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Taking exception to the present conference in London as an act of French desperation, Donald C. McKay, instructor in History, said in an interview yesterday that France was rapidly facing complete "eclipse" as a first class nation.
With domestic problems forced relatively into the background under the able administration of finance minister Bonnet, France is bending every effort to induce Britain to join with her and Russia in a democratic bloc against the increasingly powerful central European dictatorships.
Hitler Chief Influence
The most important single influence on French policy has been the rise of Hitler, McKay said. To isolate this nation and render it politically incapable of effective resistance is the chief aim of the Nazi state today, for having long since ceased to press for colonies, it plans to extend its influence towards the East.
Until the German dictator came on the scene, he explained, France was in a position both from a political and military point of view to make her will felt. Results of the rapid revitalization in Germany were closely watched in France with the result that the latter came to fix her attention more and more on the Rhine.
Ethiopian Situation Helped Germany
"The Ethiopian situation was a function of the rebirth of Germany," asserted the instructor. Always treated as the inferior Latin brothers of the French, Italy at first, in her desire to carve out a new "Roman Empire" in the Mediterranean, came into conflict with the German national expansion of similar character.
After their differences were ironed out at Stresa, it was possible that with Hitler's preoccupation of the French the Italians might act independently of Britain and the Gallician republic. An agreement with the French by which they promised to oppose the Nazification of Austria assured them a free hand in Ethiopia.
The Abyssinian campaign caused eruptions of liberal forces in England and France, McKay continued. Sanctions imposed by the pressure of these groups permanently alienated the sympathies of the Fascist and democratic powers.
In the meantime Germany was able by the Rhine coup and skillful diplomatic maneuvering to form a complete blockade of France in the West. With plants able to turn out airplanes seven times faster than British or French factories they built up a force capable of humiliating the republic on their borders.
Paralyzed, France sought an alliance with Russia which became a mutual assistance pact last year. Not popular with many at home, regarded with suspicion by conservative diplomats, the treaty proved to be more of a liability in French attempts to draw closer to Great Britain.
French Prestige Dimmed
McKay proved that, as French prestige dimmed, the nations which she had once secured as allies for her plan to surround the Reich became more unpredictable. Only Czechoslovakia, now faced with the omnipresent menace of German encroachment, remained dependent and faithful.
On the other hand relations with Italy went from bad to worse, and in the past few weeks, because of certain diplomatic technicalities, have become sorely strained. With the breakup of the little entente, with the unpopularity of the Czech and Russian bonds, with the threat of Germany and the reversals of their interests in Spain, France is fading into eclipse.
Gestures Toward England Pitiful
Her gestures toward England are pitiful, he said. Britain now appears to be willing to make concessions to the aggressor nations, and by the visit of Halifax to Berlin last week, have shown their indifference to the fate of the democracy across the English channel.
For the Italians there was in the Spanish situation an enormous opportunity to obtain revenge for the British attitude on their Ethiopian conquest. No longer will it be possible for the Crown to maintain Gibraltar in the security they have enjoyed in years past.
But with the Fascist occupation of the Balearic Islands and Sardinia there has been created an effective check against the sending of French transports to Africa. In the next war, McKay emphasized, small, militarized units must move at great speed. Mussolini's forces will have little difficulty in seizing French possessions on the African coast before the republic can move troops for defense.
On the British rearmament McKay stated that it had been primarily directed against Germany, whose air force was the chief threat to their peace at the present time. The rehabilitation of the Imperial navy has been planned for the defense of the Mediterranean merchant ships which now carry 20 per cent of all British import goods.
The possibility of war is loss pressing now than it has been during certain periods in the last two years, said McKay.
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