Foreign Policy, 1921-28
In the 1920s, as the new Soviet state temporarily retreated from the revolutionary path to socialism, the party also adopted a less ideological approach in its relations with the rest of the world. Lenin, ever the practical leader, having become convinced that socialist revolution would not break out in other countries in the near future, realized that his government required normal relations with the Western world for it to survive. Not only were good relations important to national security, but the economy also required trade with the industrial countries. Blocking Soviet attainment of these objectives were lingering suspicions about communism on the part of the Western powers and concern over foreign debts incurred by the tsarist government, which the Soviet government had unilaterally repudiated. In April 1922, the Soviet commissar of foreign affairs, Georgiy Chicherin, circumvented these difficulties by achieving an understanding with Germany, the other pariah state of Europe, in the Treaty of Rapallo. Under the treaty, Germany and Russia agreed on mutual recognition, cancellation of debt claims, normalization of trade relations, and secret cooperation in military development. Soon after concluding the treaty, the Soviet Union obtained diplomatic recognition from other major powers, beginning with Britain in February 1924. Although the United States withheld recognition until 1933, private American firms began to extend technological assistance and to develop commercial links in the 1920s.
Toward the non-Western world, the Soviet leadership limited its revolutionary activity to promoting opposition among the indigenous populations against "imperialist exploitation." The Soviet Union did pursue an active policy in China, aiding the Guomindang (Nationalist Party), a non-Marxist organization committed to reform and national sovereignty. After the triumph of the Guomindang in 1927, a debate developed among Soviet leaders concerning the future status of relations with China. Stalin wanted the Chinese Communist Party to join the Guomindang and infiltrate the government from within, while Trotsky proposed an armed communist uprising and forcible imposition of socialism. Although Stalin's plan was finally accepted, it came to naught when in 1927 the Guomindang leader Chiang Kai-shek ordered the Chinese communists massacred and Soviet advisers expelled.