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Japan beyond the limit where such an approach would alarm Russia and
throw her into the arms of Germany.™
Vansittart agreed with Collier, and sent the latter™s views to Warren
Fisher, as the PUS suspected that the Treasury wished to proceed with a

13
Phipps to FO, tel 24, 19 Jan 1935, FO 371/18823/C507/55/18; ˜Disarmament: Mater-
ial for impending discussions with French Ministers™, CP 19(35), FO, 24 Jan 1935,
Cab 24/253.
14
Phipps to FO, disp 60, 22 Jan 1935, FO 371/18823/C623/55/18, minute, Eden, 31 Jan.
15
The remainder of this paragraph is based on Chilston to FO, disp 641, 31 Dec 1934,
FO 371/18731/A127/22/45, minutes by Craigie (9 Jan), Collier (9 Jan “ covering an
attached joint untitled memo with F. Ashton-Gwatkin of 7 Jan), Wellesley (10 Jan) and
Vansittart (11 Jan).
124 Britain, Soviet Russia and the Versailles Order

scheme to act with Japan to stabilize China™s currency.16 Vansittart
`
informed Fisher ˜that we are irrevocably opposed to any deal a deux with
Japan™. This was wise, for the Treasury, in concert with the Board of
Trade, was about to return to the charge on the issue of Anglo-Japanese
rapprochement, believing that Japan was willing to share predominance in
the Far East with Britain.17 To correct this erroneous view, the Foreign
Office put forward arguments pointing out that Japan™s goals in China
did not include Britain and noting that any Anglo-Japanese agreement
would have repercussions for Britain™s relations with the United States,
China and Soviet Russia.18
The Cabinet discussed the matter on 16 January, 17 January and 13
February.19 No decision was reached. Simon, in fact, tried to please all
sides, arguing on 21 January that ˜the true aim of our policy should be to
remain on good terms not only with Japan but with China and the
United States as well™.20 This was utopian, and the matter was referred
on 13 February to a Cabinet committee “ the Political and Economic
Relations with Japan Committee.21 This arabesque to committee hid
the Treasury™s bile. Fisher was convinced that Anglo-Japanese relations
must improve. He had taken advice from less-than-disinterested parties,
dining with the Japanese ambassador, Matsudaira Tsuneo; Arthur
Edwardes, the financial adviser to and London agent for the Manchukuo
government; Admiral Yamamoto Isoroku, the Japanese naval represen-
tative at the London talks; Sir Ernle Chatfield, the chief of Naval Staff
and First Sea Lord; and Craigie. Fisher had found an ally in Craigie,
who told the permanent secretary that he ˜had a go at . . . the pundits of
the Far Eastern Department™ about their objections to improved Anglo-
Japanese relations. But Fisher had his own vitriol with respect to Orde
and Sansom. The latter was a disgruntled man working in Japan with a
sense of grievance. The former was even more objectionable. ˜Orde can™,
Fisher wrote, ˜I think, best be described as a pedantic ass, admirably

16
Original in FO 371/19238/F192/6/10, Vansittart™s minute.
17
Untitled memo, Fergusson (Treasury) for N. Chamberlain, 15 Jan 1935, T 172/1831;
˜Anglo-Japanese Relations™, CP 9(35), Runciman, secret, 4 Jan 1935, Cab 24/253.
18
˜Note by the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs™, CP 8(35), secret, Simon, 11 Jan
1935, covering ˜Memorandum by Mr. Sansom respecting Anglo-Japanese Relations™,
29 Oct 1934; ˜The Political Aspects of Trade Rivalry or Co-operation with Japan in
China™, Orde, 7 Jan 1935, all Cab 24/253. Clive preferred to steer a course midway
between Japan and the United States; see Clive to Simon, Simon Papers, FO 800/291.
19
Minutes, Cab 4(35), Cab 5(35) and Cab 9(35), 16 Jan, 17 Jan and 13 Feb 1935, Cab
23/81.
20
˜Anglo-Japanese Relations™, Simon, 21 Jan 1935, Simon Papers, FO 800/290.
21
G. Bennett, ˜British Policy in the Far East 1933“1936: Treasury and Foreign Office™,
MAS, 26 (1992), 563“4; V. H. Rothwell, ˜The Mission of Sir Frederick Leith-Ross to
the Far East 1935“1936™, HJ, 18 (1975), 149“50.
A clash of sensibilities 125

