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This essay last updated November 01, 2007
In the years since the anti-Communist Russian Revolution of 1991, Americans have begun a new relationship with the state which is evolving from the rubble of the collapsed Communist system in Russia. The foundation of this new relationship has been poured through the reform policies led by Russian Pres. Boris Yeltsin (1991-1999) and his successor, Pres. Vladimir Putin (2000-present). In democratizing their political system, sound theory points America and its allies to assist in this process. Democratic Peace Theory postulates that internal democracy and a non-aggressive foreign policy toward other democracies go hand in hand. To the extent that in Russia these sort of desired democratic institutions have shallow roots and lack strong domestic constituencies to support them, it is correspondingly difficult to extrapolate the same moderating influences onto policy for Russia as would apply in a more firmly rooted democratic system, e.g. France. The Russian embrace of the U.S. in its global war on terrorism after September 11, 2001, however, brought additional external support to Putin, and with it internal democracy may have more external investment and other resources to use to solidify.
The continuing strength of Russian anti-democratic forces opposed to both presidents' policies of cooperation with the U.S. could portend a dangerous future. In December 1993, fascists and in December 1995 and 1999, communist parties won the largest shares in Russian parliamentary elections. Even though the Yeltsin Government survived to be re-elected in 1996 and served out most of its term (Yeltsin resigned December 31, 1999), generations of suspicion between our peoples remain to divide us. Moreover, colliding elite conceptions of national security need still to be overcome, especially as the Putin Administration has embarked on a more independent course to regain Russian influence and stature. Genuine Russian - American understanding will require each nation to appreciate the deep imprint their rivalry left on the world, and on themselves. This reading acquaints the student with many aspects of this story.
Components and Structure of this reading. The Soviet-American rivalry began shortly after the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, and extended until late in the 20th century.
- The guiding ideals behind the world role of the Russian state, and its Communist incarnation first will be discussed (section II.) Inasmuch as Russian Communists remain among the best organized and the second largest political party in modern Russia, understanding their background continues to be relevant to understanding the challenges faced by U.S. foreign policy in the first decade of the new Millennium, and beyond.
- After surveying these ideas that long lay behind Soviet foreign policy, we then will examine how Russians imagined their national interest prior to the advent of the Communist system.
- Proceeding chronologically, we next will examine several of the reactions taken by each side as we first look at Soviet-American relations:
- just after the 1917 revolution,
- at the impact of Allied Intervention in the Russian Civil War (1918-21), and then at the whole of the inter-war years, 1918-39.
- Domestic anti-Communism within the U.S. --including legislative, judicial, and executive actions-- next will enrich the portrait of the anti-Communist bases of U.S. policy toward Soviet Russia.
Bitter as were the feelings between the nations, these rivalries had not yet fully developed for, before World War II, containing other states --especially Germany, and to a lesser extent Japan-- preoccupied the world's great powers (i.e., Britain, France, Soviet Russia and the U.S.).
- It is with this complex set of relationships in mind that the Soviet alliance with Adolf Hitler's Germany, 1939-41, then will be analyzed.
- Soviet-American relations during World War II, a period in which the two nations were allied, were not uniformly cooperative; this will be discussed in part IV. Especially problematic to later relations proved to be a relatively unnoticed comment by Missouri Senator Harry S Truman, in summer 1941. These and other war-era developments, e.g. the agreements made at the 1945 Yalta Conference (visually depicted elsewhere and briefly discussed on the website), will be described and analyzed here.
- COLD WAR. The Soviet-American rivalry would grow to transform the entire international system to a great degree only after the conclusion of World War II.
- How that conflict began is of some importance. This issue will be addressed in section V. Key U.S. policy responses, including the Truman Doctrine of Containment and the Marshall Plan will be explained.
- The Cold War era from 1947 to the death of Josef Stalin in 1953 then will be our focus in part VI. The fates of Czechoslovakia and Hungary, among others, in this era will be told (both here and in linked webpages). Adjustments in policy after the Death of Josef Stalin also will figure in this section.
- Sections VII and VIII examine the Khrushchev administration's relations with the Americans and the Europeans, while
- section IX looks at this same era in Asia.
- In section X we address the Brezhnev Government and its various ways of waging Cold War in the 1960s and 1970s.
- The section XI then surveys the conflicts of the 1980s, while web pages elsewhere on this website fill in the key events which contributed to the end of the Cold War in a timeline form.
- Section XII then briefly examines Russian policy since the Fall of Communism in 1991. By understanding this Soviet/Russian relationship with the US, and its impact on international relations, we may better appreciate the unstable base on which today a foundation for a more durable structure of peace is evolving.
II. Ideals and Goals of the Russian Soviet State
The perspective the leaders of a nation bring to international politics can shape their international behavior and, correspondingly, can influence other nations' perceptions and actions. This especially was true of Soviet perceptions of the West and American perceptions of the behavior of the USSR. Two major themes long influenced Soviet international strategy: Communist ideology and an expansionistic view of Russian national interests. Measuring the degree to which the Yeltsin and Putin presidencies can have altered both of these trends requires us to think clearly about the real extent to which Communism exercised governing influences over past Soviet international behavior.
To help the student who may have little grounding in the topic, substantial discussion of Russian history before the 1917 Communist revolution will be presented here to help her understand how many Russians understand that nation's national interest in world affairs.
Identifying Soviet Goals: The international system is shaped both by the pattern of action engaged in by the major international powers and by the patterns in resulting reactions of major and minor powers. When large nations act, therefore, there is a direct and objective effect (e.g., the USSR occupies Finland, in 1940) and an indirect, subjective affect (e.g., Western political elites and public opinion become more strongly convinced of the aggressive nature of communist states). But what events mean is not always crystal clear; often political elites are divided about the deeper implications of their own nations', as well as other nations', behavior. Were, for example, the 1989-91 withdrawals of Soviet forces from Afghanistan and Eastern Europe signs of a slackening in the Russian will to dominate their neighbors? Or, were these retreats favored only by one group whose power was transient, and whose power may one day be eclipsed? The Russian experience in Chechnya, 1994 to the present day, presents evidence to support both views. Do those who will define the national security interests of the emerging Russian state approve of these trends; or have they merely resigned to accept the retreat from Empire as a temporary situation? Reasonable cases can be made on both sides of these questions because all of the current evidence does not affirm one interpretation.
The concepts which long have shaped the debate in the US about our policy toward Soviet-era communism may not now provide adequate frameworks within which to pursue a policy toward post-Communist Russia. The calculation of American actions in pursuit of our foreign policy long divided between those who saw the principal problem to be Communism, and those who saw longstanding Russian intentions beneath the Red shirt of our Soviet adversary. Briefly put, some Americans (e.g., former President Ronald Reagan) saw the Soviet Union and its allies as an "evil empire," out to conquer the whole world in order to make universal a modern, secular belief system called Communism. On the other hand, (Princeton Prof.) Richard Pipes, (former US Ambassador to Moscow) George Kennan and others have found continuity between the actions of this supposedly "new" type of state and its deep, Russian roots.
This section of the reading attempts to summarize information which informs this debate so as to provide a factual foundation from which the student can observe and evaluate the actions of Soviet and Russian decision makers, before during and after the Cold War. From such reflection the reactions of U.S. administrations better can be measured, too. As you read this information it will useful to remember that no matter which side in the debate about Soviet intentions we initially find persuasive, neither debating point completely can account for all information. This is part of the reason that very well informed professional analysts in and out of the American government long have disagreed about the nature of our Eurasian adversary in the Cold War. Use the tension inherent in this situation to drive your search for better and more complete information to inform your opinions. But first let us consider one additional issue about how we are going to "know" anything about foreign policy and international relations.
Means and Ends. However much we may think we know about Soviet or Russian intentions -- now or later--, the means that they have used toward their neighbors is a set of information that those seeking knowledge about foreign policy and international relations also should appreciate. Political science is not simply the study of philosophic ideas (e.g., Marxist-Leninist ideology) or of remote historic events. It is the study of observable human behavior, primarily. The interaction of stated or hidden goals with the actual means a nation has used is central to understanding any nation's foreign policy. Understanding the means used in the conduct of the foreign policies of the major powers is an critical first step toward understanding the international system as a whole.
Through most of the period since the 1991 end of Soviet Communism, the direct influence of Communist Theory was on the wane. Communist Party leaders neither ruled nor exercised much influence on the Yeltsin or Putin Governments. But Yeltsin's failure to deliver an improved life to most people through its policy of economic reform, 1991-95, led to the return of the Communist Party as the largest party in the Russian legislature in parliamentary elections of December 13, 1995. While reform forces rallied to win the presidential elections of 1996 and to rebuff communist advances in the election of 2000, it is clear that communist beliefs still influence the way many Soviets and Russians think. Understanding communist theory can help us to see more clearly a lens that historically was used by rulers there, and by many citizens still. Moreover, that lens still may shade the perceptions of generals and other leaders outside the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, especially insofar as the rules of the international system and attitudes toward the United States are concerned.
Communist theory in the Russian context is a byproduct of the political thought primarily of two thinkers, Karl Marx and V.I. Lenin. Marxism-Leninism provides firm guidance to believers regarding the nature of human life, mankind's future, and a host of issues related to state craft.
Marx viewed the rivalry among nations as a feature of the world peculiar to only some eras of human history. Wars and other conflicts, he thought, would cease after the triumph of communism. Believers in Marxism-Leninism, therefore, are utopians in the sense that they believe human conflict among states one day will end. Those conditioned in this way of thinking habitually find the source of conflict to lie in the defective ideas that guide states other than their own. Thus, a Russian today who has abandoned communism, but who retains this utopian world view, may retain the attitude that other nations are responsible for all conflicts.
Marx thought the international rivalries that are so common in all world history were uniquely different in the capitalist era (i.e., since about 1780). From this premise he concluded that war reflected not a basic tendency in international relations but a manifestation of capitalism. He saw the root cause to be tensions within each industrial society. These he saw being played out through international wars, chosen by the ruling classes in each nation in order to prevent the violent rage of the workers ("proletarians") from being focused on their own "bourgeois" rulers. The invocation at the close of the Communist Manifesto ("The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win. Working men of all countries, Unite!") conveys this essence.
In the era that would replace capitalism, Marx foresaw both the end of nation states as the units of human organization and the substitution of (international) loyalty to ones' economic class for the national patriotism of the capitalist nations' citizens. War would end in his communist future.
Imperialism: While Marx also studied briefly the impact of overseas colonies on the development of the class struggle in Europe, it was his follower, the Russian V.I. Lenin, who developed an integrated, global theory of the impact of a new form of imperialism. Lenin saw the creation of overseas colonies in the 19th Century (e.g., the carving up of Africa) as fundamentally different from the creation of empires since time immemorial (e.g., Alexander the Great in Asia Minor). In his pamphlet "Two Tactics for Social Democracy (1905)," Lenin argued that rural people in the underdeveloped parts of the world could play a large role in the development of the coming global, socialist revolution. His theory of imperialism was most fully developed in the book Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism (1918), which argued that capitalism (in Europe) was being strengthened after 1876 by the exploitation of colonies. Colonial exploitation, he argued, made the tensions between workers and capitalists in Europe less acute, since profits made abroad could be used in part to keep European workers' standards of living from becoming absolutely intolerable. Thus, he argued that the worldwide capitalist system would begin to fall apart at its weakest point internationally (i.e., Russia), rather than at the pinnacle of its productive genius (i.e., first in England, then in the US, France and Germany). This latter point was central to his belief that Russia was ready for a well planned, professional revolution. This belief originally was expressed in his 1902 pamphlet, "What is to Be Done?" Russia was indeed a society ripe for revolution, and amid the chaos of the first Great War (i.e., World War I), the Czarist state and its Empire unraveled. Lenin and his Bolsheviks proved to be the most ruthless revolutionary group and within a few months had seized power.
After the 1917 Russian Revolution, it was consistent with the Marxist-Leninist ideas for the new Soviet leaders to proclaim support for anti-colonial "wars of national liberation." The new Soviet leaders claimed to see nationalist movements in the colonies as precursors to the collapse of capitalism in Europe. Both events they saw as being historically necessary and inevitable. Today we can argue, contrarily, that such ideas merely gave a gloss to a rather blunt effort to expand Russian influence over these movements and these geographic areas. Notably, in the transition from Czarist to Soviet Russia fully a third of the former land area had been lost to the control of others.
Communist theory envisioned a world history that unfolded in stages, with different governmental forms appearing and disappearing in different ages as are required to serve the economic interests of the dominant or ruling classes. Implicitly, the communist theory foresaw an eventual world system in which no nations exist any longer, a communist world governed not by governments but by the simple administration of things by the international working class (or, following Lenin, by the Communist Party that rules in the interest of that international working class). After the 1917 Russian Revolution, a policy to advance this utopian vision was strongly advocated by Leon Trotsky, a communist colleague of Lenin who had served as the principal organizer of the Soviet Red Army. Trotsky saw communist ideology as a practical guide to Soviet foreign policy, a Soviet Union which would become a fountain of "permanent revolution." However, Josef Stalin, not Trotsky, succeeded Lenin (in 1924-25), expelled Trotsky from the CPSU (1927), and continued to rule the nation as an absolute dictator until 1953. Stalin turned the Party first toward a new strategy by stressing that "socialism in one country" (i.e., the USSR) must come first. (For a brief chronology and pictures of all Soviet and Russian leaders, go here).
Soviet foreign policy theoreticians and spokesmen, therefore, from the very beginning had available to them an ideological vocabulary with sufficient flexibility to accommodate numerous, potentially contradictory goals. They could recall Marx so to decry capitalists' tendencies toward profit-making war industries and war preparations, thereby weakening any adversaries influenced by this siren song. Thus, Communists often aided legitimate pacifist movements in the democratic countries. They could find precedents in Stalin's many tactics to find inspiration for a more cautious and varied diplomacy. During the Brezhnev era (1964-81), the Soviet strategic doctrine was one of "correlation of forces." Under the "correlation of forces" theory, capitalist and socialist (i.e., communist) states were said to be engaged in the inevitable conflict that the communist (or "materialist") view of history anticipated, with the dominance of the capitalist states ebbing and flowing, but with an overall, gradual erosion of the West's position (or so many Soviet analysts imagined). Soviet analysts then argued that, as the class struggle intensified throughout many parts of the globe, the "correlation of forces" finally would shift decisively toward the forces of socialism. In the 1970s, apparent "revolutions" in Third World backwaters such as Ethiopia, Angola and Nicaragua were said to confirm this trend. Thus, aid to "wars of national liberation," occurred simultaneous with loud declarations of Soviet desire for "peaceful coexistence" with the West. Sometimes in nearly the same breath support was declared for "national liberation struggles" in one area (e.g., the Middle East in the 1970s) while a policy of "relaxation of tensions" (or detente) was espoused simultaneously toward the West.
Even in the era of Gorbachev (March 1985-Fall 1991), the steady and very apparent decline in Soviet influence in practice persuaded some Party theoreticians of Marxism's ultimate triumph. Thus, historic inevitability again was invoked to justify the attempted seizure of power by an Emergency Committee of generals, Communists and KGB thugs (August 19-21, 1991). Indeed, we may yet see the day when their defeat, too, is laid at the feet of "scientifically valid" Marxist-Leninist concepts rather than the democratic heroes and martyrs to whom most less twisted observers would credit. Some ideas never die.
What are we to make of this? I would argue that in regard to the USSR, none of these public Party lines was well understood as a commitment in principle to any position. Rather, each was better understood simply as a tactic that the Party had deemed to be useful to the advancement of the overall strategy for achieving its underlying goals. But the original question still remains: what were these underlying goals?
This points us toward the danger of overstating the impact of Marxist-Leninist ideology. Following from the above argument one thing at least should be clear: whatever the publicly stated goals of a communist-run USSR may have been, if the Party enunciated them, then the policies always could be said to be consistent with Marxist-Leninist theory. True Leninists still believe in strictly limiting debate among themselves to the time before Party leaders have made a decision --the principle of democratic centralism. Even though the CPSU today has been routed, renamed (i.e., the Communist Party of the Russian Federation), and displays little of this traditional unity, Leninists still exist in Russia and in the now independent republics. Leninists are one of the best organized, if not the most powerful, political force. The deep analytical question for the new millennium is whether the past actions of the Russian-Soviet state really were very well revealed by paying attention to this ideology-laden Soviet foreign policy vocabulary. If ideology governed all, then only it can explain the sordid past. If all now has changed, then all actions of the emerging Russian state should be expected to spring from entirely different premises and aim toward entirely different goals. But, if ideology concealed much that was distinctly Russian all along, an emphasis on Communism as the sole key to opening the lock of the Cold War may hinder us in our quest to appreciate the nature and priorities of this great nation. That that nation's dissolving components still possess thousands of nuclear weapons should point us toward caution in hastily abandoning concern for the potential aggressiveness herein.
Russian National Interests
Russian National Interests, according to many analysts, also have shaped the definition of Soviet priorities toward the rest of the world. In this section of the reading, a brief history of the Russian state and its role in world affairs is presented so as to provide some comparative information against which to view more recent actions of that state's communist rulers. (For a still briefer, timeline presentation: go here). Russia's national dilemma is geographic. It long lacked natural barriers between its heartland and the hostile forces which would sweep out of Asia on horseback: Huns, Scythians, Mongols. Time and again, Russia had been plundered by marauders from the East. To secure Russia, Russian princes became convinced that the wide expanses of non-Russian Eurasia would have to become wide buffers between them and the hostile non-Russians to the East, and South (e.g., the Turks). An army to dominate these non-Russian areas became a first priority from the time of Ivan I onward. After the Romanovs established a stable monarchy (1613), the principle that national security required expansive territorial holdings produced an empire structure and the strong armed forces which defined the Russian state.
From the times of Peter I, or "Peter the Great" (17th Century) to Catherine the Great (late 18th Century), Russian state interests have borne a remarkable resemblance to the priorities of the Soviets used in deploying the Red Army, 1945-89. Crucial objectives to Russia in the age of Peter I included finding warm water ports, trading and military facilities that could be open all year so that Russia might match the naval capability other European powers. To this end it first was important that Russia gain access to some ports (albeit not the best ones) on the Baltic Sea. From this potentially ice-bound start, an open sea navy could be developed, and trade could be expanded. Ultimately, access to the Baltic was achieved through victory in a long war against Sweden (1700-1721). The Gulf of Finland became an outlet for a new Dutch-designed, Russian Navy. Peter was so enthusiastic about this "window to the west" strategy that he compelled Russian merchants to relocate from the Arctic port of Archangel to the new national capital, St. Petersburg (later Petrograd, then Leningrad, and, since 1991, St. Petersburg again), near the "window."
It was also a major goal that Russia expel Turkish influence on the South, from the Crimean peninsula and the rich grain belt known as Ukraine, so to establish firm control over the northern shore of the Black Sea. While this southward thrust carried with it the future potential for naval invaders to penetrate Russia's southern flank, these were less feared than were land invasions from the clearly hostile Islamic empire of Turkey. This long project unfolded in many steps, one of the first of which was the achievement of Russian hegemony over the Eastern Ukraine (1667), a generation before Peter's birth. In Peter's time, progress on this front was slow, with victories (1696) reversed by subsequent defeats at Turkish hands (1711). However, it was in Peter's reign that the Russian Army flourished as the central institution of the Romanov dynasty. Eventually, under Catherine the Great (1762-96), it would accomplish toward the Turks that which Peter could not. In decisive victories over the Turks, Catherine finally won the northern shore of the Black Sea for the empire, securing Russian rights of navigation on that heretofore exclusively Turkish lake (Treaty of Kuchuk Kainardji, 1774). By war, the right of Russian ships freely to pass through Turkey's Bosphorous straits (1783) was achieved. Expansion to the Pacific, while less important initially, also was achieved by the early 18th century with Vladivostok eventually becoming an important military and commercial port and, in the late 19th century, the rail head for the Trans-Siberian railroad. Indeed, conquests extended into North America, with Alaska relinquished to the US only in the 1860s. Thus, access to various ice free ports was achieved, furthering the expansion of Russia in both commercial and military ways.
Russian rulers conceived of themselves as Christian leaders, an outpost on a heathen Eurasian land mass. Accordingly, another important Russian objective was to replace Turkish hegemony over the Christian peoples of Eastern Europe. Expansion of Russian influence into Eastern Europe and the Balkans, therefore, had roots far longer than the Soviet Red Army's expansion into these regions in 1945. Since the Red Army's presence and behavior in Eastern Europe critically stimulated U.S. reactions leading to the Cold War between our two nations, it is important that we understand some of the background to the complex relations among Russians and Eastern Europeans in our times.
Poland: Under Catherine, diplomatic approaches directed at an accommodation with Prussia's Frederick the Great (1740-1786) succeeded in gaining dominion for each nation over Poland. While Poland had never been occupied by the Turks, and had in fact played a major military role in the defeat of the Turks at Vienna (1683), Czarist Russia wanted no competitors in Eastern Europe. After a series of Russian military forays into Poland in the 18th century, Russia, Prussia and Austria decided to create spoils for one another, rather than allow Poland to divide them. Three "partitions" of Poland by these major nations (1772-1795) erased the seven hundred year old Polish state from the map of Europe. The (Catholic) Poles remained a distinct nationality, but thereafter were governed by (Orthodox) Russian Czars or by (Lutheran) Prussians. (Only small parts were taken by Catholic Austria). Only in 1919 did an independent Poland reappear; and many Poles would argue that independent Poland then disappeared again after WW II only to emerge with the success of the Solidarity Movement in organizing a non-communist government in Spring 1989.
