<<

. 35
( 71 .)



>>

brew. At the Foreign Office, opinions varied about policy generally and
the Soviet role in particular. On 8 July, Craigie argued that, ˜if the
principle of collective security is to be preserved in any form, it can only
remain in the form of mutual assistance arrangements between groups of
Powers vitally interested in the maintenance of peace in a particular
region™. Such arrangements had to be within ˜the framework of the
League™, and should be in the nature of the Locarno agreement and
not take the form of ˜defensive alliances against the discontented States™.
A ˜Western Locarno™, Craigie continued, necessitated getting on better
terms with Germany. He also suggested that ˜much™ of what was ˜unrea-
sonable and defiant™ in Hitler™s attitude resulted from his ˜apprehension
and distaste™ for Soviet Russia and the ˜steady increase of Russian influ-
ence in the affairs of Europe™.56 Craigie wished to treat Germany on the
basis of ˜complete equality™ with France. Reflecting his ongoing naval
negotiations and the threat that Italy posed to Britain™s imperial com-
munications, Craigie also advocated a ˜Mediterranean Locarno™, one
including both France and Italy.
Vansittart agreed with the latter, but not about Germany. The PUS
felt that it was Germany™s actions that frightened its neighbours, and
wondered: ˜Is there really such a great difference in the methods of
Nazism & Communism?™ Wigram rejected the idea that Britain had

52
Following based on Howe to FO, tel 104, 21 Jun 1936, FO 371/20250/F3715/166/10,
minutes, Thyne Henderson (27 Jun) and Collier (30 Jun).
53
His minute (14 Jun) on Clive to FO, disp 254, 8 May 1936, FO 371/20285/F3131/273/
23.
54
Peters, Eden, 220“59.
55
˜The Montreux Conference to Consider the Revision of the Straits Convention of
Lausanne™, CP 163(36), Eden, 15 Jun 1936, Cab 24/262.
56
The remainder of this and the following paragraph are based on ˜Regional Pacts and
Extent to which the United Kingdom should participate™, Craigie, 8 Jul 1936, FO 371/
19910/C5313/4/18, minutes (9“11 Jul).
Soviet Russian assertiveness 179

treated Germany less favourably than France. Nor did he accept the idea
that Britain should take an even-handed attitude “ a ˜Locarno™ position “
towards Germany: ˜The potential aggressor in Western Europe is Ger-
many so far as our interests are concerned; and though we may work for
an agreement on the Locarno model, we must surely not, whatever
Germany says, allow ourselves to limit in any way our freedom of
action.™ Like Vansittart, Wigram did not believe that German policy
was based on an understandable fear of Bolshevism. Finally, in a dig at
Craigie™s own achievement, the head of the Central Department chal-
lenged the idea that piecemeal settlements “ such as the Anglo-German
Naval Agreement “ were very satisfactory.
What to do became an issue for the Cabinet. On 15 and 16 July, it
considered both the ongoing discussions at Montreux and whether the
Locarno powers should meet at Brussels to consider the ramifications of
the Rhineland occupation.57 The play of Soviet Russia on British policy
was evident. With respect to Brussels, it was decided to convene a more
limited meeting, if only to prevent it seeming that the ˜Western Powers
had lost the initiative and that it was left to the Dictators™.58 The Foreign
Office, where opinion held that calling a conference without Germany
and Italy would drive the two together, opposed even this.59 Further,
any attempt to craft a wider settlement “ a ˜new Locarno™ for western
Europe “ would founder on the ˜Franco-Soviet and Czech“Soviet Pacts
and what Germans will make of them™. Concomitantly, there would be a
French objection: ˜In view of their Central European and particularly
Russian commitments, it is difficult to see how they could agree to a
settlement with Germany which left her a free hand in Eastern and
Central Europe.™60 Certainly, Litvinov had made this point clear to Eden
in late June.61
Vansittart was unimpressed.62 He saw the Cabinet™s position as
equivalent to Craigie™s policy of piecemeal settlements and a pandering
to public opinion, as expressed in The Times.63 The PUS wanted to
ensure that such policies raised no false hopes that would interfere with

