William Henry Chamberlin | Soviet Russia: A Living Record and a History
THE whole trend of Soviet foreign policy is first of all determined by the political isolation of the Soviet Union. Isolation, of course, is a relative term. The Soviet Union is no longer commercially blockaded or subjected to a complete diplomatic boycott, as was the case during the period of civil war and intervention, from 1918 until 1921. But the recent Revolution and its results, the unsolved question of foreign claims for repudiated debts and confiscated property, Communist activity in the labor movement of Western Europe and in the Asiatic colonies of the European powers - all these factors, to a greater or less degree, tend to estrange the Soviet Union from the other nations of the world.
Hence there is an essentially defensive character in Soviet foreign policy. Holding aloof from the League of Nations, in which it sees an assembly of mostly hostile powers, taking no part in the new groupings and alliances which have grown up in post-war Europe, the Soviet Government is first of all concerned to block the creation and paralyze the activity of military, political, and economic understandings which may be directed against it.
In the spring of 1927, when three ominous developments, the raid of the Chinese police on the Soviet Embassy in Peking, the breach of diplomatic relations with Great Britain, and the murder of Volkov, the Soviet Ambassador in Warsaw, followed in fairly quick succession, there was a quite genuine and wide-spread conviction in Soviet official circles that Russia was in imminent danger of actual war. The events of the following two years did not bear out these extreme apprehensions; but the shadow of the possible war menace has by no means disappeared from the Soviet political horizon. To ward off attack or hostile encirclement is, I think, the primary objective of Soviet diplomacy at the present time.
Several means have been employed in the effort to achieve this objective. Most spectacular, perhaps, was the Soviet proposal for complete dissolution of all armies and navies, submitted to the disarmament commission organized by the League of Nations to prepare for a conference on disarmament in March 1928. This suggestion was promptly rejected by the commission, and a second modified proposal for partial disarmament, involving a 50 per cent cut in the military and naval strength of the larger powers, with more sparing reductions in armaments for countries maintaining small armies and navies, also seems to stand little prospect of adoption.
No one in Moscow expected that these drastic disarmament proposals, in the strained European political situation, would be accepted or even seriously considered. It was anticipated, however, that a certain amount of sympathy would be forth-coming from Germany, chafing under the state of affairs where she is disarmed while the victorious powers in the World War remain fully armed, and also from pacifist opinion throughout the world.
Besides carrying on a fairly continuous, although thus far unsuccessful propaganda for disarmament, the Soviet Government has attempted to safeguard itself by concluding a series of nonaggression and neutrality pacts with bordering and neighboring states. The first of these treaties, which are of uniform content, was concluded with Turkey in Paris on December 17, 1925; and subsequent treaties were concluded with Germany (April 24, 1926), Afghanistan (August 31, 1926), Lithuania (September 28, 1926), and Persia (October 1, 1927).
Under these treaties, which are concluded for varying terms of years, each contracting power binds itself to abstain from attacking the other, to remain neutral in case the other is attacked without provocation by a third power, and not to participate in hostile political, economic, or financial combinations directed against the other power. These last two provisions are especially designed to meet the requirements of Soviet diplomacy, which always professes to fear either some combined offensive of foreign powers, perhaps under the auspices of the League of Nations, or some form of concerted economic pressure, possibly designed to compel a settlement of the claims of the holders of pre-war Russian bonds and owners of nationalized property.
It must be said, however, that the success of the Soviet policy of surrounding itself with neighbors bound to non-aggression by treaties has been decidedly limited. Treaties have been concluded with those states which, for political and geographical reasons, would be most unlikely to engage in hostilities, not with Poland and Rumania, which are most generally regarded as likely opponents in the event of war.
In regard to Poland and Rumania, as in regard to France and England, the Soviet Union now possesses whatever security against attack may be inherent in the common signature of the Kellogg Pact. The Soviet Government keenly resented its exclusion from the negotiations which led up to the signature of the Kellogg Pact, and statements of Soviet officials and publicists regarding the efficacy of the Pact as a means of averting war were highly skeptical. However, when the French Ambassador in Moscow, M. Jean Herbette, conveyed to the Soviet Commissariat for Foreign Affairs the invitation to sign the Pact, Acting Foreign Commissar Litvinov, on August 31, 1928, expressed the willingness of the Soviet Government to accept the proposal, associating this consent with sharp criticisms of the absence in the Pact of any obligations relating to disarmament, "the insufficiency and indefiniteness of the formula for the prohibition of war itself," and the French and British reservations.
Notwithstanding the failure of the Soviet disarmament proposals to achieve any tangible results, and the very limited extension of the treaties of nonaggression and neutrality, the efforts of Soviet diplomacy, and still more, I think, the objective circumstances of the situation, have operated to prevent the actual development of the "anti-Soviet bloc" of Western powers which is the nightmare of the Soviet Foreign Commissariat and the hope of the Russian emigres and anti-Soviet extremists of every country.
The political and economic rivalries of the European powers and groups of powers are so keen that efforts to establish a united anti-Russian front, following the period of actual blockade and intervention, have invariably and inevitably ended in failure. When Lord Curzon sent his threatening ultimatum to Russia in the spring of 1923, M. Poincare sent an economic mission to Moscow - more, one suspects, for the sake of vexing Lord Curzon, with whom he was habitually on bad terms, than for any other reason, because no concrete results of this mission's activity were ever visible. When the British Government, following the raid on the Soviet trade organization, Arcos, in London, broke off diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union, intimations were quickly forthcoming that Italian firms would be glad to receive any orders which might be diverted from England. A politico-economic Soviet bloc, to be effective, would require the inclusion of Germany; and Germany could only be conceivably induced to join in such a combination on terms which would be unacceptable for France and Poland.
