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61 WOJCIECH MATERSKI POLAND AND THE SOVIET UNION IN THE LATE 1920S AND EARLY 1930S AFTER THE CONCLUSION of the Riga Treaty, Polish-Soviet relations focused on the implementation of its provisions, with particular reference to the financial-economic sphere. The practically incessant conflicts between the parties were caused by Moscow’s foot-dragging in this regard. Meanwhile, Poland treated the Riga commitments literally and linked progress in other spheres to their fulfilment—something that was understandable but which did not augur well for the future improvement of mutual relations. This outlook arose because, although the treaty reflected the balance of forces at the time of its signing, thereafter the balance had been shifting steadily against Poland. The last, failed attempt to exact the implementation of the Riga undertakings by way of political pressure was made in the latter half of 1923 by the center-right cabinet of Premier Wincenty Witos. His successor, Władysław Grabski, decided that the country’s current economic interests were hobbled by the low level of mutual relations, and, in 1924, he moved to change that state of affairs, acquiescing to the suspension by the Soviet Union of the fulfillment of its treaty commitments. That policy enhanced the normalization of mutual relations, which, however, remained at an insufficient level. The attitude of both states to the impending changes concerning the German question dominated their bilateral political relations. It was connected with the adoption by the Entente powers of the Dawes Plan concerning the payment by Germany of war reparations and their moves to relieve Germany of the status of a defeated state. A diplomatic campaign initiated by Britain led to the convening of the Locarno conference and, subsequently, to the admission of the Weimar Republic into the League of Nations. The gradual alteration of the status of Germany alarmed the Polish government . The Soviet Union was also concerned, though for other reasons; it wanted to continue the cooperation outlined in the Rapallo Treaty between Germany and the Soviets. In this situation, the two foreign ministers, 62 WOJCIECH MATERSKI Aleksander Skrzyński and Georgy Chicherin, even attempted to coordinate positions regarding the new approach in European politics to the German question. At a meeting in Warsaw in late September 1925, they exchanged opinions in connection with the forthcoming conference in Locarno but failed to reach any binding decisions or to formulate a common stance. The Rhine Pact and the package of agreements concluded at Locarno would inevitably channel future German expansion eastward. That was a blow to the security of the Second Republic and, in the longer term, a threat to the security of the Soviet Union. Poland and the Soviet Union after Locarno In essence, the defeat suffered by Polish diplomacy at Locarno consisted of the weakening of the Polish-French alliance and the withdrawal of Entente guarantees concerning Germany’s eastern frontier, which thus left the issue open. The Rhine Pact also clearly undercut the Soviet Union’s European policy, which was based on the Rapallo Treaty and the assumption of a permanent conflict between Germany and the Versailles system. That raised the question of whether the continuation of Soviet-German cooperation, which was particularly advanced in the military sphere, would at all be possible under the new conditions. The Soviet-German talks launched after Locarno were meant to determine whether the countries’ previous cooperation, with its anti-Versailles slant, would be continued. The talks resulted in the signing in April 1926 of a pact on nonaggression and neutrality (Berlin Treaty). Its conclusion was a serious blow to Poland. The Rapallo noose was not getting looser, as had appeared certain after Locarno, but in fact was tightening. The coup of May 1926 and assumption of full power by Józef Piłsudski had a beneficial impact on Poland’s eastern policy. The weakening of the Polish-French alliance after Locarno and France’s clearly diminishing role in European affairs unavoidably forced the Polish leadership to seek another alternative for ensuring the country’s security. That was probably one of the reasons for the conviction that Poland’s relations with Germany and the Soviet Union needed to be at least as good as the relations between those two countries. Achieving that was quite another thing, especially in view of the progressing rapprochement of the Soviet Union and Germany. However, the efforts of the new Polish government, primarily involving Foreign Minister August Zaleski, to invigorate political dialogue received a cool reception in the Soviet Union...


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