The agreement between Russia and Great Britain in 1907 was inevitable?
States do not always react the same way in essentially similar situations, what influenced the way a state went can be seen through decision making analysis. Britain at the turn of the twentieth century need not have moved into an entente with France and Russia, she could have joined with the triple Alliance as Joseph Chamberlain and Balfour wished. According to Robert Jervis decision makers “believe both that others may not behave as they would and that the decision-makers within the other state differ among themselves.” Therefore it is necessary to look at problems through different levels of analysis, decision-makers decide their policy based upon what they believe to be most important: another may decide a different area is more important and hence make a different decision. Jervis identifies four levels of analysis: the level of individual decision-making, bureaucracy, the nature of the state, and the international environment. There is not an agreement on this, Kenneth Waltz for example opts for three levels; the individual, which is completely rejected as irrelevant, the unit level whose interactions make the structural level. The most important of these is the structure of the international system; states are constrained by the system. The Anglo-Russian convention was simply an agreement to prevent any conflict in Persia, Afghanistan and Tibet, but both sides wanted it for European reasons, regaining prestige and fear of Germany. In my essay/debate I will be looking at the reasons behind the Anglo-Russian Convention and the rapprochement it entailed. I will therefore mostly be looking at Britain and Russia however I will also look at Germany: as the motive for the rapprochement, why it did not try to prevent such an entente, and why Britain did not go the other way to align with the triple alliance. In each of the levels of analysis I will give some theory but will mostly give historical analysis. I will first look at the competition between Russia and England, particularly in Asia. In the international environment I will be looking at the rise of Germany, the changing balance of power, splendid isolation and the recurring threat of continental leagues and the alliances that were already in existence acting as a pull on Britain and Russia to come together. Changes in the domestic situation in Russia and Britain included a realisation that they were overstretched so could not compete over such a large area, revolution in Russia, the Boer war fought by Britain, and the influence of public opinion. I will also at this point look at Germany. Bureaucracy in Russia opposed settlement while in Britain the Foreign office was supportive. I will finally look at the roles played by important individuals in the settlement before concluding with the consequences of the Convention.
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International level: Structure of the International System
The structure of International relations as the primary level of analysis dominates neo-realist theory. In neo-realism the international systems structure is decentralised and anarchic, the states are rational unitary actors in which they act individualistically, selfishly to keep as many options open as possible.[[Kenneth Waltz, Theory of International politics, New York, 1979, pp.88, 91.]] If realism or neo-realism is the correct then the state will respond rationally to changes in the balance of power by balancing the rising power.
Whilst this may be the case, Mearshiemer has pointed to other behavioural reactions to imbalances of power at the system-level, incuding bandwagoning and buck-passing. Moreover, if it were rational for Britain and Russia to attempt to balance the threat of Germany, the result was surely less than they had desired, with the deaths of millions upon millions being the result of an isolated and cornered German people.
International level: Balance of Power
The balance of power can be simply defined in modern terms as: a doctrine and an arrangement whereby the power of one state (or group of states) is checked by the countervailing power of other states.[[Robert H. Jackson, ‘The evolution of International Society’, in John Baylis & Steve Smith eds. The Globalisation of World Politics: An introduction to international relations, Second Edition, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2001, pp35-50, p.36.]] However there is no single definition that is agreed upon today.[[Michael Sheehan, The Balance of Power: History and Theory, Routledge, London, 1996, pp.1-4.]] There was an even broader use of the term in the nineteenth century, balance could mean equilibrium and exist within a hegemonic system.[[Paul W. Schroeder, ‘Did the Vienna Settlement Rest on a Balance of Power?’, The American Historical Review, Vol.97, No.3, (Jun., 1992), pp.683-706, p.695.]] The Foreign Office definition of the time was:
In looking at the balance of power international relations scholars tend to look at economics and defence spending.[[for figures see: Paul Kennedy, ‘The First World War and the International Power System’, International Security, Vol. 9, No. 1, (Summer, 1984), pp.7-40, A.J.P. Taylor, The Struggle for Mastery in Europe, 1848-1918, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1971. pp.xix-xxxvi., ‘National Material Capabilities’ (v3.02), Correlates of War project, accessed 26/11/06 (website said to reference article) – Singer J. David, ‘Reconstructing the Correlates of War Dataset on Material Capabilities of States, 1816-1985’, International Interactions, Vol 14, (1987), pp.115-132.]] Paul Kennedy for example argues the triumph of a state is a product “of the way in which that state’s economy had been rising or falling, relative to the other leading nations, in the decades preceding the actual conflict.”[[Kennedy, Rise and Fall, p.xv.]]
In terms of economics Germany was becoming the top European nation its Iron and Steel production in 1907 was 11.6 million tons compared to 12 million tons for Russia, Britain and France combined.[[Correlates of War]] Her immense economy allowed Germany to spend very large amounts on the military without straining the economy. She had an immense lead in newer industries for example chemicals and electricals. Economiclly Britain was in decline although still ahead in older industries such as coal production and shipping[[Kennedy, World War, pp.18, 21.]] and even if not on top industrially Britain was still the greatest financial Power. However if one looks at industrial growth Russia was doing best growing at a rate of 5% per year from 1860-1913, and she was the worlds second largest oil producer.[[Kennedy, Rise and Fall, pp.296, 300.]] However all the statistics did not really matter in 1907. It was the perceptions of power that would be used by statesmen.[[William C. Wohlforth, ‘The Perception of Power: Russia in the Pre-1914 Balance’, World Politics, Vol. 39, No. 3, (Apr., 1987), pp.353-381, p.353.]] Thus it was the British fear of possible German hegemony that mattered:
Germany was generally perceived as being the primary threat to the system being the most aggressive power and having the greatest military capabilities. From a balance of power perspective it makes sense that an Anglo-Russian Rapprochement occurred when it did. France and Russia together had been enough to balance Germany however Russia’s collapse in 1905 meant that Britain’s weight had to be brought in to maintain the balance.[[Paul A. Papayoanou, ‘Interdependence, Institutions, and the Balance of power: Britain, Germany, and World War I’, International Security, Vol. 20, No. 4, (Spring, 1996), pp.42-76, pp.53-54.]]
