The British Political Elite and the Soviet Union, 1937-1939

By Louise Grace Shaw | Go to book overview

2

Building Bridges

Between 1 and 30 September 1938, several ministers within Neville Chamberlain's Cabinet, if only temporarily, considered co-operation with the Soviet Union over the Sudetenland crisis. Between October 1938 and March 1939, Halifax made an effort to rebuild Anglo-Soviet relations. Despite this, British foreign policy towards the Soviet Union did not change during this period. Hence, the Soviet government was excluded from the Munich conference and there remained no intention on the part of London to collaborate with Moscow regarding the resistance to future German aggression. Nevertheless, what such considerations of co-operation and concern about Soviet reactions reveal is that British foreign policy towards the Soviet Union was not a result of impossible structural constraints, but rather a matter of willingness to put aside the anti-Soviet prejudices many continued to hold.

As a result of the announcement that there would be additional German troop movements and partial mobilisation in September, on 2 September Litvinov proposed to the French government not only an appeal to the League of Nations, but also immediate joint military talks and an Anglo-French-Soviet declaration of resolve. 1 On 12 September, riots erupted in the Sudetenland following Hitler's speech at Nuremburg, in which the German dictator stated his support for the Sudeten German struggle for autonomy. Neville Chamberlain decided, without consulting either the French or Soviet governments-or indeed his own Cabinet until the last minute-that he would visit Hitler. The two men discussed the Sudeten crisis on 15 September at Berchtesgaden. Chamberlain protested against any use of force by the German government. He did not, however, oppose Hitler's demand that Czechoslovakia's pacts with the French and Soviet governments be invalidated. 2 Finally, Chamberlain agreed to the detachment of Sudeten areas, although he informed Hitler that both the British Cabinet and the French government would have to be consulted. On 18 September,

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The British Political Elite and the Soviet Union, 1937-1939
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Foreword ix
  • Series Editor's Preface xi
  • Acknowledgements xiii
  • Introduction 1
  • 1 - The Cabinet and Communism 5
  • 2 - Building Bridges 31
  • 3 - The Foreign Office and the Soviet Union, 1937-38 51
  • 4 - The Anti-Appeasers 75
  • 5 - Poland or the Soviet Union? 101
  • 6 - The Loss of an Ally 117
  • 7 - Germany and the Soviet Union: Allies or Enemies? 149
  • 8 - United in Opposition 169
  • Conclusion 185
  • Bibliography 191
  • Index 206
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