The chief potitical obstacle to an Anglo-Russian understanding is, no doubt, due to the desire of Russia to come down to the Persian Gulf. If we are able to recognise and tolerate her ambition in that quarter our antagonism would come to an end, at least for a generation. This admittedly is a subject of great difficulty and one not to be settled off-hand; but that is no reason, as the Times has lately pointed out, why statesmen should not be prepared to face it. It is clearly our interest, as it is our intention, to preserve intact the status quo in the Gulf unless we can come to an arrangement with Russia by which we get a quid pro quo. That status has been lately threatened by the Sultan of Turkey at Kuwait, the port at the head of the Gulf which the Germans are believed to have marked as their future naval base and which is to be the southern terminus of the great trunk line which will cross Constantinople. The Sultan of Turkey lately made use of certain local disturbances between Mubarak, the Sheikh of Koweit and the Emir of Najd in order to assert his sovereignty over the independent sheikhs of the coast and he counted on vindicating his pretensions over the ruler of Kuwait, after that personage had been defeated by his enemies. Accordingly, the Sultan sent a corvette-full of troops to Kuwait. Mubarak immediately applied for British protection and when the Turks appeared they found one of our gunboats in the port and the British officer informed the Turkish commander of the expedition that his troops would not be allowed to land. There the matter stands for the present, but the whole incident is illustrative of the handiwork of Germany, who was undoubtedly egging on the Sultan. The attempt was mainly directed against the British policy of upholding the present situation in the Persian Gulf, but, if successful, it might have a very considerable bearing on the future interests of Russia. ls it not idle to argue that Germany has „claims’ to a port on the Persian Gulf, while we are to regard the appearance of Russia in that part of the world as a casus belli? Some acknowledged authorities have held that the manifest anxiety of Russia to penetrate into Southern Persia and to secure a seaport is a subject to be carefully considered by England. In this connection a thoughtful paper by Sir Richard Temple, in the July number of the Royal United Services Journal, deserves the attention of the statesmen of both countries; and it may also be remarked that the policy of endeavouring to close our controversy with Russia by an accord on the Persian Gulf was advocated at the close of his career by no less a person than Sir Henry Rawlinson. But it cannot be too often repeated that the condition precedent of such an agreement is the active goodwill of the powers that be in St. Petersburg. It is for them to reflect as to whether the co-operation of England might not be of enormous use in promoting Russian trade in the Far East. At present Russia has already a road from the Caspian to the Persian capital, which is a source of great profit to her; but she can only transport goods to and from the Persian Gulf on the backs of camels or of mules; and the cost of carriage between the Caspian and the sea-coast, even at the most favourable time of the year, is not less than twenty pounds a ton. In another part of the world it is for the Russians to consider whether the goodwill of England might not be worth cultivating. The question of Manchuria naturally rankles in the mind of the Japanese, who can clearly see that if a Japanese pied à terre constituted a menace to the integrity of the Chinese Empire, which was the pretext on which she was ordered out of Port Arthur, then the establishment of Russia in Manchuria may become a very formidable menace to Japan. That conviction is coming home with increasing force the closer Japan views the situation; that Russia is aware of it is shown by her studied conciliation to the first-class naval and military Power lying off her most exposed flank. She feels constrained to go out of her way to the Japanese Government, to which she ostentatiously communicates the movements of her troops in Manchuria;
but these courtesies do not conciliate; the burning indignation which the Russian appropriation of Manchuria raises in the breast of Japan may be concealed for a while, but she is merely biding her time and awaiting an opportunity for displaying her real sentiments. The keystone to British policy in the Far East is a friendly understanding and co-operation with Japan but, that being recognised, there is nothing to prevent this country from supporting a settlement of the Manchurian and Corean questions on lines which would be regarded as fairly satisfactory both in St. Petersburg and in Tokio. If the Corean question were regularised, Japan would have considerably less reason than at present to apprehend Russian schemes and Russia; on her part, might devote herself to developing her far eastern dominions without risk of interruption from Japan. Russian statesmen have to make up their minds whether, in the present condition of Russian industries, Russian agriculture and Russian finance, a friendly understanding with England, which would relieve her anxieties in the Far East and which might result in her being able to continue her. Trans-Caucasian and Siberian railways to the shores of the Persian Gulf and which, last but not least, might enable her to carry out her historic mission in the Balkans, is not worth a high price. Whether our readers agree with the view propounded in this paper or not we do not think that those who adopt a purely negative attitude by denying the existence of any basis for an entente between the Russian and British Empires are entitled to be heard. If others have a positive policy opposed to that which we are setting forth, by all means let them produce it and induce or compel the British Government to adopt