Russia, Relations with

views updated May 18 2018


RUSSIA, RELATIONS WITH Russia (and its predecessor, the Soviet Union) is the only great power with which India's relationship has been one of mutual trust, cooperation, and strategic partnership, bolstered by ideological convergence and cultural exchange, especially throughout the cold war. Though the post–cold war dominance of the United States in all fields of international affairs has transformed the dynamics of Indo-Russian relations, the basic foundation of the relationship remains intact.

Relations between India and Russia can be broadly categorized in four distinct phases. Relations with the erstwhile Soviet Union prior to India's independence in August 1947 form the first phase of the relationship. The post-independence era can be bifurcated into three distinct phases, with the Indio-China conflict of 1962 and the end of cold war and subsequent disintegration of the Soviet Union acting as the demarcating episodes.

Pre-Independence Era

The leaders of India's freedom struggle drew ideological support from the Soviet Union in their fight against British imperial power. The ideals espoused by India's Communist parties and Nehruvian socialism were inspired by the Russian Communist Party and its revolution. Being a communist power with strong anti-imperial leanings, Russia supported the decolonization efforts of many Afro-Asian nations, including India. This support formed the foundational basis on which the edifice of a mutually beneficial, long-term relationship was laid. The Indian National Congress, which led India's mass struggle to oust the British from India, had established a small foreign department in 1925 to publicize its freedom struggle and garner support. Jawaharlal Nehru and his father, Motilal Nehru, visited Russia two years later, on the tenth anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution. The youthful Nehru was personally fascinated by the socialist ideology of the Soviet Union, and he taught his daughter, Indira, to admire it as well.


India established diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union on 13 April 1947. Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, who served as his own foreign minister, was determined to win the support of Moscow in helping India to achieve strategic security and economic independence from the West. Nehru sent his sister, Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit, as the first Indian ambassador to Moscow. Thanks to Nehru, India adopted the Russian model of centralized planning, in the form of five-year plans, as its major approach to development.

The Soviet Union, however, was initially hesitant to embrace India, considering it a "tool of Anglo-American imperialism." Only after Josef Stalin's death in 1953 did the situation improve, and the Soviet Union expressed its hopes for "friendly cooperation." Russian fears were dispelled when India refused to be influenced by Washington's power bloc during the cold war era. India's anti-imperialist, anticapitalist Nehruvian policies tilted it toward the Communist bloc headed by Moscow, and Russia soon responded by providing direct as well as indirect assistance to India in economic, technological, and strategic fields.

On 7 June 1955, Prime Minister Nehru himself made an official state visit to Moscow. That event was reciprocated by the visit of Soviet leaders Premier Nikolai Bulganin and Communist Party General Secretary Nikita Khrushchev in November 1955. Pakistan's alliance with the United States throughout the cold war spurred India to establish closer relations with the Soviet Union. The relationship paid off rich dividends. Russia supported India's stance concerning Kashmir in the United Nations Security Council, where Russia exercised its veto power many times in favor of India. In 1956, during their visit to India, Russian leaders Bulganin and Aleksey Kosygin referred to Kashmir as an "integral part" of India. Russia's support proved crucial as well for India's integration of Goa in 1961. In addition to this vital strategic help, Russia's tacit support to India during the brief 1962 India-China conflict firmly established Russia as a dependable Indian ally.

China's invasion across India's northern border in 1962 was a rude awakening to Nehru's last government, and revealed the ill-prepared state of India's military establishment. New Delhi's determination to equip its forces with more advanced weaponry spurred India toward Russia, opening a new chapter in Indo-Russian relations, with sustained engagement between the two countries, primarily based on military cooperation.


Formal Indo-Russian cooperation began in 1962, when the two countries agreed to a program of military-technical cooperation. Indian acquisition of Soviet military equipment was significant militarily as well as economically, as the purchases were made against deferred rupee payments, a major concession to India's chronic shortage of foreign exchange. India received extensive cooperation from the Soviet Union in developing its space project, setting up the Thumba Equatorial Rocket Launching Station, launching Indian remote sensing satellites, and sending the first Indian astronaut into space. On the economic front, the Soviet Union was by 1965 the second-largest national contributor to India's development, primarily to the public sector. On the diplomatic front, the Soviet Union played the role of peacemaker between India and Pakistan, brokering the Tashkent Agreement after the 1965 Indo-Pak War. Soviet premier Kosygin offered his services to help reach a settlement, which was embodied in the Tashkent Agreement on 10 January 1966.

