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The Foreign Policy of Small States: Sweden and the Mosul Crisis, 1924–1925

  • JOHN ROGERS (a1)
Abstract

Using a theoretical approach that takes into consideration the options available to small states in international relations as well as those factors that influence foreign policy decision making, this article tests the usefulness of the approach on a specific case study, the so-called Mosul crisis in northern Iraq in 1924–5. From the perspective of the alternatives opened to small states in the international arena in the aftermath of the First World War and on the basis of Sweden's stated foreign policy doctrine, Sweden's actions in the Mosul crisis were understandable and consistent with the basic premises of the suggested theoretical approach.

Cet article teste la valeur heuristique de l'analyse d'un cas d'étude spécifique, la crise dite de Mosul au nord de l'Irak en 1924–5: il utilise une approche théorique qui prend en considération les options ouvertes aux petits Etats dans les relations internationales et examine les facteurs qui influencent la prise de décision en matière de politique étrangère. Les alternatives que la fin de la première guerre mondiale avait ouvertes aux petits Etats dans l'arène internationale, ainsi que la doctrine suivie dans la politique extérieure de la Suède, permettent d'éclairer l'action de la Suède au cours de la crise de Mosul, dans une approche conforme avec les prémisses de la méthode théorique adoptée.

Dieser Artikel untersucht ein theoretisches Modell auf seinen Nutzen für die Analyse historischer Sachverhalte. Dieses Modell berücksichtigt sowohl die Handlungsmöglichkeiten kleiner Staaten in den internationalen Beziehungen als auch andere Faktoren, die außenpolitische Entscheidungen beeinflussen. Gegenstand des Artikels ist die Politik Schwedens während der Mosul-Krise im Nordirak (1924–5). Aus der Perspektive kleiner Staaten im internationalen System nach dem Ersten Weltkrieg und im Hinblick auf Schwedens aussenpolitische Doktrin können Schwedens Handlungen während der Krise in der Tat mit den Grundprämissen der Theorie erklärt werden.

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1 Lönnroth, Erik, Den svenska utrikespolitikens historia V, 1919–1939 (Stockholm: P. A. Norstedt & Söners Förlag, 1959); Tingsten, Herbert, Svensk utrikesdebatt mellan världskrigen (Stockholm: Bokförlaget Aldus/Bonniers, 1944). Norman, on the other hand, points out that although there was agreement among the political parties on Sweden's membership of the League of Nations, there was disagreement on issues concerning neutrality, disarmament and whether or not Sweden should play an active role in the League's activities. Torbjörn, Norman, ‘Det brittiska alternativet. Vägvalsfrågor i svensk utrikespolitik efter första världskriget’, in Humanismen som salt & styrka. Bilder & betraktelser tillägnade Harry Järv (Stockholm: Atlantis, 1987), 432–49.

2 It must be admitted that the same argument should be valid for the Cold War era.

3 I should like to express my thanks to those students at the Department of History who have since 1997 contributed to research on the foreign policy of small states and who have helped to develop the theoretical model presented in this paper; in particular Tomislav Dulíc, Daniel Eriksson, Thomas Johansson and Jessica Svärdström deserve mention.

4 The study of international relations during the interwar period was strongly influenced by reactions to warfare and an emphasis on internationalism. Olsson, W. C. and Groom, A. J. R., International Relations Then and Now: Origins and Trends in Interpretation (London: HarperCollins Academic, 1991), ch. 4.

5 For a review of the models see Björn, Hettne, Internationella relationer, 2nd edn (Lund: Studentlitteratur, 1996).

6 Morgenthau, Hans J., Politics among Nations. The Struggle for Power and Peace (New York: Alfred Knopf, 1948). See also Kjell, Goldman, Det internationella systemet. En teori och dess begränsingar (Stockholm: Stockholms universitet, Statsvetenskapliga institutionen, 1978), ch. 4.