57
Minutes, Cab 52(36), 15 Jul 1936 and Cab 53(36), both Cab 23/85.
58
Foreign Policy Committee; FP (36), minutes, 2nd meeting, 15 Jul 1936, Cab 27/622.
59
˜Memorandum™, 14 Jul 1936 of a meeting between Halifax, Vansittart, Cranborne and
others, FO 371/19909/C51995/4/18.
60
˜Memorandum™, FP(36) 6, 13 Jul 1936, Cab 27/626; minutes on FO 371/19909/
C5052/4/18 show that Sargent and Wigram were the authors.
61
Eden to FO, tel 75, 27 Jun 1936, Eden Papers, FO 954/24.
62
His minute and those of Wigram and Sargent (22 Jul) on the Cabinet Conclusion, 19
Jul 1936, all FO 371/19910/C5314/4/18.
63
For attitudes at The Times, see Gordon Martel, ed., The Times and Appeasement. The
Journals of A. L. Kennedy (Cambridge, 2000), 236“9.
180 Britain, Soviet Russia and the Versailles Order

rearmament. Equally, he felt that an agreement that ˜seemed to give
Germany any warrant for a free hand in the centre of the east of Europe™
would only accelerate Germany™s regrowth and perhaps make it ready to
advance in the West sooner. For Collier, such a policy threatened to upset
all of Anglo-Soviet relations. He termed it a ˜disastrous volte-face™, and
stated that, if British policy were to be driven by certain sectors of public
opinion, then ˜the Northern Department might as well shut up shop™.64
The issues at Montreux, too, showed the intertwined nature of dis-
parate policies. Eden and Litvinov spoke about the Straits on 27 June.65
Eden preferred to maintain the existing arrangement, while Litvinov
favoured a more complicated one. While there was no British objection
to a Turkish proposal to remilitarize the Straits, a subsequent insistence
by France, Romania and Russia that the Straits be closed in time of war
to all belligerent warships ˜except those acting in virtue, not only of the
Covenant, but of any regional pact™, was highly contentious.66 The British
preferred an agreement that applied only if Turkey were part of the
regional pact, as the alternative reading would allow Soviet Russia,
through the Franco-Soviet Pact and France™s arrangements with
Romania, to close the Straits to German and Italian ships and make
the Black Sea into a safe harbour.67 This, in turn, might, as Hoare (now
First Lord of the Admiralty) put it in the Cabinet on 15 July, cause
˜resentment™ in Berlin and let the Soviets build up a secure Black Sea
fleet that could later be sent to the Baltic, upsetting the naval balance
between Germany and Soviet Russia. The Germans might then refuse to
sign the separate Anglo-German accord that was required to make the
Anglo-German Naval Agreement of 1936 come into effect. Instead, the
British accepted a modified position put forward by Moscow. This
settlement “ what the Foreign Office called a ˜feather in our cap™ “
essentially let the Turks control the Straits as they saw fit.68 The British

64
Collier™s minute (11 Jul) on MacKillop to Collier, 15 Jun 1936, FO 371/20340/N3215/
20/38.
65
Eden to FO, tel 72, 27 Jun 1936, Eden Papers, FO 954/24.
66
Minutes, Cab 52(36), 15 Jul 1936, Cab 23/85, original emphasis; see also Loraine to
Oliphant, 10 Apr and 30 May 1936, both Loraine Papers, FO 1011/37; Sir George
Rendel, The Sword and the Olive. Recollections of Diplomacy and the Foreign Service 1913“
1954 (London, 1957), 87“96.
67
Phipps to FO, tel 162, 1 Jul 1936, FO 371/19838/A5635/4671/45; Craigie™s conversa-
´
tions with Prince Bismarck (German charge d™affaires, London), 6 and 9 Jul 1936, FO
371/19838/A5821 and A5822/4671/45; Newton (Berlin) to FO, tel 171, 7 Jul 1936,
FO 371/19838/A5908/4671/45; Joseph A. Maiolo, The Royal Navy and Nazi Germany,
1933“1939. A Study in Appeasement and the Origins of the Second World War (London,
1998), 52“4; Brock Millman, The Ill-Made Alliance. Anglo-Turkish Relations 1939“1940
(Montreal and Kingston, 1998), 69“85.
68
Cadogan diary entry, 16 Jul 1936, Cadogan Papers, ACAD 1/4.
Soviet Russian assertiveness 181

