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Great Britain, Germany and the Soviet Union

Great Britain, Germany and the Soviet Union: Rapallo and after, 1922-1934

Stephanie C. Salzmann
Copyright Date: 2002
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 211
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  • Book Info
    Great Britain, Germany and the Soviet Union
    Book Description:

    The treaty of Rapallo, concluded in 1922 between Germany and the Soviet Union, the two vanquished powers of the Great War, ranks high among the diplomatic coups de surprise of the twentieth century. Its real importance, however, lies in the repercussions of the alliance on the subsequent policies of the two victorious powers, Britain and France. This study examines the impact of Rapallo on British foreign policy between 1922 and 1934, when the German-Soviet relationship had virtually ended. The "ghost of Rapallo" is the central theme of this story, as ever since the treaty's conclusion Rapallo has been a byword for Soviet-German secret and potentially dangerous collaboration. This book describes how the British viewed the Rapallo co-operation, how they dealt with this special relationship, and how the lingering memory of Rapallo affected British policy for decades to come. While examining a particular aspect of international relations it throws additional light on broader topics of European relations in the 1920s and early 1930s. Dr STEPHANIE SALZMANN completed her PhD at Trinity Hall, Cambridge.

    eISBN: 978-0-585-49090-8
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. vii-viii)
    Stephanie Salzmann
  4. Abbreviations
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-6)

    The treaty, which Germany and Bolshevik Russia² concluded in the small Italian seaside resort of Rapallo in the spring of 1922 ranks among the diplomatic coups de surprise of the twentieth century – perhaps only comparable to the big renversement desalliancesof the eighteenth century. Up to the present day, the ‘ghost of Rapallo’ has lost little of its original fascination. However, the signing of the treaty received a level of attention, and the agreement itself was attributed a degree of importance that neither the Germans nor the Soviets had intended or expected. Besides the myths and historical re-interpretations, the...

  6. 1 ‘It Nearly Overthrew the Applecart’: Lloyd George and the Treaty of Rapallo
    (pp. 7-18)

    Genoa, Easter Monday, 17 April 1922. The news of the treaty of Rapallo exploded like a bombshell. The bilateral Russo-German agreement had been secretly concluded during theWorld Economic Conference the previous day. The surprise was immense, as was the anger among the participants of the conference. Would all efforts for an international co-operation to solve the post-war political and economic problems now be in vain? Had they assembled in Genoa for nothing?

    David Lloyd George, the British prime minister, was particularly angry and bewildered about the German– Russiancoup de surprise. Indeed, he almost regarded it as a personal defeat....

  7. 2 ‘The Most Important Event Since the Armistice’: The Foreign Office and Rapallo
    (pp. 19-32)

    ‘We seem to be relapsing in the case of all the great continental powers into the deepest slime of pre-war treachery and intrigue’,¹ fumed foreign secretary Curzon when learning of the Rapallo treaty.

    Tempers ran high in Britain over the German–Russian agreement. The indignation among London decision-makers was unanimous. The news of the Rapallo treaty came out of the blue for the Foreign Office on 18 April 1922. It was clear from the outset that Germany was blamed as the principal culprit in the agreement. After all, the German government was at least indirectly responsible for the existence of...

  8. 3 Rapallo’s First Test: The Ruhr Crisis
    (pp. 33-44)

    By the end of 1922 the Rapallo agreement had retreated into the background of British attention. The months that had passed since the end of the Genoa conference were dominated by a number of issues which were more important to British foreign policy than the Russo-German treaty. Lloyd George had stepped down as British prime minister in October 1922 and was replaced by the Conservative Andrew Bonar Law in the November elections. Bonar Law confirmed Curzon as foreign secretary, and the Foreign Office gradually re-emerged from its backstage role under Lloyd George without, however, regaining its pre-war influence. The issues...

  9. 4 The Policy of Conciliation: Rapallo and the First Labour Government
    (pp. 45-54)

    ‘The sun of England seems menaced by final eclipse’, wrote theEnglish Reviewafter – to everyone’s surprise – the Conservative Party had been defeated in the general elections of 6 December 1923. For the first time in British history Labour, in the eyes of many British ‘the party of revolution . . . with the design of destroying the very bases of civilised life’,¹ was to form a government. British public opinion was divided between scepticism and the desire to give Labour a chance. The question of how British socialism would distinguish itself from its Russian counterpart was particularly important in...

