Journal Article

Anglo-Soviet Naval Armaments Diplomacy Before the Second World War

Joseph A. Maiolo

in The English Historical Review

Volume CXXIII, issue 501, pages 351-378
Published in print April 2008 | ISSN: 0013-8266
Published online April 2008 | e-ISSN: 1477-4534 | DOI:
Anglo-Soviet Naval Armaments Diplomacy Before the Second World War

More Like This

Show all results sharing these subjects:

  • British History
  • World History
  • European History
  • International History


Show Summary Details


The failure of Britain and the Soviet Union to cooperate in the containment of Nazi Germany has attracted much attention. Most historians blame Britain for the lack of cooperation between the two powers against Hitler. Some emphasise a lack of realism in British policy as the root cause, other an excess of anti-communism.

This article evaluates these arguments by exploring Anglo-Soviet naval armaments diplomacy from 1935 to 1939 based on documents from the British and Russian archives. Naval diplomacy touched upon vital long-term strategic concerns for both powers: Britain, the world's largest maritime power, was endeavouring to maintain its place at the top; after a period of relative neglect, the USSR was beginning to rebuild its fleet in earnest to counter growing threats in Europe and Asia. As this article will argue, neither a lack of realism nor unbridled anti-communism drove British policy. Likewise, Soviet policy was driven neither by an idealistic search for peace through arms control nor by a naïve faith in British open-handedness. To focus exclusively on either London or Moscow as the sole agent with the ability to determine the outcome of the relationship is to misrepresent the interactive nature of international politics. Both parties entertained incompatible long-term goals and worked at cross-purposes.

Not only was the relationship at the level of naval armaments fraught with justified mutual hostility and suspicion, but also their long-term goals (as illustrated by their naval policies) set limits on the degree and duration of any form of cooperation.

Journal Article.  14436 words. 

Subjects: British History ; World History ; European History ; International History

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.