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salvation in that quarter.™
Chatfield did not mention Soviet Russia, but the implications of his
remarks were plain, and clearly hostile to any idea that Britain should
become committed in eastern Europe by virtue of complications arising
from the Franco-Soviet Pact. But, as Vansittart gently pointed out to
Chatfield, the admiral™s remarks neither considered the effect that such a
policy would have on France nor comprehended that allowing Germany
to expand in eastern Europe would result in Berlin™s establishing a
position ˜“that will eventually overwhelm us”™.142 Further, the PUS
pointed out that an arrangement with Japan would be difficult, due both
to the conflicting interests of Tokyo and London and to public opinion
in Britain.
These speculations did not end discussion of the Franco-Soviet Pact.
In mid-January 1937, Chilston reported that the Soviet press now
argued that the Franco-Soviet Pact ˜sprang from Soviet zeal to protect
the Western democracies™.143 On 26 January, Chilston wrote to Collier,

and on the comment thereon by Sir Maurice Hankey™, most secret, 5 Jan 1937) in Cab
21/541 and Chatfield Papers, CHT 3/1, are derivative.
141
Minutes, 189th meeting COS, 9 Dec 1936, Cab 53/6; minutes, 285th meeting CID, 10
Dec 1936, Cab 2/6. See also ˜Position of Belgium in the Proposed Five-Power Confer-
ence™, CID B-1287, COS, 25 Nov 1936 and ˜Position of Belgium in the Proposed
Five-Power Conference™, CID B-1288, Eden, 3 Dec 1936, both Cab 4/25.
142
Vansittart to Chatfield, 1 Jan 1937, FO 800/395, original emphasis. Vansittart was
quoting Chatfield.
143
The minute (18 Jan) by Falla, on Chilston to FO, tel 9, 16 Jan 1937, FO 371/21103/
N272/272/38.
200 Britain, Soviet Russia and the Versailles Order

commenting on the belief that the French saw the real significance of the
Franco-Soviet Pact as being that it prevented Soviet Russia ˜from falling
into the arms of Germany™.144 The ambassador reiterated his opinion
that a German“Soviet rapprochement was unlikely, but speculated as to
whether the Franco-Soviet alliance on its own would prevent such an
occurrence. In his view, it would not, just as the 1926 Treaty of Berlin
had not prevented the Franco-Soviet Pact and the Franco-Polish alli-
ance had not prevented the Polish“German Treaty of 1934. The Fran-
co-Soviet Pact also was unpopular with the Poles, who felt that it made
keeping Soviet Russia at arm™s length more difficult. Further, Chilston
opined that the only relationship that was ˜even remotely possible™ at
present was ˜some sort of collaboration on equal terms between the Reich-
swehr and the Red Army™.145
Collier™s draft reply renewed his ongoing quarrel with Orme Sargent.
The latter queried Collier™s assumptions, including that the Germans
disliked the Franco-Soviet Pact because ˜it is an outward and visible sign
to the world that the Soviet Government are on the French side in
defence of the territorial status quo in Europe™. Any reply, the superin-
tending undersecretary argued, should not reflect just Collier™s views,
but should be based on ˜the considered opinion of the Foreign Office™.
While Oliphant, who directly supervised Collier, agreed with Sargent™s
contentions, Vansittart did not. However, it was decided to suspend
Collier™s draft until comment was received from those who had received
copies of Chilston™s letter.
This occurred in March and April. In Paris, the British ambassador,
George Clerk, agreed that the Franco-Soviet Pact had been concluded
to prevent Soviet Russia™s drift towards Germany. But he felt that the
French were not ˜so innocent™ as to believe that the existence of the pact
would prevent Soviet Russia from a rapprochement with Germany if it
suited Soviet interests. In Warsaw, Chilston™s view that the Poles disliked
the Franco-Soviet Pact was accepted, and this dislike was thought to rest
on three pillars: first, the pact gave Soviet Russia more influence in
eastern Europe; second, it threatened the Poles with ˜the old bogey of
the possible passage of Soviet forces across Polish territory™ and, third, it
diminished Poland™s value (compared to that of Soviet Russia) as a
French ally. In Berlin, Phipps noted that, while the Reichswehr would

