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Monday, 21 April 2008

Soviet Union foreign policy in perspectives

[An alliance may aim at augmenting ones insufficient power, or it may be intended to control the ally’s use of power even while supplementing it. U.S.S.R. foreign policy in perspectives.]

By: Ahmad Syah Ejaz Bin Hj. Ismail

INTRODUCTION

Soviet Union is considered as one of the main empires of history, equal to Notables Empires such as the British Empire and the Roman Empire. [1]U.S.S.R. borrowed most of its foreign policy from the previous Tsarist Russia Empire. Most of the Russian foreign policy is motivated by its own policy references which determined Russia behaviour.

Scholars argued that Soviet Union carried the same principal of world empires due to their tendencies of such act below:-

i. Territorial expansion through invasion or subversion (e.g.: Caucasus, Central Asia, Poland, Finland, or the Baltic States);
ii. Strong Central government [2]controlling the governments of subsidiary and satellite territories; and
iii. Interference (including through the use of military force) in the internal politics of its allies (e.g.: Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Poland, and Afghanistan).

IDEOLOGY AND OBJECTIVES OF SOVIET FOREIGN POLICY

U.S.S.R. tries hard to get recognition from the world community through its decision of submitting to the United Nations after the World War II. As one of the greatest superpower through its vast armies, Soviet Union had used its [3]veto rights in the U.N. Security Council resolutions mainly for the purpose of World Communism and preserving the world Socialist systems.

Most of the conflict between ideologies of U.S.S.R. and the United States was their drive to get geopolitical influences from the world community. While the United States signed [4]treaties to form alliances with its World War II allies and the Third World countries to repel the influence of the World Communism, the U.S.S.R. verge an alliance of its own World Socialist system states to counter the United States power, NATO alliance, and the Capitalist states.

The two main drives of the U.S.S.R. ideology and objectives which determines its behaviour towards the world community are it’s believe in the [5]proletariat internationalism and its effort for peaceful coexistence with the world. The basic character of Soviet foreign policy was set forth in Vladimir I, Lenin’s Decree on Peace, which adopted by the Second Congress of Soviets in November 1917. Proletariat internationalism refers to the common cause of the working classes of all countries in struggling to overthrow the bourgeoisie and to establish communist regimes.

Peaceful coexistence refers to measures to ensure relatively peaceful government-to-government relations with Capitalist states. Both policies can be pursued simultaneously. “Peaceful coexistence does not rule out but presupposes determined opposition to imperialist aggression and support for peoples defending their revolutionary gains or fighting foreign oppression”.

According to the Twenty-Seventh Party Congress which was held in February-March 1986, “The main goals and guidelines of the [6]CPSU’s international policy included; 1) Ensuring favourable external conditions conducive to building communism in the Soviet Union; 2) Eliminating the threat of World War; 3) Disarmament; 4) Strengthening the World Socialist system; 5) Developing equal and friendly relations with “liberated Third world countries”; 6) Peaceful coexistence with the Capitalist countries; and 7) Solidarity with Communist and revolutionary-democratic parties, the international worker movement, and national liberation struggles.

Although the emphasis and ranking of priorities were subject to change, two basic goals of Soviet foreign policy remained constant which were; 1) National security (safeguarding CPSU rule through internal control and the maintenance of adequate military forces); and 2) To influence over Eastern European neighbour to World Socialist systems through [7]military and [8]economic alliances.

SOVIET BEHAVIOUR

Many analysts have examined the way Soviet Union behaves especially in forming alliances with various regions and countries. There are five main drive factors which determine and support the general goals of the Soviet foreign policy and its alliance. The factors were:-

i) Primary emphasis on relations with the United States (that considered the foremost threat to the national security of the Soviet Union);
ii) Second priority was given to relations with Eastern Europe (the European members of the Warsaw Pact);
iii) Third priority was given to the littoral or propinquities states along the southern border of the Soviet Union such as:-
· Turkey (a NATO member),
· Iran,
· Afghanistan,
· People’s Republic of China,
· Mongolia,
· [9]The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and
· Japan.

iv) Fourth priority was given to the regions near to, but not bordering the Soviet Union; and
v) Last priority was given to the Sub Saharan Africa, the islands in the Pacific, South Asia, and Southeast Asia.