Pan-Slavism affected the rivalry of major European nations as they competed for dominance in Eastern Europe. Foreshadowing a function of Communist ideology in the mid 20th Century, Czarist Russian attempts to dominate parts of Eastern Europe were masked by an apparently ideological motivation. Notably, Czars claimed to lead a Pan-Slav movement to unite all Slavic peoples against non-Slavs. By this appeal, Russia tried to drive a wedge between Slavic non-independent peoples and their non-Slavic, non-Orthodox masters. Serbs, Greeks and Bulgars were encouraged to revolt against (Islamic) Ottoman Turkey; while on similar grounds Russia sought to turn all Slavs and Slavic states against Catholic Austria, leader of the multi-ethnic Austro-Hungarian Empire (etc.). This Russian ideology arose as the convenient accompaniment to the gradual demise of Ottoman Turkish rule in Eastern Europe. Turkey had been laying siege to Vienna, capital of Austria, as late as 1683; by 1699, in the Treaty of Carlowitz, the irreversible decline had begun: Hungary passed into Austrian hands. As Russia sought to minimize Austrian gains in the Balkans (i.e., the area south of Hungary, including the current nations of Greece, Albania, Bulgaria, Romania and all the states of the former Yugoslavia), a long and significant competition was begun. Ultimately, this rivalry would draw in all the other powers as it culminated in the events at Sarajevo, in Bosnia in 1914, where the heir to the Austrian throne, Archduke Francis Ferdinand, was assassinated by a Serbian radical. This, of course, sparked the chain of events that led to the outbreak of the first World War.
The ways in which competition among the major European nations took shape has affected national attitudes toward Russians and later toward the Soviet Union. Bulgarians, who were occupied by the Turks from 1393 to 1878, recall Russian support for the reestablishment of a large Bulgaria once the Czarist armies had forced the Ottomans to capitulate (Treaty of San Stefano). They also recall that the Austrians and British nixed this deal and imposed on Russia a much smaller, Ottoman-linked Bulgaria (Treaty of Berlin, 1878) that survived until the Bulgars declared their complete independence (1908). Bulgarian support for Russia was not always steady: they backed the Central Powers, not Russia and the Allies, in the first World War, and joined the Axis in WWII. After the Nazi invasion of the USSR (June 1941), however, Bulgaria refused to join Germany in war on the USSR. The Red Army nevertheless went to war against Bulgaria (November 1944) and occupied the nation. In the first election after the war the pro-USSR Bulgarian "Fatherland Front" was awarded 86% of the vote; purges of non-communists were complete by December 1947 and, until 1990, the two nations were close allies.
Contrarily, in Hungary, no tradition of "looking to Russia" for aid was customary. Hungarians are not ethnic Slavs, were to a large extent Protestant in the 1500-1700 era, and came to be under the influence of Catholic Austria after Turkish rule (1526-1699) ended. Rebellions against the Austrians (1703, 1848) were of a republican and nationalist character, hence were quietly opposed (not supported) by the Russian Czars. When the Hungarian Communist Bela Kun, a former Hungarian POW in Russia (and a non-observant Jew), and later, a 1918 partisan for the Reds in the Russian Civil War, seized power (March-August 1919) and declared a Hungarian Soviet Republic, the Soviet Union gave no tangible aid to this experiment. Thus, when the Red Army arrived in Hungary in 1945, the general population was suspicious and not altogether cooperative with what was seen as a new occupying force.
In Romania, not all Romanians ever had worn the yoke of Ottoman (Islamic) domination, hence many Romanians also did not have a tradition of "looking to Russia" for assistance. Romania had, after 1699, been split into two jurisdictions: in mountainous Romanian Transylvania, the (Catholic) Austrians had ruled (though indirectly through the Hungarians, 1867-1918); only in Wallachia and Moldavia was indirect Turkish rule present (from the 16th to the late 19th Centuries). Even there, the Turks agreed to Russian veto power over changes in leaders (after 1829, Treaty of Adrianople), and tolerated periodic Russian Army occupations (1829-34; 1848). Thus, Romanian nationalism was both an anti-Turkish and an anti-Russian phenomenon. Soviet Russia also had sought to seize Romanian territories as a result of the 1939 Hitler -Stalin pact. Accordingly, public attitudes there --outside the attitudes of local Romanian Communists-- also were less than euphoric about the arrival of the Red Army in the 1944-45 era.
Some of the means through which Czarist Russia advanced its interests were hardly ideological: for example, Russian consuls granted Greek and other Ottoman Christian merchant seamen the right to sail their ships under the Russian flag. Similarly, outright conquest of Finland (1809) involved no considerations of ideology, or joining together of Russia with other Orthodox co-religionists: Finland was and remains virtually entirely Protestant.
To the East in the 16th, 17th, 18th, 19th and early 20th Centuries, Russian influence was extended (by the Russian Army) into the non-Russian areas of Central Asia and Northern China. No ideological or racial/religious component was involved in these conquests. The goal seems to have been to secure the natural mountain and river barriers in Central Asia as the actual borders between the Russian Empire and China. These conquests form one of the bones of contention that continue to divide China from Russia: over 1 million square miles of East Asian territories are still ruled by the USSR but are claimed by China as "illegitimate" properties stolen by the Czars from China. Soviet occupation of Mongolia after World War II made these historic grievances appear (to the Chinese) to be but one more example of Russian expansionism, a long, anti-Chinese affair. The invasion of Afghanistan by the Red Army (after December 1979) stimulated the communist Chinese to join with the United States, (Islamic) Iran and Pakistan in efforts to aid the anti-Soviet mujahideen rebels there. This Chinese support for anti-Soviet military action in Central Asia appears peculiar if one expects all communists to be nation less co-believers, but it is entirely consistent with the national rivalries in the region between Chinese and Russians, rivalries hundreds of years older than Marxist-Leninist thought.
At one of its highest points (c. 1840), the Russian Empire even extended into North America, with forts as far south as Fort Bragg and Fort Ross in Northern California; Alaska also was Russian territory well into the 1860s.
In summary, traditional Russian foreign policy was based on fear of conquest of its largely defenseless, expansive territory. To protect this vulnerable home, foreign policy was expansionistic toward its neighbors, yet Russians always saw these actions as "defensive." Thus, expansionism was pursued by use of diplomatic, ideological and military means. Russian rulers sought to protect the Motherland of Russia by creating wide buffers around her, so wide as to suggest that a second objective may have been to rise to the status of dominant power over adjacent nations and peoples. Because of Russia's location in the middle of the Eurasian land mass, these defensive goals dictated that offensive means be used to achieve them. It is the consequences of these offensive actions that shaped the perceptions of Russia's neighbors. To Russia, the crucial objectives were naval access to warm water (i.e., open all year) ports, an Eastern European buffer zone between Russia and the powerful states of Central and Western Europe, and a secure eastern frontier (along the Chinese, Mongolian, Korean and Japanese areas of influence). To Russia's weaker neighbors, winning national self-determination from such a neighbor was a contest not altogether unlike that recently completed by the Poles, Hungarians and Czechs; not unlike that now underway for Afghans, Ukrainians, Armenians, Georgians, Uzbeks, Turkamen and dozens of other peoples who know well the Russian roots of Soviet expansionism. It was one long struggle.
III. Soviet-American relations since the 1917 Revolution: the period before World War II.
An appreciation of Communist ideology and Russian history can help inform our judgment about Soviet goals, but Soviet actions even more served to shape the perceptions of American foreign policy makers. Often, the Soviet state aided radical forces and terrorist groups committed to destroy Western interests and values. Only for a short time has this trend abated. As President Reagan's Secretary of State George Schultz (1989: 54) stated late in 1985, "whatever theory one subscribes to about the true source of Soviet motivation -- whether communist ideology or traditional Russian expansionism -- it is not difficult to see the advantage to Soviet foreign policy of its alliance with radical movements..." The Cold War has now ended, and much time separates us from Schulz's cautionary words. But threats to Western interests remain, and the death knell has yet to sound on all terrorists. Russian sponsorship of terrorists apparently ended under Yeltsin, and Putin (at times) has been an enthusiastic supporter the U.S. in our the War on Terrorism. But is it reasonable to expect that all their successors will continue this policy? Only an ignorance of the conflicts of the 20th century can lead to a certain affirmative answer. Accordingly, this section of our reading surveys the main features of the Soviet-American conflict, 1918-1989.
Initial relations. After the fall of the last Russian Czar (February-March 1917), President Wilson enthusiastically greeted the trend there toward constitutional government. The overthrow of republican forces by armed Bolsheviks (October-November 1917) ended this honeymoon. American diplomatic reaction to the Bolshevik seizure of power was sharp, extensive, and highly unsupportive. During much of the ensuing period 1918-1939, Soviet-American mistrust festered.
Strain in relations with the West was characteristic of Soviet foreign relations with nearly all "capitalist" states: correct, but not overly friendly relations with Britain also collapsed altogether in 1927. Germany and Soviet Russia penned the Treaty of Rapallo (1922) establishing full diplomatic relations, but little came of the ties. French-Soviet relations were less strained after the early 1920s, but Soviet aid to the French Communist Party exacerbated real progress. On the Soviet side, suspicion of the capitalist nations dictated by Communist theory also was reinforced by the events that led to WW II. The five points below detail Soviet-Western relations in this period:
Allied Intervention in Revolutionary Russia. The US and Britain participated in the Allied intervention in Russia, 1918-1920. The Soviets perceived this as assistance to the White, or anti-Soviet, Army in their (post-revolutionary) Civil War. On the other hand, U.S. leader Woodrow Wilson saw our purpose as strategically related to our war against Germany. After the Bolsheviks had signed a separate peace with Germany ending Russian involvement on the side of the Allies in World War I, US and British troops invaded Russia simply to prevent weapons from falling into the hands of the Germans. However, Americans forget that this explanation (which we found persuasive) lost all credibility after an Armistice was signed between Germany and the Allies, November 11, 1918 (ending World War I). Even though the war with Germany was over, U.S. troops remained in the eastern Siberian part of the Russian empire, guarding the Trans-Siberian railroad, until 1920. While they saw little combat --less than 200 US troops died-- the effect of this deployment was to secure a major Russian asset, preventing its use in support of the new Red government. British forces played a more direct combat role in support of the White Army, but in Soviet eyes both nations' interventions were unwarranted and hostile. Japan also sent troops into Asian parts of the Russian empire contemporaneously.
An Unfriendly Peace. British and French behavior at the Versailles Peace Conference (1919) also confirmed Soviet leaders' mistrust of the West: "self determination" (the centerpiece of Woodrow Wilson's "14 Point" proposal for a more peaceful world through democracy) was granted only in the areas of the Austro-Hungarian, Russian and German empires that had become "free nations" (e.g., Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Yugoslavia, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, etc.), but not to the colonial areas of the French and the British (e.g., in India, Southeast Asia, Africa, etc.). Some of this might have been expected, since Germany and Austro-Hungary were the losers in the war. However, before the communist revolution of 1917, Russia had fought on the allies' (Western) side. While Lenin's Bolsheviks had dropped out of the World War in Spring 1918, the allies' thorough application of "self-determination" to the Russian Empire's territorial losses (e.g., Poland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, parts of Byelorussia, Bessarabia and Finland, etc.) seemed hostile to the Soviets. (The Soviets, on March 3, 1918, had signed a separate peace with the Germans, the treaty of Brest-Litovsk, but Germany sued for peace with the Allies in November of that same year). Lenin had expressed that it would be "self-deception" to see the treaty as anything other than "a harsh one" (Lenin, in Rush, p. 7), and diplomatically sought its redress by the Allies, who reacted with disdain and did not consider Soviet suggestions. To Lenin, the treatment of these formerly Russian territories by the Allies (i.e., granting them independence) was an anti-Soviet act, no less hostile than the Allies' treatment of Germany's Turkish ally in the war. Britain and France soon took over Turkish areas of the Middle East, as "Mandated" by the League of Nations. France helped herself to Syria and Lebanon; Britain took influence over Egypt and Arabia, and established administration over the formerly Turkish provinces of Palestine and Iraq.
US President Wilson's position toward Russia's long term interests hardly would endear him to the Soviets any more than would this open hostility toward the USSR of the British and French governments. Initially, Wilson had greeted the fall of the Czar saying: (April 2, 1917) "Does not every American feel that assurance has been added to our hope for the future peace of the world by the wonderful and heartening things that have been happening within the last few weeks in Russia?" But after the Bolshevik's (second) October 1917 Revolution, Wilson proposed to Congress his famous "Fourteen Points" (January 8, 1918), the talking positions for the USA at the Versailles Peace Conference (1919). Some of these "14 Points" suggested a US policy toward Russia that would turn out to be directly contrary to our actual policy of armed intervention in Russia which Wilson himself would authorize just a few months later. For example, Wilson's rhetoric claimed that "The evacuation of Russian territory [should occur]... The treatment accorded Russia by her sister nations in the months to come will be the acid test of their good will (Point VI)..."( quoted in Vasquez: 18). But thousands of US soldiers were sent to Vladivostok later that year, where they would remain until 1920. Other contradictions among Wilson's "14 Points" grew out of his abstract advocacy of national "self-determination" for colonized peoples, (e.g., the Poles --Point 13 of the "14 Points"). At Versailles, Wilson consistently advanced this principle in his diplomatic advocacy of self-rule for the nationalities living in areas of Eastern Europe (i.e., those formerly ruled by the Russian Czars; plus the parts of the defeated Austro-Hungarian empire). But, at Versailles, this Wilsonian principle, touted as the sole route to world peace, was not even debated, let alone extended, to the British and French colonies of North and Sub-Saharan Africa, nor India, nor Southeast Asia. Yet they, no less nor more than Russia, had fought Wilson's war-culprit, autocratic Germany and its allies. Thus, what appeared to be a naive, idealistic Wilson in the West came to be perceived by Soviet leaders quite differently: though somewhat more clever than the unabashedly anti-Soviet British government, the effect of Wilson's "principles" were anti-Soviet policies, and were seen as such in the Kremlin.
Diplomatically, this perception of the Democrat Wilson and his Republican successors was reinforced. The US refused to recognize the Soviet Communist leadership as the legitimate government of Russia, 1917 - 1933, an act that the Party also correctly viewed as hostile. On its surface, the obstacle to formal relations lay in unresolved Western claims of debts owed, and Soviet counter-claims for "damages" inflicted during the Allied intervention. For some, these barriers were not insurmountable. While Britain (1924), France (1924) and Germany (1922) did establish formal diplomatic relations with the Soviets, the US did not. (British relations with the USSR also were not rosy and were suspended from May 1927 until the end of 1929). Though the debt-claims impasse was unresolved, each major European nation nevertheless concluded new trade and other agreements with the Soviets. But not the US. Though private Americans' relief efforts to alleviate Russian famines (1920-21) were made, augmented by $20 million in public funds, and while some private US businessmen began joint operations with the Soviets (e.g., Armand Hammer of the Occidental Petroleum Co.), official relations remained icy.
During the 1920s and early 1930s, the US government continued to rely on Russian exiles' images of the Soviets which were reported to US diplomats stationed nearby, especially at Riga, Latvia, our closest listening post. This "Riga View" -- championed by many in the US Department of State -- perceived the USSR as an intractable enemy with whom no real mutuality of interests could exist (Yergin: 17-42). The Soviets diminished these fears little by hosting a series of meetings of foreign Communist parties' leaders and by venting there much hot air about world revolution. This took place under the name of the "Communist International," or COMINTERN (see McKenzie: 44-194).
U.S. Repression of Domestic Communists and Leftists. The mutual mistrust between the governments of the US and the USSR was reinforced by actions taken by the US government to curb activities by communists within the USA. The late 1910s and 1920s were a time of intolerance of domestic radicals and communists; many resident aliens who subscribed to communist ideology were deported to the USSR, notably the feminist radical Emma Goldman.
Congressional Actions: At least in part, Congressional willingness to enact restrictive immigration laws grew out of the perception that many European immigrants then were "infected" with this "alien" ideology. But Congress was not content with screening out radical newcomers; US citizens' opinions and actions came in for new scrutiny. In 1917, the Espionage Act was passed. It banned any attempt to cause disloyalty in the Army or Navy, or to obstruct recruiting. In 1918, the Sedition Act was enacted, making it a crime to say or do anything "which could obstruct the sale of war bonds, or to utter or publish words intended... to incite resistance to the government or promote the cause of its enemies." About 1000 persons were convicted under these acts.
Judicial Concurrence: Legally, the courts sustained this anti-radical and anti-Communist trend. As his stature rose among the members of the US Supreme Court, Associate Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes appears to have forgotten the words he himself wrote in a famous dissent in Lochner v NY (1905): "... A Constitution is not intended to embody a particular economic theory, whether of paternalism and the organic relation of the citizen to the state or of laissez faire. It is made for people of fundamentally differing views, and the accident of our finding certain opinions natural and familiar, or novel, or even shocking, ought not to conclude our judgment upon the question whether statutes embodying them conflict with Constitution of the United States" (quoted in Cushman, p. 189). In the wake of the events in Russia, novel -- even shocking -- opinions held by Americans were made criminal acts as the Court's majority grew to be still less sentimental about the need to protect the principle of free debate by protecting the espousal of Communist doctrine. And Holmes, the 1905 liberal voice, led the way. In Schenck v US 1919, Holmes wrote the majority opinion outlining the "clear and present danger" measure of impermissible speech (i.e., that speech is not protected by the First Amendment if it will bring about action in violation of the Acts). Schenck, who urged draft resistance, was convicted; and in Debs v US 1919, the Socialist Party leader, too, was convicted under the Acts for his speeches and his writings. In Gitlow v NY 1925 a man convicted under state law for having distributed an adaptation of Marx's 75 year old Communist Manifesto also was convicted, but in banning old books the Court equivocated (slightly). Even though the Court admitted that "[t]here was no evidence of any effect resulting from the publication and circulation of the Manifesto" (from decision, quoted in Cushman, p. 245.), Gitlow was deemed to have properly have been convicted of a crime. Abstractly, however, the court exempted other (hypothetical) "utterance or publication of abstract doctrine or academic discussion having no quality of incitement to any concrete action" but it went on to sustain Gitlow's conviction anyway, arguing that he violated a law that "prohibits...language advocating, advising, or teaching the overthrow of organized government by unlawful means... The Manifesto, plainly... advocates and urges in fervent language mass action... it is the language of direct incitement... A single revolutionary spark may kindle a fire..." (in Cushman, pp. 246, 248). Even after the US granted diplomatic recognition to the USSR, these legal trends did not abate: in 1940, Congress passed the Smith Act which criminalized under federal law that which "knowingly or willfully advocates or teaches the duty... or propriety of overthrowing... the government of the United States... by force or violence... Second, it punishes the dissemination of literature advocating such overthrow." Under the Smith Act, in 1948, 11 top leaders of the Communist Party USA were indicted and convicted (1949). In sustaining this anti-Communist outcome, in Dennis v US 1951, the court reflected its times to expand Holmes' "clear and present danger" test by removing his concern that the danger be timely, imminent. In Dennis, the Court subscribed to the view that "it is enough that there is a group willing to attempt the overthrow of the government if and when it is possible" (Cushman: 251). In this legal context, it is not surprising that Hollywood producers proved their loyalty to the Anti-Communist crusade in the 1950s by creating "informal" blacklists by which men and women lost their jobs for once having dined with a Communist, or for refusing to testify to Congress about their political associations (as is their right under the 5th Amendment). These developments were by-products of larger trends regarding free expression as the U.S. became obsessed with the dangers of communism.
Presidential and Executive behavior: On the rhetorical plain, U.S. heads of state held to the high ground of democracy amid legal and cultural repression of Communists (let alone Communism) in the trenches of day-to-day American existence. Yet, there really was no fundamental inconsistency between legal intolerance of communist ideas at home and President Wilson's more general concept of democracy, at least at home. A tardy (1917) convert to the idea of women's suffrage, Wilson also labored little in the stables of racial injustice: the interests and rights of blacks appear to have advanced not one iota during his two terms in the White House. Perhaps this can be called a sensitivity to majority opinion, not unlike Holmes' sensitivity to a literal reading of the First Amendment.
The solid wood of Wilson's pro-democratic and active foreign policy, a missionary quest said to center on the promotion of democracy, on closer examination also appears to have had the character of veneer. In Wilson's view (quoted in Vasquez), the threat to world peace always had arisen from societies which were not democratic: "the menace to... peace and freedom lies in the existence of autocratic governments backed by organized force which is controlled wholly by their will, not by the will of the people..." (15). Thus, U.S. foreign policy was seen to be pursuing its own domestic ideals, its own national interest and the universal cause of world peace when it vigorously opposed non-democratic governments of all stripes abroad. A touching measure of idealism brought the former professor to state: "We are at the beginning of an age in which it will be insisted that the same standards of conduct and of responsibility for wrong done shall be observed among the nations and their governments that are observed among the individual citizens of civilized states... A steadfast concert for peace can never be maintained except by a partnership of democratic nations. No autocratic government could be trusted..." (15-16) ..."the world must be made safe for democracy. Its peace must be planted upon the tested foundations of political liberty...the right is more precious than the peace" (17).
If we extend this Wilsonian point of view slightly and stipulate that, therefore, it follows logically that it is in the national interest for the US to thwart the "war designs" of autocrats abroad, and if, in part, this occurred when the US government suppressed Communist anti-democratic ideas at home (which were "imported" from abroad), then domestic repression could be construed as advancing both US national interests and the pristine cause of world peace. Thus, Wilson's philosophic views on the desirability of democracy could not have been expected to have been very well received by a Bolshevik (faction of the Russian Social Democratic Labor, and later, Communist) Party that was both ideologically committed to the view that Western democratic institutions were a sham and whose foreign policy negatively was affected by America's rising legal barriers to its American devotees as well as to its paid agents.
