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Russo-Japanese war.211 The War Office accepted the Foreign Office™s
assumption that Soviet Russia was ˜in no condition to-day to fight a real
war with Japan™, but argued that the Soviets had very much improved
their position militarily in the Far East. As a result, if Japan wished to go


208
´
Coote (charge d™affaires, Moscow) to FO, disp 495, 11 Sept 1933, FO 371/17261/
N6873/232/38, Collier™s minute (19 Sept); Coote to FO, disp 502, 12 Sept 1933, FO
371/17261/N6877/748/38, minutes, Howe and Collier (both 20 Sept), and Strang to
FO, disp 523, 25 Sept 1933, FO 371/17277/N7180/6343/38.
209
Lampson to FO, disp 928, 18 Jun 1933, and minutes, FO 371/17081/F5709/33/10;
´
Snow (charge d™affaires, Tokyo), disp 478, 14 Aug 1933, and minutes, FO 371/17081/
F5950/33/10; Ingram to Lampson (23 Jun), enclosed in Lampson to FO, disp 699, 7 Jul
1933, FO 371/17081/F6008/33/10.
210
Strang to FO, disp 543, 5 Oct 1933, FO 371/17262/N7480/748/38, minute, Shone (17
Oct).
211
The remainder of this paragraph, except where indicated, is based on Lindsay to FO,
tel 566, 21 Oct 1933, FO 371/17263/N7634/1149/38; Connor-Green to Col. E. Miles
(MI2), 30 Oct 1933, and reply, 2 Nov 1933, FO 371/17151/F6925/116/23, minutes,
Randall (4 Nov) and Collier (23 Nov).
The period of persuasion 85

to war, the country needed to ˜improve her railway communications
towards the Russian frontier™. The War Office saw the military situation
in the Far East as a race between ˜the efficiency of the Russian Army
[which] is likely to increase™ and an improvement in Japan™s logistic
capabilities. The War Office favoured Japan: ˜delay seems to be more
advantageous to Japan than to Russia™. Collier agreed “ ˜our views on
Russian intentions are the same as those of the WO™ “ but the fact
remained that the Far East was a powder keg, and, in Randall™s words,
˜1935“6 may prove critical.™ Tensions remained high. The Russian
ambassador to China was defiant, arguing that, in any clash between
Soviet Russia and Japan, the latter would be bested, prompting Orde to
retort that ˜the Soviets always talk as big as they dare™.212 Wellesley
remained convinced that the ˜ultimate elimination of Russia from the
Far East is a matter of such vital interest to Japan that it can never be
absent from the minds of Japanese statesmen™.213
But the complicated tangle in the Far East between Japan and Soviet
Russia was not the focus of British strategic foreign policy in October
and early November 1933. All eyes were on two issues: the fate of the
disarmament talks and whether Britain would continue to pay instal-
ments on the American war debt.214 Simon™s stock continued to plummet
in the government, while Eden™s reputation rose as a result of his endeav-
ours at Geneva.215 In Cabinet on 26 October, Neville Chamberlain
ridiculed Roosevelt™s economic policies, and called for improved relations
with Japan.216 Here, the chancellor noted that he ˜greatly regretted™ the
Washington Naval Conference of 1922, which, he argued, had led to the
abrogation of the Anglo-Japanese alliance without any commensurate
gain for Britain. In light of the effect of Japan both on Britain™s position


