Japan and Russia move toward war with all the finality and inevitableness of a Greek tragedy. Yesterday Japan intimated unofficially that friction would be most easily reduced if the Soviet would withdraw the large forces which it has concentrated in Siberia. At the same time, in Moscow, Molotov, Russian premier, declared that the USSR was prepared for a surprise attack by Japan, and, in fact, expected it. Both these declarations by statesmen of countries supposedly at peace have almost no precedent, and show with disconcerting clearness how imminent a possibility is war in the Far East.
Russian policy up until now has been extremely conciliatory, largely because she is occupied with internal affairs, and a war at this time might well prove disastrous; consequently, the Soviet has yielded time and again and has even virtually acquiesced in the seizure of the Chinese Eastern Railway by the Japs. Japan, on the other hand, has pursued a course of aggression and opportunism ever since Hay's Open Door policy gave her an opening wedge. With China bound to her by the infamous twenty-one demands, she tried in 1918 to gobble up Siberia, but found herself incapable of digesting such a large bite and was forced to disgorge. Inflamed by a frenzied economic nationalism, Japan apparently now considers herself able to swallow the morsel that stuck in her gullet fifteen years ago.
The plain fact of the matter is that Japan looks upon possession of Manchuria and dominance in China as absolutely essential if she is to survive as a great power; and she feels that there can be no stability in this arrangement so long as the most potentially to powerful military state in the world is encamped in her back yard. With terrible clearness it becomes evident that she can take only one course: a "preventive war" must be waged on Russia before that country reaches the full maturity of its strength. By April or May, Japan will have consolidated her position in Manchuria, the Siberian winter will be over and the roads open; it will be Japan's great chance to get a "place in the sun," and the coming of Spring in Siberia will probably be heralded by the roar of the guns along the Amur River.