SPECIAL ENVOY TO CHURCHILL AND STALIN, 1941-46 by Averell & Elie Abel Harriman


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Harriman, banker, railroad magnate and New Deal Democrat, was the proverbial enlightened capitalist who took on the most central, delicate problems of policy and diplomacy during WW II. Among other things he arranged the military assistance terms which subsidized Britain's war effort, while stalling the Soviet request for a land invasion against Hitler. After Stalingrad, when it became clear that the USSR would beat the Nazis after all, Harriman began coordinating military plans with the Soviets and bargaining over postwar world structures. As U.S. Ambassador in Moscow, he came to know Stalin better than any other Westerner did. The Polish question began to occupy the foreground: Harriman says Stalin was justified in opposing the London exile group of Poles as a future government, inasmuch as they were landowners burning for a war against Russia. At Yalta, Harriman suggests, Roosevelt was rather tired and soft, but it made little difference. Harriman used to invoke ""American public opinion"" when he wanted to dodge Stalin, who scolded him, he records, for hypocrisy. The book itself has some disingenuous moments, as when Harriman claims that it occurred to him to limit Soviet influence in occupied Germany only after he witnessed the Red Army removing machinery. Harriman, along with his comrade-in-arms Churchill, became one of the quickest, sharpest cold war orchestrators, as he records here, and one reason he so detested Secretary of State Byrnes was the latter's clumsiness in applying pressure on the USSR. His verdict on other individuals: great admiration for New Deal protege Harry Hopkins' Moscow missions; tolerance of Lord Beaverbrook who provided comic relief; appreciation of Molotov as a tougher bargainer than Stalin; and, on Stalin himself: ""better informed than Roosevelt, more realistic than Churchill, in some ways the most effective of the war leaders"" with a ""surprising human sensitivity."" After coaching the new Labour government in austerity policies, Harriman zipped home in 1946 to become Truman's Secretary of Commerce. Such were his activities: they make a memoir (told in the second person with journal extracts added) that will join the major sources on the period, and afford smooth--often too smooth--reading to a general audience.

Pub Date: Nov. 20th, 1975
Publisher: Random House