Russia's relations with Great Britain have been marked by chronic tension. During the nineteenth century, the British were keenly aware of tsarist Russia's expansion into Central Asia and of the menace it might hold for lands in the British Commonwealth, particularly India.
The Bolshevik Revolution enraged the British. Vladimir Lenin and other communists called on the workers in all countries to overthrow their capitalist oppressors and characterized the war as caused by rivalries between capitalist and imperialist countries like Britain. Soviet policy toward Britain during the 1920s and 1930s was marked by contradictions. On the one hand, Josef Stalin tried to expand his diplomatic and commercial contacts with this imperialist power, as part of an effort to win recognition as a legitimate regime. On the other hand, he and his colleagues in the Kremlin remained wary of an anti-Soviet capitalist alliance and worked for the eventual demise of the capitalist system.
On June 22, 1941, Hitler renounced the nonaggression treaty and invaded the Soviet Union, thus quickening the Grand Alliance between Britain, the Soviet Union, and United States. Churchill's cynical words reveal his true feelings about Stalin and the Slavic country to the east: "If Hitler had invaded Hell, I would find something nice to say about the Devil in the House of Commons."
The USSR lost twenty million lives and suffered incalculable destruction during World War II. Relations between Britain and the Soviet Union chilled rapidly. Churchill warned of the hazards of growing Soviet domination of Europe (a descending "iron curtain") in a historic March 5, 1946, speech at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri. The formation of two military alliances, NATO (1949) and the Warsaw Pact (1955) solidified the Cold War, which lasted until 1989.
In the postwar era, the Soviet Union perceived Britain as an imperialist power in decline, especially after it relinquished most of its colonies. Nevertheless, Britain remained an important power in Soviet eyes because of its nuclear forces, its leadership of the British Commonwealth, and its close ties with the United States. Even after the collapse of communist regimes throughout Eastern Europe in 1989 and the end of the Soviet Union in December 1991, the Soviet-era division of Europe continued to influence Russia's foreign policy toward Britain.
The al Qaeda terrorist attack on New York's World Trade Center on September 11, 2001 fostered closer ties between Russian president Vladimir Putin and other Western leaders, including British prime minister Tony Blair. New security threats such as global networks of suicidal terrorists, chemical and biological warfare, international organized crime, cyberwar, and human trafficking, all underscore the need for greater cooperation among sovereign states.
Read and answer the following questions:
1. What Russia's relations with Great Britain have always been marked by?
2. When were Russia and Great Britain allies?
3. What made the countries foster closer ties?