Diplomacy and the Study of International Relations/Part 1-4

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Diplomacy and the Study of International Relations by D. P. HEATLEY
Diplomacy and the conduct of foreign policy (Cont'd)
Oliver Cromwell
  1. Thomas Cromwell
  2. Difficulty in the conduct, and in the study, of international policy
  3. Dispatches and 'extracts'
  4. The chief danger in the conduct of foreign policy

Successful diplomacy in modern times diplomacy sustained by political supports in well-considered relation to military equipment, and successful in, at least, its immediate practical purpose has had no more cogent example than Bismarck ; and Bismarck, as he once declared, was no . doctrinaire in politics. In 1861 he outlined his programme to Disraeli at a dinner in London. He expected, he said, to be called upon, in a short time, to undertake the direction of the Prussian Government. His first duty would be to reorganize the army. He would then seize the first really good pretext to declare war against Austria, to dissolve the German Diet, to overpower the middle and smaller states, and to give to Germany a national unity under the leadership of Prussia. Disraeli remarked, ' Take care of that man ; he means what he says '. x The pro- gramme was carried out to the letter. Do not let your diplomacy outrun your preparations. That was the burden of the charge brought by the elder Pitt against the incompetents at the outset of the Seven Years' War. It is a maxim for all time in the conduct of foreign policy ; and for Bismarck, with the plans 1 Loftus, Diplomatic Reminiscences, i. ch. xvi.


44 Diplomacy and 'the

he had formed, it was necessary to see that the preparation was continuous that Prussia was always and increasingly prepared. In the history of our own country for we must not, in smug complacency and with a show of unctuous rectitude, merely look abroad for the marks of diplomacy we might go for illustration of its sinister attributes to quarters where, perhaps, they are least expected. It has been claimed for Oliver Cromwell that he was ' no Frederick the Great, who spoke of mankind as diese verdammte Race that accursed tribe ' : he belongs to ' the rarer and nobler type of governing men who see the golden side, who count faith, pity, hope among the counsels of practical wisdom, and who for political power must ever seek a moral base '.* We should not be content with that character for the Protector even in his home policy ; still less in his foreign policy. A knowledge of the diplomacy of 1654 is of itself sufficient to destroy the picture and discredit the artist. It used to be thought that Cromwell then stood forth as arbiter among the rulers of Europe, and, in particular, that the monarchs of France and Spain were suitors for his support. 2 Instead of this the facts show him courting France

1 Morley, Oliver Cromwell (1900), 469. See, however, for qualification, p. 434 in the chapter on Foreign Policy : ' Like every other great ruler in critical times and in a situation without a precedent, he was compelled to change alliances, weave fresh combinations, abandon to-day the ardent conception of yesterday.' Lord Morley in his Recollections (1917) has made additional reservations in deference to the tyranny of circumstance.

  • e.g. Frederic Harrison, Oliver Cromwell (1895), 221: 'The history

of England offers no such picture to national pride as when the kings and rulers of Europe courted, belauded, fawned on the farmer of Huntingdon.' For a judicious estimate sec Firth, Oliver Cromwell (1905) the chapter on ' Cromwell's Foreign Policy ', and ' The Epilogue '. ' Looked at from one point of view, he seemed as practical as a commercial traveller ; from another, a Puritan Don Quixote,' 389. ' Political inconsistency is generally attributed to dishonesty, and Cromwell's dishonesty was open and palpable.'


Conduct of Foreign Policy 45

and Spain alternately, ' constant only in his inconstancy '. x In April 1654 the Baron de Baas, a special agent of Mazarin, astonished Cromwell, at an audience, with the abundance and accuracy of his information regarding the Protector's designs and intrigues, and concluded with the ironical request that Cromwell would extricate him with honour from the labyrinth. Oliver's countenance, we are told, fell ; the words came from his mouth more slowly than was his wont ; and the interpreter, 2 after conveying a halting explanation of the words of the Protector, ' conveniently remembered that his Highness had an engagement which made it impossible to prolong the conversation, though he would be glad to resume it on a more fitting occasion '. 3 At no other time in the history of England have the profession and the pursuit of an ideal in the conduct of foreign policy been so deeply and confusedly involved with material motive ; and it was entanglement with the ideal that brought Cromwell to his gravest perils both in morality and in achievement. Be it added, in this connexion, that, although many of the facts and circumstances were unknown to the great royalist historian and statesman, Clarendon, in The History of the Rebellion we find the true discreet type of mind that is required for estimate of the interests that underlie the conduct of policy among nations ; and Clarendon is apprecia- tive of Cromwell's regard for such interests. 4

