« ZurückWeiter »
SOME NAVAL QUESTIONS
I. GERMAN NAVAL POLICY
I HAVE had some difficulty in apprehending the exact purpose and scope of the article on the German Navy League contributed by Dr. Elkind to the December number of this Review. In part it is a history of the origin and progress of the League; in part it appears to be intended as an explanation and defence of the policy of a great German Navy. The League, we are told, was formed in April 1898, in order to further the naval programme of the Emperor. It had to struggle at first against popular misapprehension of its true character, but it set itself right with the public by obtaining a judicial decree declaring that 'the German Navy League is not a political association, but one which aims at influencing public opinion in certain patriotic matters.' The distinction is not quite clear to a British mind, but we are given to understand that the League is now supported by persons of all shades of political opinion. It has members resident in Great Britain, the United States, and, we presume, other foreign countries. It carries on its propaganda by the free distribution of literature, by limelighted and cinematographic lectures, and by 'excursions to the sea at absurdly low rates for the purpose
of enabling its members to view warships and witness maneuvres.' In the main, therefore, it would appear to be a copy of the Navy League established in this country. Dr. Elkind does not tell us whether the idea of the German Navy League was suggested by the British body, but I have some recollection of the British Navy League or one of its orators claiming credit for the paternity. There may be enthusiasts who consider the mere multiplication of battleships to be a good thing in itself, and they would doubtless like to see Navy Leagues established in every country in the world. But there are many persons in this country who will sympathise with the theoretical' opinion imputed by Dr. Elkind to many Germans that the existence of the Navy League is no longer necessary. The main object of such bodies, whether in Germany or elsewhere, appears to be to promote public agitation for the increase of naval armamentsa thing in itself admitted to be an evil, even by those who are satisfied of its necessity. The expansion of navies stands in little need of this kind of popular impulse. The naval burdens of the world have increased from less than fifty millions sterling in 1894 to more than one hundred millions in the present year. What they will amount to in ten years' time who shall say ?
Dr. Elkind's explanation of the naval policy of Germany does not seem to add very much to our knowledge. What is to be made of the statement that the scheme favoured by the German Government and the German Navy League is necessary in the first instance for the protection of the German coast, say, in time of war; secondly, for the protection of German commerce in general; and, thirdly, for the protection of Germans who live beyond the seas'? Elsewhere we are invited to infer that the business of the German Navy is not only to protect but to promote commerce. I shall return to this question of the protection of commerce, and will only note & further point in Dr. Elkind's apologia that the German Navy is purely defensive in. its character, and that it has no relation whatever with recent British policy. The writer indeed propounds a theory, which will be new to most of us, that our recent increases have been caused by the revelation of inefficiency due to the naval maneuvres of 1901. These, it seems, produced an enormous reaction' in this country, the result of which is seen in the increase of our Naval Estimates. How inefficiency is to be cured by the mere multiplication of battleships we are not informed.
If the naval policy of Germany needs a defence it is certainly not one of this character. If I were a German taxpayer I should want something more substantial.
Now, what are the facts as to the expansion of the German Navy? Ten years ago the total provision made in the naval estimates was a little over four millions sterling as against rather more than seventeen millions, the net estimated expenditure of Great Britain. In 1898-9 the total German estimate fell just below six millions; our own had risen to nearly twenty-four millions net, leaving out of account the borrowings for naval works. For 1904 the German provision is over eleven millions; our own amounts to thirty-seven millions (net estimate), together with five millions to be raised by loan for naval works. In volume of expenditure, therefore, the two countries now stand in much the same relative position as ten years ago. A more useful comparison may perhaps be based on the naval construction of recent years, for which we have the authority of our own Admiralty. In nine years Great Britain added by new construction 933,147 tons to her fleet, and expended thereon 70,000,0001. In the same period Germany added 239,927 tons and expended 22,150,0001. If the advocates of increased expenditure in Germany desire a new argument for their plea, they may find one in the fact revealed by these figures that naval construction costs a good deal more in Germany than
in Great Britain. The sum of seven pounds with us goes as far as nine pounds with them. This disadvantage they owe to their Protectionist policy, and they share it with other Protectionist countries. If we were to equalise the situation by adopting the fiscal system of those countries, we should have to add ten or twelve millions to our estimates to obtain the same results that we obtain now.
The German Imperial estimates for the financial year 1905, which have now been before the Reichstag for some weeks, deserve a rather more detailed statement, so far at least as they concern the German Navy. I take the figures from the Berlin correspondent of the Times. According to that trustworthy authority the naval expenditure of the coming year will, as I understand the figures, be on the following scale :
£ Ordinary estimates, recurring expenditure
5,263,637 Ordinary estimates, non-recurring expenditure 4,904,422 Extraordinary estimates
12,678,909 The extraordinary estimates are met by loan—as a matter of course,' said the Secretary of the Imperial Treasury. The whole of the 'extraordinary' expenditure of the year, thus provided for by borrowing, is stated to be 14,000,0001.; and a further sum of 2,500,0001. will be raised by loan to meet the deficit on the ordinary' estimates. It would appear that Germany is being asked to spend more than twelve millions on her navy at a time when the total income falls short of the total expenditure by sixteen millions. A considerable portion of this enormous shortage is no doubt due to the expenditure in South-West Africa, but the increasing resort to credit for the normal work of government is a common, and from a purely naval point of view, a serious element in the situation.
