Britain and the Last Tsar: British Policy and Russia, 1894-1917

By Keith Neilson | Go to book overview

4
The Bear and the Whale: Russia in British Defence Planning

IN February 1910, the prominent Russian newspaper, Novoe vremia, characterized the nineteenth century as one full of Anglo-Russian quarrels, and termed them 'the great struggle between the bear and the whale'.1 The metaphor was apt. Russia, Europe's most formidable land power for much of the nineteenth century, represented the greatest threat to Britain's largely sea-based global pre-eminence. Indeed, much of British defence planning in the century after Waterloo can be interpreted as an attempt to discover a way to check the burgeoning Russian menance.2 This was important for Anglo-Russian relations. Behind the niceties of diplomacy lay the menace of force, and no examination of Anglo-Russian affairs can be complete without a knowledge of the military and naval balance between the two countries.

Britain's defence concerns were peculiar. British defence planners needed to consider not only home defence (and its relation to the balance of power on the Continent), but also imperial defence. Thus, Britain's defence policy was necessarily Janus-like. The link between home and imperial defence was the Royal Navy, which ensured that Britain could not be invaded, provided for the security of the Empire, and protected essential trade routes. Russia's place in British defence planning was a mixture of the commonplace and the unique: Russia was a major player in the balance of power on the Continent, a significant factor to be considered in the maintenance of British naval supremacy, and a threat to the Empire in a variety of locales (particularly in India). With respect to the balance of power, Russia was treated no differently than was any other potential British rival. Britain had no intention to act unilaterally against an attempt by any power to achieve hegemony on the Continent; therefore her brief concerning Russia in this regard was simple.3 Britain would observe and evaluate the Russian threat to Europe and

____________________
1
Nicolson to Grey, disp. 70, 5 Feb. 1910, FO 371/978/4743.
2
A. Lambert, The Crimean War: British Grand Strategy, 1853-56 ( Manchester, 1990), pp. xvi-xxi; 1-8.
3
The theme of D. French, The British Way in Warfare 1688-2000 ( London, 1990).

-110-

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Britain and the Last Tsar: British Policy and Russia, 1894-1917
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Acknowledgements v
  • Contents vii
  • List of Maps viii
  • List of Abbreviations ix
  • Introduction xi
  • PART I SETTING THE STAGE 1
  • 2- The Élite's Russia 51
  • 3- The Public's Russia 84
  • 4- The Bear and the Whale: Russia in British Defence Planning 110
  • Part II- RIVALRY 1894-1905 145
  • 5- Problems Old and New: China And Armenia, 1894-1896 147
  • 6- Concessions, Conflict, and Conciliation: China, 1895-1899 178
  • 7- Anglo-Russian Relations, 1899-1903: China and Central Asia 205
  • 8- The Russo-Japanese War 238
  • Part III- RECONCILIATION? 1906-1917 265
  • 9- Forging the Anglo-Russian Convention 267
  • 10- Alliance Firmed, 1907-1910 289
  • II- Alliance Under Fire, 1911-1914 317
  • 12- Alliance in Action, 1914-1917 341
  • Conclusion 367
  • Bibliography 373
  • Index 401
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