A Great Russia: Russia and the Triple Entente, 1905 to 1914

By Fiona K. Tomaszewski | Go to book overview

Chapter 3

A Marriage of Convenience: Nicholas II and the Triple Entente

Despite his reputation as a reactionary and weak-willed ruler, Nicholas II was consistent in his post-1905 foreign policy. He regarded the Dual Alliance, formed by his revered father, as the base of Russian foreign policy and never seriously considered abandoning it. Moreover, once the last Romanov emperor embraced the Entente with Great Britain, he remained faithful to it and even sought to transform it into a defensive alliance. Nicholas II might have been an initially reluctant partner to the Triple Entente, but once he had entered into it he was faithful to it to the end. In the second half of his reign, Nicholas II’s primary goal was the preservation of imperial Russia and the Romanov dynasty. For this the overriding imperative was peace. The tsar and his foreign ministers concluded that the Triple Entente was the best means to this end. Thus reasons of realpolitik, not ideology, motivated the tsar’s Triple Entente policy.

The tsar played a central role in the formation and execution of Russian foreign policy. Scholars and memoirists have often cast aspersions on Nicholas II’s strength of character and consistency of purpose, but his power as the sole arbiter of foreign policy, as outlined in article 12 of the Fundamental Laws, has not been challenged. 1 Nicholas II was a ruler who maintained a close watch on foreign policy events, read “conscientiously the despatches and telegrams which were submitted to him every day and, blessed by an excellent memory, was exceptionally well-informed on questions of international relations.” 2 The new Duma did exercise a limited power over foreign policy because of its restricted role in budgetary matters, including increases in defense expenditures, and a relatively free and increasingly vo-

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