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faced the fewest domestic opponents. It promised to deter war on the
cheap, and, if war should come, it offered a British contribution that
would not entail the massive loss of life of a continental commitment.
However, its glittering promise of victory was only theoretical, never
having been tested.
The effect of all of this on British strategic foreign policy was compli-
cated. Political reality, foreign policy, military doctrine, and financial
and economic capacities all collided. Various elements in the foreign-
´
policy making elite pulled in different directions, and various ministers
promoted their own departmental concerns in Cabinet, to the detriment
of the foreign secretary™s control of strategic foreign policy. The service
ministries saw things from their own perspective and evaluated threats
on the basis of capability rather than intention. The Treasury saw
finance as the ˜fourth arm of defence™ and advocated policies that would
keep spending in check. And the Board of Trade wished to pursue
British profits. The Foreign Office had the most complex task of all. It
had to take into consideration all of the above, evaluate for itself whether
potential foreign threats might become reality and suggest policy alter-
natives. This was not an easy task. Often, the other departments would
challenge the Foreign Office™s evaluations.
Debates over policy were heard in the CID and, in the 1930s, the
inter-departmental committees that were created to oversee Britain™s
rearmament. The latter included the Defence Requirements Committee
(DRC, created in 1933), the Defence Policy and Requirements Com-
mittee (DPR, July 1935), and the Defence Policy and Requirements
(Defence Requirements) Committee (DPR(DR), January 1936). At a
political level, the final authority was the Cabinet, but this was an
unwieldy body and, as matters grew more tense and the need for fre-
quent consultation increased, strategic foreign policy was hived off to the
Cabinet Committee on Foreign Policy (FPC, established in April 1936),
whose membership consisted of those members of the foreign-policy
´
making elite whose portfolios, particular interests or political signifi-
cance most strongly affected the matter.85
The final decisions in all cases belonged to these politicians. They,
buffeted by departmental responsibilities and pressures, intellectual cur-
rents and special interest groups, also had to wonder how various strategic
defence policies would play at the ballot box. The politicians mainly
´
involved “ the top level of the foreign-policy making elite “ were normally
the prime minister, the chancellor of the Exchequer, the secretary of

85
For the FPC, see Christopher Hill, Cabinet Decisions on Foreign Policy. The British
Experience October 1938“June 1941 (Cambridge, 1991).
Introduction 23

state for foreign affairs and the service ministers (and, after the creation of
the office in 1936, the minister for the co-ordination of defence), but could
include any cabinet minister. These figures varied with the flux of politics,
and their influence and predispositions will be considered as they take
office.
Others had more long-term impact on policy. In the inter-war period
there were several individuals who had a wide-ranging influence not only
on Anglo-Soviet matters, but also on the formulation of British strategic
foreign policy generally. One of them was Sir Warren Fisher, the per-
manent secretary to the Treasury and head of the civil service from 1919
to 1939.86 Fisher was a man of strong views who believed that he, and
his Treasury officials, were capable generalists, able to debate points
with the experts within other departments of state. Fisher regarded
finance as the ˜fourth arm™ of defence, and felt that foreign policy must
reflect that fact. As a result, Fisher and the Treasury advocated a pro-
Japanese stance in the inter-war period. This would reduce the need for
spending by the Admiralty. He also felt that Germany could be appeased
by economic means, a policy that had the added attraction of helping the
British economy.87 Fisher was no pacifist and was a strong supporter of
rearmament. However, his views on foreign policy, with their concomi-
tant impact on the intricacies of defence spending, often put him at odds
with both the service ministries and the Foreign Office.
Another vital member of the elite was Sir Maurice Hankey.88 Hankey
´
served as secretary both to the CID and the Cabinet, the former from
1912 to 1938 and the latter from 1916 to 1938. As secretary to the CID,
Hankey had a hand in all its derivative bodies, including the COS, and
sat on a number of vital committees, including the DRC. No one
in Whitehall knew more than Hankey about defence policy and few
knew as much about politics. Hankey was a strong advocate of naval
power and imperial defence. He also did not believe that the League of
Nations was any guarantor of international order, a position that he
held as early as 1916 and maintained until the Second World War.89
For Hankey, Britain™s security could best be maintained by its own