However structural theory cannot explain other very real alternatives: a continental league or British alignment with Germany. Moreover a balance of power does not always occur. It would have been possible for Britain to pass the buck over the threat of Germany. Germany was mostly a threat to France and Russia as her defence spending was concentrated on the army despite a rapidly growing navy. Britain could therefore afford to stay out of the balance until a conflict occured or Germany appeared to potentially become hegemonic.
International level: Naval competition
The rise of Germany was due to unification and expanding industrial power. Unification meant that Germany was the most powerful European state in place of Prussia, the weakest.[[Paul Kennedy, The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers: Economic change and military conflict from 1500 to 2000, Fontana Press, London, 1989, p.242.]] The Kaiser thought that Germany had to have a Navy in line with its new economic power. Naval rivalry was enforced by the general feeling within Germany that Germany must colonise due to geographical constraints on her population.[[Paul Kennedy, ‘The Kaiser and German Weltpolitik: reflections of Wilhelm II’s place in the making of German Foreign Policy’, John C.G. Röhl & Nicolaus Sombart eds., Kaiser Wilhelm II New Interpretations, Cambridge, 1982, pp.143-168, p.149.]] Both Britain and Germany realised that:
The Kaiser’s impatient erratic policies, continually setting off crises were another problem in Anglo-German relations. It was the Kaiser who created challenges to Britain in Congo, Samoa and Transvaal, and aimed, even if in the far future, of becoming the colonial successor to Britain was bound to result in a clash.[[Kennedy, Kaiser, p155, 158-9.]]
Germany could argue that it needed a fleet of some size in order to keep control of her colonies in Africa and Asia. She also needed a force that was capable of defending her coast against the French and Russian Navys. Although the Russian Navy had been destroyed by the Japanese in 1905 the French still had a formidible force.
International level: Fear of a continental league
Kaiser Wilhelm had been engaging in secret diplomacy in an attempt to create a continental wide alliance against Britain. He persuaded the Tsar while on his yacht to sign a secret alliance on the 24th July 1905 in Björkö Sound.[[Sidney B. Fay, ‘The Kaiser’s Secret Negotiations with the Tsar, 1904-5’, The American Historical Review, Vol. 24, No.1, (Oct., 1918), pp.48-72, p.48.]] With it Wilhelm promised Nicholas “The dual alliance combining with the triple Alliance gives us a Quintupel Alliance” in which “even Japan may feel inclined to join it.” Given Wilhelm’s earlier attempts to encourage an Anglo-Russian war with declarations like “India’s loss is their death stroke”[[27 July 1905, 17 November 1904 N.F. Grant ed., The Kaiser’s Letters to the Tsar, London, pp.191-192, 148.]] the alliance was obviously directed against Britain. For Wilhelm, once the alliance was concluded either France would act as he hoped creating a continental alliance or else he would have detached France from Russia.[[Fay, Secret, p.52.]] Germany’s aim was to create a peaceful hegemony in Europe. This was also the aim also in attempts to force France into dependence on Germany by challenging France in Morocco.[[A.J.P. Taylor, The Struggle for Mastery in Europe, 1848-1918, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1971., p.427.]] Britain realised Germany’s aims and the dangers of not supporting France in any crisis:
Showing the importance of keeping Russia and France on Britain’s side.
This was not necessarily something to be feared. Freedom from alliances was seen as the traditional British policy. This ‘Splendid isolation’ was the glorification of Britain having no need for allies, safe behind her navy; continental events did not affect her.[[George Monger, The End of Isolation, British Foreign Policy 1900-1907, London, 1963, p.1.]] Nonetheless isolation was not necessarily glorious, it had been consistently imposed upon Britain, in the mid 1880’s Gladstone’s moralism had managed to alienate all of Britain’s potential continental friends.[[John Charmley, Splendid Isolation? Britain, the Balance of Power and the Origins of the First World War, London, 1999, pp.190-194.]] Britain had still not escaped the potential position of the whole of the Continent arrayed against her demonstrated by the abortive continental leagues.
International level: French Encouragement
The alliance situation also favoured an Anglo-Russian Rapprochement. Russia and France had signed an alliance in 1891 as much by Russian initiative as France’s due to increasing German designs in the near east. It is possible in longer-range plans Tsar Alexander III wished Britain to be part of an alliance that would also include Italy as well as France.[[Laurence B. Packard, ‘Russia and the Dual Alliance’, The American Historical Review, Vol. 25, No. 3, (Apr., 1920), pp.391-410, pp.402, 404, 394.]] Similarly Britain and France had patched up their differences. By 1898 France was prepared to barter its claims on Egypt for territorial compensation.[[Christopher Andrew, ‘France and the Making of the Entente Cordiale’, The Historical Journal, Vol. 10, No.1, (1967), pp.89-105, pp.89, 91.]] Germany to complement this realisation rejected Chamberlain’s overtures for an alliance by insisting Britain submit guarantees to aid Germany if attacked, while embarking on Weltpolitik making a Anglo-French agreement inevitable.[[Harold Nicolson, ‘The Origins and Development of the Anglo-French Entente’, International Affairs (Royal Institute of International Affairs 1944-), Vol. 30, No. 4, (Oct., 1954), pp.407-416, pp.409, 411-412.]] In December 1902 rebellion in Morocco made Britain willing to support France therefore a full agreement was possible.[[Andrew, France, p.101.]] Meanwhile Edwards VII’s visit to Paris changed public opinion in the two countries from being frosty to being cordial.[[Nicolson, Entente, p.411.]] From the outset the French “hoped one day to bring about an understanding between Russia and Great Britain.”[[Sir E. Monson to the Marquess of Lansdowne: November 9 1904, Gooch, BD III, p.11.]] As early as 1887 in Dieppe the French had mentioned the possibility of a triple entente.[[Packard, Dual, p.399.]] This hope quickly became official French policy:
The Russo-Japanese war proved the Anglo-French entente could survive a crisis in which France and Britain would naturally be on opposite sides, the entente also provided a way for France to persuade her other allies that a triple entente was desirable.[[Keith Neilson, Britain and the Last Tsar: British Policy and Russia 1894-1917, Oxford, 1995, p264]]
National level: Introduction