But farther back still we might with advantage go back as far, perhaps, as Henry VII for the lessons to be gathered from one who is unsurpassed among English kings and states- men for combined sagacity and subtlety ; 5 back, certainly, to

1 Gardiner, History of the Commonwealth and Protectorate, ii. (i 897), 477.

2 Baas spoke in French. 3 Gardiner, op. cit., 437-8. 4 See, e.g. vii. (ed. 1736), 20-1, 24-6, 37.

6 Contemporary English writers, it has been said, were not adequately equipped for an appreciation of Henry VII, even in his home policy : they could not ' penetrate the veil of subtle statesmanship by which


46 Diplomacy and the

Wolsey, master of diplomatic divagations ; back, more especially, to that other Cromwell, whose manual of statecraft, according to his enemy, Cardinal Pole, was The Prince of Machiavelli. In Thomas Cromwell's letters diplomacy is revealed in its tortuousness, hardness, and relentlessness. Let us take a moder- ate example and an extreme personal case.

In October 1537 Cromwell wrote to Sir Thomas Wyatt directing him to sound the Emperor concerning the mediation which Henry VIII had proffered between Charles V and Francis I :

  • . . . Your parte shal be nowe like a good oratour, both to

set furthe the princely nature and inclynacion of his highnes with all dexterite, and soo to observe Themperours answers to the said overture and to the rest of the pointes in the same letteres expressed, as you may thereby fishe the botom of his stomake, and advertise his Majeste howe he standeth disposed towardes him, and to the contynuance of thamytie betwene them. . . . You must in your conference with themperour take occasion to speake of all those matiers, and soo frankely to speake of them as you may feale the depenes of his harte wherein you shall doo good service. . . . Gentle Maister Wiat nowe use all your wisedome rather to trye out howe themperour is disposed towardes the kinges highnes, thenne to presse him anything to agre to the overture of mediacion if he woll not as gentilly embrace it as it is made freendly unto him. For to be plain with you thother parte declare him in wordes towardes his Majeste to make only faire wether, and in his

a politic and peaceful, but watchful and suspicious king, was putting an end to the long reign of violence. It required the brain of an Italian ' a Polydore Vergil. Gairdner, Early Chroniclers, 306. For diplomacy during the reign, see Calendar of State Papers : Venice, i, and Spain, i. Useful extracts from original authorities are given in Pollard, The Reign of Henry V 11 from Contemporary Sources (1913, 1914), i. and iii. 'No English statesman', it is claimed for Henry in his foreign policy, ' achieved so much at so small a cost '. Ibid., i. li. See also Wilhelm Busch, England under the Tudors, i. (transl. 1895), chh. i and iv.


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harte dede and workes, to doo all that he canne to his graces dishonour, insomoche as they host themselfes to have refused some honest offres for themselfes bicause they were knytt with vile and filthie conditions towardes his Majeste. And if it be true it is pitye there shuld be such dissimulacion in suche a prince, and specially towardes him, whom he ought of congruence all thinges considered to observe love and honour to his uttermost, if you thinke that the speaking of thise thinges unto him may be any meane to disciphre his very meanyng bolte them out of yourself as signified unto you by some of the Agentes of the Kinges highnes in Fraunce. And whenne you shal be in communication of thise matiers handle them with suche a plain franknes as youe may drawe sumwhat out, that percace resteth yet hidden undre a colored cloke of freendeship or at the least manifest and make open that like a prince of honour he meanith as he pretendeth.' *

For the personal case, the following, from a letter, in September 1537, to Michael Throgmorton, when Thomas

Cromwell wished to secure him as his agent at Rome against

! the intrigues of Cardinal Pole in Italy :

  • . . . I myght better have judged, that so dishonest a maister,

cowlde have but evyn suche servantes as youe ar. No, no,

loyaltie and treason dwell seldome togethers. There can be

no feithfull subject so long abide the sight of so haynous a

traytour to his prince. Yow cowld not all this season have

byn a spie for the king, but at some tyme your cowntenance

shuld have declared your harte to be loyall towardes your

prince. . . . Yow thinke youe doo goode servyce there to the

kinges hieghnes ; for asmuche as yow now se thinges, that

being absent, youe shulde not have seen, such verelye as might

have done greate damage ; if youe hadde not seen them.