212
Orde™s minute (17 Nov) on Lampson to FO, tel 1109, 14 Nov 1933, FO 371/17152/
F7137/116/23.
213
´
Wellesley™s minute (29 Nov) on Snow (charge d™affaires, Tokyo) to FO, disp 584, 13 Oct
1933, FO 371//17152/F7301/116/23; Snow to FO, disp 596, 25 Oct 1933, FO 371/
17152/F5317/116/23.
214
Kitching, Britain and the Problem of International Disarmament, 156“67; Christoph M.
Kimmich, Germany and the League of Nations (Chicago and London, 1976), 174“93;
Sargent to Phipps (ambassador, Berlin), 11 and 16 Nov 1933, both Phipps Papers,
PHPP 2/10; minutes, Cabinets 52, 53, 45, 59, 60, 61, 62, 63, 64 (9 Oct“22 Nov 1933),
all Cab 23/77; Sir Frederick Leith-Ross™s correspondence, Hopkins Papers, T 175/79.
215
MacDonald™s diary entries, 8, 15, 18, 20, 22 Oct 1933, MacDonald Papers PRO 30/69/
1753/1; Tyrrell (ambassador, Paris) to Baldwin, 28 Sept 1933, and Ormsby Gore
(Conservative MP) to Baldwin, 1 Oct 1933, both Baldwin Papers, 121.
216
Chamberlain™s notes [but c. 26 Oct], T 172/2081; minutes, 26 Oct 1933, Cab 57(33)
and Cab 58(33), both Cab 23/77; N. Chamberlain to his sister, Ida, 28 Oct 1933,
Chamberlain Papers, NC 18/1/848; his remarks in the minutes of Cab 57(33), 26 Oct
1933, Cab 23/77.
86 Britain, Soviet Russia and the Versailles Order

in the Far East and on naval disarmament, Chamberlain argued for a
policy of improved relations between London and Tokyo.
These remarks adumbrated a re-examination of Britain™s military
position. This stemmed from a reconsideration of the ˜ten-year rule™.
The impetus for this began in January 1931, when Hankey suggested
to MacDonald that the rule needed to be re-evaluated, in part
because ˜Russia™s activity in armaments is notorious.™217 This view was
reinforced at the Three-Party Conference on Disarmament in May
1931, when Austen Chamberlain had questioned whether the ˜ten-year
rule™ was still valid in light of the changing international circumstances,
while others argued that Soviet Russia™s rearmament undermined
French security by weakening the position of Paris™s allies in eastern
Europe.218 In February 1932, the COS recommended that the ˜ten-year
rule™ be dropped, despite the Treasury™s opposition.219 The COS™s
argument was accepted at the CID on 22 March and approved the
following day by the Cabinet.220 Thus, in October 1933, when
the COS produced their Annual Review for 1933, it was based on the
assumption of the abolition of the ten-year rule.221 The COS™s recom-
mendations regarding Britain™s defence priorities were accepted, and
it was agreed that a committee should be set up to determine how
to remedy the country™s military deficiencies.222 Rearmament, not
disarmament, was the order of the day.

By the autumn of 1933, the ˜period of persuasion™ was over. Japan
had defied the League and continued its depredations against China.
Hitler had made it manifest that Germany was no longer interested


217
˜The Basis of Service Estimates™, Hankey, secret, 9 Jan 1931, Cab 21/2093.
218
DC(P), minutes 3rd meeting, 7 May 1931; repeated 4th meeting, 14 May, both Cab
16/102.
219
Minutes, 101st meeting COS, 4 Feb 1932, Cab 53/4; ˜Annual Review for 1932 by the
Chiefs of Staff Sub-Committee™, CID 1082-B, COS, 23 Feb 1932, Cab 4/21; ˜Note by
the Treasury on the Annual Review for 1932 by the Chiefs of Staff Sub-Committee
(1082-B)™, CID 1087-B, Treasury, 11 Mar 1932, Cab 4/21.
220
Minutes, 255th meeting CID, 22 Mar 1932, Cab 2/5; minutes, Cab 19(32), 23 Mar
1932, Cab 23/70.
221
Hankey to MacDonald, 16 Jan 1933, enclosing ˜Imperial Defence as Affected by
Disarmament and the Situation in Europe™, Hankey, secret, 16 Jan 1933, both Cab
21/2093; ˜Imperial Defence Policy. Annual Review (1933) by the Chiefs of Staff Sub-
Committee™, CID 113-B, COS, 12 Oct 1933, Cab 4/22. For priorities, see minutes
111th meeting COS, 20 Jun 1933, Cab 53/4.
222
Minutes, 261st meeting CID, 9 Nov 1933, Cab 2/6; approved at Cabinet, minutes, 10
Nov 1933, Cab 62(33), Cab 23/77; Hankey to MacDonald, secret, 5 Oct 1933, and
˜secret™ untitled memo, Hankey, Vansittart and Fisher, 5 Oct 1933, both MacDonald
Papers, PRO 30/69/483.
The period of persuasion 87