The national level of analysis focuses on the importance of domestic politics on the formation of foreign policy. Jack Snyder identifies several myths that cause states to pursue imperial expansion. First, that conquest means power. Second, taking the resources of the periphery creates security. Third, that the best defence is offence, a fear of a domino effect. And fourth, threats make other states compliant creating bandwagoning. Imperialism is made by narrow domestic political coalitions such as economic sectors and bureaucracies that have an interest in expansion. And is justified to the public through control of the press.[[ Jack Snyder, Myths of Empire, Domestic Politics and International Ambition, Ithaca, 1991, pp.2-5, 35]]
National level: Russo-Japanese War and 1905 revolution
The shock of the defeat against Japan forced a complete reassessment of Russian foreign policy she had been shown to have serious weaknesses domestically, financially and militarily.[[Neilson, Tsar, p267]] Many in Russia had been unwilling to accept defeat:
It was international opinion that forced Russia into negotiations, Witte the Russian negotiator managed to effectively dictate the terms of the peace despite Russia’s loss of her navy, one army captured and another routed.[[Richard Connaughton, Rising Sun and Tumbling Bear, Russia’s war with Japan, London, 2003, p342-344]] Russia had however been badly weakened in terms of balance of power this would have been the ideal time for Germany to strike, Russia had reached her relative low in 1894 while Germany her high in 1902.[[Kennedy, Rise and Fall, p311]]
Germany was dismissive of Russia’s power after 1905 particularly emphasising Russia’s weak societal cohesion.[[Wohlforth, Perception, p361]] This weak societal cohesion was caused by the 1905 revolution. On 9th January troops had opened fire on a peaceful protest killing over a hundred sparking revolution. During this revolution there were numerous peasant revolts and in October, general strikes including on the railways, brought Russia to the point of collapse resulting in a promise of a constitution and an elected Duma.[[Hugh Seton-Watson, The Russian Empire 1801-1917, Oxford, 1989, pp598-600]] In 1905 Iswolsky believed that “The interior situation dominates everything”.[[Helene Iswolsky, ‘The Fatefull Years: 1906-1911’, Russian Review, Vol.28, No.2, (Apr., 1969), pp.191-206, p195]] It is not surprising that other Great Powers believed “internal disorders began to undermine Russia’s whole position as a power that must be reckoned with”.[[Memorandum by Mr. Eyre Crowe, January 1 1907. Gooch, BD III, p399]] Britain however was the country that was least influenced by these internal events believing that Russia would still make a good account of herself in a war in Europe in which public support could be assured.[[Wohlforth, Perception, p356]] This meant Britain was in a good position to take advantage to get a settlement as “Russia had had difficulties with every country but England, who had acted loyally and cordially with Russia.”[[Mr. Spring-Rice to Sir Edward Grey January 26 1906, G.P. Gooch & Harold Temperley eds., British Documents on the Origins of the War 1898-1914, Vol. IV The Anglo-Russian Rapprochement 1903-7, London, 1929, p222]]
National level: Boer War
Similarly the Boer War had brought home to Britain the difficulties of isolation forcing, when Lansdowne took over the Foreign Office, a re-examination of Foreign policy.[[Neilson, Tsar, p205]] The incident of the Kruger telegram could have been a lot worse as “the Kaiser wanted to intimidate England… he planned to support the Boers with German colonial troops”.[[Rich , I, Memoirs, p185]] The Kruger telegram was the first time Britain had clashed with Germany on an issue vital to British security.[[Paul Kennedy, The Realities Behind Diplomacy, Background Influences on British External Policy 1865-1980, London, 1995, p108]] More serious was the Boer war itself as continental public opinion was united against Britain, particularly German:
Britain’s defences at home were severely weakened leading to an invasion scare.[[Kennedy, Diplomacy, p113]] More crises at the same time, such as the Boxers, forced Britain to look for alliances. Snyder contends that Britain’s aggressiveness in the scramble for Africa had resulted in the Boer war and every major European power being against her, creating a fear in Britain of an erosion of the naval balance which in turn causes a retrenchment of Britain’s position through Alliances.[[Snyder, Myths, p7]]
Russia had however backed up attempts to create a continental league, Tsar Nicholas wrote “I do like knowing that it lies entirely with me to decide the ultimate course of the war in South Africa” by mobilising troops to threaten India.[[quoted in Taylor, Struggle, p388]] Germany has been historically close to Russia and Russia had often figured in any anti-British designs. France on the other hand was the historic enemy of Britain, even if there had been the entente cordiale in 1904. Not surprisingly therefore Russia and France were however not first choice but the USA was still isolationist and Germany demanded too high a price.[[Kennedy, Diplomacy, p116]]
National level: British public opinion
British public opinion slowly came round to the view that a deal with Russia over Asia was a sensible idea. In 1900, still at the height of antagonism with Russia an article in Fortnightly Review argued:
Throughout 1906 and 1907 the press speculated about an agreement. When it came the press gave very positive reactions,
In Britain public opinion did make a difference, it could provide an easy get out clause to justify to other governments why Britain was not supporting them on an issue. Britain was therefore seen as being inconsistent by the more autocratic powers; Britain’s foreign policy was ultimately accountable to the public even if not decided upon publicly.[[Charmley, Splendid, p198-199]] In Snyders’ theory a pluralistic press is needed to guarantee a broad range of views preventing an information monopoly.[[Snyder, Myths, p39]]
National level: Summary
In Britain the right conditions were in existence to counter any more imperial expansion. Britain had a pluralistic press and a parliament empowered to ask questions of the bureaucracy preventing any information monopoly. Early industrialisation created diffuse economic interests this made it easier for the elite to adjust to a slow loss of power.[[Snyder, Myths, p55, 59]] Democracy acted as a check on concentrated interests, voters would only support profitable imperialism,[[ibid, p49]] the Boer war had shown imperialism was no longer profitable forcing Britain to pull back from over-expansion and create alliances to retrench her position. 1905 acted in a similar way in Russia, helping to break the elite with the creation of the Duma and forcing retrenchment that forced rapprochement with Britain.
