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The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact; Continuity or change

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The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact; Continuity or change

  1. 1. Aarhus Uni., Bachelor assignment; The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact: Continuity or Change? Jens Lindberg 1 Bachelor assignment The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact: Continuity or change? Department of political science, Aarhus University, Denmark, 2008 Student: Jens Lindberg Jensen Adviser: Mette Skak, PhD Grade: 12/A The original version of the bachelor assignment was in Danish. This version has been translated into English
  2. 2. Aarhus Uni., Bachelor assignment; The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact: Continuity or Change? Jens Lindberg 2 Abstract The 24th of August 1939 the Soviet Union and Germany signed the fateful non-aggression pact, that afterwards went down in history as the notorious Molotov-Ribbentrop Treaty. This quiet event a late night in the Kremlin immediately sent gargantuan waves of shock through the international community. Given this powerful emotional response from the outside world, it becomes interesting to inquire, whether the treaty was in fact a break with Soviet strategic culture at the time. If the treaty was not a break, then one should wonder, why the world responded the way it did. From a traditional political perspective the treaty made no sense, with the extreme left aligning itself with the extreme right, signaling a break in Soviet strategic culture. However, this paper will make the claim, that this argument and others like it were based on superficial and romanticized perceptions of the Soviet leadership. Instead, this paper will argue, that the true nucleus of Soviet strategic culture throughout the 1920s and 1930s was the survival and security of the Soviet Union. In the light of this the European governments – instead of reacting with astonishment and indignation – should have foreseen the Molotov- Ribbentrop Treaty and the Soviet turn to Hitlerite Germany, as a logical consequence of the failure of Great Britain and France to secure Soviet Security. 1 Introduction The 24th of August 1939 the Soviet Union and Germany entered into the fateful non- aggression pact that would afterwards go down in history as the notorious Molotov-Ribbentrop Treaty – a title inspired by the two signatories, foreign minister for the Soviet Union Vjatjeslav Molotov and foreign minister for Germany Joachim von Ribbentrop. This quiet event a late night at the Kremlin immediately sent gargantuan waves of shock and indignation through the international community (Read & Fischer, 1988: 258; Robert, 1995:93). This reaction also makes it interesting to enquire, whether the treaty in fact was a break with Soviet strategic culture at the time. If it was a break, then the shock, astonishment and anger was very well justified. If it was not a break, then you may wonder, why the outside world reacted the way it did.
  3. 3. Aarhus Uni., Bachelor assignment; The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact: Continuity or Change? Jens Lindberg 3 From a traditional political left-right perspective, the treaty at first hand made no sense at all: Hitler’s Germany was on the extreme right, and the Soviet Union on the extreme left. To this you may add: 1) The Nazis continuous sabre-rattling towards the Soviet Union ever since Hitler’s takeover in 1933. 2) The Soviet Union’s repeated attempts to contain Germany. 3) And that the Soviet Union from April 1939 and right up until the last days before the signing of the treaty had been in extensive negotiations with France and Great Britain about forming a defense alliance specifically against Germany. If you follow this line of arguing, it should be obvious, that the treaty entailed a change in Soviet strategic culture (Roberts, 1995: 1, 9-10). However, if we play the role of the devil’s advocate, you can argue that the above line of reasoning is based on romanticized and superficial analysis of Soviet strategic culture, and that you can really boil down Soviet foreign policy from the 1920s and to 1939 to one fundamental rationale: Survival for the Soviet state by avoiding or postponing Soviet involvement in international conflicts (Wren, 1958: 661; Martel, 1987: 174-175). In this light, the Molotov- Ribbentrop Treaty makes sense. In this light the treaty was an expression of continuity in Soviet strategic culture. And in this light the outside world should not have been shocked, but should have anticipated the signing of the treaty as a natural consequence of the British and French leaders’ lack of will to guarantee the Soviet Union a waterproof defense alliance against Germany. In this situation – according to this alternative analysis – the Soviet Union in reality had no other choice, but to enter into a temporary non-aggression treaty with Germany (Roberts, 2006: 31, 35; Martel: 182). Motivated by these thoughts, I have chosen the following question to be at the core of my paper: Was the Molotov-Ribbentrop Treaty an expression of continuity or change in Soviet strategic culture?
  4. 4. Aarhus Uni., Bachelor assignment; The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact: Continuity or Change? Jens Lindberg 4 2 Theory 2.1 Strategic culture as approach to studying international relations The theoretical frame for this paper is the concept of ‘strategic culture’, which is a special approach to the study of international relations. At the same time, it is also a relatively new approach, which not until the early 1980s really started to develop a solid foundation for its theories (Johnston, 1995: 36). What characterizes strategic culture as approach is a significant focus on the security political culture that the foreign policy decision makers are operating in. This strategic culture gives the decision makers cognitive limitations and shape the decision makers’ view of internal relations and of the foreign policy that should be pursued (George, 1969: 197). This approach stands in stark contrast to the more structural approaches to international relations, such as neo-realism, liberal economic interdependence theory and neoliberal institutionalism. In these more structural approaches, the decision makers to a much higher extent are thought to have an objective rationality driven by self-interest through which the states’ foreign policy becomes a simple reflection of the international environment’s material structures (Jackson and Sørensen, 2007: 77, 104, 110; Waltz, 1979: 88, 91-92; Keohane, 1989: 2- 3). Strategic culture avoids this determinism without as such ruling out, that states can act rationally and self-interest-maximizing. Still, strategic culture presumes, that if states are to act like this, then these conditions – rationality and self-interest-maximization – must be embedded in the state’s strategic culture (Johnston: 34-35). Paraphrasing Alexander Wendt’s famous remark, you can say that “anarchy is what states’ strategic culture make of it” (Wendt, 1992: 395). In addition to this, strategic culture is special in to the extent that traditional international relations theories actually do incorporate the importance of culture, this tends to be more focused on the general international culture between the states. With strategic culture however, the focus is more on the culture in the individual state, where we are trying to understand foreign policy through the specific cultural context that the decision makers are imbedded in (Howlett & Glenn, 2005: 131).
