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Yalta: The Price of Peace Paperback – January 25, 2011
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Harvard historian Plokhy (Unmaking Imperial Russia) enhances his stature as a scholar of modern Russia in this convincing revisionist analysis of the February 1945 Yalta conference. Plokhy makes sophisticated use of Soviet sources to make a case that Yalta was anything but the diplomatic defeat for the West so often depicted in cold war literature. He describes Yalta in the context of a clash between different approaches to international relations. FDR was a liberal internationalist. Churchill and Stalin saw the world in terms of power and interests. And with the Red Army only 50 miles from Berlin, Stalin held the trump cards. Plokhy's detailed and highly engrossing narrative of the negotiations shows that the West did reasonably well. Roosevelt's agenda was global. He secured Stalin's commitment to join the war against Japan and participate in the U.N. Churchill, focused on Europe, preserved British interests in the Mediterranean. Stalin achieved recognition of the U.S.S.R.'s great-power status and a sphere of influence in Eastern Europe. The Yalta agreement was not the first conflict of the cold war but just a step toward a cold war that emerged only after three more years of failed negotiations. Maps. (Feb.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Revisiting the much-studied Yalta conference of February 1945, historian Plokhy capitalizes on his advantage over prior authors. He had better access to Russian archives, which permits him to vibrantly re-create the summit’s physical surroundings, interpersonal relations, and diplomatic fencing. Because dueling interpretations of Yalta’s protocols contributed significantly to the onset of the cold war, Plokhy’s fundamental thesis questions whether Yalta’s agreements were the best Churchill and Roosevelt could have wrung from Stalin. As Plokhy stresses, the conference participants had, beyond defeating Germany, divergent objectives: FDR wanted the UN and help against Japan; Churchill wanted a free hand in Greece and a restoration of France; Stalin wanted territory from Japan, reparations from Germany, and Communist governments in Eastern Europe. Within the framework of the tense negotiations that ensued, Plokhy brings forth the daily dynamics of Yalta and embroiders them with items behind subsequent recrimination about the conference results, such as FDR’s ill health and the presence of probable Soviet spy Alger Hiss. Releasing the subject from cold war historiography, Plokhy establishes a new standard on Yalta and its controversies. --Gilbert Taylor --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
This new study dispels the first myth.Drawing on newly-discovered documents,the thesis of the book is very simple:the Western leaders have done all they could and achieved the best possible results within that period of time.Published and unpublished documents and diaries also confirm this thesis.S.M Plokhy quotes extensively from the diaries of both Churchill's doctor and Roosevelt's daughter and in addition the new documents prove that Stalin did not want to take advantage of Roosvelt's poor health.The new findings confirm that the Russians were extremely resolute to establish control over their Western neighbours,with Poland as the key player.To be precise,after Yalta,each side remained suspicious about the other's intentions.Yalta did not cause the Cold War,on the contrary: the Cold War came afterwards.
The problem pointed out by the author at the very beginning of the book concerns the absence of an official conference record which could have settled the controversy.Instead, we get a lot of quotations from memoirs or notes taken during those eight fateful days.The author is very good at conveying to the reader the atmosphere which prevailed at the various meetings and does not spare even the tiniest details, thus giving us a feeling of actually being there ,seeing, hearing and attenting the meetings.His analysis of the various phases and issues is extremely good and helpful in understanding what went on, because he includes the broader panoramic picture of everything.To give just an example,when he discusses the Far Eastern question,which was to settle the terms of Russia's entrance in battle against the Japanese,Mr.Plokhy provides an extensive background to the relations between Russia and Japan ,starting from the nineteeth century onwards,including details about the Russo-Japanese War in 1904-1905.The motivations,thoughts and actions of the Big Three and their aides are well illustrated.Military and political manoeuvers are discussed in detail and he provides a balanced and realistic look at the debates which went on during the final days of the conference(Even some menu contents are described for the curious reader).
The last two parts of the book examine the high expectations following the Yalta conference and the crises in the East-Wesr relations that followed after FDR'S death.This sorrowful event was the end of cooperation with the USSR.The epilogue is an exceptional analysis of the Yalta agreements,absolving both Roosevelt and Churchill of any mistakes or inconsiderations.The Soviet Union had its own reasons to be satisfied with the results, because its power status has been recognized.
Professor Plokhy then asks:could the Western Allies have done better at Yalta? The first answer that comes to mind is:"Of course they could have."The problem was that both Churchill and FDR viewed the postwar world through different lenses.Roosevelt was interested in global supremacy; Churchill ,by contrast,was interested more in Europe and in the control of the Mediterranean, which was very essential to the continued existence of the British empire..Thus,from Churchill's point of view, Stalin was a potential enemy and not an ally.Both Churchill and FDR were committed to prevent the communization of Eastern Europe.
To sum up, this book is richly detailed,enlightening and the research invested in it is impressive indeed.The Big Three and all the other minor characters who played their roles in Yalta come to life in the best possible way.
The book is a superb reconstruction of the 1945 summit between Roosevelt (dying), Stalin (paranoid), and Churchill (politically insecure). Over the course of several days and many heavy meals, the Big Three played checkers with world politics: they agreed to dismember Germany, to create the UN, to move Poland westward (necessitating the expulsion of millions of Germans), and to give the Soviet Union a protectorate in Manchuria (in exchange for Moscow's agreement to enter the war with Japan). Mao and Nixon would have been impressed -- and jealous.
I don't have much to add to the laudatory Amazon reviews. The writing is clear and occasionally eloquent. The author moves seamlessly between grand strategy and droll biographical comments. His political judgments are balanced. And he taps recently-opened Soviet archives. Highly recommended.