H. Gregson, Buffer states of the Balkans


SINCE the earlier pages of this book were written, Hitler has invaded Scandinavia, the Low Countries and France.

The activities of Nazi agents in Norway and the Low Countries have caused all the Balkan countries to tighten up their regulations on foreigners and especially on Germans. There is no doubt that many a potential 'Quisling' has been rendered innocuous by these measures. But the 'Quislings' on diplomatic passports will remain and, until the Balkan countries feel strong enough to curb the activities of these Nazi 'diplomats,' there will always be danger for them from within in the event of Nazi, Russian, or Italian aggression.

Italy, whose ambiguous policy and the apprehensions it inspires have been a potent contribution to the lack of Balkan unity, seems at the time of writing likely to decide one way or the other whether she shall remain neutral or fight with the Nazis.

Clarification of Italy's attitude will come with relief to most Balkan States. Like Britain, they want to know where they stand and, with the fear of Italian aggression, especially as regards Greece and Yugoslavia, removed, the Balkan countries would be in a much stronger position for resisting exorbitant Nazi demands, such as have been whispered for control of the Danube, etc.

Nazi Germany will remain, however, the chief preoccupation of the Balkan countries.

So long as fear of Nazi military and especially air power exists, the Allies' prospects of inducing the Balkan countries to cease trading with Germany are not bright. They will not lay their towns open to devastation from the air, and there is nothing so far in the Allies' campaigns to make them believe that Nazi air might can be successfully challenged.

A great deal can, of course, be achieved without decisive Allied air superiority. We could purchase much of the exportable surpluses of the Balkan countries and make the task for Nazi purchasers more difficult. By supplying the Balkans with the anti-aircraft guns they so badly need, they will feel more confident of their powers to save their towns and country-side from destruction and possibly manage to preserve some aerodromes intact for use by Allied 'planes if they are the victims of aggression.

The supply of anti-aircraft equipment is, in the opinion of many observers, a far better investment for the Allies in the Balkans than supplying aircraft, for the maintenance of which the Balkan countries have not the necessary industrial plant, and many of which would doubtless be destroyed on the ground in the opening hours of attack, thanks to the excellent sabotage and espionage system of the Nazis.

The Allied armies in the Near East are also a good Allied investment. One could wish them nearer to Germany's frontiers, but the Allies are in that unfortunate position of being forced to wait until Germany violates neutrality before they can act themselves.

Short of Nazi, Russian, or Fascist aggression,, it is hard to imagine any of the Balkan countries going to war on the Allies' behalf. They will not invite Allied troops on. to their soil until they are attacked unless we can convince them that the Nazi war machine, and particularly the Nazi air machine, is not invincible.

They have the suspicion that the Allies themselves are afraid of the Nazis in the air. 'Why,' they ask, 'do not the Allies bomb German towns or German aerodromes?' 'It is because they could not defend themselves against Nazi retaliation, and if this is so, what can a small Balkan nation, with a few hundred mostly second-hand 'planes at its command, do against Germany or any other aggressive major Power in the air?'

When the Nazis allege that British 'planes have bombed German civilians, we promptly deny that we have any intention of being the first to start unrestricted air warfare. The denial is very unnecessary because the Nazis have started such warfare, first in Poland, then in Norway. Indeed they have glorified their ruthlessness in an air film which is being shown throughout the Balkans. It savours almost as though we were afraid of the Nazis starting air warfare against our towns.

How long will the Nazis be able to bomb the civilians of Britain's friends, as in Poland and Norway, without having similar destruction wrought in the 'Vaterland' by Allied 'planes? the Balkan peoples ask.

Instant Allied retaliation on German cities when the Nazis use their air forces against the towns of small neutrals would do much to bring the Balkans on to our side. It might even result in that 'invitation' to reinforce their own military and air forces before aggression took place, thus leaving us less dependent on Hitler's initiative and making us more capable of dealing with it.

Whether we have the necessary productive power to cope with the Nazi air menace is another matter. But, after my extensive inquiries in the Balkans, the conclusion is inescapable. The Nazi argument with neutrals is 'Fear.' If we can beat the Nazis in the air or show that they are not invincible in the air, the diplomatic war in the Balkans would be won for us.

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