Here is a term paper on the ‘Soviet Union in World Affairs’ especially written for school and college students.
Term Paper # 1. The Evolution of Soviet Foreign Policy in the 1920s:
While making a study of the foreign policy of Soviet Russia after the successful November Revolution of 1917 under the leadership of Lenin, we find ourselves in a different world. It is said that national interest is the basis of the foreign policy of a country, but in the case of Soviet Union we find a peculiar blending of the ideology of Marxism-Leninism with the vague term of “national interest” so much so that one is sought to be forcibly harmonised with the other.
In the Pamphlet State and Revolution, which Lenin wrote, he explained his motto by saying that “the dictatorship of the proletariat” would be set up not in Russia alone but all over world. The Communists regarded the Russian Revolution as the first act in the drama of world revolution. Lenin was confident that communism was destined to conquer the world. To quote him “It is not a question of only Russia. This is merely one phase” through which “we must pass on the way to world revolution”.
He regarded the world revolution inevitable and imminent. All existing states of the world not “subscribing to, the Soviet models are discredited as bourgeois states destined to disappear in course of time”. Lenin stated in November 1918 “The international world revolution is near….. Imperialism cannot delay the world revolution.” The Soviet system, he apprehended, could not exist in a capitalist sea. To quote him again, “We are doomed to destruction unless revolution breaks out without delay in other countries.”
While this was the conception, it was quite natural that the Soviet foreign policy would be formulated aiming at achieving this goal. Therefore, the question of a Communist state or Socialist state having permanent relations with the bourgeois states of the world does hot arise.
At the same time, the Communist state is committed to contribute its part to the realisation of the goal of international socialism. It is because of this that a fundamental change is said to have occurred in the sphere of foreign policy after the successful revolution in Russia in 1917 and after Bolsheviks seized power.
Lenin, both as a politician as well as a doctrinaire, with sound political instinct, set to work. Establishing absolute dictatorship, Lenin not only brought the country out of revolutionary chaos but also averted the threatened catastrophe to Russia and to his party, defeated the attempts of counter-revolution under Kerensky, Kornilov, Dennikin and Wrangel. The foreign countries were forced to retire from interference in Russian politics. Soviet governments were imposed on the Ukraine, the Transcaucasian provinces, the Asiatic Emirates and Siberia, and “won them back into a Russian federative system.”
An international meeting of Communists was held in Moscow in 1919. Lenin organised this gathering as the Third International or Comintern with Moscow as its headquarters. This Communist International proposed to carry on revolution throughout the world and to carry on anti-capitalistic activities everywhere the capitalistic regime exists. The Comintern and the Soviet government worked hand in hand for a time and from 1918 to 1921 the foreign policy of Russia was to promote world revolution by stirring up and aiding Communist uprising all over the world.
Surrendering the special privileges which Czarist regime had acquired in China and giving up all extraterritorial and financial rights in Turkey, the Bolshevists, on the one hand, showed the world their antipathy towards imperialism and, on the other, tried their best to woo the Asiatic peoples to their cause. This policy estranged the Powers and Soviet Russia remained isolated for a time from European politics.
Realizing the fact that Russia “could not sustain both war and revolution at the same time”, Lenin concluded peace with Germany in 1917, making at Brest-Litovsk immense sacrifices of territory in order to bring peace in the country.
During the war Britain and France together had lent £ 166 million to Russia. The Bolshevik government declined to pay war debt of the old regime, and this produced a kind of diplomatic wrench, irritation and exasperation. Russia was excluded from the Paris Peace Conference. The absence of Russia made easier a territorial settlement of Eastern Europe which assumed, in many respects, the shape of a cordon sanitaire against the spread of Bolshevism in Europe.
By this time Western opinion became conscious of Bolshevik peril and considered Bolshevism more dangerous than German militarism. At this stage, an idea dawned in the Western circle that German militarism might be used as a bulwark against Russian Communism. The sporadic Communist uprisings of Spartacists in Germany and the Bela Kun regime in Hungary made this fear real and immediate.
The infiltration of Communist ideas, they thought, was more harmful than that of armed infiltration. Britain and France pursued more hostile diplomacy with Russia than any other country, because their loans to Czarist Russia had been repudiated.
