“We do not want a single foot of foreign territory but we will not surrender a single inch of our territory either” Stalin.
With the advent of the Russian Communist revolution in 1917, a new political and economic system came into being. As the sole communist state in the world, the USSR has no natural allies and was regarded with great hostility by the West. These feelings were reciprocated by the Russians, who were deeply suspicious of the capitalist West. Who were remembered with essentially negative feelings given their interference in the Russian civil war.
So it was that when Stalin came to power that he adopted a conservative foreign policy. He took a mainly defensive position as he sought to deep the Western powers at bay while consolidating communism and building up Russia under his policy of ‘socialism in one country’. In order to do this Stalin needed peace, which led to a fear of war which was of ‘incredible intensity’To achieve peace, Stalin continued to make use of the 1922 Treaty of Rapallo with Germany. The treaty was renewed in 1926 and allowed Germany to circumvent the terms of the Treaty of Versailles by having military bases in Russia along with factories which produced poison gas, tanks and aeroplanes.
.. In return, Russia received progressive Western military techniques(mainly defensive).
In 1928, Russia signed the Kellog-Briand pace outlawing was a means of solving disputes. This was in aid of Stalin’s wish to create a ‘barrier of peace’.As regards Communist movements in other countries Stalin saw himself as their supreme master. He insisted on total control of all foreign Communist parties. In the 19287 Comintern Directive, he forbade the German Communist Party(KDP) from forming an alliance with the more moderate Social Democratic Federation(SDP). This weakened the Left in its dealings with Hitler and with the rise of Hitler’s Nazi government in 1933, Stalin realised his mistake. This led to a new policy of which was announced at the Congress of the 3rd Communist International in 1935.
It approved of Communist co-operation with Liberals and Socialists which became known as the popular front. This new period of European pan-socialism gave rise to Popular Front governments in countries such as France and Spain in the 1930’s. It was in this administration however, in Spain that gave rise to the Spanish Civil War of 1936. A conflict which Stalin saw fit to involve himself. During the war Stalin sent sufficient aid to prolong rather than win the war. There was never more than 2,000 Russian personnel in Spain, along with a small amount of tanks and planes at any one time.The rise of Hitler in Germany, circa 1933, led to an end of the period of German-Russian co-operation. In September 1934, Russian entered the League of Nations even though Stalin had earlier condemned it as a ‘capitalist club’.
This was part of his policy of collective security. Stalin sought to exploit every diplomatic tool at his disposal to avoid being caught alone in a war with Nazi Germany. Non-aggression pacts were signed with Poland, Lithuania, Finland, Estonia and Romania. In 1935, a mutual assistance pact which furthered his ultimate of collective security was signed with France and Czechoslovakia(A clause in Franco-Russian treaty allowed for assistance to Czechoslovakia only if both countries were united in their efforts)The weakness of Russia’s position was made evident in 1935 when Russia was not invited to join the Streasa Front and by the failure of the Western powers to resist Hitler’s occupation of the Rhineland in 1936.During the 30’s, Russia’s relations with foreign powers was damaged by Stalin’s purges which served to leave the USSR isolated on the world stage. This allowed for the continuation of the British policy of Appeasement. So that in 1938 Stalin saw the success of Hitler at the Munich conference to which Russia was again not invited. When Germany invaded Czechoslovakia in March 1039, Stalin saw this as a start of Hitler’s policy of Lebensraum.
The success of this invasion showed Stalin the failure of his wish for collective security which led to a turnaround in his foreign policy. In an effort to gain valuable preparation for a was he now saw as inevitable he signed the Nazi-Soviet non-aggression pact in August 1939. This allowed for 10 years when neither would attack the other and a secret clause allowed for the partition of Poland if either power invaded.In September 1939 WWII broke out with the German invasion of Poland. Stalin moved quickly to secure the lands promised to him by the Nazi-Soviet Pact. An atmosphere of co-operation continued between Germany and Russia with Russia providing Germany with oil, grain and war materials and allowing German ships use of Russian naval bases.
Disagreements arose over proposed areas of German occupation in the Baltic states which saw a dip in Nazi-Soviet relations. This led to Hitler giving the order for Operation Barbarossa in June 1941. This took Stalin by surprise as he had not expected the attack while Germany was still engaged in the Battle of Britain.
The Russian army was not ready which allowed for the speed and success of Hitler’s first moves. Yet eventually Stalin and the whole of Russia fought back against the invaders and ‘tore the guts out of the German army’.