My Dear Mr. Stalin (3)
The people of these nations, which had been independent prior to the War, believed that the Western Allies would secure a peace in which their rights to freedom and self-determination would be protected as per the principles documented in the Atlantic Charter agreement for the post-War world. Prime Minister Winston Churchill of Great Britain and Roosevelt created and signed this Charter in August 1941, and Soviet leader Stalin agreed with these terms on January 1, 1942.
A recent book, ‘My Dear Mr. Stalin’ by Susan Butler (Yale Press 2005), presents for the first time the complete written correspondence between Roosevelt and Stalin. This book provides insight into the relationship that these two powerful rulers established in their written communiqués during World War II.
Unfortunately the book does not contain any direct translations of conversations that they had in Tehran (November 1943) or Yalta (February 1945) when they met to plan for the post war world.
To fully understand the significance of this correspondence it is important to have a good historical background of the military and political events that were happening at the time these letters were written. Butler’s commentaries do not suffice for this function.
In the introduction and annotations to many of the letters, Butler does provide her own commentary, which is unyieldingly sympathetic, if not apologetic, for FDR’s positions and writings. Neither Roosevelt nor Stalin is challenged on any position. She goes along with FDR’s objective of creating a one world government via a ‘United Nations’ where the USA and USSR, along with Great Britain and China, would have leading roles in shaping future global development. Concerns for other nations and peoples were not to detract from the quest in striving for this ultimate goal.
Butler does bring out some interesting facts in her commentary. As early as July 1941, less than a month after Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union, FDR was already arranging Lend-Lease supplies and arms to the Soviet Union. The correspondence details the enormous quantities and variety of aid that the US was providing the Soviets.
The extensive shipment of this US aid in the autumn of 1942 helps explain why the Soviets were able to launch a successful counteroffensive at Stalingrad in the winter of 1942-43.
However, Butler offers little historical perspective on the Roosevelt – USSR relationship. She mentions that Roosevelt was the US President that established diplomatic relations with the USSR in November 1933, (his first year as President), but she does not mention that the USSR did not honour its terms for that recognition. Nor does she mention the fact that at the same time Stalin was carrying out the greatest European holocaust ever, as an estimated 7 to 10 million Ukrainians were systematically starved to death.
In her commentaries she often projects her personal biases. For example, she calls Admiral Standley’s, (US ambassador to the USSR), press conference in Moscow in April 1943 “an act of amazing ineptitude”, because he detailed to the Russian people the extent of the US Lend-Lease aid; information that Stalin was trying to cover up. Subsequently, later in 1943, another Soviet apologist, Averell Harriman, replaced Admiral Standley as American ambassador to the USSR.
She never questions the Stalin - Hitler alliance which was established with the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact (MRP) of August 23, 1939. By not positioning Stalin’s European territorial ambitions as being consistent with the promises Hitler made to Stalin via the notorious MRP, she by default legitimizes Stalin’s claims and aspirations in Poland, Finland and the Baltic States.
Stalin directly lies to Roosevelt (21/4/43) about the slaughter of the Polish officers in the Katyn Forest, “… Hitlerite authorities, after perpetrating an atrocious crime against the Polish officers, are now engaged in an investigation farce …”. Roosevelt in reply to Stalin (26/4/43) is not concerned about the truth which the Poles sought, (the Soviets murdered the 16,000 Polish officers), but only about how this impacted Stalin’s break with the Polish provisional government: “…Churchill will find ways and means of getting the Polish Government in London to act with more common sense in the future … and knowledge of a complete diplomatic break between you and Sikorski would not help the situation.” (It is important to note that Sikorski died in an airplane accident later in 1943.)
It is interesting that in no letter does Stalin ever thank Roosevelt or the US for any aid. He only details exactly what is required and what modifications to the aid should be made. In his letters he comes across as serious and focused, even admonishing Roosevelt and Churchill for not initiating the western front in the summer of 1943 as he had been promised (6/11/43): “… these decisions are in contradiction with those made by you and Mr. Churchill at the beginning of this year regarding the terms of opening a second front in Western Europe”.
