RUSSIA AND JAPAN
The attention of the whole world has been turned during the month past on the smart actions of the little Japs,, and the lesson they have already taught their more phlegmatic opponents. Even as this goes to press news comes that Eussia has admitted in an official document, presumably as an excuse for her terrible reverses and unprecedented blunders, that she is not ready for war, that she does not expect land operations to commence for some time, and that much time is necessary in order to strike Japan a blow worthy of Russia's might and dignity ! As if she expected Japan to wait with patience for that ! Last month an opinion was expressed in these pagos that Russia would not face a war when it came to the pinch. The wisdom of this opinion, although incorrect in one way, has been proved by the amazing admission quoted above and also by the fact that, at the time of writing, Japan has already made her wish she had not. This alert little nation, realising that smartness of attack and aptitude at seizing opportunity was infinitely more valuable than dignity in war, was quick to get in the first blow, and it was a heavy one. It is not easy to understand how an enemy with war impending could have been caught napping in the way Russia was when the Japs opened the ball. In commencing the Boer war Britain had much to blame herself for on the score of being unprepared,
but her laxity and inefficiency was. as nothing compared to that of Russia. One can scarcely conceive a nation which takes special pride in her navy having her fleet in suck a position as to enable the enemy to gain so disastrous an advantage with so little inconvenience to herself. At practically one blow the balance of the strength of the two fleets is turned, and Japan's, once considerably the weaker, is now materially the stronger. The in-significant-looking torpedo-boats have done excellent service, and have proved their efficiency agaiast armour-clad monsters. As we contemplate the millions of pounds worth of damage said to be done in so short a time, we cannot but marvel what the next invention of destructive nature in naval warfare will be. The most noticeable feature after the terrible blunder perpetrated by Admiral Alexeiefi" in the disposition of the fleet at his command and the total lack of watchfulness displayed, was the surprising incompetency of the men behind the guns. Of what possible avail can the most costly and best fitted warships be without good marksmen to handle her guns ? We have already had some convincing proof of the Japanese superiority at sea, and it is more than probable that before this meets the eye of the reader they will have tried conclusions on land. To the most superficial observer it must be obvious, even without the experts' opinions we constantly receive, that the Si-
berian railway is utterly unworthy of the trust Russia evidently imposes on it as a means of transport. We have so recently learnt from our own experience in the Transvaal that the most efficiently worked single line railway is totally inadequate for moving large masses of men and the stores needed for their support on the field. To this inefficiency must be added the everpresent danger of its destruction by the enemy, and the number of troops required to guard it and keep it open. It would appear now that the loss of Port Arthur and Vladivostok is only a matter of time, and with them Russia loses her power in the Pacific, and practically all she is fighting for. Before the war commenced there had risen in Russia seething discontent at the autocratic form of Government. The aggressive policy adopted with Japan naturally heightened this materially. What then must be the
result should the war prove, as it has every probability of doing just now, a disastrous defeat attained at an appalling cost ? The last state of that country will undoubtedly be infinitely worse than the first, and a general revolution ending in a democratic form of Government will be the most probable finale. Indications are not wanting that Germany would have liked to have slipped in to Russia's assistance, but that would have been under other and more favourable circumstances. The present outlook and Russia's own admissions, which amount to confessions of deplorable weakness, will have a wonderfully limiting effect on Germany's deed's
of sympathy if not her words. She knows better than to range herself with the weaker side against the victorious Japanese and their alliessworn to come to the rescue in such conditions. The .Russian tactics would now appear to be to fortify Harbin, thus for the present, at all events, to practically leave Manchuria and Corea to the Japs. Having received such a disastrous check at sea their attention is turned to making the best stand they can on land. But what hope for success can be left them under the circumstances. They are to all intents and purposes already defeated, and the sooner they admit it the better for them in every way. The Jap is a born soldier, although he has in the past had but few opportunities of distinguishing himself. He is quick in foresight, leaving nothing to chance, accurate of aim, alert and ready for every emergency. For a Jap to die on a bed of sickness when there is an opportunity of giving up the ghost on a battlefield is regarded as a disgrace. Ever since Russia behaved in such a domineering fashion over Manchuria every Jap in his island home has longed to be at her throat. They have, studied every point, secured a powerful ally, and prepared for every emergency, their country has been with them to the last man, and no one can say they do not well deserve themeasure of success they have already obtained against a domineering race so infinitely outnumbering them, but so deplorably weakened by the terrible corruption of its administration and consequent dangerous state of discontent manifest in the masses of the people.
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RUSSIA AND JAPAN, New Zealand Illustrated Magazine, 1 March 1904
RUSSIA AND JAPAN New Zealand Illustrated Magazine, 1 March 1904
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