Bureaucratic politics and Great Men Thesis: Introduction
In Allison’s model of bureaucratic politics foreign policy decisions result from negotiation between various governmental bureaucracies, to identify the cause of foreign policy the players, coalitions, bargains and compromises must be identified.[[Brian Ripley, ‘Cognition, Culture and Bureaucratic Politics’, in Laura Neack, Jeanne A.K. Hey and Patrick J. Haney eds., Foreign Policy Analysis, Continuity and Change in Its Second Generation, Englewood Cliffs, 1995, pp.85-91, p88]]
On the contrary some argue the policies of a country cannot be explained without knowing the personal goals and beliefs of the leaders of a country. These individuals also affect the reactions of other states. This is the Great Men theory of history with an emphasis on the individual level of analysis. Byman and Pollack have four basic hypotheses. It is individuals who set the intentions of the state; they can transform them or magnify already latent intentions. The competence of its individuals counts towards a states influence and military power; they build alliances, perceive threats, and create military strategy. Individuals decide how a state’s resources will be used in pursuit of the goals they have created; it is individuals, on one side at least, who decide whether to go to war or negotiate. And finally individuals affect how an opposing state will react; they can either be charismatic and persuasive or bullying and aggressive, the opposing state’s individuals will respond based upon the attitudes of the first state’s individuals towards them.[[Daniel L. Byman & Kenneth M. Pollack, ‘Let us now Praise Great Men, Bringing the Statesmen Back In’, International Security, vol. 25, No. 4, (Spring, 2001), pp.107-146, pp.108-9, 134-5.]]
Great Men: Sir Edward Grey
At the individual level the figures on the British side are more important than the Russian as it was Britain who pushed for an agreement. The change to Grey in the Foreign Office marked a move from Lansdowne in terms of attitude towards Germany from attempt at settlement to a hard line.[[Lyle A McGeoch, ‘On the Road to War: British Foreign Policy in Transition, 1905-1906’, The Review of Politics, Vol. 35, No. 2, (Apr., 1973), pp.204-218. p207]] Grey was rigid in his policy of firm support for France: “My own opinion was that if Germany forced war on France in order to destroy the Anglo-French Agreement, we ought to go to the help of France.”[[Viscount Grey of Fallodon, Twenty-Five Years 1892-1916, Vol. 1, London, 1925, p77]] This was in part due to his inexperience. This was emphasised, as Grey was the only member of the Cabinet, apart from Lord Ripon, the leader of the Lords, who had any interest in Foreign affairs.[[McGeoch, Transition, p208, 211]] Grey believed that “If we were to get out of the old, bad rut in which we had so often come to the verge of war with Russia, we had to work for a definite agreement.”[[Grey, Twenty-Five, p152]]
It was Grey who was kept trying to speed up the slow negotiations, adding in friendly suggestions such as the British fleet visiting Kronstadt which had to be dropped due to unrest in Russia and Liberal opposition in Britain.[[Churchill, 1907, p130-131]] Or else trying to prevent negotiations stopping altogether, shown in a letter to Nicolson:
Grey finally persuaded the Russians to fast movement on the agreement by implying that Britain would no longer confront Russia at the straits[[Churchill, 1907, p158]]:
However at the same time he managed to keep it out of the area of negotiation as it would force what was a bilateral negotiation to be turned into a general European matter, or at least the French would have to be brought in.[[William A. Langer, ‘Russia, the Straits Question, and the European Powers, 1904-8’, The English Historical Review, Vol. 44, No. 273, (Jan., 1929), pp.59-85, p68]] Though for Grey “the worst is that things would be said in Parliament, and in our Press, which would mightily offend the Tsar and the Russian Government”.[[Grey, Twenty-Five, p164]]
Great Men: Sir Arthur Nicolson
Grey was therefore instrumental in the making of the treaty however it was not him who negotiated it. That fell to Sir Arthur Nicolson. Nicolson held similar views to the other main players in the foreign office[[Churchill, 1907, p124]] this was:
It was up to Nicolson to do the negotiating, unlike previous foreign secretaries Grey allowed his civil servants to give advice.[[Steiner, Hardinge, p417]] The instructions Nicolson were given were not in the form of a treaty but simply giving the government line allowing Nicolson considerable room to manoeuvre. It was up to Nicholson to slow down the negotiations when the Russians could not keep up with the pace Grey wished.[[Churchill, 1907, p144-145]]
Nicolson also had the task of smoothing relations whenever the British newspapers printed articles that touched on the autocratic nature of Russia that could have derailed the negotiations. Nicolson’s task was made yet more difficult as he believed “It would be impossible to induce Iswolsky to put his signature to any document which he considered would cause umbrage at Berlin.”[[Nicolson, Nicolson, p222, 253]] Thus Nicolson had to walk a tightrope between the Russian establishment and the British foreign office while persuading Berlin that such a convention was not aimed at them.
Great Men: Iswolsky
On the Russian side the main player was the Foreign Minister Alexander Iswolsky. The British Ambassador to Denmark (where Iswolsky had previously been posted) thought, “Isvolsky had held the scales pretty evenly balanced between his French and German colleagues”.[[Sir A. Johnstone to Sir Edward Grey: May 27 1906, Gooch, BD IV, p235]] Iswolsky was a liberal, had supported the creation of Duma and asked to resign when it was dissolved,[[Iswolsky, Fatefull, p193, 194, 196]] this would obviously make him a more palatable negotiating partner for the British. This made it all the more important that Iswolsky stood up to the Russian bureaucracies, it was Iswolsky who had to overcome the attitudes of the military party.[[Churchill, 1907, p147, 149]] In Greys’ words:
Thus it was Iswolsky who was the negotiator who was being bold, carrying on with little support. Iswolsky was still in the minority when, on the 24th August the final proposal was presented to the council of ministers, which they rejected, as Britain could not offer any more concessions, it was thus entirely down to Iswolsky to turn their views around which he did by the 18th.[[Churchill, 1907, p174-175]]
Iswolsky’s predecessor Count Lamsdorff had been overcautious and inclined to preserve the status quo,[[Iswolsky, Fateful, p193]] therefore unlikely to have been willing to negotiate a far ranging convention with the British. Iswolsky’s character also had its downsides:
This meant that Iswolsky could potentially be persuaded by the opposing bureaucracy not to back the agreement.