  5. 5. Aarhus Uni., Bachelor assignment; The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact: Continuity or Change? Jens Lindberg 5 With the concept of strategic culture, we are thereby getting the opportunity to acquire some much more nuanced analyses of states’ foreign political behavior. This can be an empirical advantage because you attain much more nuanced explanations off states’ security political behavior and a theoretical disadvantage because it becomes more difficult to formulate theoretical generalizations over many cases. Continuity and change A strong trademark with the strategic culture approach is a strong awareness towards path dependency and continuity in states’ foreign policy. In particular, this approach argues that it is difficult for states to shift their foreign policy line, because it at the same time entails a conflict with the present strategic culture (Heikka & Neumann, 1983: 7). Strategic culture as such does not rule out, that change can happen. However, a condition for quick and radical change is, that the existing strategic culture is exposed to very strong external influences (Lantis, 2005: 25). The literature here points towards different options about what these strong external influences might be. Lantis for example points towards dramatic events, which draw into dispute the core assumptions of the current strategic culture. Furthermore, Lantis think, that it can change a state’s strategic culture, if central values within the culture come into conflict with one another. On the other hand, Howlett points towards the importance of norm entrepreneurs, who are trying to change the strategic culture. Furthermore, Howlett emphasizes the importance of crew replacement, where change can happen, when some of the central decision makers are replaced. Finally, Howlett makes a point out of the importance of generational change, where a whole new generation of decision makers rises to power (Howlett & Glenn: 128). Definition One of the problems with strategic culture is a lack of consensus about what definition to use. Among other things, this is caused by the fact that ‘strategy’ as well as ‘culture’ are very
  6. 6. Aarhus Uni., Bachelor assignment; The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact: Continuity or Change? Jens Lindberg 6 broad categories (Lantis: 3-4, 12-13; Howlett & Glenn: 123-124). For this paper, I have chosen to use Johnston’s definition of strategic culture: “Strategic culture is a system of symbols (ways of arguing, language, analogies, metaphors), which creates strong and lasting strategic preferences by formulating attitudes to the role and utility of military power in intergovernmental affairs and by encapsulating these attitudes in an aura of factuality, so that the strategic preferences appear realistic and useful (Johnston: 46).” 2.2 Johnston’s strategic culture The theoretical choice for this assignment is Alastair Ian Johnston’s theoretical framework for strategic culture. The reason for choosing Johnston’s framework is that it contains a number of clear, limited and exhaustive parameters, that gives this paper a clear structure. 2.2.1 Independent and dependent variables: Assumptions and preferences What characterizes Johnston’s model is a strong positivism and a strong desire for falsifiability. This causes, among other things, a clear distinction between independent and dependent variables, where the independent variable is the state’s strategic culture, while the dependent variable is the state’s actual behavior (Johnston: 46). Johnston have here been criticized for, that the distinction between strategic culture and the behavior that it causes is far from as clear as Johnston claims. Especially Johnston is criticized for overlooking the constitutive element of behavior, where the actions, that the states undertake, are themselves a part of the process of creating a certain strategic culture (Heikka & Neumann: 8-9; Rasmussen, 2005: 70-71). This criticism is justified, and something I will take into account in this assignment. Johnston’s strategic culture consists of two parts. The first part consists of the following three basic assumptions that states make, about how the world of international relations works: 1) How high is the conflict level in international relations? 2) Are other states primarily a threat
  7. 7. Aarhus Uni., Bachelor assignment; The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact: Continuity or Change? Jens Lindberg 7 or a possibly ally? 3) To what extent can you use violence and threats of violence to attain your foreign policy goals (Johnston: 46)? The second part of Johnston’s theoretical framework is the preferences of the strategic culture, which is the strategic course of action, that the states’ leaders view as the most useful. These preferences are drawn directly from the three basic assumptions about international relations (ibid.: 46-47). This is illustrated in the below figure. Figure 1: Assumptions shape preferences Assumptions → Preferences Preferences are ranked, which means that a state almost always will have more than one preference, and that these preferences have different degrees of importance to the state. In addition to this ranking being logical, it also provides methodological advantages in that the state’s strategic culture becomes falsifiable: 1) If there is not consistency in the preference ranking over different cases at one certain time in history, then the state does not have a dominant strategic culture. 2) If the preference ranking over time and different cases stays the same, then the state has a dominant strategic culture (ibid.: 48). 2.2.2 Theoretical operationalization of Johnston’s theoretical framework In this paper, I will divide my operationalization of Johnston’s theoretical framework into the following three parts: 1) The state’s view of international relations. 2) The state’s strategic preferences, especially considering (1). 3) Means to attain the strategic preferences. By using these three categories, we obtain a very clear structure in the investigation of states’ strategic culture, where the view of international relations creates state preferences, and where the state then has some different means to attain these preferences.
  8. 8. Aarhus Uni., Bachelor assignment; The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact: Continuity or Change? Jens Lindberg 8 The state’s view of international politics In this category I have placed Johnston’s two first basic assumptions about 1) the conflict level in international relations and 2) whether states are a threat to one another. It is here of course worth pointing out the close correlation between these two assumptions. In relation to Johnston’s third basic assumption – the use of violent means in international relations – then I do not contest, that the view of means is a basic part of states’ strategic culture. I have, however, placed this basic assumption in a separate section, because this gives a clearer structure for analyzing strategic culture. The state’s strategic preferences Predominantly I agree with Johnston, that the preferences are created by the three basic assumptions, where the preferences arise from both the state’s view of international relations (my first main category) as well as what means should be used (my third main category). Still I have the following objections: 1) Johnston’s theoretical framework ignores, that there is an interaction between the basic assumptions and the preferences. Thus, the assumptions not only shape the preferences, but the preferences also rotate back and – albeit to a less extent – shape the assumptions. This is illustrated in the below figure: Figure 2: Assumptions shape preferences and vice versa Assumptions ↔ Preferences Thus I would argue, that the preferences (2nd main category) is not just influenced, but can also influence states’ view of international relations (1st main category) as well as the means (third main category). An empirical example of this was the US general staff during the Cuban missile crisis. The general staff here had a preference for military action towards Cuba. This preference to a high extent shaped the staff’s assumptions about the conflict and threat level in
  9. 9. Aarhus Uni., Bachelor assignment; The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact: Continuity or Change? Jens Lindberg 9 international relations in regards to how the Soviet Union would react to an American military action against Cuba (Allison, 1993: 361-364). 2) Johnston’s model claims, that the only thing, which can create a state’s preferences is its basic assumptions. This causality will often be mostly correct, but rarely completely correct, since the preferences can also arise independently of the basic assumptions through third variables, that the model does not take into account. An example of this was Hitler’s strategic culture’s preferences, which were not created by the basic assumptions, but by a desire for German ‘Lebensraum’ (Kershaw, 1987: 229, 256, 259). Means to reach the strategic preferences In this category I have placed Johnston’s third basic assumption about the use of violent means in international relations. Furthermore, I have added a parameter for non-violent means, since I consider these to be equally as essential means in security politics. How relevant though it may be, I will not focus on the Soviet Union’s means in this paper. This is done due to paper space constraints and that the decision makers’ basic view of international relations and their preferences all things considered are the most important elements in strategic culture, because they lay the foundation, which the means are operating from. Methodology Criteria Methodologically, Johnston puts up three criteria, which all need to be met, before you can claim that a country has one dominant strategic culture. 1) Consistent ranking of strategic preferences over all cases in the presumed formative period of the strategic culture.
  10. 10. Aarhus Uni., Bachelor assignment; The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact: Continuity or Change? Jens Lindberg 10 2) Consistency of the ranking of the strategic preferences between the formative period and the later period, that you are interested in. 3) A test of whether the decision makers’ ranking of preferences correspond to the state’s politico-military behavior (Johnston: 53). These preference stressed criteria will form the methodological frame for this paper. In addition to this – apart from Johnston’s model – I will also assess, whether the Soviet Union’s view of international relations is 1) consistent in the formative period and 2) between the formative period and the later period. This is done, because I believe, that consistency in your fundamental view of international relation is also very crucial to test in order to assess, whether there was a change in strategic culture or not. Primary and secondary sources In the section about the formative period, I will due to space constraints predominantly use secondary sources. In the following sections, I will to a higher extent use primary sources. I will, however, still continue using secondary sources even in these sections. This is done because the Soviet regime – which already Nathan Leites’ documented in his famous Soviet-studies from the early 1950s (Leites, 1951: xiii; Leites, 1953: 27) – was an extremely secretive regime, where it is crucial to be able to interpret, what the Soviet-leaders said and did, in order to come to a realistic assessment of the leaders’ motives (Resis, 1991: ix). The same is the case with the Molotov-Ribbentrop Treaty, which to a high extent needs to be read between the lines. In this situation, I will of course allow myself to be inspired by the interpretations, that other people have made about the same subject. Choice of secondary sources Among my secondary sources, I will in particular draw upon Geoffrey Roberts, who certainly is one of the most thorough among the English speaking secondary sources in his writings about the Molotov-Ribbentrop Treaty. However, this is also a disadvantage, since
  11. 11. Aarhus Uni., Bachelor assignment; The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact: Continuity or Change? Jens Lindberg 11 Roberts – despite his thoroughness – tends to be biased towards only viewing Stalin as a very careful and defensively oriented foreign policy leader. This methodological problem I will compensate for through critical judgment of Roberts’ arguments, independent analysis of primary sources as well as the use of an broad range of other secondary sources. In my use of secondary sources, I will to the extent possible focus on literature from the 1990s, when many of the Soviet archives were declassified. Discourse and practice Since the Soviet Union’s view of international relations and their strategic preferences are very broad categories, it is necessary with some methodological considerations about how I will investigate these subjects. A classical distinction within the strategic culture literature is between discourse (what you say) and practice (what you do) (Heikka & Neumann: 11, Rasmussen: 71). This I will also use as my method here: 1) As earlier mentioned, in the section about the formative period I will predominantly use secondary sources. This is a methodological disadvantage, since I cannot guarantee that these authors’ interpretations are correct. I will try to minimize this problem through critical judgment, a broad range of secondary sources and the use of some primary sources. 2) In the sections about the Molotov-Ribbentrop Treaty I will include the following primary sources as discourse elements: Official foreign policy statements (especially from the Soviet news agency TASS, the Soviet foreign ministry Narkomindel, Molotov and Stalin), the Molotov-Ribbentrop Treaty, Komintern general secretary Dimitrov’s diary as well as Molotov’s memoirs in Felix Chuev’s interviews with Molotov. As practice elements, I will analyze relevant foreign political actions, which the Soviet Union undertook in the period around the Molotov- Ribbentrop Treaty.
