Today concluding my review of this piece about Soviet Ambassador Ivan Maisky, and his interwar top-secret dispatches back to Moscow from London.
It is the job of any Ambassador to schmooze with the local elites and find out what’s going on. Where we left off: Maisky relied on information coming out of Anthony Eden’s wife, Eden then being the Foreign Secretary. The wife was named Beatrice Beckett. From her photograph, she looks like she could have been one of Bertie Wooster’s aunts.
What Maisky didn’t know at the time is that Anthony was hopped up on amphetamines, which he was taking for his chronic ailments; they were legal at the time, but affected his mood. He had his sharp ups and downs. Hence, Maisky may have misunderstood Anthony’s “exalted” reaction to the failure of the Lord Halifax mission to Berlin, and his popping of the champagne bottle.
Still, Maisky was too cynical to indulge in wishful thinking, and showed a keen analysis when he came to the following conclusion, at the end of his telegram:
“Notwithstanding Chamberlain’s disillusionment with the results of the Halifax trip, one should still expect, that he will, nonetheless, continue with his attempts to strike a deal with Hitler and Mussolini.”
The published copies of these telegrams (which one can see in the VZGLIAD piece) are from a two-week period in November, when the ground was being laid for the appeasement agreement with Hitler. Maisky predicted that Chamberlain would reach an agreement with Hitler and make concessions in Central Europe. He also predicted that Chamberlain would pressure the French government to throw Czechoslovakia under the bus. Which is exactly what happened.
Chamberlain’s main motivation for acting this way, was not so much his affection for Hitler, but rather the need to preserve Great Britain’s colonial system. Which formed the foundation of Britain’s wealth and well-being. While this was going on, the main Soviet motivation was to try to form a defensive bloc in Central and Eastern Europe, hoping for French support; but coming up against the open hostility of Poland and the coldness of Great Britain.
In spite of everything, Maisky soldiered on in his attempts to craft an anti-Nazi alliance. He was willing to work with Chamberlain, but also put his hopes in Churchill, who was the single figure in British politics at that time who was capable of thinking outside the box.
In the end, unfortunately, Soviet diplomacy was not able to put together a system of collective security for Europe. First London refused, and then Paris. The governments of those respective countries were not able to see far enough ahead to know even their own best interests. Chamberlain was even convinced that he had saved British colonies by throwing Austria and Czechoslovakia under the bus, with the Munich appeasement accords. “Peace in our time!” All he actually did was untie Hitler’s hands for further aggression.
In conclusion: the Maisky correspondence proves, once again, in case anyone doubts, that already in the winter of 1937, London’s strategy was to make a deal with Hitler; and there wasn’t much that could stop them from making this huge mistake.