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rivalry™. He preferred that Britain should ˜participate™ in the new ar-
rangement in order to ˜exercise a moderating influence both on France
and Germany thus preventing a reversion to the crude Macht Politik of
the pre-war era™. However, like Collier, he was not convinced that public
opinion would support such a policy. ˜If, however™, he wrote, ˜as seems
more probable, we decide on a policy of isolationism, we must resign
ourselves to an uncontrolled orgy of nationalism and militarism in all
their various forms™, a policy that would not make the British either
1933“1934: parallel interests? 107

˜popular or respected™ by others, and leave Britain ˜without a friend in
the world™, to its detriment.
A second assistant undersecretary, George Mounsey, rejected Sar-
gent™s contentions. For Mounsey, ˜so long as the League of Nations is
in being we cannot envisage our isolation, in the old sense of the term™,
and the pre-1914 political situation in Europe had gone forever. He
preferred a policy of caution (or, possibly, muddling through):
It is in such transitional conditions idle to speculate too far ahead, but I should
imagine that our immediate task will be to avoid all unnecessary continental
commitments while we are strengthening and cementing the tenuous ties con-
necting the reorganised British Empire, at the same time that we must through
the League or otherwise, maintain sufficient connection “ without alliance “ with
our Continental neighbours to enable us to influence the balance of power
between them in the right direction.
Not surprisingly, Simon agreed with Mounsey. The foreign secretary,
though, ˜place[d] a lower value on the League of Nations™ than did his
assistant undersecretary. A return to pre-1914 isolationism was unlikely,
but the ˜“man in the street”™ wanted ˜no more commitments unless he
sees an adequate quid pro quo™. Thus, British policy, ˜for the time being™
should be ˜to hold ourselves free, but to go in for some re-armament™.
Only then could London be in the position that Wigram advocated.
Further news from Geneva spoke directly to these concerns. There,
on 30 May, Louis Barthou, the French foreign minister, denounced
any acceptance of German rearmament, effectively ending the Disarm-
ament Conference (it adjourned, sine die, on 11 June). The speech was
also a blow to Anglo-French relations. Vansittart was sorrowful: the
French would ˜have been willing to trade German rearmament against
a [British] guarantee™ of their security had the British the capacity to
provide it. Sargent contended that Barthou™s speech was an ˜ominous
indication that the Franco-Russian agreement has gone a good deal
further than we had thought™,68 with the French now seeking security
from Moscow rather than from Britain, a view that Leeper shared.69
This is not to say that the British opposed ˜a real Eastern Locarno™.
Mounsey, in fact, felt that if ˜Germany“France, Poland and Soviet
Russia™ could sign such an agreement it ˜would be a step in the right



68
Patteson (Geneva) to FO, tel 33 LN, 30 May 1934, FO 371/18526/W5206/1/98
minutes, Sargent and Vansittart (both 1 Jun); Vansittart to Cadogan, 16 Jun 1934,
Cadogan Papers, FO 800/293.
69
His minute (4 Jun) on British delegation, Geneva, to FO, tel 67, 1 Jun 1934, FO 371/
18526/W5331/1/98.
108 Britain, Soviet Russia and the Versailles Order