The high point of Indo-Soviet friendship was reached with Indira Gandhi's signing of the historic twenty-year Treaty of Peace, Friendship, and Cooperation in August 1971. That treaty gave India the superpower support it needed to launch its army into East Pakistan in December 1971, led by Russian tanks and heavy artillery, defeating Pakistan's army in a few weeks and bringing about the new state of Bangladesh. Articles 8, 9, and 10 of the treaty committed both signatories "to abstain from providing any assistance to any third party that engages in armed conflict with the other." This acted as a deterrent against China. Because of this strategic partnership, India could comfortably make its decisive move of intervention in East Pakistan. During that war, Russia played a significant role in support of India in the United Nations. India in return turned a diplomatic blind eye to the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan in 1979.

In the subsequent years, the leaders of both countries exchanged visits and made serious efforts to promote greater bilateral cooperation in various fields. The first state visit of a Soviet president came about in 1973, when Leonid Brezhnev visited India amid much fanfare. That year, India and the Soviet Union signed a fifteen-year Economic and Trade Agreement, which facilitated cooperation in industry and agriculture. The following year, the Soviet Union demonstrated its support of India's nuclear policy by refusing to condemn either India's first underground plutonium explosion or India's refusal to sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Russia launched India's first satellite, Aryabhatta, on 19 April 1975 in keeping with their 1971 agreement, by which both countries agreed to expand cooperation in the exploration and use of outer space. In December 1976 the Soviet Union agreed to supply 5.5 million tons of crude oil to India over a period of four years. Indo-Russian cultural exchanges, including film festivals and visits of cultural groups, were also features of this phase of increased friendship. By the end of the 1970s, the Soviet Union had become India's largest trading partner.

In 1977, soon after the Janata government was elected in the aftermath of Indira Gandhi's "National Emergency," Soviet foreign minister Andrey Gromyko paid a visit to India. With growing Sino-Pakistan strategic cooperation, New Delhi's government was well aware of the importance of friendly relations with Soviet Union. In October 1977, Indian prime minister Morarji Desai visited Moscow, affirming his faith in the 1971 Indo-Soviet friendship treaty. The return of Indira Gandhi to power in January 1980 brought even greater Indian reliance on the Soviet Union. After her assassination in 1984, Rajiv Gandhi continued his mother's policy of close relations with Russia. During his tenure, many high-level visits took place. Rajiv Gandhi visited the Soviet Union in 1985, 1986, 1987, and 1989, while Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev visited India in 1986 and 1989. India and Russia signed agreements covering such important sectors of India's economy as power, steel, mining, coal, and oil. The Integrated Long Term Programme of Cooperation in Science and Technology (ILTP) was signed in July 1987. Despite some serious irritants, like the Soviet decision to supply arms and military hardware to Pakistan and the publication of Soviet maps showing parts of northern India as part of China, the cordial and warm bilateral relationship continued.

Post–Cold War Era (1990 Onward)

During the cold war the Soviet-Indian relationship rested on twin pillars of mutual interest: containment of a common threat, China; and the reduction of Western influence in Asia. With the end of the cold war, new challenges surfaced for both India and Russia. Coping with the post–cold war international order diverted their energies from bilateral relations to more urgent domestic issues. As a result, Indo-Russian relations saw a marked downtrend in the early 1990s.

The disintegration of the Soviet Union led to the loss of Russia's status as a superpower, and caused a major setback to its economy and ideology. The collapse of the economy and loss of strategic power meant that the Russian federation could no longer continue to favor India in international politics. The collapse of the Soviet Union highlighted the shortcomings of a socialist planned economy, inspiring India to strengthen its resolve to liberalize its own economy and enter the era of globalization.