Soviet diplomacy finds vast manoeuvring possibilities in the conflicts and jealousies of the European states; and a concerted Russian policy of all the Great Powers seems as unlikely as a concerted Chinese policy or a concerted policy on any large international question.
If the primary objective of Soviet foreign policy, that of warding off attack or hostile encirclement, seems to have been measurably achieved, much less success has attended its secondary objective, that of establishing some workable basis of economic collaboration with Western Europe and America. Among the larger powers which could conceivably make important contributions to Soviet economic development only Germany has entered into political and economic relations which can be regarded as satisfactory from the Soviet standpoint; and Germany, itself a heavy borrower in foreign markets, has little capital to offer Russia directly. The American State Department has consistently refused even to discuss the possibility of dealing officially with the Soviet Government. Great Britain, after concluding a Trade Agreement in 1921 and establishing diplomatic relations in 1924, annulled the former and broke off the latter in 1927. While the Soviet Union and France maintain formal diplomatic relations, these have been very frigid during the last two years. The French Embassy in Moscow refuses to grant visas even to non-Russian residents of Moscow without making protracted inquiries in Paris.
Different considerations have different weight in determining the attitude of these countries toward the Soviet Union. But one issue unites them all: resentment against the action of the Soviet Government in repudiating the Tsarist foreign debts and nationalizing foreign industrial and commercial property without granting compensation. The Soviet Government has long intimated its willingness to discuss this question on the basis of according partial compensation to foreign creditors on condition that credits be made available for Russian industrial development and that Soviet counter-claims, based on damages sustained by Russia during the period of civil war and foreign intervention, should be taken into consideration.
Twice this matter has got beyond the stage of general principles and reached a point where definite solutions were proposed, but on each occasion without success. On August 8, 1924, the Labor Government of Ramsay MacDonald signed a treaty with the Soviet Government, providing for a solution of the controversy along the following lines. The British Government was to guarantee a loan to the Soviet Union, in return for which the Soviet Government pledged itself partially to compensate British holders of pre-war state and municipal bonds, payable in foreign currency. The question of compensation to owners of property was to be referred to an Anglo-Soviet mixed commission. More precise figures of the amount of the loan and the amount of compensation to be paid were to be included in a supplementary treaty. However, this supplementary treaty was never concluded, because the Labor Government was severely defeated in the general election of October 1924, and the succeeding Conservative Government declined to continue the negotiations.
A more concrete proposal, and one which was more advantageous, from the standpoint of the foreign bondholders, was made by the Soviet Government to France in September 1927. The Soviet commission which had been negotiating for a settlement of the pre-war French debt claims offered to pay sixty-one annuities of 60,000,000 gold francs in consideration of French credits to the amount of $120,000,000, to be granted over a period of six years. This was the most substantial offer of pecuniary compensation to foreign creditors which the Soviet Government has ever made. But a violent campaign in the French press against the Soviet Ambassador, Christian Rakovsky, a campaign which resulted in a formal request of the French Government for his recall, brought the whole proposal to naught. The powerful British oil magnate, Sir Henri Deterding, an implacable enemy of the Soviet Government, was largely blamed in Soviet circles for initiating this campaign in newspapers where he possessed a controlling interest; it is very probable that British influence was exerted to prevent the settlement. Since that time the whole question of debts and credits has been in a state of deadlock, the Soviet Government paying no debts and receiving no loans.
The Soviet Union is a bridge-state between Europe and Asia; it has one foot planted firmly in each continent. But, despite occasional talk of a turn to the East, Russia's immediate vital interests lie much more in the West, especially since the eclipse of Soviet influence in China in 1927. If there is a war danger, it is much more likely to materialize in the West than in the East; and it is only from the West that capital can be obtained for the country's planned large-scale industrial development. So, while the Soviet Union, with an Asiatic frontier stretching thousands of miles from the Caspian Sea to the Pacific Ocean, has varied and important contacts with the East, its main centre of diplomatic attention is the West.
The spirit of antagonism which marked Russo-British relations during the greater part of the nineteenth century, and was sunk only in common antipathy to Germany during the period immediately preceding the War, has, as a general rule, characterized Anglo-Soviet relations ever since the Revolution. England played a leading role in the intervention on behalf of the anti-Soviet leaders during the Russian civil war; General Denikin's army, operating in South Russia, was lavishly out-fitted with munitions and material, and British troops for a time garrisoned towns in the Caucasus and the Trans-Caspian territory. The conclusion of the Anglo-Russian Trade Agreement in March 1921 was followed by a period of more or less constant bickering; the British Foreign Secretary, Lord Curzon, was especially sensitive to any symptom of Soviet activity in the Near and Middle East. He addressed a sharp note of protest on this subject to the Soviet Government in the autumn of 1921, and in May 1923 went so far as to present an ultimatum, accompanied by a threat of breaking off diplomatic relations. Besides accusing the Soviet Ambassadors in Afghanistan and Persia, Raskolnikov and Shumyatzky, of carrying on anti-British intrigues in contravention of the terms of the Trade Agreement, Curzon, in his ultimatum, demanded the right of British trawlers to fish up to the three-mile limit in Russian northern territorial waters, and the payment of compensation for two British subjects, one of whom had been executed and the other imprisoned during the period of civil war.