  12. 12. Aarhus Uni., Bachelor assignment; The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact: Continuity or Change? Jens Lindberg 12 The structure of the paper Based on Johnston’s theoretical and methodological framework for strategic culture, the structure of the paper will be as follows: 1) In the first section I will examine, whether the Soviet Union’s view of international relations is consistent, and whether there is a consistent ranking of the strategic preferences over all cases in the formative period. The formative period here is assumed to be the years from October 1917 and until early August 1939. This assumption is made because of space constraints and because there are good arguments, that the period around 1917 in part led to a different strategic culture than the period before 1917. This can among other things be attributed to Lantis’ dramatic events (World War 1, the October Revolution and the Russian Civil War) as well as Howlett’s norm entrepreneurs, crew replacement and generational change (out with Tzarism and in with socialist revolutionary idealists led by Lenin) (Bell, 1997: 123-124). 2) In the second section I will examine, whether there is consistency in the view of international relations and the ranking of strategic preferences between the formative period and the period around the signing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Treaty. This later period starts early in August 1939 and ends with the signing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Treaty the 24th of August. This time based distinction is drawn because it was only after the German-Polish Gdansk-crisis early in August 1939 – which signaled a soon to come German attack on Poland – that the Soviet Union seriously started to consider a German-Soviet deal (Roberts, 1989: 144). 3) In the third section I will test, whether the decision makers’ ranking of preferences in the period around the signing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Treaty corresponds to the Soviet Union’s politico-military behavior. For this section, I have chosen to focus on the Soviet Union’s behavior in the year after the signing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Treaty. This is done because the Soviet Union in this period exhibited a behavior with a clear relation to the newly signed treaty. It is of course methodologically problematic to analyze behavior in the period after the signing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Treaty and not – as Johnston’s model requires – in the same period as the treaty was signed. It is my assessment however, that this methodological problem is not overwhelmingly big, considering that the time gap between these two periods is very short, and
  13. 13. Aarhus Uni., Bachelor assignment; The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact: Continuity or Change? Jens Lindberg 13 because of which it is reasonable to presume, that the two periods were an expression of more or less the same strategic culture. 4 Review of the formative period 1917-1939 4.1 Parameter 1: View of international relations Conflict level Soviet strategic culture viewed in the formative period international relations as highly tense with a high risk of violent, inter-state conflicts. This conflictual view of international relations was consistent through the entire period and across all cases (Roberts, 1989: 23-151) and was strongly related to the Soviet threat perception (see the section below) (Bell: 124). Threat perception Through the 1920s and 1930s, Soviet strategic culture had a very pessimistic view of the relationship between the Soviet Union and the rest of the world’s countries, where the Soviet Union saw itself as a lone socialist island surrounded by hostile states (Murphy, 2005: 2; Bell: 124). Yet there were big variations about to what extent certain countries posed a threat. The threat against the Soviet Union especially came from authoritarian, militant and expansionist states like Germany and Japan and to a much smaller extent from democracies like France, Great Britain and the United States. This is shown for example through Stalin’s famous distinction between the capitalist camp’s democratic and fascist states, where the fascist states were to be feared much more than the democratic. The fear of Japanese expansion was heightened especially from 1932 (Wren: 665; Bell: 222), while the fear of Germany – which until then had been the Soviet Union’s most important ally through the Rapallo-cooperation (Roberts, 1995: 9) – became imminent with Hitler’s
  14. 14. Aarhus Uni., Bachelor assignment; The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact: Continuity or Change? Jens Lindberg 14 takeover in 1933 (Roberts, 1989: 43, 54, 57-58, 96). This threat perception was consistent through the whole period and across all cases (Roberts, 1989: 23-151). 4.2 Parameter 2: Preferences 4.2.1 Preferences in the formative period The Soviet Union had a consistent ranking of preferences in the formative period. The primary preference was the survival of the Soviet Union, whereas the secondary preferences were ‘neighbor imperialism’1 and an ideological preference for socialist world revolution. All these preferences, though in particular the preference for survival, seems to correspond very well with the assumptions about the level of conflict and threats in international relations. This fact strengthens Johnston’s argument, that a strategic culture’s preferences are created by its assumptions (Johnston: 46-47). Opposition towards fascist regimes Antifascism was in the 1930s a strong element of the Soviet Union’s foreign policy as well as with Comintern. Antifascism was strengthened in the Soviet Union in particular after Hitler’s takeover in 1933. In Comintern, antifascism became especially prominent after 1935, where Komintern with the popular front policy encouraged communist groupings all over the world to find allies from other parts of the political spectrum in the fight against fascism (Martel: 163; Roberts, 1989: 82). Despite its importance, I will not include antifascism in my assignment as a preference of its own. This is because I primarily see antifascism as a mean for the Soviet leaders to meet their preference for survival: Militant and expansionist states like Germany and Japan were a threat towards the survival of the Soviet Union in the 1920s and 1930s. The Soviet Union needed to avert this threat, and here the antifascist slogan – the way I see it – was used as a mean to 1 Neighborhood imperialism refers to a desire to dominate or influence the countries in the immediate vicinity of the Soviet Union.
  15. 15. Aarhus Uni., Bachelor assignment; The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact: Continuity or Change? Jens Lindberg 15 strengthen the international society’s resistance towards these states to the benefit of the Soviet Union (Roberts, 1989: 117-118). Theoretical overview of the preferences To create a theoretical overview of the preferences, you can use the typology of the English School, which categorize state’s foreign policy according to their realistic, rationalistic and revolutionary elements. Thus states are realistic, when they are acting based on their own self interests and view international relations as a zero sum game. States are rationalistic, when they are acting in accordance with international laws and conventions. And finally states are revolutionary, when they are trying to change the international society’s existing order to obtain a higher ethical goal (Jackson & Sørensen: 133, 135-136). The preference for survival was primarily an expression of realism and in part an expression of rationalism, when it served the Soviet Union’s interests to follow the international rules and norms. An example of this was the Soviet attempts to strike deals about collective security in the League of Nations 1934-1938 (Roberts, 1995: 9). Neighborhood imperialism was an expression of realism, whereas socialist world revolution was an expression of revolutionarism. The preferences’ location are shown graphically in the figure below: Figure 3: The Soviet Union’s preferences placed within the typology of the English school Realism Rationalism Revolutionarism 1. Survival 2. Neighbor- hood imperialism 2. World revolution
  16. 16. Aarhus Uni., Bachelor assignment; The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact: Continuity or Change? Jens Lindberg 16 It is here difficult to determine, how the ranking was between the secondary preferences. This is so, because neighborhood imperialism and world revolution was used in different areas and therefore very rarely would come into conflict with one another. A tentative estimate here is though, that neighborhood imperialism and world revolution had more or less the same ranking. The two paradigms As the figure indicates, there appeared to be two different paradigms within the Soviet preferences. The first realistic paradigm includes the preferences survival and neighborhood imperialism. This paradigm is dominated by realism with a focus on national self interest and international relations as a zero sum game. In this paradigm, the survival of the Soviet state is the primary preference. The other revolutionary paradigm contains the preference about socialist world revolution and is dominated by the desire to change the international order. The leading paradigm is the realistic one, which the Soviet leaders considered more important than the revolutionary paradigm. 4.2.2 Primary preference: The survival of the Soviet Union The Soviet leaders’ consistent primary preference was the survival of the Soviet Union (Wren: 661). This preference was to a high degree based on the impression, that the Soviet Union was threatened. This impression was caused by especially five factors: First of all, the Soviet leaders viewed international relations as having high levels of conflict. Second of all, the Soviet Union was very isolated internationally, even though this situation was improved from the mid 1920s (Roberts, 1989: 30). Thirdly, there was a risk of a two front war against Japan and Germany; especially following the signing of the Anti- Comintern Pact in 1936 (Roberts, 1989: 39, 73; Martel: 175, 181). Fourthly, the Soviet Union in the 1920s and 1930s was in a very weak position militarily (Murphy, 2005: xvi; Wegner, 1997: 28; Wren: 661; Roberts, 1989: 30). Finally, fifth of all there was probably a cultural path