7 Hettne, Internationella relationer, 18–22.

8 A classic work of the world society school is Burton, John W., World Society (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1972). See also Hettne, Internationella relationer, 25–6. There is less agreement on the theoretical level among the contributors to this model compared with those favouring the anarchy model. Furthermore, there is clearly a stronger normative aspect where many supporters of the world society model consider the anarchy model, with its emphasis on military power, to be a politically conservative force hindering political and social change within individual states.

9 Lenin's work on imperialism, where imperialism is seen as a class struggle between states and capitalism is considered the highest stage, forms one of the cornerstones of the model. The radical liberal John A. Hobson's analysis of imperialism also influenced the development of the model. See, e.g., Lenin, Vladimir I., Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism: A Popular Outline (Peking: Foreign Language Press, 1969 [1916]); Hobson, J. A., Imperialism: A Study, 3rd edn (London: Allen & Unwin, 1905).

10 Two of the better known and best developed analyses in the tradition of the world system school are André Gunder Frank's centre–periphery model and Immanual Wallerstein's core–semi-periphery–periphery model. See André, Gunder Frank, Capitalism and Underdevelopment in Latin America: Historical Studies of Chile and Brazil (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1969); idem, Dependent Accumulation and Underdevelopment (London: Macmillan, 1978); Immanual Wallerstein, The Modern World System I: Capitalist Agriculture and the Origins of the European World Economy in the Sixteenth Century (New York and London: Academic Press, 1974); idem, The Modern World System II: Mercantilism and the Consolidation of the European World Economy, 1650–1750 (New York and London: Academic Press, 1980); idem, The Modern World System III: The Second Era of Great Expansion of the Capitalist World-Economy (San Diego: Academic Press, 1989); idem, The Capitalist World Economy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1979).

11 It would appear that research concentrating on small states and international relations tapered off in the 1980s in part due to analytical problems associated with the definition of a small state and in part to a shift in emphasis from great and small powers to developed and developing countries.

12 Niels, Amstrup, ‘The Perennial Problem of Small States: A Survey of Research Efforts’, Cooperation and Conflict, XI (1976), 163–82.

13 Steneberg, K. E., ‘Sverige’, Svensk uppslagsbok, Vol. 26 (Malmö: Svensk Uppslagsbok AB., 1935), 1037–8.

14 Mitchell, B. R., European Historical Statistics 1750–1970 (London: Macmillan, 1975), Table K2, 814.

15 Steneberg, ‘Sverige’, 1108.

16 Those countries that remained neutral during the First World War. Walters, F. P., A History of the League of Nations, 2 vols. (London: Oxford University Press, 1952).

17 There are numerous references to Sweden as a small state.

18 Bo Huldt, ‘Små stater i internationell politik’, in Thomas Högberg, ed., Aktörer i internationell politik – idag och imorgon (Lund: Projektgruppen ‘Sveriges internationella villkor’, 1977), 38–56.

19 Tomislav Dulić, ‘Balkan åt balkanfolken! – om de serbiska aktörernas beslutsfattande inför Första Balkankrigets utbrott ur ett småstatsperspektiv’, unpublished paper, Department of History, Uppsala University, 1997.

20 Carlsnaes, W., Ideology and Foreign Policy. Problems of Comparative Conceptualization (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1986), 115.

21 Kelman suggests that this can be determined with the help of four observations: (i) his or her role in the decision-making organisation (for example, economic advisor to the foreign minister); (ii) norms and values shared with society in general (for example, belief in democratic institutions or opposition to the death penalty); (iii) norms and values shared with other members of the decision-making ‘elite’ (for example, support for the League of Nations); and (iv) the decision maker's personality (e.g. arrogant, flexible, etc.). Kelman, H. C., ed., International Behavior. A Social–Psychological Analysis (New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1965), 587–9.

22 Little, R. and Smith, S., Belief Systems and International Relations (Oxford: Basil Blackwell in association with the British International Studies Association, 1988), 2.

