British government attitudes to the USSR, 1940-45 : a study of British perceptions of the USSR and the development of a policy of Anglo-Soviet cooperation within the Churchill Coalition.
During, the Churchill Coalition, 1940-45, there developed within tile
Government a coherent thesis that the Soviet Union would follow a post-war policy of
cooperation with Britain. Soviet foreign policy-makers were perceived to have till-cc
options; isolation, enmity or collaboration. Three central perceptions produced tile
theory that cooperation was the likely choice. The first that developed, from 1940, was
the view that Soviet aims were limited, largely defensive, and not likely to impinge
upon areas of vital British interest. Far from desiring to propagwie world revolLitioii,
Stalin simply wanted protection, particularly against a resurgent Germany, to continue
the internal development of industrialization and state socialism interrupted by the war.
After Barbarossa, the immense task of Soviet reconstruction became a second factor.
Even if the USSR attempted to do this without foreign help, its rulers would seek tile
cheapest possible foreign policy to enable them to coriccritratc on it: collective security
in cooperation with Britain and possibly the USA. Third, Stalin was now secii iis it wise,
realist statesman who had become persuaded of the wisdom of a cooperation policy will,
the West. Linked with these assumptions were conclusions drawn from observations of
changes in the USSR in the war, especially the revivill of nationalism, and from
observation of the sensitivity of Soviet leaders. Debate on these percept ions and tile
policy that should follow chiefly took place within the 1,0 departments, between thern
and their ambassadors in Moscow and other places, with the military, and intermittently
in Cabinet. Ilowevcr, while a policy combining "firmness" and "frankness" was
preferred by most, considerations of Soviet sensitivity meant it wits never I'Llily
implemented. Thus in February 1945, there was a rough consensus that [lie Soviets
would try cooperation, but there was uncertainty as to the optimum British policy to
maximise the chances of securing it.