The diplomatic demarche undertaken by the Soviet Union on March 31, 1954, when our country submitted an official application for membership in the North Atlantic Alliance, is one of those pages of Russian history that is rarely spoken about, little and extremely reluctantly.
Moreover, from a certain moment, for this episode, “canonical” interpretation and explanation have been developed, which do not allow for double interpretation. However, if you look at the issue not as straightforward and narrowly as is usually done, it becomes clear that not everything in the background of those events is as unambiguous and simple as they are trying to tell us.
If a joke, then a very unfortunate one.
We will begin, perhaps, by considering the generally accepted version of the seemingly strange act of the USSR, supported by official historiography and, in general, by the majority of those who speak out on this topic. So, submitting on March 19, 1954, the country's Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov, a draft memorandum to the Central Committee of the CPSU with a proposal to express the Soviet Union's desire to join the NATO military-political bloc created in 1949, his first deputy Andrei Gromyko proposed a kind of "win-win combination" ... They say, the capitalists-militarists will refuse - we will stigmatize them for isolationism, anti-Sovietism and "we will reveal the aggressive essence of the Alliance directed against the USSR and the countries of people's democracies." In a word - they will turn out to be scoundrels, and we are great ... Well, and as soon as the lop-eared Western leaders and generals "lead" to our proposal - then we will show them where the crayfish winter - we will "blow up this organization from the inside" until it "will not fundamentally change its own essence."
In all honesty, tell me - isn't it funny for you to read this ?! One could believe in the sincerity of the intentions of the one who wrote such rubbish, only assuming that the author is a complete fool. But someone who, and Gromyko, an excellent diplomat of the Stalinist leaven and school, was definitely not a fool or an amateur. As, however, and Molotov himself. Therefore, it was written by them for a fool! Yes, yes - the same one who had been in the Kremlin for about a year, replacing the clever Stalin there. Some, however, are trying to assert that it was such a joke - or, as it is fashionable to say now, "trolling". No wonder the application was filed exactly on the eve of April 1, widely celebrated in the West under the name "All Fools' Day." This is also unlikely, there are things that are fraught with joking, you know ...
And the attempts to pull by the ears allegedly "Stalin's desire to enter into a military alliance with the West" look absolutely ridiculous. As proof of their innocence, those who undertake them cite absolutely hilarious "arguments". For example, a note sent at the very beginning of 1949 to London by the then head of the Soviet Foreign Ministry, Andrei Vyshinsky. Yes, he suggested that the British consider the possibility of joining the USSR to the Defense Organization of the Western Union. In fact, it was about the very entity from which NATO subsequently "hatched". However, then Joseph Vissarionovich could still have some illusions about the Anglo-Saxons - despite Hiroshima, the "Fulton speech" and so on. After all, not so long ago (and the five-year plan had not passed), whether they were bad or poor, they fought shoulder to shoulder with us against the common enemy - the Nazis and Japanese militarists. The Supreme Commander, who piously observed the agreements of the Tehran, Yalta and other summits, counted on similar actions by London and Washington - at least on the main points. Moreover, at that time there was a communist faction in the British parliament, which, naturally, advocated the continuation of the military alliance between London and Moscow.
However, the refusal, which followed in response to our initiative, was regarded by Stalin quite soberly, calling the nascent "brotherhood in arms" of the Western countries, tightly closed for yesterday's allies, nothing more than "a digging under the UN." The leader, of course, looked into the water. And that is why his words, addressed to Vyshinsky already in 1952 after a conversation with the French ambassador in Moscow, who, without sparing eloquence, crucified before the master of the Kremlin about the exceptional “peace-lovingness” of the North Atlantic Alliance: “Shouldn't we join NATO in this case too? ! " should be regarded as a joke. However, very bitter, in the spirit of "black humor". At this time, Stalin was not only in full swing preparing the USSR for a new war against the West, but also managed to pretty much shake the sides of the same Americans in Korea. What kind of "enter" there ... He was going to smash them, that's what!
Another betrayal of Khrushchev?
Between 1949, when the military-strategic confrontation between the West and the East could still be prevented, and 1954, when Moscow decided to knock on the doors of NATO, which was clearly hostile to it, as the classic wrote "a huge distance." In this short, according to historical standards, period of time, too much has fit - and, above all, the death of Stalin. When someone tries to present Gromyko and Molotov as the initiators of the USSR's attempt to join the Alliance, it sounds fake and ridiculous. No, such a "brilliant" idea could be born exclusively in one head - bald as a billiard ball. Having seized power in the USSR as a result of a military coup, Khrushchev at that time was just beginning his course towards the destruction of the Soviet Union as a state, but he initially strove towards this very goal. Few people remember today that the issue of our country's entry into the North Atlantic bloc was not closed completely and irrevocably. Yes, most often the words of the leaders of the West are quoted that the proposal of the USSR "has an" unreal nature "and, therefore, does not even" deserve discussion. " At the same time, the discussion was very lively and at the highest levels.