in disarmament. British strategic foreign policy needed to be recon-
figured. An unthinking commitment to the post-war settlements and to
disarmament appeared no longer to be effective. What did these new
circumstances mean for Anglo-Soviet relations? Was Soviet Russia a
greater threat to British interests than were the two revisionist Powers?
Could Soviet Russia be harnessed to British policy? And would Moscow
be willing to co-operate with Britain?
2 1933“1934: parallel interests?




In the autumn of 1933, the ˜period of deterrence™ in British strategic
foreign policy began. The bases of British strategic foreign policy since
1925 “ arms control and the League “ crumbled, but no replacement for
these foundations was apparent. On 14 October 1933, Germany left
the Disarmament Conference. This, and the suspension of the London
Naval Conference in mid-December 1934, meant that a new arms race
loomed. The League had approved the Lytton Report on 24 February
1933, and called on the Japanese to remove their forces from Manchu-
ria. The Japanese had refused, had left the League on 27 March, and,
instead, had signed the truce of T™ang-Ku with China two months later.
This underlined the League™s inability to deal with international prob-
lems, and Germany™s own withdrawal from the Geneva body on 14
October 1933 made it clear that the Powers which favoured a revision
of the settlement reached at Versailles were going to pursue it outside the
bounds of the Covenant.
British policy makers were forced to reconsider how to deal with the
revisionist Powers. One step was to determine Britain™s military strength
and deficiencies. Another was to attempt to limit the number of threats
to Britain™s position. Changes in Soviet policy began to make Moscow a
possible (if not attractive) bulwark against aggressive revisionism.1 First,
the Soviet government abandoned its policy of avoiding international
entanglements, signed non-aggression pacts with many of its neighbours
and hinted that it would be willing to conclude defensive alliances to
deter Germany and Japan. Second, Moscow joined the League on 18
September 1934. Thus, in marked contrast to the immediately preced-
ing years, the possibility of Anglo-Soviet co-operation became a serious
topic of discussion. Would the existence of parallel interests be enough
to improve Anglo-Soviet relations?


