Foreign relations of the Soviet Union: Wikis

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At its founding, the Soviet Union was considered a pariah by most countries, and as such was denied diplomatic recognition by most states. Less than a quarter century later, the Soviet Union not only had official relations with the majority of the nations of the world, but had actually progressed to the role of superpower. By 1945, the USSR—a founding member of the United Nations—was one of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, giving it the right to veto any of the Security Council's resolutions (see Soviet Union and the United Nations). During the Cold War, the Soviet Union vied with the United States for geopolitical influence; this competition was manifested in the creation of numerous treaties and pacts dealing with military alliances and economic trade agreements, and proxy wars.

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Ideology and objectives of Soviet foreign policy

According to Soviet theorists, the basic character of Soviet foreign policy was set forth in Vladimir Lenin's Decree on Peace, adopted by the Second Congress of Soviets in November 1917. It set forth the dual nature of Soviet foreign policy, which encompasses both proletarian internationalism and peaceful coexistence. On the one hand, proletarian internationalism refers to the common cause of the working classes of all countries in struggling to overthrow the bourgeoisie and to establish communist regimes. Peaceful coexistence, on the other hand, refers to measures to ensure relatively peaceful government-to-government relations with capitalist states. Both policies can be pursued simultaneously: "Peaceful coexistence does not rule out but presupposes determined opposition to imperialist aggression and support for peoples defending their revolutionary gains or fighting foreign oppression."[1]

The Soviet commitment in practice to proletarian internationalism declined since the founding of the Soviet state, although this component of ideology still had some effect on later formulation and execution of Soviet foreign policy. Although pragmatic raisons d'état undoubtedly accounted for much of more recent Soviet foreign policy, the ideology of class struggle still played a role in providing a worldview and certain loose guidelines for action in the 1980s. Marxist-Leninist ideology reinforces other characteristics of political culture that create an attitude of competition and conflict with other states.[1]

The general foreign policy goals of the Soviet Union were formalized in a party program ratified by delegates to the Twenty-Seventh Party Congress in February-March 1986. According to the program, "the main goals and guidelines of the CPSU's international policy" included ensuring favorable external conditions conducive to building communism in the Soviet Union; eliminating the threat of world war; disarmament; strengthening the "world socialist system"; developing "equal and friendly" relations with "liberated" [Third World] countries; peaceful coexistence with the capitalist countries; and solidarity with communist and revolutionary-democratic parties, the international workers' movement, and national liberation struggles.[1]

Although these general foreign policy goals were apparently conceived in terms of priorities, the emphasis and ranking of the priorities have changed over time in response to domestic and international stimuli. After Gorbachev assumed power in 1985, for instance, some Western analysts discerned in the ranking of priorities a possible de-emphasis of Soviet support for national liberation movements. Although the emphasis and ranking of priorities were subject to change, two basic goals of Soviet foreign policy remained constant: national security (safeguarding CPSU rule through internal control and the maintenance of adequate military forces) and, since the late 1940s, influence over Eastern Europe.[1]

Many Western analysts have examined the way Soviet behavior in various regions and countries supports the general goals of Soviet foreign policy. These analysts have assessed Soviet behavior in the 1970s and 1980s as placing primary emphasis on relations with the United States, which was considered the foremost threat to the national security of the Soviet Union. Second priority was given to relations with Eastern Europe (the European members of the Warsaw Pact) and Western Europe (the European members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization--NATO). Third priority was given to the littoral or propinquitous states along the southern border of the Soviet Union: Turkey (a NATO member), Iran, Afghanistan, People's Republic of China, Mongolia, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea), and Japan. Regions near to, but not bordering, the Soviet Union were assigned fourth priority. These included the Middle East and North Africa, South Asia, and Southeast Asia. Last priority was given to sub-Saharan Africa, the islands in the Pacific and Indian oceans, and Latin America, except insofar as these regions either provided opportunities for strategic basing or bordered on strategic naval straits or sea lanes. In general, Soviet foreign policy was most concerned with superpower relations (and, more broadly, relations between the members of NATO and the Warsaw Pact), but during the 1980s Soviet leaders pursued improved relations with all regions of the world as part of its foreign policy objectives.[1]

Before World War II

It is possible to detect three distinct phases in Soviet foreign policy between the conclusion of the Russian Civil War and the Nazi-Soviet Pact in 1939, determined in part by political struggles within the USSR, and in part by dynamic developments in international relations and the effect these had on Soviet security.