direction for bringing back some measures of world confidence™.70
Others, however, differed. Those with a particular interest in disarma-
ment and affairs at Geneva were upset. Eden was convinced that ˜the
French and their satellites are anxious to turn this [Disarmament] Con-
ference into a “Security” Conference, the outward object of which will
be to create “Locarnos” in various parts of Europe, but the real purpose
of which would be the encirclement of Germany™.71 MacDonald echoed
Eden: the ˜French have no clear policy though coquetting with Russia &
with it toying with the dangerous game of trying to isolate Germany with
Eastern Locarnos™.72
The French were at pains to dispel these fears. Barthou informed the
British that the Franco-Soviet discussions did not stem from a fear that
Britain could no longer provide France with security, but resulted from a
belief that any reconciliation with Germany was impossible. The Soviets
had proposed a Franco-Soviet alliance in 1932 when Herriot had visited
Soviet Russia, but the French had persuaded Moscow instead to pursue
a collectivist approach. Barthou termed the proposal ˜an honest attempt
to contribute to peace in Europe™ and suggested that it might be followed
up by a Mediterranean Locarno.73 The British were wary. They
favoured Germany™s joining an Eastern Locarno, but they were not
willing to participate themselves or to give advice. This was for a variety
of reasons: because they were not an eastern European power, because
Britain had stated at Geneva that it was not in favour of ˜regional pacts™,
because Germany might resent any advice from London and because
Britain had, in Sargent™s words, ˜no desire to take part in a Mediterra-
nean Locarno any more than an Eastern Locarno™.74 Some, like Eden,
were bitter about the French initiative: ˜I cannot shake off the conviction “
shared I believe by the great majority of my fellow countrymen™ “ Eden
noted a month later, ˜that it is the Barthous of this world who have made
Hitler inevitable.™75


70
Minutes, A. Leeper (4 Jun) and Mounsey (5 Jun) on UK delegation (Geneva) to FO,
tel 67, 1 Jun 1934, FO 371/18526/W5331/1/98.
71
Eden to Baldwin, 3 Jun 1934, Eden Papers, AP 14/1/256.
72
Diary entry, 9 Jun 1934, MacDonald Papers, PRO 30/60/1753/1.
73
Clerk (ambassador, Paris) to FO, tel 159, 14 Jun 1934, FO 371/17746/C3679/247/18,
and Clerk to FO, disp 994, 14 Jun 1934, FO 371/17746/C3680/247/18, enclosing
˜Memorandum by Mr Collier on the Soviet Non-Aggression Treaties™, 14 Jun 1934,
with minutes, esp. Sargent (18 Jun).
74
For debate, see A. Leeper™s minute (18 Jun), Sargent™s riposte (18 Jun) and Vansittart™s
support for the latter (19 Jun), on Phipps to FO, tel 126, 15 Jun 1934, FO 371/17747/
C3743/247/18.
75
Eden™s minute (1 Aug) on his conversation with Hugh Wilson (US minister at Geneva),
18 Jul 1934, FO 371/17749/C5313/247/18.
1933“1934: parallel interests? 109

While this debate was going on, throughout June and early July, the
French and Soviets attempted to press the British towards the accept-
ance of the idea of an Eastern Locarno.76 Neither Collier nor Vansittart
was impressed. The former noted that ˜Litvinov™s idea of “better political
relations with Great Britain” seems to be that we should actively support
his pact proposals™, and pointed out that the proposal was ˜really useless™
unless Germany could be ˜induced to join™.77 On 3 July, the PUS refused
to accept Maisky™s allegations that Britain was attempting both to incite
a Russo-Japanese conflict and to block the formation of an Eastern
Locarno. Instead, the PUS took advantage of the opportunity to give
the ambassador an outline of what he termed Britain™s ˜perfectly clear
(and ego-centric)™ policy.78 Vansittart chastised Maisky for attempting to
˜blackguard™ Britain with propaganda and defamatory public utterances.
˜In short™, the PUS told Chilston, ˜the Soviet Government cannot have it
both ways; and they must now choose between a policy of real friendship
with us in all respects and the policy they have been pursuing hitherto.™79
Consultation with the French was required. On 9 and 10 July,
Barthou met with Simon to discuss the Eastern Pact.80 Barthou outlined
the earlier negotiations and emphasized two things: a desire to work
loyally and openly with the British and a hope that Soviet Russia could
be brought into Europe (both through the Eastern Locarno and by
joining the League). Simon was somewhat economical with the truth,
saying that Britain favoured Soviet Russia™s joining the League.81 The
problem for the British with the Eastern Pact was twofold: a lack of
reciprocity (in that, while France was guaranteed by Soviet Russia and
vice versa, Germany was not) and a belief that Germany would not
accept it unless there were ˜some adjustments™ with respect to arma-
ments. Barthou stated that the proposed pact would contain a Soviet


