Was Stalin's Foreign Policy a Failure?
This is a question that can, I think, be tackled on a purely empirical level, proceeding by example and analysis.
Stalin was in many ways a superb tactician; cool, rational, intelligent and utterly ruthless. However, his grasp of international relations was never the strongest of his talents. On occasions his miscalculations had disastrous implications, both for the immediate and long-term security of the Soviet Union. To begin with the problem was one of ideological rigidity. That is to say, once a policy was adopted by the Third International it was followed without deviation, regardless of local circumstances and changing political conditions. In the 1920s the United Front strategy favoured by Stalin, and held to throughout angry debates with Trotsky and the United Opposition, lead to major setback in China, where the local Communist party was all but destroyed by the nationalist Kuomintang, at a time when Chiang Kai-shek was an honorary member of the Comintern!
Having learned nothing by the China debacle Soviet and Comintern policy was then piloted by Stalin into the even more disastrous Third Period, an ultra-left switch based on the contention that all Social Democratic Parties, no matter what their policies, were forms of Social fascism. By this understanding all Communist parties were instructed to concentrate their efforts on defeating their rivals in the labour movement, thus ignoring the threat presented by real Fascism. The implications for Russian security in this strategy were quite profound; for it divided the German left in the face of Hitler, and led to the destruction of the KPD in 1933, and the creation of a new and dangerous threat to the Soviet Union. There is, of course, no guarantee that a united front strategy in Germany would have stopped Hitler; but the divisions among his enemies made things considerably easier for him.
Stalin then sought to check the further development of Fascism, and...
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