Although to begin within, and under the partial guidance of the Third International, the government of Lenin attempted to export revolution to the rest of Europe, this effectively came to a halt after the Soviet defeat in the war with Poland in 1921. Thereafter, a policy of peaceful co-existence began to emerge, with Soviet diplomats attempting to end the country's isolation, and concluding bi-lateral arrangements with 'capitalist' governments. Agreement was reached with Germany, Europe's other 'outcast' of the day, in the Treaty of Rapallo in 1922.

There were, however, still those in the Soviet government, most notably Leon Trotsky, who argued for the continuation of the revolutionary process, in terms of his theory of Permanent Revolution. After Lenin's death in 1924 Trotsky and the internationalists were opposed by Joseph Stalin and Nikolai Bukharin, who developed the notion of Socialism in One Country. The foreign policy counterpart of Socialism in One Country was that of the United Front, with foreign Communists urged to enter into alliances with reformist left-wing parties and national liberation movements of all kinds. The high point of this strategy was the partnership between the Chinese Communist Party and the nationalist Kuomintang, a policy favoured by Stalin in particular, and a source of bitter dispute between him and Trotsky. The United Front policy in China effectively crashed to ruin in 1927, when Chiang Kai-shek massacred the native Communists and expelled all of his Soviet advisors, notably Mikhail Borodin.

The following year, after having defeated the left-opposition, led by Trotsky and Grigory Zinoviev, and the right-opposition, led by Nikolai Bukharin, Stalin began the wholesale collectivization of Soviet agriculture, accompanied by a major program of planned industrialization. This new radical phase was paralleled by the formulation of a new doctrine in the International, that of the so-called Third Period, an ultra-left switch in policy, which argued that Social Democracy, whatever shape it took, was a form of Social fascism, socialist in theory but fascist in practice. All foreign Communist Parties-increasingly agents of Soviet policy-were to concentrate their efforts in a struggle against their rivals in the working-class movement, ignoring the threat of real Fascism. There were to be no united fronts against a greater enemy. The catastrophic effects of this policy, and the negative effect it had on Soviet security, was to be fully demonstrated by the victory of Hitler in 1933, followed by the destruction of the German Communist Party, the strongest in Europe. The Third Way and Social Fascism were quickly dropped into the dustbin of history. Once again collaboration with other progressive elements was the key, in the form of the Popular Front, which cast the net still wider to embrace moderate bourgeois parties. Soviet-German cooperation, extensive until 1933, has been now limited.

Hand-in-hand with the promotion of Popular Fronts, Maxim Litvinov, Commissar for Foreign Affairs between 1930 and 1939, aimed at closer alliances with western governments, and placed ever greater emphasis on collective security. The new policy led to the Soviet Union joining the League of Nations in 1934, and the subsequent conclusion of alliances with France and Czechoslovakia. In the League the Soviets were active in demanding action against imperialist aggression, a particular danger to them after the Japanese invasion of Manchuria, which eventually resulted in the Soviet-Japanese Battle of Khalkhin Gol.

But against the rise of militant fascism and imperialism the League accomplished very little. Indeed, in the end it was only USSR that took a stand in trying to preserve the Second Spanish Republic, and its Popular Front government, from the Fascist rebellion of 1936. The Munich Agreement of 1938, the first stage in the dismemberment of Czechoslovakia, gave rise to Soviet fears that they were likely to be abandoned in a possible war with Germany. In the face of continually dragging and seemingly hopeless negotiations with Great Britain and France, a new cynicism and hardness entered Soviet foreign relations when Litvinov was replaced by Vyacheslav Molotov in May 1939. The Soviets no longer sought collective but individual security, and the Pact with Hitler was signed, giving Soviets protection from the most aggressive European power and increasing Soviet sphere of influence.

