Britain and the Last Tsar: British Policy and Russia, 1894-1917

By Keith Neilson | Go to book overview

II
Alliance Under Fire, 1911-1914

ANGLO-RUSSIAN relations were strained from the Potsdam conference to the outbreak of war in 1914. The working of the Anglo-Russian Convention in Persia was the most obvious difficulty between the two countries, but it was only a symptom of deeper problems. The British had two concerns about Russia. The first was that, as Russia recovered from the effects of the Russo-Japanese War, the Tsarist state would grow more aggressive in Central Asia. The second was that Russia would gradually dissociate herself from both the Anglo-Russian Convention and the Franco-Russian alliance and reach a rapprochement with Germany. Despite these worries, Grey's foreign policy was not driven by a fear of the consequences of Russia's actions. Instead, Grey pursued an even-handed policy of trying to reach acceptable accommodations with all the powers, a policy in which the search for détente with Germany was not believed to be antithetical to close Anglo-Russian co-operation.

The first six months of 1911 were a quiet period in Anglo-Russian relations, but a time full of speculation about their nature and the general course of European diplomacy. The British view was that the Russians had 'put their foot in it' at Potsdam.1 While Sazonov had assured Buchanan subsequently that Russia did not contemplate any rearranging of the European alliance structures, the British were not convinced. Nicolson felt that the Russian was 'completely hypnotized by Berlin', a view also current in Paris.2 This led to a certain duality in British policy. On the one hand, the British were apprehensive that too-intimate Russo-German relations would cause a collapse of Anglo-Russian amity. On the other, Grey hoped for friendly Russo-German relations as part of his belief that cordial relations were possible throughout Europe. This was a fine line, and the difficulties of it were exemplified by the British attitude in the first half of 1911 towards the ongoing Russo-German negotiations over railway construction in Persia. The British had offered to advance part of the money necessary to build the Russian section of line

____________________
1
Grant Duff diary entry, 20 Jan. 1911, Grant Duff Papers; Chirol to Hardinge, 20 Jan. 1911, Hardinge Papers, vol. 92; Buchanan to Grey, 26 Jan. 1911, Grey Papers, FO 800/74.
2
Buchanan to Grey, private tel., 22 Jan. 1911, Grey Papers, FO 800/74; Nicolson to Lowther, 6 Feb. 1911; Bertie to Nicolson, 8 Feb. 1911, both Nicolson Papers, FO 800/347.

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Britain and the Last Tsar: British Policy and Russia, 1894-1917
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Acknowledgements v
  • Contents vii
  • List of Maps viii
  • List of Abbreviations ix
  • Introduction xi
  • PART I SETTING THE STAGE 1
  • 2- The Élite's Russia 51
  • 3- The Public's Russia 84
  • 4- The Bear and the Whale: Russia in British Defence Planning 110
  • Part II- RIVALRY 1894-1905 145
  • 5- Problems Old and New: China And Armenia, 1894-1896 147
  • 6- Concessions, Conflict, and Conciliation: China, 1895-1899 178
  • 7- Anglo-Russian Relations, 1899-1903: China and Central Asia 205
  • 8- The Russo-Japanese War 238
  • Part III- RECONCILIATION? 1906-1917 265
  • 9- Forging the Anglo-Russian Convention 267
  • 10- Alliance Firmed, 1907-1910 289
  • II- Alliance Under Fire, 1911-1914 317
  • 12- Alliance in Action, 1914-1917 341
  • Conclusion 367
  • Bibliography 373
  • Index 401
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