Ukraine in British Strategies and Concepts of Foreign Policy, 1917-1922 and After

Article excerpt

The subject of this article is a new one--neither in the former Soviet Union nor in Soviet Ukraine has it been studied as a separate problem. This can easily be explained by the previously existing ideological approaches towards historical research in general and national studies in particular. The USSR existed as a single state and Ukraine was merely a part of it. All important political and historical problems were regarded joint ones in a Soviet history which considered only general problems of the great number of nations united in the Soviet Union.

The separatist nature of the problem itself would never have been approved under the communist regime, and thus the author did not find any publications on the topic in Soviet and post-Soviet Ukrainian and Russian research. Unfortunately, searching for materials on past period of national history presents certain difficulties for any Ukrainian scholar. In truth, existing documents and materials are not enough to fully restore the Ukrainian past. Many facts are forgotten, documents lost or destroyed, events misinterpreted by the former rulers. Nevertheless, Ukrainian history demands new approaches for studying the long struggle for national independence.

After gaining independence in 1991 Ukraine renewed its activities in the sphere of foreign policy. The aspect of foreign policy appears one of the most important and complicated for our state at its present stage of development. However, Ukraine possesses certain experience in the field, and its experience, whether successful or not, should be thoroughly analyzed. Ukraine has previously acted as an independent state in this century. The point is how its activities were accepted by other nations--whether they wished to recognize it as a sovereign state or simply consider it as a part of the Great Russian Empire. This article attempts to reveal British perceptions of the Ukrainian state in the early post-revolutionary years.

The Bolshevik revolution of 1917 had removed the Provisional Government upon which the Entente Powers had been relying to continue the war and necessitated a reorientation of Allied policy. As Russia's fighting capacity withered, the Entente attempted to encourage new centers of resistance to German military advance. In mid-November General Tabouis of the French military mission in Kyiv and a British Major Fitzwilliams called on A. Shulgin (1) and, according to Ukrainian records, offered the aid of their governments in the establishment of the new republic. Shulgin states that, acting upon the direction of the cabinet, he did no specifically reply to the Allied offer of aid but instead demanded that the powers recognize Ukraine and exchange diplomatic missions with it as a prerequisite to any conversations concerning aid. (2)

Later the British Government appointed Mr. (later Sir) John Picton Bagge, former consul-general in Odessa, to the post of "British Representative in Ukraine." According to V. Vinnichenko, Bagge declared that his government would "support to the utmost of its ability the Ukrainian Government in the task which it has undertaken of introducing good government, maintaining order, and combating the Central Powers who are enemies of democracy and humanity." (3)

According to research of Ya. Bilinsky, in December 1917 the English and the French offered the Ukrainian Central Rada financial subsidies to continue the war against the Central Powers. The English government seemed to have secretly authorized a sum of 10 million [pounds sterling]; French agents actually turned over to the Ukrainians an estimated 50 million roubles. (4)

Nevertheless, it should be mentioned here that the data concerning this remote period of Ukrainian statehood are sometimes controversial. Due to objective reasons it does not seem possible to completely restore the real situations that took place almost a century ago. …