Dupes, Realists, Traitors or Failures?
Not only the studying and writing of history but also the honouring of it both represent affirmations of a certain defiant faith -
George F Kennan
At Yalta:- Churchill, Roosevelt, Stalin
Eastern Europe perhaps could have been spared if D-Day had happened sooner. Russians were mightily ticked off at the West for holding up the "Second Front" and Eastern Europe was their "consolation prize" for that delay. Churchill's gambit of hoping Hitler would crush Stalin before the Allies crossed the Channel failed miserably. For that, Churchill should be held accountable for the millions who died as a consequence - Man of the Century he was not!
There was no way Allies could have stopped the Soviet Union from occupying Eastern Europe. A large and influential number of Communists and Stalinists lived in Britain and America. 1945 was 25 years before the Gulag Archipelago and 11 years before Khrushchev's secret speech - Stalin had thousands of dupes in the West who refused truth and he also had many outright agents (such as Alger Hiss). It would have been impossible to get political support to fight a war against Stalin in 1945. People would never have supported it.
The one act that Roosevelt and Churchill bear responsibility for is returning escapees and prisoners of war to Stalin - where they faced certain death. Both men knew the truth about Stalin and turned the people over anyway. There is no way Stalin would have gone to war over the non-return of exiles - there was no reason to do that. Perhaps Roosevelt was too old and sick to say no and was swayed by Alger Hiss into doing it. There are few Americans in the 20th Century who are quite as despicable as Hiss - acting on Stalin's instructions and out of fear that exiles would reveal the truth about Stalin to the Western World, Hiss convinced Roosevelt to return the exiles and thus consigned thousands of innocent people to death.
The US's strategic mistakes did not begin at Yalta but with the declaration of unconditional surrender in 1942, which Goebbels' celebrated because it guaranteed that every German soldier would fight to the death to protect his homeland. Roosevelt (as chronicled in The New Dealers War by Thomas Fleming) refused to listen to any German resistance groups because it was felt that "Prussian militarism" was just as much a problem as Nazism.
A true balance-of-power calculus would have had the Allies, sans Russia, frittering away at the extremities of the Axis empire (that is, North Africa and Sicily) while refusing to open a true second front that would cost them high casualties - that includes the bombing campaign. They would supply the Russians enough so they would not succumb to the Nazis - at least not until both had been bled white. The consequence of this would probably have been that the Holocaust would have gone on unabated - in a war where millions had died and were dying. But tragic decisions such as this must sometimes, unfortunately, be made
FDR made a deal with a mass murderer to save the world from a worse murderer. He succeeded in saving the world, but part of the price he paid was the freedom of millions of East Europeans - not that the US had the ability to prevent Stalin from occupying East Europe (there was never the slightest possibility that an exhausted US was going to go to war with an ally who had just lost millions of men fighting at our side) - but the US conferred legitimacy on that occupation at Yalta. For that, President Bush properly apologised to those whose freedom was sacrificed for the greater good. End of story.
One last thing: Hitler always planned to take France. Always. The US should have stomped on Hitler sooner, not later.
The history of the rise of Nazi Germany is that of baffling stupidity on the part of the Allies. Germany was not supposed to have an army above 100,000 troops. Then Hitler started to raise an army but had them walking around with broomsticks and pretending they were not actually an army. Imagine if someone had said, "You have to stick to the Armistice or we will attack now!" back then? If Hitler obeyed, no army, no trouble. He would have killed probably every Jew in Germany, but that's it. If he disobeyed, then kicking his ass would have been easy. But the Allies were not willing to do that, because they feared war. Well, they got war anyway, bigger than it would have been had they been firmer.
Who knows? The Allies could have stomped on Stalin, too. As early as the end of 1943 the US knew that when the main assault on Japan started it would be bloody. Some estimates placed the total casualties at a million just on the US side, killed or wounded. The war plans expected the Pacific Theatre to end no sooner than 1947. The US didn't even know whether or not the Bomb would work.
The reason that Stalin was allowed to assault Berlin was that upon completion of the Rhine-crossing operation, many US divisions were to be diverted to the Pacific Theatre operation for the Japanese assault. Only the Bomb intervened and rendered that need moot.