76
Clerk to FO, tel 175, 21 Jun 1934, FO 371/17747/C3936/247/18; Chilston to FO, disp
228, 16 May 1934, FO 371/18304/N3120/16/38; Chilston to FO, disp 258, 258, 31
May 1934, FO 371/18304/N3408/16/38; Chilston to Collier, 22 Jun 1934, FO 371/
18305/N4027/16/38.
77
Collier™s minute (26 Jun) on Chilston to FO, tel 81, FO 371/18298/N3682/2/38.
78
Vansittart™s minute (26 Jun) on Chilston to FO, tel 81, 22 Jun 1934, FO 371/17747/
C4011/247/18.
79
Record of conversation, 3 Jul 1934, FO 371/18305/N4029/16/38; Vansittart™s minute
(13 Jul) and letter to Chilston (23 Jul), both FO 371/18305/N4027/16/38.
80
The remainder of this paragraph, except where indicated, is based on ˜Notes of an
Anglo-French Meeting, held in the Room of the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs at
the Foreign Office, on July 9, 1934 at 10.30 a.m.™; same title, meeting held at 3.30 p.m.;
same title, meeting held 10 Jul 1934: all Sargent Papers, FO 800/273.
81
Simon shared Chamberlain™s view; see N. Chamberlain to Simon, 9 Aug 1934, Simon
Papers, FO 800/289.
110 Britain, Soviet Russia and the Versailles Order

guarantee of Germany (although not a French guarantee of Germany),
but was uncompromising in his rejection of giving Germany concessions
about armaments. This was to put the cart before the horse. He pre-
ferred creating security by means of the Eastern Pact, and then seeing
whether this affected Germany™s policy about rearmament. When
pressed by Simon about reciprocity, Barthou noted that the French
guarantee of Soviet Russia resulted from a Soviet request; if ˜Germany
wanted to participate in the proposed arrangements and asked for a
French guarantee against Russia, France would give it™. This had prom-
ise, but the British insisted on two points: that any new arrangement
would not extend Britain™s own commitments and that negotiations for
an Eastern Locarno would proceed hand in hand with similar discussions
of Germany™s desire for equality of rights with respect to armaments. After
negotiations, a formula was worked out, and the British promised that
they would promote the Eastern Locarno. While Simon put the issue to
the Germans, there was no response until 8 September and it consisted
merely of ˜observations™.82 Germany was not to be rushed.
However, the Anglo-French accord and the earlier chastisements of
the Soviets had their effect. Over the course of the summer, as negoti-
ations for Soviet entry into the League proceeded, the tone of the Soviet
press towards Britain improved markedly.83 But the entry of Soviet
Russia into the League on 18 September did not mean that the British
believed that Soviet foreign policy was now imbued with the tenets of
liberal internationalism.84 J. M. K. Vyvyan contended that the Soviet
entry into the League ˜does not imply any change in their aims. They
have all along made that purpose of their action perfectly clear “ the
desire to avoid war . . . joining the League is merely a cynical develop-
ment of the foreign policy of the five-year plan, which has been authori-
tatively expressed by Soviet publicists as dictated by the necessity of a
“breathing space”.™ Collier was guardedly optimistic and hopeful. He


82
Simon to Phipps, disp 787, 19 Jul 1934, and Simon to Phipps, disp 1018, 11 Sept
1934, both Sargent Papers, FO 800/273.
83
Simon™s minute (3 Jul) on Vansittart™s conversation with French ambassador, 27 Jun
1934, FO 371/17747/C4098/247/18; Vansittart™s minute (19 Jun) on UK delegation
(Geneva) to FO, disp 89, 14 Jun 1934, FO 371/18298/N3531/2/38. For Soviet
attempts to bargain, see the untitled memo by Vyvyan, 7 Jul 1934, FO 371/18298/
N4148/2/38; conversation with Cahan (counsellor, Soviet embassy), 3 Aug 1934, FO
371/18298/N4599/2/38; Chilston to FO, disp 368, 27 Jul 1934, FO 371/18305/N4622/
16/38; conversations, 7 Aug and 11 Aug 1934, FO 371/18299/N4662/2/38; Vansittart™s
minute (8 Aug) on Strang™s memo, 8 Aug 1934, FO 371/18299/N4676/2/38; conver-
sation with Maisky, 9 Aug 1934, FO 371/18299/N4718/2/38; Chilston to FO, disp 396,
11 Aug 1934, FO 371/18305/N4840/16/38.
84
Gilbert Murray (LNU) to Simon, 21 Sept 1934, Avon Papers, AP 14/1/343A.
1933“1934: parallel interests? 111

