One of the most interesting documents I've seen so far reflecting a shift in Soviet grand strategy post-war. Here (in Nov. 1946) Stalin is instructing Molotov to take an active role in the discussion of UN trusteeship (mainly, the fate of German, Japanese & Italian colonies). Image
Here, Stalin argues that the Soviet Union must not pretend like "it does not exist" in relation to these discussions. Instead, it should adopt an active role and trade its concessions on trusteeships for Western concessions in other areas.
What Stalin meant by that was that he was not averse to selling out various independence movements (who he said are in any case led by people who are more interested in their own privileges than in the fate of their national movements). Image
What we see here is an early example of 1) Moscow's engagement with the "third world" - a move towards globalisation of the Cold War; 2) Moscow's willingness to sell out ideological allies in the "third world" if that helped them extract concessions from the West in other areas.

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More from @DrRadchenko

10 Jun
People are surprised as to why I seem to be advocating against the Biden-Putin summit despite the importance of having open channels of communication for strategic stability. Let me explain: 👇🏿
Summits are not an end in themselves. They are a means to an end. You don't just meet to talk for talk's sake. You meet to solve problems. Sometimes you also meet to get a sense of your partner: what sort of person are they?
Both sides agree that there are no problems this summit can resolve. No new treaties to be signed. Neither side has shown willingness to compromise. The players are well known to one another. It's not like Biden will learn something about Putin by looking at him at close range.
Read 10 tweets
8 Jun
An interesting cable from Stalin to Molotov about Soviet forces in Mongolia (in Nov. 1946). Undercuts the (rather simplistic) narrative of Mongolia being a mere Soviet colony and a satellite (which is popular in the contemporary Mongolian historiography). Image
Stalin points out that there are 24K Soviet troops in Mongolia but that he wanted to reduce this number to just one regiment despite Mongolian government's request to leave them there. The reason he wanted them out was the financial burden of keeping an army in a foreign country.
What I find most interesting here is the Mongolian government's insistence on keeping Soviet troops in the country (they had many reasons for this - not, as Stalin claims, merely financial benefits). The key reason, I think, was their fear of China.
Read 4 tweets
6 Jun
Two answers to this, which I think will help us understand this question. 1) Unlike in the 1950s (when China was the junior partner), today's relationship between China and Russia is not an alliance, and neither side is keen on making it such.
This allows both sides significant flexibility and scope for policy divergence, which was not there in the 1950s, when there was a (misplaced) expectation in Moscow that Beijing would align its policy to whatever it was that the Kremlin preferred.
2) China has not so far sought to exploit its advantage as the more powerful partner to bring Russia to heel, and has instead tried to address Russia's concerns (e.g. in Central Asia). It certainly has not forced Russia to pick sides whenever it quarrels with India, for instance.
Read 5 tweets
2 Jun
Spent several days reading piles and piles of documents and analysis on Able Archer - that moment in Nov. 1983 when the Soviets and the Americans nearly ended in an accidental nuclear war (or not?).
There was a lot of discussion of the episode earlier this year because of the release of the relevant FRUS volume, which included a testimony by Leonard H. Perroots. Here's the document:…. Makes a pretty good reading by itself but...
Check out also this oped by @FOIANate and @thedeadhandbook:… and also this rebuttal by Simon Miles:….
Read 9 tweets
2 Jun
Came across some curious documents on the nuclear arms race in the early 1980s that I just have to share. Quite a mini-story that shows how policy-making in the Soviet Union worked at that stage.
The dramatis personae are... Brezhnev, his foreign policy aide Aleksandrov-Agentov, KGB head Andropov, Defense Minister Dmitrii Ustinov, Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko and... George Kennan.
The story starts on May 18, 1981 when George Kennan, on receiving the Albert Einstein Peace Prize, called for cutting superpower nuclear arsenals by 50%. Here's the NYT story about it:
Read 10 tweets
17 May
Rereading Patrick Tyler's A Great Wall this morning reminded me of just how much historians' assessments are influenced by events she or he has experienced. Check out Tyler's unsparing criticism of Reagan's China policy. He argues Reagan never understood Beijing's point of view.
Tyler's book was published in 2000, which was close to the high point of China optimism in the US. Tiananmen was already a long time ago, and China seemed to be on its way... somewhere good. I still remember debates in the academic literature about its gradual democratisation.
Hong Kong got off to a good start, and there was reason to hope, perhaps, that a "diplomatic solution" for Taiwan could be found. In general, China appeared to be more of a benign actor than before or since.But fast forward twenty years; lines above could not've been written now.
Read 5 tweets

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