  17. 17. Aarhus Uni., Bachelor assignment; The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact: Continuity or Change? Jens Lindberg 17 dependency, where the search for security in the time of the Russian empire was one if not the most important preference in Russian foreign policy (Szamuely, 1974: 23, 27-28). In relation to discourse, then the survival preference was expressed through the more pragmatic foreign policy line, which the Soviet Union gradually shifted to after a revolutionary period from 1917 to 1920, where the Soviet leaders in their foreign policy actively had sought to promote world revolution (Roberts, 1989: 29). This more pragmatic foreign policy, where it became legitimate to cooperate with and have peaceful relations with capitalist states, could among other places be seen through Lenin’s doctrine about ‘peaceful coexistence’ between socialist and capitalistic states (ibid.: 31-33) as well as in Stalin’s doctrine about ‘socialism in one country’ from 1924 (ibid.: 31-33). Moreover the survival preference was expressed in Litvinov’s speeches in the League of Nations for peace and against expansionist states (Litvinov, 1939: 22-23, 32-33, 36-37, 50-51, 66-67, 88-89, 110-111, 114-115). In terms of practice, the survival preference was expressed through the Soviet Union’s attempts to break its international isolation by seeking diplomatic recognition from a broad range of states from the 1920s and forward (Wren: 652-653). Similarly, the Soviet Union in the 1920s and 1930s signed multiple non-aggression treaties (Wren: 658, Roberts, 1989: 42) and attempted several times to establish regular alliance deals (Litvinov: 181, 187, 192; Roberts, 1989: 63, 68; Wegner: 30). Finally, the economic Rapallo-cooperation from 1922 and onwards between the Soviet Union and Weimar Germany was similarly a mean to break the isolation of the Soviet state (Roberts, 1995: 147; Martel: 177). 4.2.3 Secondary preference: Neighborhood imperialism A consistent secondary preference for the Soviet Union was neighborhood imperialism in traditional Russian spheres of interest. During the time of the Russian empire there existed a strong neighborhood imperialism, where Russia was seeking to exert influence in the immediate vicinity of the empire (Szamuely, 1974: 23-24). This neighborhood imperialism continued in the formative period of the Soviet Union. This was not expressed through Soviet discourse, but was clearly expressed in Soviet practice – for example through the gradual extension of the Soviet Union’s territory in the 1920s and 1930s. Similarly, Soviet Russia/RSFSR in 1920 used violent
  18. 18. Aarhus Uni., Bachelor assignment; The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact: Continuity or Change? Jens Lindberg 18 means in trying to prevent the independence of the Baltic states. Furthermore, Soviet Russia the same year tried to put into power a Soviet friendly government in Finland to prevent Finnish independence (Cohen, 1996: 74-75). Finally, in the 1920s and 1930s the Soviet Union carried through a strong Sovietization of its neighborhood state Mongolia (Morozova, 2002: 3-4, 14-15; Murphy, 1966: vii). It is here important to note, that neighborhood imperialism not necessarily is opposed to the survival preference, but that it actually in some ways complement it. Russian expansionism here had a curious duality, where it in addition to 1) expansion for the sake of expansion also was about 2) securing the security of the empire by winning new territories. This can be related to John Mearsheimer’s offensive neorealism, which points to, that many states act offensively and aggressively to strengthen their own security (Mearsheimer, 2001: 362-363; Jackson & Sørensen: 87; Ermarth, 2006: 4). Thus the neighborhood imperialism was a mixture of a real preference for expansion for the sake of expansion as well as a mean to secure the primary preference for survival. This is illustrated in the below table. Tabel 1: The double meaning of Russian imperialism The 2 aspects of neighborhood imperialism The 2 roles of neighborhood imperialism Expansion for the sake of expansion Secondary preference to primary preference of survival Expansion to increase state security Mean to obtain primary preference of survival Sometimes, expansionist foreign policy contained both aspects at the same time, whereas other times it only contained one of the aspects. An indication that this duality was continued by the new Soviet leaders is found in Litvinov’s talk with journalist Richard Hottelet in 1946. In this interview, Litvinov confirmed, that the Soviet leaders sought security through territorial expansion (Resis: 6; Roberts, 1992: 49-50). 4.2.4 Secondary preference: Socialist revolutions in other countries As mentioned earlier, socialist world revolution was an important part of foreign policy in the early years of the Soviet state. In the following years, however, this preference had to be
  19. 19. Aarhus Uni., Bachelor assignment; The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact: Continuity or Change? Jens Lindberg 19 downplayed in the Soviet Union’s official statements in order to break the international isolation (Roberts, 1989: 29, 30, 32). The consistency was in part kept though, considering that the preference for socialist world revolution lived on in the organization Comintern, which especially from 1924 was dominated by the Soviet Union2 (McDermott & Agnew, 1996: 1-2, 14- 15, 42-46). 4.3 Conclusion In this section, I have analyzed the Soviet Union’s view of international relations and the corresponding preferences in the formative period 1917-1939. In regards to the view of international relations I found great consistency: First of all in relation to the conflict level, where the Soviet Union viewed international relations as generally having high levels of conflict. And second of all in relation to threat perception, where the Soviet Union saw other states as posing a threat to the Soviet state. In relation to the Soviet Union’s preferences, I also found consistency in the preference ranking with survival as the primary preference and neighborhood imperialism and world revolution as secondary preferences. In this regard, it should be pointed out, that the secondary preferences to some degree were acting as means to obtain the primary survival preference. To what degree, this has been the case, is however a huge question that goes far beyond this paper, which is also the reason why I will not delve deeper into these subjects more than what is strictly necessary. 2 Comintern (Communist International) was an international organization founded in March 1919 and consisted of communist parties from all over the world. Comintern’s official goal was to work for socialist takeovers in states all over the world.
  20. 20. Aarhus Uni., Bachelor assignment; The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact: Continuity or Change? Jens Lindberg 20 5 Consistency between the formative period and the period around the signing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Treaty 5.1 Introduction to the treaty The Molotov-Ribbentrop Treaty consisted of an official and a secret part. The official part was the non-aggression treaty. The secret part was an additional protocol, which divided some Eastern-European areas into Soviet and German spheres of influence: Germany got West Poland and Lithuania, while the Soviet Union got Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Eastern Poland and the Rumanian area of Bessarabia (Degras, 1953: 360-361). This is displayed in the below figure, where ‘Map 1’ is the division of the spheres of influence in the Molotov-Ribbentrop Treaty, whereas ‘Map 2’ are the actual territorial changes in 1939-1940: Figure 4: Spheres of influences and actual territorial changes 1939-1940 Source: Peter Hanula, 2006. Gathered from www.wikipedia.com. Wikipedia is not a scientific source, but I have checked, that the maps are correct in regards to the spheres of influence and actual territorial changes.
  21. 21. Aarhus Uni., Bachelor assignment; The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact: Continuity or Change? Jens Lindberg 21 5.2 Parameter 1: View of international relations Conflict level The Molotov-Ribbentrop Treaty was basically a continuation of the Soviet Union’s conflict based view of international relations. This was seen through the Soviet Union’s deep mistrust towards Germany, who they feared would attack the Soviet Union, if the Soviet Union did not sign this treaty. Also, this conflict based understanding of international relations was evident in relation to Great Britain, which the Soviet leaders were suspecting of wanting to appease Hitler and turn his aggression eastwards towards the Soviet Union (Roberts, 1989: 116; Murphy: 23; Wren: 669; Resis: 9; Martel: 175, 181). Threat perception Before the Molotov-Ribbentrop Treaty the Soviet leaders viewed the Soviet Union as a lone socialist island surrounded by hostile, capitalist states. This perception continued with the Molotov-Ribbentrop Treaty, which was signed exactly because the Soviet Union viewed these states – and at any rate the great powers Germany, Japan, Great Britain and France – as not having the best interest of the Soviet Union in mind. Thus the treaty was signed 1) because of the risk of a German and possibly Japanese attack and 2) because Great Britain and France would not offer the Soviet Union a real military alliance. In addition to this, it was also important for the signing of the treaty, that especially Great Britain seemed accommodating about the idea of turning Hitler’s Germany to the east (Martel: 175-176). Second of all, before the Molotov-Ribbentrop Treaty the Soviet leaders saw fascist capitalist states as posing a much greater threat than democratic capitalist states. These attitudes were also continued with the Molotov-Ribbentrop Treaty, with the treaty being signed 1) because Germany was the biggest and most imminent threat in international relations, 2) because the Soviet’s feared Japan on the Western front, while 3) the democratic states in Great Britain and France were not posing any direct threat (Roberts, 1989: 116; Murphy: 23; Wren: 669; Resis: 9; Martel: 175, 181).