The aftermath of World War II

The Soviet Union emerged from World War II as one of the two major world powers, a position maintained for four decades through its hegemony in Eastern Europe (see Eastern Bloc), military strength, aid to developing countries and scientific research especially into space technology and weaponry. The Union's effort to extend its influence or control over many states and peoples resulted in the formation of a world socialist system of states. Established in 1949 as an economic bloc of communist countries led by Moscow, the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (COMECON) served as a framework for cooperation among the planned economies of the Soviet Union, its allies in Eastern Europe and, later, Soviet allies in the Third World. The military counterpart to the Comecon was the Warsaw Pact.

Moscow considered Eastern Europe to be a buffer zone for the forward defense of its western borders and ensured its control of the region by transforming the East European countries into subservient allies. Soviet troops crushed a popular uprising and rebellion in Budapest, Hungary in 1956 and ended insubordination by the Czechoslovak government in 1968. In addition to military occupation and intervention, the Soviet Union controlled Eastern European states through its ability to supply or withhold vital natural resources.

The KGB ("Committee for State Security"), the bureau responsible foreign espionage and internal surveillance, was famous for its effectiveness. A massive network of informants throughout the Soviet Union was used to monitor dissent from official Soviet politics and morals.

The 1970s onwards

In the 1970s, the Soviet Union achieved rough nuclear parity with the United States, and surpassed it by the end of that decade with the deployment of the SS-18 missile. It perceived its own involvement as essential to the solution of any major international problem. Meanwhile, the Cold War gave way to Détente and a more complicated pattern of international relations in which the world was no longer clearly split into two clearly opposed blocs. Less powerful countries had more room to assert their independence, and the two superpowers were partially able to recognize their common interest in trying to check the further spread and proliferation of nuclear weapons (see SALT I, SALT II, Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty).

Leonid Brezhnev meets with Gerald Ford in Vladivostok on November 1974 to sign a joint communiqué on the SALT treaty.

Elsewhere the Soviet Union had concluded friendship and cooperation treaties with a number of states in the non-communist world, especially among Third World and Non-Aligned Movement states. Notwithstanding some ideological obstacles, Moscow advanced state interests by gaining military footholds in strategically important areas throughout the Third World. Furthermore, the USSR continued to provide military aid for revolutionary movements in the Third World. For all these reasons, Soviet foreign policy was of major importance to the non-communist world and helped determine the tenor of international relations.

Although myriad bureaucracies were involved in the formation and execution of Soviet foreign policy, the major policy guidelines were determined by the Politburo of the Communist Party. The foremost objectives of Soviet foreign policy had been the maintenance and enhancement of national security and the maintenance of hegemony over Eastern Europe. Relations with the United States and Western Europe were also of major concern to Soviet foreign policy makers and, much as with the United States, relations with individual Third World states were at least partly determined by the proximity of each state to the border and to estimates of strategic significance.

Gorbachev and after

When Mikhail Gorbachev succeeded Konstantin Chernenko as General Secretary of the Communist Party in 1985, it signaled a dramatic change in Soviet foreign policy. Gorbachev pursued conciliatory policies toward the West instead of maintaining the Cold War status quo. The USSR ended its military occupation of Afghanistan, signed strategic arms reduction treaties with the United States, and allowed its satellite states in Eastern Europe to determine their own affairs.

After the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, Russia claimed to be the legal successor to the Soviet Union on the international stage despite its loss of superpower status. Russian foreign policy repudiated Marxism-Leninism as a guide to action, soliciting Western support for capitalist reforms in post-Soviet Russia.

See also

Notes

  1. ^ a b c d e Text used in this cited section originally came from: Chapter 10 of the Soviet Union Country Study from the Library of Congress Country Studies project.

References

 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the Library of Congress Country Studies.

External links

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