it and execute it. But in the interval we venture to sketch in outline some suggestions for a comprehensive settlement between the two Powers with the object of demonstrating to the sceptics that at any rate the raw material for an Anglo-Russian agreement abounds — whatever may be the case as regards the goodwill and statesmanship requisite to evolve the finished article. We would invite the reader to note that these suggestions are calculated to compromise neither the relations between Russia and France nor those between Great Britain and Japan. PROPOSED ANGLO-RUSSIAN UNDERSTANDING. The understanding would naturally fall under three different heads: I. THE NEAR EAST. With regard to the Near East the basis would be that whilst Russia abstained from any attempt to interfere with the status quo in Egypt, we should frankly recognise that the fulfilment of what Russia regards as her historic mission in the Balkan peninsula conflicts with no vital British interests and that in AsiaticTurkey we should abstain from favouring the development of German schemes of expansion. II. PERSIA AND CENTRAL ASIA. With regard to Persia and Central Asia, we might offer Russia our cooperation in the development of railway communication between the Caspian and the Persian Gulf; and in securing for her a commercial outlet on the Gulf in return for an undertaking on the part of Russia to respect the political status quo along the shores of the Gulf. III. THE FAR EAST. With regard to the Far East the question is necessarily more complicated, as Japan would have to be taken into the counsels of the two Empires and a basis of agreement arrived at which would satisfy her as well as Russia and Great Britain. As far as Japan is concerned, such a basis might be found in the recognition by Russia and England of the Japanese claim to an exclusive sphere of influence in Corea. Japan would presumably, in return for this concession, have no objection to a formal agreement under which Great Britain would recognise Russia’s claim to regulate her political and commercial position in Manchuria and Mongolia by direct negotiation with China, and Russia would in like manner recognise Great Britain’s claim to regulate in the same wav her political and commercial position in the Yangtsze Valley, each Power binding itself to give no
support in those regions to the enterprise of any other Power. With regard to all other questions in China, Great Britain, Russia and Japan would agree to take no steps without mutual consultation. The fact of Russia being a party to such an agreement would give France a guarantee that her interests would be taken into due consideration, while our participation would afford a natural safeguard to the commercial interests of the United States. The effect of such an agreement, accompanied by the customary demonstrations in such cases, public declarations by the Sovereigns and their official representatives and an exchange of visits by their respective fleets, would at once remove the danger of a sudden explosion, which must continue to hang over the whole world so long as the Far East remains the powder-magazine of international rivalries and conflicting interests which it is at present. The natural consequence of this understanding would be that in the event of war between Germany and Russia, Great Britain would remain neutral and in the event of war between Great Britain and Germany, Russia would remain neutral. Russia would no longer give cause for suspicion that she was instigating France to make war against us, as Count Muravieff did during the Fashoda crisis and Great Britain would cease to be suspected in St. Petersburg of encouraging Japanese hostility to Russia. Japan, on her side, would be relieved of the menace of a possible rival against her of the Triple Alliance of I895. We need not enlarge upon other points in the European relations of Great Britain. Lord Salisbury’s Government deserves credit for having strengthened the bonds between this nation; her oldest ally, Portugal, a country we should stand by on all occasions. On the other hand, have not his Majesty’s Ministers shown some remissness in their dealings with Italy? At any rate, there is high authority for saying that this is the feeling at the Quirinal. Any obstacle to Anglo-ltalian friendship, whatever it may be, should be speedily removed. Italy is a country specially dear to the English people; it is the land that Byron loved and to which Palmerston was devoted. Nothing in this latter’s brilliant career does him more credit than his persistent, wise and courageous efforts to liberate Italy from thraldom. Apart from all sentiment, Italy is one of the natural allies of England and we have not so many that we can afford to trifle with her. Italian statesmen have one and all proclaimed their desire to maintain the status quo in the Mediterranean and any attempt to impair the supremacy of England in that sea must be looked askance at in Italy, for if we were overthrown, France — the friend of the Vatican — would take our place. And just as Russia has nothing to gain but everything to lose from the substitution of German for British supremacy, so Italy would have bitter cause to rue the disappearance of the White Ensign from the Mediterranean. On her side, Italy has a right to expect the material as well as the moral support of England under certain circumstances easier to conceive than to discuss. For instance, should the nightmare which haunts European statesmanship materialise and the Austrian Empire be plunged into the melting-pot, England should exert herself to secure for Italy that portion of the disjecta membra which is Italian in sympathy and feeling. Under no circumstances should we tolerate that the German flag should float over the Italian city of Trieste. If we are to revert, as some of us desire, to the policy of Canning and Palmerston and energetically support the cause of civil and religious liberty and popular rights in Europe, the time may not be remote when we should lift up our voices on behalf of the Czechs of Bohemia. In so doing we shall be promoting the real interests of the Austrian Empire; the question has been so persistently misrepresented that Englishmen are only beginning to realise that the Slavs of Austria are not the disintegrating force within that country. But it is the German element enrolled under the banner of the Pan-Germanic League which threatens the