In general, Soviet foreign policy was most concerned with superpower relations (and, more broadly, relations between members of NATO and the Warsaw Pact). Soviet foreign policy and political or military alliance is seen by observers mainly to strengthen Soviet fragile Communism idea based on the span time of its conceptions which embraces Socialist system in contrast with the political and economic idea during the Tsarist Russia.

After millions of people died during the Russia revolutions in 1917 and the World War II with Nazi’s Germany (which includes the most brightest, and bureaucratic personnel), Soviet Union seems to be very much in the states of brain drain. Post World War II period sees the Soviet Union need to counter the threat of the Capitalist system not by absolving through another World War, but through [10]détente and proxy wars. That is why most of the alliances formed by the U.S.S.R. are intended to guard the special interest of the World Socialist system even while supplementing its ally’s through military assistance.

THE WARSAW PACT

Moscow considered Eastern Europe to be a buffer zone for the forward defence of its Western borders and ensured its control of the region by transforming the East European countries into subservient allies. Such can be seen through the formation of the Warsaw Pact on May 14, 1955. This treaty signed solely as a counter balance of the [11]NATO treaty of the Capitalist world system.

Officially named The Warsaw Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance, members of the Warsaw Pact pledged to defend each other if one or more of the members were attacked. The treaty also stated that relations among the signatories were based on mutual non-interference in internal affairs and respect for national sovereignty and independence.

Even though Warsaw Pact claims as such, a Soviet act towards its members such as Hungary and Czechoslovakia tells the different story. Soviet troops crush a popular uprising and rebellion in Budapest Hungary in 1956 an ended insubordination by the Czech government in 1968 only to strengthen the point that Soviet intended to control its Warsaw allies through the use of power even while supplementing it. It is evidences that the Warsaw Pact was created to counter NATO and North-West-East Germany. Such strained felt by Hungary and Czechoslovakia was unsuppressed when citizens of the Warsaw Pact members ended up by throwing their government out at the end of the 1980’s. In 1989, many Eastern European citizens were [12]tired of the Soviet dominations.

The Warsaw Pact which represents the Soviet Russia as the supreme commander and its encroachment towards its allies ceased and dissolved at a meeting in Prague on 1 July 1991. Efforts to control the Eastern European states were implement not just mainly through military alliances but also by forming an economic bloc which dominated also by the Soviet Union. Soviet Union efforts to extend its influence or control over many states and peoples through economic means resulted in the formation of a World Socialist system of states through an alliances and economic treaty. Established in 1949 as an economic bloc of Communist countries led by Moscow, the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (COMECON) served as a framework for cooperation among the planned economies of the Soviet Union, its allies in Eastern Europe and, later Soviet allies in the Third World. The military counterpart to the COMECON was the Warsaw Pact.

COMECON


The Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (COMECON) membership is much and significantly wider than the Warsaw Pact. All COMECON members were “united” by a commonality of fundamental class interest and the ideology of Marxism-Leninism and had common approaches to economic ownership (state versus private) and management (plan versus market). COMECON provided a mechanism through which its leading members, the Soviet Union, sought to foster economic links with and among its closest political and military allies.

There were three kinds of relationship besides the 10 full memberships-with the COMECON:-

i) Yugoslavia was the only country considered to have associate member status. On the basis of the 1964 agreement, Yugoslavia participated in twenty-one of the 32 key COMECON institutions as if it were a full member;
ii) Finland, Iraq, Mexico, Nicaragua, and Mozambique had a non-socialist co operant status with COMECON; and
iii) Ater 1957, COMECON allowed certain countries with Communist or pro-Soviet government to attend sessions as observers.