23 Ibid., 78.

24 Both ideology and political doctrine, however, belong to Carlsnaes's intentional dimension.

25 Library of Congress, Country Studies: Iraq, !http://lcweb2.loc.gov/frd/cs/iqtoc.html (data as of May 1988), 1.

26 Ibid., 5.

27 According to Art. 22 of the League of Nations Covenant, which was part of the Treaty of Versailles, the territories of the Ottoman Empire and Germany's former colonies that were not considered to be ready for self-government were placed under the supervision of various developed countries. The Permanent Mandate Commission, which was made up of representatives from those European countries that had colonies, was to supervise the transition to self-government of the mandates. The mandates were divided into three categories, A, B and C, depending on how much time was deemed necessary to prepare them for self-government. Iraq was classified as A – closest to independence. Walters, History of the League of Nations, I, 56–8.

28 Library of Congress, Country Studies: Iraq (1988), 3–4.

29 Ibid., 5.

30 Riksarkivet (National Archives) (RA), Utrikesdepartment (Foreign Office) (UD), 1920 HP1480: Promemorior mm i Mosulfrågan, ‘Engelska utfästelse till araberna’, 8.

31 The Council of the League of Nations consisted of permanent members – the so-called great powers (Britain, France, Italy and Japan) – and non-permanent members. The US Senate did not ratify the Treaty of Versailles and therefore the United States did not participate in the League. Germany joined the League and became a permanent member of the Council in 1926. The Soviet Union joined the League in 1933. The number of non-permanent members elected by the Assembly increased from four to six in 1922 and to nine in 1926. Walters, History of the League of Nations, I, passim.

32 Hjalmar Branting was Sweden's official representative to the Council. Östen Undén was the alternate at the Geneva meeting in August and at the Rome meetings on 8–10 December 1924. G. von Dardel was alternate at the Brussels meeting and Baron C. A. Beck-Friis was alternate at the last Rome meeting. Bellquist, E. C., Some Aspects of the Recent Foreign Policy of Sweden (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1929), 371.

33 Walters, History of the League of Nations, I, 306.

34 Ibid., 307–8. The Swedish government published accounts of what had taken place at the meetings of the Council and the General Assembly. The relevant volumes are Nationernas förbunds råds verksamhet under år 1924 samt Femte förbundsförsamlingen I Genève 1 september–2 oktober 1924 (Stockholm: Kungl. Boktryckeriet, P.A. Norstedt & Sönder, 1925) and Nationernas förbunds råds verksamhet under år 1925 samt Sjätte förbundsförsamlingen I Genève 7–26 september 1925 (Stockholm: Kungl. Boktryckeriet, P.A. Norstedt & Sönder, 1926).

35 Undén was at the time Professor of Law at Uppsala University and was part of the Swedish delegation as expert advisor on international law. On 14 October 1924 Branting became prime minister for the third time with Östen Undén as his minister of foreign affairs, a post he held until 1926. Bellquist, Aspects of Recent Foreign Policy, 371.

36 (RA) UD, 1920 HP 1479, mapp I:b, telegrams: 13 October 1924 from af Wirsén to Branting; 20 October 1924 from Undén to af Wirsén; 21 October 1924 from af Wirsén to Undén; 23 October 1924 from Undén to af Wirsén.

37 The Commission spent about two months travelling (by train, air, motor car and horse, and on foot) throughout the province. (RA) UD 1920 HP 1479, Question of the Frontier between Turkey and Iraq – Report submitted to the Council Resolution of September 30th 1924, Map 1.

38 Ibid., 17.

39 Ibid., 86–7.

40 Ibid., 60, 87.

41 Ibid., 73–4, 87.

42 Walters, History of the League of Nations, I, 307–8.

43 (RA) UD 1920 HP 1479, Question of the Frontier, 75–8.

44 Ibid., 77. See also Walters, History of the League of Nations, I, 309.

45 (RA) UD 1920 HP 1479, Question of the Frontier, 89.

