Originally Posted by Mil_dude
Stalin wasn't doing this because he had a kind heart, the guy idolized Ivan The Terrible and Ghengis Khan for instance, he was doing it to weaken or destroy nations he wanted to eventually take over. This isn't conspiracy theory, it was a basic precept of international communism at the time.
Except that Stalin turned his back on all that stuff, Mil_dude.
He'd seen Lenin charge the Red Army into Poland hoping it would induce Europe wide revolution in 1920, and it had ended in tears.
When Stalin took over, he focussed on putting the parts of pre-Versailles Russia back together again (I do like your later opinion that he was a Tsar revived, rather than a 'good' communist - as Tito and Mao were to find to their disgust) and securing it against what he saw was Fascism growing on his borders (from 1931 onward a rabidly anti-communist Japan was on the move in East Asia, and by 1938 the only liberal democracy in Eastern Europe was Czechoslovakia).
While he desperately (and murderously) industrialized his backward country, his policy in the 1930s was co-existence with the West and an attempt to form alliances against Italy and Germany. You can see this in the hard work of his foreign minister Maxim Litvinov.
During the 30's, the United States officially recognized the Soviet Union, it joined the League of Nations, and would happily have allied with Britain and France (especially during the Czech crisis), but was not taken seriously.
Not being taken seriously by those Western powers despite the clear and present danger of Hitler resulted in a foreign policy crisis that led to Litvinov being removed and the non-aggression pact made with Germany ... an attempt to ride the bear while the country modernized!