The Right to Full Security.

And this is not a theoretical question. It is a practical problem for the national economy of Russia every year, and introduces a factor of uncertainty into Russia’s national trading which is profoundly detrimental to her prosperity. As sovereign of the Straits, Turkey not only possesses the technical right of closing the Straits to shipping; she exercises it in an arbitrary fashion. Three times the Straits have been closed by Turkey within the last half-dozen years—during her war with Italy, during the war with the Balkan States, and after the outbreak of the European war at a date previous to the intervention of Turkey herself in the struggle. It is possibly arguable that the closing was necessary in each of these cases from a military point of view, to safeguard Turkey’s political ownership of these “territorial waters.” But if so, that is in itself the strongest argument for taking out of the hands of an independent, irresponsible government a highway of commerce the proper regulation of which is essential to the economic well-being of the Russian and Rumanian peoples. Even if Turkey were a friendly, steady-going State, the situation would hardly be tolerable; but actually, whether through fault or misfortune, she has been at war more often during the last century than any other State in the world, and her hostility has been directed principally against Russia, the country most vitally affected by the disturbance of the traffic through the Straits. The closing of the Straits in the last instance, when Russia was at war with Germany and was in urgent need of the importation of supplies, can hardly be interpreted otherwise than as a hostile act—an anticipation of the open war which Turkey made on Russia within the next few weeks. To leave this economic weapon in Turkey’s hands at the peace settlement would be impossible. By closing the Straits in any given year at the precise moment when the Russian harvest was shipped and ready to sail, and when the Russian importers had made their annual foreign purchases on credit up to the full prospective value which the harvest would realise in the markets of the world, Turkey could threaten Russia with a financial crisis verging on national bankruptcy. Full security and free economic development for Russia would have vanished beyond the horizon, and not only for Russia but for the whole world, for with such a trump card in their hands, Turkey and her German patrons could never resist the temptation of waging an economic “war after the war,” which might bring Russia to her knees and enable them to realise those ambitions against her which they have been unable to realise by force of arms.

Share on Twitter Share on Facebook