- Hardcover: 384 pages
- Publisher: Yale University Press; 1ST edition (January 10, 2006)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0300108540
- ISBN-13: 978-0300108545
- Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.3 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 9 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #599,515 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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My Dear Mr. Stalin: The Complete Correspondence of Franklin D. Roosevelt and Joseph V. Stalin Hardcover – January 10, 2006
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From Publishers Weekly
This collection is a history junkie's delight. Many of the letters—the final one was approved by Roosevelt only minutes before his death in 1945—are filled with understanding and praise for the sufferings that the U.S.S.R. is going through. Roosevelt expresses this sympathy repeatedly (and understandably, given the wartime miseries of the Soviet Union): "We are filled with admiration for your magnificent resistance," he wrote in August 1942. More interesting, perhaps, are the maneuverings over their differences, most of which are known to students of the war: Stalin's desire for a second front against the Nazis; debates over how to deal with the wartime Polish government and the postwar borders with Poland. There are no big surprises, but the correspondence shows how the groundwork for what would become the Cold War was already in place even when the United States and the U.S.S.R. were allies. Butler's introduction and explanatory text help thread the messages together. Those who read this will gain a firsthand look into the minds of two world leaders thrown together by Hitler and the contingencies of war. (Jan.)
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The helpful parts are the raw texts of written communications between Roosevelt and Stalin, which are not, to my knowledge, available anywhere else. If this is a complete record as claimed, it's crucial information for historians as the evidence of the semi-public communication between FDR and Stalin.
Unfortunately, except for the published memoirs (suspect in themselves) of the direct participants, we cannot know the substance of behind-closed-doors verbal communications between FDR or Harry Hopkins and Stalin or Molotov, which were considerable, that may substantially alter the meanings of written communications reported in this book. As experienced professional manipulators, both FDR and Stalin well understood the utility, and hazards, of a written record.
The dangerous and misleading parts are the remainder of the book written by "editor" Susan Butler and Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. (court historian of JFK's "Camelot"), who, as committed progressives, give a decidedly one-sided and pro-FDR slant to their commentaries. You'll find no critical historical analysis here.
Worse, Butler is a very poor technical historian, with proof on nearly every page. For example, on page 34 Butler states the Germans captured 400,000 Soviet prisoners in the first week of their June 1941 Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of the Soviet Union. Later on the same page she states the Soviets lost 300,000 prisoners in the first month of fighting. Apparently, according to her, the Germans gave back 100,000 prisoners!
Lest the reader believe this is merely a proofreading error, many, many other pages contain errors of technical history that a Yale-educated historian should not make. As one of many examples, on page 140 Butler describes the Bell P-39 Airacobra as a "maneuverable fighter" plane.
This is technically inept in the extreme, as the USAAF, RAF, and RAAF rejected the prewar P-39 as being wholly inappropriate for combat in Europe and the Far East, to be replaced with superior fighters as soon as possible. The Soviets, however, loved the Airacobra, and wished to acquire as many as possible through Lend-Lease. Army Air Force chief General Henry "Hap" Arnold did not want American aircraft factories to continue to manufacture an obsolete fighter merely for Soviet consumption, and recommended a newer type replace the P-39 in shipments to the Soviets.
If a "historian" can't get simple facts and numbers such as these correct, the reader can be excused for being cautious about accepting the remainder of their commentary at face value.
In sum, I recommend this book to serious readers of history with significant knowledge of what was going on at the time. To avoid being misled by historical inaccuracy or ideological slant, other readers are strongly cautioned to verify statements made by Butler or Schlesinger with multiple outside sources before accepting them as fact.
Also read the wording of the Atlantic Charter from the beginning of the war. That was FDR's vision.
Before the war started, also Great Britain proposed a deal to Hitler that Britain and Germany would divide up Africa if Germany did not send the military into the Sudetenland. Hitler rejected Britains deal and instead went and took Czechoslovakia. Could have had a deal with Britain instead for Africa, but that was not Hitler's ideological vision. It was for Britain.