Yow have bleared myn yee ones 
your credite shall nevermore

i serve youe so farr, to deceyve me the second tyme. I take

! youe as youe ar.' 2

1 Merriman, Life and Letters of Thomas Cromwell (1902), ii. 92-3. See also the letter of Cromwell to Wyatt, March i, 1538, ibid. 122-5.

2 Ibid., ii. 87.


48 Diplomacy and the

' You have bleared my eye once ... I take you as you are.' The words are worthy of Machiavelli. 1

There is no smooth and easy path for the conduct of inter- national policy ; nor for its study. The fortunes of nations should not be left to the hazards of the unforeseen. Those who are responsible for guiding relations between States need a vast equipment in knowledge and in aptitude. They must know the resources, the constitution and manner of government, the treaty obligations, the character of the dominant personalities, the national temperament and national objects, both of their own State and of its connexions sometimes unruly and suspicious connexions in the Family of Nations. They must well consider the relation of means to ends. Here, without any doubt, there is need of eyes for the past, the present, and the future need of the three eyes of prudence : memory, intelligence, providence. By these Fortuna is won. Of all the regions of politics there is no other of which it is so strictly true as of the international, that only the most complete knowledge and command available of all the factors should be allowed to count, whether for those who direct or for those in a succeeding age who try to judge them. There is often in History and Politics some * one thing unknown ' that is required as the key to all. Especially has that been true of policy between State and State.

It is not otherwise, in its own degree, with the study of foreign policy. As the work, so the study. Here, too, there is need of alertness, circumspection, sagacity. It is necessary to search

1 See a letter to Thomas Cromwell from Stephen Vaughan an agent of Cromwell at Antwerp, in London at the time of writing : an abject appeal for forgiveness for ' one onely fawte, the first and laste that ever I comytted against youe . . . not the unassurest or untrustiest of your frends. Yowe have sore abasshed and astonyed me.' Ellis, Original Letters, third series, ii. 215-16.


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out and to estimate all the factors. But at 'the several crises of international relations, and in the decisive leading-up to them, it is the more particular factors, or general factors in particular forms, that are at work, and that are to be discovered, scrutinized, and estimated ; and here most of all in history it is necessary to get to the sources, and necessary at times to admit that the sources are not wholly adequate, because they have not been, and may never be, fully revealed. It is necessary also to remember that the sources are not in one land only, and that the tinctures are from mixed and varied soils. It is more than useless it is culpably misleading for a writer to take only one set of dispatches, or those of one State only, when he is expounding some development, or even a mere phase, in foreign policy. He must collate the dispatches of a State to several capitals, and set these against those of foreign Powers, on the question that is being considered. The inquirer, for example, into the immediate antecedents of ' the Diplo- matic Revolution ' of the eighteenth century will find, at the crisis of things towards the close of 1755, more to engage his attention at Petersburg than at . London or Berlin, Paris or Vienna. The volumes of the French Recueil des Instructions donnees aux Anibassadeurs et Ministres de France depuis les Traites de Westphalie jusqu'd la Revolution francaise 1 afford an excellent opportunity for partial collation in the study of diplomacy, and for the exercise of historical caution.

Not least must the inquirer observe and faithfully report whether the dispatches and other official papers which he presents and builds upon are complete or merely fragmentary Does he find, or can he himself divine, the ominous word ' extract ' in the dispatches he reads ? Are the dispatches, as published, such as the late Lord Salisbury once described :

1 ' Public sous les auspices de la Commission des Archives diplomatiques au Ministere des Affaires fitrangeres ', 1884 and subsequent years. 2224 E