And just like in Iraq, there was no plan for post-war pacification of Nazi's until after hostilities ceased. If the US had gone to war with the Soviet Union in 1945 over Poland, the Soviet Union would have driven the US and the British out of Europe entirely, even if the US managed to put her few atomic bombs onto them. And she would not have been able to finish off Imperial Japan - so probably would have had to have cut a deal with her. The whole scenario is so stupid that only someone whose knowledge of military history was acquired by playing Risk could seriously suggest that the US could have compelled the Red Army to pull out of Eastern Europe.
Czechoslovakia did not democratically vote for a Communist government, unless one also considers Cuba electing Castro every year and Iraq electing Saddam every year as democratic elections. In Czechoslovakia there was only one person on the ballot and people were forced to vote for him.
"Did FDR and Churchill sell out Eastern Europe?" Yes. FDR held back Patton and allowed the Nazis to slaughter thousands more before the Soviets arrived weeks later. How can his actions be defended?
An interesting question is whether there would have been a Holocaust had there not been a World War II. After all, the Nazis really didn't graduate from the evil-enough Kristallnacht-style intimidation of Jews into the true genocide business in earnest until 1942, when it was clear their dominate-the-world plan wasn't going to work.
Suppose Churchill actually died from his car-accident injury in the early '30s, so there was no 19th-century splendid anachronism needling Britain throughout the 1930s. As a result, when Germany invaded Poland, Britain and France reacted the same way they did to Germany's swallowing Czechoslovakia - grumbling a little, but acquiescing. Absent a major war, the Nazis could have continued their pre-war campaign of intimidation of the Jews, expressly aimed at reducing them to such lower-class status that they would all emigrate. Would that atrocity (evil enough) be remembered as any worse than what Turkey did to its Greek population in the '20s ("what's that?" wonders many an illiterate college graduate) or what Iran and most of the Arab world did to their Jewish populations following 1948? The main problem with this speculation is its assumption that Hitler would ever have been satisfied. War was going to break out sooner or later - Poland wasn't Hitler's last territorial demand by any stretch of wishful imagination. And when war finally did beak out, it would invariably have gotten nasty enough for the Nazis' hatred of the Jews to have manifested itself in the ultimate way it did in actual history. And by then, the Nazis may have been too strong to stop.
The Chamberlain government declared war after the August 1939 invasion of Poland by Germany. That was the reason for Britain's entry into what became World War II. Chamberlain, a reasonable man, finally realised that despite his belief at Munich, Hitler was not a reasonable man, and other reasonable men couldn't cut deals with him, leaving force as the only option. Britain had a treaty with Poland - Poland had made that treaty because it couldn't get a useful one from Russia without losing big-time, as Russian forces would have to advance entirely through Poland to reach the front, resulting in de facto occupation. The Poles feared Russian domination more than German so they made treaties with the Westerners, Britain and France. But British and French forces could only reach the front by advancing through Germany. That never happened and what's more, it wasn't seriously believed at the time that it could happen - not in Britain, not in France, and certainly not in Poland. It was only possible use was as a bluff and the bluff didn't work. Britain declared war to support a failed bluff but that did Poland no good at all. And what did it do for Britain? No good at all, either. Would Germany have attacked England later, in any case? History doesn't say.
As history stands, Britain declared its way into World War II to defend Poland from Germany. The defence failed and Russia occupied Poland, which is what the Poles had feared since the Battle of Warsaw in the early 1920s. So Britain failed in her war aims. All the people who say "Yeah, but Germany would have ... anyway ... and Russia would have ... anyway" are speculating, even if what they say is plausible or likely.
It's like taking a quiz - read the question before trying to answer it and don't start off with conclusions first. 20th century history is much more complicated than most people realise and easy truisms are hard to extract. Don't confuse a casus belli with a strategic rationale for war! Churchill's casus belli was that Germany had invaded Poland - ergo Germany had committed aggression and the UK could declare war. The strategic rationale, however was to prevent an aggressive great power from dominating the European continent and thereby threatening Britain. Once the war had begun, the original casus belli was irrelevant to determining if the UK won. The question was, did the UK end up with a better strategic situation? The answer is yes, they did. The USSR in 1945 was on the Elbe, more distant from the UK than Germany on the Rhine and North Sea had been. And the USSR was more cautious and less aggressive than Nazi Germany. A Nazi Germany that dominated East Central Europe, would, as others have said, have gone on to dominate Western Europe as well.
