"STALIN'S DRIVE TO THE WEST, 1938-1945: The Origins of the Cold War" by R.C. Raack

"STALIN'S DRIVE TO THE WEST, 1938-1945: The Origins of the Cold War"

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A revisionist look at Stalin's foreign policy up to and during WW II that confirms most of the harshest judgments about it, and then some. The opening of archives throughout the former Soviet bloc is beginning to cause wide-ranging reappraisals of both Soviet and Allied policy. Raack's (History/California State Univ., Hayward) most surprising conclusion is that Stalin intended to bring about a general European war well before Hitler's attack. Stalin anticipated that a war would lead to the chaos that had prevailed in Europe after WW I and that this would provide an opportunity for his own armies to sweep west. Less surprising is the extraordinary forethought and subtlety with which Stalin planned his annexations and conducted his relationship with the Western powers: timing his moves to make them appear defensive and in reaction to German attack, or at times when the Western Allies were preoccupied. Churchill and Roosevelt do not emerge well from this examination, the former often ""naively optimistic"" and the latter with an ""inadequate knowledge of European history . . . combined with the false analogies that so often derive from remembering only some of it."" Nor was Western opinion much wiser: As late as 1946, 74 percent of the American public thought that the US and the Soviet Union were equally to blame for the global misunderstandings that had developed. That Stalin ultimately failed may be attributable to the fact that ""the irrationality of [his] appetites and his disingenuous manipulation gradually became ever more obvious,"" but in Attlee and Truman he fortunately encountered leaders with no stake in the illusions of wartime. Raack's conclusions may sometimes run ahead of the available evidence, and he may make insufficient allowance for the difficulty the Allies opposing Soviet expansion faced, but this is a useful corrective to much naive, uninformed, and ideologically blinkered history.

Pub Date: July 30th, 1995
Page count: 312pp
Publisher: Stanford Univ.