1870-11-16 RUSSIA AND THE TREATY OF 1856

London Times, 16 November 1870, p. 9: RUSSIA AND THE TREATY OF 1856. (From an occasional correspondent.) Berlin, Nov. 13.

            The Russian Circular Note which has caused such excitement in diplomatic circles will not be published for some days in the Journal de St. Petersbourg, but I am enabled to send you the following very full summary of this most important document: --

            "The Note sent by the Government of St. Petersburg to its Diplomatic Agents abroad bears the date of the 19th of October. It begins by declaring that the Czar's Government, considering the alterations introduced by recent events in those transactions on which the balance of power in Europe was supposed to rest, has felt the necessity of examing the consequences resulting thereform in so far as they may affect the political position of the Russian Empire. The Treaty of the 18th of March, 1856, is what most immediately concerns Russian interests. By virtue of the special [?] Convention between the two Powers bordering on the Black Sea, ?????????, annexed to that Treaty, Russia was bound to limit to the samllest proportions her naval forces in that sea, the neutrality of which was, in return, guaranteed by the same Treaty. The object of the Powers who signed the Treaty in guaranteeing this neutrality was to avoid all possibility of a collision, as well between the two Powers above alluded to as between these and the other maritime Powers. The benefits of the neutrality were, by the consent of Europe, to be extended to many other countries, thus to screen Russia from all danger of an aggression. But the experience of fifteen years has proved that the soundness of this principle of neutrality, on which rests the safety of Russia throughout the extent of her frontier on this [?] side, was mere theory. Practically, while Russia was disarming in the Black Sea, and even, by a declaration laid down in the Protocols of the Conferences, loyally deprived herself of the possibility of adapting efficacious maritime measures of defense in the adjacent seas and harbours, Turkey, for her own part, maintained the right of keeping unlimited naval forces in the Archipelago and in the Straits; France and England maintained the power of concentrating their squadrons in the Mediterranean. It was, besides, stipulated by the terms of the Treaty that the entrance to the Black Sea formally and forever interdicted to the men-of-war both of the two Powers bordering on the Black Sea and of all other Powers; but, by virtue of the so-called Convention of the Straits, these straits are closed to men-of-war only in time of peace, a contradiction which exposes the coasts of the Russian Empire to all aggressions, even on the part of minor States, as even the least powerful could easily dispose of naval forces to which Russia could only oppose a few vessels of small dimensions.

            "On the other hand, the Treaty of the 18th of March, 1856, was not proof against the modifications undergone by most European transactions, in consequence of which written International Law, grounded on respect to Treaties as a basis of public right and as a ??? of the relations between States, no longer involves the same moral obligations attached to it in former times. The Principalities of Moldavia and Wallachia, the destinies of which had been fixed by the Treaty of Peace and by the subsequent Protocols, under the guarantee of the Great Powers, have gone through a succession of revolutions contrary to the letter and the spirit of those transactions. They have been united in one State, then submitted to a foreign Prince, and all these changes have been effected with the consent of the Porte, with the connivance of the Great Powers or, at least, without any effort on their part to make good their remonstrances. These infractions of the explicit stipulations of the Treaty were only denounced by the Representative of Russia, who pointed out to the other Governments the inherent [?] contradictions involved by their acquiescence.

            "The Imperial Government would have readily approved these concessions granted to the Christian nations in the East, if they had been the result of a general understanding between the Cabinets and the Porte, and if they had been based on a principle applicable to all the Christian populations in Turkey; but the concessions were exclusive. The Imperial Cabinet could not see without surprise the Treaty of the 18th of March, 1856, violated with impunity in one of its most essential clauses, only a few years after its conclusion, and in the face of the Great Powers joined in conference at Paris, and representing in their joint capacity the high collective authority on which rested the peace of the East. Nor was this the only violation. The entrance into the Straits has been in several instances and under a variety of pretexts thrown open to foreign men-of-war, and that of the Black Sea to whole squadrons, by the presence of which the character of absolute neutrality conferred upon these waters has been gravely compromised. While ???????? given by the Treaty, and especially that concerning the eternal [?] neutrality of the Black Sea, were losing strength, new dangers accrued to Russia in consequence of the invention or ironclads, an unknown and unforeseen contrivance at the date of the conclusion of the Treaty of 1856, increasing, in considerable [?] proportions, the already manifest inequality [?] of the respective naval forces. Upon a mature examination of the various bearings of this question [?], His Imperial Majesty has come to the following conclsuions, which the diplomatic agents are required to submit to the Governments to which they are accredited: --

            "`Our August Master cannot admit, in fact, that the security of Russia should rest upon a fiction which has not with stood the ordeal of time, and that it should be endangered in consequence of his respect towards engagements which have not been performed in all their integrity.

            "`Relying on the sense of equity of the Powers signed to the Treaty of 1856, and the consciousness these must have of their own dignity, The Emperor bids you declare that His Imperial Majesty can no longer consider himself bound, to the terms of the Treaty of March 18th, 1856, in so far as these limit his rights to sovereignity in the Black Sea.

            "`That His Imperial Majesty considers it his right and his duty to give notice to His Majesty the Sultan of his withdrawal from the special and additional Convention annexed to that Treaty which fixes the number and the size of the men-of-war which the two Powers bordering on the Black Sea reserve to keep in the said sea.

            "`That he conveys loyal information of this to the Powers signed to and guaranteeing the general Treaty, of which this special Convention constitutes an integral part.

            "`That in this respect he replaces the Sultan in full possession of all his rights in the same manner as he re-claims his own.

            "`In the discharge of this duty you will be careful to state that our August Master has no other object in all this besides the security and dignity of his Empire. It is by no means the intention of His Imperial Majesty to revive the Eastern question. On this as on all other points he harbours no other wish than the maintenance and consolidation of peace. He entirely adheres, otherwise, to the general principles of the Treaty of 1856, which have established the position of Turkey in the European concert. He is prepared to come to an understanding with the Powers who signed the Treaty, either with a view to confirm its general stipulations, to renew them, or to substitute for them any other arrangement which may seem equitable and calculated to insure the peace of the East and the European balance of power.

            "`His Majesty is convinced that this peace and this balance of power will receive an additional guarantee by being laid on more just and solid bases than those arising from a position which no Great Power could accept as a normal condition of existence.'"

            I subjoin, in the original, the terms of the proposal submitted in the Note by the Russian Government to the European Powers: --

            "L'Empereur, se fiant aux sentiments d'équité des Puissances signataires du Traité de 1856, et à la conscience qu'elles ont de leur propre dignité, vous ordonne de déclarer: Que Sa Majesté Impérial ne saurait se considérer plus longtemps comme ??? aux obligations du Traité du 18 ?? Mars, 1856, en tant qu'elles restreignent ses droits de souveraineté dans la Mer Noire.

            "Que Sa Majesté Impérial se croit en droit et un devoir de dénoncer à Sa Majesté le Sultan la Convention spéciale et additionelle du dit Traité qui fixe le nombre et la dimension des bâtiments de guerre que les deux Puissances riveraines se reservent d'entretenir dans la Mer Noire.

            "Qu'elle en informe loyalement les Puissances signataires et garantes du Traité Gé_éral, dont cette Convention spéciale fait partie intégrante.

            "Qu'elle rend sous ce rapport à Sa Majesté le Sultan la plénitude de ses droits, comme elle la reprend également pour elle-même." 

Provided by Stephen McLaughlin