THE WAR AGAINST THE
By the 1790's, then, the idea of Russia as a 'natural ally', dominant in Britain for over a generation, was becoming increasingly less popular and less attractive. Shaken by the Armed Neutrality, it was increasingly and fatally undermined by the destruction of Poland. On both sides envy, distrust and veiled hostility were replacing the naively confident assumptions of friendship so common in the 60's and 70's. In Britain Russian power was coming to seem a threat as much as a safeguard, a disruptive as much as a stabilising force. To many Russians Britain was beginning to appear unwilling and even unable to give Russia the support the latter required, a power whose alliance, even if it could be obtained, would be less useful than that of another great continental state such as Austria or Prussia.
The full development of these changing attitudes on both sides, however, was delayed by the war which revolutionary France declared against the Habsburg monarchy in April 1792, a war which by the beginning of February 1793 had involved Britain and which was to dominate the history of nearly all the states of Europe for more than two decades. In the first six years of this gigantic struggle Russia took no active part, in spite of the extreme hostility to the French Revolution shown by Catherine II and her son Paul who succeeded her in 1796. Nevertheless from the moment of its outbreak this, the greatest of all Anglo-French wars, tended to draw (or perhaps rather to drive) Britain and Russia once more into alliance against the Jacobins. A new commercial agreement in March 1793 helped to consolidate the pro-Russian attitude of mercantile interests in