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Russia and the West Under Lenin and Stalin Hardcover – June, 1961
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"CONTENTS: Preface; Conflict of the Two Worlds; The Provisional Government; Brest-Litovsk; Unofficial Allied Agents; The North Russian Intervention; Collapse in the North; The Siberian Intervention; The Allies in Siberia; Russia and the Peace Conference I; Russia and the Peace Conference II; Germany and the Founding of the Comintern; 1920 - The Year of Transition; The Approach to Normal Relations; Western Reaction to the Soviet Bid; Rapallo; Britain, the Soviet Target; Stalin as a Statesman; Stalin and China; The Rise of Hitler; The Struggle against Hitler, and the Purges; The Nonaggression Pact; Before Germany Struck; Russia and the West as Allies; Russia and the War in Asia; Keeping a World Intact; Notes; Index."
Top customer reviews
Makes one wonder “what if…” had the west not retracted so severely after WWII – how much future anguish could have been prevented had we insisted on cultivating a lasting friendship after the cannons fell silent. My take on Keenan’s ultimate dismay at the evolution of US/Soviet relations is how we did not cement the temporary “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” relationship with something more positive. Containment of Stalin et-all was to be the necessary start of developing a good relationship. It was not intended to create and cement an enmity which would punish the Soviet people harshly beyond what they had already endured.
Some of the more valuable insights I gained from Russia and the West include the following:
Both the Russians and the western allies failed to appreciate the primary motivation of the other in 1917. The West was focused on defeating Germany in WWI, to the exclusion of the internal situation in Russia. The Russians, Bolsheviks and Whites alike, were focused on establishing and controlling a stable national government in Russia. By pressing the provisional Russian Government (of Alexander Kerensky that held power February-November 1917) to vigorously continue the war against Germany, the West contributed to the Bolshevik revolution and Russia's resulting withdrawal from the war.
Western demands for unconditional German surrender in WWI, the punitive nature of the Versailles treaty, and western refusal to treat Weimar Germany as a worthy partner contributed significantly Germany's (unenthusiastic) rapprochement with the Soviet Union in the Rapallo Treaty and to Hitler's rise to power.
Soviet foreign policy between the World Wars was marked by seeking diplomatic recognition, trade, and financial credits from the West. Simultaneously, Soviet policy denounced the bourgeois, capitalist western governments as the implacable class enemies of the working classes, including the workers of the West, and stridently called for the western workers to rise up and overthrow their governments. These Soviet policies grossly violated the established norms of diplomatic conduct, which were based on mutual acceptance of the legitimacy and equality other nations, and harkened back to an era of omnipotent despots who dealt with foreign entities as illegitimate and inferior.
Stalin's purges in the Great Terror of the late 1930s are likely to have been motivated, in part, by his desire to eliminate any internal opponents who could be in a position to question his handling of the emerging Nazi threat. Stalin's options, confronting or collaborating with Hitler, were both fraught with potential danger for Russia and his hold on power. By eliminating most of the other leading Bolsheviks (Kirov, Kamenev, Zinoviev, Bukharin, etc) Stalin bought himself insurance against any internal threat to his power in the event that his handling of the external threat failed.
Following Hitler's successes in the Rhineland, Austria, and Czechoslovakia, Stalin was faced with simultaneous and competing proposals for alliances with Germany and with Britain and France. The British-French failure to stand up to Hitler in the previous three crises was probably decisive in Stalin's acceptance of the German-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact which gave Hitler a free hand to attack Poland from the west and rewarded Stalin with the eastern half of Poland plus the three Baltic states. Stalin subsequently overplayed his hand with Hitler by demanding Soviet dominance in the Balkans. This affront, together with Britain's stubborn refusal to surrender and Germany's inability to invade Britain, led to Hitler's invasion of Russia.
In all these events, plus many more, Kennan provides marvelous insight into the logic, strategies, successes, and failures of national leaders and diplomats of both Russia and the West.