The Soviet government recognised the newly formed states which had earned independence from Russia and established official diplomatic relations with them. In 1920 Russia made peace treaties with Finland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. In 1921 treaty was concluded with Poland and treaties of friendship were concluded with Turkey, Persia and Afghanistan. It also made commercial agreement with Britain in 1921 and accepted British trade delegation in Moscow.
Italy soon followed this footprint. In 1922 Russia was invited to an economic conference held at Genoa. Lloyd George had expressed his hope that Russia would maintain closer relations with the Western Powers. But France and Belgium were adamant because they were not paid their war-debt by Russia. Nevertheless, Germany came forward and concluded a treaty of friendship with the Soviet Union. The treaty is known as the Treaty of Rapallo. “The two outcast powers of Europe drew together” and the Soviet Union found herself officially recognised by a great European power. Thus the Soviet Union obtained de facto recognition.
With the advent of the Labour Party to power in Britain the new British premier Ramsay MacDonald extended to Russia unconditional de jure recognition in 1924. Italy followed suit and before the close of 1924 nine other European countries recognised the Bolshevik government. Thus Russia reentered the political and diplomatic arena of Europe. Britain, by recognising Soviet Union, intended to settle outstanding differences between the two.
Though British Parliament declined to accept the treaty with the Soviet Union and Ramsay MacDonald’s government fell, other European countries like France, Italy and other dozen of them agreed to formal diplomatic recognition of the Soviet regime. In 1925 Germany and Russia concluded a trade treaty and the following year made a neutrality treaty in which each undertook to remain neutral should either be attacked by a third power. These treaties proved beneficial to both countries.
The Soviet Union ensured long-term credits at Berlin and thereby prevented a united front against Bolshevism in Europe. Germany explored her old Russian market and recovered it by supplying German machinery with engineers, so that fitting of those could be made easy for the Russians. Not only this, German General Staff gained access to facilities, beyond Allied control, for experiments in aeronautics and in military techniques.
Since 1927, Soviet Union began sending representatives in the economic and humanitarian activities of the League of Nations, and also sent representatives to Geneva — both for the general economic conference and for the meeting of the Preparatory Commission for the Disarmament Conference set up by the Council of the League.
The most perplexing feature of the Russian foreign policy, during the period of our discussion, finds place in a dexterous combination of the high principles of Marxism with the tactical norms of flexibility as sanctioned by the strategy of Leninism. Expose secret diplomacy of the bourgeois states and, at the same time, follow it for its own purpose — becomes the most perplexing of Soviet diplomacy.
The preaching of the doctrine of peaceful coexistence, and, at the same, working for the subversion of other political systems have their simultaneous flow. Soviet people were put in quarantine by setting up “iron curtain” around them. It is on this account Soviet relations with major bourgeois countries of the world witnessed rise and fall at successive stages during the inter-war period.
An important shift was observed in the Soviet Union’s diplomacy after the passing away of Lenin in January 1924. A war of succession ensued from which Joseph Stalin emerged triumphant. Soviet regime became more ruthless under the hold of Stalin. Now Soviet leaders took to the course of openly condemning the diplomacy of bourgeois states and their role in maintaining peace through the League of Nations.
Attacking the League on November 23, 1925, Litvinov said in a press interview that the League “is a cover for the preparation of military action for the further suppression of small and weak nationalities where the strong powers arrange their business and conduct their natural accounts behind their back at the expense of the small and weak nations. The USSR, as a state of working masses, cannot take responsibility for the League of Nations.”
Likewise, efforts made by the statesmen of Britain and France for the maintenance of peace was looked upon with great apprehension by the Russian policymakers. For instance, when the Locarno agreements were made in October 1925, its news in the Kremlin caused ample alarm.
In fact, all these observations, right from the League of Nations were found subsequently baseless. Soviet Union was eager to be included in the League of Nations and, other international organisations, but was debarred by the Western Powers and, therefore, her despondency appeared as an outburst against them. After 1927, the Soviet Union entered into a series of non-aggression pacts with many countries. She not only signed the Pact of Paris, entered into the League of Nations, but also persuaded other countries — weak and small, under her influence — to do the same. She wanted the pact to come into force at once.
Soviet Union proposed to Poland and Germany the conclusion of a pact including the Baltic States for guaranteeing mutual aid and assistance in the event of any signatory state being attacked, but those proposals were not accepted.
