In the spring of 1878, the Anglo-Russian war was almost a reality. Alexander II was sure that Britain was looking for an excuse to declare war on Russia. Sending Shuvalov to the congress, he said: “Count Shuvalov: remember, you are responsible for peace.”
The Tsarist government appealed to Bismarck:”… To call a congress in order to get Russia out of this dilemma: To go to war against England and Austria or to retreat unconditionally.”
Disraeli declared that it was necessary to turn the Armenian provinces into military fortresses in order to concentrate Turkish troops there against Russia: “If Britain, contrary to its traditional policy, forces the Ottoman Empire to reform, then the Turks will certainly oppose and at the same time rapprochement with Russia.”
Before the summit began, Britain managed to identify the list of issues to be discussed and the most likely options for their solution. Moreover, the Berlin Assembly would give the appearance of treaty legitimacy to Britain’s previous decisions.
By demanding reforms, Britain was not acting in the interests of the peoples under Ottoman rule, but its control over reforms was a weapon to dictate its will to the Ottoman Empire at any time.
The scope of the issues discussed at the summit was vast. The problem was to thoroughly re-examine the Eastern question according to the new realities, to review the Treaty of San Stefano , and to do so not according to the role and situation played by one side or the other in the war, but according to the economic, political and military interests of all the countries participating in the Assembly.
The main conflict in Berlin was between England and Russia. Disraei retorted: “we came here from England to settle the affairs of the sultan and give him the full opportunity to exercise his power in the Ottoman Empire.”