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Turks and Ottomans, relations with

Turks and Ottomans, relations with. Serious British strategic interest in the Ottoman empire began in the late 18th cent. when it was hoped that the Turks would act as a barrier to Russia's southern and south-westward expansion. But the latter's advance continued, and British governments (especially from the 1820s) tried in various ways to ensure that the Ottoman empire itself (and such parts as broke away) should not be dominated by Russia. The future of Constantinople and the Straits caused special concern, and this increased with the development of the Suez route to India. The British also valued naval access to the Black Sea in order to threaten southern Russia (as in the Crimean War in 1854–6). India, it was often thought, could best be defended by command of the Black Sea. Turkey in Asia also formed part of the defences against a Russian threat to the Persian Gulf. From the 1890s, however, interest turned from the Straits to Egypt as the key to British strategy in the eastern Mediterranean. The Ottoman alliance with Germany in the First World War was answered by British campaigns from the Persian Gulf and Egypt which brought about the collapse of Turkish rule from Mesopotamia to Syria. It was not until 1923, at the conference of Lausanne, that the British accepted that the new Turkish republic might act as a bulwark against Bolshevik Russia in the Near East. Demands by the USSR at the end of the Second World War for more influence at the Straits caused further alarm, but by 1947 the USA had become the main executors of the latest versions of the policies of Palmerstonian Britain.

C. J. Bartlett

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