46 Ibid., mapp I:b, letter from the Swedish mission in London to Undén 10 August 1925.

47 Ibid., mapp II, letter from Kolmordin (Swedish ambassador to Turkey) to Undén 24 August 1925.

48 The delegation included Östen Undén, minister of foreign affairs, J. Eliel Löfgren, Barrister, member of the lower house, and Axel F. Vennersten, senator, former minister of finance. Alternates included Dr T. Höjer, minister to Oslo, A. E. M. Sjöborg, secretary-general at ministry of foreign affairs, J. A. Engberg, member of lower house, Anna Bugge-Wicksell, Master of Law. Representative to the Council was Undén, with A. E. M Sjöborg as alternate and Dr. T. Höjer as expert. Bellquist, Aspects of Recent Foreign Policy, 371; (RA) UD 1925 års statsrådsprotokoll 27–58, Protokoll 34 and 36. For a brief description of how the Swedish foreign office was organised see Carlgren, Wilhelm, ‘Sweden. The Ministry for Foreign Affairs’, in Steiner, Zara, ed., The Times Survey of Foreign Ministries of the World (London: Times Books, 1982), 445–70.

49 (RA) UD 1925 års statsrådsprotokoll 27–58, Protokoll 36 bilaga 2.

50 (RA) UD 1920 HP 1480, mapp Promemorior mm i Mosulfrågan, ‘PM 28 August 1925’.

51 Ibid., ‘PM 28 August 1925’.

52 Both the Uruguayan and the Spanish representatives had worked earlier with Branting in Brussels on the provisional border, the so-called Brussels line. Kungliga biblioteket (KB) Östen Undéns samling, L108:8a, Nationernas Förbund 1922–1925, mapp ‘Handlingar rörande Mosulfrågan’.

53 (KB) Östen Undéns samling, ‘Handlingar rörande Mosulfrågan’; (RA) UD 1920 HP 1480, Mapp Mosulfrågan env. af Wirséns uppdrag, telegram from Johannsson (Geneva) to Foreign Office, 19 September 1925.

54 The Swedish foreign office had discussed the voting issue but decided not to bring it up unless it became clear that a unanimous vote was not possible. Although referring the matter to the International Court would cause some delay, Undén and the Swedish delegation felt that the delay increased the chances of the adoption of the Swedish plan. (KB) Östen Undéns samling, ‘Handlingar rörande Mosulfrågan’; (RA) UD 1920 HP 1480, Mapp Mosulfrågan.

55 (RA) UD 1920 HP 1481, mapp IV, telegram to TT (Swedish news bureau) 13 November 1925, Walters, History of the League of Nations, I, 309–10.

56 (KB) Östen Undéns samling, ‘Handlingar rörande Mosulfrågan’.

57 Ibid.; (RA) UD 1920 HP 1481, mapp V, telegram 11 December 1925.

58 (RA) UD 1920 HP 1481, mapp V, telegram from Undén to Foreign Office 14 December 1925.

59 Ibid., mapp V, telegram from Undén to Foreign Office 15 December 1925.

60 Ibid., mapp V, telegram from Undén to Foreign Office 16 December 1925.

61 Ibid., mapp VI, telegram Boheman to Foreign Office 7 June 1925, Treaty between the United Kingdom and Iraq and Turkey regarding the settlement of the frontier between Turkey and Iraq together with notes exchanged, June 5, 1926. Treaty Series No. 18 (1927); Walters, History of the League of Nations, I, 310.

62 The total value of imports from Britain in 1924 was 291,250,724 kronor; exports were valued at 361,903,193 kronor. By comparison the total value of imports from Turkey only amounted to 81,901 kronor and exports to Turkey to 1,258,238 kronor. The United Kingdom and Germany were Sweden's two main trade partners. Sveriges Officeilla Statistik: Handel, 111.

