Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Rivals Masquerading as Allies

Co-opt Russia or destabilize Russia and cause chaos along its entire frontier – this has been the foreign policy of first Britain, then the United States, for well over 100 years.  It continues even today.

Previously, Frankopan offered an overview regarding Britain’s concern of the threat created by Russia against her empire.  In his view, this was perhaps the primary cause of the Great War.  Frankopan goes on to develop some of the specifics:

…Russia’s influence and involvement in the east continued to expand at accelerating speed as it developed its own Silk Roads.  The construction of the Trans-Siberian Railway, and the connection with the Chinese Eastern Railway, led to an immediate boom in trade, with volumes nearly trebling between 1895 and 1914.

In 1895, Russia established the Russo-Chinese bank, via its embassy in Paris and capitalized by Russia and France.  The bank opened an office in Shanghai shortly thereafter.  This bank helped finance the Chinese Eastern Railway.

In 1894, before the railways had opened up new possibilities, more than 80 per cent of all customs revenue collected in China was paid by Britain and British companies – whose ships also carried more than four-fifths of China’s total trade. 

Better developed trade routes by land throughout this “world island” would reduce the value (and leverage) of the trade routes via the British-controlled seas and ports. 

It was obvious that Russia’s rise, and that of the new land routes that would bring produce to Europe, would come at Britain’s expense.

Further, there was tremendous untapped wealth in this world island – wealth that could drastically shift the global balance of power.  As Russian Prime Minister Pyotr Stolypin told the Duma in 1908:

“Our distant and inhospitable frontier territory is rich in gold, woods, furs, and immense spaces suitable for agriculture.”

It was during this time, in the late 1890s, that Russia began to take steps to woo Persia.  At a time when the mountains effectively blocked Russia from Afghanistan (and, hence, India), Persia offered a clear pathway to Britain’s crown jewel of the sub-continent.

By this time, Russia had already built the Trans-Caspian Railway, skirting the northern borders of both Persia and Afghanistan.  By 1900, there were those in Russia advocating the development of connecting lines into each of these neighboring countries – and the British knew this. 

At the same time that Britain faced these concerns, Russia was undergoing internal turmoil.  Strikes in St. Petersburg in 1905 were only a foreshadowing – with the Tsar considering to flee Russia.  After the disastrous outcome of the Russo-Japanese War, there were concerns in Russia about the effect on the population if further wars were pursued – a revolution, perhaps.  Then, as now, the threats posed by Russia may have been exaggerated in order to secure other agendas.

Nevertheless, if Russia was to develop its “distant and inhospitable frontier territory,” and connect it via rail to trading locations east, west, and south, this would be a damaging blow to Britain.

Britain’s position in the east was limited and dangerously exposed.  What was needed was the reorientation of Russia’s focus away from this region altogether.

And with this, perhaps, one will find the root cause for the Great War in Europe – a root cause just waiting for an exploitable event.  Onto the stage steps the soon-to-be appointed Foreign Secretary, Sir Edward Gray:

In a bold statement given to The Times just a month before his appointment at the end of 1905, he made it clear that there would be much to gain if an understanding could be reached about “our Asiatic possessions.”  No British government, he said, would “make it its business to thwart or obstruct Russia’s policy in Europe.”  It was “urgently desirable,” therefore, “that Russia’s position and influence” should be expanded in Europe – and diverted, in other words, from Asia.

Britain desired alliance with Russia in order to get Russia focused in Europe, which meant, ultimately, a war in Europe that would consume Russia.  When looked through this lens, many subsequent events make sense.

A specific understanding of dates and events is in order:  France and Russia had good relations as far back as the 1870s, both with a common enemy: Germany.  As late as the Russo-Japanese War, Britain opposed Russia in support of Japan.  On 8 April 1904 a series of agreements was signed between Britain and France, known as the Entente Cordiale.  Also in 1904, the Franco-Russian Alliance was consummated.

Edward Gray took office as Foreign Secretary on 10 December 1905; therefore, his aforementioned statement was made around the beginning of November.  On 31 January 1906, secret military talks began between the British and the French, binding the British Expeditionary Force to the French Army. 

France was growing increasingly concerned about the growth of Germany – and remained angered about the defeat in war just three decades before; Britain did not want to see a continental power grow to be its rival.  This concern certainly extended to Germany; apparently, it also extended to Russia.  Meanwhile, France saw Russia as an ally in its designs regarding Germany.

In the meantime, in August of 1907, Britain and Russia concluded a treaty regarding the division of Persia, Afghanistan and Tibet into “spheres of influence,” ending a further threat to Britain’s sub-continent…just as Edward Gray had desired.