The emergence of the United States as the world's only superpower compelled both India and Russia to rethink their strategic relations. Both the countries started reestablishing their equations with the United States, China, and Pakistan. India now realized the potential of closer economic, technological, and strategic cooperation with Washington, while Russia's worldview became more Eurocentric. After withdrawing from Afghanistan, moreover, Russia embarked on repairing its relations with Pakistan, which was unacceptable to India.

In the new global strategic environment, Russia realized that it could no longer match American superiority in any sphere, so it made a decisive strategic shift toward China, which also perceived the United States as a potential threat. India, on the contrary, no longer viewed the United States as a threat but as a potential strategic partner. Many Russian thinkers have proposed the formation of a Russian-Chinese-Indian triangle to counter U.S. global hegemony. The idea was supported by some Indian scholars as well. Yevgeny Primakov's visit to India in 1996 as foreign minister and in 1998 as premier of Russia was viewed as significant in this regard. During his visit to New Delhi in 1998, Primakov suggested the possibility of building a "strategic triangle" between Russia, India, and China as a "viable opposition to American supremacy." But in view of growing Sino-Russian military cooperation, with reportedly more than four thousand Russian scientists and technicians currently working in Chinese defense production facilities, India can hardly trust such potential strategic "cooperation." China appears neither ready to treat India at par nor to abandon its primary strategic nexus with Pakistan.

India no longer depends solely on Russia for strategic or economic assistance. India's defense purchases from Russia are no longer made on rupee payments but in hard currency. India's excessive reliance on Russian weapon systems left India vulnerable to coercive Russian pressure. India now realizes the need to diversify its strategic and economic relations in the new global environment. With that intention, it explored new channels of military support with the United States and the European Union.

The very cornerstone of the Indo-Russian strategic partnership, the 1971 Treaty of Peace, Friendship, and Cooperation, was, moreover, questioned by the Russians themselves as early as 1992. All these reasons depict that the imperatives which shaped the India-Russia strategic partnership in the cold war era have either withered away or stand significantly changed.

Nonetheless, there remained continuity and congruency of interest. Russia declared itself to be the "state-continuator" of the erstwhile Soviet Union and India on its part recognized Russia as the successor-state to the former Soviet Union. Indo-Soviet relations moved seamlessly into Indo-Russian relations. In this transitory phase, an Indian delegation led by Prime Minister V. P. Singh visited Moscow in 1990. The joint statement issued by the leaders of the delegations affirmed their commitment to a more equitable world order. In March 1992 there was another setback to bilateral relations, however, with Russia's decision to apply "full-scope safeguards" to future nuclear supply agreements with India. Though the move was a result of U.S. pressure, it caused a fair amount of resentment among India's leadership. To counter the downward trend in the relationship, in May 1992 an Indo-Russian Commission on Trade, Economic, Scientific, Technological and Cultural Cooperation was established. Within the framework of the commission, twelve working groups, covering different spheres, were established. But the credit for reviving Indo-Russian relations goes to Russian president Boris Yeltsin's visit to India in January 1993. A new Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation was then signed; the only change to the 1971 treaty was the dropping of the security clause and a new emphasis on economic cooperation. Russia was made India's Technical and Economic Cooperation partner country. The long-standing issue of the rupee-ruble exchange rate was also resolved during that visit. President Yeltsin committed to the delivery of cryogenic engines and space technology for the smooth progress of India's space program under a $350 million deal between the Indian Space Research Organisation and the Russian space agency, Glavkosmos.

