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Harold Roberts

Stalin Throws Monkey-Wrench
into Anglo-Soviet Negotiations

Molotov Speech Indicates Stalin’s Intention to Keep on Raising Ante
– Warns of Closer Relations with Axis Powers

(June 1936)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. III No. 39, 6 June 1939, pp. 1 & 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.

The Stalin government with careful deliberation last week threw another monkey wrench into the negotiations for an Anglo-French-Russian war alliance.

Speaking before the “Supreme Soviet,” Vyacheslav Molotov – Litvinov’s successor as foreign commissar – announced that London and Paris had not yet raised the ante sufficiently for Moscow to show its hand.

He referred bluntly to Stalin’s cherished ace-in-the-hole when he warned that Stalin would always find it possible to arrange matters with Hitler and Mussolini if Britain and France failed to meet his conditions.

Molotov revealed that negotiations for a “trade agreement” with Germany had been going on intermittently for a year. The latest offer, including a 200,000,000 mark credit from the Reich to Russia, dated from as recently as December and January. The parleys were halted but, Molotov added: “To judge by certain signs it is not out of the question that the negotiations may be resumed.”

These “certain signs,” it appeared from Molotov’s speech, could be summarized as follows:

  1. Moscow believes London and Paris are trying to jockey the Russians into a position of chestnut-pulling for the Western powers at minimum cost and inconvenience to the latter.
  2. Moscow believes that Chamberlain and Daladier still hope to “appease” Hitler, and assumes this would be at Russia’s expense.
  3. The latest British proposals for an alliance contained tricky loopholes which upon closer examination turned out to be wide enough for the whole German army to march through.

Fascist Fact Envisaged

From these facts and assumptions, Moscow has evidently drawn the conclusion that Britain and France may not be quite so ready to go to war with the axis powers as they claim to be, and consequently Moscow reserves full liberty of action to make its own deal with the Fascists should the opportunity present itself.

Molotov even made a special point of stressing that the recent Italo-German military alliance was directed not against Russia but against the Western powers, and besides his reference to the German negotiations, made a special point of reminding his hearers in London and Paris that Russia had a trade pact with Italy, recently concluded, which was proving “of advantage to both countries.”

But Face Both Ways

Nevertheless, it was apparent from the general tenor of Molotov’s speech, that the Russians intend to continue negotiating with the British and French in the expectation that their terms will be met. These terms included a thoroughly and explicitly automatic pact of mutual assistance and the extension of the guarantees to all the Baltic states, as well as those already in effect for Poland, Rumania, and Greece. A further point Molotov raised was the question of the Aland Islands, strategic archipelago commanding the Gulf of Finland, which Finland and Sweden, with Hitler’s blessing, recently decided to remilitarize.

Finally Molotov brought in the question of the Far East, where Soviet-Japanese tension, always latent, was brought to a fresh boil during the past ten days by a series of incidents of dubious origin. By reaffirming Russia’s intention to defend Outer Mongolia against Japanese attack, Molotov was in all probability laying the groundwork for bringing the Far Eastern problem into the Anglo-French – Soviet negotiations, possibly at a later stage.

The net effect of this latest development is to leave Russia pretty much where it has been ever since the current crisis opened – in the middle of the road between the two opposing camps in Europe, holding out its favors for the highest bid.

As we have pointed out in these columns repeatedly, the Russian position would indeed be a strong one if the Stalin regime in Russia were itself strong, both in itself and in the support of workers all over the world.

But the Stalin regime and the Red Army have been rent by the terrific and bloody purges of the past two years and Soviet economy as a whole has suffered heavily from the effects of the purge as well as from its own basic contradictions. For these reasons the Soviet position really remains a major question mark. Yet the very fact that it is a gamble either way provides it with a certain superficial strength in the present situation. Just what that strength will amount to when the real test comes, remains to be seen.

The only sure thing is that Stalin, like Hitler and Mussolini and their counterparts in Britain and France, will not survive the coming war what-sver the lineups when it finally does break out.

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