe, however,

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