Positive developments, including the signing of the Moscow Declaration of 30 June 1994 between the two countries (on the protection of interests of pluralistic states and in the interest of mutual security, development, and prosperity of its citizens), put the bilateral relationship back on track. In March 1995, India and Russia signed agreements aimed at suppressing illegal weapons smuggling and drug trafficking. In October 1996, India and Russia agreed to exchange information on military interests and to hold joint military exercises. Indian prime minister H. D. Deve Gowda's visit in March 1997 was another landmark in Indo-Russian relations because many agreements were signed during that visit, including accords concerning extradition, mutual cooperation in customs-related matters, sports, and culture, and the avoidance of double taxation. India's testing of nuclear weapons in 1998 led to a slight downswing in the relationship, as Anglo-American members of the nonproliferation nations wanted Russia to put pressure on India to sign the NPT. But President Vladimir Putin's state visit to India in October 2000 put Indo-Russian relations back in high gear. Seventeen bilateral agreements were signed during Putin's visit, among which the establishment of an Inter-Governmental Commission for Military Technical Cooperation was of prime importance. The ILTP, which was signed between the former Soviet Union and India in July 1987, was extended until 2010. A Declaration on Strategic Partnership was signed by President Putin and Prime Minister Atal B. Vajpayee. This was in tune with the new Foreign Policy Concept released by Russian Federation on 10 July 2002, which stated that one of the crucial directions in the Russian policy in Asia will be to develop friendly relations with the leading Asian states including India. Though the post–cold war era has seen many ups and downs in the relations, mutual interest and politico-strategic compulsions kept them together. A testimony to the depth and enormity of the relationship is the eighty odd bilateral documents that have been concluded between India and the Russian Federation in this period alone.

Contemporary Concerns and Future Prospects

Russia and India have real problems of a similar nature. Economic problems related to increasing poverty and growing economic disparity among various sections of their citizenry, a rise in religious extremism and aggressive nationalism, growing regional imbalance and sectarian violence, weakening rule of law and increasing law and order problems, are causing domestic unrest, while externally aided terrorism and illegal activities like smuggling, drug trafficking, and money laundering are exacerbating the difficulties. Terrorism is now plaguing India as well as Russia, in Kashmir and Chechnya, respectively. Their Strategic Partnership Declaration allows India and Russia to share information, to mount international pressure, and to make joint decisions on international terrorism. Substantial efforts have been made by both countries to suppress illegal weapons smuggling and drug trafficking. Both the countries see many of these problems as ones not only impacting respective national and regional security but international peace, security and stability and hence advocate the need to combat them at all levels.

The common concerns have provided added impetus to bilateral relations. Russia still supplies India with military hardware in sizable quantities, including SU-27 fighter aircraft, TU-22 backfire bombers, SU-27 SK fighter aircraft, MI-17 helicopters, SU-30 MI multipurpose combat aircraft, nuclear-powered submarines (Typhoon class), KILO class submarines, S-300 antimissile systems, and T-72 and T-80 tanks. Russia, to this day, remains India's most reliable defense partner. This was proved during the Kargil crisis of 1999, when Russia stripped its own army of spares to supplement Indian demands. Bilateral defense cooperation between India and Russia goes beyond procurement or a buyer-seller relationship to cover critical aspects of joint research, development, manufacture, and service.

On the economic front, bilateral trade between the two countries has remained sluggish since the breakup of the Soviet Union. It has stagnated at about $1.5 billion. In order to better that, the two countries have revamped the Indo-Russia Inter-Governmental Commission for trade, economic, scientific, and technological cooperation, a crucial agency for facilitating trade and commerce. There is also a shift in the areas of economic interaction from coal, steel, pharmaceuticals, and consumer edibles to cutting-edge areas like space, information technology, robotics, and oil exploration. Russia's entry into the World Trade Organization will provide another common platform for the two countries to work on.

There are some real benefits in bettering India's relationship with Russia. Russia holds the world's biggest reservoir of natural gas, a potentially useful source of energy to the rapidly growing India. Aligning with Russia will also ensure Soviet veto power in India's favor on the Kashmir issue at the United Nations. India will receive Russia's unqualified support for its membership in the expanded United Nations Security Council, which it has been hoping to secure. Finally and most importantly, India will have a strong, vocal partner in striving for a multipolar international system and the strengthening of United Nations.

India's Ministry of External Affairs web site aptly terms the Indo-Russian relationship as "civilisational and time-tested," transcending party lines and political vicissitudes. The relationship is based on mutual respect, trust, understanding, and complementarity of interests. Consistent military cooperation and support for each other's strategic concerns and aspirations, moreover, form the basis of an enduring relationship.

