The Franco-Russian Alliance, 1890-1894

By William Leonard Langer | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XIII
LOOKING FORWARD

KALNOKY'S apprehensions, even if they were genuine, proved to be unfounded. The Russians did not attempt a descent upon Constantinople or the Bosporus; they did not establish a naval base in the Mediterranean; they did not even raise the question of an alteration of the treaties regulating the passage of foreign ships of war through the Straits. All Europe expected some such action in the autumn of 1893 and continued to expect it for some years to come. How is one to explain the passivity of the Russian government under these circumstances?

A definite answer is, of course, impossible so long as the complete Russian documents are not available. The writer's own opinion is that the Tsar had no intention of initiating a forward policy in the Near East, in spite of the evidence which led the statesmen of the time to a very different conclusion. It may be that Nelidov, the Russian ambassador at the Porte, a very energetic and aggressive personality, had hopes of reopening the Straits question and immortalizing himself by securing for his country the free passage to the Mediterranean. Russian ambassadors had a dangerous way of pursuing their own schemes, and Nelidov is known in history chiefly for his famous scheme for an attack upon the heights of the Bosporus in December, 1896. But it seems unlikely that the Tsar himself should have harbored ideas of aggression in 1894. It was not at all like Alexander III to act precipitately or rashly. Many have put him down as lethargic and of mean mentality, but he appears to have been rather a well-balanced, careful and calculating monarch, as the diplomats of the day recognized. He cannot possibly have been under illusions as to the nature and value of the alliance he had just concluded with France. He knew only too well that at the back of the mind of every French statesman was the thought of hostility to Germany and the hope of ultimately recovering the

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