THE ROAD TO YALTA: Soviet Foreign Relations, 1941-1945 by Louis Fischer

THE ROAD TO YALTA: Soviet Foreign Relations, 1941-1945

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The late Professor Fischer presents no elaborate thesis about the Yalta conference itself, nor does he survey the entirety of wartime foreign relations; this unfinished book is in effect about the origins of the cold war. Fischer refrains from explicit argument against the increasing number of revisionist studies which emphasize Stalin's pusillanimous defensiveness, the devastation of Russia, his hopes of continuing postwar cooperation, and his conciliatory policies to that end until unambiguously faced with an American hard line. Instead, the book mixes assertion with circumstantial narration. The narrative, though often lively, adds little to the existing wealth of sources, and perhaps relies too heavily on Churchill's memoirs. (Fischer shows himself a great fan of Churchill's, recounting without a blush his untruthful excuses for delaying the second front and treating his imperial motives as a lovable mania.) As for the assertions: to repeat ad infinitum that the U.S.S.R. became ""a superpower"" equal to the U.S., and that Stalin craved empire as ""appetite came with success,"" does not suffice as rational proof. Covering himself with token references to postwar material weakness and counterrevolutionary policies on Russia's part, Fischer even puts revisionist axioms at the service of his view of Stalin's expansionism, observing that the U.S.S.R. is not socialist but state capitalist with all the rapacity of robber-baron monopolists. Stalin is judged and interpreted as not only a cunning nationalist but a creature whose every deed is evidence of imperial designs -- even his desire to speed up the landing in France and to shorten the war. The murky rightward cast of Fischer's view comes through most clearly, however, toward Roosevelt, whom he holds personally responsible for ""appeasement,"" attributing it to FDR's self-intoxicating optimism and vanity. The book gradually undermines itself by sheer tendentious illogic, as Stalin's caution and cooperation are regarded as further tokens of sinister aspiration. Moreover, hard facts about his bending-over-backwards to accommodate political realities are explained away, e.g., Stalin's insistence on the restoration of Yugoslav King Peter is dismissed as ""confusion."" This was intended as a sequel to Russia's Road from Peace to War (1969). It doesn't add much.

Pub Date: Jan. 19th, 1971
Publisher: Harper & Row