suited to join the eclectic brotherhood of Oxford or Cambridge. His
pedantry is only equalled by his quite obvious ignorance of human
nature, and at the same time he is obsessed with the fixed idea that
original sin is monopolised by Japan, and our only proper attitude is,
therefore, never to soil ourselves by contact with such impiety.™22 Neville
Chamberlain had long held similar views. During January 1927, he had
criticized the Far Eastern Department™s policy on China, contending that
they were ˜always about a couple of months behind in dealing with
the situation™, adding that ˜I had a poor opinion of that fat Sir Victor
Wellesley.™23 With Chamberlain, Fisher and Leith-Ross all broadly in
agreement, there would be strong opposition at the Treasury to the Foreign
Office™s interpretation of the wider ramifications of Anglo-Japanese
relations.
With the French arriving in London in early February for further talks
about German rearmament, British policy about the Eastern Pact
needed a resolution. Litvinov was adamantly opposed to any ˜grouping
of the Powers in which Russia is not a member™, and felt that the results
of the Saar plebiscite meant that the Eastern Pact must go forward ˜at all
costs™. Interpreting this inspired a mild controversy. The Central De-
partment declared that Litvinov™s influence was ˜on the wane together
with those of the Eastern Pact and of the Franco Russian alliance. Surely
this is all to the good.™ Collier disagreed with this conclusion, but agreed
that the ˜Eastern Pact scheme will almost certainly end in a fiasco™.
However, he wished to put this to the French when they arrived, in
order to persuade them to find some way that ˜Litvinov [could] be
satisfied in some other manner™.24 The entire matter required study.
Sargent had made an earlier attempt to do this.25 In his appreciation, he
noted that the initiative for the pact had come from Soviet Russia,
which was interested only in its own security. The Eastern Pact was a
faute de mieux for Moscow, which preferred a bilateral Franco-Russian

22
Fergusson™s untitled memo for N. Chamberlain, 15 Jan 1935, Edwardes™s confidential
note, 14 Jan 1935, and Fisher™s memo, 21 Jan 1935, all T 172/1831; Antony Best,
˜“That Loyal British Subject”? Arthur Edwardes and Anglo-Japanese Relations, 1932“
1941™, in J. E. Hoare, ed., Britain and Japan. Biographical Portraits, vol. III (Richmond,
1999), 227“39.
23
N. Chamberlain to Ida, his sister, 16 Jan 1927, in Robert Self, ed., The Neville
Chamberlain Diary Letters,. vol. II, The Reform Years, 1921“1927 (Aldershot, 2000), 387.
24
Chilston to FO, disp 56, 25 Jan 1935, FO 371/18824/C369/25/18, minutes, Creswell
(CD) 5 Feb, Collier (6 Feb), Sargent (6 Feb) and Vansittart (7 Feb).
25
This paragraph and the following one are based on ˜The Proposed Eastern Pact™,
Sargent, 28 Jan 1935, FO 371/18825/C962/55/18, minutes, Vansittart (28 Jan) and
Eden (29 Jan); also ˜Russia™s Probable Attitude towards a “General Settlement” with
Germany, and the Proposed Air Agreement™, Sargent, 7 Feb 1935, FO 371/18827/
C1471/55/18.
126 Britain, Soviet Russia and the Versailles Order

