Yaroslav BUTAKOV (Russia)
After the Second World War the USA had practically no competitors in the world at all. But the contradictions between the imperial powers were not diminished completely. Geopolitical combination — the USA allied with the rest of the Western states against the USSR along with the few countries of the socialist bloc — was not the only possibility by the end of the Second World War.
Our goal is not the communism anymore?
The facts indicate that Stalin was motivated by his urge towards the restoration of the Russian Empire — there were evidences of that in the numerous acts of both domestic and foreign policy. In the foreign policy he viewed the socialistic system as a mean to consolidate Russian influence abroad, rather than build a Communist bloc. Stalin didn’t supported communists in Greece where they were fighting in a civil war until 1949. Neither had he supported the radical demarches of the French and Italian communists. He, seemingly, didn’t want communists to come to power in those countries where the USSR was unable to politically dominate due to geopolitical or economic causes. He hasn’t even supported the Chinese communists in the very beginning of their struggle with Kuomintang — he only started to help them in 1947-48 when the bellicose U. S. intentions and obviously anti-Soviet Kuomintang policy became clear.
Few Stalin’s acts can be an evidence of the fact that he strove to expand the geopolitical sphere of the USSR influence as much as he could. For example, he has tried to use the “League of Nations mandate” (“Organization of the United Nations mandate” to be precise) also known as the “wardship” or the “protectorate” mandate. When the UN raised the question of governing the former Italian colonies in Africa (such as Libya, Somali, Eritrea) the USSR was trying to obtain the mandate to govern these territories.
It was vitally important to keep the free outlet to the Mediterranean Sea and, at the same time, to secure the Black Sea straits both to the USSR and to the Russian Empire. Soviet Union combined the attempts to review the status of Bosphorus and Dardanelles straits with the urge to restore the Caucasian border of the Russian Empire in 1914. Postwar Soviet leadership also strove to secure its interests in Iran just the same way as Russia and England were negotiating about the partition of the spheres of influence in this country in 1907.
But by the 1945-46 the USA has already started opposing any Soviet initiatives intended to secure its geopolitical safety and stability even when they haven’t posed the direct threat to the U. S. interests. Under the Harry Truman rule the USA used any available option to restrict the geopolitical influence of the USSR. The USA started the offensive against the vital interests of the Soviet Union. However, it may not be true that had the President Roosevelt live a little longer — the American policy would be different. Such policy was majorly determined by the prevailing sentiments of the American “elite” rather than the views of the host of the White House.
Nuclear “club” against Russians
It is quite well-known that the first reaction of the U. S. President Harry Truman to the report that the nuclear bomb was successfully tested in Alamogordo on the 16th of July, 1945 was his phrase: “Finally I have the club to use against these Russians”.
In the summer of 1946 the USA undertook its first attempt of the nuclear “blackmail” against the USSR. According to the wartime agreements, the USSR and the Great Britain were obliged to pull out their troops out of the Iran — which they preventively occupied in August of 1941 — within 6 months after the war was over. The specified term expired on the 2nd of March 1946. Both powers, however, were unwilling to leave Iran. England desired to strengthen its influence in the Persian Gulf area. The United States backed England and, in fact, it was them who actually tried to secure their grip at the oil-bearing region.
The USSR, just as the Russian Empire, was also interested in the consolidation of its position in the Northern Iran. That’s why it supported the national movement in the Iranian Azerbaijan, aiming to annex this territory to Soviet Azerbaijan if they’d failed to force the Shah government to recognize autonomy of this Iranian province. As the democratic movement fighting against the Shah regime was growing across the country, the Soviet leadership didn’t mind using it for their own purpose of strengthening its influence in the country.
Great Britain pretended to be withdrawing its troops out of Iran and demanded the same from the Soviet Union in a categorical manner. The USA supported the British claims, having threatened that in the case of non-fulfillment it would drop an A-bomb to Baku. At that period USSR was unable to find the adequate reply to the Anglo-American claims. After the withdrawal of the Soviet troops Iranian democratic movement was suppressed. British and American troops though, have stayed in Iran due to the “request” of the Shah government.
During the following years the USA have repeatedly used the threat of A-bomb in political discourse with the Soviet Union. Under these circumstances the USSR, feeling at a “besieged fortress”, cut up the democratic reforms and rendered its support to the Chinese communists and the Northern Korea. Spirit of the stand and the Cold War have ousted the spirit of cooperation that seemed to carry the days during the Second World War.