A break on this occasion was averted because the Soviet Government, while denying that any breach of the Trade Agreement had been committed, conceded the substance of Curzon's demands. Some improvement in Anglo-Soviet relations was visible after the accession to power of the Labor Government in 1924. The Soviet Union was accorded full diplomatic recognition in February 1924; and in August of that year the treaty which was described earlier in the chapter, regulating the principles of settling the problem of debts and credits, was concluded.
However, the Labor Government went out of office under circumstances which made a worsening of Anglo-Soviet relations almost inevitable. On October 24 1924, on the eve of a parliamentary election, the British Foreign Office dispatched an extremely sharp note to the Soviet representative in London, Rakovsky, accusing the Soviet Government of disregarding its obligations regarding abstinence from propaganda in the internal affairs of Great Britain and appending as proof a letter, under the alleged signature of Gregory Zinoviev, then President of the Communist International, to the British Communist Party, urging the inauguration of an active propaganda for mutiny and desertion among British soldiers and sailors. The Soviet Commissariat for Foreign Affairs and Zinoviev personally repudiated this letter as a forgery and challenged an impartial investigation of its contents. Various discrepancies in the style and composition of the letter seem calculated to cast considerable internal doubt upon its authenticity, although its actual authorship, up to the present time, never has been definitely established. Coming out immediately before the election, it naturally contributed materially to swell the Conservative majority; and the new Conservative Government promptly refused to proceed further with the treaty regulating the question of debts and credits.
Relations between the Soviet Union and Great Britain under the Conservative Government steadily deteriorated. The Locarno Treaty, the most striking achievement of the British Foreign Minister, Sir Austen Chamberlain, was interpreted in Moscow as an effort to draw Germany away from the Soviet Union. Conservative British opinion strongly resented the sending of money contributions from Russia to help finance the general strike and the miners' strike in the spring and summer of 1926, even though these funds were sent by the trade-unions, which have no formal connection with the Soviet Government. A new factor making for strained relations was the rapid progress of the Nationalist movement in China during the latter part of 1926 and the first months of 1927. This movement in its early stages had a strong anti-British tinge, and the presence of numerous Soviet advisers in the Chinese Nationalist camp, even though these advisers had no official governmental status, was regarded in London as a further proof of the hostility of the Soviet regime.
All these factors prepared the way for the definite breach of Anglo-Soviet diplomatic relations in the spring of 1927. On February 23 Sir Austen Chamberlain presented a note to the Soviet charge d'affaires in London, repeating the familiar charge of propaganda violating the terms of the Trade Agreement and setting forth a thesis, which, if rigidly upheld, would alone be sufficient to make impossible the maintenance of diplomatic relations, to the effect that members of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party Central Committee (which has always included at least one member who is high in the councils of the Communist International) were equally responsible with members of the Soviet Government for public revolutionary statements. On May 12 the British police carried out a raid on Arcos, the Soviet trading organization in London, and on May 27 the British Government communicated to the Soviet charge' d'afaires its decision to terminate diplomatic relations between the two countries.
Two years elapsed between this decisive step and the British general election of May 1929. What have been its results ? It probably strengthened the American State Department in the conviction of the correctness of its policy of nonrecognition and discouraged any movement toward the establishment of diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union by countries which had not already taken this step.(1) On the other hand no country which had actually granted recognition to the Soviet Government followed the British example of breaking off relations. The Soviet Government was able to inflict economic reprisals on Great Britain by diverting a considerable number of orders which might have gone to England to other countries, such as Germany, America, and Czecho-Slovakia.(2)
The British business community began to grow restless over this situation, and on March 28, 1929, a delegation of eighty-four British business men arrived in Moscow for the purpose of exploring the possibilities of increasing Anglo-Soviet trade. The delegates were courteously received and enjoyed facilities for visiting Soviet industrial establishments and conferring with the heads of Soviet economic organizations. But Mr. Yuri Pyatakov, President of the Soviet State Bank, speaking with the full authorization of his government, gave the delegates plainly to understand that "broad economic cooperation between England and the developing industrial and commercial life of the Soviet Union is possible only on condition that normal diplomatic relations between our governments are restored." Given this condition and the working out of a mutually satisfactory financial arrangement (presumably involving a large loan or long-term credit), Mr. Pyatakov declared it was possible to place orders to a total value of £15o,000,000 on the British market during the next five years.
The inauguration of a Labor Government, following the British election of May 30, 1929, did not result in an immediate resumption of the diplomatic relations which had been broken off by the Conservatives. Although Labor Party speakers during the pre-election campaign had advocated the prompt unconditional resumption of diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union, Premier MacDonald and Foreign Minister Henderson moved with extreme caution in this question. A conference between Henderson and the Soviet Ambassador to France, Dogalevsky, broke down in the summer because Henderson proposed to discuss the question in dispute between the two countries before arranging for an exchange of ambassadors, while the Soviet Government firmly adhered to the view-point that any such discussion must follow, not precede the restoration of full diplomatic relations. Later the Labor Government yielded on this point and restored diplomatic relations.(Sir Esmond Ovey and Grigorie Sokolnikov are the new British and Soviet Ambassadors at Moscow and London respectively.) But it already seems quite clear that in such matters as Communist propaganda and the settlement of British debt and damage claims the Labor Government occupies a position not appreciably different from that of its Conservative predecessor.