Similarly in Iraq, the US's casus belli was Iraqi violations of UN resolutions and the 1991 ceasefire terms with regard to weapons of mass destruction. The strategic rationale was to transform the Middle-East. If the US transforms the Middle-East, then she will have won even though Saddam had no weapons of mass destruction.
Source: Compiled from vodkapundit.com
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It's quite correct that the whole Yalta/Betrayal of the West thing is, by and large, a myth - but it's a myth that Eastern Europe has bought into heavily, as well as successive US administrations. Regardless of the facts of history, Eastern Europe *did* get screwed, and they *do* blame Yalta for it. Putin refused to apologise for the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, and Bush responded by apologising for Yalta. From a diplomatic/political perspective... it's very hard to argue with. It makes allies feel good, it presents a pointed yet concealed dig at countries the US is unhappy with, it reflects a continuation of US policy, and it's almost even accurate. His audience (which was, in point of fact, Latvian) understood and agreed completely. The speech could have been more accurate, but it could hardly have been more diplomatic.
The key question about Yalta, I guess, is what Churchill and Roosevelt actually thought was going to happen. Possibilities:
Churchill seemed good at understanding dictators, and he *had* said he's sup with the Devil in order to win. I'd rule him out of the category of dupe. Roosevelt seemed to be a very astute political operator as well, so probably not a dupe. To rule out another option, it'd be useful to look at their actions after the war - did they try and stop Stalin or not? But Roosevelt died before the end of the war, and Churchill lost power. Neither was in any position to do anything about Stalin - so we really can't know if they would have tried.
An interesting question might be what Clement Atlee's policy towards the USSR was. Truman pushed hard for rollback (albeit secretly) - did Atlee do so as well? Or ignore them? Or approve?
Final question - were Truman's actions sufficient? Were they, perhaps, all he could do while keeping it secret? Given the public's tiredness of war, was keeping it secret a requirement for doing anything? Were his actions justified?
FDR at Yalta
by Arthur M Schlesinger Jr
Roosevelt and Stalin met only twice - in Tehran in November 1943 and in Yalta in February 1945. They met each time with the 3rd of the Big Three, Winston Churchill. By the time they met at Yalta, all 3 were old and tired. Churchill, who had spent the 1930s in constant frustration, was 71. Stalin at 66 had governed his country for 17 draining years. Roosevelt, who had turned 63 the week before the Yalta meeting, had led his country through the worst economic depression and the worst foreign war in its history. Now they were together to lay the foundation for the peace to come. Roosevelt and Stalin had been corresponding since Hitler’s surprise attack on the Soviet Union in 1941, an exchange that ran to more than 300 letters. It is a curiosity of scholarship that the full correspondence was never published during the Cold War.
Was FDR too sick at Yalta to put up a strong case for the United States? His health was poor and his energy level was low; but I do not gather from conversations with persons who were with him at Yalta that his defences were down. Charles E Bohlen, a State Department Soviet expert who served as Roosevelt’s interpreter with Stalin, summed up the general testimony: "While his physical state was certainly not up to normal, his mental and psychological state was certainly not affected. He was lethargic but when important moments arose, he was mentally sharp. Our leader was ill at Yalta ... but he was effective." I interviewed Sir Frank Roberts, later British Ambassador to Moscow. "The hand of death was on him," Roberts said, "but it didn’t impede his role at Yalta. He was in charge and achieved everything he had come to do. No problem at Yalta derived from Roosevelt’s illness." As for the Soviet side, I asked Valentin Berezhkov, Stalin’s interpreter, who replied in a letter to me that Roosevelt’s health "was certainly worse than in Tehran, but everybody who watched him said that in spite of his frail appearance his mental potential was high. Before he got tired, he was alert, with quick reactions and forceful arguments."
