Amherst historian Taubman seeks to broaden the discussion of the Cold War's origins by concentrating on the Soviet side, but...


STALIN'S AMERICAN POLICY: From Entente to Detente to Cold War

Amherst historian Taubman seeks to broaden the discussion of the Cold War's origins by concentrating on the Soviet side, but the paucity of Soviet documents means that he is merely focusing differently on the same, much-winnowed mound of US material. The closest he comes to a new version of events, moreover, is the notion that the USSR did not go straight from WW II cooperation to the Cold War, with a brief intervening period of tepid relations. Two precepts, in Taubman's view, guide the Soviets: a desire for worldwide revolution and a sense that the interests of the capitalist powers sometimes diverge (allegedly, because of contradictions inherent in capitalism), allowing for maneuvering between them. The pre-WW II policies of granting natural-resource concessions in return for foreign aid, and the pact Stalin made with Hitler, are examples of Soviet maneuvering in a hostile clime. With the onset of the war, Stalin shifted gears to muster support from the West, and during the war sought to play off one ally against the other (e.g., the British could be prodded into discussing postwar boundaries, while the US steadfastly refused). The war years thus represent a period of entente, in which the USSR, proclaiming itself an ally, pursued its own interests under the guise of common action. On the level of domestic politics, entente meant cooperating with the ""bourgeois"" parties in a united front in the West. And, Taubman argues, entente continued to be Stalin's policy on both levels until the end of 1945, when tensions ho longer allowed for the appearance of cooperation. From the beginning of 1946 until the middle of the next year, he shifted to a policy of what Taubman calls detente, or peaceful coexistence. The difference between these two policies, however, is largely a matter of tactics (with only the rhetoric visibly changing); at no time, Taubman stresses, did Stalin believe anything but conflict between communism and capitalism to be possible. The upshot is predictable: the Soviets, adhering to Stalin's policies, are bent on fostering world revolution and, now as always, pick and choose among different strategies to do it. Taubman therefore lines up with those who presently look with suspicion on any dealings with the Soviets. But until and unless Soviet documents become available, Soviet moves are all on the level of interpretation, and Taubman's is nothing new on that score.

Pub Date: Jan. 25, 1981


Page Count: -

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1981