As Sir Charles Hardinge, permanent undersecretary at the Foreign Office in London, stressed in 1908, “it is far more essential for us to have a good understanding with Russia in Asia and the Near East, than for us to be on good terms with Germany.”

Russia was seen as a bigger threat to Empire than was Germany.  Good for empire, not so good for the British people.

Britain would do all it could to develop and maintain good relations with Russia; this included a favorable disposition toward the issue of the Bosporus.  Russia ran with this idea, gaining Austrian support in September 1908 on the issue of the Bosporus Straits in exchange for acquiescence for Russia’s support regarding Austria’s annexation of Bosnia – an agreement that had disastrous consequences, seen by Slavs both within and outside of Russia as a sell-out.

Even in 1910, Sir Edward Gray held firm: there could be no agreement with Germany that might sacrifice good relations with France and Russia.  In the meantime, Germany saw the necessity to break the alliance among Britain, France and Russia – to include a meeting between the Kaiser and Tsar Nicolas in 1910.  All efforts came to  naught.

Meanwhile, British propaganda about the Hun stoked the people to a fever pitch.


Why was there such a hatred of us, wrote Robert Musil in Berlin in September 1914: where did the envy come from that “was no fault of our own?”

Because Britain desired this war, a war designed to both divert and consume Russia.

The Great War came not because of an assassin’s bullet, not because of Germany’s entry into a naval race, not because of a blind bloodlust from the Kaiser.  For Britain, Russia was seen as both an ally and a rival; for Britain, the war was an opportunity to use turn that ally against itself, thus eliminating the threat to Britain’s control of trade along the sea routes that had replaced the Silk Roads.

The end of the war came: Germany was forced to accept all blame for the war.  Meanwhile, Britain achieved its objective: progress in Russia would grind to a halt, with the revolutions of 1917 ensuring Russia would remain diverted for quite some time.

The cost?  Ten million dead from fighting, half-again from disease.  Two-hundred billion dollars spent; European economies shattered.  Deficits piled high, empires that dominated the globe destroyed.

Britain had won the battle, if one can refer to the Great War as such within the context of containing Russia; it lost the war. 

And it took European civilization down with it.


  1. BM ty very much for this series on The Silk Road. You have made me want to read the book itself and I finally ordered a copy!

    1. I am glad that you appreciate it. I also find the book very worthwhile.

  2. Enjoying the deep history.

    This is off topic but wanted to leave it here in case you found it worth writing about.

    As dumb and annoying as Gillespie is, there is bit of truth to what he is saying. Might make for a fun article.

    1. There is much truth in what he writes.

      To address his post is both very simple (because I agree with much of it) and very complex (because it draws out the reality that left-right is THE more important issue than is "nothing" (libertarianism as he defines it) vs. "something" (governance of some sort)).

      It will be worth doing, but I have to dwell on it for a bit.

    2. One of the most insidious things about the liberal imperium is you have an entire class of apparatchiks who claim to be against the empire while deriving their entire existence from it.


      This one is even worse/better.

    4. UC, I had already written the post before I saw your comment. In any case, I wanted to deal with Gillespie.

  3. "Because Britain desired this war, a war designed to both divert and consume Russia."

    Do you think Britain elites wanted war Europe more to destroy all sides then just Russia or Germany? I mean even France had been so damage from the war. Maybe the Elites were wanting the war to destroy Austria, Russia, Germany, France and Italy (instead to their surprise they get Turkey)? I am also guessing they also did not think the war would go to 1918 and turn the USA into both the financial world banker and superpower.

    1. I believe Britain was always concerned about any one continental European power growing too strong, so I do agree with this. However, European interests were only one portion of Britain's concerns: there was the threat to the entire Empire, and in this it seems Russia was a key concern.

      As to the USA taking Britain's place, I believe there were those of the elite who intended this to occur; they knew that the US would have the economic might that Britain would never have. See Stead:

      Altogether, I have 3-4 posts covering a book written by him:

    2. I can see your point about the some of the elites seeing the British empire being replace.
      If most of the elites in Britain saw out of the three powers rising and were set to replace them as the world power. Germany, Russia and the USA. If they had to choose which one to replace them of course they would rather the English speaking nation with a history of Western values. And I can say I am glad it was the USA and not Germany or Russia. Even with the trouble that the USA has cause on the world.

      I think though the elites of any country want to be the ones in control and not others. It depends on the person in power whether they care about nationalism or not but they care about keeping their power and perhaps explaining it.