86
Eunan O™Halperin, Head of the Civil Service. A Study of Sir Warren Fisher (London,
1989), and George Peden, The Treasury and British Public Policy, 1906“1959 (Oxford,
2000), 8“9, 15“16, 134, 138“9 and 298“302.
87
C. A. MacDonald, ˜Economic Appeasement and the German “Moderates”, 1937“
1939: An Introductory Essay™, PP, 56 (1972), 105“35.
88
Stephen Roskill, Hankey. Man of Secrets (3 vols; London, 1970“4); John F. Naylor, A
Man and An Institution. Sir Maurice Hankey, the Cabinet Secretariat and the Custody of
Cabinet Secrecy (Cambridge, 1984).
89
Roskill, Man of Secrets, I, 276.
24 Britain, Soviet Russia and the Versailles Order

efforts, particularly by naval strength.90 He was always to be found on
the side of RN in discussions of British strategic foreign policy, and, like
the Admiralty, was often willing to make concessions to Germany and
Italy until Britain™s naval strength was secure. Hankey did not like or
trust Soviet Russia. In January 1937, he made his views plain. He felt
that Eden was too fond of ˜those foul Russians, who, I am sure, would let
us down. The latter, unless I am mistaken, only want to get us all
embroiled and then to force Bolchevism [sic] on a shattered Europe.
They would like to get us all divided and fighting, as they have succeeded
in doing to Spain, and to take advantage of the mess to inculcate their
sinister theories and methods.™91
The Foreign Office was at the centre of British strategic foreign policy,
and its personnel need careful consideration. However, before doing
this, it is necessary to consider the changed role of Russia in British
strategic foreign policy. Immediately before 1914, St Petersburg was one
of the three most important posts in the British diplomatic service,
reflecting the central importance of Russia for Britain in both Europe
and the empire. This changed after 1917. Soviet Russia largely withdrew
from normal international relations and retreated into revolutionary
isolation, something symbolized by the removal of the capital from
St Petersburg to Moscow.92 Combined with the fact that there were no
formal relations between Britain and Soviet Russia from 1918 to 1924,
and again from 1927 to 1929, this meant that Moscow was no longer a
focal point for British diplomacy.93
This change of priorities was reflected in the British diplomatic repre-
sentation in Soviet Russia.94 From 1924 to 1927, Britain had only a
´
charge d™affaires, Sir Robert Hodgson, in Moscow. In 1929, following the
resumption of diplomatic relations, Sir Esmond Ovey was appointed
ambassador. He was succeeded in 1933 by Viscount Chilston, who

90
Hankey believed in the Victorian quality of ˜manliness™ with all that it implied
for national and ˜racial™ fitness; see Michael L. Roi, ˜German Holidays. Sir Maurice
Hankey Meets the “Ultimate Enemy”: Nazi Indoctrination and Physical Training and
the DRC™s Threat Assessment™, in Kennedy and Neilson, Incidents in International
Relations, 113“34.
91
Hankey to Robin, his son, 31 Jan 1937, Hankey Papers, HNKY 3/42.
92
Stephen Revell and Stephen White, ˜The USSR and Its Diplomatic Partners, 1917“
1991, D&S, 13, 1 (2002), 31“54.
93
In Edward Ingram™s periodization, the period from 1919 to 1945 in Anglo-Russian
relations is termed ˜the locked revolving door™, reflecting the fact that their long-
standing rivalry had been stalled by the First World War; see his ˜Great Britain and
Russia™, in William R. Thompson, ed., Great Power Rivalries (Columbia, SC, 1999),
269“305, esp. 286“7.
94
Michael Hughes, Inside the Enigma. British Officials in Russia 1900“1939 (London and
Rio Grande, 1997), 183“266, and Michael Hughes, ˜The Virtues of Specialization:
Introduction 25

was in turn followed by Sir William Seeds (1939“40). None of these men
were among the most prominent in the diplomatic service; nor did they
have much in common. Hodgson had served in the consular service and
became British commercial agent in Vladivostok in 1906. At the latter
post he rose to the position of consul in 1911 and, in 1920, was briefly
acting high commissioner at Omsk. When the Anglo-Soviet Trade
Agreement was signed in 1921, Hodgson was appointed British Com-
´
mercial Agent to Moscow and made charge d™affaires in 1924 with the
renewal of diplomatic relations. With his long experience of Russia,
Hodgson was largely successful in keeping Anglo-Soviet relations on
an even keel, offering the ˜greatest hospitality™ to visiting members of
the Foreign Office.95
Ovey went to Moscow in 1929 as ambassador, reflecting Labour™s
determination to improve relations with Soviet Russia. Ovey™s career had
not marked him out for greatness.96 After joining the diplomatic service
in 1903, he had held a series of minor posts. At the Foreign Office from
1920 to 1924, he served in the Northern Department, which dealt with
Soviet Russia. In the latter year, he was transferred to Tehran and then to
Rome in 1925. After being appointed envoy extraordinary and minister
plenipotentiary to Mexico in November 1925, he was made ambassador
extraordinary and plenipotentiary to Brazil in August 1929, but never
took up the post. Instead, he was sent to Moscow in December of that
same year to renew diplomatic relations, a task that he had performed
successfully at Mexico City.97
Ovey possessed a certain charm, but initially found Soviet Russia
during the five-year plans and collectivization a puzzling world. His
problem was compounded by the fact that he spoke no Russian and
only a few of his staff did so.98 The expertise about Russia that had been
painfully built up within the diplomatic service before 1917 had attenu-
ated, due both to the radical change of regimes in that country and to the
intermittent nature of Anglo-Soviet relations.99 Ovey™s ˜easy going and