144
The remainder of this paragraph and the following one, except where indicated, are
based on Warner (minister, Berne) to FO, disp 532, 18 Dec 1936, FO 371/20346/
N6375/136/38; Chilston to Collier, 26 Jan 1937, FO 371/21094/N546/45/38, minutes
and attachments.
145
Similar information was received from Latvia; Monson (minister, Riga) to Collier, 19
Jan 1937, FO 371/21104/N461/461/38.
Soviet Russian assertiveness 201

like a warming of relations with the Soviets, the Nazis would not.146
Although Sargent thus found that there was wide support for Collier™s
views, the former still suggested that a joint memorandum be drawn up
at the Foreign Office. The result was produced in late May.147
While these arguments were being made, other aspects of the Franco-
Soviet Pact continued to be discussed. French efforts to strengthen the
Little Entente and to improve Czech“Polish relations were intimately
linked to Soviet Russia. A greater warmth between Prague and Warsaw
would mean that the latter could possibly be drawn into a quarrel with
Germany, something that Poland was unwilling to risk. For the British,
there was a similar danger. This meant, as O™Malley argued, that it ˜is
therefore in our interest to limit French commitments in Central Europe
as severely as possible™. Sargent agreed. For him, the anti-German
purport of the French initiative was clear, and its ramifications for British
policy manifest:
There can be no doubt that, although neither Germany nor Russia are men-
tioned therein, the proposed pact would be held both in Germany and through-
out Europe as constituting the final link in the chain of French alliances across
Europe from Paris to Moscow. On this ground it would certainly be the death
blow to any possibility of a new Locarno.148
Again, too, there was the legacy of the First World War. The French ini-
tiative would, according to Sargent, mean that ˜one of the Great Powers
would once again be pledged to interfere in the internal quarrels of the
Balkan States. We have consistently endeavoured to prevent such a re-
turn to the old bad habits of the pre-war period.™ In these circumstances,
Sargent argued that the British were ˜entitled, in view of the guarantee
we have given her [France], to exercise a definite control over her policy
in the East of Europe™. Britain had ˜unwillingly™ accepted the Franco-
Soviet Pact, but now must oppose any extension of Paris™s commitments.
Such thinking met with unanimous agreement from Cadogan, Vansittart
and Eden, no doubt also influenced by the fact that Romania also was
opposed to the French plans because they inevitably would mean that

146
Clerk (ambassador, Paris) to Collier, 9 Mar 1937, FO 371/21094/N1522/45/38; Lloyd
Thomas (Paris) to Sargent, 6 Apr 1937, FO 371/21094/N1899/45/38; Kennard (min-
ister, Warsaw) to Collier, 6 Apr 1937, FO 371/21095/N1926/45/38 and Phipps (am-
bassador, Berlin) to Collier, 7 Apr 1937, FO 371/21095/N1934/45/38, minutes.
147
˜Summary of Recent Correspondence on the Value of the Franco-Soviet Pact™, Falla,
27 May, FO 371/21095/N3129/45/38.
148
Eden™s talk with the French ambassador, 7 Jan 1936, FO 371/21136/R189/26/67,
minutes; minutes, O™Malley (head, Southern Department, on 25 Jan), Sargent, Cado-
gan, Vansittart (all 29 Jan) and Eden (nd), on de Margerie (French embassy, London)
to Sargent, 21 Jan 1936, FO 371/21136/R501/26/67.
202 Britain, Soviet Russia and the Versailles Order

