EXTRACTS FROM THE REPORT BY CHICHERIN ON SOVIET FOREIGN POLICY TO THE FIFTH ALL-RUSSIAN CONGRESS OF SOVIETS
4 July 1918
Izvestia, 5 July 1918
During the period following the conclusion of the Brest treaty, Russia's foreign policy has gone along lines different from those followed in the first months after the October revolution. At the end of 1917 and the beginning of 1918 the basic feature of our foreign policy was the revolutionary offensive. It took its bearings from the immediate prospect of the world revolution, for which the Russian revolution was to serve as the signal. It was directed, over the heads of Governments, to the revolutionary proletariat of all countries, and both in its actions, sharply opposed to the entire nature of existing capitalist Governments, and in its words, its strongly agitational. offensives were calculated to stir up the revolutionary proletariat of all countries to an international revolutionary struggle against imperialism, against the capitalist system.
When the failure of any immediate support from the proletariat of other countries led to the defeat of the revolutionary Russian forces by Austro-German imperialism, to the occupation of Finland, the Ukraine, the Baltic provinces, Poland, Lithuania, and White Russia by the armed forces of German and Austro-Hungarian imperialism, the setting of Soviet Russia's foreign policy changed radically. For the last four months it has been compelled to pursue the aim of pushing off and postponing the dangers threatening it from all sides, trying to gain as much time as possible, both in order to give the growing proletarian movement in other countries time to ripen, and to gain more time for the new forms of political and social relationships established by the Soviet Government to take root among the popular masses of Russia, and to tie them more closely to the Soviet programme.
Not having yet succeeded in creating adequate fighting forces for the defence of the country, surrounded by enemies awaiting its ruin, suffering from the incredible destruction brought about by war and Tsarism, Soviet Russia in its foreign policy had all the time to keep in mind the need of avoiding the dangers threatening its destruction at every step. This policy of delay was possible thanks to the conflict of interests not only between the two coalitions, but also within each of them, and even within the imperialist camp of each belligerent country. The struggle on the western front has for the present tied up the forces of both coalitions so much that neither has decided to go all out openly for the destruction of Russia. Some imperialists in both coalitions think of the future after the war, of economic relations with Russia, this world market most capable of expansion. Instead of a policy of robbery, these elements in both coalitions would prefer a policy of trade, of concessions and economic conquests. Some of the military elements think of the part Russia could play, even in the present war. The hope of dragging Russia into war, at a time when it is re-creating its military power, is a factor entering into the calculations of both coalitions. So, side by side with the war parties in both coalitions who advocate an offensive to crush Soviet Russia, there are other elements supporting this policy.
The Soviet Government, having decided to conduct a policy of waiting, of manceuvring, for it is not anxious for military revenge, but is convinced that the social changes called forth by the war will lead to new relations between the nations, was compelled to yield, even after Brest, to force of arms, and also to take into account in its foreign policy the influence of elements acting against the war parties. These elements are weak, and we are not yet in a position to reinforce their influence with our own military power; the revolutionary proletarian movement, which is growing everywhere, has not yet reached the point of explosion, and therefore the report which we have to give is a grave report, a report on our retreats, a report of great sacrifices made in order to give Russia the opportunity of recuperating, of organizing its forces, and awaiting the moment when the proletariat of other countries will help us to complete the socialist revolution we began in October....
Summing up our entire foreign policy over the past four months, we may say that Soviet Russia is regarded as an outsider among contemporary capitalist Governments, which behave towards it in general as would be expected from the absence of common ground between them. The position of Soviet Russia between two imperialist coalitions, like being between two fires, is extremely difficult, but we can say with full confidence that the best and indeed the only way we can overcome this position is by internal consolidation, by the development of our internal life on Soviet principles, by economic rehabilitation and consolidation on the basis of collective forms of production, and by the re-creation of a military force for the protection of the conquests of our revolution. The nearer we come to realizing this aim, the better our position abroad will be; our foreign policy is dependent on our internal policy.
Documents on Soviet Foreign Policy
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