Foreign ties: the conflict between Russia and the West

The effective implementation of Marshall Plan led the US to convince other states to join its league and defeat the communist forces. US must learn from history and should act with integrity

After defeating Germany in World War II in May 1945, the aggressive expansionist of Soviet Union, Joseph Stalin, wanted to expand Soviet influence to West Europe in order to become a superpower.

Stalin wanted to create a security zone that could serve as a bulwark against US and curtail its clout in Germany.

In March 1947, US Secretary of State, George Marshall visited Moscow to hold a dialogue with the Russian counterpart to determine the future of Germany. The visit, unfortunately, turned out to be a complete failure as none of the parties could decide an amicable settlement.

For some reasons, Stalin was certain that US would agree to his proposal that called for reunification and neutralisation of Germany, with no conditions on economic policies and with guarantees for ‘the rights of man and basic freedoms, including freedom of speech, press, religious persuasion, political conviction, and assembly’ and free activity of democratic parties and organisations.

After the war, the infrastructure of Germany needed a reconstruction.

Secondly, the US had promised that it would withdraw its troops from Europe within the period of two years.

After the meeting between Marshall and his Russian counterpart failed to reach any settlement, the US decided to take unilateral measures to protect pro-capitalism European countries.

Stalin also renounced the famous ‘Marshall plan’ propounded by George Marshall that called for the reconstruction of European countries. Stalin suspected that the plan was US’ nefarious attempt to expand its influence to Europe and curtail Soviet influence in the region.

Countries such as Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania, and Poland abided by the foreign policy formulated by the Soviet Union. Stalin made sure that any uprising in these countries is crushed.

In October 1956, Hungarians revolted against the oppressive rule of Soviets. The uprising had almost succeeded before the Soviet Union, in its full show of aggression and force, finally reestablished its control.

Though the US president Harry Truman was of the view that US should not meddle into security affairs of the European states, the foreign office had already released an aid of 13.2 billion dollars, and a direct intervention in those countries had become inevitable to prevent the disruption of the implementation of Marshall Plan.

US’ apprehensions about the war were pragmatically understandable given its experience in the Latin America when the former, through its Monroe doctrine, asked the European colonial powers to not interfere in American states.

Soon after the implementation of Marshall Plan began, President Truman signed an agreement to form North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO).

Thereafter, US, Britain and France formed a strong alliance and reached a consensus to formulate a new constitution for West Germany.

As a result, the West Germany adopted US’ agenda whereas the East Germany adhered to Communism.

Trump is entirely focused on American hard power which means military and economic might. A year into his presidency, President Donald Trump has become an aggressive advocate of economic sanctions. The administration has also increased other forms of economic pressure on North Korea and Venezuela

It was only after the fall of Berlin Wall in 1986 that Germany was unified once again and the Soviet Union’s premier, Mikhail Gorbachev, openly declared failure of Communist ideology. Gorbachev also pledged to bring reforms in the form of glasnost and perestroika.

Gorbachev had already prepared himself for Germany’s unification when the communist regime failed in the East Germany. The communist ideology had lost its popularity drastically.

In return for his favour, Gorbachev demanded a promise from US that after the unification, Germany would not be made a member of NATO.

Nonetheless, in reality, the unification of Germany had a profound detrimental impact on Gorbachev’s political standing and influence that it became almost impossible for him to prevent East Germany from leaving Warsaw Pact and join NATO.

Later on, after the disintegration of Soviet Union, Russia’s President, Boris Yeltsin expressed his reservations to the US President Bill Clinton over the inclusion of countries in NATO who had been members of Warsaw Pact.

The former communist states, which were inclined towards NATO, were perceived as a threat by Russia to its security and strategic interests.

During the Cold War, Warsaw Pact was formed between Soviet Union and other countries to resist NATO.

After the disintegration of Soviet Union, Warsaw pact lost its significance and it was unbearable for Russia to see former members of Warsaw pact showing interest in joining NATO.

Later on, Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Hungary and Poland joined NATO. NATO strikes in Bosnia and Kosovo in the 1990s was an attempt to save Muslims from the atrocities of Serbia’s brutal regime, but it was also seen by Russia as an attempt to expand US influence.

Over the past few years, we have witnessed that Russia’s attacks against Moldova, Ukraine and Georgia in order to regain its lost glory. Although the Russia did not aim to annex these states, except the Crimea, it has succeeded in restraining these countries to join NATO through military power.

Today, in the hindsight, Marshall Plan is considered to be a visionary plan which paved the way for US to increase its influence with integrity and become a super power.

The effective implementation of Marshall Plan led US to convince other states to join its league and defeat the communist forces. US must learn a similar lesson and should act with integrity.

Today, Russia is becoming stronger and would not tolerate either the expansion of NATO or the expansionist designs of West which could pose a threat to Russia’s borders in future.

Trump is entirely focused on American hard power which means military and economic might. A year into his presidency, President Donald Trump has become an aggressive practitioner of economic sanctions. The administration has also increased other forms of economic pressure on North Korea and Venezuela. Its tactics are different too. Trump has threatened to rip up the Iran nuclear deal, thereby abandoning a multilateral approach to the application of financial sanctions on Iran. Similarly, Pakistan is also likely to be included in grey watch list countries by the FATF on the insistence of US, which is considered to be a harsh measure against a country which has given greatest number of sacrifices in USA’s war against terror since 2001.

What the US fails to realise is that much of America’s success as a superpower depends on its soft power.

America is an empire by invitation: US has its troops in more than 170 countries and military alliances with as many as 60 countries because most other nations do not feel threatened by American power.

The writer is a human rights activist and a constitutional lawyer, sheraz.zaka@gmail.com

Published in Daily Times, March 7th 2018.