Thus, the more directly anti-Soviet policies of Wilson's (and subsequent) administrations simply added onto a rift that was well developed at philosophic, legal and political levels. To reiterate only one point, Wilson called for an independent Poland. But Poland had been a Russian province since 1795. Two years after our revolution, in what light would Washington or his New England allies have viewed a foreign proposal for an independent Maine or New Hampshire?
Soviet Russia's Western policy in the 1920s reflected this atmosphere of suspicion and hostility. Tactically, Stalin guided the Communist International movement (COMINTERN) to prepare for revolution based on shifting assessments of the possibility of revolution there. From 1924 to 1928, world capitalism was seen as in a period of stabilization. Accordingly, Stalin routed from the Communist Party adversaries (e.g., Trotsky) who advocated the Party push for immediate revolutionary action from its allied Western parties (e.g., the French Communists). But Stalin's caution was only tactical. His broader analyses of longer trends repeatedly were punctuated by repeated claims --such as one made in 1927-- to the effect that war between the USSR and the capitalist West would "inevitably" occur (Rush: 57). After he concluded capitalism to be in a new crisis in 1928, Stalin guided COMINTERN to more confrontational tactics --and used the reluctance of some Party comrades (e.g., Nikolai Bukharin) to concur in such a course to discredit them in, and ultimately purge them from, the CPSU. The advent of worldwide economic depression in 1929 reinforced support for Stalin's views in left-wing circles. Central to this confrontational approach was the belief that the crisis of capitalism was certain to produce three new tendencies: state capitalism; the further rise of fascist dictatorship; and the corresponding radicalization of the working class. Each of these trends, Stalin and the COMINTERN believed, favored the ultimate outbreak of a workers' revolution which only the Leninist vanguard could correctly guide.
Much of this did, in fact occur; but the new conditions in Europe were not wholly favorable to the Soviet Union despite earlier predictions. Accordingly, new assessments were made. By the mid 1930s a new Party line about foreign policy evolved, distributed abroad under the rubric of the international search for "Collective Security." It now dictated an improvement in relations with the West. Under this formula, bilateral treaties would serve as one step toward a better defensive position for the USSR, ostensibly to secure the gains made by "socialism" there. The ultimate goal of "collective security," however, appears to have had more mundane origins. It was central to a new anti-German emphasis which grew from the new geopolitical, not new ideological, imperatives. Stalin, as Catherine the Great, Peter, and Ivan long before him, appears to have been attempting simply to secure his western frontier against aggression.
Toward this end, earlier positions fell by the wayside. "Capitalists' conspiracies" against the Soviets, as the League of Nations earlier had been described, were joined by the Red giant, in 1934. This involved a substantial about-face by Stalin himself: in December 1925, the Soviet leader had characterized the League, saying to the 14th Party Congress, "the League of Nations is an organization for covering up the preparations for war... they can't fool us" (Rush: 51).
More significantly, the CPSU, through the COMINTERN altered its instructions to European Communist parties that were loyal-to-Moscow. All throughout the long rise of European fascism, 1922-1934, the Stalinist CPSU consistently underestimated its distinctive character and its menace to the USSR. In the crucial years of 1930-32, COMINTERN insisted that the German SPD, not the Nazis, were the main enemy (Kennan 1960: 82). While maintaining that "we are far from enthusiastic about the fascist regime in Germany," as late as 1934 Stalin still could quite misunderstand Nazism as "the most fashionable commodity among warmongering bourgeois politicians" and to attribute its rise to "the betrayals of the working class by Social Democracy in his Report to the 17th Party Congress (quoted in Rush: 82, 77). But, at the 7th and final conference of the COMINTERN (1935), the CPSU finally led the organization to abandon its focus on Western socialists as the "main enemy" by adopting a policy calling for Communists to join in a "Popular Front" of all anti-fascist forces, including the long-maligned western Socialists and Social Democrats.
Only during World War II, in exchange for slightly improved relations with the West, was this Communist International formally disbanded, though "fraternal" Party-to-party relations with these revolutionary movements continued and were little perturbed by Kremlin alliance with the major "capitalist" powers.
But, Stalin was not deeply committed to "popular fronts" or "Collective Security" as abstract values any more than he was committed to alliance with the UK and the US, 1941-45. Rather, he saw each as means toward his larger end, the national security of the USSR. When collective security was revealed to have failed to impede Mussolini in Ethiopia, Hitler in the Rhineland (1936) and Czechoslovakia (1938), or the Japanese in Northern China, other means to the same end were sought, both secretly and through public diplomacy.
Soviet Relations with Nazi Germany. Americans recall the shocking Soviet-Nazi non-aggression pact of 1939 as a vivid example of the anti-Western essence of Soviet foreign policy. (Go here for the complete text). This 1939 pact was negotiated by German foreign minister von Ribbentrop and his Soviet counterpart, V. Molotov. By it the two totalitarian giants agreed to terms by which they soon would dominate the Baltic States (i.e., Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania), dismember Poland, and remove Bessarabia from Romania. Only in Fall 1991 did these states again gain real independence; and only in November 2002 did Lithuania's quest to be completely out of the shadow of Russia produce a formal invitation for that small country to join the American security system by becoming a member of the N.A.T.O. alliance. This secret protocol was an example of the cynical lengths to which the Soviets would go in search of their separate security. However, the actual chain of events that produced the Hitler-Stalin Pact confounds the assumption that it simply was an act of Soviet imperialism (i.e., the light in which it subsequently was portrayed by most Western commentators). Indeed, American and British policy toward the USSR inadvertently may have contributed information which caused Stalin rationally to conclude that an alliance with Nazi Germany was one of the few available steps he could take to protect his national interests.
Attempts to join with the West to Stop Hitler: The critical Western view of Stalin's prewar foreign policy ignores the fact that secret Soviet attempts to ally with Britain and the US were rebuffed during the mid to late 1930s. Some parts of this larger approach were visible for all to see: France and the USSR did conclude a mutual assistance pact in 1935, a pact which tied each to the defense of Czechoslovakia. This pact produced unfortunate lessons. Even had all of the West been willing to ally with Stalinist USSR (which Britain and the US weren't), in the eyes of the Soviets the West proved itself unwilling to enforce such mutual-defense agreements as might have been concluded by their performance regarding Czechoslovakia. As can be seen in a case study of Czechoslovakia, at the Munich Conference of September 1938, the Allies acceded to Hitler's aggression against Czechoslovakia despite specific French treaty pledges to aid the Czechs; and despite British oral assurances prior to the crisis that they, too, would steadfastly oppose German expansion at Czech expense. The Soviets also had guaranteed aid to the Czechs, but only if France did as well, in the Czech-Soviet Mutual Assistance Treaty of May 16, 1935. The French/British policy of appeasement rather than standing up to Hitler's aggressive designs at the Munich Conference frequently is referred to as the low point in Western diplomacy of the 20th Century. Indeed, it has become a verb, a synonym for cowardice: to "Munich" means to capitulate to, rather than to resist, aggression. And the 1938 Munich debacle really did invite further aggression: though Hitler at Munich had demanded only a small portion of Czechoslovakia (the Sudetenland; an area in which 3 million of Czechoslovakia's then 15 million total citizens lived) be given to the Reich, in March 1939, Germany occupied much larger parts of Czechoslovakia (Bohemia, Moravia), areas to which it specifically had renounced any claim in September 1938. Germany also then gave the green light to Hungarian occupation of the rest of Czechoslovakia [Ruthenia, Slovakia] in March 1939, and the Czech state disappeared entirely. That same month, fully six months before general war broke out, Stalin told the 18th Party Congress that "a new re-division of the world by means of war became imminent;" and that the passivity and retreat of the "non-aggressive states, primarily England France and the USA," contributed to this situation (quoted in Rush: 90).
Stalin's domestic policy can have not one syllable decently said in its defense, but clearly his analysis of the meaning of these events in the foreign sphere was not as flawed. His subsequent actions, however, were not above reproach.
Soviet rapprochement with Nazi Germany: The USSR observed the inefficacy of "Collective Security" as a policy to protect the USSR from German aggression, and took secret steps to attain bilaterally the same end: thus the secret treaty with Hitler was negotiated in 1938-9. These startling negotiations were so filled with mutual suspicion and were so delicate that, to show the Germans their "good faith", the Party embraced a big lie itself: Munich was publicly endorsed as a step toward peace! Though the USSR had pledged itself to the Czechs, only after Poland was actually invaded (September 1939) did the USSR announce opposition to the complete erasure of Czechoslovakia from the maps of Europe. Even then the USSR did nothing to oppose Hitler's widening aggressions until the very soil of Russia was attacked. For example, in March 1939, the Soviets did nothing to oppose the Lithuanians' concession to Germany of control over the Baltic Memel district, one of Hitler's claims in Eastern Europe. But Stalin was not yet dealing from a hand of strength. There was a sickly, fawning element to Stalin's approach to Berlin: under prejudicial pressure from the Nazis in 1938-9, Stalin ordered the removal of the Soviet ambassador to the German capital, Jacob Surits (a Jew), and replaced him with A.T. Merekalov, a non-Jew with whom the Nazis would meet. In a March 1939 speech to the 18th Congress of the CPSU, the flawless leader also sent quiescent signals. He stated then that the USSR would not oppose Hitler solely to benefit the western capitalist powers, and he chided Western journalists who were trying to "incense the Soviet Union against Germany, to poison the atmosphere and to provoke a conflict with Germany without any visible grounds" (in Rush: 93). These gestures, little as they were separately, combined with other symbolic gestures and laid the foundation of direct, foreign ministerial-level exchanges between the Nazis and the Soviets.
Even as the Soviet-Nazi Pact was in its final stage of secret negotiations, however, Stalin's diplomats continued to press France and Britain for alternative, direct mutual assistance treaties. But the "non-aggressive" Western powers refused to act upon opaque hints by the Soviet strong man. Each and every one of the Western powers refused to concede to the Soviets the return of the Baltic States as part of an anti-German bargain. The less scrupulous Hitler would grant Stalin this and more (i.e., one third of Eastern Poland). Thus, the 1939 approach to the West by Stalin -- the last possible alignment that might have presented the German generals such a phalanx of opponents as to have driven them directly to restrain actions on behalf of the grandiose ambitions of Adolf Hitler -- was not consummated.
Ultimately, in the fall of 1939, the von Ribbentrop-Molotov non-aggression pact between Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia (better known as the Hitler-Stalin Pact) was signed: eight days later, Germany invaded Poland and the Second World War had begun. The reaction of Stalin, who had referred earlier in 1939 to German designs on the Soviet Ukraine as similar to the designs of a gnat on an elephant (Rush: 93), remains among the more tantalizing Soviet state secrets which we should expect soon to emerge from the archives of the that totalitarian dinosaur, the CPSU.
It is, therefore, very important to remember that the USSR did not begin its "Great Patriotic War" against the Reich until June 1941. Indeed, the USSR occupied eastern Poland in September 1939 and deported approximately one million Poles, Byelorussians and others into the USSR and its Gulag. Long trains carried the intellectual cream of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia east to be lost forever in the cold Russian and Siberian tundra, the labor camps. Long before the Third Reich turned on the Reds, the Red Army gathered together a large number of Polish officers and summarily murdered them in the Katyn Forest. No satisfactory explanation of any of these brutal acts ever was offered by the Soviets. But betrayal was not universal: after the Nazi-Soviet pact was signed, the Soviets followed their agreements with the Germans to the last letter, even to the point of substantially assisting the nation that only 17 months later would invade them. Nearly one million tons of Soviet oil (865,000), 140,000 tons of manganese, 14,000 tons of copper, 3,000 tons of nickel, 184,000 tons of phosphates, 1.4 million tons of grain (etc.) were delivered to the Reich. The last train load appears to have crossed the border early in the evening of June 20, 1941 --mere hours before the Reich dishonored the agreement so as to invade the USSR (Heller: 353). Thus, for the USSR the Hitler-Stalin Pact was a blunder of epic proportions.
Soviet-Western relations, 1939-1941: Understanding the context of this great blunder helps us also to understand the odd Soviet performance during the early stages of World War II. Ideological dispositions, and hostile relations 1918-39, had produced in Stalin deep suspicions about the West, and about the British in particular. These were magnified during this early period of World War II.
For example, in 1940 anti-Soviet British politicians and diplomats publicly debated a proposal that the UK should aid Finland in its "Winter War" (November 1939- March 1940) of resistance against Soviet invasion. Similar voices were heard in the US Congress. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, perceiving the Germans to be the larger and more immediate threat, rejected such advice which, in effect, would have made the US a tacit, indirect ally of Nazi Germany, inasmuch as the Germans were the main supplier of assistance to the anti-Soviet Finnish government.
But Stalin did little to woo a broader Western public: official Soviet commentaries and Western Communists hailed the German conquest of the Low Countries (Belgium, Netherlands). Secret congratulations, too, were sent by Moscow to Hitler upon the Reichwehr's occupation of Paris. Nor were Soviet territorial ambitions absent, 1939-41: Romania was forced to "return" to the USSR Bessarabia, fully Soviet-dominated governing groups were imposed on the Baltic states (i.e., Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia) and northern Bukovina was absorbed into the USSR. These aspects of Soviet expansionism were taken in the US State Department as indications of the predicted (but tardy) arrival of the expansionistic Soviet foreign policy that study of Communist doctrine had led US experts to expect much earlier.
Resurgent anti-Sovietism in the USA: Soviet apprehensions about the reliability of any Western alliance were compounded by US politicians' intemperate remarks during the brief period in which Britain and the USSR, but not the USA, were allies at war against Nazi Germany (June-December 1941). In June 1941, a Senator from Missouri, for example, stated on the floor of the US Senate: "If we see that Germany is winning, we should help Russia, and if Russia is winning, we ought to help Germany, and that way let them kill as many as possible..."(NYT 1941: 7; McCullough: 262). One can imagine Soviet ill-ease when this man, Harry S Truman, was elected and sworn in as Vice President (January 20, 1945), an ill-ease that doubtless became even more intense when Truman was elevated to the Presidency upon Franklin Roosevelt's death April 12, 1945, just eighty two days later. Truman had met with Roosevelt only twice as Vice President, on March 8 and 19, 1945, and at those meetings "neither time was anything of consequence discussed" (McCullough: 339). His first hand dealings with the Soviets were nil.
Russian nationalism also was evident within Soviet policy toward Japan and China. During the inter-war years, Soviet policy toward these important nations in the East accented Russian national interests and discounted the priority of propelling Asian and Chinese Communists to power as one would have expected if the USSR really was, in essence, a conspiracy disguised as a state. Civil war in China between General Chiang's ruling KMT party and the Chinese Communists (CCP) under the leadership of Mao Zedong (transliterated earlier in the 20th century as Mao Tse-Tung) began in 1927. Gen. Chiang, though ultimately an anti-Communist, had received military training from the Red Army earlier. Stalin gave virtually no aid to Mao and this peasant-based Communist-led rebellion until the later 1940s.
With the Japanese invasion of Northern China (Manchuria) in 1931, a more serious, geopolitical threat grew on the Soviets' eastern frontier. By the middle 1930s, Japan encroached upon and menaced all of China from this base. Despite the deep animosities between Gen. Chiang and the Chinese Communists, Stalin's agents in China (notably Michael Borodin) convinced Mao to make a truce with the KMT and join them in a war of resistance against the Japanese. World revolution, if it was a Soviet goal at all at the time, certainly was of less priority than was enlisting the Chinese Communists in a "popular front" of several forces who, together, might tie down a powerful nation that threatened the USSR. This was no idle threat, either: in the summer of 1939, Japanese troops fought Soviet-Mongolian mixed forces in a full scale battle at the border of (Soviet-dominated) Outer Mongolia and (Japanese-occupied) Manchuria.
The Soviets also attempted to use their alliance after 1939 with Nazi Germany to secure the Soviet eastern flank. It was of considerable interest to Stalin that, as part of the understandings reached coincident to signing the German-Soviet pact of 1939, Germany pledged to use its influence with Japan to diminish these Japanese-Soviet military tensions on the Chinese border. Stalin also had other claims against Japan in which he sought German help during delicate German-Soviet negotiations in 1940. Stalin opined that the coal and oil of Northern Sakhalin Island should have been "returned" to the USSR by the Japanese. This Japanese concession, however, the Germans could not deliver. Nor was the Reich inclined to help the Russians with the rest of the price that the Soviets suggested be paid in order to enlist the USSR to join the Nazi Axis: elimination of German troops in Finland; Bulgaria to become a dependency of the USSR; Soviet land and naval bases near the Bosphorus and Dardanelles (Turkey); recognition of Soviet rights to expand from the Caspian Sea southward to the Persian Gulf (in effect occupying Iran).
In light of subsequent events, it seems unlikely that the Germans took seriously any further proposals that would have drawn the Communist giant closer to them. On the other hand, if Nazi ideology was the sole touchstone of German foreign policy, one wonders how the Hitler-Stalin Pact of 1939 ever could have come into existence in the first place.
Behind the Western Governments' backs: Soviet relations with Western Communist Parties: With a similarly large measure of Russian self-interest, "popular front" tactics the Russians had required of the Chinese Communists also were pushed onto the French and Spanish Communist Parties after 1936.
In the 1920s and early 1930s, the Soviets had given Western Communists instructions not to cooperate with democrats and non-Communist leftists. These instructions had been followed to a particularly devastating effect on the formation of an anti-fascist coalition in Germany before 1933 (i.e., the COMINTERN-tied German KPD during the late 1920s and early 1930s was required to follow a policy guided by the principle that the Social Democratic SPD, not the Nazis, were the main enemy).
But by 1935-6, fascism (not socialists' "revisionism") was perceived by the CPSU to be a significant enough threat to the USSR to warrant an abrupt about-face in tactics. Ideology proved to be a well deep enough to provide even these healing waters to be drawn up to douse the fire of ill-will between Western Communists and their non-Communist neighbors, a fire kindled principally by the earlier tactics of the Communists. The Soviet goal in this "popular front" approach to foreign Communist parties appears congruent with the overall goal of Soviet public diplomacy toward Western governments during the same period: both were intended to diminish a threat to the USSR from the West.
Spain: The manipulation of foreign Communists to serve Soviet foreign policy ends also was evident in the strategy of Soviet support for the Spanish Republic, 1936-39. The British socialist George Orwell penned a particularly compelling and detailed description of the Spanish Communists' role in support of the Spanish Republic in the face of General Franco's ultimately successful revolt. While the USSR was the principal source of military supplies to the besieged (but elected) Spanish Republican government, the US, Britain and France imposed an arms embargo against both sides there. In effect, this US/British position indirectly aided Franco's rebels, who received vast material assistance --including combat troops-- from fascist Italy and Hitler's Germany. But the USSR's devotion to the Spanish Republic was not absolute: aid was distributed by Spanish communists; withheld from anti-Franco Spanish Trotskyites; and ultimately proved to be too little to overcome the well-armed Spanish fascists under Franco. While it would have been costly and difficult, a more vigorous Soviet effort to aid Spain was abandoned at the crucial hour. Many believe Stalin gave up, in part, to further embarrass the ineffectual, appeasing leaders of the Western democracies.
Germany: Rampant Soviet self-interest also can be seen in the bizarre instructions Stalin gave to the German Communists (KPD) after Hitler came to power in late January 1933. The KPD cadres were told to infiltrate workers' organizations in the Reich to stir up eventual revolts. Practically speaking, this was an invitation for the German Communists to commit suicide. Those who were not captured and sent to Dachau, 1933-39, and who managed to make it to "safety" in the USSR were also promptly sent to the Gulag, that vast prison-like labor camp system which was Stalin's greatest legacy. Western Communists should have been more aware of their likely fate, but most weren't: "internationalist" veterans of the Spanish Civil War who sought refuge in the USSR after Franco's fascists won victory there (1939) had been greeted by being sent to the Gulag. Apparently, independent western Communists, as much as utterly innocent non-Communist Poles and Lithuanians, were perceived by Stalin in 1939 to be contaminated by capitalism, hence were "enemies of the people."
IV. Soviet-American Relations:
The wartime alliance of Britain, the USA and the USSR, 1941 to 1945.
After the December 1941 entry of the US into World War II, the US joined Britain in its alliance with the USSR, a marriage-of-necessity which had begun in June of that year. Many Americans' suspicions about the Soviets' intentions were overcome by a shared military objective: the defeat of Nazi Germany, though the Soviets displayed little interest in the other U.S. project: the defeat of Imperial Japan. While this "Big Three" alliance pointed toward a new, cooperative direction in relations with the USSR, the relationship as allies was not entirely as rosy as the American public was told.
There were several issues that built tensions among the Allies. These included:
1. The timeliness of US/British efforts to develop a "2nd Front" against Germany. The USSR favored a British and American land invasion of Western Europe as soon as possible, in order to relieve the intense pressure the Germans were exerting on Soviet Russia. Given the fact that both Moscow and Leningrad came under heavy siege, Soviet urgings do not seem unwarranted. The Allied Commanders in the war theater, British Field Marshall Montgomery and US General Dwight Eisenhower, chose to make their first steps against German positions in North Africa (1942), then against southern Italy (1943). Only in June 1944 did they invade high priority German assets, in the D-Day invasion of Normandy, France. By that time, the Red Army had defeated the German Reichwehr at Stalingrad, at Kursk and in several other important battles, creating in the Soviet generals' minds the impression that the Allies had been of little direct help in expelling the Germans from the Soviet Union. This chain of events contributed to Soviet suspicions about the West's insensitivity to the value of Russian lives and hardened Stalin's resolve toward the importance of Soviet control over Eastern Europe after the War might end.
2. Reparations that would be paid after the war by Germany (i.e., how much? to whom?) also divided the Allies. In wartime discussions among the allied governments, the USSR insisted that compensatory reparations be paid to the USSR by Germany after the war might end. British negotiators, recalling the way in which similar post-WWI reparations had contributed to German dissatisfaction with the international order, advocated that no punitive reparations be part of the end of the second war. While the US tried to assume a middle ground position by pushing for reduced German reparations to be paid to the USSR, Soviets saw in this as an obscene effort to discount the value of Russian lives. Ultimately, the Soviets simply would take that which was valuable from Eastern Europe as de facto reparations. But the earlier process of the Allies trying unsuccessfully to agree on the form of this aspect of post-war German policy was a bitter one in Soviet eyes.
3. The development of the "Manhattan Project" deeply affected Soviet - U.S. relations. Secret US atomic bomb research and development information was shared with Britain, but not with the USSR. KGB defector Oleg Gordievsky (Andrew and Gordievsky: 74) and others in the 1980s confirmed a dark secret. As many in the US long had suspected, Soviet agents in the USA in the 1940s indeed had made the Soviet Government fully aware of the US atomic effort, much as Soviet agents in Germany also were abreast of prewar German scientific breakthroughs that pointed toward uranium-fission bombs. Given this information through their own networks, Soviet leaders were annoyed that the USA played the information about the bomb so close to their vest. The annoyance turned to anger when Soviet agents inside the British government conveyed to them the fact that the Americans were being more forthright with their Anglo allies.
4. The negotiations over surrender of German troops in Italy. Contrary to summit level agreements requiring Soviet participation in any German surrender talks, negotiations nevertheless were conducted on a bilateral US-German basis, by US diplomat Allen Dulles, in Switzerland. Again, Soviet agents became aware of these efforts in a general way. The US saw no need to inform Soviets about talks that were limited to discussions about potential surrender of Germans in Italy, which was not the central theater of war efforts. But, to the Soviets, the very fact that full details were not provided to the USSR was interpreted in Moscow as an indication that the US might be attempting to make a separate (hence potentially anti-Soviet) peace.
5. US domestic changes raised Soviet suspicions about the good will of U.S. leaders. The removal of leftist U.S. Vice President Henry Wallace (1941-45) and the promotion of Harry S Truman to the Vice Presidency (1945) was problematic for the Soviets. It is quite likely that they remembered that during the early days after the Nazi attack on the U.S.S.R. -- during the period prior to the U.S. entry into the war when isolationist sentiments still played well to the U.S. domestic audience--, on June 22, 1941, Truman publicly had stated: "If we see that Germany is winning, we ought to help Russia, and if Russia is winning, we ought to help Germany, and that way let them kill as many as possible, although I don't want to see Hitler victorious under any circumstances" (New York Times, June 24, 1941: 7; McCullough: 262). After the U.S. joined the war against Hitler in December 1941, the Soviets were keenly aware of Franklin Roosevelt's persistent health problems from frequent summit meetings with him, and this appreciation led Soviet intelligence to keep a wary eye on FDR's potential replacements. While Truman in Summer 1942 took to the floor of the U.S. Senate to call for a speedy opening of a second front in Western Europe to relieve pressure on the Russians (McCullough: 271), such expressions could not overcome to Soviet ears the impact of his damaging earlier speech. Soviet attitudes toward Truman had soured. By 1945, the Soviet Government was very apprehensive about the man designated to replace Roosevelt. Ironically, as Truman approached his first meeting with Stalin that summer (at Potsdam, Germany), he would pen in his diary that the Russians had "always been our friends and I can't see why they shouldn't always be" (McCullough: 399). As his best biographer summed up the new president, "...this thoroughly American new President [had as] his fundamental faith that most problems came down to misunderstandings between people, and that even the most complicated problems really weren't as complicated as they were made out to be, once everybody got to know one another" (McCullough: 409). Stalin saw geopolitics somewhat differently.
6. The postwar status of Eastern Europe. Most importantly, the Allies continuously disagreed about the future status of Eastern Europe: who would have influence over what after the end of the war? Soviet negotiators insisted that the region must be made docile, that the threat to the USSR from Central Europe must permanently be eliminated. This adamant assertion was not fully understood in the West. Some negotiators, Truman among them, viewed these demands simply as opening positions, as bargaining points. In fact, preeminence over the region was an item of very high priority to all ruling leaders and military strategists in the USSR, and would remain so until the age of Mikhail Gorbachev (1985-91).
Relations among the Allies, however, were conciliatory at some levels. First, the good personal relationship that was able to develop between FDR and Stalin, in contrast to Churchill's icy personal relationship with Stalin, set a tone which suggested that the Allies might continue to have mutually beneficial interests in the longer run. Additionally, aid granted through the US Lend Lease program to the Soviets contributed substantially to the wartime power of the Red Army, thus to the defense of the USSR, and also served to some degree to mitigate the suffering of the Soviet citizenry. Much long term goodwill with the Russian people, if not with the Soviet Government, was earned for America by this program. Many Soviets --even among those who were skeptical of the capitalist nations' attitudes toward the USSR-- recognized that an implacable enemy never would have provided: explosives, petrol, food, steel, 14,700 airplanes, 7000 tanks, 52,000 Jeeps, 376,000 trucks, 35,000 motorcycles, 2000 locomotives, 11,000 freight cars, 3.8 million tires, 15 million pairs of Army boots, etc. Yet, the US gave these and many more items to the Soviets, and the U.S. began delivering these war materials prior to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
Diplomatic understandings. The cooperative spirit on aid issues contributed to a series of understandings that developed about the method of resolving differences about Eastern Europe and other issues. Wartime Summit meetings were conducted in an atmosphere of shared purpose and led to understandings which suggested that we could learn to live with one another after the war. On February 12, 1943 at Casablanca, Morocco, the Allies committed to a joint strategy to oppose Germany, Italy and Japan. (A meeting at Moscow of lesser officials of the "big three" powers, plus China, in October 1943 also emphasized joint concerns and policy about Italy, Austria, and War Crimes). At Tehran, Iran, in November - December 1943, the Big Three (Stalin, FDR, Churchill) agreed to dismember Germany after the war so that never again would Germany be a powerful nation. Regarding the old dispute about the amputations from from the USSR due to the treaties of Brest-Litovsk and Versailles, it was agreed that the Polish/USSR border would be moved 300 miles westward; and that the Polish/German border would move 200 miles westward, to the Oder-Neisse line. These adjustments regained for the Soviets the losses of The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, 1918, which they had sought to secure earlier via the 1939 pact with Hitler. They established a Polish state in areas that, prior to the war, in part had had substantially a German, not a Polish population (Stokes: 29-30). These border changes became permanent, were recognized by Germany in 1972 in a separate pact with Poland, and were codified in a comprehensive sense by West and East in the 1975 Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, commonly known as the "Helsinki Treaty". Prior to the October 3, 1990 reunification of Germany into a single state, the Federal (or West) Germany Government again was obligated to formally recognize the permanence of the German-Polish frontier that had been established at the Oder-Neisse line.
In the Churchill Negotiations in Moscow (October 1944) the British Government recognized changes in post-war Europe to which the U.S. enunciated no public opposition. This "percentage deal" gave 90 percent Soviet influence in Poland and Romania; 75 percent influence to them in Bulgaria; and split among the allies equal shares of influence to the Soviets and the West in Hungary and Yugoslavia. (For Churchill's views on this arrangement, see: Stokes: 31-33). Several of these positions reflected Soviet flexibility. In Romania, the USSR was perceived to have granted minor influence to the West even though Romania was a proven enemy. Not only had Romania aided the Whites during the Russian Civil War: it had seized territories in the Western Ukraine for itself during those chaotic early years for the USSR. Further, Romania in alliance with the Nazis had mounted an invasion of the USSR simultaneous with the Germans' "Operation Barbarosa" (June 1941), the largest armed air-ground conventional conflict in history. The behavior of Romanian troops toward the civilian population of the USSR had been every bit as bestial as was the Nazis'. Yet, during the war the USSR signaled that it was willing to concede to Britain minor post-war influence there despite the fact that no British forces were anywhere near Romania at any time during World War II.
Even greater flexibility by the USSR -- at least insofar as paper negotiations were concerned-- was shown regarding Yugoslavia. Communist Partisans there, under Joseph Broz Tito, were by far the strongest resistance force; indeed they were probably the most militarily significant resistance effort in all of Europe. The war in the Balkans was very bitter, turning pro-German Croats against anti-Nazi Serbs in a virtual civil war, a conflict that resumed without foreign interlopers during 1991. Hence, much as war crimes charges against "Hitler Youth" member, German Army lieutenant and current Austrian President Kurt Waldheim addressed this largely forgotten story in the 1980s, the legacy of those years continued to haunt the troubled Balkans. In the 1940s communism had not yet been wholly discredited as a governmental form and, unlike the non-communist "Chetnik" resistance, Broz Tito's communist "Partisans" were anti-Nazi, effective, and pro-Stalin. Yet, in wartime negotiations with the Allies, Stalin accepted only a 50% influence there.
Britain was given 90 percent influence in Greece. It was the announcement in 1946 by Churchill's successor, the Atlee Government of the British Labour Party, that it could no longer fulfill this Greek obligation that set in motion the 1947 decision by the US to aid the Greek government in its resistance to a Greek Communist uprising. This was perceived by the Truman administration as prima facie evidence of Communist expansion (not the action of just some Greeks). He responded by developing the Truman Doctrine of Containment, in March 1947. Greek communists, however, and not Soviet troops, were involved in this postwar Greek Civil War. Nevertheless, the intellectual and policy foundations of four decades of U.S. foreign policy were formed over post-war Greece.
At the Yalta Conference, held in the Soviet Crimea, February 1945, the Big Three reached further agreements, and again "by and large, the Russians made more concessions than the West" did (Yergin: 62). However, critics of the USSR in the West thereafter have referred to Yalta as a "sell out" to Communism. The agreements were negotiated when, on the ground, the USSR controlled all of Eastern Europe. Among the matters agreed upon were promises that the USSR would join the war against Japan within 3 months after the end of hostilities in Europe. In exchange, it was agreed that they would be given control of Mongolia after an election, a method of leader-selection wholly unfamiliar to the Mongols; and control over the Sakhalin Islands. This Japanese archipelago had been in dispute in the first decade of the 20th Century and the Russians had, under the earlier Hitler-Stalin pact, tried to win the islands through the efforts of German diplomacy. The Soviets also were granted post-war control over the formerly Japanese Kuril Islands. Continuing Soviet (and later Russian) control over these and other islands known in Japan as the Northern Territories exacerbated full cooperation between the two nations for the entire post-war era even after the end of the Cold War. Further, at Yalta the USSR was conceded control over certain Chinese territories. Port Arthur (China) was designated to become a Soviet naval base. Darien (China) was designated as an international port under Soviet operation. Moreover, influence over Northern China and part of Korea (undefined), and management of the northern Chinese Railroads also were agreed to by Churchill, Stalin and Roosevelt..
Importantly, Yalta also provided that the USSR would join the United Nations after the war. Its Security Council was set up to act on the unanimity (not the majority rule) principle. This was a point on which the USSR insisted. Britain insisted France be included as a permanent Security Council member, the US insisted that (the non-Communist government of) China also be included in that body. The USSR wanted a Security Council composed only of the "Big Three," but accepted these modifications. A token gesture in return granted to two Soviet republics, Ukraine and Byelorussia, seats in the General Assembly. After August 1991, for the first time these Soviet Republics actually began to exercise the independent existence that the world community recognized in 1945: each declared independence during Fall 1991. Ironically, in the new millennium Ukraine would ultimately opt for a pro-Western course, but Belarus closely has aligned with post-Communist Russia.
At Yalta the U.S. accepted a joint "Declaration on Liberated Europe" as a guide to post-war developments there, rather than the State Department's recommendation that a "Commission on Liberated Areas" rule in Eastern and Central Europe after the War. The "Declaration..." called for the big powers to help create "democratic institutions" in the occupied areas. Misunderstanding about what each nation meant by "democratic institutions" contributed to the end of cooperation between the U.S. and the USSR, contributing to the outbreak of the Cold War, 1946-48. The extent to which real "democratic institutions" were evolving proved problematic in Poland, Czechoslovakia and elsewhere. To review these terminological issues briefly, in communist lexicon "democratic" meant rule in the interest of the broad mass of the people which can be accomplished only under the leadership of a Communist Party that operated under the internal rule called "democratic centralism." To the US and UK, "democratic" had a much different, procedural meaning, having to do with civil and political rights; with free and fair elections as the basis of the selection of a democratic government. Only in 1989-90 did consensus emerge, in both Eastern and Western Europe, on how a truly democratic government is linked to the people. In August 1991, in the streets of Moscow, Soviet citizens also imposed new measures of accountability on their government to finally vindicate the West's position in 1945.
V. COLD WAR: Soviet-American Relations after World War II:
The USSR Consolidates Power in Eastern Europe
The Post-War events of the late 1940s and 1950s further shaped the American perceptions of the USSR and Soviet perceptions of the West. A great debate occurred. In the US, according to Daniel Yergin, the Yalta views ("we have mutual interests and can learn to pursue them through agreements") again were rivaled by the harsher "Riga views" ("there is and can be no living with communism"). Events in Eastern Europe persuaded many Americans --in and out of government-- that those who subscribed to the "Yalta views" not only were misguided, but were indirect allies of our enemy. Domestically manifested in many ways (McCarthyism; Hollywood blacklists; firings of leftist professors at universities), the scars of the early Cold War were deeply etched on the American psyche. The legacy of this difficult period is measured still in the tone of Americans' debates about our foreign policies. For the student, it is quite important to step back from the emotions which often are engaged here to evaluate further information about the lasting impact of the Soviet-American relationship.
Within two weeks of the conclusion of the February 1945 Yalta meeting, differences surfaced. The USSR demanded that the king of Romania appoint a government there in which Romanian Communists dominated. These people had returned from exile in Moscow in concert with the occupation of Romania by the Soviet Red Army. The Western allies were alarmed but, since they were still at war with Germany and Japan, they did nothing concrete to oppose this expansion beyond the "Percentage Deal" of 1944. After the war, however, the complexion of the Romanian government again became an issue. When the US and Britain withheld recognition of the Communist dominated Romanian government, Stalin responded by withholding recognition of the postwar Italian government, a stalemate that could not be resolved even at a foreign ministers' meeting in London after the war's end.
Poland quickly became the arena in which those who doubted the "Yalta" perspective found an example to prove their point. The Soviets proved indifferent to Polish concerns, time and again. Soviet troops had stood idly by and gave no assistance while the Polish anti-Nazi underground revolted in 1945.1 The Red Army did not intervene as the Nazis laid waste to Warsaw. This indifferent posture on the battlefield had contrasted sharply with Stalin's concerned repose at the negotiating table, a point of irony that US diplomats appreciated. At Yalta, Stalin repeatedly stated that Poland's post-war government intimately was bound up with the very security of the USSR, to which Churchill responded saying that "Poland should be free and sovereign as a matter of honor." The US representative in Moscow, Averill Harriman, stated at that time: "I am afraid Stalin does not and never will fully understand our interest in a free Poland as a matter of principle. He is a realist in his actions and it is hard for him to appreciate our faith in abstract principles" (quoted in Yergin: 52). By April 1945, the USSR was strong enough on the ground in Poland to do, essentially, as it alone wished. The first cabinet appointed in the post-Nazi (Polish) "Lublin government" initially consisted of only 3 communists among the 18 ministers. Foot-dragging on free elections, however, convinced the US by late 1945 to bring pressure on the USSR about Poland. In a sharp argument at the White House, the new president (Truman) berated Soviet Foreign Minister V. Molotov over the issue. Molotov replied: "Russia has no troops outside of security zones and their lines of communication. This is different [from the West], we have troops ...[in Poland] as our allies are in Belgium and France." Though the Truman administration eventually did recognize the increasingly communist - dominated government of Poland, much mistrust developed on both sides. By June 1947, months after the "Truman Doctrine" was announced (i.e. March 1947), the Polish delegates would withdraw from the Paris Conference on economic recovery (which led to the massive US-aid-to-Western Europe "Marshall Plan"), stating that to stay "might be construed as an action against the Soviet Union." Satellite status for Poland thus had begun. But, as Deputy Foreign Minister Litvinov had told a US reporter in June 1946, Stalin then perceived that "conflict between Communist and capitalist worlds is inevitable." In Litvinov's words, "There once seemed a chance that the two worlds would be allowed to live side by side, but that is obviously no longer the case. There has been a return in Russia to the outmoded concept of security in terms of territory-- the more you've got the safer you are" (quoted in Taubman: 133).
Northern Iran was another area of conflict: Red Army troops had occupied Northern Iran, a prewar British sphere of influence, in the final stages of WW II. Once there, they supported rebels (Azerbaijanis; Kurds) seeking independence from the Shah's Iranian state. (Extreme southern USSR was also inhabited, just north of the Iran-USSR border, by the Azerbaijani people who, since 1991 have been an independent state). Concurrently, the USSR attempted to negotiate an oil trade agreement which would grant them some access to Iranian oil (then "owned" by the Anglo-American Oil Co.). There was a slender legal basis for these actions: a 1921 Iranian-Soviet treaty had granted to the USSR rights to enter Iran under certain conditions. After veiled US threats against the Soviets to use atomic weapons if they didn't withdraw, a deal was struck to allow the oil to go to the USSR via a joint company to be formed. The Red Army then withdrew, but the Iranian parliament reneged on the oil deal. Ironically, in later postwar decades, the pro-US Shah of Iran would choose to begin to export oil to the USSR.
Hungary: Relations between Hungarians and Russians never were as close as among Slavic East Europeans, and they improved little owing to the conflict between Hungary and the USSR in World War II. Hungary voluntarily had joined the Axis on November 20, 1940, regaining parts of its lost territories (Southern Slovakia, Ruthenia) by this maneuver. In 1941, and without consulting the Parliament as required by the Hungarian Constitution of the time, Premier Laszlo Bardossy declared war on the U.S.S.R. simultaneous with the German invasion of that nation. Bardossy claimed, ingenuously, that Soviet planes had bombed Kosice. Most well informed scholars now believe that, in light of the disorganized Soviet response to the German invasion elsewhere, the Red Army simply was incapable of such a provocative offensive attack on Hungary. The strafing of Kosice most likely was done by German airplanes painted to look like Soviet ones. While German troops invaded Yugoslavia by crossing Hungarian territory, for a time Germany treated Hungary as an independent ally. The Nazis formally occupied the Hungarian nation only in March 1944. Later that year the Hungarian government sent a secret mission to Moscow to sue for a separate peace, but the officials responsible were arrested en route by the Nazis, and shot dead. The Churchill "percentage deal" later that year granted 50%-50% influence to the Soviets and the West in Hungary.
As the final stages of the War unfolded on the battlefields of Eastern Europe, the Hungarian Commander-in-Chief (Gen. Bela Miklos) also recognized the face of the future. He committed his troops to switch sides and to join with the Soviet Red Army as they invaded Hungary. Hungarian units stopped fighting Red Army troops, and thus the short siege and liberation of Budapest was assisted by the Hungarian Army itself. An armistice between the two nations was signed in January of 1945.
Post-War Hungarian relations with the USSR: A provisional government of Spring 1945 declared sweeping land reforms and, in November, free elections were held. The rural Smallholders Party won 57% of the vote; the Communist and Social Democratic parties each won 17% of the tally. A coalition government was formed and Imre Nagy was appointed to be Minister of the Interior, in charge of the police. Between 1945-49, most of the leaders of the Smallholders Party were arrested, blackmailed into resigning, or simply disappeared. The merger of the other two leading parties into the Hungarian Workers' Party (1948) preceded full consolidation of Communist power: in a May 1949 election, it received 96.5% of the vote in an election of dubious fairness. In the interim, a hard-line Stalinist first secretary, Matyas Rakosi, had assumed the leadership of the Workers' Party. Under this government, in 1947 Hungary refused to participate in the US economic aid to Europe (Marshall Plan).
Czechoslovakia and the USSR: Relations as the War ends. As with the Hungarian case above, Soviet expansionism also seemed implicit in the demand they made in June 1945 to Czechoslovakia for the "return" of part of the Carpatho-Ukraine area. This was accepted by the (then non-communist) government of Czechoslovakia, even though the area ceded never had been part of the Russian empire. The Red Army occupation of Prague may explain this pliability; US General Dwight Eisenhower had specifically forbidden (US) Gen. George Patton to occupy Prague as the fall of Central Europe to the allies unfolded. Geopolitics seem to have dictated the Soviet demand: they wanted to control the passes over the high Carpathian mountains. The choice to downgrade ideology in favor of geopolitics also weakened the status of the Czech communists within Czech politics, for the demand hardly seemed the type of act a friendly neighbor would demand of a nation that aided the Red Army's advance in fierce battles in the Carpathian mountains only months earlier. Yet, Czech communists (following their "internationalist obligations to a fraternal party") were forced into the difficult position of defending Soviet demands, a public position that hardly advanced the cause of the Czech Communist Party in the eyes of many Czechs. Wartime assistance from the Czech resistance was very important, even if not crucial to the success of the Soviet westward drive in 1944-45. Not only was critical intelligence on German troops movements provided: Czech and Slovak fighters heroically had held off some key German counterattacks so as to give time for Red Army assaults to succeed. In May 1945, the capital of Prague rose in revolt and liberated itself. (A provisional government had been established by the Red Army at Kosice a month earlier). It was later revealed by Czech communist dissident leader Alexander Dubcek, that the Czech resistance met with US government officials at that time and discussed the possibility for a complete US occupation of Czechoslovakia. Gen. Patton's tanks were in position to do this, but partisans of the Czech communist party refused to continue any such discussions, then turned their propaganda to the line that the US was "unwilling" to help in order to mold a pro-Communist Czech public opinion. With such pliant local allies, it therefore seems inexplicable that Soviet expansionism would require the Czechs to submit to the Soviet demand they made (June 1945) for the "return" of part of the Carpatho-Ukraine area, an act which weakened the Czech Communist Party in the eyes of Czech citizens. Such actions seem comprehensible only if Soviets goals were really designed to maximize the national security of the USSR, not to promote the abstract triumph of communism. It is also true that the Red Army withdrew from the nation later in 1946, returning in greatest number in August 1968.
Consolidation of a communist regime in Czechoslovakia: Further evidence of the Russian (not "world communism") essence of Soviet foreign policy can be gleaned from a more detailed look at Czechoslovakia. A western-style democratic politics of sorts unfolded, 1945-48, with the Communist (CCP) forces winning 38% in the first election (greatest of any party; other contenders were National Socialists [under Eduard Benes]: 18.2%; Social Democrats [under Fierlinger]: 12.8%; Populists [predominantly Catholic voters]: 15.8%). The Communists' 114 seats, however, were not a majority; the 1945-48 government was not entirely a puppet of the USSR. The Czech government under Communist Klement Gottwald even asked to participate in the 1947 Marshall Plan, but the Kremlin refused to approve this move and it quietly was withdrawn. Full communist control over Czechoslovakia (1948) came through very extra-legal methods. Domestic problems showed the grip of the Czech communists on the people was waning: there were food shortages, opinion polls showed the CCP down to 20% support, the Social Democrats' right wing had replaced the "popular front"-type Fierlinger with a leader less sympathetic to the Czech Communists, and large rightist demonstrations followed the execution of the leader of the war-era (pro-Nazi) "Bratislava" government, Monsignor Tiso. Amid this evident decline in public receptivity to communism, the CCP Minister of the Interior alleged that a plot was brewing against the regime within the Slovak areas' cabinet. The Party then used this pretext to purge anti-communists from the police and security forces. Eight top non-communists in the Security forces were arrested. Additionally, pro-government "Workers' Militias" were issued arms by the police. In February 1948, these actions caused 12 Centrists and Rightists to resign their posts in the cabinet, probably to make the government fall. Prime Minister Gottwald asked Pres. Benes to accept the resignations, but he refused. At this point the armed militias demonstrated (over 10,000 strong) in support of the (Communist-leaning) government in Prague. A pro-Communist student was shot during a demonstration and police "enemies of Communism" were blamed. The Deputy Foreign Minister of the USSR then arrived, just as leftist students occupied the (now right-leaning) Social Democrats' headquarters; the students were demanding a SD-CCP government. The Minister of Interior then accused the National Socialists of a coup plot and General Svoboda confined non-Communist officers to their quarters. At this point, President Benes acceded to to leftists' demands, and appointed an all-leftist cabinet. The one non-leftist who was named as Foreign Minister, Jan Masaryk, son of the founder of the Czech republic (Thomas G. Masaryk), was found murdered March 10, 1948. (Czech Communist sources claimed unbelievably that he had "fallen from a bathroom window"!). In this context a new election was held under the single list voting system, with the Communists printing and counting the ballots: the unsurprising results? CCP 239, all others 61. In disgust, President Benes resigned a broken man, and died Sept 3, 1948. Hundreds of thousands attended his funeral, a sign of nationalists' resentment of the changes. The new government invited the Red Army to return; a few years later the relationship was formalized with the creation of the Warsaw Pact (1955). Thus, Soviet domination over Czechoslovakia occurred. This reality was reinforced for a new generation to appreciate in August 1968, when the USSR and the Warsaw Pact invaded Czechoslovakia again and overthrew the (struggling-to-be) independent Dubcek government that had risen to power on a reform program within the Communist Party there that year.
VI. Soviet-American Relations: European Tensions become a Cold War, 1947
Turkey and Greece, by 1947, would become the "cause celebre" in reorienting global US orientation toward an anti-Soviet policy, worldwide: in 1945 (as in 1947) it must be remembered that there were no Red Army troops there. Moreover, the wartime Greek anti-fascist resistance had included many Greek Communists. (They aren't, incidentally, the only parts of the Greek resistance to the Nazis that conveniently has been forgotten later. Many Greek Jews fought in this campaign against the Nazis; some actually led gentile and Jewish integrated units. Yet anti-Israel Greek socialist governments since the mid 1980s have given great comfort to terrorist enemies of Israel. This example of this selective memory contributed little to the ultimate electoral defeat of the Greek left). In any event, post-war difficulties reestablishing order in 1946-7 gave the Greek Communists a chance to create their own revolution. By civil war, they tried.
The US Truman administration came to perceive that the USSR was behind the Greek communists' rebellion, decided this was unacceptable, gave military aid to the non-communist Greek government, and assisted it in winning. Breaking from a long tradition of non-involvement in the internal politics of European states, the US involvement in the Greek civil war was a controversial first foray onto the continent of Europe during times of general peace. To explain the new US international role, on March 12, 1947 the Truman Doctrine was enunciated in a presidential speech to Congress. The speech was carefully tailored to meet the concerns of powerful Republican Senate leader Vandenberg, making repeated references to the stakes for "freedom" and "democracy" in the Eastern Mediterranean, carefully avoiding any clear information about the dictatorial nature of the Greek and Turkish governments to whom aid was pledged. Four hundred million dollars in aid, and 350 US military advisors sent to stand alongside the Greek Army ultimately demonstrated a new US resolve to be directly involved in European affairs. Truman told Congress:
"The gravity of the situation which confronts the world today necessitates my appearance before a joint session of the Congress. The foreign policy and the national security of this country are involved. One aspect of the present situation, which I present to you at this time for your consideration and decision, concerns Greece and Turkey.
"...assistance is imperative if Greece is to survive as a free nation... I am fully aware of the broad implications involved...
"One of the primary objectives of the foreign policy of the United States is the creation of conditions in which we and other nations will be able to work out a way of life free from coercion. ...We shall not achieve our objectives, however, unless we are willing to help free peoples to maintain their free institutions and their national integrity against aggressive movements that seek to impose upon them totalitarian regimes. This is no more than a frank recognition that totalitarian regimes imposed upon free peoples, by direct or indirect aggression, undermine the foundations of international peace and hence the security of the United States.
"The peoples of a number of countries of the world have recently had totalitarian regimes forced upon them against their will,... in violation of the Yalta agreement, in Poland, Rumania, and Bulgaria. At the present moment in world history nearly every nation must choose between alternative ways of life. The choice is too often not a free one.
"... I believe that we must assist free peoples to work out their own destinies in their own way. I believe that our help should be primarily through economic and financial aid which is essential to economic stability and orderly political processes.
"The world is not static, and the status quo is not sacred. But we cannot allow changes in the status quo in violation of the Charter of the United Nations by such methods as coercion, or by such subterfuges as political infiltration. In helping free and independent nations to maintain their freedom, the United States will be giving effect to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.
"It is necessary only to glance at a map to realize that the survival and integrity of the Greek nation are of grave importance in a much wider situation. If Greece should fall under the control of an armed minority, the effect upon its neighbor, Turkey, would be immediate and serious. Confusion and disorder might well spread throughout the entire Middle East.
"Moreover, the disappearance of Greece as an independent state would have a profound effect upon those countries in Europe whose peoples are struggling against great difficulties to maintain their freedoms and independence...
"Should we fail to aid Greece and Turkey in this fateful hour, the effect will be far reaching to the West as well as the East.
"We must take immediate and resolute action."
More than a month later, on April 22, 1947, the Senate passed Truman's emergency aid package by a 67 to 23 vote; the House concurred (by voice vote) on May 15. It was a momentous crossing; the US was committed to "contain" the growth not just of Russian power. We pledged more than resistance to Soviet influence extended through their Red Army. Both direct and indirect efforts to extend the influence of the ideals of communism now were to be resisted. Since this ideology was embraced by armed (and unarmed) men and women not just in Europe, but in many countries, in time the US response, our commitment to contain communism, would extend literally around the globe.
This key US foreign policy objective persisted, in its essentials, from 1947 until 1991; fully 44 years. As Deudney and Ikenberry (21-35) insightfully have argued, the Cold War transformed America: our roads, our movies, our view of ourselves changed. From pioneers in a world apart, Americans had become leaders of the Free World. In our contentious tradition, a whole literature sprouted from the universities, first chiding our "imperial tradition (e.g., Williams), then in the 1960s, raising the arresting assertion that factors internal to the U.S., not Soviet aggression, had been the original cause of the Cold War (see Kolko, LaFeber, Alperowitz, Bernstein and, later, Yergin, Lefler). This view has come to be known as "revisionism." In its various forms, it has stressed that aggressive US, not Soviet, actions (e.g., dropping the atom bomb to scare the Soviets --Alperowitz's thesis) precipitated the long era of simmering conflict; that capitalism, not communism, had inherent war-like tendencies (Kolko's thesis), that U.S. interest groups (e.g., Lefler) and bureaucracies (e.g., Yergin) were the prime forces which sustained and benefited from fanning flames of Cold War, etc.
Certainly, many of the Soviet moves in 1945-46 could be taken in a less critical light than they then were seen by Truman and his advisors. Yet, there is strong circumstantial evidence that suggests that a resumed alliance of the US and the USSR would have been incompatible with Soviet objectives. Senior Soviet officials simply believed that conflict between the Communist and capitalist worlds was inevitable. For example, when Litvinov was asked by Richard C. Hottelet (CBS News) what Stalin's next action would be if the US acceded to all of his demands (e.g., Soviet control of Libya, Communist control over the Italian-Yugoslav border city of Trieste, etc.), he replied: "It would lead to the West being faced, after a more or less short time, with the next series of demands" (quoted in Taubman: 133). Shortly thereafter, the candid Litvinov was purged.
The Truman Doctrine was the by-product of British commitments, abandoned by a freely elected British government that no longer laid claim to influence in Greece. In this sense, the US inherited the obligations of an old imperial power. But the means the US used were far more indirect than those that Britain had used to create spheres of influence in earlier centuries.
The Truman Doctrine flowed from a broad vision, though initially it was somewhat more narrowly applied. The Doctrine was occasioned by what was perceived as a Soviet Communist threat to the Eastern Mediterranean. In a naval sense, this truly could only have come via Turkey (and its Bosphorous and Dardenelles straits), not Greece. Turkey also was threatened by the USSR, 1945-7. Here Soviet claims had somewhat more well developed roots. Wartime agreements had accepted the Soviet right to access to the Eastern Mediterranean; only after the final defeat of the Axis in Fall 1945 did the Western nations give support to the Turkish government's plan to renege on this agreement. The USSR also had grievances with Turkey over lands adjacent to Soviet Georgia and Armenia, lands which had been (in Soviet eyes) usurped during the confusing first few years after the Red Revolution. This issue was aggravated by Turkish mistreatment of ethnic Armenians who had large numbers of co-ethnics in Armenia SSR (of the USSR). The absence of any US sympathy on each of these issues strengthened Stalin's resolve to continue to push the West, thereby strengthening the hand of hard-liners both in Washington and in the Kremlin.
New scholarship clearly has established that to some extent the Truman Doctrine was developed from inaccurate factual premises (Wittner; Stravrakis). No less a source than the (anti-Soviet) former Vice President of Yugoslavia, Milovan Djilas (131, 182), has confirmed that Stalin and the USSR were not supplying aid to the Greek communists at the time of the announcement of the Truman Doctrine. The Yugoslav communists were. But in 1947, such distinctions among Communists were not held to be significant by most influential Americans: "Riga" lenses viewed all Reds as "the same." This view gave us little basis for understanding why only one year later Stalin expelled Tito and the Yugoslav League of Communists from the world Communist movement. (The cause of this was not directly related to the Cold War: Tito had refused to accept Soviet domination of the Yugoslav economy; see Stokes: 58-65). Eventually, the U.S. was able to develop a Cold War era relationship with neutral (but communist) Yugoslavia, but not until long after their "fraternal" efforts to aid the Greek communists were misconstrued by key US officials, who assumed the Yugoslav aid was part of a global communist conspiracy originating in Moscow.
Truman initiates a "Marshall Plan": The two ideological and military Blocs hardened into economic rivals as well in a 1947 controversy over US economic assistance efforts in Europe. While the Marshall Plan is the best remembered source of conflict, early US relief efforts were also viewed by the USSR as entirely too centered on German recovery and entirely too stingy with Russia and Eastern Europe. It is pertinent here to recall the extent of Soviet losses, 1941-45: 20 million humans dead, 600,000 in the siege of Leningrad alone; 25 million homeless; 4.7 million housing units destroyed; 1700 major towns leveled; 70,000 villages destroyed, 65,000 KM of Railroads ruined; 15,800 locomotives wrecked; 428,000 freight cars destroyed; 20 million [of 23 million at war's start] pigs destroyed; etc. The Marshall Plan, which eventually transferred $12 billion to Europe from the US treasury, 1948-52, was initially offered to all of Europe, including the USSR. But the terms of the Plan compromised the exclusive economic control over a nation's economy which Communists consider the most essential element of power. Aid-receiving countries were required to open up their central banking and government finances to inspectors from the US. This might have made all secret Communist actions visible. Moreover, German recovery was a certain byproduct of the Europe-wide recovery that was the primary objective of the US-authored Marshall Plan. But, the USSR had as its central foreign policy objective German dismemberment, a position to which they thought the allies had agreed at Teheran (1943). Thus, the USSR saw Truman's Marshall Plan as anti-Soviet, and insisted that the East European nations under their occupation withdraw from its development.
The First Berlin Crisis: If the Cold War began in Greece, the Berlin crises of 1948-9 were instrumental in the creation of a Western public opinion that would support the radical expansion of Western commitments which a Cold War against global Communism, not just against Russia, implied. By mid 1949, this anti-Soviet political force in the West had been channeled so to create a new anti-Soviet military alliance, and had established terms under which Germany would be readmitted to the Western camp. Both developments made future conciliation between the US and the USSR still more difficult and both grew out of a crisis over control of the former German capital, Berlin. The Berlin crisis demonstrated to the Western public a harsh side of the Red Army that had been ignored earlier in some quarters.
The crisis began innocently enough over the introduction of a new form of money in the Western occupation zone of the former German capital (Berlin), in 1948. Worried as much by the unilateralism of the U.S. action as by the potential economic impact on Eastern Germany, the Soviets then closed all commerce between western Germany and the former capital. Truman responded with an airlift of goods to the free (or Western occupied) western sectors of the city. For 324 days, 13,000 tons of aid a day were airlifted to the city; coal, food even water was imported. Without consulting Congress, Truman did all this, and it turned out to be popular. Philosopher Reinhold Niebuhr summed up the times when he stated: "for peace, we must risk war," an attitude made considerably easier by the extant U.S. monopoly in nuclear weapons, a monopoly which ended in 1949 when the USSR exploded its first atomic bomb.
By April 1949, anti-Soviet politicians greatly had broadened their support in Germany, the U.S., and the U.K.; and were making gains to a lesser extent elsewhere in Western Europe (e.g., Italy, France). Just four years after the victory of a grand anti-Nazi alliance which tied the USSR to the U.S. and the U.K., European publics and leaders had come to accept that there existed a "Soviet Communist threat," primarily due to the vivid spectacle of Soviet bullying in Berlin. Similar change had occurred in the U.S.: in 1946-7, opposing the Soviets was still a source of domestic controversy. For example, WWII veteran and freshman Republican Congressman from California Richard Nixon at the time thought Churchill's 1946 "Iron Curtain" speech went too far. How times change. Clear cause for anti-Sovietism seemed so self-evident by 1949 that nearly all western European governments agreed to join the U.S. in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (N.A.T.O.) alliance. In May 1949, the U.S. recognized the western Federal Republic of Germany as a separate nation. That same month, Stalin gave up on the blockade, travel to Berlin resumed and the West had won the Berlin crisis. In October 1949, the Soviets established the German Democratic Republic (GDR--or East Germany) as a separate nation, achieving one of their goals (i.e., German dismemberment). Little of the sense of crisis could ebb, however: a month later the USSR exploded its first atom bomb. In time the USSR would establish their own military alliance, the Warsaw Pact, in 1955. A second Berlin Crisis (1961) led to the erection of the infamous Berlin Wall. It stood as the symbol of the Cold War until November 9, 1989; the Warsaw Pact was finally dissolved only in 1991.
In review, the Cold War broke out when the US perceived aggressive, communist expansionism to be the root cause of actions which were not all that dissimilar from that which we would have expected of any Russian government pursuing long established objectives of the Russian state. Without natural defenses, Russian and Soviet successor states long had sought security through expansion into their neighbors' lands. After having been invaded across the nations of Central and Eastern Europe twice in the 20th Century, and after paying the high costs associated with repulsing these invasions, the Soviets appear to have sought to establish a non-hostile buffer area. Communist leader Josef Stalin appears to have pursued these objectives with little regard as to how popular Communism would be in these areas. The U.S., however, saw in this expansion something new. But whether it was truly new, or only a new chapter in the long book of Russian aggression, it worried many Western Europeans (e.g., Winston Churchill) and those Americans who understood the linkage of our security to that of Europe.
The U.S. was in a strong position to respond, and Soviet perceptions of US strength may also have contributed to the sense of urgency they attached to making the Central and Eastern European area a seemingly permanent sphere under their influence. It must be recalled that not only in regard to the monopoly of atomic bombs was the US in a position of superiority in 1947-48. U.S. economic dominance, and the relative weakness of the other, war-ravaged international actors, contributed to Soviet perceptions of an aggressively expansionistic USA. While we may consider such perceptions paranoid, the Soviets recently had met other, truly deranged rulers and their policies at close range: 20 million plus Soviets had been killed repelling Hitler. Moreover, most Americans forget just how preeminent we were. In 1948, the US produced 42.9% of the world's coal production, 48.9% of the iron, 51% of the steel, 58% of the crude oil, 84% of the motor vehicles. Our GNP was to that of the Soviets as 100 is to 30 (figures above from U.N. statistics, cited in Berry: 23). It was a unique moment; yet, many Americans considered it normal, ordinary.
To cope with their strategic disadvantage, Soviet foreign policy turned toward low cost, low risk tactics. They called for uprisings against capitalism and began assisting in "wars of national liberation" (by non-Soviets) against the colonial powers, in India, Indonesia, Indochina, China, and elsewhere. When another war touting much the same radical line began in Greece, the US reacted under the assumption that a hidden Soviet hand was at work. Within their nearby sphere of influence in Eastern Europe still more direct means were selected: the Red Army squashed independent states so local Communist quislings could establish Soviet-style dictatorships. When the lack of legitimacy of these regimes were questioned by popular uprisings, the CPSU had the Red Army crush them. In 1953, it suppressed workers' uprisings in East Berlin; and in 1956, over 35,00 Hungarians were slaughtered as it suppressed the anti-Communist Hungarian Revolution.
Ironically, in 1956 the Soviets announced their new strategic doctrine of "peaceful coexistence." But this, too, was able to be seen in many lights, as Soviet ideologist S. Sanakoyen then stated: "Marxist-Leninists see peaceful coexistence as a special form of the class struggle between socialism and capitalism, a principle whose implementation ensures the most favorable conditions for the world revolutionary process" (quoted in Nogee [first edition], p. 244). Whether Communist or merely Russian in its goals, the western world surely was up against a clever and formidable adversary.
VII. Soviet-American Relations after the 1953 Death of Stalin
Rare in history are simultaneous changes in political elites among rivals. But, in 1953, both the US and the USSR experienced the coming to power of new leadership groups. Owing to the domestic situations through which each came to power, this would have limited impact on the foreign policy each would choose to pursue.
Frustration over the American role in war against communist aggression on the Korean peninsula (1950-53) contributed to ill ease within the American military and the public during the 1952 general elections. For example, World War II hero and Korean War commander Gen. Douglas MacArthur had attempted, prior to his firing by President Truman, to challenge the whole Cold War policy of Truman when he wrote to US Representative Joseph Martin (March 8, 1951; read to Congress on April 5, 1951) that: "if we lose the war to communism in Asia, the fall of Europe is inevitable; win it, and Europe most probably would avoid war and yet preserve freedom. As you pointed out, there is no substitute for victory" (reprinted in Guttmann:13). These war drums, this belief that all aggression was interconnected, resonated in the campaign of 1952, as Republican point man John Foster Dulles derided the Democrats for their mere "containment" of communism. He and Republican nominee Dwight Eisenhower promised more: liberation from the Soviet Communist yoke. Moreover, Eisenhower-Dulles promised to do this with substantially reduced means: a trimmed military, and reduced foreign aid would permit tax cut promises to fortify the U.S. economy, they claimed. Riding to office on the back of the august reputation of Ike, the Republican administration in the first year reduced Army divisions from 20 to 14, total Army manpower from 1.5 million to slightly over 1 million and cut five billion dollars from Truman's last defense budget. Yet they promised to do more to "liberate" captive peoples from communism. How? The new administration had new ideas, and spoke of a new doctrine regarding nuclear weapons: massive retaliation.
Setting aside all moral qualms, the Dulles strategy envisioned going to the brink of nuclear war so to decisively demonstrate to the Soviets the determination of the US to stand up for its growing commitments. The principle stated objective of the Eisenhower foreign policy was to be to pursue a more ambitious anti-communist policy of "liberation" of "captive" peoples, but to do so for less money.
Political backdrop: The 1952 Republican Party Platform had stated the need to break from the "negative, futile and immoral policy of 'containment' " (quoted in Combs: 351). While the US National Security Council in NSC 68 had, in 1950, seen that there was a need for "substantial and rapid building up of strength" in order "to check and roll back the Kremlin's drive for world domination" (NSC-68: 283-284), Eisenhower proposed to "liberate" (i.e., to roll back) with a less substantial military force. Indeed, his first defense budget of $36 billion (for fiscal year 1954) was smaller than the $41 billion that Truman had projected to be necessary. Ike's 1955 defense spending was smaller still, $31 billion. Eisenhower also reduced the number of Army divisions from 20 to 14, and total Army manpower dropped from 1.5 million to slightly more than 1 million men. Thus, the development of stronger and larger Allied armies (e.g., West Germany's) did not represent an aggregate increase in the West's conventional strength but merely an offset designed to shore up the West while whittling away at U.S. conventional armed forces. As would be heard from Republican officeholders about other aspects of "big government" in the 1980s, less was better for Republicans of the 1950s.
Massive Retaliation and "Brinksmanship," The Means for Eisenhower's foreign policy. From the above argument, it is clear that, given the cut-back of U.S. conventional forces, it was necessary for Eisenhower to envision a more effective anti-communist foreign policy using new tools. It was in this context that U.S. nuclear strategy was revised. This featured what has come to be known as the "doctrine of massive retaliation." Secretary of State John Foster Dulles was the principal advocate of this strategy; he called for US nuclear forces to send a message to the (new) Soviet leaders, one which said we possessed a "deterrent of massive retaliatory power." Dulles saw nuclear threats --such as the one Eisenhower issued in the Spring of 1953 to force consummation of an armistice in Korea-- as a primary tool by which to advance US "liberation" objectives. Nuclear weapons would not just prevent attack on the U.S.; now they would be an adjunct to U.S. coercive diplomacy. This was clearly laid before voters, and Eisenhower's election should be viewed as an expression of public consent. During the 1953 election campaign, Dulles had stated that the US must be able to "respond vigorously at places and with means of its own choosing," rather than restricting ourselves to reacting with conventional forces (only) to Soviet aggression. The key to this vague threat of "massive retaliation" against non-nuclear Soviet (or Soviet-allied) states was a theory called "brinksmanship." As Dulles blithely put it, "the ability to get to the verge without getting into war is the necessary art... If you are scared to go to the brink, you are lost" (quoted in Combs: 351). Massive retaliation was a position well suited to a geopolitical situation in which U.S. nuclear forces were far more numerous and far more powerful than those of the USSR. That condition, however, would prove to be temporary.
The ends of Eisenhower's foreign policy: Too much can be made of the seeming abandonment of "containment" goals for a more ambitious set of "liberation" objectives. In the real world revealed to exist at the Bay of Pigs, there were few little Guatemalas waiting for easy liberation. On the campaign trail it was relatively easy to say, as John Foster Dulles did in 1952, that we will use "all means to secure the liberation of Eastern Europe." Doing this in practice, however, was another matter. Where Soviet vital interests were engaged by keeping peoples "captive," as in Hungary in 1956, "liberation" rhetoric from the US proved to be a trumpet heralding no parade. When Hungarians rose up to liberate themselves from Communism in that year --abetted by years of US psychological warfare encouraging them to do so-- Eisenhower and Dulles did not respond. The uprising was crushed. Much like the commitment to Lebanon made by Republican President Ronald Reagan 28 years later, promises came easier than did steadfast policies.
One thread of continuity between "containment" and "liberation" periods was to be found in the vast cloth of obligations by which Truman and Eisenhower stitched the fate of the US to that of other nations. In their expansive willingness to bind the US to defend foreign nations from communist aggression, these two administrations fundamentally reordered the commitments of our nation, as can be observed in this list:Expansive visions would set the tone for grand commitments. In such a setting, to disagree became difficult and acrimony, not reason, again would be found in the next competitive US election, that of 1960, in which the Democrats posed to voters as the more hawkish party. Democratic Party candidate John F. Kennedy discovered a "missile gap" to be growing between the U.S. and the USSR, to the disadvantage of the U.S.. Continued, too, were the visions of grandeur of Dulles' rhetoric, which reverberated after the election in Kennedy's 1961 inaugural utterances. Unlimited US capabilities were expressed in the limitless description of the enemies the US saw itself able to match. There he stated:
1947: Rio Treaty. US agrees to defend nearly all of Latin America's nations. These arrangements were first agreed to in the Act of Chapultepec (March 6, 1945), and later were codified in the Charter of the Organization of American States (1948).
1949: NATO. US agrees to defend most of Western Europe.
1951: Greece and Turkey formally are added to NATO.
1951: US-Japanese Treaty commits the US to the defense of Japan.
1951: ANZUS Treaty ties US to the defense of Australia and New Zealand.
1952: Mutual Security Act further commits US to program of military aid to 8 Rio Treaty signators.
1952: Base agreements signed with Morocco, Libya and Saudi Arabia.
1953: Base Agreements signed with Spain.
1954: Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO) links the US to Pakistan, France, Britain, Thailand, Philippines, Australia, and, eventually, South Vietnam. This treaty even obligated the US to help SEATO members "to prevent subversive activities," a considerably dicier task than merely to step in if the allied nation was invaded.
1955: US ties to Britain, Turkey and Pakistan indirectly obligated the US to the commitments these two nations made to Iran and Iraq, in the "Baghdad Pact." Iraq quit this arrangement in 1958; Iran ceased to be allied with the US in 1979.
"Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, to assure the survival and success of liberty."
Later that year, when Berlin was again menaced by communist forces who erected the notorious Berlin Wall, Kennedy stated that that "outpost is not an isolated problem. The threat is worldwide...[in] our own hemisphere [and] wherever else the freedom of human beings is at stake" (Public Papers: 553, 540).
In the minds of leading American political elites, Republicans and Democrats alike, the world from 1947 to 1961 was only to be seen as composed of the monolithic communist "bloc" and the "free world." In American universities and think tanks, too, the world system was conceived to have had but two centers; it was "bipolar," and insights into the dynamics of such a system were sought in the history of the Napoleonic Wars --the only recognized era of bipolarity in the international state system prior to 1945. The rigidly ideological, warlike nature of that era came to be seen as the necessary dimension of our times. Thus, the real policy options posed to Americans at election time after 1952 ceased to be whether or not to oppose the other bloc. We were provided, instead, an analysis that stressed how poorly partisan opponents had opposed the communists, and promised the better job to be done by opposite party successors.
But contrary trends clearly were developing in the real world: the de-colonization of Africa and the deepening Chinese-Soviet dispute, to name but two. These presented to the US a world more complex than this bipolar vision had led us to expect. Yet, until 1972, U.S. foreign policy continued to be shaped by the visions influential men had developed to explain our situation earlier, visions which were derived from the new internationalist consensus which had been forged, 1947-50, primarily by defining those who dissented from it as traitors.
It may here also be helpful briefly to review the Soviet Russian situation that was unfolding simultaneously. We have been trying to appreciate what the real operative international goals of the USSR have been so better to know the global system, the Soviets/Russians, and ourselves. We have needed to know these things so better to be able to evaluate the mixture of idealistic and realistic dimensions of US foreign policy. Clearly, there is continuity between a national purpose designed to "liberate" peoples from one evil (i.e., communism) and a national purpose of ending tyranny and establishing democracy in the Middle East, as George W. Bush articulated to the National Endowment for Democracy in November 2003.
This readings has attempted to draw a distinction between the stated goals once used by the leaders of the USSR (e.g., promotion of a communist world) and the goals we can infer to have actually been operative in the actions of that nation. It has argued that substantial continuity in objectives can be found between the Russian state of pre-revolutionary times and the objectives pursued by the USSR after its founding. The pattern in the Soviets' use of instruments of their foreign policy, therefore, may not entirely differ from the type of pattern Russia may pursue again, if and when it regains the capability to project influence.
In the early period after the Bolshevik revolution of 1917, the Russian Communists pursued a policy said to be building "socialism in one country" so that their state could recoup lost strength. To this end, they tried to enlist foreign sympathists (e.g., European Communists) to act in such a way as to diminish other nations' threats to the USSR. A more active public diplomacy in the 1930s sought to minimize threats to Russia from traditional areas of adversity (Central Europe; the Far East), and was briefly successful in winning a buffer zone in Eastern Europe. The conflict with, and ultimate defeat of, Nazi Germany led the USSR to solidify its position of primacy in this area that long had been prized by Russian monarchs, too. Throughout the era leading to the death of Stalin, relations with the capitalist West were filled with mistrust (on both sides); only rare conditions (i.e., 1941-45) provided opportunities for Soviets and Westerners to see common international objectives.
VIII. Khrushchev and "Peaceful Coexistence"
Party leader Josef Stalin died in 1953, the year that Eisenhower assumed the US presidency. After eliminating a chief rival (KGB chief L. Beria) and consolidating power from among other contenders (e.g., Malenkov), Nikita Khrushchev sought to establish the continuity of his government's interests by reasserting Soviet primacy in Eastern Europe.
At one level, Khrushchev showed a new, diplomatically sensitive face. One method used was publicly to court the dissident Communist regime in Yugoslavia, with whom the Eisenhower team also had begun aid programs. Another was to reestablish relations with non-Communist Greece where ties had been broken since the Greek Civil War. A third initiative was directed toward Turkey: territorial grievances were dropped in an effort to diminish tensions (and perhaps to woo the Turkish government away from a NATO alliance that also included its longstanding adversary, Greece). This approach conveyed a new open attitude.
In some other areas, heavy-handed tactics which relied on the Red Army to physically eliminate threats to Soviet primacy were continued. Just three months after Stalin's death, Red Army tanks in Berlin had suppressed a workers' uprising against Soviet domination. But it was in Budapest, Hungary, in October 1956, that the Khrushchev group demonstrated that the stylistic changes in their diplomatic demeanor did not constitute a fundamental break from policies of domination in Eastern Europe used by Stalin and, in a somewhat different way, by pre-revolutionary Russian rulers.
Suppression of the Hungarian Revolution. While the Eisenhower-Dulles Liberation strategy had, through covert operations in Iran (1953) and Guatemala (1954), achieved real "rollbacks," real "liberations" of Third World states flirting with anti-American policies, cheap victories would prove harder to find in high value areas to the Soviets. In Central Europe, the "liberation" of Hungary was to prove a tragic reminder of the dangers inherent in the infinite hostility of Cold War.
The Stalin-era Hungarian regime was a prime candidate or liberation. Led by Matyas Rakosi, it had been unusually harsh toward many sectors of Hungarian society, was unpopular with the people and had even purged 200 long-time Communists in 1952. The nation's leader from 1956 to 1987, Janos Kadar, himself was jailed and tortured during the darker hours of the Rakosi government. Economically, heavy industry had been emphasized; culturally, Rakosi had embarked on an unpopular campaign of "Russification" of culture, art, theater, etc. With the death of Stalin, Rakosi's style increasingly was out-of-sync with that of the emerging Soviet leaders. In short, Hungary presented to the USSR an opportunity to identify the reformist pretensions of the Khrushchev group with the cause of nationalist communism. It also presented a fertile atmosphere for American fomentation of an anti-Soviet uprising. Both factors contributed to the Hungarian Revolution of 1956.
In May 1953, a more moderate leader, Imre Nagy (pronounced "Nahj"), was elevated to the government post of Premier (though Rakosi remained Party leader). In the next three years, Nagy pursued a policy called the "New Course" (see Stokes: 82-87). Collectivization of agriculture was ended and thousands left the collective farms. Earlier, Nagy had engineered a popular land-to-the-tiller reform of agriculture in 1945-6, a program that had been abruptly ended by Rakosi's (unpopular) Soviet-style collectivization of the late 1940s. His 1953-6 agrarian policy resembled the Soviet N.E.P. (of the 1920s). Parallel to events that would develop within the USSR in the later 1950s, the surviving jailed dissident Communists who were held in Hungarian jails were released. Nagy's industrial policy also redirected investment away from the heavy basic industries (where Rakosi's emphasis had been put), toward consumer goods production, mirroring the direction of Khrushchev's later industrial policy. Urban dwellers' and industrial workers' reactions to Nagy's "New Course" was positive, as real income of proletarians had fallen 18% from 1949-52 (Kovrig: 194).
In January 1955, anti-Nagy Stalinists in the Hungarian Workers' Party engineered a reversal of policy and secured the firing of Nagy. But these moves were out of step with the gradual consolidation of Khrushchev's power in the USSR. Moreover, average Hungarians' appetites for change had been whetted by the "New Program;" even the replacement of Rakosi by another Stalinist (Erno Gero) in 1956 could not quiet a growing popular discontent with a system in which decisions came from the top down. In later 1955, however, intellectuals' criticisms of Stalinism began to take on a nationalist character, with excessive Soviet influence being attacked in a discussion group called the "Petofi Circle." These nationalist murmurings were compounded when Nagy himself wrote a book highly critical of the lack of Hungarian autonomy.
University students became increasingly restless as popular protests in Poland in 1956 seemed to indicate a possible role for mass direct action in forcing political change in Eastern Europe. (While riots in East Berlin had been brutally repressed by the Red Army in 1953, demonstrators in Poland in 1956 achieved the unprecedented accomplishment of securing a change in the leader of their ruling party that year). On October 23, 1956, student demonstrators took to the streets of Budapest, ostensibly in support of the Polish demonstrators. Very quickly, the demonstrations turned into open-air forums through which students and workers aired grievances against their Hungarian Communist system. In thirteen remarkable days the demonstrations became a revolution, and the Soviets withdrew from Hungary (temporarily). Officers of the Hungarian Army, led by Gen. Pal Malater, joined the revolt, carrying with them their troops en masse.
Imre Nagy was returned to formal power: as the leader of this incipient Hungarian Revolution, he again was named Premier. But the revolution he "led" was quite beyond the control of this lifelong Marxist. Secret Police headquarters were sacked by the mob, and the Hungarian Army went over to the side of the revolutionary forces. The Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church, Joseph Mindszenty, leant his authority to the demonstrations, further emboldening the mobs. On the sixth day of the riots, the Red Army troops in Hungary began to evacuate to the east. Apparently, the Revolution was being allowed to run its course. The program Nagy then announced for the new government was a radical departure from anything even the Khrushchev "Thaw" was inclined toward. It included:- free elections for many parties to a Hungarian parliament;Some of the new government's demands were especially difficult for the Soviet Union to accept:
- creation of independent trade unions with the right to strike;
- reorganization of the economy to continue the direction of the "New Course;"
- termination of collective farms;
- freedom of the press.- withdrawal of Hungary from the Warsaw Pact;US propaganda organs (e.g., "Voice of America," "Radio Free Europe") had encouraged East Europeans to work for their own liberation. US intelligence agencies had recruited many East European emigres in preparation for the US to have reliable operatives to plant there in what might have become true revolutions. But, when the Hungarians finally did revolt, Dulles and Eisenhower delivered only oral aid: no guns, no Armies were sent to their assistance.
- return from the USSR of Hungarians seized by the Red Army after World War II.
- assistance from the U.N. was sought in order to protect Hungary's independence.
After their tactical retreat, Red Army forces (200,000 strong) reentered Hungary on Khrushchev's orders, November 3, 1956. Their 5000 tanks quickly overcame the disunited Hungarian forces. (Not all units of the Hungarian Army had really embraced the revolt; some weapons were diverted to the "Freedom Fighters" in the streets, but these were inferior to the armor used by the Soviets). Over 35,000 Hungarians perished in the repression. As the Soviet Union suppressed the Hungarian Revolution, another 200,000 fled into Austria. Many of these Hungarians eventually came to the US. Nagy and Malater were arrested and in 1958 were executed in secret. In the words of one Red Army officer, Gen. Grebennik, "Soviet troops will leave Hungary only when crayfish whistle and fishes sing." The animal chorus must have appeared, for the Red Army exited in 1991.
Janos Kadar was appointed by the CPSU and Red Army to assume the reins of power; obligingly, he then was formally named as new leader of the Hungarian Workers' Party. He remained in power 1956-1987. Only in 1989 did the Hungarian then ruling (communist) party permit Hungarian patriots to exhume the bodies of Nagy and Gen. Malater from their unmarked graves to be properly buried with the dignity befitting national heroes.
Soviet policy had further institutionalized the Cold War era by solidifying the division of Europe a year earlier, in 1955, with the formation of the "Pact of Mutual Assistance and Unified Command," commonly known as the Warsaw Pact (May 1955). This agreement created new rights for the Red Army in Romania and Hungary which were put to clear use in Budapest, October 1956. Soviet commentators long pointed out that the admission of Federal Republic of Germany (i.e., West Germany) to the NATO pact preceded the formation of a formal Eastern bloc (i.e., the Warsaw Pact). They also pointed out that meetings to bring an end to the Cold War, held in Berlin in winter 1954 and involving all of the major powers (except China) had proven fruitless.
IX. Soviet Policy in Asia
In Asia, initial Soviet Cold War era policy had both traditionally expansionistic and newly cautious elements. Over the course of the Cold War, the CPSU policy of support for "wars of national liberation" (e.g., Vietnam) to unite a bloc of revolutionary communist nations gave way to policies designed to maximize Soviet domination in a smaller set of states. By the 1980s, these tactics charmed only part of an ever more divided set of Asian communist nations (and fewer still in the non-communist world). The 1991 anti-communist revolution in Moscow brought real chaos to this small fraternity.
In Korea, the Stalin government had given encouragement, approval, and material assistance to the northern Communist government of Kim Il Sung, which then attempted by military force to conquer all of Korea, in June 1950. In 1953, the new leaders of the CPSU helped to arrange the armistice that brought about a return to the status quo ante on the peninsula, but only after US President Eisenhower had threatened to use atomic weapons against unspecified targets. All of this built on a foundation as yet not provided, to which we now turn.
Policy toward China: The Stalin Era. In China, the Stalin regime had pursued a complex strategy in the 1930s and 1940s. Owing to the rural nature of Chinese society, and the tiny relative size of the proletariat there, Stalin advised against following a classical Communist route to seizing power. But the CPSU also advised against following the rural-based revolution line that was advocated by some communists in China). The October 1949 victory of Mao Zedong's Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in the Chinese Civil War papered over a number of grievances that the CCP had with Stalin and the CPSU. But a formal friendship treaty between the two Communist giants nonetheless was signed in February 1950. This suggested a Sino-Soviet unity which even at that time many US State Department senior officials (e.g., John Service) believed to be hollow. These voices, however, were silenced during the McCarthy period of intense and indiscriminant search for sympathists with Communism in the US.
CCP leaders who distrusted the CPSU were in a favorable position later to break free from the USSR. The Soviet Red Army had played no part in the "liberation" of China from capitalism. China never joined the Warsaw Pact. While differences in perspective would become public only in the later 1960s, their roots lie deep in the national experiences of the two Communist nations.
CCP leaders resented earlier Soviet support for their main adversary, General Chiang. Russian support for the Nationalist leader had taken many forms during the long (1927-49) Chinese Civil War. Not only had Gen. Chiang been trained in Moscow, at several key moments in the development of the CCP, Soviet agents had urged the CCP to make common cause with Gen. Chiang (and his Kuomingtung Party, or KMT) against the growing threat of the Japanese militarists. Even after the defeat of Japan, the USSR concluded a friendship treaty with Gen. Chiang's KMT government.
CCP leaders also were outraged by the pillaging of factories in Northern China (especially Manchuria) by Red Army troops in the final stages of World War II. While American conservatives are right to point out that the Red Army did lend assistance to the Chinese Communists, 1945-49, they tend to ignore the small degree of favor this earned. Indeed, military support was neutralized politically by other Soviet actions.
CCP leaders also resented Soviet occupation of outer Mongolia and the refusal of the USSR to negotiate the return of territories "stolen" from China by the Czars in the 1700s and 1800s. Given the 7000 mile border the two nations shared, ideology proved to be a thin common thread with which to sew up such diverse and deep divisions of national interest.
Relations between the USSR and the new Peoples' Republic of China (PRC) deteriorated after the death of Stalin. The Chinese leaders were annoyed in the 1950s by the puny size of Soviet aid to China, given the massive damage to their country from nearly two decades of anti-Japanese resistance and civil war. Poland, for example, was granted $450 million in credits from the USSR at no interest; China (nearly 20 times larger) was granted only $300 million, and was charged interest by the Soviets.
In 1956, the Chinese further were annoyed by Khrushchev's "Secret Speech," which denounced many of the crimes of Josef Stalin, particularly those committed against other Party members. Thereafter, the praises of Stalin heard in Chinese commentaries can only be understood as codewords through which veiled criticisms of the new Soviet leaders were being made. The mid-1950s quarrels were muted, though: Chinese spokesman Chou en Lai publicly supported the Soviet actions in regard to the Hungarian Revolution, signing a joint communique that denounced the "counter-revolution" there.
Questions about the development of a Chinese nuclear power industry also soured Sino-Soviet relations. In 1957, the Chinese secured from the USSR promises to help the PRC develop such an industry, but in June 1959, the USSR renounced the agreement. Military-to-military cooperation also was less than cordially conducted between the two Communist giants. While each had supported the North Koreans in their southern war, 1950-53, only the PRC had sent troops, euphemistically called "volunteers," to save their neighbor from defeat at the hands of the US-led United Nations' forces. Exchanges of officers between the USSR and the PRC throughout the 1950s were correct, but not overly friendly. In part, this was due to differences in military doctrine and strategy of the Chinese Peoples' Liberation Army (PLA) compared to that of the (Soviet) Red Army. Chinese doctrine stressed the self reliance of the PLA, its dispersed deployment and the importance of rural areas in a "peoples war" to usher in Communism. These positions were contrary to Red Army doctrine and experience. The military cooperation of the early 1950s, such as it was, came to an abrupt end in 1959, when all Soviet military aid to the PLA was suspended. By the early 1960s, all Red Army advisors were removed from China.
Triangular Relations: USSR, China and the USA: The Period of Estrangement. In the later 1950s and early 1960s, the Chinese retained a belligerent anti-US rhetoric about world affairs as the USSR attempted to placate the West with talk about "peaceful coexistence." These differences in perception foreshadowed practical differences that would appear later.
In the 1958 crisis over US military intervention in Lebanon, China was angered by the USSR's use of India as the intermediary for the socialist world; and was further annoyed that the Soviets used the UN Security Council to reach an accord on US withdrawal (inasmuch as the hated KMT government of the Chinese island of Taiwan retained its seat as the "Republic of China" on the UN Security Council).
Soviet officials also seem to have been annoyed by the PRC's aggression against the Quemoy and Matsu islands off the Chinese coast, in 1958, actions that took US and PRC troops to the verge of war for the second time in ten years. By creating a "hot spot" in a Cold War the Soviets were trying to cool down, the Chinese challenged Soviet overall management of Communist bloc's Western policy.
After the Soviets withdrew from China a further 2000 economic advisors (1960), the USSR tilted further toward India and away from their Chinese "allies." In the 1960-62 border conflict between India and China, the USSR pursued a policy of neutrality, a position that PRC diplomats have since denounced as pro-India.
As the Cold War heated again in 1961-63, China assumed a radical position of fanning the flames. The PRC was particularly hard in its criticisms of the USSR for its "capitulation" to the United States in the celebrated October 1962 Cuban Missiles Crisis. When President Kennedy and Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev were able to calm tensions somewhat by agreeing to a limited Test Ban (barring nuclear weapons tests from the air and forcing them underground), the PRC denounced the agreement. (So did France, though for other reasons).
Finally, as Chinese leader Mao's personal relationship with Khrushchev grew icier, CCP public propaganda began to focus on the imperialist character of the USSR itself. Though minor border incidents had occurred on the Sino-Soviet border as early as 1960, in March 1963 the PRC publicly claimed that 580,000 square miles of China illegally had been stolen by the Czars in earlier centuries. Soviet officials initially were willing to discuss these claims, but talks broke off in May 1964, five months before Khrushchev's ouster by the Politburo and Central Committee of the CPSU. (This latter action was led by Leonid Brezhnev among others).
X. Soviet Foreign Policy From 1964-79
The broad foreign policy objectives of the USSR were unaltered by the transfer of power from Khrushchev to a team of three replacements (Kosygin, Brezhnev, Podgorney) in the fall of 1964. Of the three, Leonid Brezhnev would in time rise to preeminence and would rule until 1981. Foreign policy had played a role in Khrushchev's removal. Khrushchev's capitulation to the US in the crisis over the Cuban missiles (October 1962) weakened his support in the Politburo. Khrushchev also complained (in a Saturday Review interview published November 7, 1964, [i.e., after his ouster]) that US negotiators of the Limited (Nuclear) Test Ban Treaty had misrepresented the US position, causing Khrushchev to give in to the US a second time in as many years in order for Khrushchev to reach any agreement at all. Khrushchev claimed that US negotiators had said that some above-ground tests would be permitted, whereas the final agreement banned all such tests, a provision to which hardliners in the Red Army objected. The Brezhnev group set course for a major military (especially, a nuclear) buildup that would place the USSR in a position which, within a few years, would eliminate the need to capitulate to the US on nuclear questions. On other priorities of Soviet foreign policy, the Brezhnev team pursued and expanded upon earlier initiatives .
Policy toward Europe. After 1964, the USSR continued to maintain hegemony in Eastern Europe while it tried to sustain the division of Germany in such a way as to gradually neutralize Western Europe. Support to western Communist parties (e.g., Italian, French) was continued. Diplomatic initiatives were directed at improving bilateral relations with France and with West Germany. Soviet nuclear buildup policies and Soviet actions in Eastern Europe undermined achievement of these steps toward longstanding goals.
In Czechoslovakia, in the Spring of 1968, Moscow perceived the early buds of another Hungarian Revolution (which they had crushed 12 years earlier; go here for a complete case study). Though there were some significant differences between the two revolts, the Red Army (in the main) militarily crushed each. Contrary to the mass movement that pushed Hungarians to replace their leader and demand his successor dismantle one party government (and withdraw from the Warsaw Pact!), Czech reformers had a more limited agenda. Furthermore, the vehicle (if not the impetus) for reform in the Prague Spring (and summer) of 1968 was the Party itself. Reforms advocated by the reform-minded Dubcek government were confined to the economic and cultural spheres. No end to Communist Party dominance of politics, nor any end to Czechoslovakia's foreign alliance was proposed. Nevertheless, the support given Dubcek by the renegade Tito government in Yugoslavia, in combination with the widening scope of the social sectors supporting the Czech reforms (e.g. students, intellectuals), prodded the Brezhnev group to respond.
The invasion of Czechoslovakia of August 1968 removed the Dubcek government. It was carried out by armed forces of the USSR and each of the other Warsaw Pact governments, except Romania. This also was dissimilar to the suppression of the Hungarian revolt, where only Soviet Red Army forces had participated. In explaining the invasion, Brezhnev articulated a key tenet of Soviet foreign policy which subsequently came to be known as the "Brezhnev Doctrine" (Stokes: 132-134). He stated:"...when internal and external forces that are hostile to socialism seek to reverse the development of any socialist country in the direction of restoring the capitalist system, when a threat to the cause of socialism in that country appears, and a threat to the security of the socialist community as a whole, that is no longer only a problem for the people of that country, but also a common problem, a matter of concern for all socialist countries. It goes without saying that such an action as military aid to a fraternal country to put an end to a threat to the socialist system is an extraordinary, an enforced step, which can be sparked off only by direct actions on the part of the enemies of socialism inside the country and beyond its frontiers --actions creating a threat to the common interests of the socialist camp." (quoted in Pickles: 164)Imperialistic as the Brezhnev Doctrine sounds, in practice it had a certain "conservative" quality to it. That is to say, it suggested that the alignment of the nations of Europe that existed in roughly 1948 (and certainly, the alignment of 1968) was, in fact, a permanent, unchanging arrangement. In a sense, this represented a real retreat from basic tenets of communist ideology. Of course, this was a "conservative" reading of the possibility of change only insofar as it declared that the Marxian laws of historical motion continued to apply (i.e., continued to lead toward change and revolution) only in the non-Communist world. In this very real sense nothing in the Brezhnev Doctrine could be construed to be supportive of a general Soviet policy that would lead to maintenance of the international equilibrium. Toward the East Bloc, however, there certainly was a conservatizing shadow cast by the Brezhnev Doctrine.
The Brezhnev Doctrine was invoked later to explain the "necessity" of Soviet troops entering "socialist" Afghanistan, in December 1979. This provides another good example of the flexibility that Marxian concepts provided so to mask the nakedly imperial ambitions of the former Communist states: that which appeared to be conservative (in that it merely maintained a status quo) at one moment was also used to legitimize unusual, new aggression in another circumstance.
Relations with the Western European nations also were made more predictable by a series of international agreements in which the USSR was an interested party. In the early 1970s, treaties recognizing the existence of the two German states were signed by West and East Germany, as was a treaty between West Germany and Poland. While promises of improved relations were alluded to, each agreement actually acknowledged the legal propriety of the status quo. In 1975, the Helsinki Treaty recognized all of the extant frontiers in Europe as de jure international borders. These several treaties combined with a series of bilateral trade, cultural and other types of exchanges (e.g., scientific, athletic), including the US and the West Europeans in new relations with the USSR.
This period of relaxation of tensions after the crises of 1968 commonly is referred to as the era of "Detente." While Americans associate this policy with the Nixon administration, and especially with the diplomacy of Henry Kissinger, Europeans recall more accurately that the Ostpolitik ("East Policy") of West German (Social Democratic Party) Chancellor Willy Brandt preceded the US approach to Moscow by several years (Stokes: 158-159). The improvement of relations that evolved developed on other levels (e.g., agreements about nuclear weapons) throughout the 1970s, but came to a crashing halt in December 1979, after the USSR invaded the central Asian nation of Afghanistan.
Triangular Relations: USSR, China and the USA: The Period of Chinese-American Rapprochement. The tacit alliance between the US and the PRC that evolved, 1972-91, was the single event of greatest significance in undermining the bipolar global system. It demolished the clear ideological basis to the great divide in the world: communist powers then were found on both sides of the Cold War. It greatly shifted the balance of global power resources to the side of the US-NATO-Japan-China, thereby causing tremendous burdens to be borne by a Soviet economy too weak to attempt to match up. These burdens ultimately proved too heavy for the Soviet system to bear. In 1991, it simply collapsed.
Had it not been for the complication of the US escalation of its role in Vietnam in 1965, the USSR might have had problems on its eastern border sooner than it did. As Prof. Nogee has suggested, "The Chinese would probably have shifted their primary hostility from the US to the Soviet Union earlier had it not been for the Vietnam War" (first edition: 216).
As it was, developments in China in the later 1960s would provide the USSR scarcely more comfort than would the open rapprochement of China with the US after 1972. Diplomatic strain turned into public rebuffs: China refused to send delegates to the 23rd Party Congress of the CPSU (March 1966). In the Summer of 1967, Soviet seamen on the merchant ship Svirsk were arrested by Chinese zealots (Red Guards) and were detained until, after pleadings by top Soviet leaders, the sailors were "deported" by the Chinese.
Beginning in August 1966, and lasting through 1969 (some would say even longer), Mao led the CCP into conducting an internal purge that turned into a time of criticism of "bourgeoisification" of the Party. This "Cultural Revolution" both shook the foundations of Chinese Communism and laid the stage for a renewed and openly nationalistic set of priorities for the CCP once the social chaos was directed to subside. Throughout the Cultural Revolution and during the period of rule of the so-called "Gang of Four" thereafter (i.e., through 1976), Soviet "social imperialism" increasingly was attacked by PRC officials close to Mao. The sharp tone of these criticisms of the very nature of Soviet Communism diminished only a little in the first decade after Mao's death, 1976-86; and anti-Soviet policy by China was pursued throughout the era in which reform governments there set a new course for Chinese development (i.e., 1978-1991). Only after a decade of unrivalled U.S. dominance of world politics did the Chinese and the post-Soviet Russian Governments in 2002 again unite to denounce the excessive influence of the U.S. in world affairs.
Soviet policy toward China in the final two decades of the Cold War appears to have centered on reunification of the world communist movement. So long as this could be attained without the USSR having to make substantial concessions in the direction of the Chinese territorial demands, the USSR sought closer ties. China expressed little interest in such an arrangement. Chinese demands were articulated in a new and more forceful way in March 1969, when PLA troops attacked Red Army positions in northern Manchuria (at the Ussuri River) and in the central Asian border area adjacent to the Chinese province of Sinkiang. (See Salisbury for details).
In late 1969, the already limited Soviet agenda toward China had been reduced to the desire for an end to these border hostilities. An informal cease fire allowed for formal diplomatic ties between the two communist giants to be resumed, though no less a Soviet than second-in-command A. Kosygin needed to stop in Beijing (on his way back from northern Vietnam) to convey Soviet willingness to the Chinese.
The weakness of the Soviet policies vis-a-vis its eastern neighbors in the late 1960s and early 1970s were made more striking by the dramatic US-Chinese rapprochement that concurrently was begun (and fully consummated later, under President Carter). In October 1968, a plenum of the CCP had called for improved relations with the US, a rhetorical position parallel to that which had been implied in a Spring 1966 article by Harvard political scientist Henry Kissinger. In and of themselves, these murmurings demonstrated little. However, after the Ussuri River battles and the elevation of Kissinger to be President Nixon's National Security Advisor, new conditions presented new opportunities for the development of an anti-Soviet arrangement in eastern Asia. Such an arrangement evolved in measured steps to become a major national security headache for the USSR.
In 1971, Chinese and US diplomats exchanged notes in Warsaw, while Kissinger traveled secretly to China twice that same year. At the public level, the mere exchange of ping pong teams between the PRC and the US that year proved to be highly controversial. Nixon's dramatic state visit to Beijing (and elsewhere) in 1972 neutralized the trump cards of anticommunism within the US. With the most rabid of anti-communist presidents now openly courting China, within the US it would thereafter be much more difficult to exclude critics of global containment from forums of legitimate debate (e.g., US elections). It also underlined the weakening influence of the USSR in China. Formal diplomatic relations between the US and China were established in 1979. (US agreements to establish military-to-military consultations, to export atomic energy technology, and to sell sophisticated weapons to China have since been undertaken, though the dollar value of these strategic dimensions of growing US-China trade was overshadowed by their symbolic importance, in the Moscow's eyes).
To counteract the reversal of its fortunes in the east, the USSR pursued a policy that appeared to be designed to encircle its age-old Chinese adversary. Warm diplomatic relations with India, in 1971, were expanded and a "Friendship and Cooperation" treaty was concluded. This tacit alliance has continued to develop into a broad range of trade relationships, supply of armaments, and diplomatic cooperation. The Soviet-Indian entente remained essentially unaltered until the end of the Cold War, despite Red Army actions after 1979 in Afghanistan.
As Soviet-Indian relations flanked China to the south and southwest, strategic alliance with Communist Vietnam provided the Soviets an anti-Chinese ally on the southeast. On November 3, 1978, a agreement called the "Soviet-Vietnamese Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation" was signed. At article 6, it pledged both parties to "immediately consult with each other with a view to eliminating that threat" if either nation were to have been attacked. (An identical pledge was made in the Indian treaty). The accomplishment represented by these agreements --which put the USSR in a much better position in Asia in 1980 than in 1970 (or 1960)-- was perfectly consistent with the Soviet understanding of the nature of an era of "peaceful coexistence" and "detente." A relaxation of tensions did not represent the end of the pursuit of longstanding goals.
XI. Afghanistan and the end of the era of Detente
In December 1979, 120,000 troops of the Red Army occupied (formerly neutral) Afghanistan and installed an even more pro-Soviet regime there than had been the case since April 1978. Beyond simply installing a ruler, the Red Army attempted to garrison the entire country (in league with a quisling Afghan Army). European, Asian, and other allies of the USSR (e.g. Vietnam) stood defiantly alone in support of this policy in world forums. Even neutral nations which otherwise leaned toward the USSR (e.g., India) condemned the Afghanistan war.
The suppression of Afghan resistance to Soviet occupation proved difficult, costly and highly embarrassing to Soviet diplomacy worldwide. Over one million were reported to have died during the years of Soviet occupation (1979-89); over three million refugees fled into neighboring Iran and Pakistan. The Chinese and the U.S. opposed this policy and lent support to several groups of Afghanis who armed themselves in opposition to this Soviet conquest. War materials and financial aid to these Islamic mujahideen freedom fighters was a central (and relatively uncontroversial) element of the "Reagan Doctrine" US policy of aiding anti-Communist revolutions in the 1980s.
Among the byproducts of the Soviet invasion (and ultimately, their defeat) in Afghanistan were: (1) the reinforcement of the Sino-American relationship, (2) the confounding of any true Sino-Soviet reconciliation, and (3) the creation of a substantial impediment to improvement of US-Soviet relations on other regional and strategic questions. The strategic relationship between Washington and Moscow also grew alarmingly dangerous after the Reagan Administration came to office in 1981. By Fall of that year, Soviet leaders were convinced of U.S. malign designs, a view reinforced by later Reagan proposals to build new defensive weapons systems (known as the Strategic Defense Initiative, SDI, or more popularly as the "Star Wars" project). The U.S. edge in technological developments, paired with a perception of Reagan as recklessly anti-Soviet, produced in the highest levels of the Soviet defense establishment the belief that a U.S. nuclear first strike on the Soviet Union was nearing, and by the Fall of 1983, this fear grew into a belief that an attack was growing closer. As one Soviet military leader, Marshal Nikolai Ogarkov (First Deputy Defense Minister and Chief of the General Staff), privately told (Fischer/CIA, note 72) U.S. reporter Leslie Gelb at the time:
We cannot equal the quality of U.S. arms for a generation or two. Modern military power is based on technology, and technology is based on computers. In the US, small children play with computers.... Here, we don't even have computers in every office of the Defense Ministry. And for reasons you know well, we cannot make computers widely available in our society. We will never be able to catch up with you in modern arms until we have an economic revolution. And the question is whether we can have an economic revolution without a political revolution.
To counteract the (misperceived) danger of a U.S. attack on the USSR, Operation RYAN was undertaken by the Soviets, and Soviet diplomats in the West were told to begin observing personally whether lights were burning late at the defense ministries and other key bureaucracies, which the Soviets took as a sign that preparation for an attack on the USSR was imminent. The clear plan in RYAN was to act if signals from the West indicated an attack was imminent: the Soviet Union would launch its pre-emptive attack first. Domestically, the Soviets launched a vigorous "peace campaign" of rallies against U.S. aggression, which soon was imitated by sympathizers in the West. The RYAN crisis took the world as close to nuclear war as any event after the Cuban Missiles Crisis, yet it was hardly noticed outside intelligence circles in the West, substantially due to the strong enmity toward Reagan, "Star Wars," and other Reagan policies that were endemic in the 1980s in the universities and other non-defense analytic communities in the West.
However, the December 1987 Soviet-American treaty to dismantle Intermediate range Nuclear Forces, or INF, also illustrated that tensions could be eased if both states would approach one another with a clear understanding of their mutual interest in avoiding direct hostilities. One sign that this helpful transition had accompanied the change of leadership in the USSR was that in both capitals regional disputes such as Afghanistan were by the late 1980s no longer necessarily linked to nuclear questions. In this sense, even before the collapse of the USSR, the Cold War had become less comprehensive, hence somewhat less dangerous. Soviet behavior proved this lesson: they simply pulled out without victory (February 1989), a capitulation impossible during the height of the Cold War.
Nor was the Afghanistan war the only place in east Asia where anti-Soviet forces posed potent military challenges to Moscow and its allies. Chinese PLA forces in 1979, 1981, 1984 and 1986 briefly invaded the Soviet ally Vietnam, causing its ruling Communist party to mount expensive defenses along the border between Kiangsi, China and northern Vietnam. Several pitched battles involving thousands of troops on each side were fought. Additionally, Chinese military aid and American financial support given to guerrillas seeking to dislodge the pro-Soviet, Vietnamese-run government of Cambodia presented a continuing diplomatic problem for Kremlin planners in the 1980s and early 1990s. Strained financially at home, the Gorbachev government ultimately elected to withdraw its financial backing from Vietnam's Cambodian adventure. With little locally-generated income to underwrite such forays into socialist imperialism, Vietnam mimicked the Gorbachev Afghanistan policy and, on September 26, 1989, the last Vietnamese combat troops were withdrawn from Cambodia. Tragically, the Cambodian civil war ground on for a further two years, and real peace eluded that ravaged land throughout the 1990s.
Moreover, considerable diplomatic costs were borne by the USSR when it tried to check the cooperation of China and American in their foreign policies in Asia. Soviet diplomacy in Southeast Asia (e.g., vis-a-vis Thailand, Indonesia, etc.) was made more difficult by the militant, expansionistic behavior of the Soviet's ally, Vietnam. Similarly, Soviet approaches to the Arab world and the Middle East were undermined to a great degree by the rough means through which the Soviets tried and failed to consolidate power over (Islamic) Afghanistan. Only the socialist Arab states (Iraq; Libya) could ignore this struggle of "atheists" against the faithful so to continue to snuggle the Soviet bear.
Foreign Aid as a tool of Soviet Foreign Policy: Despite the universalistic slogans that once spewed from Moscow, Soviet foreign aid in final decades was parsimonious and directed relatively "close to home." Their efforts in Asia and the Middle East always were considerably more pragmatic than an ideological explanation of their priorities would predict. Yet, despite creative foreign aid granting priorities, the USSR had little to show for its indirect efforts at influence in the Third World. The leading recipient of Soviet Union (plus Eastern European) economic aid, 1955 to 1980, for example, was Turkey, a steadfast NATO member ($3.75 billion). India ($2.75 billion), proved to be a minor success story for Soviet foreign aid: its foreign policy gradually moved closer to the USSR right to the conclusion of the Cold War era. But the third greatest recipient, Egypt ($2.33 billion), virtually suspended all relations with the USSR in the early 1970s after they expelled Soviet military advisors in 1972. Morocco (fourth greatest recipient, $2.27 billion) remained firmly allied with the US; and Iran (fifth greatest recipient, $1.85 billion) broke its US alliance without realigning with the east. Only when we get to the sixth largest recipient of Soviet economic aid, Syria ($1.75 billion), do we discover a nation that in any sense could have been considered an ally or surrogate for the USSR in the Third World (all figures from Hosmer: 76). Events of 1990-91, particularly the First Gulf War, forced even Syria to reassess its Moscow connection and by 1991, Washington's influence there was on the rise despite earlier Soviet largesse. Other major recipients of Soviet era Russian aid, in descending order: #7. Afghanistan, $1.425 billion; #8. Algeria, $1.24 billion; #9. Iraq, $1.2 billion; #10. Pakistan, $1.135 billion.
XII. Russia after the Soviet Union: a retreat from globalism?
Prior to its final collapse, the USSR was a declining power. Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan (1989) proved to be but a step in what appeared to be a commitment by the CPSU to a new, less confrontational state policy of international relations by the Gorbachev administration. Without question, commitment of top state and Party leaders to international cooperation and reduction of tensions greatly contributed to the dawning of a new age. Most visibly, the final communist government acquiesced to the overthrow of communism in Eastern Europe. The Yeltsin Administration quickened withdrawal of Soviet/Russian forces from Eastern Europe 1992-94, and continued to adhere to important agreements to reduce the numbers of strategic nuclear weapons that had been penned by President Gorbachev, July 1991. All of these fundamental changes were symptomatic of the waning power of a collapsing economic and political system. Briefly, let us review the process that led to this state of affairs.