Bureaucratic Politics and Great Men: Summary
Krasner’s criticism of Allison’s model seems to apply in the case of bureaucratic politics in relation to the 1907 agreement. Witte is an example of a decision maker not standing where he is sitting.[[Stephen D. Krasner, ‘Are Bureaucracies Important?’, Foreign Policy, No. 7, (Summer, 1972), pp.159-179, p165]] He opposed the convention despite his interests in commerce with Britain and “I soon perceived that only two things could save the dynasty… namely, a large foreign loan”[[Abraham Yarmolinsky trans., The Memoirs of Count Witte, London, 1921, p285]] that Britain could provide. In Russia the Tsar had complete control, although he did not take a particularly active role the bureaucracy was always very sensitive to his values. Meanwhile Campbell-Bannerman’s appointment of Grey reflected the wish of his Liberal Government to come to an agreement with Russia, an example of the chief executive setting the rules and choosing who heads the bureaucracies.[[Krasner, Bureaucracies, pp.166, 169]] The bureaucracies, such as the Indian Government, that were following their own interests were just bypassed.
The individuals certainly had an impact. Edward Grey and Iswolsky magnified the slow movement towards rapprochement that already existed. Without Nicolson’s skill at negotiating along with Grey and Hardinge’s ability to come up with solutions to stalling points the Convention would not have been agreed. Iswolsky and the British kept Nicholas on a path to rapprochement. In this case the individuals may well have tipped the scales enough to create the convention, however they were not the primary cause.
International level: Anglo Russian Competition
Anglo-Russian competition dominated international relations throughout the 19th century. This was because Europe had emerged from the Napoleonic wars with the two ‘flank’ powers, Russia and Great Britain, dominant.[[Paul W. Schroeder, ‘Did the Vienna Settlement Rest on a Balance of Power?’, The American Historical Review, Vol.97, No.3, (Jun., 1992), pp.683-706, p.687.]] India underpinned Britain’s status and pride as a world power; commercially it took one fifth of British exports.[[Lawrence James, Raj, The Making of British India, London, 1998, p.365.]] British power in India was seen as being very fragile. This made the protection of India paramount for Britain creating a policy of creating buffer states.
Russia turned to Central Asia due to the disappointment of the straits convention 1856, with Central Asia being the only direction now open after the closing of the Near East.[[Jennifer Siegel, Endgame, Britain, Russia and the Final Struggle for Central Asia, London, 2002, p.3.]] The only way for the Russia to strike at Britain was through India, enabling Russia to counter British naval supremacy that allowed a strike at the heart of Russia as in the Crimean war. It was also defensive to create a barrier against any British advance, after all Britain had engaged in three wars in a row around Russia’s periphery in the 1850’s.[[David Gillard, The Struggle for Asia 1828-1914, A study in British and Russian imperialism, London, 1977, pp.96, 108, 116.]] As with other imperial powers there was a civilising element
Britain was particularly fearful of the Russian construction of railways into Central Asia:
By the turn of the century fear of the Russian menace was becoming more threatening when combined with a growing power of Germany and colonial incidents with France, newspapers were even helping to undermine the British position claiming Russian government was more humane than the Raj.[[James, Raj, p.389.]]
This increasing threat caused by Russia also makes a deal between the two powers more necessary. There was becoming a need for an agreement on the boarders of the two empires to prevent accidental incursions or clashes in the areas between the empires territories that could create conflict. While both sides saw each other expanding their territories and influence but were not yet rubbing up against each other there was reason for fear but no reason for compromise. This was changing.
International level: Anglo-German Alliance possibility
In 1898 and 1899 there was a chance of an Anglo-German alliance when Chamberlain approached the German ambassador desiring to co-operate against Russia in China. This was part of Joseph Chamberlain’s determination to end Britain’s isolation with a ‘natural alliance’ with Germany.[[Christopher Howard, Splendid Isolation A study of ideas concerning Britain’s international position and foreign policy during the later years of the third Marquis of Salisbury, London, 1967, pp.28, 32.]]
Bülow and Holstein were against, noting “All the negotiations on the English alliance…coincide with the Boer War, that is, with a period of English weakness.”[[Norman Rich & M.H. Fisher eds, The Holstein Papers, The Memoirs, Diaries and Correspondence of Friedrich von Holstein 1837-1909, I, Memoirs and Political Observations, Cambridge, 1963, p.184.]] Moreover at precisely the same time Germany was turning to Weltpolitik making domestic politics unfavourable to any alliance.[[Paul Kennedy, ‘German World Policy and the Alliance Negotiations with England, 1897-1900’, The Journal of Modern History, Vol. 45, No. 4, (Dec., 1973), pp.605-625, pp605-606.]] “The Kaiser wants a fleet like that of England and wants to direct his entire domestic policy to that end, i.e. to a fight.”[[Holstein to Paul von Hatzfeldt 14 April 1897, Norman Rich & M.H. Fisher eds, The Holstein Papers, The Memoirs, Diaries and Correspondence of Friedrich von Holstein 1837-1909, IV Correspondence 1897-1909, Cambridge, 1963, p28]] This was obviously not compatible with any moves towards an Alliance.