The Soviet Union proposed to Germany the conclusion of an Eastern Locarno in which the principles of the Locarno Pact were to be applied but the suggestion was rejected by Germany. It is to be remembered in this connection that the Locarno Pact was severely criticised by Stalin, but now he was bent upon concluding a pact like that of Locarno. Another mutual assistance pact with Germany and France to be concluded was the object of Soviet Union, but her attempt proved futile.
However, the most important achievement of Russian diplomacy during the latter part of the “period of pacification” (1925-30) was a steady improvement in her relations with Germany. Reference should now be made to the Neutrality Agreement signed by the two powers on April 24, 1926. With the conclusion of this treaty, the entire Western world was taken aback.
The conclusion of this treaty should be attributed to the successful diplomacy of the Foreign ministers of Great Britain and Russia, who ardently desired to improve the position of their countries in the comity of nations in the midst of prevailing conditions of Anglo-French hegemony. Both parties sought to make capital out of it in their own ways. The East Pact, also known by the name of the Litvinov Protocol, was signed on 9 February 1929 by the Soviet Union, Poland, Rumania, Estonia and Latvia. It certainly came as a significant success for Soviet foreign policy.
The relations of the USSR with the so-called bourgeois states of the world improved to a great extent after the triumph of Stalin’s edict of “Socialism in one country”. The expulsion of the arch-protagonists of the world-revolution (Trotsky and Zinoviev) in 1927 came as a concrete proof of the eventual victory of Stalin line.
The Soviet Union had thus at length accepted the fundamental basis of international relations, and its full return to the international community of states was only a matter of time as Carr observes. The acceptance of the Pact of Paris corroborated the same trend. It now appeared that the Soviet policy of co-operation with the democratic capitalist powers of Europe against the Fascist opponents of Communism was set — observes F. H. Simonds and B. Emeny.
Term Paper # 2. Russo-German Relations 1919-1939: Non-Aggression Pact:
The “Telegram from Moscow”, contents of which Hitler disclosed to Ciano, the Foreign Minister of Italy, on 12 August 1935, could not be found in German archives. The contents of the telegram, so far come to our notice, contained the information of Franco-British military missions in Moscow.
The telegram was sent by Count Friedrich Werner von der Schulenburg, German ambassador to Soviet Russia, of which Shirer describes contains the information that the Russians asked for the sending to Moscow of a German plenipotentiary who would negotiate a pact of friendship.
But the peculiar fact is this that the telegram is a fantastic hypothesis, for which all evidence is lost. It was, though, a fabrication, not without foundation. The truth lies with the incident that the Anglo-French-Soviet negotiation was then going on and Hitler was hoping that it would break down. The British government, in fact, was dilly-dallying in making any solid military cooperation with the Soviet Union. According to Taylor the British only wanted to create a situation which might prevent Hitler from carrying on any aggressive activity.
Eventually, the negotiation really broke down on 17 August and never was seriously resumed. Hitler came forward to successfully sabotage the Anglo-French parleys with the Russians. Hitler set the last possible date for the onslaught of Poland on September 1, 1939, and before that he determined to swing his own deal with Stalin. His plan of campaign against Poland “Case White” got ready by April and he knew very well that attack on Poland would shake Soviet Union because of her proximity with Poland and this attack also would involve Germany in war with both Britain and France.
Hence, the situation compelled him to come to terms with Soviet Union, so that Germany could enjoy an automatic immunity from the East. Soviet Union, was not very much eager to come to terms with Germany but one thing is certain that the Western Powers had lost all their credibility to Soviet Union and the latter also had no faith on them.
Perhaps for this reason Voroshilov, the Soviet leader, asked them the question ruthlessly and abruptly that “Can the Red Army move across North Poland and across Galicia in order to make contact with the enemy? Will Soviet troops be allowed to cross Rumanian territory?” Taylor assumes that this attitude was due to the fact that Soviet Union decided to have an excuse for negotiating with Hitler. There was no answer with the British and French to this question.
There is a host of reasons why the Soviet Union declined to come to terms with the Western Powers. She was excluded both from the Locarno Treaty and Munich Conference. Poland and Rumania had presented insuperable obstacles against any Soviet action in 1938. These obstacles had to be overcome if Soviet Russia were to act now as an equal partner and only the Western Powers could overcome them.