also hoped that Litvinov™s experiences at Geneva would make him
˜realise that Soviet foreign policy still has many difficulties to overcome
and must be conducted with caution and moderation™.85 Simon was not
so sure that the Soviets would proceed as Collier desired, ˜for Litvinov is
a mischievous monkey and will not be easily persuaded to unanimity™ in
the council.86
Vyvyan™s doubts and concerns seemed more convincing in the light of
the deterioration in Soviet“Japanese relations. The issue of the CER
continued to divide the two during the summer and early autumn of
1934.87 The Foreign Office initially remained sceptical that the two
countries would come to blows, but it was clear that substantial mutual
animosity existed. This was made manifest by events. There was much
debate and speculation in London.88 Orde was surprised at the rumour
that ˜the higher military authorities™ in Japan wanted war with Soviet
Russia. He felt that, since ˜we cannot want to see a war break out™, at
some point the British would have to warn the Japanese ˜of the risk they
will run of alienating British & other foreign opinion™. For the sake of
appearing even-handed, Orde added that Soviet Russia should also be
warned. The opinion of the War Office was sought.89 Their view was
that only one faction of the Japanese army favoured war with Soviet
Russia. That being so, the War Office suggested that no advice be given
to Japan, since Tokyo™s response to its being proffered would be ˜very
unfavourable™. Besides, if and when Japan decided to go to war with
Soviet Russia, the War Office believed that ˜foreign public opinion™
would have little influence.
´
The matter did not die there. Vansittart precised the above for Simon,
pointing out that ˜it is in fact a most important British interest that peace
should be preserved in the Far East, and that if hostilities unfortunately
broke out there should be neither victor nor vanquished™. And, since the


85
´
Vyvyan™s minute (3 Oct) on Charles (charge d™affaires, Moscow) to FO, disp 476, 25
Sept 1934, FO 371/18301/N5586/2/38, Collier™s minute (3 Oct). See also Collier™s
minute (21 Sept) on Patteson to FO, tel 59 saving, 19 Sept 1934, FO 371/18300/
N5455/2/38.
86
Simon to MacDonald, 3 Oct 1934, Simon Papers, FO 800/289.
87
Clive (ambassador, Tokyo) to FO, disp 345, 20 Jun 1934, FO 371/18176/F4456/316/
23; Chilston to FO, disp 361, 24 Jun 1934, FO 371/18301/N4648/4/38; Clive to FO,
tel 211, 31 Aug 1934, FO 371/18176/F5313/316/23; Chilston to FO, disp 449, 11 Sept
1934, FO 371/18177/F5507/316/23.
88
Except where indicated, this and the following paragraph are based on Clive to FO, tel
213, 4 Sept 1934, FO 371/18177/F5371/316/23, and the minutes, particularly those of
Orde (3 Sept), Harcourt-Smith (5 Sept), and Vansittart (5 Sept).
89
Ibid., and Ismay (WO) to Harcourt-Smith (FED), 7 Sept 1934, FO 371/18177/F5630/
216/23; Clive to FO, disp 443, 16 Aug 1934, FO 371/18177/F5593/216/23.
112 Britain, Soviet Russia and the Versailles Order

Cabinet had ˜recently laid down and reiterated . . . that on account of
our exposed position in the Far East every possible step should be taken
to ensure good relations with Japan™, on 5 September the PUS suggested

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