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' mere headless trunks of despatches, without heads or legs, and with a large hole run through the body ' ? * He must try to find out whether the ' most secret letters ' that precede, accompany or follow even confidential dispatches are still available, and how far they explain what the dispatch has intentionally left partly hidden. Much remains ; and for that he will have to go, not to speeches and writings of the day, whether officially inspired, independent or irresponsible however helpful and necessary these may be for a knowledge of the general situation and an understanding of the psychology of a people but to the most intimate revelations of the prime movers, and to private letters and journals of those who had the privilege of knowing, or to whom came the chance of hearing, with perhaps a fatal facility and imagination in describing. For material of this kind we have usually had to wait at least a generation after the time of the events themselves. Even then there may be the ' one thing unknown '. The admission should be less rare and why churlish ? on the part of historical writers. 2

Bismarck is reported to have said that diplomatic reports are little better than paper smeared with ink, if the object in view be the truth of things and possession of material for history. Even the dispatches that do contain information cannot be understood except by those who know the writers and the men and the things written about. One must know, he said, what a Gortschakoff, a Gladstone, or a Granville had in his mind when he made the statements that are reported in the dispatch.

1 Essays by the late Marquess of Salisbury : Foreign Politics (1905), 210. The essay entitled ' Foreign Policy ' appeared first in 1864.

2 In this and the two preceding paragraphs I have made use of part of a pamphlet entitled International Relations, which I wrote in February 1916 for The Historical Association of Scotland, and which was reprinted for The Historical Association (of England).


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It is to private letters and confidential communications and to verbal ones that we must look for information of the real influences at work. ' The Emperor of Russia, for instance, is on the whole very friendly to us from tradition, for family reasons, and so on and also the Grand Duchesse Helene, who influences him and watches him on our behalf. The Empress, on the other hand, is not our friend. But that is only to be ascertained through confidential channels and not officially.' l The chief danger to be averted in the conduct of foreign policy is, as has already been said, that of allowing diplomacy to outrun preparations and the strength on which success in diplomacy must ultimately depend. If we turn our view inward upon the nation itself, we shall translate that formula without violence into the expression, that a nation must not acquire a reputation for inconstancy and caprice. In this part of our subject we might have been not unhappily spacious where we shall now be severely concise. We might cite well- known examples of the inconsistencies, arbitrariness, and excesses of the Athenian democracy in the realm of foreign affairs, and one might point in contrast to the impressive eulogy passed by Mommsen on the Roman Senate 2 in the

1 Busch, i. 559-60, under February 22, 1871. Bismarck, speaking of his Frankfort experiences, said of Count Rechberg Austrian Minister and President of the Diet at Frankfort that he was at least honourable from a personal standpoint, although, ^as an Austrian diplomat of that time, he was not able to pay too strict a regard to truth. Rechberg once received a dispatch in which he was instructed to maintain cordial relations with Prussia, and a second dispatch, sent to him at the same time, in which an exactly opposite course was enjoined. Bismarck, calling on him, was inadvertently handed the second dispatch to read ; begging Rechberg's pardon for having been given the wrong one, he consoled him with an assurance that he would take no advantage of the mistake, but would use it merely for his personal information. Ibid. i. 373.

2 ' Called to power, not by the empty accident of birth, but substantially

E 2


52 Diplomacy and the

days of its greatness amid grave problems for the State abroad, and, in turn, we might contrast that eulogy with the strictures pronounced by the Marquess Wellesley on the Spanish Junta as a political instrument. 1 But we do well to remember that politics as a study is apt to be made a playground of analogies, and we should come to no absolute judgement as to whether an autocracy, open or veiled, a bureaucracy, howsoever founded and inspired, or the moderated democracy is the best fitted for the conduct of foreign affairs. We should go back to our primary tests, and inquire who the people are we are consider- ing, what is the work to be done, what the conditions.

We cannot by mere examples prove or disprove in such a matter as this. One will point to the cases of instability and untrustworthiness where parliamentary conditions have held sway. Another, with equal force, will warn us that a Frederick II required for Prussia a Frederick II as his successor, whereas there came not a Solomon but a Rehoboam. 2 A third will

by the free choice of the nation ; confirmed every fifth year by the stern moral judgement of the worthiest men ; holding office for life, and so not dependent on the expiration of its commission or on the varying opinion of the people ; having its ranks closed and united even after the equalization of its orders ; embracing in it all the political intelligence and practical statesmanship that the people possessed ; absolute in dealing with all financial questions and in the control of foreign policy ; having complete power over the executive by virtue of its brief duration and of the tribunitian veto which was at the service of the Senate after the termination of the quarrels between the orders the Roman Senate was the noblest organ of the nation, and in consistency and political sagacity, in unanimity and patriotism, in grasp of power and unwavering courage, the foremost political corporation of all times . . . which knew well how to combine despotic energy with republican self-devotion.' History of Rome.