But the Western Powers wanted to use Soviet Union as a convenient auxiliary; whereas the Soviet Union was determined to be recognised as principals and not auxiliary. Stalin knew that the Soviet Union now controlled the balance of power in Europe and the West designed Soviet Union to be involved into war, if any, then the first strike of the war would be borne by her. Both the Soviet Union and Germany would then be engaged in a life-and-death struggle and the Western Powers would escape themselves from the deadly assault.
But this time the Western Powers had to tackle with a cleverer statesman. Stalin precisely knew that if there was any war, Germany must attack Soviet Union to destroy Bolshevism, therefore, what Stalin wanted was space and time from which he could derive not only security but also some profit and that profit would be accrued in partition of Poland.
Naturally, Stalin wanted to come to terms with Germany which would ensure, in any partition of Poland, a large share of Polish territory for himself While the pact would ensure Soviet Union immunity from immediate German assault, part of Poland would act as buffer between the Soviet Union and Germany and this would drive Germany to launch her first main onslaught against the West.
Again, if Germany directs her attack towards East, Soviet Union would have plenty of time to build up lines of defence after the war had started. Two invaluable years Soviet Union got after the Second World War started in 1939 to make herself prepare for 1941 when the German military might pounced upon Soviet Union.
As the German attack on Poland became imminent, the urge for reconciliation with Soviet Union appeared to be emergent to Germany. The excessive eagerness on the part of Germany is understood from the letter written by German Foreign Minister, Ribbentrop, to Schulenburg, the German ambassador at Moscow, in which Ribbentrop urged that German-Russian relations must be improved immediately and not through usual diplomatic channel but by direct and face-to-face talk.
For this Ribbentrop apprised that “I (Ribbentrop) am prepared to make a short visit to Moscow in order, in the name of the Fuehrer to set forth the Fuehrer’s views to M. Stalin. In my view, only through such a direct discussion can a change be brought about, and it should not be impossible thereby to lay the foundations for a final settlement of German-Russian relations.”
Did Hitler guess what Britain and France could do in the event of German attack on Poland? So far documents are concerned Hitler was certain that Great Britain and France would not fight.
On August 14, 1939, Hitler told his select listeners at the Military Conference held at Obersalzberg that Britain “has no leaders of real calibre. The men I got to know at Munich are not the kind to start a new World War. English and French general staffs take a very sober view of the prospects of an armed conflict and advise against.” Hence the invasion of Poland became absolutely certain and an alliance with Soviet Union also became certain.
The Nazi-Soviet talks continued in Moscow from August 15-21, 1939. From German records it appears that Stalin also shared the same view as that of Hitler. According to record Stalin, told the British and French governments were not resolved to go to war if Poland were attacked.
On August 20, Hitler’s letter was received by Stalin, in which Hitler wrote:
On 23 August Molotov and Ribbentrop signed a simple Non-aggression Pact for ten years’ duration in Moscow. Here it is time to ask a pertinent question – Why did Stalin agree to Hitler’s request? As it is found, Stalin came to distrust the leadership of London and Paris when Britain and France agreed to accept Hitler’s demands at Munich and excluded Soviet Union from attending the Munich Conference.
Stalin disliked this appeasement which to him clearly indicated that the Western Powers designed to turn the war machine of Germany towards East. If this apprehension would have been correct then why did Britain and France declare war against Germany in the event of Poland invasion? There is no convenient answer to this question.
However, along with this pact there added a secret additional Protocol in which the parties agreed to divide the territory of Poland among themselves. It was a bargain between two enemies, each of whom gained by it. Germany was rest assured that there would be no danger from Soviet Union so long she would maintain good relations with her.
By the pact Germany got western Poland including Lithuania, whereas Soviet Union got eastern Poland including Finland, Estonia, Latvia and the Rumanian province of Bessarabia. Ribbentrop rightly commented that the pact had “come to a historic turning point….. ” If Soviet Union turned down the offer of Hitler and did not conclude a pact, was there any possibility of Second World War? Did Germany dare to invade Poland?
As Hitler knew very well that the invasion of Poland would summon Britain and France against Germany and a hostile Russia would be a stumbling-block. Hitler would have to think twice before he swooped down on Poland and perhaps the World War would have been avoided. But the curse of history led the world to its destiny. Again, Hitler might have thought that the pact would force Britain and France in repudiating their pledges to Poland.