Bucharest would ˜be compelled to allow the Soviet Government to send
troops across Roumanian territory to the assistance of Czechoslo-
vakia™.149
By February, the likelihood of any five-power, new Locarno agree-
ment was rapidly fading.150 Both this and the effect of the Franco-Soviet
Pact were reflected in military discussions. At the CID on 11 February,
Vansittart dilated on the ˜improbability™ of any five-power agreement
coming about and noted the growing warmth between Rome and Berlin.
This might lead to France™s ˜isolation™ to the detriment of Britain. The
PUS and the COS both advocated increases in armaments to ensure
Britain™s safely. However, the latter also noted their concern lest London
be ˜drawn in [to a European war] on account of our being linked with
France, a country who was largely bound by pacts with other countries
in east and south-east Europe™. Therefore, they wished to be given an
indication as to the future direction of British foreign policy.151
However, the COS had also remarked on the growing strength of the
Soviet military forces. Could this increase serve to undermine their
concerns about the Franco-Soviet Pact, by suggesting that the latter
might serve as a deterrent to Germany and Japan? The answer was
equivocal.152 If Britain and France were to go to war with Germany
and Italy, then Soviet help would be useful only if Poland were also a
belligerent. And, if Soviet Russia™s participation brought in Japan, then
the naval situation would be made much worse for the RN, a point that
Hoare was careful to make in Cabinet when the subject was dis-
cussed.153 None the less, the COS concluded that a fear of Soviet
intervention was a ˜powerful moral deterrent™ to Germany™s going to
war. Soviet power had always to be considered. But this only added to
the complexity of British strategic foreign policy, rather than solving the
question of what the Franco-Soviet Pact meant for that policy.
In the meantime, the idea of a general agreement had not died, and
the Franco-Soviet Pact continued to be central to its discussion. At the
Foreign Policy Committee on 10 March, a further discussion occurred.

149
Sargent™s minute (29 Jan) on British Delegation (Eden) to FO, tel 6, 23 Jan 1937, FO
371/21136/R530/26/67.
150
Vansittart™s minute on Ingram (Rome) to FO, tel 64, 28 Jan 1937, FO 371/20705/
C689/1/18; minute, Sargent (8 Feb) on an untitled General Staff memo, 30 Jan 1937,
FO 371/20738/C1142/72/18.
151
Minutes, 288th meeting CID, 11 Feb 1937, Cab 2/6; final version is ˜Review of
Imperial Defence by the Chiefs of Staff Sub-Committee™, CID 1305-B, Chatfield,
Ellington and Deverell, 22 Feb 1937, Cab 4/25.
152
˜Comparison of the Strength of Great Britain with that of certain other Nations as at
May 1937™, COS 551, Chatfield, Ellington, Deverell, 9 Feb 1937, Cab 53/30.
153
Minutes, Cab 9(37), 24 Feb 1937, Cab 23/87.
Soviet Russian assertiveness 203

Halifax, the Lord Privy Seal, wanted to ˜outflank the real difficulty “ the
Franco-Soviet Pact™, by persuading Germany to sign a series of multi-
lateral pacts with neighbouring east European states. To allow this to
occur, Eden asserted, Germany would insist that Britain must ensure that
the Franco-Soviet and Czech“Soviet Pacts ˜were dissolved™. Chamberlain
entered the fray, arguing that Halifax™s proposal for Germany should be
matched by Soviet Russia™s signing similar agreements. This proposal was
perilously close to the Eastern Pact that had failed to materialize when
Simon was foreign secretary, and he (now home secretary) warned that
Britain should not get involved in ˜discussions on the Franco-Soviet
quagmire™.154
However, no matter what the British preferred, the initiative about the
five-power agreement lay with the Germans. In March, their response
was unavailing, except on terms inimical to British interests. William
Strang, the new head of the Central Department, pointed out that the
Germans aimed at ˜weakening and destroying the principle of collective
action against aggression and its application through the Covenant™.155
Combined with this, Germany aspired to dismantle France™s eastern
European alliances and curb the reciprocal Anglo-French security guar-
antees. This threw cold water on the Foreign Policy Committee. On 18
March, Eden remarked that ˜the chances of reaching agreement for a
basis of a Five Power Pact were very small indeed™, although the possi-
bility of appeasing Germany by means of colonial concessions was not
yet abandoned.156
The Soviet government viewed all of this warily, stating that any
attempt to weaken the Little Entente was unacceptable, earning them
the sobriquet of being ˜“bloc” mad™.157 Equally, Moscow was unhappy
about the tepid French attachment to the Franco-Soviet Pact.158 Such a
rebuke had its impact, and the French decided in mid-May that discus-
´
sions between Soviet and French military attaches would be held in
order to give at least the appearance of substance to the Franco-Soviet
Pact. This was resented by the British.159 And all these considerations of
agreements and arrangements were complicated by repeated rumours

