Kennan, a fine writer as well as historian and diplomat, has made a magnificent attempt to put into order the chaotic...



Kennan, a fine writer as well as historian and diplomat, has made a magnificent attempt to put into order the chaotic relations between Russia and the West from the Communist Revolution to the end of World War II. While too comprehensive in scope to review here more than briefly, the book (which is actually a series of lectures), makes a number of major points: World War I was the greatest single catastrophe for the West in this century; ""unconditional surrender"" demands in both World Wars unnecessarily prolonged them to the benefit of Russia, but Russia was lost to the West anyway; Lenin used violence when he had to, to advance Communism, while Stalin was a brutal murderer who liquidated two thirds of the governing class and immeasurably weakened his country to advance his own personal power. Examined in detail are the Allied intervention in Russia at World War I's end, the Spanish War, the Weimar Republic, Hitler, the German-Russian pact, and many, many other events. Advocates of either ""soft"" or ""hard"" policy towards Russia will find little support in this book. The West will have to go right on competing with Russia, realizing that strife rather than harmony is the inevitable climate of international relations. But they may also take comfort from the fact that the Russians, while firmly dedicated to installing Communist regimes by subversion or even violence wherever possible, have never seriously considered using their armies in any grand attempt to overthrow the entire existing order in a World War. And then- as Kennan points out-there is the emergence of China and the evidence of the slightly growing independence of the East European countries. Kennan observes that once Russia stood alone, universally hated, but now- ""People who have only enemies don't know what complications are; for that you have to have friends and these, the Soviet government, thank God, now has.""..... A most important book, deserving the widest possible readership.

Pub Date: May 15, 1961


Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown (AMP)

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1961