  10. 5 The Battle for the German Soul: Locarno and the Treaty of Berlin
    (pp. 55-76)

    The joy was overwhelming. Months of tiresome negotiations lay behind Austen Chamberlain and his colleagues back in London, months during which the foreign secretary more than once was about to despair, either about the French, or more often about the German attitude. But patience and skilful negotiations eventually won the day. With the Locarno treaty now signed, the issue of security, the touchstone of European relations since 1919, had leaped forward a great deal. It was the breakthrough towards more amicable relations between the victors and the vanquished of the FirstWorld War, and shifted Germany’s eastern orientation to a more...

  11. 6 Rapallo and the Rupture of Anglo-Soviet Relations
    (pp. 77-88)

    Locarno had unlocked the door to a new period of peace in Europe. The western powers found the subsequent path of conciliation sometimes stony, but nevertheless manageable and – at least at first – seemingly devoid of insurmountable obstacles. The close personal relationship between the three Locarnites, Briand, Chamberlain and Stresemann, and the informal ‘Geneva tea parties’ where they discussed politics, contributed to the new confidence.¹ Europe did its best to overcome the divisions of the First World War.

    The Soviet Union, however, felt like an outcast. From the moment they learned that Germany was to sign an agreement with the western...

  12. 7 Rapallo and the Decline of the Locarno Spirit
    (pp. 89-101)

    After the rupture of Anglo-Soviet diplomatic relations, British foreign policy returned to normal. The British legation in Moscow was closed and Sir Robert Hodgson and his staff recalled to London. Soviet Russia retreated into the background of British attention. Western European problems once again dominated British foreign policy. Until its fall from power in June 1929, the Conservative government focused on disarmament and a further revision of the treaty of Versailles. The evacuation of the Rhineland and reparations were the predominant issues.

    Germany had joined the preparatory disarmament conference in November 1927. The principal problem throughout the many years of...

  13. 8 An Economic Rapallo?
    (pp. 102-118)

    ‘That the Russian threat is economic rather than political in character seems now to be recognised on all sides’, minuted a high-ranking Foreign Office official on 3 March 1931.¹ This remark was made at a high point in the Anglo-German rivalry for business in the Soviet Union, which had been ongoing since the end of the FirstWorldWar. Germany’s position at this time was more favourable for a variety of reasons: her pre-war trade experience with the tsarist empire, the most-favoured nation clause in the Rapallo treaty and the trade agreement of October 1925. Wherever they could, British diplomats therefore tried...

  14. 9 Rapallo and the Disarmament Conference
    (pp. 119-136)

    The end of the FirstWorldWar left many states with feelings of deep insecurity. Germany’s neighbours looked anxiously towards her as a potentially formidable military power, despite her defeat. By signing the treaty of Versailles, Berlin had to accept an extensive restructuring and curtailment in the armaments and manpower of theReichswehr, as well as Allied supervision. The victorious powers recognised, however, that European stability did not depend solely on Germany. Rather, peace required general disarmament of victors and vanquished alike. General disarmament was therefore supposed to create a stable international order under the auspices of the League of Nations where...

  15. 10 The Rapallo Relationship and Hitler’s Rise to Power
    (pp. 137-154)

    The year 1930 marked a turning point in European, and also British politics after the First World War. Within a few months, the spirit which had been decisive for the post-Locarno era faded away, after two of the main guarantors of peace and of increasing conciliation between the former victors and vanquished had left the political stage. Austen Chamberlain was forced out of office when the Conservatives lost the general election on 30 May 1929. Gustav Stresemann, the German foreign minister, died on 3 October 1929. Only the French foreign minister, Aristide Briand, continued, in the new Tardieu government which...

  16. 11 The End of Rapallo: The German–Polish Non-Aggression Treaty
    (pp. 155-169)

    The ‘invitation to the waltz’¹ caused surprise. That it was even considered met with greater surprise, but to watch the two dancing off together was clearly the last thing anyone expected. Yet this was exactly what happened when Germany and Poland stole the show and signed a non-aggression treaty on 26 January 1934.

    The Germans had always looked down upon and detested the Poles, especially since Poland had formed an alliance with France . . . Moreover, the creation of the Corridor separating East Prussia from the body of Germany, and the granting to the city and territory of Danzig...

  17. Conclusion
    (pp. 170-180)

    The treaty of Rapallo which Germany and the Soviet Russia signed on Easter Sunday 1922 during the Genoa conference, was the first serious challenge to the post-Versailles political system. Despite repeated German–Soviet denials, other states at once suspected second thoughts behind the agreement. From the outset, this caused the treaty to become a byword for potentially dangerous secret co-operation between the two revisionist European pariahs after the First World War. The burning question was whether – and to what degree – it would shatter the fragile new Europe and influence the policies of individual countries. A ‘myth’ of Rapallo had emerged....

  18. Bibliography
    (pp. 181-194)
  19. Index
    (pp. 195-201)
  20. Back Matter
    (pp. 202-202)