National level: Both Britain and Russia overstretched
By 1900 both Britain and Russia were becoming overstretched in their competition across Asia. It however took a military reverse in both cases to realise this. Britain was facing competition and crises right around the world; Morocco, Persia, Afghanistan, and China.[[Monger, Isolation, p3-7]] Britain had been forced to respond to Russian and French building programs to keep its navy as big as the next two navies creating financial strain, Britain was for example left three battleships short in 1903. However there were also new threats from armoured cruisers as commerce raiders, Britain’s Merchant fleet was 6 times the Franco-Russian total making it very difficult to defend in the event of war.[[Neilson, Tsar, p119-121]] The Franco-Russian alliance created an unfavourable balance of naval forces in the Mediterranean, along the key route to India.[[Monger, Isolation, p1-2]] This, along with the Boer war, caused the treasury to be under strain. Military expenditure climbed from £38.7 million in 1897 to £119.6 million in 1900.[[Correlates of War]] Against Germany such Naval competition was a reason to negotiate with Russia and France, so should the Russian and French naval competition be a reason to make a deal with Germany.
Russia’s position was not much better. In the Far East the single track Trans-Siberian was the only lifeline, and it had a gap around lake Baikal, it took more than a month to deploy a battalion from Moscow to Mukden, and then it had to be kept supplied.[[Richard Connaughton, Rising Sun and Tumbling Bear, Russia’s war with Japan, London, 2003, p29-31]] Russia was spending almost as much as Britain on a manufacturing base less than half the size.[[Kennedy, World War, p8, 12, 17]] This meant that both sides were a threat to the other and conflict could occur at the very edge of empire where neither side had much central control.
Russia was not the only nation causing the overstretch for Britain. Germany was determined to get compensation for any colonial changes:
While this was ongoing the Russian and French fleets looked much less dangerous. The Franco Russian alliance was directed against Germany and Austria not Britain making their fleets less threatening.
National level: German policies could derail an agreement
Germany had the opportunity to interfere with the convention due to her growing interests in the Persia and the near east.[[Rogers Platt Churchill, The Anglo-Russian Convention of 1907, Cedar Rapids, 1939, p134-137]] Although the treaty set out as one of its principles “as well as the permanent establishment of equal advantage for the trade and industry of all other nations.”[[‘Convention Signed on August 31, 1907, between Great Britain and Russia, Containing Arrangements on the Subject of Persia, Afghanistan, and Thibet’ The American Journal of International Law, Vol. 1, No. 4, Supplement: Official Documents. (Oct., 1907), pp. 398-406. p400]] It also set out spheres of influence that could only be detrimental to German interests.
Ultimately Only the Kaiser made any reaction and his ludicrous attempt to create a German-American-Chinese entente was bound to end in failure. This was based upon Wilhelm’s fears of a ‘yellow peril’ that Japan would dominate Asia thereby threatening the world.[[Luella J. Hall, ‘The Abortive German-American-Chinese Entente of 1907-8’, The Journal of Modern History, Vol. 1, No. 2, (Jun., 1929), pp.219-235, p222]] In his telegrams to Nicholas he spoke plainly “They are going in for the whole of Asia, carefully preparing their blows and against the white race in general!”[[28 December 1907, Grant, letters, p239]]
Russia and Britain were fortunate that Germany did not try to prevent their entente. Bülow, the German chancellor, believed of Britain’s protestations that
Bülow did his best to calm the Kaiser and Public’s justifiable fears explaining that encirclement “did not alarm me in the least.” He explained that:
He had been similarly relaxed over the entente cordiale.[[Fay, Secret, p54]]
The lack of German response can be explained by Germany’s economic interdependence with Britain, as an example one fifth of Germanys demand for raw materials was supplied by the British Empire, financed by the city of London.[[Paul A. Papayoanou, ‘Interdependence, Institutions, and the Balance of power: Britain, Germany, and World War I’, International Security, Vol. 20, No. 4, (Spring, 1996), p55]] Similarly Germany was confident of her relationship of monarchical solidarity with Russia, and that Russia and Britain would inevitably clash.[[Kennedy, Alliance, p611-612]] Despite a tacit agreement between Grey and Iswalsky over the straits in 1908 Holstein believed:
Bureaucratic Politics: India Office against
Before Grey’s arrival at the Foreign Office the Foreign Office had had little say in the direction of foreign policy, Salisbury ran it as a clerical office.[[Zara Steiner, ‘Grey, Hardinge and the Foreign Office, 1906-1910’, The Historical Journal, Vol. 10, No. 3, (1967), pp.415-439, pp416-417]] So the Indian Government had had a lot of influence over policy in Central Asia. Indeed the Indian Government was the one area where the Convention came up against serious opposition to the Foreign Office proposals on all three areas, Tibet, Afghanistan and Persia.[[Churchill, 1907, p142-3, 186, 272-3]] So large were their demands in relation to Persia that
Britain ultimately went ahead without consulting India.[[Churchill, 1907, p172]] Grey gave an impression of the Indian Government’s opposition when he congratulated one of his staff:
Curzon who had been viceroy to India from 1899-1905 gave the view from India, particularly in relation to Persia, in his speech to the House of Lords in 1908:
Reforms however allowed the Foreign Office officials much more power, as did Grey’s inexperience in Foreign policy and greater workload due to sitting in the commons. Almost all the Foreign Office staff, from Sir Charles Hardinge the head of the Foreign Office staff down were pro French after 1906 and therefore for a agreement with Russia over Germany.[[Lyle A McGeoch, ‘On the Road to War: British Foreign Policy in Transition, 1905-1906’, The Review of Politics, Vol. 35, No. 2, (Apr., 1973), pp.204-218. p212]] This was important, as it was the British Foreign Office that worked out the substance of the agreements, making the drafts and working out how to get around sticking points,[[Steiner, Hardinge, p418]] necessary as the Russian Government could not be the side to take the initiative.
