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Soviet Union Table of Contents

Soviet Union


In the years immediately following the Bolshevik Revolution, the Soviet leadership assiduously pursued diplomatic relations with Britain, the archetypical "imperialist" power, as part of its efforts to win recognition as a legitimate regime. After World War II, the Soviet Union perceived Britain as an "imperialist power in decline," especially after Britain relinquished most of its colonies. Nevertheless, Britain remained an important power in Soviet eyes because of its nuclear forces, influential role as head of the British Commonwealth, and close ties with the United States.

In general, Soviet relations with Britain have never been as important a component of Soviet foreign policy toward Western Europe as have been relations with France (especially during the de Gaulle period) or with West Germany (especially during the Brandt period). Several reasons for Britain's lesser importance existed. Unlike West Germany, Britain is not subject to Soviet political pressures exerted through the instrument of a divided people. Much smaller than its French counterpart, the British Communist Party exerted less influence in electoral politics. The British economy has also been less dependent than that of other West European states on Soviet and East European trade and energy resources.

In December 1984, shortly before Gorbachev became general secretary, he made his first visit to London. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher declared that he was a leader she could "do business with," an assessment that boosted Gorbachev's stature in the Soviet Union and abroad. This assessment was repeated upon Thatcher's visit to the Soviet Union in April 1987. Under Gorbachev's leadership, the Soviet Union renewed its attempts to persuade Britain and France to enter into strategic nuclear disarmament negotiations, which as of 1989 they had resisted.

Data as of May 1989