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strength “ was sufficient to force (or persuade) Japan and Italy to cease
and desist. In fact, British power was not adequate even to cause either
aggressor to be willing to submit to arbitration or conciliation. And, as
the 1930s wore on, the times when this was the case “ when Britain
lacked sufficient power to achieve its desired ends “ only multiplied. The
realization of this fact was the impetus behind the augmentation of
Britain™s ˜hard™ power through rearmament, although ˜soft™ power, the
preferred solution of liberal internationalists, was never completely
abandoned. However, it increasingly took the form of a cloak to drape
over progressively realist means.
Ideological differences between Britain and Soviet Russia also led to
mutual incomprehension and suspicion. For Stalin, all British actions
were perceived through Marxist spectacles. British attempts to reach

12
Arguments advanced in B. J. C. McKercher, Transition of Power. Britain™s Loss of Global
Pre-eminence to the United States 1930“1945 (Cambridge, 1999), and Paul Kennedy, The
Rise and Fall of the Great Powers. Economic Change and Military Conflict from 1500 to 2000
(New York, 1987), 275“343.
13
For a discussion and definition of ˜hard™ and ˜soft™ power, see Joseph S. Nye, Jnr, Bound
to Lead. The Changing Nature of American Power (New York, 1990), 108“12, Nye
and William A. Owens, ˜America™s Information Edge™, Foreign Affairs, 75, 2 (1996),
20“36, esp. 21, and Nye, ˜Limits of American Power™, Political Science Quarterly, 117, 4
(2002“3), 545“59.
324 Britain, Soviet Russia and the Versailles Order

accommodations with the ˜dictator states™ or Japan, in a liberal belief
that reasonable men could reach reasonable compromises, were viewed
either as indications of weakness or, more sinisterly, as part of a capitalist
plot to direct Nazi Germany and Japan against Soviet Russia.14 For the
Soviets, British protests about the need both to work through the League
and to consider the sensibilities of the small east European states in 1939
were either signs of insincerity or bargaining ploys designed to keep
Soviet Russia in play while Britain cut a deal with Japan and Nazi
Germany. For the British, the Soviet insistence on clearly defined alli-
ances and such things as ˜indirect aggression™ was merely bowing to raw
power regardless of moral considerations.
In fact, the Soviet penchant for alliances created one of the most
important difficulties for those who shaped British strategic foreign
policy. The Franco-Soviet Pact offended a number of British sensibil-
ities. First, it was seen as a return to the policy of secret alliances, the
division of the world into blocs and the balance of power, all of which
had diminished Britain™s freedom of action in 1914. Second, it compli-
cated Anglo-French relations, as any agreement between these two
countries would indirectly link Britain to Soviet Russia. ˜We are con-
demned™, wrote Leo Amery in 1938, ˜to being more and more tied up
with a Franco-Russian Alliance (call it the League of Nations if you like!)
against the Anti-Comintern gang.™15 Thus, Soviet Russia became ˜that
horrible Old Man of the Sea . . . whom France is carrying on her
shoulders™.16
Despite these problems, there always was the possibility of greater
Anglo-Soviet collaboration (co-operation is too strong a word) to block
the revisionist Powers. How could, how might, Soviet Russia contribute
to the achievement of Britain™s strategic foreign policy goals? Here, it is
helpful to compare and contrast the circumstances facing and the
methods adopted by Britain and Soviet Russia in this respect. Through-
out the 1930s, both countries faced the same major threats: militarist
Japan was a menace to the interests of both London and Moscow in the
Far East; Nazi Germany was similarly a danger to both in Europe. But
the methods that the two states employed to meet their similar threats
varied sharply. Each response was determined by ideological predilec-
tions. From the very beginning, Soviet Russia put its faith in ˜hard™

14
For a discussion of this kind of thinking in Soviet historiography and a convincing
rebuttal, see Robert Manne, ˜The Free Hand in the East? British Policy Towards
East-Central Europe, Between “Rhineland” and the Anschluss™, AJPH, 32, 2 (1986),
245“62.
15
Amery to Buchan, 22 Jan 1938, Buchan Papers, Box 9.
16
Buchan to A. F. Lascelles, 19 Mar 1938, Buchan Papers, Box 9.
Conclusion 325