Having obtained the temporary monopoly for the nuclear weapons, U. S. elites imagined that it is actually the eternal guarantee of the military invulnerability of their country. From now on, nothing was able to get in the way of openly realizing the program of the U. S. world dominion. After the Second World War the USA had practically no competitors in the capitalistic world at all. Germany and Japan were defeated as the great powers. England and France were under the heel of the USA, having become the obedient satellite-states. The USSR was the only obstacle on the American way towards the world dominion…
But the contradictions between the imperial powers haven’t diminished completely. Conflicts between the USA and the “old” imperialists as England and France concerning the matter of Egypt and the Suez Canal were quite indicative of that. They became apparent in 1956 when the USA unequivocally denounced the English and French intervention of Israel and Egypt. And that is an evidence of the fact that the geopolitical combination — where the USA allied with the rest of the capitalistic states stood against the USSR along with the few countries of the socialistic bloc — wasn’t the only possible one by the end of the Second World War.
And what if they didn’t have the bomb?
Let’s imagine now that after the 1945 the USA had no monopoly for the weapons of mass destruction. Its creation was qualitative breakthrough in the field of technologies — breakthrough that might not took place as well or took place few decades later. In this case the USA could seek Soviet cooperation to arrange the postwar peace. And the foreign policy that dominated during the Roosevelt rule (i. e. during the war) could have continued, having established another kind of tradition in the USA-USSR relationship.
Why do we need this? Isn’t there a saying that “there are no ‘ifs’ in the history”? People say so but two outstanding Russian thinkers — Alexander Gertsen and Vasily Klyuchevsky – stood for an opposite thesis. They’ve considered history as an alternative process. And we also believe that the alternatives of the past that never came true might help us to better understand the alternatives of the future. That’s why it is so important to study these alternatives.
Absence of the U. S. nuclear monopoly is the most significant factor that could have seriously changed the foreign policy vector of the Atlantic power after the Second World War. We might also imagine any other reason here. The result — that is what so important here: after 1945 the USA are still seeking to keep the allied relationship with the USSR. How the postwar world would look like then?
All the Stalin’s actions were indicative of the fact that he acknowledged the Western Europe and the Mediterranean to be the Anglo-American bloc’s sphere of influence. All the USA needed to do was to admit that the Europe to the East of the new German borders was to become the Soviet sphere of influence. Germany, Austria and the Scandinavian countries would have become the neutral ‘democratic’ zone between the two world centers of power.
As for the Eastern Asia, Kuomintang China could have become the same zone over there if not for the American attempts to turn it into the object of their exclusive influence. In this case Korea could have been united the same way the Austria was restored in Europe. Kuomintang China would be unable to secure its grip over the Dzungaria, Tibet and Manchuria then. Thus in the long-run weak and neutral China suited the USSR interests much more than the united communist China, as long as in the first case the USSR (as well as the Russian Empire) could have remained its spheres of influence at the territory of China. Giving the USSR right to participate in the postwar restoration of Japan could eliminated the last potential trigger for the possible confrontation between the USSR and the USA at the Far East or Asia.
Of course, in this case the USA was to agree with the USSR interests at the Middle East. But we added the evidence that they were rather modest and they were within the former Russian Empire field of influence. Some pressure was to be put on Turkey in order to force it to review its borders in the Caucasus and the regime of the Black Sea straits. They could have actually been internationalized (the way it, de-facto, happened after the First World War). Another alternative was to let the USSR to set up the military and naval bases in this region. Turkey could have got the compensation in the still not sovereign Syria and the Iraqi Kurdistan.
Stalin’s claim to provide Bulgaria a corridor for the outlet to the Aegean Sea for the account of Greece was quite fair and reasonable (Greece seized this territory from Bulgaria after the First World War). Dodecanese islands seized from Italy might have become a fair compensation for Greece then.
Stalin’s attempts to gain the mandate for governing the former Italian colonies in Africa should be considered to be the reaction for the non-compliance of the Soviet request considering the Black Sea straits and the Turkish Armenia. However, internationalization of the Suez Canal — despite the imperial reaction of the Great Britain — would have become a sufficient guarantee of the Soviet interests as long as in this case the USSR would gain an outlet to the Mediterranean Sea.
We have deliberately recalled the 1956. Allied relationship between the USSR and the USA would have needed the rivals of the postwar reconstruction in order to consolidate these relations. In reality both powers were undermining the old colonial empires of England and France. In our version they could have combined their efforts for that. Actually, absence of the American monopoly for the WMD and (due to that fact) presence of another invincible centre of power — the USSR — would have made the appearance of the old inter-imperial contradictions between the USA on one side and England with France on the other side much more probable. In such conditions “the democratic alliance” of the USA and the USSR that was to stand against the colonial empires of the “old” could have replenished its strength from that source for quite a long time.
And of course, presence of the American good will for cooperation and the absence of the nuclear blindness could have become the decisive factor that could led to a completely different postwar world view (even in the case of creation of the atomic bomb).
Yaroslav Butakov is a prominent Russian network analyst writing for the WIN.RU portal. The article is published with minor linguistic corrections by the OR Editorial.
The ideas expressed may not concede in all aspects with those of the ORIENTAL REVIEW.