1 See Appendix, pp. 259-60.

  • See Seeley, Life and Times oj Stein, Part it, ch. ii on the character

of the Prussian State, and Part i, ch. v for judicious observations on the relation of the internal economy of a State to its foreign policy.


Conduct of Foreign Policy 53

draw attention to the vicissitudes of the foreign policy of Russia. Forgetting, perhaps, that autocracy was at times far from prevailing there, he may be tempted from one case to deduce and learn all, since in 1762, within seven months months most momentous to Prussia the policy of Russia, or policy from Russia, toward Frederick was at first strongly hostile, under Elizabeth, then cordially and melodramatically favourable under Peter III, and finally, on his deposition, discreetly neutral and watchful under Catherine II. 1 Well may one point to the warnings of the French Government to its representatives at Petersburg, a few years later, to watch over the ' convulsive movements ' and warring counsels at the Russian court ; 2 and a few years later still we have the vivid

1 For an excellent list of authorities on this revolutionary year, see Recueil des Instructions . . . : Russie, ii. 195, foot-note.

2 ' Des mouvemcnts convulsifs, une politique changeante rendent ses forces presque toujours inutiles a ses allies. II faut, par consequent, se borner a etudier les facilites que le pays a toujours fournies pour le maintenir dans un etat d'inquietude, de crise et de faction. Cette cour a elle-meme pour principe d'entretenir les divisions entre ses differents conseils et ses ministres, precaution -a la verite necessaire dans un pays despotique.' Instructions secretes pour le sieur Rossignol, Consul de France a Peters- bourg, 20 juin ijf>$,ibid. ii. 249. Cf. : 'La cour de Russie est remplie d'intrigues, de brigues, de cabales. Le baron de Breteuil, sans entrer dans aucune, s'etudiera a les demeler et a connoitre ceux qui ont le plus credit pres de la souveraine ou dans la nation.' Instruction secrete et particuliere pour le baron de Breteuil ... a Petersbourg, i avril 1760, ibid. ii. 152. See Rulhiere (Secretary to the Embassy under Breteuil), Histoire et anecdotes sur la revolution de Russie en 776.2. On February 8, 1757, Mitchell, at Brunswick, had written to Holdernesse, Secretary of State for the Northern Department : ' . . . I must . . . put your Lordship in Mind how fickle the Court of Russia has been, and how changeable their resolutions are. Your Lordship will remember that within these few months, Sir Charles Williams [British representative at Petersburg] has been upon the Point of succeeding in His Negotiations, which was defeated by a remittance of Money from Vienna, and that the late fiery Declarations of the Czarina


54 Diplomacy and the

and despairing pictures of Sir James Harris, the British repre- sentative, when he had to manoeuvre with Catherine, with Panin and Potemkin. In a dispatch of July 1780 a critical year for Britain Harris states that Prince Potemkin, the favourite of the Empress, assured him that at certain moments she seemed to be determined to join Britain ; but she was restrained by the prospect of bringing on herself the sarcasms of the French and of Frederick of Prussia, and especially by the dread of losing by ill-success the reputation she had won. 1 In these circumstances the ' enervating language ' of Count Panin, her Minister for Foreign Affairs, was more agreeable to her than the advice of Potemkin. Still, in this matter of fostering the League of Neutrality against the interests of Britain, she began to feel, according to the declaration of her favourite, that she had been influenced too far by the Minister : she really regretted her action as ill-considered, and yet her pride would not allow her to recant. * When things go smoothly ', said Potemkin, ' my influence is small ; but when she meets with rubs she always wants me, and then my influence

are the Effect of Passion, and Resentment, and grounded upon false Facts and suggestions made by Count Bruhl and His Associates, to mislead that weak and corrupted Court, which is not even now in a condition to fulfill what it has promised, without being supplied with larger Sums of Money than the Court of Vienna can afford ; nor can I persuade myself that France will pay for the march and subsistance of a Russian Army to serve Purposes purely Austrian.' P.R.O., Prussia, 68. On October 15 of the same year Mitchell wrote to Holdernesse : ' ... If the Empress of Russia should die, I hope not a moment will be lost to improve an event that may still save the whole. How melancholy it is to think, that the Fate of Europe should depend upon such accidents.' P.R.O., Prussia, 70.