154
FP(36), minutes 6th meeting, 10 Mar 1937, Cab 27/622.
155
Strang™s analysis (15 Mar) on Phipps to FO, tel 264, 12 Mar 1937, FO 371/20706/
C2021/1/18.
156
FP(36), minutes 7th meeting, 18 Mar 1937, Cab 27/622.
157
Minute (14 Apr), Ross (Southern Department) on MacKillop to FO, tel 10, 7 Apr
1937, FO 371/21137/R2497/26/67.
158
Chilston to FO, disp 227, 4 May 1937, FO 371/20696/C3439/1127/17; Chilston to
FO, tel 19, 5 May 1937, FO 371/23593/C3490/523/62.
159
´
Vansittart™s conversation with Leger, 13 May 1937, FO 371/23593/C3620/532/62,
Eden™s minute (15 May).
204 Britain, Soviet Russia and the Versailles Order

that a Soviet“German rapprochement, spearheaded by their respective
military leaders (there were even reports of a possible coup by the Red
Army), was imminent. While there was scepticism about this at the
Foreign Office, where it was suspected either that the Soviets had
launched this rumour to put pressure on the French or that the Germans
had initiated it to threaten London, it was evident that Soviet Russia could
not be ignored in the formulation of British strategic foreign policy.160
This was driven home in naval arms control talks. In May 1936, the
Soviets had made it clear that, in any Anglo-Soviet naval agreement,
Moscow would reserve the right to build a fleet sufficient to defend its
possessions in the Far East. This became involved with the Anglo-
German Naval Agreement. If Soviet Russia were to build the large
cruisers it contended were necessary to deter Japan, Germany would
build in kind. The delicate Anglo-German balance would be upset. The
Germans used the Franco-Soviet Pact as a weapon, arguing that the
French and Soviet fleets should be considered as one. Hard bargaining
ensued for the next eight months.
In the Foreign Office there were divisions. Craigie and the Admiralty
were insistent on the paramount need to maintain the Anglo-German
Naval Agreement, at whatever expense to Anglo-Soviet relations. Collier
believed that to accept this would mean allowing a fear of German
displeasure to control British policy. But, however this debate played
out in London, it could not influence Soviet policy. The Soviets were
insistent about their needs, and resolved to build a strong fleet. The
matter came to a head on 8 March 1937 when Moscow stated that it
would refuse to sign any agreement. After a week™s consternation, during
which Craigie and Eden reviled the Soviet government, Moscow changed
course and agreed to a settlement, which was signed in early July.161

160
Chilston to Collier, 26 Jan 1937, FO 371/21094/N546/45/38; Phipps to Sargent, 16
Feb 1937, FO 371/20709/C144/3/18; Phipps to FO, disp 221, 1 Mar 1937, FO 371/
21095/N1224/46/38; Chilston to FO, disp 106, 9 Mar 1937, FO 371/21095/N1397/
46/38; Phipps to FO, tel 242, 13 Apr 1937, FO 371/21095/N2064/45/38; Ogilvie-
Forbes (Berlin) to FO, tel 255, 19 Apr 1937, FO 371/21095/N2122/46/38; Chilston to
Collier, 20 Apr 1937, FO 371/21095/N2212/46/38.
161
Read in conjunction with Greg Kennedy, ˜Becoming Dependent™. The German context

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