Pandering and avoidance
Roosevelt, with his continual excessive flattery of Stalin and the Soviets, and avoidance of any mention of Soviet atrocities, comes across as a pathetic panderer to Stalin, the mass murderer. His personal vanity was always at the forefront with the belief that his ‘great charm’ would convince Stalin to behave in the manner he wanted. He tells Churchill, his staunchest ally, “... I think I can personally handle Stalin better … he thinks he likes me better, and I hope he will continue to do so”. FDR also had tried to arrange a solo meeting with Stalin bypassing Churchill, and at the Tehran conference he preferred to make his accommodations at the
Soviet embassy, not the British embassy.
After the Tehran conference (2/23/44), Roosevelt asks Stalin for input on topics such as international money stabilization, commercial and commodity policy, aviation, oil, etc. to help plan post war world economic collaboration, and help achieve his United Nations dream. What is interesting is that while FDR is pursuing this objective, the war on the eastern front is still raging and the western front has not yet been established. [That Roosevelt took a one world government and financial direction already at this time may have been due to the guidance that he was offered by his advisors. It must be remembered that FDR was not only the 32nd President of the USA he was also a 32 degree freemason who had placed the Masonic pyramid and evil eye on the US $1 bill during his first term as President.]
Meanwhile for Stalin, his key objectives continued to be the same ones established in his agreement with Hitler; a division of Poland along the western Curzon Line, imposition of a Polish government ‘friendly’ to the USSR, and to maintain the territorial gains in the Baltic States which the MRP had assigned to the Soviet Union. Churchill (3/21/44) tells Stalin that he will be making a statement in parliament that “all questions of territorial change must await the armistice or peace conferences of the victorious … meantime we can recognize no forcible transferences of territory”. One can feel Stalin’s fury when he replies to Churchill (3/23/44) “… you are showing the Soviet Union as a hostile to Poland power and are practically renouncing the liberative character of war of the Soviet Union against German aggression … the people of the Soviet Union and the world public opinion will regard such a speech of yours as an undeserved insult to the Soviet Union”.
Roosevelt’s acquiescing to the Soviets was ceaseless, as he tells Stalin (5/23/1944) “Germany and Japan must atone reasonably for the wanton destruction of lives and property which they have committed”. Again he ignores Stalin’s wars of aggression against Poland, Finland and the Baltic nations.
Butler’s excuse-making for the Soviet refusal to assist their ‘so-called’ Polish allies during the Warsaw uprising against the Germans is consistent. Roosevelt also refused to assist the beleaguered Poles, once again acquiescing to Soviet policy, whereby ‘potential enemies’ of the Soviets could be and were annihilated by the Germans. At this point not much more need be said about either Susan Butler or Franklin Delano Roosevelt. It is also not surprising that in a note to Roosevelt and Churchill, Stalin blamed the Poles for their fate in the ‘Warsaw adventure’ (8/22/1944). At Yalta, Roosevelt showed that he had no capability to influence Stalin in any matter, in spite of his great ‘personal charm’.
That Roosevelt never used Lend-Lease aid to the Soviets as a negotiation chip to try to create a democratic scenario at the end of the War for the peoples of Eastern Europe was not evaluated by Butler. In fact Roosevelt continued to acquiesce to the Soviets until his death, even telling Churchill on the day before he died to “minimize the general Soviet problem as much as possible”.
In spite of its bias and the missing relevant historical perspective, this book by Susan Butler is an important piece of work for serious historians who study World War II, Roosevelt or Stalin. The individual communications presented speak for themselves, and they help the reader gain knowledge of the personalities and motivations of the Allied leaders during World War II. Although this writer believes that Butler was attempting to whitewash Roosevelt and the historical record with an approach to leave one thinking, ‘well there was no other way’, in reality once one has read this book, increased disdain and disgust for Roosevelt becomes almost a natural byproduct.
So were the peoples of Europe ‘sold out’ to Stalin by Roosevelt?
That answer, unfortunately, is yes. Roosevelt appears to have been solely interested in the creation of the ‘United Nations’ new world order, and securing Soviet military assistance against Japan. To him the peoples he abandoned to Stalin to achieve his objectives were but mere chips or pawns in his ‘global’ game. Susan Butler with her book has now made this common knowledge, and removed any doubt about this question.