Sultanat Aisha Khan

See alsoChina, Relations with ; Kashmir ; National Security Decision-Making ; Pakistan and India ; Strategic Thought ; United States, Relations with ; Wars


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Russia, Relations with

views updated May 14 2018


RUSSIA, RELATIONS WITH. During the Revolutionary War, American leaders were eager to establish diplomatic ties with as many nations as possible, and Congress hoped that tsarist Russia might be willing to not only recognize the new nation diplomatically but also to help in its struggle for independence. Catherine the Great, although considered an enlightened monarch, despised both the British for their inability to crush the rebels in the colonies and the Americans because she was no friend of revolutions. When Catherine worked with Charles Gravier, comte de Vergennes, to set up a League of Armed Neutrality in 1780 to impede British commercial power, she did so because it aided Russian interests, not to support the American Revolution. In 1782 Congress sent Francis Dana to St. Petersburg in the hope of establishing diplomatic ties. Dana, speaking neither Russian nor French, the language of the diplomats, failed over the course of two years to persuade Russia to recognize the United States.

Formal Russian recognition of the United States did not come until 1809, when Russia entered into war against England on the side of France. Hoping for increased trade between the two nations, Washington was eager to establish friendly relations with Russia after the Nonintercourse Act of 1809 had prohibited U.S. trade with Great Britain and France. Exports to Russia increased noticeably during the next few years (from $12,000 before the Embargo Act of 1807 to $6 million) but could not make up for the loss of transatlantic trade with traditional European commercial partners.

In September 1821, Russia issued a prohibition on all foreign trade within 100 miles of the Pacific coast of North America and claimed exclusive trading rights in the North Pacific as far south as the 51st parallel. The Monroe Doctrine, which was promulgated in 1823, declared the United States the dominating power in the Western Hemisphere and was a direct result both of Russia's attempts to restrain trade and also of its unwillingness to recognize the independence of the newly created republics in Latin America. The Russo-American Treaty of 1825, restricting Russian influence to north of 54° 40', was negotiated between Russia and the United States; this was the first formal agreement between the two nations.

Relations remained friendly during most of the rest of the nineteenth century, despite differences over the Russian suppression of the Polish rebellion in 1830 and its support for Austria during the Hungarian uprising of 1848–1849. The arrival of Russian warships in Union ports in 1863 during the Civil War was hailed by many Northerners as a sign of support for their cause. However, the ships were not intended to reinforce the Union navy but to safeguard the Russian fleet and to be in place for possible use of American ports as bases for activities against Great Britain and France. When the American minister to St. Petersburg, Cassius Clay, approached his Russian counterparts after the war with an offer to buy Alaska, the Russian government responded eagerly because it believed that eventually America would take the area in any case. American commercial influence in that region had increased since the 1820s, and the Russian Trading Company, which ran Alaska, was highly dependent on American supplies. As early as 1856, Russia had considered selling Alaska; the Russian chargé d'àffaires in Washington, D.C., Baron Eduard von Stoekl, was authorized in December 1866 to sell the Russian colony for at least $5 million. Finding the Americans eager buyers, he pushed the price to $7.2 million; Alaska changed hands in an agreement signed on 30 March 1867.

The two nations became estranged around the turn of the twentieth century, when Russia's rejection of an Open Door policy in Asia became obvious and when news of anti-Jewish pogroms and discrimination against Jewish American businessmen in Russia reached the United States. Open friction erupted over China. Although all nations involved in putting down the Boxer Rebellion in 1900 had agreed to withdraw immediately after hostilities ceased, Russia continued to occupy Manchuria in an attempt to annex that region. With its own plans of expansion, Japan attacked Russian forces at Port Arthur on 8 February 1904. The United States sympathized with Japan because it hoped Japan would uphold the Open Door policy; President Theodore Roosevelt acting as mediator, helped negotiate the agreement that ended the war. The Portsmouth Treaty, signed on 5 September 1905, favored Japan, allowing it to become the dominant power in the Far East.