FDR had a far different view of a post war world. Read the Atlantic Charter.
Churchill and Stalin carved up East Europe in what Churchill called the "dirty deal." Eastern Europe behind the iron curtain is what Churchill and Stalin agreed to. Go look up "Partition Agreement Churchill." FDR had a far different view of the world. Churchill was a colonialist. He fumed at FDR's Atlantic Charter, and then FDR had to sign it for Churchill.
The Yalta Agreement says that there must be elections in Poland. This was the best FDR could do. FDR was a politician. He used charm and guile. That's the best he could do was to get Stalin to agree to this.
Reagan, read his autobiography, then said the Yalta Agreement promised elections. Or read "The Crusader." That's what FDR delivered in the Yalta Agreement. In reality, only military force could enforce it, and the American people wanted their troops home. This would lead to a cold war, not a hot one.
Churchill later said that if the Yalta agreement was such a bad deal for the West, then why did Stalin break it? The Yalta agreement called for "free and unfettered elections" in Eastern Europe and "the right of all people to choose the form of government under which they will live - the restoration of sovereign rights and self-government" to the people of Eastern Europe. I urge everyone to actually read the Yalta agreement.
Google "Partition Agreement Churchill" or "Dirty Deal," as Churchill called it, where Churchill and Stalin carved up Eastern Europe in a meeting in Moscow between Churchill and Stalin. Churchill himself admitted it, to his credit, despite a slightly misleading history of WWII in his memoir. The map he indicated as their deal is how Eastern Europe ended up being carved up. In reality. the Soviets had troops there anyway and the West had no stomach to use military force after WWII, so then it goes to diplomacy for the best you can get.
This is what the Yalta agreement actually says:
II. DECLARATION OF LIBERATED EUROPE
The following declaration has been approved:
The Premier of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and the President of the United States of America have consulted with each other in the common interests of the people of their countries and those of liberated Europe. They jointly declare their mutual agreement to concert during the temporary period of instability in liberated Europe the policies of their three Governments in assisting the peoples liberated from the domination of Nazi Germany and the peoples of the former Axis satellite states of Europe to solve by democratic means their pressing political and economic problems.
The establishment of order in Europe and the rebuilding of national economic life must be achieved by processes which will enable the liberated peoples to destroy the last vestiges of nazism and fascism and to create democratic institutions of their own choice. This is a principle of the Atlantic Charter - the right of all people to choose the form of government under which they will live - the restoration of sovereign rights and self-government to those peoples who have been forcibly deprived to them by the aggressor nations.
To foster the conditions in which the liberated people may exercise these rights, the three governments will jointly assist the people in any European liberated state or former Axis state in Europe where, in their judgment conditions require,
(a) to establish conditions of internal peace;
(b) to carry out emergency relief measures for the relief of distressed peoples;
(c) to form interim governmental authorities broadly representative of all democratic elements in the population and pledged to the earliest possible establishment through free elections of Governments responsive to the will of the people; and
(d) to facilitate where necessary the holding of such elections.
The three Governments will consult the other United Nations and provisional authorities or other Governments in Europe when matters of direct interest to them are under consideration.
When, in the opinion of the three Governments, conditions in any European liberated state or former Axis satellite in Europe make such action necessary, they will immediately consult together on the measure necessary to discharge the joint responsibilities set forth in this declaration.
By this declaration we reaffirm our faith in the principles of the Atlantic Charter, our pledge in the Declaration by the United Nations and our determination to build in cooperation with other peace-loving nations world order, under law, dedicated to peace, security, freedom and general well-being of all mankind.
In issuing this declaration, the three powers express the hope that the Provisional Government of the French Republic may be associated with them in the procedure suggested.