  22. 22. Aarhus Uni., Bachelor assignment; The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact: Continuity or Change? Jens Lindberg 22 5.3 Parameter 2: Preferences 5.3.1 Primary preference: Survival of the Soviet Union Continuity or change In the following sections I will present the various arguments for continuity and change, respectively. This section will be finished off with a conclusion, where it will be discussed, which explanations are more correct. 5.3.1.1 Continuity argument: Germany as a threat to the Soviet Union’s survival There are strong arguments, that the Molotov-Ribbentrop Treaty was consistent in keeping survival as the most important Soviet preference. Here, the treaty should be seen as part of a process, where the motive of the Soviet leaders was to secure the Soviet Union’s survival in the light of a grave German threat. Hitler had for many years – also before he came to power in 1933 and even all the way back to ‘Mein Kampf’ (Hitler, 1926: 591, 605-608) – expressed a strong anti-Bolshevism. For Hitler, this was combined with a desire for ‘Lebensraum’ east of Germany’s borders (Roberts, 1989: 40, 96, 100). Because of this, the Soviet leaders and their leading diplomats in Narkomindel had a strong fear, that Hitler’s Germany sooner or later would attack the Soviet Union (Roberts, 1989: 43, 54, 57-58, 96; Wegner, 1997: 30). To contain this threat, the Soviet Union in August 1939 had two basic options: 1) Bilateral defense alliance with France and Great Britain. 2) Obtain a temporary deal with Germany (Wegner: 31). According to this continuity argument, the reason that the Soviet Union finally chose option 2 and signed the Molotov-Ribbentrop Treaty was: 1) The Soviet Union in August 1939 had to make a decision to secure its survival and 2) at the time, option two was the only one that was actually available.
  23. 23. Aarhus Uni., Bachelor assignment; The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact: Continuity or Change? Jens Lindberg 23 The Soviet Union had to make a choice to secure its survival Over the summer of 1939, the German-Polish conflict over the port town of Gdansk was escalating. For the Soviet Union, this was interpreted as indicating, that a German attack was imminent (Roberts, 1989: 144). This made the Soviet Union’s isolationist position untenable, because the Soviet Union after Germany’s invasion of Poland would have the impressive German Wehrmacht standing on the Polish-Soviet border. This would have entailed great risks for a German surprise attack on the Soviet Union. This interpretation – without specifically referring to the Gdansk crisis – is supported by Molotov in his memoirs (Resis: 9). Despite reservations about the credibility of Molotov as a source3 (Resis: vii), the explanation seems logical. A deal with Germany as the only realistic option to secure Soviet survival As it is shown in the Soviet Union’s foreign policy announcements, the Soviet Union from mid April 1939 and up until the Molotov-Ribbentrop Treaty on August 24 1939 had negotiations with Great Britain and France about a military alliance against Germany (Degras: 329, 330, 337, 340, 349, 352, 356). However, the Soviet Union was not convinced, that France and especially Great Britain – among other things through their dilettante approach to the negotiations (Degras: 365; Murphy, 2005: 20-22) – took this alliance seriously and actually would come to the Soviet Union’s aid military if attacked by Germany. From the point of view of the Soviet leaders, this ruled out the option, that the Soviet Union’s security could be secured through a deal with Great Britain and France. That this interpretation is correct is supported in Soviet discourse, where the Soviet Union in countless official statements both before and after the break down of the negotiations exactly referred to this interpretation. These statements came from prominent institutions and people such as TASS, Narkomindel, Molotov, Leningrad’s party boss Zhdanov as well as the Soviet Union’s chief negotiator in the August-negotiations Voroshilov (Degrad: 330-331, 336, 349-354, 356, 362, 363-365). 3 For example denies Molotov in his memoirs blatantly the existence of the secret protocol (Resis: 13).
  24. 24. Aarhus Uni., Bachelor assignment; The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact: Continuity or Change? Jens Lindberg 24 In the light of this break down in the negotiations the Soviet Union almost had no other options than – in trying to secure the preference for survival – to go into a temporary alliance with Germany (Martel: 181). This was confirmed by Molotov in a speech to the Supreme Soviet on August 31 1939 and later on in his memoirs (Degrad: 365; Resis: 5, 9). If this interpretation is correct, then the Molotov-Ribbentrop Treaty is an expression of continuity. 5.3.1.2 Change arguments Contrary to the above continuity arguments, you can also argue that the Molotov- Ribbentrop Treaty contained offensive and expansionist elements. This could indicate change rather than continuity, since these elements went against the defensive rationale in the survival preference. These arguments will be presented in the following three sections. Change argument 1: An ideological desire for a West European war, which introduced more offensive elements in Soviet strategic culture The first change argument is ideological, where the offensive motives goes back to Marxism-Leninism and to Lenin’s imperialism theory, which said that war between capitalist states was unavoidable. The argument here is, that the real cause for the Ribbentrop Treaty was, that Stalin was a Marxist-Leninist ideologist, who wanted to provoke a West European war between the capitalist states. This war would weaken these states and increase the Soviet Union’s power in Western Europe (Radzinsky, 1997: 440-442; Martel: 176-177; Roberts, 1989: 31-32). Whether this theory is correct is incredibly difficult to determine, because you have to know what Stalin was thinking and nobody knew that with certainty (Bell: 126). That the theory may have some merit is supported in Soviet discourse. This happened first of all in Stalin’s speech to the Politbureau August 19 1939, where he directly confirmed this theory (Murphy, 2005: 24-26). This happened several places in the speech, but is most clearly done in the last section: “It is in the interest of the Soviet Union (…) that a war breaks out between Das Reich and the capitalist Franco-British alliance. We have to do all to make sure, that the war continues as long as possible with the purpose of tiring both sides. For exactly this reasons, we must
  25. 25. Aarhus Uni., Bachelor assignment; The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact: Continuity or Change? Jens Lindberg 25 approve the pact suggested by Germanu (Murphy, 2005: 26).” However, the authenticity of this speech is disputed, which limits its value as a source (Murphy, 2005: 26-27; Roberts, 2006: 35; Degrad: 406). Second of all, indications that this theory is correct is found in Stalin’s conversation with Comintern General Secretary Dimitrov in September 1939. At this meeting, Stalin said that an inter-imperialistic war between capitalist states in Western Europe was something that did not bother the Soviet Union. Also these comments can be interpreted as supporting that Stalin with the Molotov-Ribbentrop Treaty wanted to provoke a West European war (Dimitrov, 2003: 115; Murphy, 2005: 27). On the other hand, you can also argue that Stalin in the Comintern community was only trying to justify the approaching Soviet Union invasion of Eastern Poland. Furthermore, you can argue that Stalin’s comments do not necessarily show that he wanted a West European war. Instead, they could indicate that Stalin was aware, that a European war was inevitable and if war came, then it all things considered was better if it broke out on West European soil than on Soviet territory (Roberts, 2006: 36-37). Change argument 2: Neo-realistic desire for a West European war, which introduced more offensive elements to Soviet strategic culture The other change argument is, that even though Marxist-Leninist ideology did not play any significant role, the Soviet decision makers – in a more apolitical and neo-realist perspective about relative gains – could still have wanted a war between West European countries. This war – together with the Molotov-Ribbentrop Treaty – the Soviet Union could have used to increase its power in Western Europe (Weinberg, 2005: 98-99). The most common interpretation here is that Stalin actually never wanted an alliance with France and Great Britain, since this would prevent Hitler’s West European war. According to this interpretation, the alliance negotiation from April to August were insincere and was only done among other things to give the Soviets a stronger negotiation position vis-à-vis a German- Russian deal (Radzinsky: 440, 442; Martel: 176-177). The indications for and against this change argument 2 are more or less the same as with change argument 1.
