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Moscow Looks at Dumbarton Oaks | The Nation

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Moscow Looks at Dumbarton Oaks

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Russia hopes the Dumbarton Oaks Conference will ensure peace.

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Moscow, August 22, by Cable

"Let there be hunger. Let there be cold. Let us freeze and starve to death in our homes. Only let there be no more war."

In these words my Moscow sister-in-law expressed the passionate wish for a stable peace that animates every Soviet citizen I have seen since my arrival six weeks ago. Her last two brothers had just left for the front. Three others are already dead, two in battle, one from overwork. Her father died from the exhaustion and strain of evacuation from the occupied area. Eight other close relatives, women and children, were murdered by the Nazis in the Ukraine.

Her husband -- editor of a factory newspaper whose task is whipping up war production -- was equally likely to become a casualty. He had returned from the factory at seven o'clock that Sunday morning after working all night and had dropped into bed telling his wife to call him at ten-thirty so he could return to work. Eighteen or twenty hours of responsible work daily for three years without Sunday rest or vacation had not only destroyed their home life but had reduced him physically to a nervous shadow.

Their case is quite typical. The war here has spared no one. Americans will never understand the strain endured by the Soviet people. Similarly the Soviet people cannot understand how a country engaged in war can spare the energy for election discussions. The American elections therefore somewhat disquiet people here, not because they doubt America's participation in the war to the finish but because a military victory is only half a victory. The other half is the establishment of a sound, enduring peace. Everyone knows this depends on the closest friendship with America and Britain. After three years of growing friendship and joint action with America, people here naturally dread the possible shifting of post-war policies which the American system so casually permits.

Soviet post-war policy is absolutely clear in its basic principles. It was expressed last October in the three-power declaration of the Moscow conference, recognizing the necessity of an international organization for peace and security on the basis of the equal sovereignty of peace-loving nations both large and small. No Soviet official has made any change in or addition to that declaration. All await a more concrete formulation of this basic principle by the joint conference at Dumbarton Oaks. Dewey's statement, making Dumbarton Oaks the center of an inter-party discussion, therefore seems here like playing politics with the destinies of the world.

No "Soviet plan" for Dumbarton Oaks has been published in Moscow. The first Russian assumption is that the underlying principle is Anglo-Soviet-American cooperation, which is more important than anything else. The second assumption is that the exact form of international organization is a matter for experts in international affairs. The third assumption is that all decisions must be reached jointly with American and British experts, and if would therefore have been unwise to announce a specifically "Soviet plan" before the conference.

All Soviet officials emphatically refuse to be interviewed regarding any post-war details. Comment in the Soviet press regarding post-war international organization is excessively meager and confined either to support of the general principles of Anglo-Soviet-American cooperation or to technical commentaries by unofficial but able writers who dearly state that their ideas are "only to start discussion."

The so-called Soviet plan which presumably formed the basis of Dewey's comments was contributed by Malinin, who writes on international affairs as a technical expert. It was printed in the April number of an obscure Leningrad journal, Zvezda, an organ for Soviet writers which is practically unobtainable in Moscow except in libraries. It was published "for purposes of discussion" and was obviously unofficial, with only such authority as the ideas themselves warrant. As such it has considerable merit.

Malinin's thesis is that the League of Nations failed not because of specific flaws in organization but because of unsatisfactory mutual relations between the great powers and the League and among the great powers themselves. He proposes that the draft constitution of the new international organization be worked out by the four great powers who assume responsibility to repel aggression. Then the draft constitution should go to a conference of all the United Nations who become founders and original members. Then the neutrals will be invited to join. Later, after a trial period, Germany and its satellites may also join but only if they cease to propagandize their fascist theories and to practice racial and religious and national discrimination. Malinin's plan provides for a majority vote of all member nations on general questions, a two-thirds vote on serious decisions like sanctions, but permits emergency action to halt aggressors by the four great powers alone. He considers an international army impracticable but an international air force practicable and sufficient to halt initial aggressions.

That most important journal, War and the Working Class, has just appeared with two articles on the problem of peace and security. These are undoubtedly more authoritative than the Malinin article but are also less detailed, dealing largely with general principles. The leading editorial in this journal greets the conference in America on "the working principles" adopted at the Moscow conference last autumn. Again it emphasizes cooperation between Russia, America, and Britain.

Dewey is not mentioned but his presumed argument for the smaller nations is sharply attacked. The article says that the small nations, even more than the big ones need security and peace. The very existence of the small nations has been saved by the increasing cooperation of the Soviet Union with America and Britain in the present war. A stable peace, which is essential to the small nations, depends primarily on whether the great powers can resolve all the differences which stand in the way of long-time agreements.

It is clear from all this that the Soviet Union considers joint cooperation with America and Britain the necessary cornerstone of durable peace and feels worried by any suggestion of American aloofness. It is also clear that the Soviet experts have detailed and perhaps novel proposals regarding the new international organization for security; but it is most clear that no such details are considered worth the sacrifice of American friendship.

In this connection it is worth noting an editorial in Pravda a couple of days ago, which presumably answered a criticism by a Turkish writer regarding the Red Army's action in the Warsaw uprising. One might assume that the Red Army needed no justification before the Turks. Pravda, however, devoted front-page space to an explanation that the Red Army has not ceased for a single day its struggle under the walls of Warsaw but is fighting for that city as devotedly as for Kharkov and Kiev.

The Red Army thus far has taken many cities, continues Pravda, some by storm and more by outflanking. But the Red Army never took a city by the correlation of a frontal attack with an uprising within the city. The Red Army always discouraged such tactics. You cannot have a successful uprising in a city when it is filled to the limit with enemy tanks, planes, and guns.

It is difficult to believe that Pravda was sufficiently interested in the Turkish journalist to make such explanations. It is sadder to realize that American and British papers make comments requiring such explanations. It is another example of the almost painful intensity with which the Soviets today seek to clear up any questions which might disturb the understanding between themselves and the United States. Pravda obviously avoids even the mention of American critics in order not to increase the sense of division.

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