Why didn't Britain and France enter the Russo-Japanese War?

Jul 2009
9,782
#2
Why didn't Britain and France enter the Russo-Japanese War in order to help their allies Japan and Russia, respectively?
The Anglo-Japanese alliance of 1902 did not require one contracting party to support the other unless it was at war with a third power. Mutual support was to be provided if one party was at war with more than one other power. The Japanese used that alliance as cover for their expansion onto the Asian mainland. Their 1902 alliance was directed against Russia. (Britain also used the alliance to redirect naval assets from the Far East to the Mediterranean and to the North Sea.)

AFAIK, the Franco-Russian alliance had similar provisions. Their 1894 alliance was directed against Germany. However, France used their alliance with Russia as cover for colonial expansion when in conflict with Britain.

Everyone has ulterior motives. :)
 
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Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
18,039
SoCal
#3
The Anglo-Japanese alliance of 1902 did not require one contracting party to support the other unless it was at war with a third power. Mutual support was to be provided if one party was at war with more than one other power. The Japanese used that alliance as cover for their expansion onto the Asian mainland. Their 1902 alliance was directed against Russia. (Britain also used the alliance to redirect naval assets from the Far East to the Mediterranean and to the North Sea.)

AFAIK, the Franco-Russian alliance had similar provisions. Their 1894 alliance was directed against Germany. However, France used their alliance with Russia as cover for colonial expansion when in conflict with Britain.

Everyone has ulterior motives. :)
So, in a bilateral conflict, these alliances were useless? Or am I misunderstanding you here?
 
Jul 2009
9,782
#4
So, in a bilateral conflict, these alliances were useless? Or am I misunderstanding you here?
Nope, they were very useful for all the contracting parties, but in differing ways. The diplomats around the turn of the 20th century were cynical, but very intelligent, and they negotiated treaties that served the interests of their respective countries.
 
Jul 2009
9,782
#6
How exactly did these alliances help during the Russo-Japanese War, though?
They assisted the two powers (Russia and Japan) in certain substantive ways, and in peripheral ways.

1) Japan had the promise of British support in the Far East if France ( or Germany) interfered with Japanese interests in China and Korea.

2) Russia had the promise of support of France if Germany acted against Russia in Europe.

3) Britain was able to concentrate naval forces in more critical geographies (Med; Home waters). In 1902 Japan was a counterweight to France and Germany in the F.E. They also, in 1904-05, occupied Russia far from the India-Central Asia 'theater.'

4) France would have (could have) had the support of Russia - in Afghanistan/India - against Britain in case of conflict over French colonial issues in Africa. Fr. could not foresee the result of the R-J war.

Of course the Franco-Russian alliance of 1894 was primarily directed against Germany, but there were collateral benefits.

Peripherally, in the case of the R-J war, Japan benefited from Britain denying use of the Suez Canal to the Russian navy, prolonging its voyage to the F.E. Russia benefited from the use of French colonial ports and facilities as its voyage proceeded (Morocco; Madagascar; Indochina).

Britain and France had no vital interest in getting directly involved in the 1904-05 war. They both derived certain advantage from their respective alliances.


Now, after 1904-1907, all that changed with the development of the Triple Entente. Thus is the nature of international politics and strategic-diplomatic alignments. In 1894 and in 1902, things were different.
 
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Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
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SoCal
#7
Thanks for this information!

Anyway, do you think that, had WWI not broken out before the 1920s or so, the old alliance systems could have been recreated? Specifically, I am thinking of France + Russia (+ Serbia and Montenegro) versus Britain + Germany + A-H + the Ottomans + Japan.
 
Jul 2009
9,782
#8
Thanks for this information!

Anyway, do you think that, had WWI not broken out before the 1920s or so, the old alliance systems could have been recreated? Specifically, I am thinking of France + Russia (+ Serbia and Montenegro) versus Britain + Germany + A-H + the Ottomans + Japan.
Not totally sure how to answer that one. While I would not expect changes to the France + Russia or to the Germany + Austria-Hungary alliances, it is speculative (s.p.e.c.u.l.a.t.i.v.e ;)) to assume what changes in alliances any developing circumstances might see.

As to Serbia/Montenegro, a formal alliance with Russia (and France?) could have been a deterrent to A-H. If that would have mattered is open to question as A-H attacked Serbia (in 1914) knowing the probability that Russia would respond. Russia's connection to the two Serb kingdoms was more cultural than strategic before WW I. It had certain political and strategic aspects, but not to the degree of formal alliance(s). (Russia's interests in Serbia are still much the same in 2019 as that gives them influence in the middle of the Balkans.) I don't know that the French had enough interest in the Balkans to get that involved in the absence of a declared war that affected French interests.

The Germans did not give two sh!ts about the Balkans as any big conflict there could drag them into it. Germany was more focused on Turkey. Essentially there were two reasons for a formal alliance , Germany + Turkey, and that did not happen until WW I had already begun. First, the "Berlin-Baghdad" RR had been going on since a year or two after the turn of the 20th century. Aside from opening a market for German goods, that RR was intended to get German access to a port on the Persian Gulf, and to get at the oil that was becoming a critical strategic and economic material. Such a port would also bypass British control of the Suez Canal and access the proposed German colonial presence in east Africa and also the German Chinese ports and pacific islands. OK, that RR wasn't finished until about 1940 so the result of a big war in 1920 may still not have mattered, but if no 1914-18 war, it could have been different. For Germany in that case, the Balkans were just a pathway to the Persian Gulf. The rest of that was A-H's issue. Turkey was a pretend great power and needed support desperately. They had few options strategically.

The Japanese used the 1902 Anglo-Japanese Alliance mostly to get themselves established on the Asian mainland. Once that was accomplished (Korea annexed 1910), they had less need of Britain, but had the Russian Empire survived longer, and with Britain and Russia cozying up in 1907, Japan may have joined the Entente say, after 1910, and used that as further European support for their objectives. The Japanese would have had their expansionist eyes on the German Pacific islands, and maybe Kiao-Chu in China. Russia's Far East interests would not have changed, just been put on hold. (The Anglo-Japanese Alliance was not renewed in 1923 in actual fact.)

Without a 1914-18 war, who knows what might have occurred? There could have been a Russian Revolution anyway. The United States began an enormous build up of the US navy around 1916 and was focused on its economic policies in Asia. That could have begun conflict with either Japan or even Russia. Again, who knows? Kinda fun to speculate though.
 
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Jun 2018
377
New Hampshire
#9
The British were allied with the Japanese, but the terms of their Alliance stipulated that they would only enter the war on Japan's side if another power entered the war on Russia's side. Thus if Germany, Russia's ally, joined the war against Japan, then Great Britain would have been obligated to declare war on both Russia and Germany.
 
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Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
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#10
The British were allied with the Japanese, but the terms of their Alliance stipulated that they would only enter the war on Japan's side if another power entered the war on Russia's side. Thus if Germany, Russia's ally, joined the war against Japan, then Great Britain would have been obligated to declare war on both Russia and Germany.
What about if France would have entered the war on Russia's side? Britain would have still entered the war on the Japanese side?