The fall of the tsarist regime in March 1917 was welcomed by many Americans, and the provisional government was immediately recognized. The weakness of the government of Aleksandr F. Kerenski, increased German pressure on the battlefield, and general war-weariness in Russia soon led to the Bolshevik seizure of power in November 1917. The Bolsheviks almost immediately announced their willingness to make a separate peace with Germany. That declaration and Soviet propaganda encouraging workers in all capitalist countries to stop fighting the capitalist's war and, instead, rise against their bourgeois oppressors, frightened and alienated many Americans. The United States did not recognize the new government. After Russia signed the Treaty of Brest Litovsk (March 1918) ending the war with Germany, the Allies intervened in order to maintain eastern front against the Central Powers. British and American forces were to secure Allied stores at Murmansk, Archangel, and Vladivostok, and they were assigned to support the so-called Czech legion, which was to leave Russia and be transported to the western front, where it could continue fighting against the Central Powers for an independent Czechoslovakia. Allied forces, some of which continued operating in northern Russia after the end of World War I (November 1918), did so, at least in part, in an effort to overthrow the Bolsheviks. Not until June 1919 did the United States extract all its troops from Russia; thus, by 1920, the United States was faced with a regime in Russia that was not only antagonistic to American society and its political system but also had been alienated by an obvious attempt to overthrow the Bolsheviks. This hostility was mirrored in the sharp anticommunism that culminated in the red scare and the Palmer Raids of the 1920s. Russia was not invited to participate in the Versailles peace talks ending World War I, and the United States continued to exclude the Soviet Union from other meetings long after the 1922 German-Soviet Treaty of Rapallo had led to the recognition of the communist regime in Russia by most nations. Attempts by the Soviets to establish diplomatic relations were brushed aside on legalistic grounds by the staunchly anticommunist administrations of Warren G. Harding, Calvin Coolidge, and Herbert Hoover. Nonetheless, semiprivate operations, such as the American Relief Administration, led by then-Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover, provided Russian famine relief from 1921 to 1923.

Official nonrecognition did not prevent increasing trade between the two nations. By 1925 the volume had expanded to $65 million, and in the 1930s, President Franklin D. Roosevelt saw an opportunity to stimulate exports to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (U.S.S.R.) through diplomatic recognition, thus creating jobs in the United States. He appointed William Bullitt as special assistant secretary of state for Soviet affairs. Agreement was reached on the settlements of debts and the propaganda disseminated by the supposedly independent international communist organization Comintern. At the end of 1933, Bullitt became the first U.S ambassador in communist Moscow. But constant friction with his Soviet hosts over domestic staff, who turned out to be Soviet agents; arrests of American citizens not reported to the embassy; and decreasing trade because of Soviet red tape soon dashed hopes of friendly relations. The signing of a nonaggression pact with Nazi Germany and the attack on Finland in 1939, the seizure of the Baltic states in 1940, and the Russo-Japanese Neutrality Pact of 1941 considerably strained relations between Washington and Moscow.

When Germany invaded the Soviet Union on 22 June 1941, public and official sympathy for the Soviet Union was high; the United States almost immediately announced support of the U.S.S.R., offering aid on a cash and carry basis. Lend-lease was offered on 7 November and, by the end of World War II, the United States had furnished $9.5 billion in aid. After Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor (7 December 1941) and the declaration of war on the United States by Germany and Italy on 11 December 1941, Roosevelt assured Joseph Stalin that a second front would be opened in France before the end of 1942 to help ease the pressure of German forces in the east. By Mid-1942, it had become obvious that this promise could not be kept, and Soviet distrust of the United States and Britain, only slightly covered by the common goal of defeating Nazi Germany, resurfaced. Allied landings in Africa and in southern Italy did little to lessen the pressure on the Soviet Union until the invasion of Normandy on 6 June 1944.

In a series of wartime conferences—meetings of Roosevelt, Stalin, and British leader Winston Churchill in Teheran (November to December 1943) and in Yalta (February 1945)—the United States, the Soviet Union, and the United Kingdom agreed on war and on peace aims. The leaders affirmed their demand for unconditional surrender of the Axis powers. They also decided on the division of Germany into zones of occupation, the future of the eastern European states, and creation of a United Nations organization. The Soviet Union promised to enter the war against Japan as soon as Germany had been defeated. At the last of the "big three" conferences (17 July to 2 August 1945) in Potsdam, Harry S. Truman, who had become president on th death of Roosevelt in April, learned of the successful test of the atomic bomb. Great Britain and the United States had worked together in building the device but had agreed not to disclose the project to the Soviets. Without consulting Stalin, Truman ordered atomic bombs to be dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima to force Japan to surrender and also possibly as a show of power directed at the U.S.S.R.