power, augmented by its own ˜soft™ power (subversion and support for
revolutionary activities). In contrast, the British reaction was much less
defined, more equivocal and hesitating. This was a result of the fact
that it was a modern liberal (or ˜bourgeois capitalist™, to use its Marxist
label) state. Its ideology stemmed from a pluralistic society that nurtured
a wide spectrum of ideas. These ideas produced contending visions of
what to do, and reaching a consensus required time. Thus, from 1933“4
to mid-1937 British strategic foreign policy experimented (or vacillated,
to use a harsher term).17 Various combinations of rearmament, concili-
ation and negotiation were pursued, including demurely sidling up to
Soviet Russia during the hesitant loan discussions of 1935“6.
After this, there was little place “ except inadvertently and fleetingly “
for Soviet Russia in British strategic foreign policy. The seeming com-
monality of interests between the two states generated by the fact that
they faced the same two threats was insufficient to mask the fact that
there was no commonality either of goals or of methods. In sharp
contrast to Britain™s relations with that other Great Power “ the United
States of America “ whose degree and fashion of participation in inter-
national affairs also remained enigmatic, there were no shared values to
paper over the gaps in national interests between Britain and Soviet
Russia. Just as a British diplomatist a generation earlier had noted that
˜common action between an English Liberal and a Russian bureaucracy
is a pretty difficult thing to manage™, so, too, was finding common
ground between British internationalists and Soviet communists.18
While the British could (and did) factor in Soviet power when consider-
ing how to check Japan in Asia “ the ˜no bloc™ policy pursued for most of
the 1930s19 “ and to contain Germany in Europe “ the alliance talks of
1939 “ they could never rely on such deterrence. This was demonstrated
by both the Nazi“Soviet Pact and the Russo-Japanese neutrality agree-
ment of 1941. For such inadvertent help was both contingent and
dependent on Soviet decisions, and not controlled by British policy.
Only the German invasion of Soviet Russia in 1941 could provide the



17
The difficulties of reshaping the fundamentals of strategic foreign policy for the West
since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of communism should make the British
dilemmas of the early 1930s more comprehensible to modern readers.
18
Cited in Keith Neilson, Britain and the Last Tsar. British Policy and Russia, 1894“1917
(Oxford, 1995), 109.
19
As outlined in Greg Kennedy, ˜1935: A Snapshot of British Imperial Defence in the Far
East™, in Greg Kennedy and Keith Neilson, eds., Far-Flung Lines. Studies in Imperial
Defence in Honour of Donald Mackenzie Schurman (Portland, OR, and London, 1997),
190“216.
326 Britain, Soviet Russia and the Versailles Order

necessary impetus for effective co-operation, and this lasted only as long
as the two countries participated in the common struggle.
This is not to suggest, however, except in the widest possible way, that
the fact that no Anglo-Soviet agreement was reached in the 1930s was
necessarily predetermined by ideological antipathy. As always, much
depended on chance and personality. One example makes this point
clear. In November 1935, the British foreign secretary perhaps the most
ideologically opposed to Soviet Russia, Sir Samuel Hoare, professed
himself ready to conclude a loan to Soviet Russia “ an act widely viewed
as a precursor to wider political talks “ in order to prevent any possibility
of a Soviet“German rapprochement. The track of the ˜hairy heel™ was
evident. But, before such talks could begin, Hoare was felled by the
reaction to the proposed Hoare“Laval pact and was replaced by Anthony
Eden. Eden believed Stalin to be less Bolshevik than Realpolitiker,20 and
quashed the loan. This was due in equal parts to his concerns for career,
to his dislike of communist propaganda in France, Britain and the
empire, and to his belief that the tools of international liberalism wielded
by his own adroit hands would be able to bring about an improvement in
Anglo-German relations. Of course, whether Hoare could have per-
suaded the Cabinet to hold Anglo-Soviet political talks, whether, in
any case, such talks would have been successful and whether Soviet
Russia would have accepted British terms is unknowable. However, it
is clear that the simple invocation of ideological antipathy to explain all
failings in Anglo-Soviet relations is inadequate.
In fact, staying with this concern, nor does ideological antipathy by
itself explain the failure of Chamberlain and Stalin to see eye to eye.
Instead, there is a certain irony involved when considering Anglo-Soviet
relations during the period when Chamberlain controlled British stra-
tegic foreign policy. Both Chamberlain and Stalin “ each a dictator in his
own context “ pursued policies that were motivated by assumptions that
were distorted mirror-images of each other. Chamberlain felt that any
accord with Soviet Russia would take the decision for war or peace out of
his hands and place it in those of the Soviet leaders. For his part, Stalin
believed that Britain wished to foment war between Germany and Soviet
Russia: to use Moscow™s power to pull Britain™s chestnuts out of the fire.
Each believed that the other needed him more than he needed the other;
`
each assumed that his country was more powerful vis-a-vis Germany and
Japan than was the case; each disliked the other™s country and ideology.

20
Eden wrote to Halifax that Stalin ˜seemed to me a man with a complete “Real Politik”
outlook and a political descendant of Peter the Great rather than of Lenin™: 22 Jan 1941,
Halifax Papers, A4.410.4.15.
Conclusion 327