accepted it because it was evident that Ankara might otherwise accept
the French, Romanian and Soviet proposal.69 But the importance of
all this was that, once again, Britain found that its negotiations with
Germany were affected by Soviet concerns.70
This had another facet. In late June, the War Office reported that the
Soviets had twice asked for a high-ranking British military officer to go to
Russia to observe the Soviet autumn manoeuvres. Such a visit was seen
as less offensive to German susceptibilities than the earlier visit by Duff
Cooper would have been, and was approved. But Vansittart made cer-
tain that the deputation was not overly large or ˜out of scale™. ˜We don™t
want the Russian manoeuvres™, he cautioned, ˜to be the only ones to
which we send a general.™ But this was a delicate matter, for if the British
refused to send any delegation at all, ˜we should soon be accused of
boycotting Russia! (Cui bono?).™71
With regard to Anglo-Soviet relations narrowly defined, the rest of the
summer and early autumn of 1936 was taken up by discussions of two
matters: the beginning of the Show Trials of Zinoviev and Kamenev, two
old Bolsheviks, and the state of affairs in the Far East. With regard to the
former, the Foreign Office had difficulty coming to terms with what
Collier termed ˜this strange and horrible affair™. He got to the heart of
the matter on 13 October, when he noted on another dispatch concern-
ing further arrests, trials and the removal of G. G. Yagoda as commissar
of internal affairs (and, not coincidentally, the man in charge of the
Soviet security service “ OGPU): ˜I suspect that Stalin is utilising this
affair to get rid of potential opposition anywhere “ in the communist
party, in the army, or in the Ogpu.™72
While the Purges were being played out in Soviet Russia, Anglo-
Japanese relations continued in their delicate balance. In Tokyo, Clive
was convinced that the continuing overtures to Britain from Japan
reflected the latter™s fear of the growth of Soviet power. In London,
Harcourt-Smith found this state of affairs ˜no bad thing™. ˜So long as
our European preoccupations continue on their present scale™, he wrote,
˜the Russian bogey is almost the only adequate protection available for

69
Oliphant to Loraine, 6 Aug 1936, Loraine Papers, FO 1011/38.
70
Greg Kennedy, ˜Becoming Dependent on the Kindness of Strangers. Britain™s Strategic
Foreign Policy, Naval Arms Limitation and the Soviet Factor: 1935“1937™, WH, 11, 1
(2004), 34“60.
71
Oliphant™s minute, 26 Jun 1936, FO 371/20352/N3356/1298/38, minutes; Vansittart™s
conversation with Maisky, 30 Jun 1936, FO 371/20352/N3395/1298/38 and minutes
original emphasis.
72
Collier™s minute (31 Aug) on Chilston to FO, disp 487, 19 Aug 1936, FO 371/20350/
N4324/565/38; Collier™s minute (13 Oct) on MacKillop to FO, disp 565, 1 Oct 1936,
FO 371/20351/N4997/565/38.
182 Britain, Soviet Russia and the Versailles Order