63 The vote in the Riksdag (Swedish parliament) was 238 in favour of becoming a member of the League and 114 against. The Conservatives (Högern) and the Farmers’ Party (Bondeförbudet), who were opposed to Sweden's joining the League in 1920, had by the following year changed their position and were generally positive towards Sweden's participation in the League. The only domestic opposition came from the left-wing Socialists and the Communists, who proposed in 1921, 1924, 1927 and 1929 that Sweden withdraw from the League. Tingsten, Svensk utrikesdebatt mellan världskrigen, 49–51. Undén also was of the opinion that support for the League of Nations was nearly unanimous. (KB) Östen Undéns samling, L108:8a, Nationernas Förbund 1922–1925, mapp ‘Manuscript till föredrag av Undén hos föreningen Verdandi 23/4 1925’. See Torbjörn Norman, ‘Ansiktet mot öster. Svensk nationalism mot Nationernas förbund’, in Max Engman, ed., Väst möter öst. Norden och Ryssland genom historien (Stockholm: Carlssons Bokförlag, 1996), 201–26, for a discussion of how conservative opponents to Sweden's joining the League of Nations used historical references to support Swedish nationalism. Norman questions the premise that support for the League was unanimous. Norman, ‘Det brittiska alternativet’, 432–33.

64 Tingsten, Svensk utrikesdebatt mellan världskrigen, 52; Bo Huldt, ‘Svensk nedrustningsoch säkerhetspolitik från tjugotal till åttiotal’, in Bo Hugemark, ed., Neutralitet och försvar. Perspektiv på svensk säkerhetspolitik 1809–1895 (Stockholm: Militärhistoriska Förlaget, 1986), 185–219; Bo Huldt, ‘Socialdemokratin och säkerhetspolitiken’, in Bo Huldt and Klaus Misgeld, eds., Socialdemokratin och svensk utrikespolitiken. Från Branting till Palme (Stockholm: Utrikespolitiska institutet MH Publishing, 1990), 163–80.

65 Tingsten, Svensk utrikesdebatt mellan världskrigen, 49.

66 Ibid., 118–88.

67 (RA) UD 1920 HP 1479, mapp I:b, letter from the Swedish mission in London to Undén 24 August 1925. Although the British were not pleased with the Commission's report, they blamed the Hungarian representative for what they considered an all-too-negative attitude towards the British.

68 (RA) UD, 1920 HP 1479, mapp I:b, ‘PM 9 juli 1925’.

69 U. Andersson, ‘En obekväm småstat – svenskt agerande i Mosulkonflikten 1924–1925’, unpublished paper, Department of History, Uppsala University, 2001, 23.

70 (RA) UD, 1920 HP 1479, mapp II, letter from Kolmordin (Ambassador to Turkey) to Undén, 24 August 1925.

71 Ibid., mapp I:b, letter from the mission in London to Undén, 10 August 1925.

72 Johansson, T., ‘En liten stat långt borta. Svensk agerande och svensk debatt i samband med den grekisk-bulgariska krisen 1925’, unpublished paper, Department of History, Uppsala University (1996), 22–4. See also Andersson, ‘En obekväm småstat’, 10–11.

73 During the period 1920–36 minority governments ruled in Sweden, which led to compromises in both domestic and foreign-policy decisions. Disputes between the government in power and the Swedish delegation to the League of Nations in Geneva on specific policy decisions often occurred. Furthermore, the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Swedish parliament, which formally had only an advisory role, increased its influence in determining foreign policy during this period. Torbjörn Norman, ‘“A Foreign Policy Other than the Old Neutrality” – Aspects of Swedish Foreign Policy after the First World War’, in Aleksander Loit, ed., The Baltic in International Relations between the Two World Wars (Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiksell International, 1988); Alf W. Johansson and Torbjörn Norman, ‘Den svenska neutralitetspolitiken i historiskt perspektiv’, in Bo Hugemark, ed., Neutralitet och försvar. Perspektiv på svensk säkerhetspolitik 1809–1895 (Stockholm: Militärhistoriska Förlaget 1986), 26–8.

74 Johansson, ‘En liten stat långt borta’, 24.

The research required for this article was made possible by the Faculty of Arts at Uppsala University and a grant from Aili Ahlholm's donation for historical research. The article is part of ongoing research on Swedish foreign policy during the interwar years for a book with the preliminary title ‘A Small State on the Periphery. Swedish Foreign Policy during the Interwar Years 1920–1939’.

1 Docent John Rogers is Senior Lecturer at the Department of History, Uppsala University, and is currently doing research on Swedish foreign policy during the interwar years, 1920–39.

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