"Stalin treated Roosevelt with great esteem," Berezhkov added, "and as far as I know did not make any comment on FDR’s condition. He certainly could have, in private with his closest colleagues, but none of them ever mentioned it." Roberts thought that "Roosevelt and Churchill were susceptible to Stalin because he did not fit the dictator stereotype of the time. He was not a demagogue; he did not strut in flamboyant uniforms. He was soft-spoken, well organised, not without humour, knew his brief - an agreeable façade concealing unknown horrors."
Roosevelt had no illusions about Stalin’s Russia. "The Soviet Union, as everybody who has the courage to face the fact knows," he told the American Youth Congress in February 1940, "is run by a dictatorship as absolute as any other dictatorship in the world." But FDR, and Churchill too, knew how much the democracies owed the Red Army for the prospective defeat of Adolf Hitler. D-Day would never have succeeded if Stalin had not detained most of the Nazi Army on Germany’s Eastern Front. By the time the Big Three gathered at Yalta, the Red Army was 44 miles from Berlin.
Much has been made of Roosevelt’s alleged naïvety about the Soviet Union and his alleged conviction that he could charm Stalin into postwar harmony. Certainly FDR had no expert understanding of Leninist ideology or of the terrible internal nature of Stalinist society. He responded to what he saw of Soviet behaviour in the world, and he never saw very far into the Soviet Union. Always an optimist, he hoped that the wartime alliance would bridge the ideological chasm and create a new reality for the peace. Even with the benefit of hindsight, this still seems a hope worth testing. It had to be tested in any case before the peoples of the democracies could be persuaded that their vital allies were in fact mortal foes.
Did Roosevelt really believe that he could charm Stalin out of the tree? As Walter Lippmann suggested, he was too cynical for that: "He distrusted everybody. What he thought he could do was outwit Stalin, which is quite a different thing." Perhaps the American President was not so hopelessly naïve after all. For Stalin was not the helpless prisoner of Leninist ideology. The Soviet dictator saw himself less the disciple of Marx and Lenin than their fellow prophet. Roosevelt was surely right in regarding Stalin as the only lever available to the democracies against the rigidities of Leninism. Only Stalin had the power to rewrite Communist doctrine, as he had already re-written Russian history and Russian science. Roosevelt’s determination to court Stalin, to work on and through Stalin, was, I believe, based on the astute reflexes of a master politician. Changing Stalin’s mind was the only chance the West had to keep the peace.
Authoritative witnesses - Averell Harriman, US Ambassador to the Soviet Union in the last years of the war, Chip Bohlen and Berezhkov, the two interpreters - testify that Roosevelt retained to the end a certain capacity to influence Stalin. Harriman contrasted Stalin’s evident "deference" to Roosevelt with his constant needling of Churchill, and explained it by Stalin’s recognition that "Roosevelt represented something entirely new; his New Deal was reforming capitalism to meet the needs and desires of the ‘working class’. There was nothing like that in Communist doctrine."
A great foreign-policy fear that haunted Roosevelt’s generation was the fear of resurgent American isolationism. We sometimes forget how brief an interval separated the two World Wars. FDR was 38 years old when the Senate rejected the League of Nations; he was only 57 when war broke out again in Europe in 1939 - the war predicted by Woodrow Wilson "with absolute certainty," in September 1919, if America did not join the League. During the inter-war years the struggle against isolationism consumed much of FDR’s time and energy. As foreign-policy spokesman for the Democratic Party, he declared in a Foreign Affairs article in 1928 that only by actions of international collaboration could the United States "regain the world’s trust and friendship."
The experience of an internationalist moment followed by a profound and impassioned isolationist revival had engraved itself indelibly on the consciousness of the old Wilsonians. In the 1942 mid-term Congressional election, internationalists launched a major campaign for a "win-the-war" Congress, targeting isolationist legislators on a hit list. The leading isolationists in Congress survived the primaries. In FDR’s own Congressional district, internationalist Republicans like Wendell Wilkie and Thomas E Dewey opposed the renomination of the bitter isolationist, Hamilton Fish, but Fish won the primary two to one. In the General Election, only five of 115 Congressmen with isolationist records were beaten. The Republicans gained 44 seats in the House and 9 in the Senate - their best performance in years. After the election, Secretary of State Cordell Hull told Vice President Henry Wallace that "the country was going to keep the sequence of events from following the 1918 - 1921 pattern because he felt if we went into isolationism this time, the world was lost forever."