Concurrently, the United Nations was being organized; it held its inaugural meeting on 25 April 1945 in San Francisco. It was agreed that the major powers—China, France, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom and the United States—would be permanent members of a Security Council and have the right to veto a Council decision. The Soviet delegation, however, had initially insisted that these powers have the right to prevent Council discussion of an issue. Although the Soviet Union relented after Truman sent an envoy to Stalin, this conflict foreshadowed a number of confrontations in the coming years.

Wartime cooperation soon turned into bitter hostility when continued Soviet promulgation of world revolution and anticapitalist propaganda alienated the United States. The Cold War that developed was marked by the Truman Doctrine of 1947, the Marshall Plan of 1948–1952, the communist coup in Czechoslovakia in 1948, the Berlin Crisis of 1948–1949, the establishment of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in 1949, and the signing of the Warsaw Pact in 1955. In this period, the Soviet Union became viewed in the United States as an offshoot of Nazi Germany, an attitude that found expression in National Security Council document NSC-68 picturing the conflict as a struggle between good and evil and calling for a massive increase in military spending. Communism was envisioned as a monolithic bloc, its headquarters located in Moscow. Thus, the Chinese-supported invasion of South Korea by North Korean troops in 1950 was taken as a possible smokescreen for a Soviet attack on Western Europe. Political containment, as proclaimed in July 1947 by George F. Kennan Jr., turned into military containment, and nations were discouraged from trading with the Soviet Union.

After Stalin's death in 1953, a new Soviet leadership sent conciliatory signals to Washington. In 1959 Vice President Richard M. Nixon traveled to Moscow, and Nikita Khrushchev visited the United States. Only a year later, relations were again strained considerably when an American U-2 spy plane was shot down over Soviet territory on 1 May 1960. The failed American-backed invasion at the Bay of Pigs by CIA-trained Cuban refugees on 17 April 1961 and the erection of the Berlin Wall in August 1961 displayed on different continents the frictions between the two nations but also showed how careful both sides were to avoid slipping into direct military confrontation. Despite stark differences in character, President John F. Kennedy and Khrushchev had developed the beginnings of détente until the deployment of Soviet missiles on Cuba and the subsequent Cuban Missile Crisis in October 1962 brought the two nations to the brink of war. In 1963, the nations signed a nuclear test-ban treaty, and much of the antagonism of the preceding decade abated. Meanwhile, the Vietnam conflict was deepening. Partly because the Vietnam War was deemed to be guided by Soviet interests, Kennedy began shifting American resources to the region. President Lyndon B. Johnson, who

had succeeded Kennedy after his assassination in late 1963, engaged the United States in the escalating conflict, paying little attention to other international issues.

After Khrushchev fell from power in October 1964, Leonid Brezhnev and Alexei Kosygin strove to achieve nuclear parity with the United States. In June 1967, Kosygin visited the United States, and a slow process of deescalation and negotiations about arms reduction began. Rapprochement between the two nations was slightly set back when the reform movement in Czechoslovakia was suppressed by the Soviet Union in 1968, but both nations appeared to accept coexistence. Substantial American discontent with Soviet involvement in internal struggles in lesser-developed nations in Africa, Southeast Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean; the establishment of diplomatic relations between the United States and the People's Republic of China; and, finally, the Soviet invasion in Afghanistan in December 1979, again led to a deterioration of relations.

When Ronald Reagan, an ardent anticommunist, became president in 1981, he denounced détente as a one-way street; in a speech on 8 March 1983, Reagan called the Soviet Union an "evil empire." This new Cold War only abated when Mikhail Gorbachev came to power in the Soviet Union in 1985. He seemed willing to reestablish friendly relations with the United States and to initiate democratization in the U.S.S.R. Reagan, seeing a chance to achieve a place in history as peacemaker, grasped the opportunity for personal diplomacy and, with a meeting in Reykjavik on 11 and 12 October 1986, began a process of mutual reassurance and accommodation that his successor, George H. W. Bush, continued after initial hesitation. Political changes in Eastern Europe, particularly in Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Romania, and the German Democratic Republic, and the disintegration of the power of the Communist Party in the U.S.S.R. led to unification of Germany and to a considerable lessening of the military threat the Soviet Union had posed to the United States. As the Soviet Union disintegrated in 1991 after a failed attempt by reactionaries to oust Gorbachev, the United States recognized the independence of the Baltic states. In December 1991, Boris Yeltsin, who had become the leading Soviet politician, conferred with leaders of Ukraine and By Elorussia to dissolve the Soviet Union and to form a Commonwealth of Independent States. On 31 December 1991, the U.S.S.R. ceased to exist.

