Russia: Tsarist and Communist

By Anatole G. Mazour | Go to book overview

21
The Reign of Nicholas II: From Revolution to World War I(1906-14)

DIPLOMATIC DEVELOPMENTS AFTER 1905

AFTER THE defeat of 1905 Russia resumed the position of a passive power in the East and resumed an active diplomatic role in the West. The first sign of this shift was noted early in 1906 at the Algeciras Conference, during which a notable event took place: Russia was in no position to risk a crisis in which military aid might be involved. She was therefore instrumental in formulating a compromise between Germany and France; but in the end it was a diplomatic victory for Paris. The Franco-Russian Alliance, given a serious test at Algeciras, came out tempered and ready to weather even graver crises. Meanwhile, having passed the first turning point, France decided that Anglo-Russian relations could be improved and the Entente consolidated into a more powerful diplomatic bloc.

With Germany continuously rising to challenge the naval supremacy of Britain and Russian aspirations in the Near East, the two traditional foes of the past century, the British and Russian Empires, were offered compelling reasons to reexamine their diplomatic relations. The year 1907 marked two outstanding developments in Russian diplomacy. One was the signing at St. Petersburg on July 30 of a Russo-Japanese Convention, which provided for the maintenance of the status quo in the Far East. The convention marked a definite desire to let the state of affairs as set by the Treaty of Portsmouth rest on a permanent basis. The other was the Anglo- Russian Agreement concluded at St. Petersburg on August 31; in scope and consequence this pact was of even greater importance than the Russo-Japanese Convention.

The Anglo-Russian Agreement of 1907 was a diplomatic revolution equal to the Franco-Austrian rapprochement in the middle of the eighteenth century. It ended a long phase of rivalry in the Near East and Central Asia; part of this rivalry was real; part of it, like the fear of Russia's seizure of India, was based on unfounded and traditional suspicions. The Agreement of 1907 contained the following provisions: Afghanistan was recognized as a British sphere of influence; Tibet was within the sphere of China; Persia was divided into three zones, the northern zone being Russian, the southern British, and the central area lying between the two

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