The German naval policy thus exhibited in its financial aspect concerns primarily the German people, and only in a secondary degree concerns ourselves or others. The Secretary frankly says that the prospect is a dismal one. The loan requirements will doubtless be considerably diminished when the insurrection in SouthWest Africa has been quelled, but this will not represent any improvement in the ordinary estimates, which will be permanently and heavily burdened by an increase in the interest on the loans contracted for these colonial purposes. 'I have no hesitation,' said the Secretary, 'in declaring quite frankly that it is impossible to go on in the way we are doing. These words have been interpreted as foreshadowing increased duties on beer and tobacco, which will of course fall with great severity on the working classes, in spite of the original assurance that the expansion of the navy would involve no
See Times, November 28, 1904. * In his speech of the 4th of December, however, the Secretary states the total amount of loan as 14,650,0001.
sacrifices from them. What else can be expected when the one thing certain ’ is that the deficit with which Germany has had to contend will be increased in the next few years ?
If I were a German taxpayer of that class, or indeed of any class, I should find in the speeches of Chancellors and Secretaries, or in articles like Dr. Elkind's, small consolation for such a state of things. One is forced to the conviction that the opponents of the Government have much the better case that there is force in Herr Bebel's suggestion that the naval programme should be postponed in view of the worst estimates that had ever been submitted to the Reichstag.' One may say this without questioning the sincerity of the official declaration that naval expansion in Germany implies no design against Great Britain, although fear of the British Navy was among the feelings appealed to when the programme was first propounded. The necessities of the “Weltpolitik,' the purely defensive spirit of the policy, the protection of commerce, the guardianship of the home coasts, the safeguarding of the citizens abroad—these are the commonplaces of naval expansion everywhere, and are as likely to be sincere in the case of Germany as of any other nation. Whether the German people can afford the expense is another question.
So far, at all events, the matter does not appear to concern us very much. Our naval policy appears to me to have been governed for a long time by three main principles, which may be thus formulated. In the first place we recognise that the prime business of the British Navy is to destroy the fleets of the enemy.
All other things are secondary to that. In the second place our standard of strength is a purely relative one. We have long since passed the point at which war ships had to be built without regard to the ships in course of construction by other Powers. We have often said that if they go on building we shall go on building, but if they stop, we shall stop. In the third place we have said that the standard at which we aim is that of equality with the next two Powers. In the April number of this Review I gave some reasons for thinking that the two-Power standard has no longer any real meaning.
When the formula was devised, or grew up, everybody knew that it meant two specific Powers, and had reference to the general state of the international relations between one and the other, and between ourselves and both. But there have been vast changes since those days. If we had to formulate a standard de novo, I doubt if anybody would think of the two-Power criterion, or would regard France and Russia as especially the enemy. But the underlying principle remains, that strength is relative, and the growth of foreign navies is the governing fact in determining the increase of our own. If that principle is good for us, it must be conceded to other Powers at the same time. I cannot remember having seen this straightforward plea advanced
in so many words by German expansionists, and it may be true that they refuse to admit any relation between their naval strength and our own. It would probably be difficult for them to find an arithmetical formula so simple as our own, but we could not blame them if they said that the tremendous strength of the British Navy counted for something in their policy. We undoubtedly should hesitate little in moving if we thought the German movement seriously affected our own position. I cannot myself see that it has any such consequences. In the fourth year after the German Navy Bill their total annual expenditure of less than thirteen millions is surely counterbalanced by our own corresponding expenditure of considerably over forty millions. If the Germans say that their relative standard is one-third of the Daval power of Great Britain we are not concerned to say them nay. I am not sure that we can even afford to criticise very severely the financial weakness of their programme. I have read articles on this subject-one even in the Spectator—which appeared to me to show a singular oblivion of our own financial shortcomings. We too have ordinary’and' extraordinary 'estimates, and the latter, like the German extraordinary estimates, are as a matter of course,' provided for by loan. And Great Britain this year is doing what Germany has apparently been doing for a long time-borrowing money to meet the excess of ordinary expenditure over ordinary income. This is not the place for a discourse on the finances of the year. If it were I should have little difficulty in showing that last year, taking everything into account—the old debt paid off, the new debt incurred and the realisation of capital assets in order to make both ends meet—we were a good many millions to the bad. Britain and Germany may commiserate each other on the undoubted fact that in a time of profound peace they have been obliged to incur warlike expenditure to an amount which has driven each of them to the money-lender. Mutual condolences of this kind will at any rate do less harm than the mutual recriminations which Count von Bülow so justly reprehended. Finally, I may recall the words of Mr. Goschen, when First Lord of the Admiralty, in introducing the Navy Estimates of 1900:
Germany's programme reaches the appalling figure of 70,000,0001. Ger. many's first year's expenditure amounts to 4,380,0001. I compare our annual expenditure of 8,000,0001. with the annual expenditure which is contemplated under these great proposals. If we were to act on the German principle and have a programme extending over sixteen years, at our present rate the expenditure would be 128,000,0001. instead of the 70,000,0001. of Germany.
Mr. Goschen was, of course, referring to the provision for new construction, which in the 1900 estimates amounted to rather less than eight millions and a half. The provision in this year's estimates amounts to more than eleven millions and a half, and Mr. Goschen's
: Including the sums to be bor owed for naval works in course of the year.