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Josef Stalin and Franklin Roosevelt at
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On This Day: United States and Soviet Union Establish Diplomatic Relations

November 16, 2011 05:00 AM
by findingDulcinea Staff
On Nov. 16, 1933, United States established diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union 16 years after breaking relations with Russia when the Bolshevik Party came to power.

The Establishment of U.S.-Soviet Relations

In December 1917, a month after the Bolshevik Party seized control of the Russian government, the United States broke off diplomatic relations with Russia. The U.S. remained hostile toward Russia (and later the Soviet Union) until Franklin Roosevelt became president in 1933 and sought to establish relations.

“His reasons for doing so were complex, but the decision was based on several primary factors,” explains the U.S. Department of State. “Roosevelt hoped that recognition of the Soviet Union would serve U.S. strategic interests by limiting Japanese expansionism in Asia, and he believed that full diplomatic recognition would serve American commercial interests in the Soviet Union, a matter of some concern to an Administration grappling with the effects of the Great Depression. Finally, the United States was the only major power that continued to withhold official diplomatic recognition from the Soviet Union.”

The main issues surrounding the establishment of relations included the settling of Soviet debts, Soviet involvement in U.S. domestic affairs (such as supporting the American Communist Party), and the legal status of Americans living in the Soviet Union.

The Soviet Union pledged to end communist propaganda activities in the U.S., and to allow Americans living in the Soviet Union to have freedom of worship and the right to choose their own counsel in put on trial. The issue of the outstanding debts was left to be decided later.

Diplomatic relations were officially established ten minutes before midnight on Nov. 16. President Roosevelt sent a telegram to Soviet diplomat Maxim Litvinov saying, “I trust that the relations now established between our peoples may forever remain normal and friendly, and that our nations henceforth may cooperate for their mutual benefit and for the preservation of the peace of the world.”

History of U.S.-Soviet Relations

The hopes for friendly relations quickly broke down, however. The two sides could not reach an agreement on the debts and the U.S. felt that the Soviets continued to interfere in U.S. relations. Not until the outbreak of World War II did the U.S. and Soviet Union begin to cooperate, with the U.S. providing arms and material to the Soviets for their fight against Nazi Germany.

After the war, relations again broke down as the two countries emerged as the world’s two superpowers. The U.S., representing Western democracy and capitalism, and the Soviet Union, representing communism, fought to promote their ideologies internationally in the Cold War.

Following the collapse of the Soviet Union and the introduction of democratic and free market reforms in Russia, relations between the U.S. and Russia improved quickly. There have still been tensions between the two countries however, over issues such as missile defense, U.S. military action in Kosovo, Russian military action in Chechnya and Georgia, and Russian relations with communist countries.

The U.S. Embassy in Moscow reviews the diplomatic relationship between the U.S. and Russia dating back to 1807.

See the findingDulcinea Web Guide to the Cold War for the best resources for studying the Cold War.

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