1
J. A. Large, ˜The Origins of Soviet Collective Security Policy, 1930“1932™, SS, 30, 2
(1978), 212“36.


88
1933“1934: parallel interests? 89

The first matter that needed to be considered was the COS™s Annual
Review for 1933.2 This study touched off debate about British strategic
defence policy, in which Soviet Russia™s role was of some import. The
positions that were to dominate thinking for the rest of the decade
were largely prefigured at the Foreign Office. The COS contended that
Britain had three commitments of ˜major importance™. In order of prior-
ity, they were the defence of the Far East, the defence of Europe and the
˜defence of India against Soviet aggression™. This document was exam-
ined carefully at the Foreign Office.3 The pressing strategic foreign-
policy dimensions of the problems caused by Japan in the Far East were
the focus of discussion. Soviet Russia was a key factor in this debate.
For A. W. A. Leeper, any co-operation between Japan and Soviet
Russia in the Far East was ˜improbable™. Such a state was of possible
advantage to Britain, since any ˜entanglements™ between them ˜might
have the effect of deflecting Japan from an aggressive attitude towards
ourselves™. Leeper also sounded a warning note. If Soviet policy were to
change in future, ˜it is conceivable that an unholy alliance between
Russia and Japan might make our position in the Far East and India a
very precarious one™. Orde largely agreed. He felt that Soviet Russia
hoped to spread communism in China, all the while checking Japanese
expansion in that country: the Japanese wished to expand in China, and
regarded communism as ˜anathema™. What did this mean for British
policy? The head of the Egyptian Department, Maurice Peterson, read
the Annual Review as implying the need for an Anglo-Japanese rap-
prochement in order to eliminate the need ˜to regard Japan as a potentially
hostile Power with all the cramping limitations which that necessity
entails upon our position and influence in Europe™. The Anglo-Japanese
alliance of 1902 had been formed against a ˜Russo-German menace™,
and had been dissolved in 1921 when the menace ended. However,
Peterson argued that ˜we are once again confronted with a Russo-German
menace even though it may not be as yet a joint menace™. He contended
that the League of Nations was now ineffectual in defending British
interests. ˜Nor can we leave our position in the Far East™, Peterson
concluded, ˜to the consolation of Mr Leeper™s pious hope (however


2
˜Imperial Defence Policy. Annual Review (1933) by the Chiefs of Staff Sub-Commit-
tee™, CID 113-B, COS, 12 Oct 1933, Cab 4/22; for priorities, see minutes, 111th
meeting COS, 20 Jun 1933, Cab 53/4.
3
The remainder of this and the following three paragraphs are based on Minutes, 26 Oct
and 1 Dec 1933, on ˜Imperial Defence Policy. Annual Review (1933) by the Chiefs of
Staff Sub-Committee™, FO 371/17338/W11987/11987/50. Authors are identified in the
text.
90 Britain, Soviet Russia and the Versailles Order

fervently we may echo it) that Japan may happen to become embroiled
with the Soviet before she becomes embroiled with us.™
This was contentious. The head of the American Department, Robert
Craigie, objected on two grounds. First, an Anglo-Japanese rapprochement
would support the militarists in Japan; second, it would alienate the
United States. Craigie also felt that the possibility of improved relations
between Germany, Japan and Soviet Russia was greater than the COS
believed, and that preventing this should be ˜one of the first objectives of
our diplomacy™. Another sharp attack came from Collier. His opposition
stemmed from the recent about-face in Soviet foreign policy. Collier
observed that the Soviets viewed ˜Hitlerite Germany as their greatest foe
in Europe™ and were ˜bitterly opposed to Japanese ambitions™. Thus, he
concluded: ˜We consequently seem more likely than not to find ourselves
where we and the Soviet Government will have a common enemy, though
we are not perhaps likely both to be fighting him at the same time.™ Thus,
Collier completely rejected the feasibility of Peterson™s policy of a British
rapprochement with Japan.
Several other points of view were particularly relevant. Orme Sargent
worried about the possibility of a ˜hostile™ German“Japanese grouping
against Britain. Lancelot Oliphant and George Mounsey, the two assist-
ant undersecretaries, both agreed that the order of priorities posited by
the COS was correct and called for a further study of the situation in the
Far East. Oliphant also rejected Collier™s contention that Soviet Russia
had changed its spots. Finally, Wellesley argued that Japan, while unre-
servedly expansionist, was unlikely to attack Britain unless the latter
were involved with another Great Power. On the other hand, he did
not feel that Britain was in a position to deter Japan militarily, but
instead contended that ˜economic measures™ would have to be employed
to counter it.
Some of these arguments had also been made at the CID on 9 Novem-
ber.4 There, Chamberlain took exception to the priorities assigned by the
COS. Echoing his earlier remarks in the Cabinet, the chancellor con-
tended that the European situation might become more significant than
the Far East and that Japan might be interested in a rapprochement with
Britain, and stated that ˜he very much wished we could make some effort
now to improve our relations with Japan™. This ran counter to the Foreign
Office™s position. Simon reiterated his department™s views: Japan had

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