The instability of the new regime, the fear that Yeltsin was much less predictable than Gorbachev, and anxiety about the safety of the nuclear arsenal, again led to strained relations between the United States and Russia. During the presidency of Bill Clinton (1993–2001), the integration of Russia with the West was thought likely; the administration of George W. Bush proved to be much cooler to that idea. However, the war against international terrorism after the attacks of 11 September 2001 on the United States led to increased cooperation, particularly in matters of intelligence. Despite unresolved issues, including the expansion of NATO, the missile defense system proposed by Bush, and the war in Chechny a, the United States and Russia signed an unprecedented arms reduction treaty in Moscow on 24 May 2002.The NATO-Russia Council was also established, and Russia was accepted as a junior partner in NATO at the Rome summit meeting on 28 May 2002.


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Paterson, Thomas G. Meeting the Communist Threat: America's Cold War History. New York: Oxford University Press, 1988.

Tarsaïdzé, Alexandre. Czars and Presidents. New York: McDowell, Obolensky 1958.


See alsoNorth Atlantic Treaty Organization ; andvol. 9:American Diplomacy .

Russia, relations with

views updated May 11 2018

Russia, relations with. The search for the North-East Passage to Asia in the 1550s opened up a direct route to Russia, and led to a mutually advantageous trade until the 1620s. But once Russia became the leading power in the Baltic from 1709, Britain (with her huge demand for naval stores from that region) had to take considerable account of this new force. In 1780 Catherine the Great organized the Armed Neutrality coalition in response to Britain's naval blockade methods during the American War of Independence. By the end of the century Britain was also beginning to fear Russian expansion at the expense of the Ottoman empire. The two powers co-operated in the overthrow of Napoleon (1814–15), but only for each to feel that the other had profited excessively from the war. Competition was soon renewed over the Ottoman empire and to some extent in Persia. Fear of Russia in central Asia was the cause of two British bids to turn Afghanistan into a client state (1839–42 and 1878–80).

Meanwhile in Europe Russia was distrusted as an ultra-reactionary power which seemed all too anxious to interfere in the affairs of other states, though first Canning (1826–7) and then Palmerston (1839–41) worked briefly with Russia in Near Eastern crises. Later fears of Russian ambitions at the expense of the Ottoman empire and outrage among British progressives against Russia as the defender of autocracy led to the Crimean War (1854–6). Russia and Britain nearly came to blows again in the Near East in 1878 as well as over Penj-deh (Afghanistan) in 1885. Only defeat by Japan and revolution at home in 1905 forced Russia to conclude an Entente with Britain in August 1907. The two were rarely comfortable partners, even during the First World War.

The Bolshevik triumph in November 1917 was followed by civil war in which Britain gave some support to the counter-revolutionaries (the Whites). Anglo-Soviet relations in the inter-war years were at best distant and usually frigid. Despite the rise of Nazi Germany from 1933 it was not until the British guaranteed Poland in March 1939 that they saw the need for some sort of agreement with the USSR. The half-heartedness of British approaches was only partly responsible for Moscow's final decision to opt for the Nazi–Soviet pact in August 1939. From June 1941 Britain and the USSR were allies in the war against Germany, the Anglo-American landings in northern France in June 1944 being dependent on the Soviet pressure on Germany in the east. But British worries soon began to accumulate concerning the scale and implications of post-war Soviet and communist influence in Europe. For 40 years from the late 1940s Britain was deeply involved in the Cold War struggle with the USSR, though the governments of Churchill, Eden, and Macmillan in particular helped to pioneer the search for greater restraint in the conduct of East–West rivalries.

C. J. Bartlett

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Relations with Russia

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