Bureaucratic politics: Conflict in Russian bureaucracy
There were many vocal critics of any potential agreement such as Ivan Zinoviev who served in Persia and published a tirade against this policy: Russia, England and Persia.[[Siegel, Endgame, p21]] It can be argued that it was the bureaucracy that ran Russia at this time and almost any bureaucracy is opposed to change.[[Werner E. Mosse, ‘Russian Bureaucracy at the End of the Ancien Regime: The Imperial State Council, 1897-1915’, Slavic Review, Vol. 39, No. 4. (Dec., 1980), pp. 616-632, p618]] The Russian bureaucracy was locked in conflict in the first decade of the twentieth Century between a modernising bureaucracy aligned with the bourgeoisie and old bureaucracy aligned with the landed gentry. This created an inherent instability in the regime. Therefore the Anglo-Russian convention was bound to be opposed. Britain recognised that “The military party, to my mind, are a stumbling block”.[[Extract from Annual Report for Russia for the year 1906, January 2 1907, Gooch, BD IV, p259]] Witte, the Finance Minister, in particular was opposed due to Britain’s support of Japan “This, the English hoped, would teach Russia a lesson and be of service to them when it came to regulating certain moot points of the Anglo-Russian Relations.”[[Abraham Yarmolinsky trans., The Memoirs of Count Witte, London, 1921, p162]]
However in autocratic Russia coordination of departments was poor and the emperor had the last say on everything, the bureaucracy could not make policy.[[Hans Rogger, Russia in the Age of Modernisation and Revolution 1881-1917, London, 1983, p47-48]] In Russia the leading Ambassadors and the Foreign office were in support of a move towards strengthening the alliance with France by adding close co-operation with Britain.[[Iswalsky, Fateful, p200]] Even ministers relied upon the Tsar, always having to see what way the Tsar was leaning on a policy, and following it even if the minister privately objected so if the Tsar came down on the side of the diplomatic corps the military side of the bureaucracy would comply.
Great Men: Nicholas II
In Russia even after the 1905 revolution the Tsar’s character and political preferences were the key elements in Russian decision-making.[[Rogger, Modernisation, p15]] This posed a problem with Nicholas II who appeared to agree with whoever he had last spoken too, meaning no one knew what he would do next. Nicholas also believed it was his sacred duty to uphold autocracy, but also had a sense of mission for his country, particularly in Asia.[[Seton-Watson, Russian Empire, pp.547-548]] However as Arthur Nicholson puts it:
As an example of Nicholas’ weak mindedness: “I [Nicholas II] ask your agreement to acquaint the government of France with this project [the Bjorko treaty]” this sensible idea was probably brought about by Count Lamsdorff. However Wilhelm had changed Nicholas’ views within four days “You [Nicholas] have given me [Wilhelm] a new proof of your perfect loyalty by deciding not to inform France without my agreement.”[[Herman Bernstein, The Willy-Nicky Correspondence Being the Secret and Intimate Telegrams Exchanged Between the Kaiser and the Tsar, New York, 1918, pp.83, 88, 85]] This demonstrates how different Nicholas’ views are depending on what faction has his ear at the time. This impacted on the convention as Nicholas’ agreement was needed, thus at the start of negotiations Nicholas believed “I [Wilhelm] can well imagine that the English are, as you [Nicholas] say fiddling around you, about asia”.[[14 June 1906, Grant, Letters, p231]] By March 1907 Nicholas stated, “he had been gratified to learn… that a substantial advance had been made towards an agreement… and said this must occur.”[[Sir A. Nicolson to Sir Edward Grey: March 1 1907, Gooch, BD IV, p276]] And when it came to needing his agreement Nicholas would agree if his ministers gave unanimous consent, in effect he would not decide.[[Churchill, 1907, p174-5]]
Obviously this is not a No point/point against the question but this should go at the end.
Essentially this is my bibliography. As a lot of the references I make only used summerised citations you may well need to come and look at this to work out what precicely the book or article is rather than finding the first mention of that book. This should also help anyone who is looking to do further research on the 1907 treaty or any of the surrounding topics.
Bernstein, Herman, The Willy-Nicky Correspondence Being the Secret and Intimate Telegrams Exchanged Between the Kaiser and the Tsar, New York, 1918.
Bülow, Prince von, Memoirs, Vol III 1903-9, London, 1931.
Gambier, J.W. ‘A Plea for Peace - an Anglo-Russian Alliance’, Fortnightly Review, (Jul-Dec., 1900), pp.998-1008.
Grant, N.F. ed., The Kaiser’s Letters to the Tsar, London.
Grey, Viscount of Fallodon, Twenty-Five Years 1892-1916, Vol. 1, London, 1925.
British Documents on the Origins of the War 1898-1914, Vol. III The Testing of the entente 1904-6, London, 1928.
Gooch, G.P. & Temperley, Harold eds., British Documents on the Origins of the War 1898-1914, Vol. IV The Anglo-Russian Rapprochement 1903-7, London, 1929.
Hansard, The Parliamentary debates Fourth Series, Third session of the twenty eighth parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, Vol. CLXXXIII, 29 Jan.-11 Feb., London, 1908.
Lieven, Dominic ed. British Documents on Foreign Affairs: Reports and Papers from the Foreign Office Confidential Print, Part I from the Mid-Nineteenth Century to the First World War, Series A Russia, 1859-1914, Vol. I Russia 1859-1880, 1983.
Nicolson, Harold, Sir Arthur Nicolson, BART. First Lord Carnock, A Study in the Old Diplomacy, London, 1930.
Rich, Norman & Fisher, M.H. eds, The Holstein Papers, The Memoirs, Diaries and Correspondence of Friedrich von Holstein 1837-1909, I, Memoirs and Political Observations, Cambridge, 1963.
Rich, Norman & Fisher, M.H. eds, The Holstein Papers, The Memoirs, Diaries and Correspondence of Friedrich von Holstein 1837-1909, IV Correspondence 1897-1909, Cambridge, 1963.
Savinsky, A., Recollections of a Russian Diplomat, London, 1927.
Yarmolinsky, Abraham, trans., The Memoirs of Count Witte, London, 1921.
‘The Russians at the gates of Herat’, Science, Vol. 5, No. 117, (May 1, 1885), pp.368-369.
‘Convention Signed on August 31, 1907, between Great Britain and Russia, Containing Arrangements on the Subject of Persia, Afghanistan, and Thibet’, The American Journal of International Law, Vol. 1, No. 4, Supplement: Official Documents. (Oct., 1907), pp. 398-406.
‘The Anglo-Russian Convention’, The Spectator, Sept 28 1907, Vol. 99, (Jul. 6-Dec. 25, 1907), London.
Andrew, Christopher, ‘France and the Making of the Entente Cordiale’, The Historical Journal, Vol. 10, No.1, (1967), pp.89-105.