  26. 26. Aarhus Uni., Bachelor assignment; The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact: Continuity or Change? Jens Lindberg 26 Change argument 3: The offensive logic of different spheres of interest introduced more offensive elements in Soviet strategic culture The last change argument is about the offensive logic of the secret protocol of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Treaty. According to this argument, this promoted Soviet expansion into its sphere of interest, which introduced more offensive elements in Soviet strategic culture in opposition to the survival preference. My overall view of this argument is, that the division of spheres of interest in the secret protocol – and the offensive elements that it contained – did not compromise the survival preference. For this there are four main reasons: First of all, the division of spheres of interest – as will be explained in section 6.1 – was based on the survival preference, and a Soviet desire to protect itself from the German threat through a number of East European buffer states (Roberts, 1989: 162, 184). Second of all, should the Soviets act offensively in their sphere of interest, it would now happen with the accept of the great power Germany (Degras: 359-361; Roberts, 1995: 103). Third of all, the Soviet Union was convinced that the other two European great powers – France and Great Britain – would not let themselves be drawn into large scale conflicts because of Soviet pressure against governments in Finland, the Baltic countries, Eastern Poland or Bessarabia (Roberts, 1989: 183-184). Finally fourthly, the countries in the Soviet sphere were small and weak and – at least in the Soviet mind – could easily be defeated by the Red Army if it came to that (Roberts, 1989: 166; Roberts, 1995: 104). As this shows, the division of spheres of interest did not break with the survival preference. Still, I would argue that the division of spheres of interest probably to some extent reshaped the survival preference: With the spheres of interest in the secret protocol, the Soviet leaders likely realized that they to some extent could act more offensively in their sphere, without necessarily compromising the survival preference. This was not a break with the survival preference, since the spheres of interest did not mean, that the Soviet leaders downgraded the importance of survival vis-à-vis other preferences. However, it was a reshaping of the way that the Soviet leaders understood the survival preference, because it limited the set of factors, which could threaten Soviet survival. The secret protocol in this regard likely created a greater space for the secondary preference for
  27. 27. Aarhus Uni., Bachelor assignment; The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact: Continuity or Change? Jens Lindberg 27 neighborhood imperialism, exactly because this local imperialism was no longer to the same extent viewed as a threat to Soviet survival. 5.3.1.3 Conclusion In this section, both continuity and change arguments were brought into play. Considering the lack of primary sources, it is difficult to clearly say, which interpretations are more correct. The decisive question here is though whether the Soviet leaders saw Germany as a threat in August 1939. If yes, then it is difficult to consider the Molotov-Ribbentrop Treaty as anything but a continuation of the most important Soviet preference of survival. If no, then the Soviet Union likely had more offensive motivations with the Treaty. All in all, my view here is that the Soviet Union actually did see Germany as a threat, which supports continuity. This view is based on two indicators. First of all I believe that the alliance negotiations with France and Great Britain were sincere from the Soviet side (which the negotiations would not have been, if the Soviet Union had seen Germany as a threat), and that the Soviet Union only left the negotiations, because they did not trust, that France and Great Britain could secure Soviet security. This view is based on the fact, that Germany ever since 1933 had been the Soviet Union’s biggest threat (Roberts, 1989: 43, 54, 57-58, 96). This created a path-dependency within Soviet culture, which nothing indicates should have been broken in 1939. Furthermore, it is my view, that the Soviet demands to France and Great Britain mostly were quite reasonable4 (Degras: 329, 330-331, 336, 340-341, 349-350). This again indicates that the Soviets were serious about these negotiations. If it then is correct, that the alliance negotiations were serious and based on the Soviet survival preference, then it at the same time seems unrealistic, that Soviet strategic culture with the Molotov- Ribbentrop Treaty suddenly should turn 180 degrees and replace the so far superior preference (survival) with an until then inferior preference (Soviet power over West European countries)5 . 4 With the exception of the demands of securing the Red Army free movement across Poland and Rumania on the road to Germany (Degras: 361; Taylor, 1961: 256-258). 5 In relation to none of Howlett’s or Lantis’ change premises being present (Lantis: 25-26; Howlett & Glenn: 128).
  28. 28. Aarhus Uni., Bachelor assignment; The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact: Continuity or Change? Jens Lindberg 28 Second of all it is my view – based on Molotov’s memoirs and the high international attention to the Gdansk crisis – that the Soviet leaders in August 1939 realized, that Germany soon would attack Poland, which would leave the Soviet Union in a very vulnerable position (Resis: 9; Roberts, 1989: 151). Henceforth, it is my overall view that the clear, primary goal with the Molotov- Ribbentrop Treaty was to secure the Soviet survival preference, which at the same time expressed continuity in Soviet strategic culture. 5.3.2 Secondary preference: Neighborhood imperialism Also in relation to neighborhood imperialism, you can argue in terms of continuity for Soviet strategic culture. As earlier mentioned, neighborhood imperialism had two aspects: 1) Expansion for the sake of expansion and 2) expansion to increase Soviet survival. Sometimes an expansionist foreign policy contained both elements and other times only one of them. In this regard, there are several indications that the Molotov-Ribbentrop Treaty contained clear elements of expansion for the sake of expansion – among other things because of the emotional attachment of Soviet leaders to areas within traditional Russian spheres of interest. A first indicator of this is seen by looking at the historical context. Historical context One indicator that one of the purposes with the Treaty was expansion for the sake of expansion is found by looking at the spheres of interest in a historical context: 1) The Soviet Union’s territory in Eastern Poland is almost identical with the Congress Poland, which was a Russian satellite state from 1815 to 1915 and the area that Soviet Russia lost to Poland in the Polish-Russian war of 1920-1921 (Martel: 168, 188). Furthermore, there were emotional attachments, because large parts of the population in Eastern Poland were Ukrainians and Belarusians, who was considered to belong to the Russian empire (Degras: 375). 2) The Baltic countries have been a part of the Russian sphere of interest for centuries; were from the 18th century to 1920 a part of the Russian empire; and only achieved their independence reluctantly
  29. 29. Aarhus Uni., Bachelor assignment; The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact: Continuity or Change? Jens Lindberg 29 from the Russian side (Cohen: 74). 3) Bessarabia was from 1812 to 1918 a part of the Russian empire. After this, it was conquered by Romania which created a lasting conflict between Romania and the Soviet Union (Roberts, 1989: 42; Murphy, 2005: 37; Haslam, 1983: 114-115). Finally, Finland was part of the Russian empire from 1809 to 1917, and as with the Baltic countries only achieved independence reluctantly from the Russian side (Cohen: 75). New possibilities with the division of spheres of interest As the above section shows, there are obvious reasons to assume, that the Soviet leaders in the 1920s and 1930s were emotionally attached to these areas. However, before the Molotov- Ribbentrop Treaty it was impossible to act on these sphere of interest preferences. This was the case, because an active Soviet neighborhood imperialism would have risked interventions from other European great powers, which would have compromised the Soviet survival preference. This changed with the Molotov-Ribbentrop Treaty, where Germany allowed the Soviets free hands in Finland, the Baltic countries, Eastern Poland and Bessarabia (Degras: 359-361). Buffer states as security Against the above argument you could claim, that the purpose with division of spheres of interest was not neighborhood imperialism, but was founded in the survival preference. Henceforth, with the secret protocol the Soviet Union acquired a belt of buffer states, which had the following advantages: Moving the Soviet line of defense many hundreds of kilometers west with increased chance of stopping the German Wehrmacht, which at the same time would deter Hitler from a spontaneous attack on the Soviet Union. This interpretation was confirmed by Molotov in his memoirs (Resis: 9). This “buffer state argument” can account for the inclusion of Eastern Poland, Estonia, Latvia, Bessarabia in the secret protocol and the at the same time annexed northern part of Bukovina (Murphy, 2005: 29). Here you can ask though why Lithuania – which would have been an ideal bridgehead for German troops moving into the Soviet Union – belonged to the German sphere of interest and not the Soviet. In this regard however, Soviet discourse as well as
  30. 30. Aarhus Uni., Bachelor assignment; The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact: Continuity or Change? Jens Lindberg 30 practice indicates, that this point of the secret protocol was one point where the Soviets did not get what they wanted (Read & Fischer: 254-256, 343-344). Because of the offensive element in the buffer state argument it is at the same time logical to link the survival preference with the other interpretation of the neighborhood imperialism: Neighborhood imperialism as expansion to increase the state’s chances of survival. In this version, the neighborhood imperialism actually had a function as a mean to secure the Soviet survival preference. Conclusion As shown above, the division of spheres of interest can both be interpreted as the neighborhood imperialism preference understood as expansion for the sake of expansion as well as the survival preference. There are undoubtedly elements of both things, but overall it seems more likely, that the survival preference was the far more important Soviet motive: Considering the Soviet Union’s critical security situation in August 1939, then it does not seem plausible, that the Soviet leaders could have taken the luxury to think about preferences for neighborhood imperialism (Roberts, 1989: 144). The Soviet leaders likely have had emotional attachments to these areas, which has strengthened the incentive to include these areas in the Soviet sphere of interest. This was probably particularly the case with Eastern Poland with its Belarusian and Ukrainian minority groups (Degras: 375; Roberts, 2006: 37) as well as Bessarabia with its troubled political past (Resis: 10). Still, these emotional attachments have likely only played a secondary role considering the critical security situation of August 1939. As an objection to this argument, the Soviet leaders at the signing of the treaty had no clear plans how they would use their sphere of interest to strengthen Soviet chances of survival (Roberts, 1995: 104; Roberts, 1999: 658; Watson, 2005: 171, 172; Degras: 360-361, 372; Wegner: 45). However, even though the Soviets had no master plan, then the only realistic interpretation still is, that the Soviet leaders at least had some general thoughts about, how they would use their sphere to strengthen their politico-military position before the German attack, that would come sooner or later (Roberts, 1995: 104).