The primary factors in COMECON’s formation appear to have been Joseph Stalin’s desire to enforce Soviet domination of the lesser states of Central Europe and to mollify some states that had expressed interest in the [13]Marshall Plan, and which were now, increasingly cut off from their traditional markets and suppliers in Western Europe.

One of the stark evidence which shows that COMECON was mainly formed to safeguard the World Socialist systems which precipitated by Soviet Union was when Czechoslovakia, Hungary, and Poland had remained interested in Marshall Plan aid despite the requirements for a convertible currency and market economies. These requirements, which would inevitably have resulted in stronger economies ties to Western Europe than the Soviet Union, were absolutely unacceptable to Stalin, who in July 1947, ordered these Communist-dominated government to pull out of the Paris Conference on the European Recovery Programme.

In 1950, Soviet Union began to move domestically toward autarky and internationally toward an “embassy system of meddling in other countries affairs directly” rather then by “constitutional means”. COMECON’s scope was officially limited in November 1950 to “practical questions of facilitating trade”. After Stalin’s death in 1953, COMECON began to discuss developing complementary specialities. However, when trouble arose with the Polish protests and Hungarian uprising it leads the U.S.S.R. to rethink COMECON economic issues and policy. The uprising lead to major social and economic changes, including the 1957 abandonment of the 1956-1960 Soviet five year plans, as the COMECON government struggled to re-establish their legitimacy and popular support.

After 1985, during [14]Gorbachev era, U.S.S.R. made too many commitments on too many fronts, thereby overstretching and overheating the Soviet economy. This era was the era of Perestroika (restructuring), the last attempt to put the COMECON economies on a sound footing. Bottlenecks and shortages were not relieved due to Perestroika, while the East European members of COMECON resented being asked to contribute scarce capital to projects that were chiefly of interest to the Soviet Union. Due to liberalization by 15 June 1988 that allowed COMECON countries to [15]negotiate treaties directly with the European Community (the renamed EEC), Eastern European began to exchange asymmetrical trade dependence on the Soviet Union for an equally asymmetrical commercial dependence on the European Community.

The final COMECON council session took place on the 28 June 1991 in Budapest, and led to an agreement to disband within 90 days. The reasons for its failure were the domination of the U.S.S.R. Soviet Domination of the COMECON was a function of its economic, political, and military power. The Soviet Union possessed 90% of COMECON members land and energy resources, 70% of their populations, 65% of their national income, and industrial and military capacities second in the world only those of the United States. The location of many COMECON committee headquarters in Moscow and the large number of Soviet nationals on positions of authority also testified to the power of the Soviet Union dominations within the organizations.

SOVIET UNION AND ITS ALLIANCES WITH AFGHANISTAN AND CUBA

The alliances formed between Soviet Union and its Southern neighbouring countries also seen by critics is a means to strengthen the Soviet socialist system which states that might pose a threat to U.S.S.R. either by forming an alliance with the United States or embracing the Capitalist system. Even though NATO and the Warsaw Pact counties, never engaged each other in armed conflict, but they do fought the Cold War for more than 35 years often through [16]“proxy war”. One of the proxy war fought by the U.S.S.R. is the Soviet Afghan War in 1979. The Soviet Union decided to intervene militarily in Afghanistan in order to preserve its Communist regime by wiping out the Southern border threat of Afghanistan pro-Capitalist uprising.

On the context of Cuba in 1956, in seeing Cuba as a stepping stone to counter United States hegemonic power in the Western Hemisphere and West European threat, Soviet Union decided to form an alliance with Cuba during the Cold War by providing Cuba with Soviet markets and military aid. Even though in February 1960, Khrushchev’s aides had initially advise Khrushchev that Fidel Castro as untrustworthy American agent, Khrushchev agree to form an alliance by agreeing to the temporary purchase of the Cuban sugar in exchange for Soviet fuel.

During the Cuba missile crisis, even though Castro repeatedly had announced publicly that Cuba was a socialist republic and the military issues of Cuba became a matter of prestige for the Soviet Union, Castro himself was not consulted throughout the Kennedy-Khrushchev negotiations during the peak of the Cuban Missile Crisis. The unilateral Soviet decision in withdrawing the missiles and bombers wounded Castro’s pride and prestige later.

