From Co-operation to Confrontation: The End of Rapallo and the Turn to Collective Security, 1933–1935

  • Geoffrey Roberts


At the moment of Hitler’s accession to power in January 1933 the Rapallo relationship between Soviet Russia and Germany was still largely intact. Over the next 12 months, however, a decade of political, military and economic co-operation between the two states was liquidated. Military co-operation was terminated, trade began to plummet, and in December 1933 the USSR embarked on an anti-German policy of ‘collective security’ — a quest for a grand alliance of states to contain Nazi aggression and expansionism. In pursuit of this quest the USSR joined the League of Nations in September 1934, participated in negotiations for a regional defence agreement in Eastern Europe and, in May 1935, signed mutual assistance pacts with France and Czechoslovakia. All of these Soviet actions were directed against Germany. Germany, the USSR’s most important ally in the capitalist world in the 1920s, had become the object of Soviet encirclement and confrontation.


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Notes and References

  1. 1.
    J. Degras (ed.), Soviet Documents on Foreign Policy, vol. 3, 1933–1941 (Oxford, 1953), p. 56.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Soviet foreign policy archives. Cited by I. F. Maksimychev, Diplomatiya Mira protiv Diplomatii Voiny: Ocherk Sovetsko-Germanskikh Diplomaticheskikh Otnoshenii v 1933–1939(Moscow, 1981), p. 28. See also: Documents on German Foreign Policy(hereafter DGFP), series C, vol. 1, docs 6, 10 and 29.Google Scholar
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    E. H. Carr, The Twilight of Comintern, 1930–1935(London, 1982), p. 95 and Maksimychev, Diplomatiya Mira, p. 25.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    See Dokumenty Vneshnei Politiki SSSR(hereafter DVPS), vol. 16, docs 51, 54 and 424 and DGFP, series C, vol. 1, docs 41, 43 and 73 and vol. 2, doc. 127.Google Scholar
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  10. 10.
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    Soviet foreign policy archives. Cited by Maksimychev, Diplomatiya Mira, p. 42. This was the first Soviet diplomatic document in which it was stated that Germany was preparing for war against the USSR, according to A. A. Akhtamzyan, ‘Voenno Sotrudnichestvo SSSR i Germanii’, Novaya i Noveishaya Istoriya, no. 5 (1990), 24.Google Scholar
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  14. 14.
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  24. 23.
    Cited by Maksimychev, Diplomatiya Mira, p. 71.Google Scholar
  25. 24.
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    A detailed documentary account of the Soviet view of the Eastern Pact and its stance in the negotiations is contained in ‘Documents: The Struggle for Collective Security in Europe’, International Affairs(Moscow), June, July, August and October 1963. On the proposed pact and its role in the Soviet conception of collective security, see Litvinov’s interview with a French journalist in June 1934 in Degras, Soviet Documents,pp. 83–5 and R. Craig Nation, Black Earth, Red Star: A History of Soviet Security Policy, 1917–1991(Ithaca, NY, 1992), ch. 3.Google Scholar
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    Soviet foreign policy archives. Cited by Sipols, Vneshnyaya Politika Sovetskogo Souza, 1933–1935,p. 277. Litvinov’s reference here to Poland and Japan is indicative that Moscow’s fear of an attack on the USSR was not limited to Germany. Indeed, Rolf Ahmann has argued that one of the keys to understanding Soviet foreign policy in the 1930s is apprehension about the emergence of a German-Polish-Japanese combination directed against the USSR. See his ‘Soviet Foreign Policy and the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact of 1939: An Enigma Reassessed’, Storia delle relazioni Internazionali,no. 2 (1989).Google Scholar
  34. 33.
    Stalin’s retrospective assessment of the pact is also worth noting at this point. In December 1944 he reportedly told de Gaulle: ‘When we concluded the Franco-Soviet agreement of 1935 not everything was clear. Later on we realised that Laval and his colleagues did not trust us as allies. In signing the agreement with us they wanted to tie us down and to prevent us from allying with Germany. For our part, we Russians did not completely trust the French and this mutual distrust destroyed the pact.’ Frantsuzskiye Otnosheniya vo vremya Velikoi Otechestvennoi Voiny, 1941–1945(Moscow 1959), doc. 197. This reference was brought to my attention by N. Jordon, The Popular Front and Central Europe(Cambridge, 1992), pp. 259–60.Google Scholar
  35. 34.
    Degras, Soviet Documents,pp. 111–12.Google Scholar
  36. 35.
    Ibid., pp. 124–6. Tukhachevsky’s article was personally edited by Stalin. See Izvestiya Tsk KPSS,no. 1 (1990), pp. 161–9.Google Scholar
  37. 36.
    On the Comintern see G. Roberts, ‘Collective Security and the Origins of the People’s Front’ in J. Fyrth (ed.), Britain, Fascism and the Popular Front(London, 1985);Google Scholar
  38. J. Haslam, ‘The Comintern and the Origins of the Popular Front’, Historical Journal,no. 3 (1979);Google Scholar
  39. E. J. Hobsbawn, ‘The Moscow Line and International Communist Policy’ in C. Wrigley (ed.), Warfare, Diplomacy and Politics(London, 1986); and Carr, History of Soviet Russia.The main speeches at the 7th Congress are reproduced in Report of the Seventh World Congress(London, 1936).Google Scholar
  40. 37.
    DGFP,series C, vol. 4, docs 78 and 95.Google Scholar

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© Geoffrey Roberts 1995

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  • Geoffrey Roberts

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