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

By Keith Neilson | Go to book overview

10
Alliance Firmed, 1907-1910

THE Anglo-Russian Convention had resulted from the coincidence of two endeavours: Izvolskii's effort to ensure Russian security after the Russo-Japanese War and the long-standing British attempt to come to terms with Russia. Neither was achieved completely by the signing of the Convention. Consequently, after the signing, Izvolskii turned his attention to shoring up Russia's diplomatic position and protecting her most vulnerable points: the Baltic approaches and the Dardanelles. To deal with the former, he opened discussions with Sweden and Germany; to deal with the latter, he began talks with Austria-Hungary.1 The discussions with Sweden and Germany eventually stalled. The talks with Austria- Hungary resulted in the Russian diplomatic débâcle over the Austro-Hungarian annexation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and increased Izvolskii's anxieties. This 'diplomatic Tsushima' led to his efforts to placate Germany, a process that found its expression in the issue of the Baghdad railway.

For the British, Izvolskii's diplomacy held both promise and peril. If the Anglo- Russian Convention proved beneficial to Russia during Izvolskii's complicated Manœuvrings, then Anglo-Russian relations would be secure.2 However, should Izvolskii conclude that the Convention acted as a barrier to good relations between Russia and the German-speaking powers, then the Anglo-Russian arrangement might be jettisoned. Further, should Izvolskii decide to sacrifice British interests to achieve better Russo-German relations--as the Baghdad railway threatened--then his diplomacy might be menacing. To complicate matters, Britain's own relations with Germany deteriorated during this time, largely as a result of the Anglo- German naval race. This meant that the consequences of a possible Russo-German rapprochement grew more serious. Anglo-Russian relations thus became the pivot of Britain's attempts to maintain a favourable global balance of power. For the most part, Grey's policy towards Russia was necessarily reactive, since he could neither compel Anglo-Russian relations to be cordial nor force Russo-German relations to

____________________
1
On the Baltic, see F. Lindberg, Scandinavia in Great Power Politics ( Stockholm, 1958), 145-264; P. Luntinen , The Baltic Question 1903-8 ( Helsinki, 1975), 120-241.
2
For a survey, D. W. Sweet and R. T. B. Langhorne, "Great Britain and Russia", in F. H. Hinsley (ed.), British Foreign Policy under Sir Edward Grey ( Cambridge, 1977), 236-50.

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