  31. 31. Aarhus Uni., Bachelor assignment; The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact: Continuity or Change? Jens Lindberg 31 Henceforth, the division of spheres of interest expressed continuity of the ranking of preferences, because the primary preference (survival) was weighted higher than the secondary preference (neighborhood imperialism understood as expansion for the sake of expansion). Whether the distance between the two preferences was altered is difficult to determine, since both preferences was assured with the secret protocol. An argument in favor of increased distance is that the secret protocol cemented that survival was the superior Soviet preference. On the other hand, the division of spheres of interest – as mentioned in section 5.3.1.2 – also introduced a strong neighborhood imperialism. As this shows, arguments favor both preferences, which is why my overall view is, that the distance between the preferences remained more or less the same. 5.3.3 Secondary preference: Socialist revolutions in other countries The Molotov-Ribbentrop Treaty did not deal with the preference about socialist world revolution. Because of this, the Treaty did not directly express neither continuity nor change (Degras: 359-361). Still, the Treaty expressed indirect change, since it reinforced survival as the primary preference in Soviet foreign policy and not international events – including world revolution – outside Soviet territory with no clear relation to the survival preference. With this emphasis on the survival preference in the Treaty, it is a reasonable assumption that the relative distance between these two preferences increased. This is illustrated in the below figure. Figur 5: Preference distance before and after the treaty Preference distance before the treaty Preference distance after the treaty Primary preference: Survival Primary preference: Survival Secondary preference: World revolution Secondary preference: World revolution
  32. 32. Aarhus Uni., Bachelor assignment; The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact: Continuity or Change? Jens Lindberg 32 Considering that also neighborhood imperialism was strengthened with the Molotov- Ribbentrop Treaty, it is similarly likely that the balance between world revolution and neighborhood imperialism may have shifted as well, in favor of neighborhood imperialism. Henceforth, world revolution seems to have lost importance both to the survival preference and the preference for neighborhood imperialism. 5.4 Conclusion The findings of this section were that overall there was consistency between the formative period and the period around the signing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Treaty, while at the same time being minor cases of change. The results are as follows: In terms of the Soviet Union’s view of international relations, then I found consistency between the two periods: In both periods, the Soviet decision makers viewed international relations as generally based on conflict, where other countries were exhibiting threats to the Soviet Union. In relation to the Soviet Union’s preferences there was also consistency through survival being the primary preference in both periods. However, also change was happening, first of all in that the Treaty’s focus on survival meant that the distance between this preference and world revolution increased. Second of all, the Treaty focused to some extent on neighborhood imperialism, which meant that this preference became more important vis-à-vis world revolution. Third of all, the decision of spheres of interest meant that the Soviet Union could act offensively in its sphere without it necessarily compromising the survival preference. 6 Does the preference ranking correspond to the state’s behavior? Overall, the Soviet Union’s political and military behavior after the Molotov-Ribbentrop Treaty seems at first hand to correspond well with the ranking of Soviet preferences. This
  33. 33. Aarhus Uni., Bachelor assignment; The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact: Continuity or Change? Jens Lindberg 33 behavior consisted of mainly two elements: Soviet actions in their sphere of interest and a stop for anti-fascist rhetoric6 . 6.1 Soviet actions in their sphere of interest After the treaty, the Soviet Union conducted a number of political-military actions, where the Soviet Union through political pressure with military undertones attempted to secure Soviet influence in states within their sphere of interest in the secret protocol. The actions were as follows: In September 1939 Eastern Poland was invaded (Murphy, 2005: 30); in September- October 1939 the Baltic states were forced to enter into alliance treaties with the Soviet Union which included the building of Soviet bases and the stationing of Soviet troops on Baltic territory (Murphy, 2005: 38; Weinberg: 100-101); in November 1939 a war broke out between Finland and the Soviet Union on Soviet initiative; June 26th 1940 the Soviet Union demanded – with threats of military intervention – that Rumania handed over Bessarabia; and finally in 1940, the Baltic states were incorporated in the Soviet Union (Weinberg: 102). The buffer state argument or neighborhood imperialism? For these actions to verify the preference ranking, the primary motive has to have been survival and the desire for more security through a belt of buffer states. Whether this is the case is difficult to determine, because the actions can also be interpreted as an attempt to attain the secondary preference for neighborhood imperialism (understood as expansion for the sake of expansion). All things considered, the buffer state argument seems to have more support empirically (Roberts, 1989: 162; Roberts, 1995: 103; Murphy, 2005: 38). 6 Methodically you can object that stopping anti-fascist rhetoric is discourse (Johnston’s independent variable) and not behavior (Johnston’s dependent variable). In this case I will however argue, that stopping this rhetoric meant a shift in policy, and that policy shifts – because of the active element in changing your policy line – is most appropriately interpreted as behavior.
  34. 34. Aarhus Uni., Bachelor assignment; The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact: Continuity or Change? Jens Lindberg 34 First of all, the buffer state argument is supported in Soviet discourse through various policy statements. An example of this was the following statement from Molotov to the Estonian foreign minister in September 1939: We cannot allow that small states are used against the Soviet Union. Neutral Baltic states – it is not safe enough. You can be certain, that the Soviet Union (…) will make sure to provide for your security (Roberts, 1989: 163). A further indicator is found in Stalin’s statement one month later in October 1939: Maybe the Germans will attack. (…) We have to prepare for this in good time. Others, who were not prepared for it, paid a high price (Roberts, 1995: 104, 167). Still, you need to be careful interpreting these statements too literally, since they may also just have expressed the Soviet leaders’ attempt to secure their real preference for neighborhood imperialism. Second of all, the buffer state argument is supported by the speed with which these actions happened following the signing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Treaty. This could indicate a Soviet fear for a soon to come German attack and the desire to as quickly as possible secure a number of buffer states between Germany and the Soviet Union (Degras: 359-361, 374, 380-381, 403, 453-456, 458-460). Third of all, the buffer state argument is supported in the path dependency argument, where the Soviet leaders because of their strategic culture automatically tended to focus more on survival than neighborhood imperialism. At the same time as neither of Lantis’ or Howlett’s change conditions were present – which could have indicated that the Soviet leaders focused on other things than survival – but that the situation because of its large and imminent German threat actually favored a focus on security and survival, then the most likely thing is that the Soviet leaders acted based on the survival preference and not the neighborhood imperialism preference (Lantis: 25-26; Howlett & Glenn: 128). This path dependency argument seems to be the strongest support for the buffer state argument. Even though the data is by no means uniform, then there are all things considered more speaking in favor of these actions being carried out as part of a buffer state rationale. Still, neighborhood imperialism likely has played some – albeit secondary – role in certain actions and especially in relation to Poland and Bessarabia (Degras: 375; Resis: 10).
