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Was the Soviet Union seeking global dominance after World War II or was it merely promoting its own security?

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Despite Soviet efforts, Germany entered into USSR territory on Sunday, 22 June 1941. As expected in a time of war, all social and political energies were channelled into fighting off the enemy and protecting the Soviet states. However there is debate over the motivation behind the Soviet Union’s involvement in the war. Gennadii Bordyugov argues that the Soviet people fought for independence of country and society whereas Stalin and his government fought to maintain power. (Filtzer,2002,p1).The deciding factor in the USSR’s eventual victory over Germany came not from a superior military but from the sheer amount of individuals that belonged to the Soviet military reserves. The Soviet Union managed to muster 360 military divisions in contrast to Germany’s 180 divisions, 30 of which belonged to its allies. Although the USSR was ultimately victorious over Germany, it suffered greatly for its win. ‘Losses of plant and equipment, crops and livestock, housing stock, and population were on a truly massive scale.’ (Filtzer,2002,p13)

The Soviet Union fought in an alliance with the United States and Britain; however this partnership was highly unstable. Barber and Harrison explain that the Allied alliance ‘…like any alliance, suffered from clashes of interest and opinion, resentment at the distribution of costs and benefits, suspicion of each other’s motives and intentions; and it did not long survive the end of the war’ (Barber&Harrison,1991,p33). It can be argued that suspicions of the Soviet Union’s foreign behaviour began with the Second World War, particularly with the exchange of territory between it and Germany. The trade-off with Germany was not necessarily for security purposes as war had not yet been declared; therefore the USSR appeared to the USA and Britain to have an imperialistic hidden motive. In an effort to reinstate and consolidate the USSR’s power in the surrounding areas, Stalin developed an aggressive foreign policy that ultimately gave way to the Cold War (1947-1991[j]).

In particular Stalin took control of states that the USSR had freed from the Nazis, in a sense simply transferring control from one form of tyranny to another. Suspicions may have been settled if the USSR had simply liberated these countries and allowed them to develop their own governments; however in virtually annexing these countries, fears about Soviet global dominance became more rational.

On the other hand if the geographical locations of the countries annexed are considered, they were all to the east of Soviet borders creating protection for Stalin along the western front which was frequently invaded and attacked by countries from the West. Therefore it can be argued that although the means were aggressive, the motivation behind the Soviet Union’s actions was for its own security. The USSR did not seek territory beyond Eastern Europe as it held no advantage to its development or protection making the argument of global dominance less realistic[k].

The behaviour of the Soviet Union appeared to be more isolationist than expansionist as it used the countries it took over as a means to cocoon itself in, allowing itself time to recover from the war without facing the fear of another due to its ‘Iron Curtain’. Perhaps it was more the fear of the spread of communism than of physical territorial enlargement of the USSR that frightened the capitalist world, particularly the United States as the other major superpower in the bipolar world system[l].


JOHN BARBER,MARK HARRISON, 1991 ,The Soviet Home Front 1941-1945: A social and economic history of the USSR in WORLD WAR II,

Longman Inc, New York

DONALD FILTZER, 2002, Soviet Workers and Late Stalinism,

Cambridge University Press, Cambridge

LEONARD SCHAPIRO, 1973, The Government & Politics of the Soviet Union, Hutchinson & Co LTD, London

ROBERT SERVICE, 1998, A History of Twentieth-Century Russia,

Harvard University Press, Massachusetts

JOSEPH STALIN, 1940, Leninism


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