our Pacific interests.™ On the other hand, he noted that ˜any sort of
rapprochement between Japan & Russia would, I venture to think[,] be
disastrous for our interests™. Orde agreed that Soviet Russia was ˜the best
brake on Japan™, but cautioned that Russo-Japanese relations were ˜too
uncertain a field to intrigue in with the object of increasing the applica-
tion of the brake™.73
But nor were the British about to be blackmailed into seeking im-
proved Anglo-Japanese relations by the latter™s raising the spectre of a
communist takeover in China. ˜The Japanese are afraid of Communism
for themselves™, Thyne Henderson noted, ˜& they try to scare us by
pretending that it would harm our interests if China went Communist.
Perhaps it would, to some extent, but not necessarily more than they are
being harmed by Japan. We only want to trade peacefully with China, &
we have managed to arrive at a modus vivendi with Russia, why not with
China?™ In fact, he believed that Japan™s depredations in China were
˜more likely to turn that country towards Communism (or at least
Russia) than would be likely if they [the Japanese] helped China to
become strong and independent™.74
For such reasons, the British were careful not to take the initiative in
Anglo-Japanese relations.75 Despite this, in August the Japanese press
reported that Hoare had offered concessions to Tokyo in exchange for
Japan™s agreeing to naval limitations. There was little doubt at the
Foreign Office as to why such a report had been inspired: ˜Japan feels
herself friendless and she is becoming afraid of Russia. Of the three great
Powers whose friendship is valuable to her, the British Empire, USA and
USSR, the first, for various reasons, is preferable. So she flies a kite . . . &
pretends that Britain is seeking Japanese friendship.™ Craigie agreed: ˜it
would be fatal for us to have any appearance of running after her™. He
deprecated letting Japan think that ˜her accession to the London Naval
Treaty could be made a part of any Anglo-Japanese bargain “ she would
only play us up indefinitely on this issue™.76 The Far Eastern Department
was further convinced that Japanese policy, ˜whether expressed by fire-
eaters or the more methodical merchant magnates™, aimed at dominating
the Far East.77

73
Clive to FO, disp 304, 3 Jun 1936, FO 371/20279/F3900/89/23, minutes (15 and 16 Jul).
74
Lindley™s conversation, 21 Jul 1936, with Yoshida (Japanese ambassador to London),
FO 371/20277/F4808/3390/10, Thyne Henderson™s minute (13 Aug).
75
Eden to Clive, disp 368, 30 Jul 1936, FO 371/20277/F4625/3390/10.
76
Clive to FO, tel 229, 7 Aug 1936, FO 371/20279/F4778/39/23, minutes original
emphasis.
77
Quotation from Thyne Henderson™s minute (29 Aug) on Chancery (Tokyo) to FO, 30
Jul 1936, FO 371/20285/F5135/273/23; his minute on Clive to FO, disp 421, 30 Jul
1936, FO 371/20279/F5148/89/23.
Soviet Russian assertiveness 183

European affairs were also not without interest. While the British
waited for the German response about a possible new Locarno, there
was debate about how the Franco-Soviet Pact played on this, the possi-
bility of combining it with an eastern European Locarno, and the impact
on France of a possible victory by the Republicans in Spain. This latter
was also a political issue. On 26 July, Baldwin told Eden ˜that on no
account, French or other, must he bring us in to fight on the side of the
Russians™.78 This concern about Spain played on Baldwin™s views gen-
erally about Soviet Russia. On 28 and 29 July, he met a delegation of
MPs to discuss foreign policy and rearmament. After Baldwin outlined
the difficulties of dealing with unpredictable dictators, he made the
following point:
There is one danger, of course, which has probably been in all your minds “
supposing the Russians and Germans got fighting and the French went in as
allies of Russia owing to that appalling pact they made, you would not feel you
were obligated to go and help France, would you? If there is any fighting in
Europe to be done, I should like to see the Bolshies and the Nazis doing it.79

From France, the British ambassador was not overly concerned about
the possible ˜Sovietisation™ of that country, but did fear that the Front
populaire government might take France further to the Left, especially if
the Republicans were to win in Spain, a concern that Eden shared.80
The Soviet linkage to France was an irritant that complicated
both efforts to conclude any security pacts and endeavours to tighten

<<

. 35
( 71 .)



>>