Byman, Daniel L. & Pollack, Kenneth M., ‘Let us now Praise Great Men, Bringing the Statesmen Back In’, International Security, vol. 25, No. 4, (Spring, 2001), pp.107-146.
Charmley, John, Splendid Isolation? Britain, the Balance of Power and the Origins of the First World War, London, 1999.
Churchill, Rogers Platt, The Anglo-Russian Convention of 1907, Cedar Rapids, 1939.
Connaughton, Richard, Rising Sun and Tumbling Bear, Russia’s war with Japan, London, 2003.
Fay, Sidney B., ‘The Kaiser’s Secret Negotiations with the Tsar, 1904-5’, The American Historical Review, Vol. 24, No.1, (Oct., 1918), pp.48-72.
Gillard, David, The Struggle for Asia 1828-1914, A study in British and Russian imperialism, London, 1977.
Hall, Luella J., ‘The Abortive German-American-Chinese Entente of 1907-8’, The Journal of Modern History, Vol. 1, No. 2, (Jun., 1929), pp.219-235.
Howard, Christopher, Splendid Isolation A study of ideas coincerning Britain’s international position and foreign policy during the later years of the third Marquis of Salisbury, London, 1967.
Iswolsky, Helene, ‘The Fatefull Years: 1906-1911’, Russian Review, Vol.28, No.2, (Apr., 1969), pp.191-206.
Jackson, Robert H., ‘The evolution of International Society’, in John Baylis & Steve Smith eds. The Globalisation of World Politics: An introduction to international relations, Second Edition, Oxford, 2001, pp35-50.
James, Lawrence, Raj, The Making of British India, London, 1998.
Jervis, Robert, Perception and Misperception in International Politics, Princeton, 1996.
Kennedy, Paul, ‘German World Policy and the Alliance Negotiations with England, 1897-1900’, The Journal of Modern History, Vol. 45, No. 4, (Dec., 1973), pp.605-625.
Kennedy, Paul, ‘The Kaiser and German Weltpolitik: reflections of Wilhelm II’s place in the making of German Foreign Policy’, John C.G. Röhl & Nicolaus Sombart eds., Kaiser Wilhelm II New Interpretations, Cambridge, 1982, pp.143-168.
Kennedy, Paul, ‘The First World War and the International Power System’, International Security, Vol. 9, No. 1, (Summer, 1984), pp.7-40.
Kennedy, Paul, The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers: Economic change and military conflict from 1500 to 2000, London, 1989.
Kennedy, Paul, The Realities Behind Diplomacy, Background Influences on British External Policy 1865-1980, London, 1995.
Krasner, Stephen D., ‘Are Bureaucracies Important?’, Foreign Policy, No. 7, (Summer, 1972), pp.159-179.
Langer, William A., ‘Russia, the Straits Question, and the European Powers, 1904-8’, The English Historical Review, Vol. 44, No. 273, (Jan., 1929), pp.59-85.
McGeoch, Lyle A, ‘On the Road to War: British Foreign Policy in Transition, 1905-1906’, The Review of Politics, Vol. 35, No. 2, (Apr., 1973), pp.204-218.
Monger, George, The End of Isolation, British Foreign Policy 1900-1907, London, 1963.
Mosse, Werner E., ‘Russian Bureaucracy at the End of the Ancien Regime: The Imperial State Council, 1897-1915’, Slavic Review, Vol. 39, No. 4. (Dec., 1980), pp. 616-632.
Nicolson, Harold, ‘The Origins and Development of the Anglo-French Entente’, International Affairs (Royal Institute of International Affairs 1944-), Vol. 30, No. 4, (Oct., 1954), pp.407-416.
Neilson, Keith, Britain and the Last Tsar: British Policy and Russia 1894-1917, Oxford, 1995.
Packard, Laurence B., ‘Russia and the Dual Alliance’, The American Historical Review, Vol. 25, No. 3, (Apr., 1920), pp.391-410.
Papayoanou, Paul A., ‘Interdependance, Institutions, and the Balance of power: Britain, Germany, and World War I’, International Security, Vol. 20, No. 4, (Spring, 1996), pp.42-76.
Ripley, Brian, ‘Cognition, Culture and Bureaucratic Politics’, in Laura Neack, Jeanne A.K. Hey and Patrick J. Haney, eds., Foreign Policy Analysis, Continuity and Change in Its Second Generation, Englewood Cliffs, 1995, pp.85-91.
Rogger, Hans, Russia in the Age of Modernisation and Revolution 1881-1917, London, 1983.
Schroeder, Paul W., ‘Did the Vienna Settlement Rest on a Balance of Power?’, The American Historical Review, Vol.97, No.3, (Jun., 1992), pp.683-706.
Sheehan, Michael, The Balance of Power: History and Theory, Routledge, London, 1996.
Seton-Watson, Hugh, The Russian Empire 1801-1917, Oxford, 1989.
Siegel, Jennifer, Endgame, Britain, Russia and the Final Struggle for Central Asia, London, 2002.
Snyder, Jack, Myths of Empire, Domestic Politics and International Ambition, Ithaca, 1991.
Steiner, Zara, ‘Grey, Hardinge and the Foreign Office, 1906-1910’, The Historical Journal, Vol. 10, No. 3, (1967), pp.415-439.
Taylor, A.J.P., The Struggle for Mastery in Europe, 1848-1918, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1971.
Waltz, Kenneth, Theory of International politics, New York, 1979.
Wohlforth, William C., ‘The Perception of Power: Russia in the Pre-1914 Balance’, World Politics, Vol. 39, No. 3, (Apr., 1987), pp.353-381.
Yergin, Daniel, The Prize, The Epic Quest for Oil, Money, and Power, New York, 1993.
‘National Material Capabilities’ (v3.02), Correlates of War project, accessed 26/11/06 (website said to reference article) –David, Singer J., ‘Reconstructing the Correlates of War Dataset on Material Capabilities of States, 1816-1985’, International Interactions, Vol 14, (1987), pp.115-132.
What do you think?