The assassination of King Alexander of Yugoslavia and Foreign Minister Louis Barthou of France is regarded here as an international tragedy which will have serious repercussions in Europe. While it is pointed out that the slaying of these two men doomed the possibility of any immediate settlement of differences among more than a half dozen European countries, the tragic incident is not expected to result in international strife.
Even on this point, there are those in Washington who are inclined to draw a parallel between the assassination of Alexander and Barthou and the Sarajevo murder twenty years ago. A real threat, they say, lies in whatever positive action Nazi elements may take on the heels of what has just happened.
Countries directly affected by the murder of Alexander and Barthou are:
1. Yugoslavia and the Central European states, Austria, Hungary and Czechoslovakia.
The murder of these two men affects indirectly Germany and Great Britain.
The key European powers â€” Great Britain, France and Italyâ€”are determined to maintain peace. For this reason, it is believed here that another war resulting more or less directly from the assassination of Alexander and Barthou will be avoided. From Austria, however, comes the only real danger to that peace. It is feared that the Nazi elements, which were subdued since last summer, but still strong, may undertake a well-timed blow in view of the complicated state of affairs, and attempt once more to set themselves up as the government.
The last time the Nazis tried to establish themselves as the government was immediately after the murder of Chancellor Dollfuss only a few months ago. Italy prevented this move through a strong display of armed force which was ready to move into the country in the event the Nazi group took over the government.
Italy has been worried about Yugoslavia’s growing military power. The thought prevailed that because Alexander, an absolute monarch, was faced with continual troubles in the largest and richest provinces of his kingdom, the time would come when he might attempt to distract the attention of his restless subjects by some warlike actions against Italy. Now this danger seems to have passed. But Italy is not giving up her watchfulness.
France finds herself on shaky ground at the present time. Barthou, who last February took over the foreign office, recovered for France her prestige and power among nations which had been on the wane. He was responsible for the Franco-British entente and for the improved relations with Italy. He had intended to visit Mussolini in Rome to settle major Franco-Italian differences soon after King Alexander left France. Alexander came to France to discuss the position of Yugoslavia in the new tie-up between France and Italy. Barthou had planned to ease the tenseness between Italy and Yugoslavia. Barthou had a lifelong enmity toward Germany.
Now, with Barthou out of the picture, Italy’s attention divided in several directions, and uncertainty in Yugoslavia, Germany is said to be watching the whole situation very carefully. Last summer, Germany was prevented by the Italians and the French from effecting an anschluss with Austria by the setting up of a Nazi government in that country.
With allies few and far between, Hitler may see his chance. It is possible that Berlin may encourage the Austrian Nazis to revive their activities and establish themselves as the governing body. Italy is not in position to make the same effective showing of force as last summer.
Possibilities are that what was not accomplished a few months ago by the murder of Dollfuss may now be fulfilled as a result of the additional murders. The whole complicated situation finds Germany in a relatively favorable position for aggressive action through indirect methods.
Barthou’s death brought to an end the life of one of Germany’s bitterest enemies. Death interrupted his last taskâ€”that of making defensive alliances between France and other nations by which he was drawing an encircling ring of steel tighter and tighter around Hitler’ csountry.
He believed that the peace of Europe and the rest of the world depended upon holding Germany in leash. The gains made at Versailles were not to be lost if he could help it. Barthou took the position that Hitler’s Germany, struggling to throw off the bonds of the Versailles treaty, was to be held in check at all costs. With this in mind, he went up and down Europe, welding the chain to bind a traditional foe.
World Jewry has lost a champion. In international circles, Barthou was most outspoken in his pleas for the rights of Jews. The assassination of both Barthou and Alexander makes the position of Jews in Germany, Austria and a number of other countries extremely uncertain. Much depends on what steps, if any, the Nazi elements take to add more fuel to the already raging fire of international events.