During the 1930s the Soviet Union continued to place security at the centre of its foreign policy. The sense of an impending war continued to pervade Soviet thinking, with the economy becoming increasingly geared towards rearmament, and persistent attempts to avoid the Soviet Union’s being drawn into a war. The Soviet Union faced challenges from both East and West during the 1930s, but it was after the rise of Nazi Germany in 1933 that the Soviets showed their full commitment to staying out of a war in Europe for as long as they possibly could. They would ultimately achieve the security they desired through the conclusion of a non-aggression pact with Nazi Germany in August 1939. Despite the fact that it was Soviet security that was the main priority,
there remains controversy as to how the Soviets hoped to achieve it. Much has been written in the discussion as to what were the true aims of foreign policy during the 1930s. The debate not only takes into account the seeming contradictions of Stalinist foreign policy but also raises questions as to who was in control of foreign policy at the time. It breaks down into several major camps, largely split between those who argue that the Soviet Union was committed to collective security as a means to avoid war, those who are of the opinion that the Soviets desired rapprochement with Germany, and those who see Soviet policy in the 1930s not so much as an adherence to a grand design but as the product of in-ﬁghting and opportunism. Even so, much of this controversy remains focused on Soviet policy
towards European powers, looks backwards from the Nazi-Soviet Pact of 1939, and does not always take into account the Soviet Union as a global power. In order to understand Soviet foreign policy during the 1930s it is necessary to look at the multiple aspects of the Soviet position in world affairs and make an assessment of how policy developed and what the challenges were that the Soviet Union faced during the decade. There was a change in personnel in Soviet diplomacy, and a marked shift
in policy, during the 1930s. In July 1930 Maxim Litvinov was appointed Foreign Commissar. Although he had effectively held the post since 1928, while his predecessor, Georgii Chicherin, was ill, his appointment was sig-was a known anglophile
and had a British wife, and had been Deputy Commissar for the West during the 1920s. This led him to a stance from which he viewed Soviet foreign policy concerns as being chieﬂy orientated towards relations with European powers. He was also to become the formulator, and champion, of the Soviet Union’s drive for collective security after 1933. Collective security was a policy that had at its heart the aim of preventing
a war breaking out in Europe, into which the Soviet Union would inevitably be drawn. The mechanism was to be a series of bilateral and multilateral treaties which would prevent war from breaking out. The state that this system was intended to constrain was Nazi Germany, Litvinov and other Soviet ofﬁcials being well aware of Hitler’s expansionist intentions to seek Lebensraum (living space) within the Soviet Union, and alarmed by Hugenberg’s proposals for German expansion, made at the World Economic Conference in London in June 1933. Collective security became the ofﬁcial Soviet foreign policy line after 1933 and held until August 1939, even though it was to prove ultimately unsuccessful. The reasons for its adoption and for its failure need to be unpicked in the light of the 1930s and the challenges that the Soviet Union faced in maintaining security. What should be considered is where the threats to the Soviet Union lay and how Soviet policy evolved in their light.