Although French foreign policy under the direction of M. Briand has not been so actively anti-Soviet as the British foreign policy of Sir Austen Chamberlain, France could scarcely be reckoned among the friends of the Soviet Union. France is less concerned than Great Britain about Communist activity in its colonial possessions and Russian influence in the Far East; but its system of military alliances with the new and enlarged states of Eastern and Southeastern Europe, Poland, Rumania, Jugoslavia, and Czecho-Slovakia, is not calculated to make for good relations with the Soviet Union. There is, of course, an economic factor in France's attitude toward the Soviet Union - the repudiation of the Tsarist bonds, widely held by small investors in France, is keenly resented.
However, political factors seem to outweigh economic considerations in determining French policy. The Soviet Government would almost certainly be willing to make substantial concessions to the French bondholders in return for a more friendly political attitude on the part of the French Government: the proposed settlement in the autumn of 1927 offers conclusive proof of this. Were France placated on the question of the bonds it might be expected that she would signify her political reconciliation with the Soviet Union by signing a nonaggression and neutrality treaty, which in turn might be the prelude to more cordial relations between the Soviet Union and France's East-European allies. But so far France has shown little interest in the settlement of the pre-war debt question, and there is no indication that her influence is being exerted on behalf of an "East-European Locarno," involving regional disarmament and other conditions calculated to relieve the tension in Eastern Europe.
France's coldness toward the Soviet Union is doubtless attributable in part to the spectre of a Soviet-German combination, capable of upsetting the post-Versailles organization of Europe, even though the developments of the last few years have reduced this spectre to rather tame and unterrifying proportions. In contrast to Great Britain and France, Germany has maintained with the Soviet Union relations which have been characterized by cautious, conditional, but on the whole consistent friendship.
The foundation of these relations was laid at Rapallo on April 16, 1922, when the Soviet Foreign Commissar, Chicherin, and the German Foreign Minister, Walter Rathenau, surprised and scandalized the Genoa Conference, then in session, by signing a treaty whereby Germany, first among the Great Powers, granted full recognition to the Soviet Union and renounced all claims to compensation for pre-war debts and nationalized property, with the significant reservation, how-ever, of the right to bring up such claims in case the Soviet Government should recognize their validity in the case of other countries. Count Brockdorff-Rantzau, an old-school German diplomat and a convinced believer in an eastern orientation of German foreign policy, was sent to Moscow as Ambassador.
Seven years have passed since the signature of the Rapallo Treaty; and while each side has experienced its disappointments and disillusionments, there seems little doubt that a certain measure of Soviet-German understanding is a constant factor in European politics. Despite the fact that the German Communist Party is one of the largest and most active in Europe, the German Government has never made an issue of "Bolshevik propaganda," and its occasional disagreements with the Soviet Government have always been based on more concrete economic issues.
In 1922 Germany and the Soviet Union were almost irresistibly drawn together. Both countries were outcasts in a Europe dominated by the victorious Allied powers. Many German nationalists, who abhorred the idea of Bolshevism in their own country, looked to Russia as a possible future ally and also as an economic field of almost unlimited potentialities.
The Dawes Plan, the Treaty of Locarno, and Germany's entrance into the League of Nations substantially modified the German psychology in regard to Russia and made a purely eastern orientation of German foreign policy impossible. Politically and economically Germany has become more closely bound to the West. Only the wildest visionaries in Germany believe that a military alliance with Russia offers Germany a way of escape from the burden of reparations payments. German public opinion in general is resigned to the solution of this problem on a basis which will perpetuate Germany's present dependence upon Anglo-American capital and thereby pull the country still further out of the orbit of Soviet political influence.
But, although Germany has gained a partial and grudging acceptance into the post-Versailles "concert of the powers," while the Soviet Union remains quite aloof from it, German diplomacy still sets a substantial value upon Russian friend-ship. Almost simultaneously with the signature of the Locarno Treaty, Germany and the Soviet Union signed a detailed commercial treaty, and this was followed by the extension of a state-guaranteed 300,000,000-marks credit to the Soviet Union. Shortly after Germany had entered the League of Nations a Soviet-German pact of nonaggression and neutrality was signed in Berlin; and this to some extent took the edge off the Soviet apprehension that Germany might consent to be used, at least passively, in some new scheme of invasion and intervention. The Soviet Union is always a good card in reserve for a German Foreign Minister who finds himself being pressed too hard by France and England. And, while the Soviet Union has not proved an El Dorado for German industrialists and traders, and German commercial experts are inclined to shake their heads and dolefully calculate that Germany's trade with Denmark exceeds her trade with the Soviet Union, the Russian market cannot be altogether neglected by any country which suffers from industrial overproduction and underemployment, and Germany has been cultivating it quite assiduously.
The relations between the Soviet Union and its largest western neighbor, Poland, have always been characterized by strain and friction. The Polish governing circles regard Communist propaganda in their country, apart from its menace of social subversion, as directed against the independent existence of their country and preparing the way for a reunion with Russia. The Soviet press continually prints accusations that high Polish civil and military officials maintain close contact with the Ukrainian emigre politicians and still toy with the idea of detaching Ukraina from the Soviet Union and making it a Polish dependency. The attacks of Russian White exiles on Soviet diplomatic officials in Poland represent another source of irritation. The most serious of these incidents was the murder of the Soviet Ambassador, Volkov, by the young emigre Kowerda, in June 1927.