For Roosevelt the critical task in 1943 - 1945 was to commit the United States to a post-war structure of peace. FDR regarded a permanent international organisation, in Bohlen’s words, as "the only device that could keep the United States from slipping back to isolationism." The memory, still vivid, of the repudiation of the League two decades before suggested that the task would not be easy. Unilateralism had been the American norm for a century and a half. Internationalism had been a 2-year Wilsonian aberration. No one could assume that isolationism would simply wither away. It had to be brought to a definitive end by American commitments to international order, and, as the master politician knew, Congress and the people were more likely to make such commitments while the war was still on. FDR said privately, "Anybody who thinks that isolationism is dead in this country is crazy. As soon as this War is over, it may well be stronger than ever."
He proceeded to lay the groundwork in 1943 - 1945 with the same skill and circumspection with which he had steered the nation away from isolationism in 1937 - 1941. The challenge of contriving a smooth transition from unilateralism to internationalism shaped Roosevelt’s diplomatic strategy. He moved quietly to prepare the American people for a larger international role. By the end of 1944, a series of international conferences, held mostly at American initiative and generally with bipartisan American representation, had created a post-war agenda - international organisation (Dumbarton Oaks), finance, trade and development (Bretton Woods), food and agriculture (Hot Springs), civil aviation (Chicago), relief and reconstruction (UNRRA). These conferences established a framework for the world after the war - an impressive achievement for a President whom historians used to charge with subordinating political to military goals.
Against this background we can consider Roosevelt’s objectives in this last meeting with Stalin. In order of priority, they were, I surmise: first, to get the United Nations under way before the end of the war on terms that would assure American and Soviet participation - a result Roosevelt deemed imperative both to provide the means of correcting any mistake that harassed leaders framing the peace might make and also to save his own country from a relapse into isolationism. The second priority was to get the Soviet forces to join the war against Japan by a date certain (the atomic bomb was 5 months in the future) on terms that would strengthen Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalist regime in China. A 3rd priority was to work out some compromise on Eastern Europe as a test of Soviet intentions; and a 4th, to get a few modest preliminary agreements for the occupation of Germany. "I dislike making detailed plans," Roosevelt explained to Hull in October 1944, "for a country which we do not yet occupy."
Roosevelt achieved his objectives. He established the United Nations Organization on terms acceptable both to the American people and to the Soviet Union. Stalin delivered a firm date by which the Red Army would enter the Pacific War, thereby pleasing the American military planners. As for Eastern Europe, Stalin, as Bohlen said, "held all the cards" through the presence of the Red Army, but Roosevelt managed to extract an astonishing document - the Declaration on Liberated Europe, an eloquent affirmation of "the right of all people to choose the form of government under which they will live."
The Soviet Commissar for Foreign Affairs Vyacheslav Molotov complained that the Declaration "amounted to interference in the affairs of liberated Europe" and warned Stalin against signing it, but Stalin in his provincial way believed, so Harriman always thought, that free elections in Eastern Europe were bound to result in Communist victories. It was a grave diplomatic blunder. The Declaration laid down standards for Eastern Europe, and Stalin, in order to consolidate the Soviet position, had to break the Yalta accord - which therefore could not have been in his favour. It was indeed a test of Stalin’s intentions. The Declaration stands, too, as a refutation of the myth, believed most intensely in France, that Yalta caused or ratified the division of Europe. It was the deployment of armies, not words on paper, that caused the division of Europe.
It was impossible to save Eastern Europe through diplomacy, and military action was inconceivable so long as the war against Japan was going on. There are indications that, before Yalta, Stalin had decided against post-war collaboration. How else to explain the article by Jacques Duclos, who had been the Comintern official responsible for the Western Communist Parties, in the April 1945 issue of Cahiers du Communisme? That article, which was probably written before the Big Three met at Yalta and was certainly planned well before, was an uncompromising attack on the revisionism of the American Communist Party. Duclos specifically rebuked Earl Browder, the CPUSA leader, for favouring class collaboration. He specifically commended Browder’s rival William Z Foster, who later boasted of having said in January 1945, a month before Yalta, "A post-war Roosevelt Administration would continue to be, as it is now, an imperialist government". The Duclos article was Moscow’s signal to Communists everywhere that the fun was over and that they should prepare for new confrontations in the post-war world.
