Friday, September 29, 2006

Some thoughts from Unit 2.1

Another brain emptying post, I am afraid. These are some bits and bobs I thought might be of use in thinking about the influence that personality, or rather Stalin's personality (after Gaddis), plays.

The article is significant in what it tells us about Soviet thinking at the end of the War, the implications this has for the argument of inevitable conflict and also the fact that the three diplomats findings were passed over by Molotov. One could draw the inference as result, like Gaddis, that it was Stalin not Soviets per se and not Communism, who contributed to the conflict.

The conclusions Pechatnov draws are that, to a greater or lesser extent, all three diplomats believe in the primacy of maintaining Soviet interests in terms of a sphere of influence over neighbouring countries. They are equally interested in a post-war solution to the German question, and indeed the Japanese question, which would see their wartime enemy incapacitated and enfeebled as a political entity or through economic reparations, or both.

Maisky wants a greater influence for Soviet interests in China and sees the U.S.S.R. as an increasingly important centre of gravity for neighbouring countries. Gromyko pushes the notion that U.S. universalism, seen from the Soviet standpoint as a thinly veiled attempt to prise open new markets and therefore feed the U.S. need for economic growth, would present opportunities to a Soviet bloc rich in raw materials but in need of external technical and financial support.

Most significantly, argues Pechatnov, is that, in a show of unity which ran counter to the thinking within in the Kremlin at various points during the war, the correspondents also maintain that the best means of achieving the Soviet Union’s post-war wishes is by continuing the wartime cooperation with the United States and Great Britain.

For this to work, however, each corner of the triangle has to be independent and not combine with another against the third -- this requires then that the U.S. and Britain will ultimately be at loggerheads with one another, the inevitable Anglo-American contradiction (or as others suggest Soviet fantasies of capitalist fratricide). That the opposite occurs is then an explanation for Cold War polarisation.

“This "three policemen" formula of cooperation was thought able to provide for the three major strategic imperatives of the USSR: keeping Germany and Japan down, keeping the Soviet Union in the big council of the world, and legitimizing the USSR's post-war borders and sphere of influence.

"This notion of a multilateral, realpolitische mindset among senior Soviet advisors at a key moment in the Cold War’s gestation, begs the questions of what might have happened if Molotov, let alone Stalin, truly took them by their word.” (1)

Instead, as Pechatnov notes, the influence of the three, which was arguably never that great, was on the wane shortly after the end of World War Two.


This is not really related but it serves to show that the notion that personality has a significant role to play, may only really apply to non-democratic systems.

In his analysis of revisionist thinking, Schlesinger challenges the idea (from Alperowitz of Nuclear diplomacy) that F.D.R.’s death marks a shift in U.S. foreign policy when the relatively inexperienced (as Gaddis says ill-informed) Truman entered the Oval Office:

“While the idea that Truman reversed Roosevelt’s policy is tempting dramatically, it is a myth.”(2)

(1) Pechatnov, V O, (date??) The Big Three After World War II: New Documents on Soviet Thinking about Post-War Relations with the United States and Great Britain, online: (accessed 23/09/2006)
(2) Schlesinger Jr, Arthur, Origins of the Cold War, Foreign Affairs, Vol. 46, 1967, pp.23-52


Dan Ford said...

Well said. I am surprised to see Alperowitz so well represented in the WiMW reading list. To my mind he is not a historian but a polemicist. I was tickled to see Schlesinger's footnote with respect to Alperowitz:

'While Mr. Alperowitz bases his
case on official documents or authoritative reminiscences, he
sometimes twists his material in a most unscholarly way.' That's
a polite way of saying the man is dishonest. The footnote is very much worth reading.

-- Dan Ford

Tom said...

Yes, its not very flattering is it?

I must admit I have not read any Alperowitz -- like reading Noam Chomsky, I suspect it gives you a clear sense of the one end of the scale so to speak!