      That is what I see the elites in most Europe at the time thinking. From the books I have read on the time most of the elites and Generals thought the war would be like that of the Napoleonic Wars and not the American Civil War which only a minority pointed to. A couple of battles that would decide the fate of the war and then a peace deal before Christmas, not the slow grinding of blood and treasure that resulted.

  4. Has to be satanic revelation at some highest level?
    Only Satan could come up with a plan that would be so diabolical in its design, and have future consequences far out weighing
    anything man alone could come up with.

    Owyhee Cowboy

    1. When it comes to international "diplomacy," it seems to me that Britain was far more creative, nuanced, and "masking" (meaning, to hide the true intent) than the United States has been.

      Relatively speaking, the British played chess, the United States plays MMA.

  5. Would it be OK if I cross-posted this article to There is no fee; I’m simply trying to add more content diversity for our community and I enjoyed reading your work. I’ll be sure to give you complete credit as the author. If “OK” please let me know via em5ail.


  6. Yes, culture matter. In theory you can be a racist, a suprematist, a homophobic, a misoginist, and a kind of cultural fascist or nazist and respect the nap, and if you do so, you are all that things and a libertarian, and that is enough for me. But in reality things are different, those kind of intolerant angry culture pavé the way to violence, aggression, state, war, etc... those people doesn't want to live in peace with the others that are different from them, they are angry, furious, they see themselves as victims, they want to fight, they want power, they want vengance. So a realistic libertarian, while always respecting the nap, is wise that discriminates those kind of people. Culture matters and tolerance is a foundamental piece of culture that matters. It is required some degree of tolerance to non aggress others.

    The problem with the left is exactly that. They are intolerant, they are aggressive, they use the state to oppress the other different people, they promote censorship, and discrimination by law, they judge people by the skin
    's colour, they see people as members of group and not as individual, they want to shape society with politics, they are like talibans imposing their idea of virtue and repressing their idea of vice by force and violence.

    But the progressive left of today is mimicking what was done in the past. And so we see, in this consequence, how bad was what was done in the past. Positive discrimination is the reflex of the laws against the black. The law against "homophobia" and for the "rights" of LGBT are the reflex of the laws against them. The laws to promote gender equality are the reflex of the legal and political discrimination of women. And so on. Once the laws were against them, now they are using the law against the others. Once the state forced upon society the kind of culture that the right like, against gay, women, libertinism, black, etc.. and in doing so statism grow, and also if the worldview that people agree upon are changed, the statism is not.

    And historically is always so: the far-right and the far-left are linked. One lead to the other. Mussolini took power thanks to the fear of leftism. Hitler too. The Second World War helped the urss. And after the death of Mussolini, Italy was on the brink of a red revolution. And also now in USA, Trump took many votes from the traditional left kind of voters. And many that liked Sanders, voted Trump, over Hillary.

    The alt right neofascist, racist, suprematist culture is no more good for libertarianism than the idiotic, racist, marxist culture of the progressives. They are enemies, but they are also the some kind of people for many aspects. They speak about liberty in a distorted way, and only while they are not in charge. But in reality they have a political, monstrous, agenda.


    1. Anonproof, I think your comment belongs in another thread.

      I think too many people look to the state for solutions, and an ever-growing state becomes more and more the only alternative.

      Hence, decentralize - not just to smaller government units, but also to alternative governance units (church, family, social clubs, etc.). If we are to find a solution, it is only here.

      As to comparatively weighting left vs. right, while neither are libertarian I think the left has a far more destructive historical track record - destructive in both body count and culture. And too many people dismiss the value of a common culture in limiting government.

    2. What blows my mind about the smug leftist and their advanced thinking on the mixing of cultures through force, but at the same time adhering to the religion of between unique and different? The difference IMHO regarding the Left Libertarian vs the Left Socialist is the belief that their vessel market for one govt. intervention for the other can cure uncurable cultures who don't respect Western values...a Kum-by-ya get along feel good social justice. Now this is not perfect analysis of Leftist...but they seem to have a God Complex for changing the unchangeable.

      Could their be a corollary to the vapid deterioration of pop culture and bland homogenization if you will that has been placed on us? Mainly in entertainment, but other avenues as well.

      Unfortunately all the 20th century belief in central government as a leg up or societal tool has come back to bite the Europeans in the homeland and the US...destroying once vibrant cultures..though not perfect a big step in progression for mankind.

      It is said that the Progressive agenda goes back a few hundred years....just curious if the Elite knew this was a better racket at keeping the masses enslaved than the Devine Right of Kings...

  7. Britain already decided to make friendship with the USA in the 1890s. So by 1914 the USA was favorably disposed towards Britain.

    1. Yes, I have covered this here: