Tuesday, January 1, 2008

La politica externa de Rusia


Russian Foreign Policy

THE REVOLUTION brought about an abrupt reversal of Russian foreign policy. The
day after the seizure of power the Congress of Soviets adopted a Decree on Peace
drafted by Lenin. This called for an immediate peace without annexations and
indemnities and stated that the new Russian government was ready to begin peace
talks immediately. In the months that followed the Bolsheviks exposed the capitalist
nature of the war and called on all workers to repudiate the aggressive policies of their
governments. They published the secret treaties on the post-war division of Europe
and Asia which the Tsarist government had made with the Allies. They renounced
Tsarist Russia’s aim of controlling the Dardanelles, and voluntarily gave up the
Russian ‘spheres of influence’ in China and Iran which had been extorted by force
from governments too weak to resist. They proclaimed the right of ‘selfdetermination’
and allowed Finns, Poles, Estonians, Latvians and Lithuanians to
secede and become independent states. These actions won sympathy for the
Bolsheviks among the workers throughout the world.
Lenin’s government, however, soon showed a different attitude towards breakaway
movements in Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan. Georgia, which had been recognised
as independent in 1919, was reoccupied by Russian troops in 1921 and the two other
areas were incorporated in it. When the British Labour Party protested and proposed a
referendum to find out the wishes of the population, Lenin ridiculed the idea and
proposed that the British Government start by evacuating India and Ireland and
having referenda in those countries. (David Shub, ‘Lenin’, Pelican Books 1966, page
Trotsky, who had been appointed Commissar for Foreign Affairs, declared that in this
field there were two tasks. To end the “shameful and criminal slaughter which is
destroying Europe” and to aid the coming revolution which would overthrow
capitalism in Europe.
It is to the credit of the Bolsheviks that they did put a stop to the slaughter on the
eastern Front. An armistice and then peace were quickly concluded with the Central
Powers. That peace for Russia was not maintained was not their fault, for after
defeating Germany the victorious Allies turned on Soviet Russia. In the period 1918-
20 a state of undeclared war existed between Russia and the Allies. British, French,
Japanese and other troops occupied parts of Russia and aided the reactionaries who
were seeking to restore the Tsarist regime.
The Bolsheviks were however deluding themselves in thinking that a socialist
revolution in Europe was imminent. Yet in the early days of the revolution their
policies were based on this hope: Zinoviev, the first president of the Communist
International which was set up in 1919, wrote on 1 May 1919 that “in a year the
whole of Europe will be communist”.
As their dreams of a European revolution faded the Bolsheviks were forced to pursue
a more realistic policy. Their aim became to get international recognition as the
legitimate government of Russia. In March 1921 an Anglo-Soviet trade agreement
was signed and in 1922 the Bolshevik government was invited to an international
conference in Genoa. Later in the year the treaty of Rapallo with Germany was
signed. The Bolsheviks justified these moves as a means of gaining time by playing
off capitalist states against each other. But with the failure of the insurrection led by
the Comintern in Bulgaria and Germany in 1923, the Bolshevik government, now
coming increasingly under the control of the Stalin group, began to abandon all hope
of a world revolution and to concentrate on building up industrial strength at home.
During the years that followed the Bolshevik government gradually gained
international recognition but was still not fully accepted as a respectable member of
the international capitalist community. It denounced the League of Nations as a
“league of bandits”. Lip service was still paid to the aim of world revolution and in
1927 the Comintern did try an insurrection in China which once again failed. This
was to be the last of such experiments in insurrection.
With the rise of Germany under the Hitler government, the Bolsheviks changed their
policy to one of actively seeking friendship of the rest of the capitalist world. In 1934
Russia applied for membership of the “league of bandits” and signed a Defence Pact
with France. The aim of this policy was to use the League to organise the capitalist
states opposed to Germany to deter any aggression which might deter any aggression
which might endanger Russian interests. The Comintern, now entirely purged of
opposition elements, became a simple tool of Russian foreign policy. The various
Communist Parties dropped their pseudo-revolutionary talk and campaigned for a
‘popular front against fascism’. The slogan ‘world revolution’ was openly replaced by
‘defence of the Soviet Union’.
The first shock for those who thought of Russia as an anti-imperialist, peace-loving
state came in 1939 with the Russian attack on Finland. Three months before this, in
August 1939, Ribbentrop flew to Moscow to sign a Russo-German non-aggression
Pact. This change represented a recognition that their previous policy of using the
League of Nations as a deterrent had failed. The new policy was a return to power
politics; an attempt to gain security by playing off the other European powers against
each other. The Pact was followed by secret agreements for the division of Eastern
Europe into Russian and German ‘spheres of influence’. Russia was to have the Baltic
Republics and part of Poland. These agreements were put into effect almost
immediately. Russia also took the opportunity to annex a part of Rumania. In the end
this policy too was a failure and in June 1941 Russia was brought into the world-wide
slaughter which had begun in Europe nearly two years previously.
The Bolsheviks had denounced the First World War as a “predatory war” for the
redivision of the world amongst the imperialist powers. The Second World War was
no different, but now Bolshevik Russia was one of the predatory powers. On coming
to power the Bolsheviks had denounced secret diplomacy and called for a peace
without annexations or indemnities. During the Second World War Russia was a party
to the secret agreements for the post-war division of the world made at the Yalta
conference in 1945. at this and other conferences Russia made a number of claims: for
a base in Turkey to control the Dardanelles; for a UN trusteeship in Libya; for “the
former rights of Russia violated by the treacherous attack of Japan in 1904” (a war
which the Bolsheviks opposed at the time). On top of this, ten thousand million
dollars reparations was demanded from Germany. All these claims were not accepted
by the other powers, but as the Red Army overran Eastern Europe, more parts of the
former Tsarist Empire were annexed including the Baltic republics, Latvia, Estonia
and Lithuania. In Asia parts of China and Japan were annexed. The Red Army also
marched into Northern Iran and while there forced the government to accept an
agreement giving Russia fifty years’ control of the oil industry in the region which
before 1914 had been a Tsarist Russia ‘sphere of interest’. (Under American and
was once again a fully-fledged imperialist power, strong enough to impose its will on
weaker states.
After the war Russia extended its political control over all Eastern Europe: Poland,
Czechoslovakia, Albania, Yugoslavia, Hungary, Bulgaria, Rumania and parts of
Germany and Austria. These areas were not actually annexed though they might well
have been. Their industries were looted to rebuild Russian industry without regard to
the effect on the workers; and their trade was entirely in Russian hands. Just after the
war Russian power in Europe was greater than it had been under the Tsars.
The Western powers, which had just beaten off an attempt by Germany and Japan to
dislodge them as dominant world powers did not look kindly at Russian expansion in
Europe. After the Russian coup in Czechoslovakia in 1948 it became obvious to the
American government that Russia represented a new threat to their dominant position
and they determined to act. They put on the Berlin airlift to break the Russian
blockade in 1948, and in 1949 organised NATO.
The years that followed were those of the cold war. The older and fatter bandits used
their strength to try to keep a newer bandit in his place.
Although the Comintern had been dissolved in 1943 to please the Allies, the
Communist parties outside Russia were once again brought in to serve the aims of
Russian foreign policy. By their patriotic flag-waving during the war and their claim
to be anti-fascist these parties had built up some support and sympathy. This was now
to be turned to good use through a bogus ‘peace campaign’. The pre-war slogans of a
‘people’s front’ were replaced by slogans for ‘peace’. The Russian rulers calculated
that, with a strong pacifist sentiment at home, the Western powers would not be
prepared to react so decisively against Russian attempts to expand at their expense.
Many of the twists of Russian foreign policy since the end of the war – as of foreign
policies of the Western powers – were prompted by the development of nuclear
weapons, the re-emergence of Germany in the European economic community and
the growing military power of China.
During the rise of the Hitler regime the Russian government had held the view,
proclaimed by Foreign Minister Molotov at the time of the Stalin-Hitler pact of
friendship in 1939, “we have always held that a strong Germany is an indispensable
condition for durable peace in Europe”. After the war this was turned into its opposite,
that of preventing them from having nuclear weapons.
These were the years during which Russia was trying to overtake the American lead
in nuclear armaments and the Attlee Labour government in Britain was building its
own atomic bomb and starting work on the H-bomb. The Russian government’s view,
faithfully echoed in the Communist Daily Worker, was that the first Russian atom
bomb was “tremendous news” calculated to encourage “peace-loving people
everywhere” (24 September 1949), but the British bomb was “an unmitigated curse”,
“a coward’s weapon, designed for the unrestrained massacre of the civilian
population.” (18 February 1952.)
From 1958 to 1961 America, Russia and Britain suspended nuclear tests and thus
halted for a time the hideous poisoning of the world’s atmosphere with atomic fallout.
The Russian government then resumed massive tests in the air, including the
explosion of the megaton bomb, on the cynical plea that they had a ‘right’ to make the
tests the Americans had made earlier.
During this period Russia and China had been seeing more eye to eye in foreign
affairs and Russia had helped China with its own nuclear development. Then relations
worsened – Russia provided military help to India in its conflict with China and
Chinese propaganda began to include claims on Russian territories; frontier incidents
were reported. There were too, mutual accusations of having ‘betrayed the revolution’
and of being capitalist and fascist. Already in 1963 the British Communist Party was
criticising the Chinese government’s policy of equipping itself with nuclear missiles.
(Daily Worker, 17 august 1963.) as Russia’s relations with china turned to cold war so
Russian-American relations became less overtly hostile.
In 1963 a Test Ban treaty was negotiated and in 1966-7 talks were going on between
the American and Russian governments about the possibility of mutual agreement not
to embark on an enormously expensive plan to defend their cities with anti-missile
defence systems.
Only the future can tell whether this is the beginning of a new international line-up of
the powers.
The history of Russian foreign policy since 1917 is the history of the abandonment of
revolutionary slogans for ‘realistic’ policies designed to further the interests of Russia
as a great capitalist state.

Next Chapter 10

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