A constant struggle for influence in the new Baltic states, Latvia, Esthonia, and Finland, goes on between the Soviet Union and Poland. The latter country is inclined to assume a protecting attitude toward these smaller northern neighbors, to attempt to unite them under its leadership, a procedure which the Soviet Union finds highly distasteful. There are powerful political forces in the Baltic states which favor closer rapprochement with Poland; this is particularly true of Esthonia, which has not forgotten its narrow escape when a Communist uprising broke out in its capital, Tallin (formerly Reval), on December 1, 1924. But economically these little Baltic states are very dependent upon the transit trade to and from Russia; therefore there is little likelihood that the dream of some of the more ambitious Polish politicians, of uniting them into a "Baltic bloc," directed more or less openly against the Soviet Union, will be realized.
Among these little new states Lithuania occupies a special position. The Lithuanians are bitterly resentful of the seizure of Vilna, the city which they regard as their proper capital, by the Poles in 1920. Ever since that time Lithuania has refused to enter into diplomatic relations with Poland, the frontier between the two countries has been closed, and Lithuania up to a comparatively recent time has maintained that a state of war exists with Poland, although, of course, it would have no prospect of victory in the event of a single-handed armed clash with its larger neighbor. All the efforts of the League of Nations to settle the controversy on some basis which would recognize Poland's possession of Vilna have failed.
The maintenance of the independence and territorial integrity of Lithuania is a cardinal point of Soviet foreign policy. At the same time the Soviet Government has no desire to be drawn into a war with Poland over the Vilna question. There-fore, while refusing to recognize as legal the Polish occupation of Vilna, the Soviet Government has attempted to restrain Lithuania from provocative tactics which would provide an excuse for Polish aggression and possible complete annexation of the country. More than once the Soviet press has launched a chorus of alarming reports about the alleged intention of the Polish Government to settle accounts with Lithuania by force. Poland has always denied these reports, and no actual attack on Lithuania has ever taken place. Whether these Soviet press campaigns were based on unfounded rumors or whether, as is asserted in Moscow, they diverted Poland from actual aggressive designs by concentrating international attention upon the Lithuanian situation is a question which perhaps can only be authoritatively answered by some future historian of East-European diplomatic relations who will have at his disposal all the relevant archive material.
Another factor tending toward estrangement between Poland and the Soviet Union is the former country's close military alliance with Rumania. In 1918, during a period of confusion and civil war in Russia, Rumanian troops occupied the former southwestern Russian province of Bessarabia, lying between the Rivers Dniester and Pruth, and on November 25, 1928, the Sfatul-Tseri, a Bessarabian popular assembly, decreed the annexation of the province by Rumania. The Soviet Government has always refused to acknowledge the legality of this annexation, and Bessarabia is marked as Soviet territory on all maps printed in Russia. The only attempt to settle this disputed issue at a Soviet-Rumanian conference in Vienna in the spring of 1924 broke down almost immediately, because the Soviet representatives demanded a plebiscite of the population, to be held in the absence of Rumanian troops, while Rumania insisted that Bessarabia was already an inalienable, integral part of its territory. This issue has not been acute of late, because the Soviet Government obviously has no intention of hazarding a war for the recovery of Bessarabia, or for any other object, but it remains one of those vexing unsettled points which make peace in Eastern Europe a rather relative and unstable conception.
On February 10, 1929, as a result of a proposal initiated several weeks earlier by the Soviet Foreign Commissariat, a protocol was signed in Moscow by representatives of the Soviet Union, Poland, Rumania, Esthonia, and Latvia, bringing into effect, as between the signatories, the obligations of the Kellogg Pact regarding the renunciation of war as an instrument of national policy. Little progress, however, has been made with the pact of nonaggression and neutrality which the Soviet-Government suggested to Poland in 1926. Poland raised various objections regarding its obligations under the League of Nations Covenant, and also suggested a procedure of arbitration for possible disputes which was unacceptable to the Soviet Government.(3)
Turning from Europe to America,(4) one finds in the relations, or rather absence of relations, between the Soviet Union and the United States a striking contrast of eager receptivity on one side and stony negation on the other. America played a less active role than France and England in the intervention in Russia, but has been more unyielding than either of those countries in its refusal to deal with the Soviet Government. On March 21, 1921, Maxim Litvinov, then Soviet representative in Esthonia, transmitted to President Harding and the American Congress a message from Mikhail Kalinin, President of the All-Russian Soviet Executive Committee, suggesting a resumption of business relations between Russia and the United States. The reply of Mr. Charles E. Hughes, American Secretary of State, was couched in the following blunt and uncompromising terms: -
"It is only in the productivity of Russia that there is any hope for the Russian people, and it is idle to expect resumption of trade until the economic bases of production are securely established. Production is conditioned upon the safety of life, the recognition of firm guaranties of private property, the sanctity of contract, and the rights of free labor.
"If fundamental changes are contemplated, involving due regard for the protection of persons and property and the establishment of conditions essential to the maintenance of commerce, this Government will be glad to have convincing evidence of the consummation of such changes, and until this evidence is supplied this Government is unable to perceive that there is any proper basis for considering trade relations."