Eastern and Central Europe. Several major factors contributed to the reversal of the long-held policy of domination over these regions. First, a deep economic crisis within the USSR by the late 1980s focused top leaders' energies on the need to limit costly troop deployments abroad. Second, rising nationalist unrest within the USSR itself had reached the point that Red Army troops traditionally deployed abroad increasingly were needed for internal security within newly assertive republics of the USSR, especially in Azerbaijan, Georgia, Armenia, and other "sun belt" areas. Third, a relaxation of international tensions permitted advocates of withdrawal within the CPSU to argue that national security still could be preserved without direct Soviet control over the nations immediately to the west. This relaxation of tensions primarily occurred in bilateral relations with the USA and first was advanced through a series of international agreements concerning intermediate range nuclear weapons (1987) and chemical weapons. Both the formal agreements and the underlying change in atmosphere foreshadowed the more significant strides toward reduction of superpowers' strategic nuclear arsenals that were penned in July 1991. Finally, the role played by reform-minded, communist-led governments (first in Poland and Hungary) and, especially, by democratic human rights and independence movements in the GDR and Czechoslovakia should not be discounted. To stop these forces, an expensive reversion to Stalinist-Brezhnev tactics would have been required, which may not have worked. Though it substantially is correct to identify changes in Eastern Europe with the changed Soviet policy toward those regions brought about by innovations by President Gorbachev, independent East Europeans acting autonomously truly brought about the crisis of 1989 which forced Gorbachev's hand. The decision to move Soviet policy beyond the Brezhnev Doctrine was one born of necessity.
The Middle East. For years, the USSR had advocated the use of a UN-sponsored international conference as the best method through which a peace process could advance in the region. The U.S. long deferred to its Israeli ally in countering with the position that direct negotiation among the states involved would better provide a more promising route to peace. Throughout the 1980s, these superpower positions had become virtual bookends on the closed shelf of progress toward lasting peace in the region. By 1990, however, the USSR adopted a role toward the region consistent with the larger changes in the international system of 1989-90. The final Soviet president, Mikhail Gorbachev, nominally authorized Soviet diplomats to co-host the Madrid Peace Conference in September 1991, though by that time his authority had virtually been eclipsed by that of Russian President Boris Yeltsin. The post-Soviet Yeltsin Government (1991-2000) continued to support an Arab - Israel peace process convened largely by the U.S. throughout the decade, and his administration restored formal diplomatic recognition to Israel that had been suspended after 1967, and permitted very large numbers of Russian Jews to emigrate, mainly to Israel. This pattern was not unblemished. Some Russian arms sales continued to anti-Israel states such as Syria, and these increased under Yeltsin's successor, Vladimir Putin (2000-2008). But Soviet era training of Middle Eastern terrorists was completely cut off and never re-started under either Yeltsin or Putin.
Role of the United Nations. In 1988-89, the Soviets abandoned obstreperous behavior at the UN and joined with the West in agreeing to authorize UN peacekeeping forces that were sent to stabilize the truce lines between Iran and Iraq. This contributed to a conclusion to their long (1981-88) conflict. More significantly, after the Iraqi conquest of Kuwait (August 1990), the Soviet Union joined with the US, Britain, France and (to a lesser extent) China to adopt twelve separate resolutions of condemnation of Iraq in the Security Council. UN mandatory sanctions were imposed on the Soviets' former client, the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein. Soviet support was given first to a US-authored measure through which the UN authorized limited military force to be used in enforcing the UN mandated trade embargo against Iraq and Kuwait, and then, on November 29, 1990, the Gorbachev government voted with eleven others on the Security Council to approve U.N. Resolution 678 which authorized use of "all necessary means," including force against Iraq. Interestingly, China did not approve this resolution, but it also did not use its veto to stop it; it abstained. The Soviets' retrograde former client, Cuba, and the radical Arab state of Yemen cast the only symbolic votes in opposition. Post-Soviet Russian diplomats also found the U.N. useful as a means to legitimize Russian presence within post-Soviet Georgia, an act of intervention that effectively supported secessionist regions of Georgia in their efforts to win autonomy for post-Soviet governments in Tblisi.
Relations with Iraq. If the USSR was more helpful in international organizations as the Cold War wound down, care should be taken not to overstate the Soviet role in the real resolution of the first post-Cold War crisis. While the 1990-91 crisis in the Persian Gulf brought Soviet relations with the Hussein regime to a low point, the Soviets' diminished influence in the emerging post-Cold War world limited the real impact of this shift in their bilateral relations. Public calls from the Kremlin for a complete Iraqi withdrawal from Kuwait did little to dissuade a Hussein who had armed himself for decades with weapons of Soviet design and origin. While Gorbachev's USSR expressed its support for a U.N. trade embargo against Iraq in general terms, his diplomats were among those who pressed for generous exceptions to be made in the case of food and medicines. It fell entirely to the US and its allies to actually enforce the naval blockade which made effective the embargo. Some 200 Soviet military advisors also remained in Iraq until late in the build-up to the 1991 war, ostensibly kept there so as to inhibit Iraqi potential moves to make other Soviet civilian nationals hostages during the crisis months of November-December 1990. On the eve of actual conflict in early January 1991, the Gorbachev administration proposed its own formula which would have permitted Iraq several more weeks to withdraw its occupation army intact from Kuwait. This led President Bush swiftly to announce his final ultimatum --which Hussein promptly ignored, all the while consulting the Soviets by emissary and phone. Finally, as the USSR had refused to send ground forces or air units to join in the protection of Saudi Arabia during the build up to war of Fall 1990, so also did the Soviets fail to send a single soldier to join the 28 nations that did help in the ultimate liberation of Kuwait, January 16 to February 28, 1991. (Soviet ally Syria did send a few thousand soldiers who puttered about in rear areas and followed behind American liberation forces at a safe distance, however).
All of the above suggests that pundits overdid themselves in calling the new Soviet foreign policy under Gorbachev that of a "virtual ally" of the West in the Gulf. Ultimately, however, the shallow Soviet performance in the Gulf was quite unlike the drama they created in trying to direct earlier Cold War era crises: when push came to shove, when war broke out in January 1991, the USSR at least did not inflame the audience or otherwise act to impede the swift US-allied victory. However, in the years after Iraq's defeat, the Russian Government proved to be the most sympathetic member of the U.N. Security Council when Saddam Hussein era Iraq sought an audience for its demands that economic sanctions against them be modified or lifted altogether. Indeed, in a mini-crisis that welled up during Fall 1997-March 1998, Russian diplomats proved useful to Iraq in staving off imminent U.S. air raids, playing the role of mediators between the Hussein Government and the U.S., after American nationals on the United Nations Special Commission (i.e., UNSCOM, set up to destroy Iraq's weapons of mass destruction) abruptly were expelled from Iraq. Notably, the same Yevgeny Primakov who dallied for the Soviets so to delay the defeat of Iraq during the First Gulf War, was the Russian diplomat who teamed in 1997 with the same Tariq Aziz of Iraq to lead this Russian diplomatic effort. Russia again took Iraq's side in the 1998 crises over Iraq, and played a dampening role on U.S. initiatives designed to win U.N. Security Council authority for an American strike against Iraq in 2002-03. In Fall 2002, though Russia did vote in the Security Council with the U.S. to authorize UN 1441, a resolution to menace Iraq with "serious consequences" if Iraq were to delay further confirmation of the destruction of its weapons of mass destruction, Russian opposition to effective enforcement of UN 1441 meant that task would fall to the U.S. and the U.K. alone, in Spring 2003. Little direct support was given by the Putin Administration to the difficult U.S. occupation of Iraq, 2003-08, but at least Putin gave no succor to U.S. enemies there. Aid from Russia, including significant military aid, however, was extended to neighboring Iran, which numerous U.S. officials charged with aiding anti-U.S. forces in Iraq.
Relations with Israel. After nearly two decades of diplomatic non-cooperation, 1967-88, Soviet-Israeli relations warmed, 1988-91. More than 600,000 Soviet / Russian Jews were permitted to emigrate to the Jewish state during 1988-94. In September 1990, Moscow indicated that Israeli participation in a UN-sponsored Peace Conference might remove the last obstacle to formal ties between Jerusalem and the USSR. This conference began in October 1991 and was the formal front of Palestinian-Israeli meetings which concealed the real direct negotiations that were ongoing (in Norway) and that led to the 1993 Oslo peace agreement among these parties. Formal diplomatic relations between Russia and Israel finally were restored late in 1991, and within five years, nearly one half million Jews from the states of the former USSR left to go to Israel and other safer venue. Russian relations with Israel remained correct, if not overly warm, after the outbreak of the second intifada, September 2000 to the present, though Russian sales of anti-aircraft systems to Syria greatly annoyed Israeli leaders.
The Impact of Changed Foreign Policy within the Soviet Union. The CPSU's reticence to be confrontational, their retreats of 1989-91, conveyed clear messages to a key actor long discounted in the power equation: the Russian and Soviet peoples. Ultimately, it was they who suffered most for the grand Marxist-Leninist visions, and skewed priorities, of their leaders. The fraternal communist world, by 1990, deeply was splintering. Poland and Hungary first had demonstrated in the late 1980s that even communist parties there believed the system needed fundamental reform. In Fall 1989, the demonstration of moral strength provided by the people of the GDR and Czechoslovakia showed the whole world the clear limits to the power of communists' tanks. In Russia, this was not the first time that an incompetent Red Army had come into view. From the defeat in Afghanistan (1989) hundreds of thousands of Russian veterans, and millions of ordinary Soviet citizens, had learned that same conclusion. In the acquiescence to the US and its allies in the Persian Gulf (1990-91), the Russian and Soviet people saw further, clear signs that real fatigue, not "super" power, was the fact of their cherished Red Army. All this ran parallel to a clearly perceptible exhaustion of creative ideas among their political leaders. Opposition politicians by then were organized into proto-political parties. By 1989, some (e.g., Andrei Sakharov) used their positions as delegates to a newly elected Congress of Peoples' Deputies to launch scathing criticisms of the whole communist system. These disconcerting images no longer were censored: they were the diet of daily television viewers. Repression in Georgia (April 1989) and the Baltic states (January 1991) had not brought these challenges to an end, and the use of repressive tactics sharply had divided top levels of the CPSU. Gorbachev's policy of glasnost had let the public be informed of this division at the highest levels: e.g., in December 1990 Foreign Minister Eduard Schevardnadze publicly broke with Gorbachev, denounced the coming repression, and resigned. Other notables, e.g. Russian Federation President Boris Yeltsin in 1990, quit the CPSU. The authoritarian remnants of Soviet totalitarian political power were further frayed by a steep economic downturn that accompanied Gorbachev's final years: hard times became harder, and were exacerbated by this long string of foreign policy embarrassments.
The catalyst of the final and indisputable conclusion to the Cold War, and the international system it begot, clearly was the attempt to breathe new life into the communist dinosaur by the Emergency Committee of hard line Communists and KGB who tried to seize power August 19-21, 1991. They would have turned the Gorbachev approach to ash. But a hotter fire, once ignited, had already begun to burn. The people of Moscow and Leningrad (now St. Petersburg, again) by the sheer will of their convictions showed the rebels that, irrespective of what some generals might say, the power of communism was dead. Russian President Yeltsin symbolized the new aspirations of democracy's advocates and rallied the troops of Gen. Pavel Grachev to the cause of the new Russian Revolution. The Emergency Committee was arrested and four months later, in late December 1991, the USSR was dissolved; President Yeltsin then set about dismantling communism as a system.
Post-Communist Russia has been unable to play as significant role on the world stage. In the 1990s, this principally was due to the collapse of political and economic system that supported the state that was the heart of its own empire. Energies and resources that during the Cold War were used to project power into other world regions (e.g., Eastern Europe) were so atrophied as to barely be able to be used to try to re-stabilize the former Soviet land area itself. Domestically, this situation carried serious political implications for the durability of the reform government, as the 22.8 percent vote for bellicose expansionist candidate Vladimir Zhirinovsky in December 1993, and the continuing success of the Russian Communist Party in elections in the 1990s demonstrated. These trends, both economic and diplomatic, were reversed under Yeltsin's successor, Pres. Putin.
The Yeltsin Administration initially sought to lead Russia into a new confederated relationship with the fourteen other former Soviet states, a Commonwealth of Independent States. This new union proved illusory and full independence ultimately was asserted by all, though Belarus --the least successful of the states-- re-affiliated in name, if not in fact, with Russia within a few years. Relations between these formerly Soviet states turned problematic. The Baltic states of Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania ultimately gained N.A.T.O. membership, and complete withdrawal of Russian troops from all three Baltic states' soil was achieved. The future relations among these states remain problematic, and some policies in the Baltics have provoked some Russians by limiting Russian-ethnics' rights within the new Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania.
In late November 1993, the Russian Army issued a new Military Doctrine document that stated that "the danger of war does remain." It cautioned such states as those in the Baltic region when it classified as a "military danger for the Russian Federation... [in the] suppression of the rights, freedoms and legitimate interests of citizens of the Russian Federation in foreign states" (FBIS: 3). The doctrine asserted Russian "rights" to intervene in the former USSR, now termed the "near abroad." Russian troops refused to leave a rebellious region of Moldova, an independent former SSR of the USSR lacking any border with Russia. Russian nationalists continue to lobby for restoration of the Soviet empire, a view which substantially was reiterated by a further revision of Russian military doctrine issued in 2000.
Policy has not yet fully been aligned with the doctrine, however, and the ineffectual performance of the Russian Army in quelling an internal uprising in the Russian Federation autonomous area of Chechnya, 1994-1996, and again in 1998-2004, demonstrated that the current Russian state lacks some of the capability needed to seriously pursue a policy to reconstruct a restored Russian Empire. Thus, in most of the newly independent parts of the former USSR, Russian military presence has been nominal. But in some areas traditional expansionism nonetheless may be unfolding. In Moldova, secessionist non-Moldovan ethnics launched a struggle to create their own state and have received substantial assistance from apparently autonomous commanders within the Russian armed forces. While the Yeltsin Administration disavowed any such involvement, Russian forces remained without any apology to prevent reunification of Moldova under an independent government throughout the Putin era.
In the Caucuses, the passing of communism allowed the region's traditional status (i.e., chaos) again to reign. War began between Armenia and Azerbaijan during the Communist era (i.e., in Fall 1988) and turned decisively toward an Armenian victory by 1993-94. Governments in the dismembered Azerbaijan proved unstable and militarily inept. Russian influence over the Azerbaijan administration waned as Western corporate designs on Azerbaijan's oil riches prodded that state's authoritarian leaders toward the West. Yeltsin Administration efforts to veto international contracts that Azerbaijan sought to enter into with Western oil consortia ultimately proved a reach too far. Azerbaijan has moved closer to the West, at least in terms of trade relations; though its rival, Armenia, has enjoyed greater sympathy and generosity in the receipt of foreign aid, especially U.S. economic aid. In Georgia, a January 1992 revolution dislodged the first elected president, the mercurial Zviad Gamsakurdia, and the return of Georgian native Eduard Schevardnadze to lead the Tbilisi administration could not bring any quick end to three separate civil wars there. One group initially sought to return the deposed president to power, a fruitless effort: he committed suicide on December 31, 1993; a second conflict centered on groups that sought secession for Ossetian minority areas in northern Georgia, near Chechnya; and a third rebellion sought secession for an Abkhazian district in western Georgia. Meddling in these conflicts by Russian Army forces has been evident; indeed, the Schevardnadze's government --which fell to revolution in 2003-- might well have been toppled earlier had Russian tanks and troops not intervened late in 1993. In an odd turn of events, in 1994, the U.S. Clinton Administration agreed to designate part of the Russian contingent in Georgia as official U.N. peacekeeping forces, in exchange for Russian non-vetoing of U.N. resolutions authorizing US intervention in Haiti. Those Russian troops remained in Georgia many years into the new Millennium, despite efforts by the Georgian government to get them to leave. Nonetheless, Georgia under three presidents has pursued improved relations with the West and has not sought to realign with Moscow.
After September 11, 2001, tsmall contingents of U.S. training forces entered this complicated picture after Georgia requested assistance in dealing with Muslim terrorists holed up in its Pinkisi Gorge, near Chechnya. As mentioned above, in the part of the Caucuses that still is part of the Russian Federation, in December 1994, Yeltsin dispatched Russian troops to the (self-declared) breakaway "republic" of Chechnya, where a particularly vicious form of armed fighting ultimately led at first to Russia's defeat (fall 1996), then to their re-entry (1998) and to a protracted war extending in the new Millennium. While pro-Russian Chechens consolidated power by the middle of the first decade of the new millennium, Islamists' resistance has continued in a more muted form down to the present day.
In the Central Asian independent republic of Tadjikistan, Russian troops also played a major role in securing the border with Taliban-run Afghanistan, 1996-2001. Russia acquiesced to the entry of U.S. troops there as part of the operation launched by the U.S. in Fall 2001 which removed the Taliban from power. Ethnic inter-communal violence has continued in Uzbekistan and elsewhere in that region, often menacing the remnants of the Russian ethnic communities that once ruled there during the Soviet era. Many of these Russian ethnics have emigrated out of the region. The dangers posed to the remaining Russian ethnic residents have provided both a headache to the Yeltsin/Putin administrations and a pretext for intervention. American influence in several of these republics grew after military operations against Afghanistan began in October 2001, but Uzbekistan expelled the American military bases in 2005 after its government found U.S. human rights criticisms unhelpful.
Another serious situation in terms of its implications for U.S. foreign policy and world peace was the impasse between the Russian Government and that of Ukraine. Ukraine possessed several hundred nuclear weapons when the USSR dissolved. Despite early assurances that it would dismantle these and would ratify the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, only in 1994 were any of the preliminary steps toward these ends begun, but they never were completed. Other foreign policy issues also divide the two former bed mates: ownership of the former Red Navy Black Sea fleet; attitudes toward secessionist claims by the Crimean region of Ukraine, and toward the uprising in Moldova. Moreover, the Eastern Ukrainian Donbass region --heavily Russian in its ethnic composition-- has also leaned toward secession from the nation. For these several reasons, Ukrainian-Russian relations have remained volatile and U.S. foreign policy toward each of these large states are affected. While Russia largely has been cooperative with U.S. goals in the war on terrorism, strong evidence of Ukrainian export of missiles and other technologies to Iraq de-railed further U.S. cooperation with Kiev in 2002-3. Old rivalries also seemed to surface in a crisis surrounding the succession to the Ukrainian presidency in December 2004 - January 2005. Putin and the Russian Government favored Viktor Yanukovych, a pro-Russian candidate, while Western neighbors and the U.S. backed an opposition leader, Viktor Yushchenko, in the balloting. A first round of voting ended with large street demonstrations on behalf of Yushchenko, who charged authorities with fraudulent counting of ballots, a position with which the Ukrainian Supreme Court eventually agreed. In a second vote, the pro-Western Yushchenko was certified the winner in January 2005, and his administration charted a largely pro-Western course in the years that followed.
We return to the issues that began our inquiry into U.S. relations with Soviet Russia throughout this century. Was our conflict always against the Communists alone and their goal in which our capitalistic system would one day lay destroyed? Or was it against the instability created for the world by any type of powerful state in the heart of Eurasia bent on expanding at the expense of its neighbors? In the Cold War era, sorting through this issue pointed only toward slight differences among the ways we might seek to deploy opposing power so to advance our interests. Today, and for the foreseeable future, quite different courses of action reasonably follow from these different assumptions. These might range from alliance with Russia, to fomenting trouble in key areas, to supporting further secessions of areas within the Russian Federation, or to a policy that would dispense with Russia altogether and concentrate on its newly independent neighbors. Central to how now to proceed is the answer to how we understand the problem which lay at the center of the Cold War.
When economic ruin of the reform experiment in Russia seemed evident in an economic collapse of August 1998, dangerous chaos in much of the former Soviet Union seemed assured. But effective leadership by Pres. Putin, and the strategic decision to support the U.S. in the war on terrorism, paired with improving world oil prices to pull Russia's bacon from the fire once again. By 2005, the Russian economy steadily was growing. How much further toward accommodation should the U.S. go? Whether to remain aloof, or to pursue vigorous new aid to Russia vexed American officials and the Congress throughout the Clinton years. The George W. Bush team, led by Secretary of State and fluent Russian speaker (former National Security Advisor) Condoleezza Rice, in the past advocated a larger role for Russia in world affairs; candidate Bush even once suggested in a national presidential debate that it was the U.S. interest that Russia be included in American efforts to coerce (now deposed) Yugoslav strongman Slobodan Milosevic to surrender power. A second theme in U.S. policy was one of wooing former Soviet allies, thereby weakening the power potential of any resurgent Russia. In 1998, Hungary, the Czech Republic, and Poland joined the N.A.T.O. alliance, much to Russian annoyance. Subsequently, Romania , Bulgaria, and the Baltic states joined the N.A.T.O. alliance in 2003. Each of the new Balkan members also was helpful to the N.A.T.O. air war effort against Yugoslavia in 1999.
Even Ukraine once cautiously flirted with the idea of similar protective agreements, though a half measure, the Partnership for Peace, extended early in the 1990s has not yet proven to lead much further. Russia exports of nuclear materials and other dangerous technologies to Iran, a state defined by the U.S. President as "axis of evil," has continued to divide Moscow from Washington; and the U.S. and Russia remained at loggerheads about how to resolve the occupation of Kosovo: Russia opposes, and the U.S. may ultimately support independence for Kosovo. These flat notes stand out in the otherwise more harmonic efforts of Russian and the U.S. to find mutual interests, e.g. the defeat of international terrorism. A resurgent Russia may remains a potential threat, but real evidence of that threat still lies far beyond the horizon. But how to cope with these tarnished jewels of the East remains a major dilemma for U.S. foreign policy in the new millennium.
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