1 ' L' amour de la gloire et le desir de reparer aux yeux de 1'univers le vice de son elevation ont fait de Catherine II une princesse dont le regne fera cpoque dans 1'histoire du monde.' Instruction, May 6, 1780, to the Marquis de Verac, Minister Plenipotentiary to the Empress : Instructions . . . : Russie, ii. 353.


Conduct of Foreign Policy 55

becomes as great as ever.' * Two months before these words were written, Harris had described the French as indefatigable in their efforts to get round the Empress : their agents were many at Petersburg, and they spared no expense and no pains to overset everything that he undertook. 2 In this very month May 1780 the British representative had his character drawn not unfairly in an instruction, signed by Louis XVI and by Vergennes, to one regarding whom Catherine had given the assurance that he would be very well received at her Court as Minister Plenipotentiary from France : ' II paroit que le ministre anglais a Petersbourgest 1'homme le plus capable de mettre a profit ce que la ruse et les petits moyens peuvent faire pour suppleer aux avantages qu'il sent bien avoir perdus.' 3 Monarchy rests, in principle, on unity, and it emphasizes the need for stability in the conduct of affairs of State. Effective monarchy affords, during its continuance, a better guarantee for persistence in policy and consistency in action than a democracy or a parliamentary government, based on diversities, on discussion, on considerable publicity, and on provisions duly made within the constitution for changes in policy in response to changes in opinion. But facts and conditions relative to each constitution the extent, for example, to which monarchy can proceed without carrying the nation with it are the determining forces. They overrule forms, and mould the instruments of rule. A monarchy may pursue methods that are essentially democratic -methods that not only have the

1 Diaries and Correspondence of James Harris, first Earl of Malmesbury, i. (and ed.), 281-2. The dispatch, July 2i/August i, 1780, dealt with conversations with Potemkin during a visit of five days to his country house in Finland. Of Potemkin Harris wrote : ' His- way of life is as singular as his character ; his hours for eating and sleeping are uncertain, and we were frequently airing in the rain in an open carriage at midnight.'

2 Ibid. 266, May 15/26, 1780.

3 Instructions . . . : Russie, ii. 367, May 6, 1780.


56 Diplomacy and the

approval, but require the active co-operation, of the com- munity. In methods adopted for a definite end, democracy may be secretive, repressive, arbitrary. A * free government ' (to continue the language of an earlier day) is still government. It cannot evade the tests of success to which all government is subject. A ' government by consent ' (the now approved definition of democracy) may accept a one-man power and ascendancy a Pericles or an Abraham Lincoln, a military dictator, or a soldier-statesman, and not merely a War Cabinet. Still, a constitution that is predominantly monarchic differs from a constitution that is predominantly democratic and parliamentary in requiring less regular, less continuous, and less immediate dependence on the expressed or ascertainable will of the nation or of the majority or the stronger part of those who are invested with political rights and power. A democratic constitution may be held to be necessary in domestic govern- ment in a modern State, but may, without inconsistency, be condemned, or in essentials curtailed, in its application to international policy. The spheres of application are different. In seeking to shape and control foreign policy the politically enfranchised majority of a people are passing beyond the concerns of one nation their own to those of others. In these others the methods adopted may not be in consonance with freedom of discussion and unrestrained publicity. They may be methods that recognize, tacitly or frankly, that rule has its mysteries, its rites, and even its hierarchy. In them special capacity may be assigned its sphere and may inspire confidence ; or particular ways and means may be on their trial. Against monarchy and despotism, however, charges of vacillation due to whims and jealousies, as well as to limits of knowledge and capacity, have been many. The materials for such charges were abundant in Russia before she had fixed her purpose in an Eastern policy, and before she had a tradition


Conduct of Foreign Policy 57

to maintain in policy and in the zeal and tenacity of State officers, themselves genuinely Russian.