The International Situation and the Red Army

II. Genoa and the Hague


Given to a Representative of the British Press

Transcribed and HTML markup for the Trotsky Internet Archive by David Walters

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I. ‘Do you consider that, with the cleaning-up of the Maritime Province and the evacuation of Vladivostok by the Japanese, the war for Russia’s independence is over? If so, do you consider it possible to reduce Russia’s military expenditure still further? Or will you continue to maintain the standpoint that any further reduction in Russia’s armed forces is possible only if Russia’s immediate neighbours accept a corresponding measure of disarmament, and if there is general disarmament in Europe? Are you ready to bring up once more the question of general disarmament?’

Even after the cleaning-up of the Maritime Province and the evacuation of Vladivostok there still remain, both in the Far East and in the south-west, Russian territories which are occupied by our neighbours. But it does not at all follow from this that the question of these territories must be solved by force of arms. We considered and we consider it quite possible to settle all disputed questions, including territorial ones, by way of agreement, and we have more than once proposed this to our neighbours. This proposal remains valid today in relation both to Japan (the question of the northern half of Sakhalin) and to Romania (the question of Bessarabia).

Our programme of disarmament, or, at least, of reduction in armaments, has absolutely not been made dependent on a preliminary cleaning-out of all Russian territory by force of arms. The best proof of this is the fact that our proposals for international agreement on this question were put forward long before the cleaning-out of the Maritime Province and the evacuation of Vladivostok (which, be it said in passing, has not yet been completed, since there are still foreign warships in the territorial waters of Vladivostok). We are ready to pat forward, expound and support a programme of disarmament (or, at least, of preliminary reduction in armaments) at any moment, either at a conference with our immediate neighbours or at a world conference. It is self-evident that there can be no question of a unilateral act of disarmament on our part. Such questions can be settled only through agreement.

II. ‘In view of the fact that European public opinion is afraid of a ‘Bolshevik-Kemalist’ plot against European civilisation, of insinuations that Soviet Russia’s Policy in the Near East is no different from the policy followed earlier by Tsarist Russia, and, finally, of the danger that the Black Sea may be made an internal Russian sea, it would be most useful to have replies from you to the following questions:

  1. What are the limits and aims of the Russo-Turkish alliance?
  2. How does the Near-Eastern policy of the Soviet Government differ in essence from that of the Tsars and of Milyukov?
  3. How is freedom of navigation to be ensured in the Black Sea?’

The limits and aims of the Russo-Turkish agreement (not ‘alliance’, as it is described in your question) are determined by its origin. It is an agreement between two countries which were theatened with enslavement and strangulation. It is hardly necessary to refute talk about a Bolshevik-Kemalist plot against civilisation: one only needs to know a little geography, economics and politics in order to appreciate the senselessness of such chatter.

You ask how the Soviet Government’s Near-Eastern policy differs in essence from that of the Tsars and of Milyukov. The Tsar and Milyukov wanted to take Constantinople and the Straits away from Turkey. We, however, desire that what belongs to Turkey be given back to the Turks. The Tsarist Government wanted to break through the gate of the Dardanelles and enter the Mediterranean, where it would then, sooner or later, inevitably clash with Britain. Our intention is, however, to prevent British imperialism from forcing, or opening whenever it finds this necessary, the gate that leads from the Mediterranean into the Black Sea. In other words, the difference between our policy and that of the Tsars is the same as between robbery and compensating the victims of robbery.

The so-called ‘freedom of the Straits’ means a dictatorship over the Black Sea by the country which possesses the strongest navy. We propose ‘neutralisation’ of the straits, guaranteed, on the one hand, by international agreement and, on the other, by practical military measures such as would make this agreement effective. [1]

III. ‘In view of the fact that it is thought in Europe that you are predominantly a friend of rapprochement between France and Russia, and the most serious obstacle to rapprochement with Britain, it would be desirable to know your views on Russia’s international policy in general, and, in particular, your view concerning rapprochement with Britain and with France. A struggle for hegemony in Europe is now going on between France and Britain, and so Europe is especially keen to know with whom Soviet Russia is disposed to side – with Britain or with France?’

I can only express amazement that, as you say, I should be regarded as an opponent of Anglo-Russian rapprochement and a supporter of rapprochement between Russia and France. Needless to say, in our policy we are guided least of all by national sympathies and antipathies, which we, being internationalists, do not have. We are guided in our attitude to capitalist countries only by considerations of expediency – that is, above all, by concern to safeguard peace and economic relations. From this standpoint it would be impossible to make a definite choice between Britain and France, because the policies of both countries towards Russia are extremely amorphous and indecisive: a little step forward, a little step back, and so’ merely marking time. We are equally ready to establish the closest possible relations with Britain and with France, together or separately. Relations will be formed more closely and lastingly with whichever country breaks decisively with the policy of the last five years and bases its new policy on considerations of tomorrow, not memories of yesterday.

November 9, 1922, No.253


1. In an interview with Arthur Ransome, published in the Manchester Guardian of October 23, 1922, Trotsky said, in connection with the Straits question: ‘Our interest is to avoid war altogether, but as a first step we must be satisfied in the elementary demands that in time of peace French battleships shall not be able to come in and blackmail Odessa by threat of bombardment, and that on a day when Lord Curzon wakes up in a bad temper he shall not be able to relieve his feelings by announcing that he will order British ships to sink Russian submarines at sight.’ In an interview published in the Observer of November 5, 1922, replying to a question on what measures he proposed for neutralising the Straits, Trotsky said: ‘Exactly those by which Belgian neutrality is guaranteed, namely, Turkey’s right to possess an army and a fleet, and to fortify the Straits with a guard against any passing warships, under whatever flag.’

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Last updated on: 30.12.2006