The end of World War Two saw a complex geopolitical scene develop across the globe. The United States occupied islands throughout the Pacific as well as a good portion of Western Germany and Berlin. The USSR controlled vast amounts of land that included everything from Poland and the Baltics to Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan and Tajikistan in the Middle East. Britain controlled part of Germany, but also a portion of land in the Middle East. After the collapse of the Ottoman Empire at the end of World War One, Great Britain came to control what was then known as Palestine.
The British presence in Palestine was met with general dissent from the local populace. The period right after the WWI saw a strong British presence in the region. Fast forward from the end of WWI in 1918 to the end WWII in 1945, and Britain decided that the Palestinian region was more work than it was worth. As such, they more or less pawned the issue off on the newly formed United Nations. Long story short, on November 29, 1947 the United Nations adopted Resolution 181, or the Partition Resolution, that would divide Great Britain’s former Palestinian colony into Jewish and Arab states in May 1948 when Britain was slated to cede influence in the region (history.state.gov).
Much of the story regarding the formation of an Israeli state is well known amongst historians. It is recent history and as such bears a certain level of common understanding. As is usually the case with any significant historical occurrence there is an alternative narrative. When we think of the creation of Israel, we think of the UN, the hostilities faced by the burgeoning nation, and the implications the creation of the state have in modern day life. Very little attention is paid to the players or delegations that voted on the resolution to actually form the nation.
Israel was formed in 1947 at the height of Joseph Stalin’s control of the USSR. Stalinist Russia is infamous for its purges, iron fist absolutism, and general over zealous adherence to Stalin’s cult of personality. Stalin himself heavily prosecuted the Jews forcing them out of work and home under the guise that they were “rootless cosmopolitans”. All this considered, Stalin’s vote in the UN regarding the formation of Israel is rather surprising. In his article, Jonathon Adelman states, “At the United Nations, where the vote on independence was going to be close, he had his Ambassador Andrei Gromyko give an impassioned speech in 1947 on the terrible fate suffered by Jews in the war and their need to have an independent state. Stalin then organized the Eastern European Communist states to vote for the creation of Israel as a the decisive bloc that provided the two-thirds majority needed for victory in the UN vote of November 29, 1947.” Thus, Stalin played a vital role in the formation of a state for a people group he openly prosecuted.
Furthermore, Adelman discusses how Moscow sent shipments of weapons from the Skoda factory in Czechoslovakia to the resource depleted Israeli Army. Stalin’s motivation was a hope that the instability in the Middle East would have a negative impact financially and socially in Great Britain as well as the United States. While it can be argued that this vision in some instances has panned out, it is still interesting to see the support given to Israel on behalf of the USSR. Israel is still a hot point politically and socially in global politics and the region continues to be a hot bed of conflict. Understanding how the USSR helped Israel in its infant days helps paint a clearer picture of the geopolitical landscape of such a complex region.