America declined to participate in the Genoa and Hague conferences because of the presence there of Russian delegations, and Russia was not invited to participate in the Washington Conference, convened under American auspices to discuss limitation of naval armaments. President Coolidge in his message to Congress of December 6, 1923, intimated rather obscurely that a new policy toward Russia might be possible, in view of changing conditions in that country. Foreign Cornmissar Chicherin on December 16 addressed a message to Coolidge expressing the willingness of the Soviet Government to open negotiations on the basis of mutual nonintervention in internal affairs and reciprocal discussion of all claims. This, however, elicited another broadside from Mr. Hughes, to the following effect: -
"There would seem to be at this time no reason for negotiations. . . . If the Soviet authorities are ready to restore the confiscated property of American citizens or make effective compensation they can do so. If the Soviet authorities are ready to repeal their decree repudiating Russia's obligations to this country and appropriately recognize them they can do so. It requires no conference or negotiations to accomplish these results, which can and should be achieved at Moscow as evidence of good faith. The American Government has not incurred liabilities to Russia or repudiated obligations. Most serious is the continued propaganda to overthrow the institutions of this country. The Government can enter into no negotiations until these efforts directed from Moscow are abandoned."
This obviously left little basis for negotiation, and since that time the Soviet Government has addressed no more overtures to the American Government, although responsible Soviet officials have always intimated their willingness and desire to bring about an amicable settlement of points in dispute between the two countries. Beginning with large sales of cotton and extending to sales of machinery and equipment and the conclusion of a number of contracts for technical aid in the building of new industrial plants, Soviet-American commercial relations have developed, even in the absence of any diplomatic relations; but Mr. Hughes's uncompromising policy of non-recognition was steadily maintained by his successor in the State Department, Mr. Kellogg. It is still too early to fore-cast the Russian policy of the new American administration.
What is the explanation for the consistent hostility of the American Government to the idea of recognizing the Soviet Government ? The Soviet Union and America have no important conflicting political interests, and American losses as a result of revolutionary legislation were considerably less than those of France and England.(5)
The sentimental motive of dislike of Bolshevism, combined with the absence of any very strong factors pushing the State Department to act on the question of Soviet recognition, would seem to have played a considerable part in determining American policy. An ex-governor of an American state, visiting Russia, once said to me: -
"I have never used that political method myself, but it is a fact that one can arouse enthusiasm in any audience anywhere in the country simply by announcing an intention to defend American institutions and the American home against Communism or Bolshevism."
Organized labor, in the shape of the American Federation of Labor, is violently hostile to the recognition of the Soviet Union, and the business and banking firms which are interested in Russian trade have as yet apparently been neither powerful nor insistent enough to exert any appreciable influence in changing the State Department's policy of waiting until there is something like complete capitulation to the American view-point on the moot questions of recognition of pre-war debts, compensation for nationalized property, and cessation of Communist propaganda.
Politically and economically, American recognition would be very, desirable, from the Soviet standpoint. The recognition of the Soviet Union by the wealthiest and strongest of the world powers would strengthen and stabilize its international position in relation to European countries. Moreover, American recognition would facilitate the granting of loans and long-term commercial credits to the Soviet industrial organizations. In view of these circumstances it seems probable that the Soviet Government would go far in the direction of meeting concrete American proposals in regard to the settlement of the debt and compensation questions, especially as the sums involved are relatively small. More difficulty would probably be experienced in finding a formula to cover the theoretical acknowledgment of liability for the debts, which it is a matter of principle for America to demand and equally a matter of principle for the Soviet Union to refuse.(6) Discussion of the propaganda issue would be foredoomed to futility unless it were based in advance on the acceptance of the Soviet thesis that the Soviet Government cannot be held responsible for any of the activities of the Communist International.
Despite the frigid attitude of the State Department, the Soviet economic authorities have been assiduously cultivating business contacts with American firms. Apart from the desire to benefit by the introduction of American technical improvements and labor-saving devices, Soviet policy in this, respect has pretty clearly been influenced by the consideration that closer commercial relations afford the best prospect of over-coming the political objections which have hitherto stood in the pathway of recognition. It is believed in Moscow that, as the possibilities of Russia as a market and a field for the application of American industrial technique are appreciated, American public opinion will tend to forget about the Communist International and that the disputed economic questions between the two countries will lend themselves to some form of amicable conclusion.
Soviet policy in the Far East has been distinguished by two features: the gradual reemergence of Russia as a Pacific power and the steady encouragement of the rising Nationalist movement in China. Japanese troops remained in occupation of Russia's chief Pacific port, Vladivostok, and of the northern half of the island of Sakhalin, off the Siberian coast, for some time after the period of general intervention had ended. Vladivostok was restored to Soviet sovereignty late in 1922. The restitution of Northern Sakhalin presented more difficulties, because it contained valuable coal and oil deposits, which Japan wished to exploit. A compromise on this question was finally reached, however, and embodied in the Soviet-Japanese Treaty of January 1925. Under this agreement Japan granted recognition to the Soviet Government and surrendered possession of Northern Sakhalin, while the Soviet Government bound itself to grant to Japanese firms concessions for exploiting approximately half of the coal and oil reserves of the territory.
