Rossiya yest' yevropeyskaya derzhava ("Russia is a European power") was Tsarina Catherine II's credo and program, a logical continuation of the policy of Tsar Peter the Great. Malta and the Order of St. John played an important role in Catherine's plan: the island of the knights was to serve as a bridgehead for a permanent Russian presence in the Mediterranean. Already in 1698 Tsar Peter had sent delegations and diplomats to Hospitaller Malta to negotiate a Russo-Maltese alliance against the Ottomans. In the 1760s a Russian chargé d'affaires was installed in Malta and the famous fleet of the Order was used by Russian officers for training, and in 1768 a plan was drawn up for a joint Russo-Maltese naval attack on the Greek mainland. But such moves must have brought about the united opposition of the Mediterranean powers as well as of that of the British. Even in such a "holy war" against their infidel archenemy, which would have been in perfect accord with its statutes, the Order of St. John could no longer act freely. Officially, France remained the main protector of the Order's neutrality, so until the end of the Ancien régime the Order did not risk an open alliance with Russia. In the long run, however, Tsarina Catherine's insistence had paved the way for extremely close Russo-Maltese relations to come when her son Paul became tsar and even was proclaimed as the new grand master of the Order of Malta.