THE HISTORICAL CHARACTER OF THE BALANCE OF POWER AND ITS IMPLEMENTATION IN THE CRIMEAN WAR OF 1853-56

Adil CALAP

ABSTRACT

Balance of power as a structure of an international system dominated thinking about interstate politics for several centuries. The main objective of this article is not to discuss different interpretations of the balance of power, but to get geographical, sociological and historical clear limits, within which the balance of power operated. Since XVII. century onwards, the balance of power has been central to debates over the order in which the states would be cooporating with and conflicting against each other, and had become a commonplace reference for the contemplation of their future strategies. The relationship between the balance of power concept and its action depended rather on concrete sequences of historical action than on logical links between ideas and practice. Although XVII century is appreciated, the most important political events of two different centuries, namely XVIII and XIX centuries are addressed in this article for actualizing the essential principle necessary for the tradition of the balance of power at work. Thus the protagonists of the argument are the then states including the Ottoman, Britain, France, Austria, Prussia, and Russia.

In XVII. century, at the outset of harnesing the balance of power by major powers, a mechanistic calculus in regards to the behaviour of rival powers would potentially be politically misleading the states concerned. It was being understood that the situation was rather more complex; it was felt by prominent powers that the balance of power must have been chosen in full consciousness of its tactical and ethical dimensions. The naked power relations based on mere calculations of military capacity were treated as something that would help impoverish the long-term strategies. Following the dissolution of a long historical tenet for any empire with an intention of asserting a universal monarchy while considering engulfing her rivals compeletely up to the XVII century, the development and evolution of the balance of power would go through different periods of historical experience since the Utrecht Treaty of 1713 that paved the path towards a balance of power system. The hegemonic tendency of any major power over the rest in the state system had been curtailed to some great extend, enabling small scale of states to maintain their autonomy. Then an interest based foreign policy was not as deeply involved in managing the affairs of other states. When placing the focus on mere interests, any major power had not assumed the role of global hegemon. Interest based foreign policy did not necesseraly call for powers to cut off from the rest of the world, but rather that the best method of preserving national security against other states in the balance of power was to mostly focus on its own national interests. XVIII. Century may have necessiated a more passive role to achieve their own national securities as their continued economic prosperity in their overseas colonies was at stake.

However, during the Congress period of 1815, the declared goals would be to strive for restoring the independence of nations while promoting the structural capacity of the balance of power at the expence of the Ottoman State. The apparent reason was that the Ottoman State was considered not to be allowed to participate in the European community. In late and early 1830s, when the Eastern Question began gradually and predominately being brought to the centre of attention by closely arming, financing and assisting the local uprisings both in Egypt and in the European part of the Ottoman, the goal of the major powers was to see the Ottoman State simply cease to exist: According to the logic of the policy makers of major powers, no other option of accomplishing the object of re-establishing both private and general interests of all was counted on. The conceptual links between positive  law, the recognition of the differentiation of sociology of the states, the role of geography in power relations as well as military power and economic development all of which would constitute the balance of power had laid the foundation towards the Crimean War of 1853-56. The conflict between the need for non-interventionist tendency to protect the order of Europe, and the creation of even the smallest states in Ottoman Empire, was at the core of the few debates where the balance of power was used as a means to widen the influencing territory of the competing big powers in the second half of the 19th century. The only major controversy involving the balance-of-power concept before, during and after the war period occurred in the debate over the Ottoman, on the central problem of how to accomodate the creation of the smaller states. The debate over Eastern Question is an early instance in which the manifestation of almost all aspects of the dynamics of the balance of power was felt across the dominant balance of power system.

The crimean war commenced with the Russian invasion of some territories of the Ottoman in Balkans, formerly fomenting battleships on October 14, 1853. In the early months of 1854, through the rhetorical deployment of the balance of power, Russia had become isolated and excluded by her rival powers. This marginalisation also led to the possibility of greater, and unprecedented French–British cooperation in ending the war and supervising the Paris Treaty in their interests in matters of the relationships between the Ottoman and Russians. Towards the end of the war, crucially for Russia, Britain, France Austria and Prussia were to be a part of the settlement, and they would need some kind of compensation which was prompted by the Russian invasion of Kars. What could be better compensation for the defeat of Russians in Sivastopol than Ottoman territory in the form of annexiation by Russia? The territory that the allied forces deemed suitable as territorial compensation was Kars and its surrondings. The Crimean War (1853–1856) had finally resulted in curtailing the partition of the Russian State while the Ottoman was brought into the orbit of the European balance of power order for a possible repartitioning of her territory in the future.

Therefore, the consequences of Paris Treaty of 30 March 1856 would be to prompt the Ottoman Empire being increasingly involved in the core of the European system in a way that would reflect the unequal nature of the positioning of the states at the balance of power. Subsequently, the Ottoman was to be brought in direct conflict with the major powers during 1860s and 1870s. In the European parts of the Ottoman territories, the expected emergence of the small states was on the rise– a fact which Britain, Austuria, Russia, France and Gerrmany would come to exploit. The most notable feature immediately after Paris Treaty was how these European adversaries allied, primarily against the Ottoman in 1870s.

Decades after the experts of foreign policy makers made their long-term research, the sociological data from the different events of the last two centuries made its way into developing the concept of the balance of power which seemed to have the potential to shed new light on the future of the Ottoman State. The diplomatic activity right before the outbreak of the Crimean War shows an important collected data, seen among the beliggerents. Crimean War of 1853-56 helps make it even clearer why the shift away from a simple concept of the balance of power focus on the public interest of Europe took place towards a liberal focus on state independence due to the legitimization of interventionist policies by the dominant powers: The unstable intertwined private and general interest would be frequently manifested in ambivialent nature; the public interest of Europe had now become more associated with the European equilibrium than the balance of power. That was also the order advocated by the great powers who were willing to sacrifice the Ottoman Empire when it comes to helping stabilize the process of relationships among major powers.