How Legitimate Were Soviet Russia ‘s Security Interests in Eastern Europe After 1945?
On the eventide of February 25th 1945 the RAF undertook what was to go one of the worst atrociousnesss committed by the western powers throughout the full war. The German ground forces was in full retreat, resignation imminent, and the RAF took the now ill-famed determination to fire bomb Dresden. The metropolis, one of the gems of European civilization, was of virtually no strategic, and was overruning with refugees, was virtually razed to the land. McKee, mentioning an RAF rating, stated “the end is to interrupt the German rear…and by the way, to demo the Russians what we can do” . Indeed many have argued along the same lines that one of the things the Americans were believing when dropping the atomic bombs on Nagasaki and Hiroshima was to move as something of a warning to the Russians.
It would be entirely incorrect to presume that Allied policy in the dying months of the war, as the Axis powers crumbled, was directed excessively much towards the Russians, as a presentation of power and a warning against future aggression towards the western Allies. The Dresden action does suggest at a concern that must hold been held at the clip ; the terminal of the war would take the drift for cooperation provided by the presence of a common enemy. Russia, Great Britain and the United States had ever been incongruous Alliess ; committed, as they were, to radically different socio-political political orientations. Merely the common menace had united them, with that menace removed, a competitory border ( rhenium ) emerged between E and West.
Although it is common to depict the station war epoch as bipolar, that the universe was basically presided over by two great world powers. The two powers were non equally matched, nevertheless. American casualties for the war were really light in comparing to those suffered by the Russians. The American economic system had been given a major encouragement by the increased production needed for the war attempt: Soviet union on the other manus had been devastated. Much of its substructure ballad in ruins, reconstructing took all of Russia’s attempts in the station war period. The state of affairs in Europe after the war should hold led to a period of peaceable coexistence as the participants recovered, but it did non.
In the initial station war period, the Russians basically occupied Eastern Europe. The extent of control has been much debated, but given the Numberss of Russian military personnels in the part, a degree of control is obvious. Immediately after 1945, Stalin had to be careful both to avoid destabilization of administrative, economic or security procedures, and besides to avoid war with the West. The Russians had non yet developed atomic power and were no uncertainty worried by the show of power upon the Nipponese by the Americans. Russian land forces were still really big, but so were those of the western powers, but the wants of the war meant continued struggle was unthinkable. To the Russians, nevertheless, fright of invasion was of all time present. It was this of all time present menace, perceived or existent, that led to the physique up of forces by the Russians, which was followed by the western powers.
At the terminal of the war, the western Alliess were in no form to go on belligerencies. There was a existent perceptual experience, nevertheless, that the Russians would non be happy to halt at Berlin, but would wish to go on west to busy the whole of Western Europe. With this menace in head, Churchill issued “Operation Unthinkable” , late declassified paperss show that Churchill had a program to integrate the lasting elements of the German ground forces, including the SS divisions, into those of the western powers to oppose the Russians in the event that they were non content with busying Eastern Europe. It is extremely likely that the Russians would hold had similar frights, although their system, until really late, has non been unfastened plenty to declassify of import paperss. This clime of common fright for the security of the freshly acquired countries led to a military physique up which we should now analyze a little more closely.
In world, comparatively modest Soviet forces would hold sufficed to safeguard Soviet security in the freshly gained districts in Eastern Europe, but the Russians chose to maintain important forces at that place. Precisely how big the Soviet demobilization was after the war, and therefore finding the size of the Russian presence in Eastern Europe, is hard to cognize, owing mostly to Soviet secretiveness, peculiarly on affairs of security. Some official Soviet statements say that there was a decrease in phases from around the wartime extremum of 12,000,000 work forces, but no figures were given as to what the station 45 degree was until Khrushchev gave a figure of 2,874,000 by 1948. There followed a physique up to 5,763,000 by 1955 following aggravation by the West.
The 1948 figure for Soviet Numberss cited by Khrushchev is by and large regarded as minimizing the issue ; Western estimations for the immediate station war period are in the part of 4,000,000. This includes the security constabulary in Eastern Europe, possibly 500,000 strong. Even if Khrushchev’s quoted figure is accurate, nevertheless, this still represents a monolithic disparity in Numberss between station war Soviet forces and those maintained by the taking western powers. For illustration, by 1947 the American armed forces had been reduced to around 1,400,000, they remained around this figure until the eruption of the Korean war 5 old ages subsequently ; British and Gallic forces were smaller still.
