The Cold War: The United States and the Soviet Union, 1917-1991

By Ronald E. Powaski | Go to book overview

2

Franklin D. Roosevelt
and the Grand Alliance,
1933-1945

U.S. Recognition of the Soviet Union

By the time Franklin D. Roosevelt entered the White House in March 1933, it had become obvious that the U.S. nonrecognition policy was a failure. Not only did the policy fail to change the internal structure of the Soviet Union, it did not dissuade the Soviets from engaging in anticapitalist activities abroad. Nor did it prevent other countries from establishing diplomatic relations with the Soviet government. Indeed, of all the world's major countries only the United States did not recognize the Soviet Union at the time of Roosevelt's inauguration.

Perhaps even more important, nonrecognition prevented the United States from fully exploiting an expanding Soviet market. In 1931 the Soviets had shifted their trade to other countries, not only because they wanted to obtain more favorable trade terms but also because they wanted to pressure the United States into recognizing their government. With the United States sliding into the Great Depression, congressional pressure to recognize the Soviet Union mounted as the scale of U.S. -- Soviet trade declined.

But there was a more important factor working toward U.S. recognition of the Soviet Union. After the Versailles treaty was rejected by the Senate in 1920, the United States withdrew into relative isolation. With Germany prostrate in defeat and Japan still on friendly terms with the Western powers, the United States was secure behind its two oceans. As a result, it could afford to ignore the Soviet Union diplomatically, if not commercially. However, America's sense of security began to diminish in

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