11 October 1917]
[The New Europe
KÜHLMANN AND CZERNIN AS CONVERTS
megalomania of modern German Imperialism to which there could be but one issue. The world does not long tolerate a restless, powerful, covetous, braggart without combining to keep him in order. The imminent success of the combination against Germany is now compelling her rulers to take stock of their position and to decide whether their chief endeavours should be made in the East or in the West to save what can be saved of their conquests from the general impending ruin. The coal-fields of Briey and the control of Antwerp are being weighed in the balance against Poland and the resources of Asia Minor: though the German High Command itself would still appear to cherish the illusion that German conquests at both ends of Europe can be retained to pay her gigantic war debt.
That is the German position stated in general terms. Regarding it as the setting in which Herr von Kühlmann—we shall soon learn to attach more importance to him than to the Chancellor—must act and speak, we can read his real meaning like an open book. Similarly in listening to Count Czernin we must place him in his environment, bearing in mind what his German colleague has emphasised with candour and truth, that it is the atmosphere, the “circumambient air,” that gives all utterances their true significance. Now let us analyse the “circumambient air” in which Count Czernin spoke at Budapest. A Magyar banquet was the scene: the Hungarian Premier his host: and the audience a solid phalanx of that headstrong oligarchy which is one of the most sinister forces in modern Europe. And beyond the walls of the banquet chamber right to the farthest frontiers of the Dual Monarchy the landscape which provided a background to Count Czernin’s figure was scarred with wounds and want, dotted here and there with the gallows, the fit emblem of Habsburg ingratitude to its subject peoples. Standing in Budapest, the Austro-Hungarian Minister was surrounded by reminders of the great Habsburg sin against Europe: to the south, Croatia, the scene of the famous treason trials; to the east, Transylvania, the great theatre of Magyar tyranny; to the north, Poland, Slovakia, Bohemia, each telling its well-known story; and to the west? Westwards lay Vienna, the seat of the dynasty, whence Count Czernin came to the banquet as to a feast spread by his masters. The weakness