While Japan was tightening its grip on Manchuria last week, a baldish, blue- whiskered dissolute Russian scoundrel-brigand was plotting to tear another strip out of the ragged map of China. In Mukden, Correspondent Victor Keen of the New York Herald Tribune stumbled into a war council between five Mongolian princes and General Gregory Semenov and emerged to wireless his paper of a move to set up an independent state in Inner Mongolia.
Few people outside of Asia know, or care, anything about Mongolia. It is underpopulated, isolated by great mountain ranges. Once an entity, it has been split up. Outer Mongolia, with Soviet help, became an independent Republic in 1924 and is still closely tied to Moscow. But fertile Inner Mongolia is still under Chinese rule. To break this rule is the task General Semenov and his willing Mongol allies have set themselves. That Japan was behind the movement, would dominate the new state if it was formed, not even the Mongol princes took the trouble to deny.
General Semenov said he wanted to make Inner Mongolia independent of both Soviet Russia and China, would make it "a haven of refuge for homeless White Russians." The five Mongols solemnly nodded their heads. Up went the general's Satanic mustachios. "I can provide 50,000 trained White Russians who have served in the Tsarist forces," said he. "The Mongolians can provide 100,000 trained cavalrymen."
Those familiar with General Semenov's career had little doubt that he was far less interested in a White Russian haven than he was in the money he was getting from Japan. Grandson of a Mongolian woman and onetime Captain in the Russian Imperial Army, he first attracted outside attention in 1918 by his guerrilla warfare in Siberia at the head of a band of Cossacks against the newborn Soviet regime. England. France and Japan supported him for a while, later he drew his pay from Japan alone. Once, with 16 men. he drove a large Soviet force out of the stronghold of Manchuli in Northern Manchuria. In 1922 he went to the U. S., spent six days in New York City's Ludlow Street Jail when a Soviet company sued him for $500,000 worth of woolens he had seized in Siberia. He claimed Japanese-British bankers had seized $60,000,000 the Tsarist government had entrusted to him.
Russia did not take news of General Semenov's plans lightly. In Tokyo. Soviet Ambassador Alexander Trojanovsky was pressing a proposal for a Russo-Japanese non-aggression treaty, with little success. At Lake Baikal, 1,000 miles northwest of Manchuria. Russia was reported to be building "strong defensive works."