#28 - JRL 2009-164 - JRL Home
Date: Wed, 2 Sep 2009
From: Jerry Hough (jhough@duke.edu)
Subject: Re: History debates

History is extraordinarily complex, and the number of taboos in these
sensitive matters extremely deep. My next book on Russia, to be completed
next year, is on the US domestic politics on the origins of the Cold War is
based on the archived papers of some 150 diplomats, officials, politicians, and
journalists from 1930 to around 1960.

As someone very active in Soviet-American relations in the Brezhnev era, I
quickly learned that Sonnenfelt was right that the Cold War at least by the
1960s had become more Soviet-American cooperation than Soviet-American
hostility. As William Zimmerman once said, the purpose was to preserve the
results of World War II, or as Dean Acheson said, to end the civil war that had
torn the continent apart for centuries. The purpose was to move towards a
united Europe. Gromyko had as much a Sonnenfelt doctrine towards NATO as
Sonnenfelt had towards East Europe. That was what all his seemingly silly
talk about "German revanchism" really symbolized. It was Alexander Yakovlev
and then Mikhail Gorbachev who understood that the division of Europe had
served its purpose and that it was time to move on.

But the 1930s also have to be understood in these terms. There was a
deep feeling that collective security (we call it balance of power alliances)
had provoked World War I and that another war between Germany and France would
destroy civilization. There was a profound hope that some kind of
appeasement (then a good word for accommodation) of more or less legitimate
German demands would either satisfy Hitler or at least the generals who would
overthrow him.

When it turned out that unification of the Germans in Austria,
Czechoslovakia, and (presumably Poland) would not be enough, it was very late
in the game, and the question was what to do. FDR's ambassador in London
(Joseph Kennedy), in Paris (William Bullitt, and his chief European adviser in
general), and in Berlin (Hugh Wilson, then temporarily in Washington) all were
quite tolerant of the idea--maybe even positive--about giving Hitler what he
wanted in Mein Kampf, an empire including southeastern Europe and Ukraine.

FDR's views are unknown, but he was not for collective security until the
fall of France in 1940. That is, his goal was always saving England, as was
the policy of Chamberlain himself. The question was tactics. Roosevelt had
no ambassador in Moscow from the summer of 1938 until August 1939, the period
of the meaningless British-Soviet negotiations, and Stalin was furious about
Roosevelt. As he told Djilas, Churchill reaches into your pocket for kopecks
and Roosevelt for rubles.

Indeed, Joseph Davis' appointment has been totally misunderstood. He
never really was ambassador to the Soviet Union, but was being groomed to be
ambassador to Germany and was told to spend his time learning about Europe.
That is what he did. He was non-critical towards Stalin so that the same
behavior towards Hitler would not seem pro-Hitler. But people like Churchill
had convinced him that Hitler was a threat. Davies became pro-collective
security and had to be smeared as naive about Stalin to discredit his argument
about the need for a collective security alliance with the Soviet Union against
Germany. His Mission to Moscow not only distorted the Soviet Union, but his own
views as ambassador, as his archives show. Davies had crude views about the
Soviet Union, but they were closer to Kennan's and Loy Henderson's than is ever
admitted. But since Davis was a non-ambassador, Roosevelt really had no
ambassador from early 1936 to August 1939.

The real question is the meaning of the British and French guarantee to
Poland in January 1939. They guaranteed Poland and Greece, but not Hungary
and Romania. It seems overwhelmingly probable that they were telling Hitler
to go to Ukraine to the southeast and turn Poland into a Mussolini's Italy.
As late as June and July, some key people in State improbably thought that the
strategy had worked.

But Putin is right. The time has come to put the past into the past.
The East European countries, and especially the Jews living there (there were
very few in Germany itself) and those wanting to turn Hitler east were
extraordinarily cavalier about the Jews there), paid a huge price, but the
result of policy in the 20th century was to transform Europe in a positive
direction to a degree few could have imagined in 1945.

The U.S. has 6% of the world's population. At the end of the 21st
century, it will have some 10% of GDP and power. In a world with super-powers
of a billion people, we need to think of the European community from (in James
Baker's words) Vladivostok to Vancouver--also a billion people. We need to
work towards it being by the second half of the century in the in-between state
of EU today.

Polish historians have their role. I am not very knowledgeable about
Poland, although its ambassador to Paris was very close to Bullitt. But I
have the impression that Poland in the second half of the 1930s had the same
gross misunderstanding of its power position that it had in 1943-1944. My
impression is that Poland not only refused to cooperate with the West in
collective security against Hitler, but also refused to cooperate with Germany
in any meaningful way against the Soviet Union. The results were tragic.
Poles need to understand what Brzezinski understands well. Its population is
much less than the 6% of the U.S. It needs to be part of an integrated Europe
from Vladivostok to Vancouver even more than the United States. A less
emotional attitude towards the past may pave the way for a more peaceful and
happy role for Poland in the 21st century.

As for Russia, it is a real shame it politicized this anniversary. It
would be better if it started to open up its foreign policy archives and move
towards a more reasoned study of the past. No one from Vladivostok to
Vancouver had an honorable role in the 1930s and perhaps if we can come to look
it as the convulsive death rattle of a long civil war, we can all move on.

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