Beginning with the spring of 1929, relations between the Soviet and Chinese authorities on the Chinese Eastern rail-road went rapidly from bad to worse. A Chinese police raid on the Soviet consulate in Harbin in May was followed in July by a far more serious step: the forcible seizure of the railroad by the Chinese authorities, accompanied by the arrest and deportation of the Soviet representatives in the management of the road. On July 13 the Soviet Foreign Commissariat addressed to the Nanking Government a three-day ultimatum, demanding the restoration of the status quo on the railroad. When the Chinese failed to comply with this demand, the Soviet Government resorted to a series of commercial reprisals, closing its frontiers with China, breaking off the connection between its railroad system and the Chinese Eastern Railroad, and suspending all tea purchases and other commercial activities in China.
The strained situation which originated in this way has dragged on for a number of months at the time of writing, without having reached a solution. There has been a certain amount of border skirmishing, in which each side vigorously accused the other of assuming the offensive; but it was fairly clear in Moscow from the beginning that the Soviet Government did not propose to plunge into a Far Eastern War, which might have led to incalculable complications, while serious aggressive action by China against the Soviet Union was, of course, out of the question, in view of the great inferiority of the Chinese troops in leadership, discipline, and equipment.
A wordy war raged between the two countries simultaneously with the sporadic outbursts of firing along the Manchurian frontier. The Chinese defended their action in seizing. the railroad by raising rather vague charges about alleged Communist propaganda, carried on by the Russian employees of the railroad. The Soviet Government emphasized the 'illegality of the Chinese action, under the Sino-Soviet treaties of Peking and Mukden, concluded in 1924, and protested repeatedly against alleged inhuman treatment of Soviet citizens who were arrested and held in concentration camps in Manchuria. On December 22 the Soviet and Mukden Governments signed a protocol restoring the status quo ante on the Chinese Eastern Railway, as demanded by Russia. While negotiations were in progress Mr. Stimson, the American Secretary of State, sent notes to China and Russia appealing for peace under the Kellogg Pact. To this the Acting Foreign Commissar replied sharply, declaring that the Stimson note " cannot be taken as a friendly act."
The Soviet Government has always proclaimed its sympathy with "the nationalist liberating movements of colonial peoples"; and the course of its diplomacy in Asia has been strongly influenced by the application of this principle. Russian extraterritorial privileges in China lapsed during the long period of revolution and civil war; and the Soviet Government ostentatiously refused to reclaim them, and lost no opportunity, through its Ambassador in Peking, Leo Karakhan, of expressing its opinion that China should be treated as an equal by the other powers. The Soviet Union acquired considerable popularity among the Chinese Nationalist intellectuals; and Russian influence in China may be said to have reached its zenith during the latter part of 1926 and the first part of 1927, when the Cantonese Nationalist armies swept victoriously north-ward from Canton to Shanghai and the Yangtze Valley. The Russian High Adviser, Michael Borodin, was a great power in the inner councils of the Kuomintang, or Nationalist Party; Russian generals guided the operations of the Chinese armies, and Soviet financial experts functioned as advisers in the Chinese Ministry for Finance.
However, the decline of Russian influence in the Chinese Nationalist camp was even more rapid than its rise. The growth of the Chinese mass movement, the strikes and heightened wage demands of the workers, the violent seizures of land by the peasants, especially in some of the southern provinces, provoked a reaction, in which the generals, with their mercenary armies, united with the merchants and the more conservative wing of the Kuomintang intellectuals, quickly suppressed the Chinese Communists and also drove into political oblivion the left wing of the Kuomintang. This 'sharp turn to the right meant the end of the former close understanding between Nationalist China and the Soviet Union. The Russian advisers were withdrawn during the summer of 1927. In December of the same year an abortive and short-lived Communist insurrection in Canton proved the signal for violent internal reaction and a complete breach with the Soviet Union. The Soviet vice-consul in Canton, Hassis, and several other employees of the consulate, both Russians and Chinese, were executed without a trial by the Chinese general who suppressed the insurrection. The Soviet consulates in southern and central China were closed, and this breach has lasted up to the present time.
Outer Mongolia, a huge area of sparsely populated, mostly desert country, over which China exercised a shadowy sovereignty before the War, has now become a republic in close contact with the Soviet Union. During the last stage of the civil war Outer Mongolia was a base for raids into Siberia by the White troops of Baron Ungern-Sternberg; the Red Army pursued Ungern-Sternberg's troops into Mongolia, routed them, and helped the revolutionary elements in Mongolia to set up a new government, quite independent of China and closely attached to the Soviet Union. Whether Outer Mongolia will ever become a bone of contention between the Soviet Union and a united China remains to be seen; at present the Chinese Government at Nanking seems to have other problems closer at hand.
In the Near East the Soviet Government has pretty consistently supported the new centralized governments which, with varying degrees of success, have attempted to modernize Turkey, Persia, and Afghanistan and to put an end to the old tribal feudalism. Kemalist Turkey is in no small degree indebted to Soviet munitions for its victory over the Greeks; and Turkey is to-day probably the best friend of the Soviet Union among the nations of the world. While Turkey is not, of course, a socialist state, the Westernizing cultural revolution which Mustapha Kemal has carried through with such unrelenting vigor is similar in many respects to what has taken place in the Moslem East of the Soviet Union, in the Crimea, the Caucasus, and Central Asia. Turkey has followed the Soviet example in remaining outside the League of Nations.