So much for Anglo-Soviet relations in the inter-war period. What has
this Anglo-Soviet ˜core-sample™ revealed about the greater sediment of
British strategic foreign policy? First, it suggests that, just as the ˜Cold
War™ and ˜Realpolitik™ explanations of Soviet policy must be abandoned,
historians must rid themselves of the idea that there is a single overarch-
ing concept that will explain all of British strategic foreign policy in the
inter-war period. Unlike the terrible simplifiers “ Hitler, Mussolini and
Stalin “ from the dictator states, who offered monocausal explanations
for historical events, historians must look for more complicated explan-
ations, and ones that may be different in each period of the inter-war era.
This means jettisoning such Procrustean concepts as appeasement and
˜declinism™.
This takes us to the second point: the Anglo-Soviet ˜core-sample™
´
underlines the necessity to consider the issue of mentalites generally.
The realization that Soviet foreign policy was indeed communist should
sensitize us to the need to consider ideology and ideas generally. When
this is done, it provides us with a conceptual framework with which to
understand British strategic foreign policy. The mental transformation “
the end of the primacy of the ideas of the nineteenth century “ that the
Great War had done so much both to bring about and to accelerate was
incomplete in the 1920s and 1930s. However, what was clear was that
the certainties of the previous century could no longer be sustained.
Einstein™s relativity had replaced Newton™s clockwork.21 Heisenberg
¨
had enshrined uncertainty as a principle. Schrodinger™s cat was both
alive and dead. Freud had replaced traditional motivations with the
subterranean desires of the unconscious, and psychoanalysis stood
in the place of Self Help. Indeterminacy was everywhere. ˜Whirl™, in
Aristophanes™ phrase, ˜was king.™
Such whirl also reigned in politics. The war had either destroyed or
discredited both many existing domestic political forms and the existing
system for maintaining international order. Gone were the shared values
of 1914, although there may have been some ˜persistence of the old
regime™ after 1918.22 However, for individual states, there seemed many
possible paths “ communism, fascism and Naziism “ to the future. And,
in international matters, Wilsonianism and the League contended that

21
For the linkage between politics and physics, see Paul Forman, ˜Weimar Culture,
Causality and Quantum Theory, 1918“1927: Adaptation by German Physicists and
Mathematicians to a Hostile Intellectual Environment™, in C. Chant and J. Fauvel, eds.,
Darwin to Einstein. Historical Studies on Science and Belief (New York, 1980), 267“302. I
would like to thank Dr Arnd Bohm for bringing this article to my attention.
22
On these points, see Arno J. Mayer, The Persistence of the Old Regime. Europe to the Great
War (New York, 1981).
328 Britain, Soviet Russia and the Versailles Order

the future belonged to them, while extra-European Powers like Japan
and the United States gave notice that the old Eurocentric system could
not be reconstituted. However, in all cases these domestic and inter-
national experiments were both untried and not without their oppon-
ents. In fact, the domestic and international experiments were closely
interlinked. Revisionist ideologies in Italy and Germany and the expan-
sionist ideology in Japan at best only tolerated the collaborationist tenets
of internationalism and rejected outright the maintenance of the status
quo. The revolutionary ideology of Bolshevism viewed the League as just
another running-dog of international finance capital.
Of the European Great Powers, Britain had been the least affected by
the Great War. While the British political structure had been shaken, it
´
had survived, and the British elite, the Establishment, had maintained its
23
predominance. The revolutionary political systems that had come to
power in Europe found only a few adherents in Britain. This had its
effect. British statesmen had difficulties dealing with the different ration-
alities (and moralities) that guided the dictator states. Mussolini, Hitler
and Stalin were men drawn from very different social backgrounds than
were British leaders, and the former were guided by ideologies similarly
alien to those in Whitehall.24 Since fascism, Naziism and communism
could not be set in traditional British intellectual structures, they were
explained in terms of irrationality or immorality. Thus we have a fear of
Mussolini™s ˜mad dog™ acts, the description of Hitler™s actions as those of
a ˜lunatic™ or a ˜mad man™ and Simon™s contention that Soviet actions
were ˜beyond ordinary rational calculation™.25 There was an intellectual
barrier that needed to be overcome, and this was rarely done except by
the specialists at the Foreign Office. The ˜mental maps™ held by Britain
and the dictator states were not congruent with each other; their states-
men did not share the same ˜unspoken assumptions™.26


23
W. D. Rubinstein, ˜Britain™s Elites in the Inter-War Period 1918“1939™, CBH, 12, 1
(1998), 1“18.
24
For recent looks at the necessity to understand Mussolini™s Italy in terms of ideology, see
Alexander de Grand, ˜Mussolini™s Follies: Fascism in Its Imperial and Racist Phase,
1935“1940™, CEH, 13, 2 (2004), 127“47, and Paul Corner, ˜Italian Fascism: Whatever
Happened to Dictatorship?™, JMH, 74 (2002), 325“57.
25
Simon to J. Wylie, 3 Apr 1933, Simon Papers, FO 800/288. See also the observation that
˜Hitler and his crew comprise drug addicts, dipsomaniacs, erotomaniacs, sadists. All of
them are bullies and megalomaniacs. All of them liars and crooks “ most of them
assassins into the bargain™: Earl of Crawford and Balcarres to Buchan, 21 Sept 1939,
Buchan Papers, Box 11.
26
For ˜mental maps™, see A. K. Hendrickson, ˜The Geographical “Mental Maps” of
American Foreign Policy Makers™, International Political Science Review, 1 (1980), 496“
530; Zara Steiner, ˜Elitism and Foreign Policy: The Foreign Office Before the Great

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