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Russia

By | October 2012
Page 1 of 14
Chapters 9

The Making of Foreign Policy under Stalin
Jonathan HASLAM
1. The Inherent Flaw in Biography The issue as to how Soviet foreign policy was made during the period of Stalin's dictatorship will seem a trifle redundant. Surely the dictator decided upon foreign policy and that was that? This has certainly been the view conventionally adopted by the dictator's biographers. But those biographers have not generally specialised in any one area of Soviet policy and have therefore not actually seen policy-making in any detail. Theirs is all too often the view from on high rather than that at eye level. This approach makes certain assumptions about Stalin's position within the structure and about Stalin himself: for example, that the Stalin of 1929 to 1939 was exactly the same man as the supremely self-confident and apparently very well informed "generalissimo" who sat with Churchill and Roosevelt to carve up the world; that Stalin was always interested in international relations; that from the outset he always had his own ideas about the conduct of foreign policy; that he would not allow others to influence the course of events. This mythical Stalin is unchanging, by all accounts a most exceptional man who escaped the impact of experience unlike almost everyone else in history; a man never given to doubt, a man who never acted on advice, a man who never gained confidence in spheres that originally lay far beyond his own limited realm. But perhaps we should not be too

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Jonathan Haslam

surprised. This is the Stalin recreated by political scientists rather than historians; and if there is one obvious weakness in western social science, it is that it is static and insensible to the changing impact of events. But why not pause to reconsider the nature of Stalin's dictatorship and the mechanisms other than pure terror by which Stalin assured his predominance? Because of the somewhat sensational claims made by Professor Getty1 from the United States...

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