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The concert of Europe, the echoes of which are seldom soft and never silent, assembles again in one of its oddest arrangements. It always has multiple leadership at its meetings and a more or less definite discord among the leaders. People do not forget that the angry voices a decade ago shaped themselves into a great conflict. Since then the bickerings have been viewed with more or less sensitive alarm.
There is reason therefore to watch the informal meetings of French Foreign Minister Briand with Chancellor Streseman; and all the more reason because these meetings have been succeeded by equally surprising meetings between Mussolini and Austen Chamberlain. No one will yet whisper a word; but watchers will stare long at the graphic possibility,--England and Italy grouped, France and Germany joined.
But since there seems no good reason to believe that the alignment will result in anything spectacular, observers will have to be satisfied with wondering at the alignment itself. Are England and Italy contemplating commercial collaboration? Is Mussolini's imperial ambition leading him to league with an empire? On the other hand, what now brings France and Germany together.? The clue here is significant. Germany has railroads to sell for credit in reparations. France has willing friends to bid for these, friends who foresee French preeminence in Germany's richest industrial regions whence must come coal for French iron works in Lorraine.
It is only between France and Germany that America enters. What railway bonds Europeans do not buy, will go, at the urgent request of the French, to Americans. For French industry depends somewhat on the pending dent to secure its stability and raise the rate of exchange of the franc. The rattle of American gold may share in the concert of Europe.
These situations, which deal with national alignments, serve well to show how the methods of diplomacy continue the same. And rumor is as busy now as in 1914. It is a constant interest to watch the show and to wonder if there is any more charitable spirit abroad now than then; to decide whether the climax of these and future collaborations will be peace or war.
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