FDR AND STALIN by Amos Perlmutter


A Not So Grand Alliance, 1943-1945
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 A harsh and unconvincing look at FDR's foreign policy. The subtle and secretive FDR irritates many historians, but he seems to utterly infuriate Perlmutter (Political Science/American Unversity; The Life and Times of Menachem Begin, 1987, etc.), who decries the ``myth of FDR's far-seeing diplomacy'' that is protected by ``praetorian guards'' (Arthur Schlesinger et al.), and accuses FDR of a ``total absence of statecraft [and of] perverse collaboration'' with and ``appeasement'' of both Hitler and Stalin- -and of preferring ``the partnership of the cunning, machinating, and ruthless Stalin'' over that of Churchill. Perlmutter also charges FDR with isolationism, which most historians see as a cornerstone of US thinking that was displaced largely by FDR's efforts. Still, the author's descriptions of events at Teheran and Yalta are clear and effective. The overriding facts of FDR's desperately failing health and of his Wilsonian devotion to the UN are points well made, but they're not new. Perlmutter adds the notion that FDR's refusal to deal in balances of power and territory proves his lack of a realistic vision, but the author fails to consider the historic grounding for Stalin's fears: the invasion of Soviet territory by Western allies after WW I, and again by Germany in 1941. Condemned here for ignoring Churchill (a notorious Russophobe), FDR, quite aware that Russia was carrying the brunt of the war effort and its casualties, was certainly dealing with the real power. How well did he deal with it? A crucial appended note by Litvinov to Stalin, Malenkov, and others reveals both Russian insight into what Roosevelt would accept (e.g., the fait accompli regarding Poland) and a revisionary line regarding Russian diplomatic isolation, even suggesting ``a body for permanent military-political contact'--possibly with the West. Who knew that Truman would enact Churchill's belligerent anti- Soviet policies? (see Frank Kofsky's Harry S. Truman and the War Scare of 1948, p. 839). Superficial, vituperative treatment of a complex subject.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1993
ISBN: 0-8262-0910-6
Page count: 336pp
Publisher: Univ. of Missouri
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15th, 1993