agreement. Reflecting O™Malley™s earlier contentions, Sargent argued
that the Danubian Pact made the Soviets fear that they were becoming
less important in French considerations of security, something that the
forthcoming Anglo-French talks were likely to reinforce. Sargent thought
it likely that the French had been receptive to the Soviet proposals only
because Britain would offer not even a ˜whispered assurance™ of support.
Sargent averred that the British had given lukewarm support to the
Eastern Pact in the summer of 1934 for two reasons: ˜(a) because, and
on condition that, the pact would enable the disarmament negotiations
to be resumed; and (b) because they hoped in this way to prevent a
Franco-Russian alliance™. The Eastern Pact negotiations had now
become an impediment to the renewal of arms negotiations because
the Germans could ˜plausibly™ argue that they were willing to enter into
talks, but not if it meant accepting a multilateral agreement. And,
Sargent felt, only ˜the offer of a British alliance™ “ which he deemed
impossible “ could prevent a Franco-Russian alliance. He loathed the
latter: ˜But the prospect of a return to the pre-war grouping of Powers is
so horrible “ and a Franco-Russian alliance would be the first step
towards it and would be quickly followed by others “ that I feel we ought
to be able to show that in all events we had exhausted every method in
order to prevent this development.™ Vansittart agreed that the British
should try to move the French, but believed that if ˜the Franco-Russian
alliance sh[oul]d come about, silence w[oul]d be best on our part™. Like
Sargent, Eden wanted to ensure any public censure for a Franco-Russian
alliance fell on the Germans.
When the Anglo-French talks began, there were Soviet concerns. As
Sargent had predicted, the Soviets argued that the discussions adum-
brated the formation of ˜a western bloc . . . ultimately against Soviet
interests™. Chilston warned that if the Soviets felt abandoned by France
this would mean that the Eastern Pact was dead and that ˜some entirely
new orientation [in Soviet foreign policy] may necessarily have to be
sought™. At the Foreign Office there was speculation about this possible
˜new orientation™. J. V. Perowne suggested that Moscow might look in
the direction of ˜Japan or the US™. Collier had a more frightening
possibility. ˜If the Germans play their cards well™, he suggested, ˜they
might overturn Litvinov by offering a return to the “Rapallo policy” “
which would be very unpleasant for us and the French; but we can
probably rely on Hitler™s anti-communist complex and the influence of
Rosenberg to prevent that, for the present at least.™26 Vansittart had his

26
Chilston to FO, tel 10, 4 Feb 1935, FO 371/18825/C940/55/18, minutes, Perowne
(CD) 5 Feb and Collier (6 Feb).
A clash of sensibilities 127

own explanation: ˜It is simply “sacred egoism”.™27 None the less, while
Litvinov seemingly grew less concerned about the import of the London
talks, it was agreed to keep him informed of the negotiations lest his
suspicions be reborn.28
´
As London waited for the German answer to the joint communique
that the Anglo-French conference spawned on 3 February “ a proposal
for a general settlement (including the Eastern Pact and the Danubian
Pact), an air pact, the return of Germany to the League and a wider
armaments agreement “ opinion hardened that Berlin would reject the
entire idea.29 In mid-February, the Foreign Office thus made a con-
certed effort to fathom the tangled relationship between Britain, Soviet
Russia, Germany and Japan.30 Collier, Wigram and Orde attempted to
˜summarise the views™ of their departments. Their analysis was straight-
forward: Soviet Russia, fearing Japan and Germany, was pursuing a
policy of supporting the ˜present territorial status quo in Europe and in
Asia™. This had led to Moscow™s joining the League and pursuing rap-
prochements with France and Britain. This policy would last only as long as
Soviet fears lasted. A warming in Russo-Japanese relations as a result of
Japan™s actions was viewed as unlikely. However, such a trend was ˜not
impossible™ should Soviet Russia become afraid for its position in Europe.
There was a ˜growing volume of opinion™ in both Germany and Soviet
Russia in favour of better relations between them. Thus, the three depart-
ment heads judged the Soviets to be firmly in the camp of the ˜anti-
revisionists™ as long as their security was enhanced, but only that long.
The major problem for all this was the foreign policy of Pierre Laval,
the new French foreign minister. Laval™s efforts in December 1934
and January 1935 to improve Franco-German relations and to allow
Germany to rearm within the context of international agreement
threatened Soviet security unless Germany rejoined the League and
accepted the Eastern Locarno proposal.31 The three department heads
argued that, as Britain had gained much from improved relations with
Moscow, London should try to ensure that Soviet Russia did not cease
27
Vansittart™s minute (7 Feb) on Sargent™s conversation with Czechoslovak minister, 6
Feb 1935, FO 371/18826/C1132/55/18.
28
Minutes on Chilston to FO, tel 11, 7 Feb 1935, FO 371/18825/C1040/55/18, and
Chilston to FO, disp 72, 8 Feb 1935, FO 371/18826/C1278/55/18.
29
David Dutton, Simon. A Political Biography of Sir John Simon (London, 1992), 193“6;
the German opinion can be found in Phipps to FO, tel 44, 8 Feb 1935, FO 371/18825/
C1076/55/18.
30
This and the following two paragraphs, except where otherwise noted, are based on
untitled memo by Collier, Wigram and Orde, 12 Feb 1935, minute, Vansittart (18
Feb), FO 371/19460/N927/135/38.
31
Lisanne Radice, ˜The Eastern Pact 1933“1935: A Last Attempt at European Co-
Operation™, SEER, 55, 1 (1977), 53“6; Nicholas Rostow, Anglo-French Relations,
128 Britain, Soviet Russia and the Versailles Order