British and American Diplomatic Reporting on Russia, 1921“1939™, D&S, 11, 2
(2000), 79“104. The diplomatic service had been amalgamated with the Foreign Office
establishment in 1919; see Christina Larner, ˜The Amalgamation of the Diplomatic
Service with the Foreign Office™, JCH, 7, 1 (1972), 107“26.
95
Owen O™Malley, The Phantom Caravan (London, 1954), 71.
96
My account of Ovey™s career is based on Gordon W. Morrell, Britain Confronts the Stalin
Revolution. Anglo-Soviet Relations and the Metro-Vickers Crisis (Waterloo, Ontario,
1995), 49“65.
97
David Kelly, The Ruling Few (London, 1952), 156.
98
Michael Hughes, Inside the Enigma, 224“5.
99
For the pre-1917 period, see Neilson, Britain and the Last Tsar, 51“83; Michael
Hughes, Inside the Enigma, 13“52; and Michael Hughes, Diplomacy Before the Russian
26 Britain, Soviet Russia and the Versailles Order

approachable character™ did not impress all who worked with him.100
His belief that ˜all nations are very much alike and in particular that we
should not act as though the Bolsheviks were any worse than ourselves™,
raised doubts about his judgement.101 The consul general in Moscow,
Reader Bullard, felt that such views reflected the belief that ˜Sir Esmond
is morally lazy and the dishonesty of the Soviet leaders does not disgust
him.™102 There was discontent in London over Ovey™s handling of the
Metro-Vickers crisis in 1933, and later that year he was transferred to
Brussels.
His successor was Viscount Chilston. Chilston served just over five
years as ambassador, a time full of even more domestic turmoil in Soviet
Russia “ the Show Trials and the Purges “ than usual. This meant the
continuation of the difficulties in trying to comprehend the Soviet
enigma.103 Little in Chilston™s background had prepared him for his
task. As Aretas Akers-Douglas he had joined the diplomatic service in
1898 and had served mainly abroad until 1915. From 1915 to 1918, he
was at the Foreign Office in the Contraband Department. He was part of
the British Delegation to Paris, Balfour™s and then Curzon™s diplomatic
secretary and, in 1921, transferred to Vienna. He remained in the
Austrian capital until 1928, before moving to Budapest the following
year. Chilston (he had become the second viscount in 1926) was made
ambassador to Soviet Russia in October 1933. While he took office
in the strained atmosphere of the immediate aftermath of the Metro-
Vickers case, his time in Moscow also coincided with the period of the
Soviet espousal of collective security. As a result, and because he was
able to get on good personal terms with Litvinov, Chilston was able to
smooth Anglo-Soviet relations and remained as ambassador until early
in 1939. This did not mean, however, that he enjoyed his time in
Moscow. Both he and his wife disliked ˜the dinginess and cultural
barrenness of Soviet society™.104 Nor was Chilston optimistic about
getting things done in Moscow. As he said, ˜the question for a British



Revolution. Britain, Russia and the Old Diplomacy, 1894“1917 (Basingstoke and New
York, 2000), 20“123.
100
Sir Roderick Barclay, Ernest Bevin and the Foreign Office 1932“1969 (London, 1975),
124.
101
Bullard diary entry, 14 Oct 1932, in Julian and Margaret Bullard, eds., Inside Stalin™s
Russia. The Diaries of Reader Bullard 1930“1934 (Charlbury, Oxon, 2000), 144.
102
Ibid., 168“9, diary entry 23 Mar 1933.
103
The atmosphere is from Fitzroy Maclean, Eastern Approaches (London, 1949), 18“29;
80“121. For the difficulties, see Lord (William) Strang, Home and Abroad (London,
1956), 60“4, 96“7.
104
Michael Hughes, Inside the Enigma, 265.
Introduction 27

Ambassador here is not how much he can do, but merely how much he
can stand™.105
Chilston™s successor was Sir William Seeds. Seeds had joined the
diplomatic service in 1904. He served in various posts abroad, often in
Latin America. His post before Moscow was as ambassador extraordin-
ary and plenipotentiary to Argentina from 1930 to 1935. In the interim
between these two posts, Seeds was unemployed. Brought out of retire-
ment to attempt to repair the damage to Anglo-Soviet relations caused
by the Munich Agreement, Seeds had a difficult time in Moscow.
Although he had the advantage of knowing enough Russian to be able
to produce a ˜visible sensation™ by speaking it in his first interview, the
new ambassador was unable to achieve his goal.106 In May 1939, Litvi-
nov was succeeded by Viacheslav Molotov, and the former™s policies

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