For whatever reason, Stalin soon left no doubt that the Soviet Union was striking out on its own unilateral course. Roosevelt’s disappointment in the weeks after Yalta has been well documented. I have come on another document, not, I think, previously noted, that adds to the evidence.
On 13 March 1945, two weeks after his return from Yalta, Roosevelt called Leon Henderson to his office. Henderson was the tough and exceedingly able New Deal economist who had succeeded so brilliantly as director of the Office of Price Administration in keeping wartime inflation under control. Roosevelt had sent Henderson to Europe, in December 1944, to check on Allied planning for the Occupation of Germany, and the President intended to make Henderson the American economic chief for Germany. At their meeting Roosevelt told Henderson that, with reference to Germany,
So, after Yalta, the Russians indeed went their own way. The Second World War left the international order in acute derangement. With the Axis states vanquished, the European Allies exhausted, the colonial empires in tumult and dissolution, great gaping holes appeared in the structure of world power. The war left only two states - the USA and the USSR - with the political dynamism to flow into these vacuums. The two states were constructed on opposite and antagonistic principles, marvellously incarnated in Franklin D Roosevelt and Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin. No one should be surprised by what ensued. The real surprise would have been if there had been no Cold War.
This is an edited version of Arthur Schlesinger Jr’s foreword to My Dear Mr Stalin: The complete correspondence of Franklin D Roosevelt and Joseph V Stalin edited by Susan Butler, to be published by Yale University Press in December.
Source: the-tls.co.uk 25 May 2005
by Andrew Nagorski
Review of the book What Stalin Knew: The Enigma of Barbarossa by David E Murphy 340 pages
He deceived himself about Hitler, and it cost millions of Russian lives...
What was Joseph Sralin thinking when he allied himself with Adolf Hitler for nearly 2 years at the beginning of World War II? What did Stalin know about Hitler's intentions to turn on him, and when did he know it?
Historians have grappled with these questions ever since foreign ministers Joachim von Ribbentrop and Vyacheslav Molotov signed the infamous Nazi-Soviet non-aggression pact on 23 August 1939, and the subsequent German attack on the Soviet Union on 22 June 1941. Operation Barbarossa, as the German invasion was called, blindsided Stalin and came closer than most people realise to achieving its aim of inflicting a swift, mortal blow to his country. In What Stalin Knew, David E Murphy, a former CIA agent who was in charge of Soviet operations, provides the most thorough answers to date. His systematic examination of the "product" of Soviet intelligence during the critical 22 months of the pact, and of how Stalin angrily rejected most of the reports of his spies, is an absorbing account on several levels - tactical, psychological, and moral. The result is a devastating indictment of the Soviet tyrant on all those grounds.
Stalin's apologists have always maintained that he had no choice but to agree to the pact with Hitler, since he needed to buy time to prepare for war. Britain and France's appeasement at Munich a year earlier, and their lack of serious interest in forging an alliance with Russia, left Stalin with no choice, they claimed. In fact, Murphy points out, the Soviet leader was much more than Hitler's reluctant partner. He was enthusiastic about dividing the spoils of Poland, which he attacked from the east 16 days after Hitler's armies attacked from the west, and seizing control of the Baltic states. And, most tellingly, he slipped quite comfortably into the role of defending Germany and vilifying the British and the French.
So comfortably that the case can be made that Stalin may have wondered what kind of outcome he really wanted from the war he helped unleash. In the most controversial part of his book, Murphy offers the first English translation of a speech Stalin allegedly made on 19 August 1939, right before formalising his agreement with Hitler. In it, he argued that if the West defeated Germany in a long war, that country would be ripe for Sovietization; but if Germany won in a long war, it would be too exhausted to threaten the Soviet Union, and a Communist takeover would be likely in France. Hence a win-win situation for the Soviet Union, and his conclusion that "one must do everything to ensure that the war lasts as long as possible in order to exhaust both sides."