  35. 35. Aarhus Uni., Bachelor assignment; The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact: Continuity or Change? Jens Lindberg 35 The action against Finland An objection to the continuity argument is the action against Finland. Finland was not a buffer state, which could indicate more offensive and expansionist elements in the Soviet behavior. Against this you can however argue, that the Soviet Union with its Finish mission only wanted to increase the security of its second most important city Leningrad, which was only 30 kilometers from the Finish border (Roberts, 1989: 164). Henceforth, according to Geoffrey Roberts and supported in Molotov’s memoirs, the Soviet leaders had strictly defensive reasons for their Finish mission where the goal never was to take all of Finland (Roberts, 2006: 47-48; Roberts, 1989: 164-165; Resis: 9-10). Far from all historians agree with Roberts, but at the same time it seems unlikely that the Soviet leaders would be willing to risk their preference for survival over Finland. 6.2 Stopping anti-fascist rhetoric Soon after the signing of the Treaty, the Soviet Union significantly watered down the anti-fascism in their official statements (Degras: 367-368). Similarly, on Stalin’s instructions to Dimitrov September 7 1939, the Comintern had to give up its Popular Front policy and avoid blatant anti-fascist rhetoric (Dimitrov: 115, 116; McDermott & Agnew: 193-194; Dallin & Firsov, 2000: 148). The most likely interpretation is here, that the Soviet Union took these policy shifts, because they did not want to provoke Germany, which could compromise the Soviet wish to postpone the conflict with Germany for as long as possible. As in the previous section, this supports that the Soviet Union was acting based on their survival preference, which again confirms the ranking of preferences. On another note, this shift in means – from a strong anti-fascism to a more accommodating foreign policy towards fascist states – probably constituted the largest continuity break in Soviet strategic culture as a consequence of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Treaty.
  36. 36. Aarhus Uni., Bachelor assignment; The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact: Continuity or Change? Jens Lindberg 36 6.3 Conclusion In this section we found consistency between Soviet strategic culture in the period around the signing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Treaty7 and the Soviet Union’s political-military behavior. Henceforth, as expected, the Soviet behavior mainly reflected attempts to 1) secure the primary preference for survival; 2) partially secure the secondary preference for neighborhood imperialism and 3) the Soviet’s lack of focus on securing the secondary preference about world revolution. 7 Conclusion Theory and method The theory and method for this paper has been based on Johnston’s models, which overall have proven to be reasonable and useful models for this case. A theoretical advantage with this has been, that Johnston provides this paper with clear, limited and relevant theoretical parameters, which gave the paper a good, theoretical structure. A methodological advantage of Johnston was, that the Soviet Union’s political-military behavior was an excellent method to test, whether the observed continuity or change was a valid finding or not. This distinction between strategic culture and behavior was particularly useful in my case, since the Soviet Union’s political-military actions occurred after the Molotov- Ribbentrop Treaty’s signing: In other words, a clear distinction in time between the independent variable (the strategic culture) and the dependent variable (behavior). Because of this, I did not have problems with the political-military actions’ constitutive importance for the strategic culture, since the focus of this paper was the Soviet strategic culture during the negotiations and signing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Treaty in August 1939. The biggest shortcoming of using Johnston was theoretical. The problem here of course is, that the clearly distinguished parameters did not correspond to the real world, where the 7 A primary focus on survival; a partial focus on neighborhood imperialism and a lack of focus on world revolution.
  37. 37. Aarhus Uni., Bachelor assignment; The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact: Continuity or Change? Jens Lindberg 37 border areas between the Soviet preferences was much more muddy, as it indeed will be in nearly all questions about culture. Conclusions of the paper If we look at what the paper actually was inquiring about, then the paper tried to find the answer to the following question: Was the Molotov-Ribbentrop Treaty an expression of continuity or change in Soviet strategic culture? The overall answer to this question is, that the Treaty in far the most cases expressed continuity in Soviet strategic culture. Still, in some areas, the Treaty carried with it change. The above question was answered by comparing Soviet strategic culture in a formative period (October 1917 to early August 1939) and Soviet strategic culture in the period around the signing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Treaty. This comparison happened through two parameters: 1) The Soviet strategic culture’s view of international relations. 2) The Soviet strategic culture’s preferences. Finally, the paper tested, whether the Soviet preferences corresponded to its political-military behavior. In terms of the Soviet strategic culture’s view of international relations, then the Treaty mostly was an expression of continuity: Both before and after the signing of the treaty did the Soviet leaders view international relations as based on conflicts and where each state was maximizing its own interests, entailing large risks of international conflict. In relation to this, the Soviet leaders before and during the period of signing the Treaty saw countries as threats rather than as somebody you could cooperate with. Furthermore, before and during the period of signing the treaty, the Soviet leaders saw other countries as having a hostile view of the Soviet Union, with Germany and Japan being the biggest and most relevant threats and with a Great Britain wanting to divert German aggression to the east towards the Soviet Union. In terms of the Soviet culture’s strategic preferences, then the image is a bit muddier, even though the overall impression is still one of continuity. Considering the very close correlation between these two parameters, the continuity of the Soviet leaders’ preferences are
  38. 38. Aarhus Uni., Bachelor assignment; The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact: Continuity or Change? Jens Lindberg 38 logical considering the continuity in the way, that the Soviet leaders understood international relations. The most important expression of continuity here is, that the Molotov-Ribbentrop Treaty mainly was signed to secure the primary Soviet preference for survival. In this matter, the non- aggression treaty was signed in order to give the Soviet Union a temporary breather, where they could re-build the Red Army before the German attack that the Soviet leaders thought would come sooner or later. Similarly, the division of spheres of interest in the secret protocol was mainly about survival, where the Soviet Union attained a number of buffer states, that in some cases pushed the Soviet line of defense all the way up to 400 kilometers westward (Murphy, 2005: 43). The change, which the Treaty did entail for the preferences, was that the focus on survival and partly also on neighborhood imperialism became more important vis-à-vis the preference for world revolution. Similarly, the Treaty probably meant, that the Soviet leaders became more willing to act offensively in their sphere of interest, without these actions necessarily compromising the primary preference for survival. Finally, the treaty resulted in a stop of the anti-fascist policy line and rhetoric, which until then had been one of the Soviet Union’s most important means to assure its survival. All in all, the Molotov-Ribbentrop Treaty, because of its focus on survival, carried with it mainly continuity. This maintained the then current ranking of the Soviet strategic preferences, while cementing that the realistic paradigm in Soviet strategic culture was more important than the revolutionary paradigm. These results were confirmed in the analysis of the Soviet Union’s political-military behavior in the period following the signing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Treaty. Why was there more continuity than change? The reason why the Treaty mainly brought continuity was, that none of the conditions for radical change were present. Lantis in this matter emphasized the importance of dramatic events bringing into question the basic assumptions of a country’s strategic culture. The critical situation, that the Soviet Union was in during August 1939, was indeed highly dramatic.
  39. 39. Aarhus Uni., Bachelor assignment; The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact: Continuity or Change? Jens Lindberg 39 However, this situation did not bring into dispute the Soviet primary preference – survival – but only confirmed it. Similarly – following Lantis – in the cases where Soviet preference did come into conflict with each other, then the primary survival preference would win, which maintained the basic structure of the ranking (Lantis: 25-26). Finally, there were none of those norm entrepreneurs, crew replacements or generational changes, which Howlett emphasize the importance of: As in the 1920s and 1930s, the central person in Soviet foreign policy and the central carrier of Soviet strategic culture was Stalin, who in August 1939 was standing in an even stronger position with the always loyal Molotov at his side (Howlett & Glenn: 128; Resis: 69, 77; Lantis: 18). Know your opponent’s strategic culture! Winston Churchill wrote in 1954 that the Molotov-Ribbentrop Treaty “broke upon the world like an explosion” (Roberts, 1995: 93, 165). The key lesson of this story however is, that the world’s governments instead of being shocked should have seen the coming of the Treaty or at least should have counted in the Treaty as a very likely outcome, considering the Soviet strategic culture’s focus on security and survival. This at the same time emphasizes the importance of your state’s leaders’ ability to analyze other countries’ strategic culture correctly, because only by doing that will your leaders maximize their chances of attaining your country’s strategic preferences. On the other hand, if your state’s leaders consistently misinterpret other countries’ strategic culture, it can result in disastrous consequences with repercussions very far away from your country’s strategic preferences. This was seen with the Munich agreement in September 1938, where Chamberlain and Daladier thought, that they could appease Hitler (Evans, 2006: 674; Taylor: 157, 185-186). And this was seen a little less than a year later, when especially the British leadership hoped, that the Soviet Union would accept a military alliance, which was not really a military alliance, and where nobody believed, that the Soviet Union would go as far as to sign a deal with Germany to obtain Soviet security (Martel: 182). With these fundamental misinterpretations by two European great powers’ strategic culture, Great Britain and France – in complete opposition to their own
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