The Bear and the Whale: Russia in British Defence Planning
IN February 1910, the prominent Russian newspaper, Novoe vremia, characterized the nineteenth century as one full of Anglo-Russian quarrels, and termed them 'the great struggle between the bear and the whale'.1 The metaphor was apt. Russia, Europe's most formidable land power for much of the nineteenth century, represented the greatest threat to Britain's largely sea-based global pre-eminence. Indeed, much of British defence planning in the century after Waterloo can be interpreted as an attempt to discover a way to check the burgeoning Russian menance.2 This was important for Anglo-Russian relations. Behind the niceties of diplomacy lay the menace of force, and no examination of Anglo-Russian affairs can be complete without a knowledge of the military and naval balance between the two countries.
Britain's defence concerns were peculiar. British defence planners needed to consider not only home defence (and its relation to the balance of power on the Continent), but also imperial defence. Thus, Britain's defence policy was necessarily Janus-like. The link between home and imperial defence was the Royal Navy, which ensured that Britain could not be invaded, provided for the security of the Empire, and protected essential trade routes. Russia's place in British defence planning was a mixture of the commonplace and the unique: Russia was a major player in the balance of power on the Continent, a significant factor to be considered in the maintenance of British naval supremacy, and a threat to the Empire in a variety of locales (particularly in India). With respect to the balance of power, Russia was treated no differently than was any other potential British rival. Britain had no intention to act unilaterally against an attempt by any power to achieve hegemony on the Continent; therefore her brief concerning Russia in this regard was simple.3 Britain would observe and evaluate the Russian threat to Europe and____________________