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Posts Tagged ‘Cold War

Man of Steel, Re-forged

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I have posted in below a long excerpt from a review appearing in National Interest written by Andrew J Bacevich. He reviews a recent book written by Geoffrey Roberts, Stalin’s Wars: from WW II to Cold War 1939-1953 and here is the excerpt:

In brief, the story that Roberts tells goes like this: Josef Stalin, uncontested leader of the Soviet Union from 1927 until his death in 1953, deserves to be remembered as a great statesman—indeed, as the greatest of the age. Although Stalin made his share of mistakes, especially in the early phases of World War II, he learned from those mistakes and thereby grew in wisdom and stature. Among allied chieftains, he alone was irreplaceable. He, not Churchill and not Roosevelt, was the true architect of victory, “the dictator who defeated Hitler and helped save the world for democracy.”

Furthermore, once Germany went down to defeat—with British and American leaders immediately turning on the Soviet Union—Stalin strove valiantly to sustain Allied unity. Time and again he exerted himself to avert the confrontation that became the Cold War. Even after his efforts failed, “He strove in the late 1940s and early 1950s to revive détente with the west.” In British and American eyes, Stalin became the embodiment of the totalitarian ideologue and warmonger. This was a misperception. To the very end, “Stalin continued to struggle for the lasting peace that he saw as his legacy.” In denying Stalin the reconciliation for which he devoutly worked, Western governments succeeded only in inflicting grave injury on the Soviet people. The East-West rivalry thrust upon Stalin nipped in the bud his postwar efforts to nurture within the Soviet Union a “more relaxed social and political order.”

Roberts neither denies nor conceals the cruelty and ruthlessness that marked the Stalinist era. He freely admits that Stalin was “responsible for the deaths of millions of his own citizens.” He concedes that in the 1930s Stalin presided over the Great Terror in which “millions were arrested and hundreds of thousands were shot.” He notes that Stalin directed “a process of ethnic cleansing involving the arrest, deportation and execution of hundreds of thousands of people living in border areas” of the Soviet Union. He holds Stalin accountable for the Katyn Forest massacre of 1940, involving the liquidation of 20,000 Polish officers and government officials. Although speculating that “Stalin must have bitterly regretted the subsequent embarrassment and complications” when the events at Katyn Forest became known, Roberts makes it clear that the Soviet leader employed mass murder as an instrument of policy—and did so without compunction.

Still, Roberts leaves the distinct impression that when it comes to evaluating Stalin’s standing as a statesman, such crimes qualify as incidental. He acknowledges them in order to dismiss them. Whether intentionally or not, Roberts suggests that Stalin’s penchant for ordering people shot qualifies as a sort of personal quirk, akin perhaps to FDR’s infidelities or Churchill’s fondness for drink. For Roberts, there are only two marks on Stalin’s report card that really count: The first conferred for defeating Hitler, the second for doing his level best to forestall the Cold War. In each instance, Roberts awards Stalin an A-plus.

So Roberts maintains the Stalin was a great statesman, the greatest of his age! That should get the attention of lots of historians.

My own view is that that could be true. But after reading about the political roles and ubiquity of Comintern agents in China in the countrywide turmoil from the early ’20s till the breakdown between Mao and Moscow and about the same sort of scenario in Civil War Spain, Stalin also had to be a political provocateur on a global scale, even more than the US of A at its imperial zenith. I guess I suggest that he was a political rain-maker in much of the world, especially during the peak of the Cold War.

But Roberts’ thesis is provocative because it sets out to re-frame an awful lot of alleged foreign policy victories by US dominated NATO et al. And it throws up an interesting and new perspective about the US led Crusade in Europe.

The brouhaha about Mulroney, PET and Chretien seems like a lot of fetid lukewarm air in comparison to the white heat of world scale politics played out between the White House, Whitehall, the Elysée Palace and the Kremlin until the dissolution of the USSR.

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Written by BobG in Dalian & Vancouver

2007/09/08 at 19:51