to believe that Britain was attempting to oppose Japan and Germany.
How was this to be done? The Eastern Pact had flaws that seemed
insuperable. The answer was to accept Sargent™s ˜horrible™ solution. In
this circumstance, ˜we must not shrink from envisaging the conclusion of
some agreement by which the French and Soviet Governments will give
each other mutual guarantees of support™, despite the potential increase
in Britain™s commitment under the Locarno Pact.
One of the authors soon had second thoughts. Orde worried about
Locarno, and thought that a Franco-Soviet alliance might engender a
German“Japanese grouping. Collier did not accept this latter point, and
stated that he also did not believe that ˜any large body of public opinion
here cared two hoots about the so-called encirclement of Germany™ that
a Franco-Soviet alliance might appear to create. Vansittart termed the
memorandum ˜wise & excellent™, and noted that it was ˜very much a
British interest also™ to expand the Eastern Pact in the way that Soviet
Russia wished. After some emendations to accommodate Orde™s and
Collier™s points, the PUS circulated the memorandum to Chilston and
Phipps.32
Meanwhile, there was steady activity designed to persuade the French
to make the Eastern Pact acceptable to Germany, to reassure Maisky
that Soviet concerns about German rearmament were being considered
and to show that Britain had no intention of leaving Moscow on its own
in the pursuit of Germany. This was a delicate business. As Sargent
noted, ˜we don™t want to give them [the Soviets] an exaggerated sense of
their own importance or to suggest to them that they can dictate our
German policy to us™. Vansittart explained this carefully to Chilston: ˜we
are very conscious of the importance of Russia in the present situation
and of not doing anything which might make her feel that we and France
were going to leave her in the lurch and that therefore she had best make
terms with Germany before it is too late™.33 None the less, the Foreign
Office continued to try to find some modification of the Eastern Pact
that would be acceptable to all.34

1934“1936 (New York, 1984), 61“5, 83“92; Nicole Jordan, The Popular Front and
Central Europe. The Dilemmas of French Impotence, 1918“1940 (Cambridge, 1992), 32“4.
32
˜International Position of the Soviet Union in relation to France, Germany, and Japan™,
Vansittart, 22 Feb 1935, FO 371/19460/N880/135/38; Vansittart to Chilston, 21 Feb
1935, FO 371/18826/C1339/55/18.
33
Vansittart™s conversation with the French ambassador, 14 Feb 1935, FO 371/18826/
C1225/55/18; FO to Chilston, tel 13, 15 Feb 1935, Sargent Papers, FO 800/273; FO to
Clerk, tel 32, 19 Feb 1935, FO 800/273; Simon to Chilston, disp 98, 20 Feb 1935, FO
371/18827/C1429/55/18; Chilston to FO, tel 15, 18 Feb 1935, FO 371/18826/C1339/
55/18, minutes, Wigram (19 Feb), Sargent (19 Feb) and Vansittart to Chilston (21 Feb).
34
Minutes, Phipps to FO, tel 70, 23 Feb 1935, FO 371/18827/C1507/55/18.
A clash of sensibilities 129

These concerns about Soviet susceptibilities were not always shared.

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