As a result, Moscow was not simply refused, but at the same time put forward a number of rather arrogant and humiliating conditions, after the fulfillment of which the West could "think". The USSR had to withdraw its troops from Austria, abandon military and naval bases in the Far East, sign "comprehensive disarmament agreements" and so on ... And what happened after? Yes, the USSR officially expressed "deep regret" about the decision made by the West, accusing it of hypocrisy, "double standards" and so on. Yes, in 1955, with a significant delay, a real counterbalance to NATO was finally created - the Warsaw Pact Organization ...
Everyone knows and remembers this. But a much smaller number of people realize something else - namely, that some time later, in parallel with the knocking of a boot on the UN rostrum and the proclamation of pathetic angry speeches against the West, Khrushchev slowly began to diligently fulfill his mocking conditions! And even overfulfill. Our army obediently withdrew from Austria. The most important in the military-strategic relation Port Arthur and the island of Dalny bald "genius" for a great life gave the Chinese (with whom at the same time he spoiled relations at an increased rate). And as for disarmament, then Kukuruznik had no equal. Let me remind you that this figure simply destroyed the Soviet army, systematically and purposefully. In 1955-1958, at his behest, it was reduced by almost a third. More than two million people were kicked out of the Armed Forces. This, by the way, was only the beginning - in 1960 a new reduction followed, by another half a million. Whole units and formations were disbanded, moreover thoughtlessly, haphazardly, without taking into account the degree of their combat readiness and importance for the country's defense. The bald idiot imagined that in the presence of an atomic bomb, everything else is not needed at all - neither tanks, nor artillery, nor, even more so, "some kind of infantry."
And here's what is extremely interesting, first of all, for some reason, he tried to get rid of "huge armies concentrated in Europe" - that is, from those forces that just opposed NATO directly. And this despite the fact that the North Atlantic Alliance was building up its power at a downright shock pace. And everything was not enough for the bald man - at a certain stage he expressed the idea that the Soviet army did not need combat aircraft at all - neither bomber nor fighter. "This is all - yesterday in the presence of missiles ..."
Good people don't join NATO ...
In 1957-1959, that is, when it was already completely and finally clear that the West was not going to turn from the course he had taken in 1949 towards military confrontation with the Soviet Union and all the countries of the socialist world, Khrushchev continued to carry the heresy of "general disarmament." Moreover, it was not at all about the rejection of atomic and hydrogen bombs with missiles! No, this balabol proposed to abolish the army as such on the planet Earth - leaving only "lightly armed police forces", just in case. It was this kind of game that he proclaimed, for example, from the rostrum of the UN in 1959. I can’t even imagine how the same Pentagon, which was rapidly increasing the number of aircraft carriers, strategic bombers, and military bases in all corners of the world, grumbled about this. And Khrushchev bent his own - at about the same time, he was crucified in all seriousness before the delegates of the session of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR and his colleagues in the Central Committee about the need to transfer the Soviet army from the personnel to the territorial-militia principle of formation. That is, to throw it back to that miserable and wretched level from which it was raised by the efforts of Stalin and Voroshilov by 1935. And there it would be possible to ask for a new NATO membership - perhaps, they would accept, yes, you see, and they would bring in the troops, having come up with a suitable excuse ...
All these moments, if we consider them in conjunction with the rest of Khrushchev's actions, completely unequivocally aimed at the collapse of the USSR, make one think that with the attempt to join NATO in 1954, everything was far from as unambiguous as it seems. It seems that there was no smell of "propaganda" alone. An indirect confirmation of this conclusion may be the fact that new attempts to "become related" with the Alliance were made by the leaders of the USSR and Russia, in relation to which there are also many questions.
In 1983, quite specific steps in this direction were taken by Yuri Andropov. As far as is known, the question of the Soviet Union's entry into NATO was raised by him to the Politburo of the CPSU Central Committee. There was a "probing" of the West's position on this issue at the level of diplomats and intelligence officers ... However, here the well-known incident with the South Korean Boeing "turned up" as badly as possible. all the more so, rapprochement with NATO was out of the question in principle. The desire to join the Alliance was expressed by a man who, in fact, was one of the main "architects" of the "perestroika" that followed soon after, and then the collapse of the USSR, for the sake of which it was started. After all, it was Andropov who brought to the heights of power all the future "leaders" who led the Soviet Union to collapse. So it is unlikely that in this case we are dealing with a simple coincidence. Rather, with the next triggering of a kind of "litmus test" that irrefutably testified that any Soviet leader who took to consider the possibility of joining the Alliance was no longer Soviet in essence. The next, as we remember, was Boris Yeltsin to get ready in the North Atlantic direction. He even reached the level of signing the Partnership for Peace program, where, fortunately, everything stalled. Well, there is even nothing to comment on about this character. Everything that the Russian authorities did next was no longer an expression of a desire to join the ranks of NATO on its terms, but only attempts to somehow normalize relations with this military-political bloc. However, they did not have the slightest success - and they could not have.
The USSR, as well as Russia, which is its legal successor, in its current form and status, were and are for the North Atlantic alliance not only the most probable adversaries, but precisely those "natural enemies" who, in fact, give some meaning to its existence. Therefore, to quote a good British poet, they will never get along. Only face to face on the battlefield. But it would be better if it didn't come to that.