Whatever the existent degrees of the Soviet station war military constitution, it is copiously clear that the Russians held a monolithic combined weaponries advantage over the Western Alliess. The Russians left behind around 30 divisions in Eastern Europe and possibly 500,000 work forces. This degree would be approximately the equivalent of a Soviet wartime forepart. This force was opposed by 10 ill organised and slackly co-ordinated allied divisions garrisoning Western Europe. This Soviet forward deployment remained about wholly stable for the following two decennaries.
It was this extremely seeable military presence in Europe that led Western Alliess to go earnestly concerned with the instability of forces ; an instability that they believed could compromise the security state of affairs and prejudice station war treatments and dialogues. To the Soviets the forces were at that place to guarantee control and security of the Western forepart.
One of the greatest failures of the station war period was the failure of the two freshly emerged great powers to get at any signifier of permanent understanding, no uncertainty because of reciprocally held misgiving. In the station 1945 old ages, Stalin chose a class which non merely prejudiced the possibility of station war coaction with the Western powers, but which besides served to unify the West in resistance to his purposes and policies. That Western authoritiess, through their attitudes and statecraft, besides gave rise to what was to go known as the cold war, goes about without stating. Many “revisionist” historiographers, mostly in Americas, topographic point about all of the incrimination for the cold war forthrightly upon the Americans themselves. This school holds that Stalin was the injured party, and that Western powers did non give Russia clip to retrieve from its about fatal engagement in the war. They hold that Western authoritiess were basically dead set upon mortifying the Soviets and their policy of containment was designed to strip the Russians from claiming and profiting from what was truly theirs, the spoils of Eastern Europe.
Many readings of Stalin’s motivations and actions have been offered since the terminal of the war ; they tend to fall into two classs. The first stresses his desire to work the station war state of affairs ij order to do positive additions for Soviet policy ; the 2nd, those underscoring his security concerns: to guard off awaited menaces to the Soviet Union. The first class, for illustration, sees the position that Stalin, feeling that the floodgates of societal and political turbulence would hot stay unfastened for long, seized the opportunity to heighten what may be called the Soviet Empire, even at the hazard of estranging her former wartime Alliess. A more misanthropic version would be that the licking and prostration of Germany left a power vacuity at the really hearty of Europe that Stalin was acute to make full. The 2nd class, one that is of most concern to us here, Stalin is thought to be chiefly concerned to stave off anticipated attempts by his former Western Alliess to sabotage his place and undo his wartime additions. He hence sought to keep Soviet security by a hawkish consolidation of Soviet control over the districts that were occupied by the ruddy ground forces at the terminal of the war.
A likely 3rd statement is that Stalin was prone to conceal his expansionist policy under the pretense of security involvements, and that, in fact, as he would hold understood it, there was no existent difference at all between the extension of Communist regulation throughout Eastern Europe and the securing of Soviet security issues. The revisionist school, mentioned above, would keep that Stalin was in fact unfastened to dialogue with the West, but it was merely after his mistreatment by America that he adopted an Fe drape policy.
Stalin was, to an extent, the prisoner of an political orientation which led him to see the capitalist West as an unappeasably hostile antagonist, purpose on stoping communism everyplace ; but he was besides a cold political realist who weighed every interaction with the West in power footings.
In footings of the security inquiry in Eastern Europe: the Soviets were ideologically opposed to the West, and vise versa ; and both tended to see secret plans and security issues everyplace during the old ages of the cold war. Equally far as the Soviets were concerned, Russia had been invaded and devastated by a western power, Germany ; and had at that clip been caught virtually unprepared. This was a state of affairs that Stalin could ne’er let to go on once more. The Western powers had demonstrated, through the fire bombardment of Dresden and the usage of atomic arms that they excessively could lay waste to Russia is they chose. Russia, on this analysis was, hence forced to keep a important standing ground forces and to follow the Americans in developing atomic arms every bit shortly as was possible, she was besides forced to handle the districts of Eastern Europe as a Western forepart in waiting and keep big forces at that place. The world of the state of affairs was, nevertheless, that the security hazard from the Western powers was likely rather little, as was the menace to the West from Russia ; the perceptual experience at the clip from both nevertheless was rather another narrative: Each say a clear and present danger from the other which led, necessarily to the cold war.
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P. E. Zinner, The Ideological Bases of Soviet Foreign Policy, World Politics, July 1952, 497-99.