existence of an empire which a great Czech writer has told us would have to be created if it did not exist. To sum up, then, the general conclusions of this paper: we should do everything in our power to promote the interests of Italy and the expansion of Italian power, while we need not conceal our sympathies for the Bohemian Slavs and the ideas they represent and we should adhere firmly to our old policy of alliance with Portugal. We are the only great European Power which covets no European territory and it ought not to be beyond the resources of our statesmanship to profit by this unique feature in our position. In the Far East the keystone of our policy will be the maintenance of our entente with Japan. It is our earnest desire to meet, if possible, the wishes of Russia, particularly on the Persian Gulf; but this policy is only practicable if Russia realises that our co-operation is at least as valuable to her as hers is to us. We may, perhaps, be allowed to interject in passing that the different methods and systems of government and political institutions in the two empires need not interfere with their cordial relations, as some Russians seem inclined to apprehend. His Excellency Constantin Pobiedonostseff, Procurator of the Holy Synod, has recently published an article in the North American Review expressing his unmitigated contempt for the parliamentary machinery of France, Austria, Germany and Italy. We cannot but suspect that he is equally hostile to the spread of English theories of government and fears they might conceivably creep into Russia in the wake of an Anglo-Russian entente. His Excellency should be reassured on that point. Englishmen are beginning to realise that their institutions, however suitable to this country, are quite unsuitable even to nations whose historical development is much more similar to that of England than is the history of Russia. The Empire of the Tsars, on its side, possesses interesting and characteristic institutions which it would be disastrous to impair, but which could not be transferred to other soils. In seeking to close our prolonged contest with Russia, we are desirous of doing something which would be for the advantage of civilisation and, should it be effected, it would not be less welcome because it brought us back into friendly relations with France — a country whose history is closely interwoven with our own and with which we share so many political sentiments. The French are perhaps the only nation which will make sacrifices and run risks for the sake of those who enjoy their friendship. They are capable of sentimental attachment as well as sentimental hatred. To those foreign statesmen who say, or are supposed to say, that’ It is impossible to do business with England, seeing that one Government is apt to reverse the foreign policy of its predecessor’, we would reply that of late years there have been various influences at work to steady public opinion in this country on questions of foreign politics and that the break on a change of Government is practically imperceptible. The credit of this continuity is principally due to Lord Rosebery and his adherents in Parliament and the Press. No one familiar with the personnel of our politics can seriously suggest that if Lord Salisbury and Lord Lansdowne were to pursue the policy set forth in this paper their successors would fail to keep the engagements they might inherit. But earnestly as we advocate a particular policy there should be no misunderstanding as to our motives. We are not touting for alliances. We are prepared to entertain friendly overtures and to enter alliances on suitable terms and for practical purposes; and for the realisation of ideals beneficial to the world at large we think Great Britain should be prepared to make considerable though reasonable sacrifices. But the people of this country will no longer tolerate a policy of „graceful concessions’ and will not permit any Ministry or any personage however exalted to adopt towards any Power the attitude which has been too long followed as regards Germany. If Russia wishes to come to us, we shall meet her cordially and at least half way. If, on the other hand,
Russia and France, one or both of them, elect to combine with Germany in an attempt to wrest from us the sceptre of the seas and to replace our sovereignty by that of Germany, England will know how to meet them. The Navy Bill in Germany was carried through with the avowed object of creating a navy which „would be able to keep the North Sea clear.’ We have no intention of clearing out of the North Sea or out of any other sea. We seek no quarrel with any Power but if Germany thinks it her interest to force one upon us, we shall not shrink from the ordeal, even should she appear in the lists with France and Russia as her allies. Germans would however, do well to realise that if England is driven to it, England will strike home. Close to the foundations of the German Empire, which has hardly emerged from its artificial stage, there exists a powder magazine such as is to be found in no other country viz, Social Democracy. In the case of a conflict with Great Britain, misery would be caused to large classes of the German population, produced by the total collapse of subsidised industries; far-reaching commercial depression, financial collapse and a defective food-supply might easily make that magazine explode. A.B.C. etc.