The speech was first reported by the French news agency Havas in late 1939, and Stalin promptly branded it a fabrication. But in his denial, he insisted "it was not Germany that attacked France and Britain but France and Britain that attacked Germany, thereby taking on themselves responsibility for the present war." Murphy is convinced that Stalin did make this speech; but even if he didn't, the Soviet leader's protests were almost as revealing as the contested transcript. Besides, Stalin let slip similar comments on 7 September 1939, in the presence of several of his top aides. Discussing the war "between two groups of capitalist countries," as he characterised the Western powers and Germany, he asserted: "We see nothing wrong in their having a good fight and weakening each other."
The problem was that Hitler, who had all along believed that subjugating Russia was a key part of his life's mission, quickly became frustrated with his inability to bomb Britain into submission or mount Operation Sea Lion, the invasion of that island nation. Instead, he convinced himself that if he knocked Russia out first, this would leave Britain more isolated and vulnerable than ever. The fact that history (to wit, Napoleon's disaster in 1812) and common sense flew in the face of that reasoning meant little to Hitler. But Stalin refused to believe it - as he refused to believe the steady stream of reports flowing from Soviet agents abroad.
Murphy provides details that prove "beyond any reasonable doubt," as he puts it, that the Soviet services filed alarming reports about German intentions early and often. From Berlin, a source code-named Ariets reported on 29 September 1940, that Hitler intended to "resolve problems in the east in the spring of next year." Major General Vasily Tupikov, the Soviet military attaché in Berlin, backed up his source and later confirmed the redeployment of large numbers of German troops from the western to the eastern front. From Bucharest, the Soviet military mission reported on 26 March 1941: "The Romanian general staff has precise information that in 2 or 3 months Germany will attack the Ukraine. The Germans will attack the Baltic states at the same time..."
Stalin reacted by ridding himself of Ivan Proskurov, the head of military intelligence who had consistently refused to buckle to his pressure to deliver better news. His replacement, Filipp Golikov, began relying on reports from his officers who picked up German disinformation, which dismissed all talk of an invasion of Russia as "English propaganda." When Golikov felt obliged to pass along a report from his Prague station that the Germans would attack in the second half of June, it landed back on his desk with Stalin's note in red ink: "English provocation! Investigate!"
In keeping with that sentiment, Stalin was determined to honour his trade commitments with Germany, and his country provided huge amounts of oil, wood, copper, manganese ore, rubber, grain, and other resources to keep the German military machine well stocked. He seemed genuinely to believe that he could convince Hitler of his good intentions by such craven behaviour. In the words of Nikita Khrushchev: "So while those sparrows were chirping, 'Look out for Hitler! Look out for Hitler!' Stalin was punctually sending the Germans trainload after trainload of grain and petroleum."
As Murphy spells out, Stalin also ignored reports directly from the border regions of large German troop concentrations, and ordered his soldiers not to open fire on German aircraft that were routinely violating Soviet airspace to stage brazen reconnaissance missions. On 5 April 1941, border troops received the order that, in the case of any confrontation, they should "strictly see to it that bullets do not fall on German territory." Instead of recognising all the signs of German preparations for what they were, Stalin - convinced that he couldn't trust anyone, especially his spies who must have been doing someone else's bidding - closed himself off more and more, and refused to allow his generals to put their troops on a war footing. He was also happy to keep arresting anyone who questioned his policies, dispatching them to his legions of executioners and torturers.
Murphy's book should put to rest the myth that Stalin was a great tactician, the brilliant savior of his country. Before he saved it, he almost destroyed it, when he had every opportunity to prepare his troops for the worst and at least limit their losses. In the end, 27 million Soviet citizens perished during "The Great Patriotic War." Of those, there's no telling how many could have been saved if the country had been led by someone who was willing to listen to the "sparrows," and to renounce the use of terror against his own people - at least for the duration of their epic struggle.
Andrew Nagorski, a senior editor at Newsweek International, is writing a book about the battle for Moscow during World War II.
Source: weeklystandard.com Weekly Standard 27 June 2005 Volume 010 Issue 39 © News Corporation all rights reserved
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