5 - Soviet Russian assertiveness: February 1936–July 1937  pp. 166-211


By Keith Neilson

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The decision not to offer Soviet Russia a loan (and, by extension, not to prepare the way for a possible political arrangement between the two states) did not end the choices facing those who made British policy. The next year and a half was full of events that made determining the direction of British policy even more difficult. British strategic foreign policy continued in its ‘deterrence’ phase, with no new consensus about its proper direction emerging. The German remilitarization of the Rhineland on 7 March 1936 and the ratification of the Franco-Soviet Treaty on 2 May undermined Eden's efforts to find a comprehensive settlement based on an Anglo-French-German understanding. Italy annexed Abyssinia, again revealing the League's impotence. On 18 July 1936, the Spanish Civil War broke out, with all its ideological, political and strategic complications. In the Far East, a series of incidents kept Anglo-Japanese relations on edge, while, on 25 November, the signing of the German–Japanese Anti-Comintern Pact linked two of Britain's potential foes together. In May and June 1937, the Purges in the Red Army and the resulting questioning of Soviet Russia's strategic value threatened to disrupt the precarious balance of power. Finally, on 7 July 1937, the Marco Polo Bridge incident initiated fully fledged hostilities between Japan and China, which threatened British interests in China. However, until the advent of the Purges, Soviet Russian military strength increased, and Moscow continued to pursue a policy of deterrence towards both Germany and Japan.