During the period of the 1970’s to 1989, although myriad bureaucracies were involved in the formation and execution of Soviet foreign policy, the major guidelines were determined by the Politburo of the Communist Party. The foremost objective of Soviet foreign policy has been the maintenance of hegemonic power over the Eastern European allies. Relations with the United States and Western European were also of major concern to Soviet foreign policy makers and, much as with the United States, relations with individual Third World states were at least partly determined by the proximity of each state to the border and to estimates of strategic significance. In 1985, it signalled a dramatic change in Soviet foreign policy when Gorbachev pursued conciliatory policies toward the West instead of maintaining the Cold War status quo.

REFERENCES:-

1. For the Soul of Mankind : The United States, the Soviet Union, and the Cold War by: Leffler, Melvyn P. Hill & Wang, Pub 2007;
2. The New Cold War : Putin's Russia and the Threat to the West by: Lucas, Edward Palgrave, Macmillan 2008;
3. Absolute War : Soviet Russia in the Second World War by: Bellamy, Chris Alfred, Knopf Inc 2007;
4. Voices of Glasnost : Interviews with Gorbachev's Reformers by: Cohen, Stephen F., Heuvel, Katrina Vanden, W. W. Norton & Co Inc 1990;
5. Thirteen Days : A Memoir of the Cuban Missile Crisis by: Kennedy, Robert F. / Schlesinger, Arthur Meier (FRW), W. W. Norton & Co Inc 1999.

[1] The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (abbreviated USSR, Russian: Союз Советских Социалистических Республик, СССР); tr.: Soyuz Sovetskikh Sotsialisticheskikh Respublik, SSSR), also called the Soviet Union (Russian: Советский Союз; tr.: Sovetsky Soyuz), was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia from 1922 to 1991.
[2] In this context U.S.S.R. alliance (The Warsaw Pact and the Comecon)
[3] 79 vetoes were used by the U.S.S.R. in the first 10 years.
[4] NATO, SEATO and CENTO
[5] In Marxist theory, the proletariat is that class of society which does not have ownership of the means of production. Proletarians are wage-workers, while some refer to those who receive salaries as the salariat.
[6] The Communist Party of the Soviet Union
[7] Warsaw Pact
[8] Comecon
[9] North Korea
[10] Détente is a French term, meaning a relaxing or easing; the term has been used in international politics since the early 1970s. Generally, it may be applied to any international situation where previously hostile nations not involved in an open war de-escalate tensions through diplomacy and confidence-building measures.
[11] Formed on 4 April 1949
[12] Protest demonstrations broke out all over East Germany in September 1989. Initially, they were of people wanting to leave to the West, chanting "Wir wollen raus!" ("We want out!"). Then protestors began to chant "Wir bleiben hier", ("We're staying here!"). This was the start of what East Germans generally call the "Peaceful Revolution" of late 1989.
[13] The Marshall Plan (from its enactment, officially the European Recovery Program, ERP) was the primary plan of the United States for rebuilding and creating a stronger foundation for the allied countries of Europe, and repelling communism after World War II. The initiative was named for Secretary of State George Marshall and was largely the creation of State Department officials, especially William L. Clayton and George F. Kennan.

[14] Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev was the last General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and the last head of state of the USSR, serving from 1985 until its collapse in 1991.
[15] Known as the "Sinatra Doctrine" was the name that the Soviet government of Mikhail Gorbachev used jokingly to describe its policy of allowing neighboring Warsaw Pact nations to determine their own internal affairs. The name alluded to the Frank Sinatra song "My Way"—the Soviet Union was allowing these nations to go their own way.

[16] A proxy war is the war that results when two powers use third parties as substitutes for fighting each other directly. While superpowers have sometimes used whole governments as proxies, terrorist groups, mercenaries, or other third parties are more often employed. It is hoped that these groups can strike an opponent without leading to full-scale war.

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