Soviet diplomacy got away to a flying start in Persia in 1921 by making a wholesale retrocession to the Persian Government of Tsarist banks, telegraph lines, and other concessions. De-spite this, the course of Soviet-Persian relations has not always been smooth; such questions as the Persian rights of transit for their goods through Soviet territory and Soviet fishing rights in Persian waters in the Caspian Sea have at times led to protracted and acrimonious discussion. In general there is a sort of pendulum swing of Persian foreign policy as between the Soviet Union and Great Britain, and it is likely that Persia for an indefinite period will attempt to balance itself between these two powerful neighbors without definitely casting in its lot with either of them.
The Soviet Government furnished a certain amount of technical cooperation to King Amanullah of Afghanistan, supplying engineers to build telegraph lines and instructors for his aviation corps. Following the widespread revolt against Amanullah's Westernizing reforms in the winter of 1928-1929 the country has been in a chaotic condition. The Soviet Government has shown no disposition to support any of the warring groups or to adopt any sort of aggressive policy in Afghanistan which would additionally complicate its relations with Great Britain. It is interested in the preservation of Afghan territorial integrity during the troubled times through which the country is passing, and would view with concern the emergence in Afghanistan of any regime which would be clearly under British influence, inasmuch as this might constitute a standing threat to Soviet Central Asia, the cotton base of the Soviet Union.
It would scarcely be an exaggeration to describe the present Soviet foreign policy as one of peace at almost any price. Not that the Soviet leaders are pacifists. Communist doctrine is nothing if not militant. But a pacific policy is imperatively dictated to the Soviet Union by its present position as an Ishmaelite among the nations. The absorption of the country's energies in a difficult and complicated process of social and economic reconstruction, the danger that any local war in which the Soviet Union might become involved would draw in a whole combination of foreign states, these factors lend a ring of sincerity to the remark of a Soviet official who once said to the writer, on the occasion of some new affront or provocation in China or in Poland: -
"We shall not fight unless our territory is actually invaded."
But, if the Soviet Union cannot honestly be described as a military "menace" to its neighbors, its exclusion from the normal intercourse of nations creates a large vacuum and raises a number of embarrassing problems. Such a huge mass as the Soviet Union cannot be withdrawn from the politico-economic system of Europe and Asia without creating serious displacements. While the Soviet Union is ostracized there can be no stabilization of Eastern Europe, no restoration of the European economic equilibrium, no real progress in the field of disarmament, granting that the dominant European states sincerely desire to achieve any such progress.
From its first state of being surrounded by a world of enemies, expressing their hostility in actual warfare and blockade, the Soviet Union has progressed to a second stage, midway between this first state and one of full membership in the international concert of the powers. Whether and when the Soviet Government will achieve a transition from this midway stage to that of full restoration of normal relations with the outside world depends upon a number of factors, some of which are outside its own control. Among the factors which seem likely to determine the character of the future contacts between the Soviet Union and the capitalist world perhaps the most important are: the working out of some mutually accept-able formula which will link the settlement of Russian pre-war obligations with the granting of fresh credits to the Soviet Union, the reality and extent of the Communist influence in the labor movement of Western Europe and the colonial countries of Asia and Africa (the Soviet Government's chances of establishing amicable relations with foreign powers are in precisely inverse ratio to the seriousness with which the activities of the Communist International are regarded), and the success of Soviet diplomacy in playing on the antagonisms of foreign powers and utilizing competition for commercial advantages in Russia as a means of exerting pressure for the achievement of political objectives.
(1) In 1924, to some extent under the influence of England's example, a considerable number of countries, including Italy, France, China, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Austria, Greece, and Mexico, accorded de jurerecognition to the Soviet Union. Since Japan opened up diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union early in 1925 diplomatic recognitions have been few and unimportant. The following European powers have still not recognized the Soviet Union: Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain, Portugal, Jugoslavia, Rumania, Czecho-Slovakia, Hungary, Bulgaria, and Albania.
(2) Soviet orders placed in Great Britain declined from 23,500,000 pounds sterling in 1924-1925 to 5,800,000 pounds sterling in 1927-1928.
(3) While admitting the principle of arbitration in some of its contracts with foreign concessionaires, the Soviet Government has opposed its application in political disputes because of the alleged impossibility of finding genuinely impartial arbiters, in view of the fundamentally different social and economic philosophies of socialism and capital-ism. Its nonaggression and neutrality treaties, like the Kellogg Pact, include no pro-vision for arbitration in the event of disputes, although in the case of Germany a mixed conciliation commission was instituted early in 1929 for the purpose of discussing points of friction and suggesting means of removing them.
(4) Within the limited space of the present chapter I attempt to discuss only the more important aspects of the foreign relations of the Soviet Union, leaving out of account the countries which have had only slight and unimportant contacts with it.
(5) No accurate account of American claims for confiscated property has as yet been compiled; but the total amount of American claims against the Soviet Government, including the repayment of loans floated by the Tsarist and Kerensky Governments, would probably be in the neighborhood of $600,000,000 or $700,000,000. Against this may be set indefinite Soviet counterclaims for damages in connection with American intervention.
(6) As a large creditor nation, America is obviously interested in maintaining the principle of the inviolable sanctity of international debts. The Soviet Government, on its side, could not very well acknowledge the legal validity of its debts to America without incurring intensified pressure from other countries, such as France and England, where much larger sums are in question.