The following declaration on Poland was agreed by the conference:
"A new situation has been created in Poland as a result of her complete liberation by the Red Army. This calls for the establishment of a Polish Provisional Government which can be more broadly based than was possible before the recent liberation of the western part of Poland. The Provisional Government which is now functioning in Poland should therefore be reorganized on a broader democratic basis with the inclusion of democratic leaders from Poland itself and from Poles abroad. This new Government should then be called the Polish Provisional Government of National Unity.
"M. Molotov, Mr. Harriman and Sir A. Clark Kerr are authorized as a commission to consult in the first instance in Moscow with members of the present Provisional Government and with other Polish democratic leaders from within Poland and from abroad, with a view to the reorganization of the present Government along the above lines. This Polish Provisional Government of National Unity shall be pledged to the holding of free and unfettered elections as soon as possible on the basis of universal suffrage and secret ballot. In these elections all democratic and anti-N azi parties shall have the right to take part and to put forward candidates.
"When a Polish Provisional of Government National Unity has been properly formed in conformity with the above, the Government of the U.S.S.R., which now maintains diplomatic relations with the present Provisional Government of Poland, and the Government of the United Kingdom and the Government of the United States of America will establish diplomatic relations with the new Polish Provisional Government National Unity, and will exchange Ambassadors by whose reports the respective Governments will be kept informed about the situation in Poland.
"The three heads of Government consider that the eastern frontier of Poland should follow the Curzon Line with digressions from it in some regions of five to eight kilometers in favor of Poland. They recognize that Poland must receive substantial accessions in territory in the north and west. They feel that the opinion of the new Polish Provisional Government of National Unity should be sought in due course of the extent of these accessions and that the final delimitation of the western front."
Ronald Reagan wrote in his autobiography "An American Life" (page 305) that, as president, he sincerely wrote to the Soviet leadership and insisted that they honor their commitment to freedom in Eastern Europe as expressed in the Yalta agreement. He wrote that he "proposed that the Polish people only be given the right to self-determination that had been promised to them by Joseph Stalin himself at the Yalta Conference. At Yalta, I reminded them, Stalin had promised Poland and all the countries of Eastern Europe the right of self-determination, but the Soviets had never granted it to any of them."
According to "The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism" by Paul Kengor (pages 211-212), on the fortieth anniversary of the Warsaw Uprising, Reagan declared, "Let me state emphatically that we reject any interpretation of the Yalta agreement that suggests American consent for the division of Europe into Spheres of influence. On the contrary, we see that agreement as a pledge by the three great powers to restore full independence and to allow free and democratic elections in all countries liberated from the Nazis after World War II and there is no reason to absolve the Soviet Union or ourselves from this commitment." Yalta did not sell-out Eastern Europe. Indeed, Yalta required the opposite.
I urge everyone to simply read what the Yalta agreement actually says. You can read it on the Internet. The agreement, you will see, is very favorable to the West and the people of Eastern Europe.
What the letters in this book show is that FDR maneuvered to keep the Allies together long enough to destroy Adolf Hitler but that the tensions of the Cold War were forged in World War II. The Soviet Union lost 17 million people in World War II while America lost 400,000. FDR needed to keep the Soviets from quitting the war until America was ready to liberate Europe. FDR was a poker player in real life and was excellent at the game of diplomacy, including bluffing and shmoozing with meaningless shmooze. Then at the end, FDR shrewdly got Stalin to sign the Yalta agreement, which was very favorable to the West and the people of Eastern Europe.
In fact, Stalin's advisor urged him not to sign it. After FDR died, Stalin broke the promises agreed in writing at Yalta, and FDR's successors - Truman and Eisenhower - did nothing about it. Truman gave Soviet foreign minister Molitov "a tongue lashing," demanding that they honor the promises. With Soviet armies in Eastern Europe, there was probably little that Truman and Eisenhower could do short of another world war, which the American public did not support. Instead, Truman and Eisenhower used the policy of containment.
It's amazing that this myth continues to bamboozle people who are too lazy to check the facts.