This hope was belied when Chamberlain made Hitler aware that Britain would definitely stand beside Poland in time of her need and on 25 August 1939 made a formal mutual assistance Pact with Poland. Before invading Poland Mussolini informed Hitler that Italy could not take side with Germany as she was not fully prepared for war.
Nevertheless, Hitler cared little. The Non-Aggression Pact between Germany and Soviet Union remained intact for two years from August 1939 to June 1941, but on 22 June 1941, when the German forces invaded Russia, the pact came to naught and that brought Soviet Union on the side of Britain, France and the United States.
Term Paper # 3. Why did the Nazi-Soviet Pact (1939-41) Break Down:
Germany deliberately violated the terms of the Pact and Hitler directed the army to invade Soviet Union on 22 June 1941. The invasion is code-named as “Operation Barbarossa”. As far as records are concerned Hitler prepared the top secret plan of invasion long before.
On December 18, 1940 he issued Directive No. 21, it began:
Great caution was exercised, so that the intention of attack was not to be known by the others. The Nazi-Soviet honeymoon was over at 3.30 a.m., 22 June 1941, when the roar of German guns along hundreds of miles of front had blasted it forever by 4 million troops, 3,300 tanks and 5,000 bombers.
There are differences in opinion among the scholars about the cause of breakdown of the pact or the intention of Hitler’s attack, but they are unanimous in their opinion that Nazi-Soviet honeymoon was against all procedures and policies of both countries. It would be imperative here to discuss, what Hitler’s motive in Soviet invasion was.
The insurmountable difficulty lies with the fact that Hitler was a lier cap-a-pie. Nevertheless, his letter written to Mussolini is the most revealing and authentic evidence we have of the reasons for his taking this ultimate step. Although, it would be found, that this letter is full of customary lies and evasions which he tried to fob off even on his friends. But even then one can find some truth at least, his fundamental reasoning and his true — if mistaken — estimate of the world situation as the war officially began.
Hitler appraised his erroneous conception saying that England and Soviet Union both “are equally interested in a Europe rendered prostrate by a long war.” But this conception was perhaps not the actual reason. The actual reason was that he wanted to destroy. Bolshevism, grab rich lands of the Ukraine for his New Order, destroy Britain first and then he wanted to deal with Russia. While these were the intentions, Russo-German Non-Aggression Pact was totally inconsistent with the events that followed and was a tactical temporary move.
Hence, the Pact was meant for the time being to suit Hitler’s plan of aggression and as soon as his purpose was served he severed the tie and invaded Soviet Union. Ryder is perhaps very near to truth in his remarks when he says “The pact was in many ways unnatural, a tactical temporary move dictated by unforeseen circumstances and never really accepted by the party leaders or popular among the German people”.
Goring’s economic directives discuss the need for food- producing area of Soviet Union which could be able to sustain all the German armed forces. Some scholars point out Britain’s attempt to draw Soviet Union towards her by sending Sir Stafford Cripps, a well-known British politician, to Moscow, made Hitler apprehensive and, therefore, before any conciliation between the two could be made. Hitler determined to destroy Soviet Union so that Britain could get no active support from them.
If this was the argument then one must accept the theory that not Soviet Union, but Britain was Hitler’s prime target. To extirpate Britain Hitler needed the help of Soviet Union. He wanted to destroy Britain first, then Bolshevism. When he started war it was not against Bolshevism but against democracy.
But the theory is difficult to swallow. If this was so then why did Hitler invade Soviet Union in the midst of his battle of Britain? By 1941 Hitler’s strength was already declining. Though Britain was panting for breath, Russia got two invaluable years to rearm her armies. Soviet Union is a vast land. Did Hitler think Russia would be easily conquered?
Did he not know the straitened circumstances faced by Napoleon and the latter’s ultimate end? Politically and militarily, invasion of Russia was a greatest blunder, but economically it was helpful. Ryder shares this view. According to him “Political motives were as important to Hitler as Economic, perhaps more important.” Russian economic aid to Germany went far to make the British blockade ineffective. But if Britain could have been destroyed and conquered like France, Germany with renewed vigour would have been a potential threat to Russia.