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Table of Contents and List of Illustrations
Preface to the Second Edition
List of Photographs
List of Maps
List of Abbreviations and Acronyms
Chapter 1. Prelude: Soviet Russia <0x000A>and the West, 1917–1941
War and Revolution
A Contested Peace
The Soviet Entry into World Politics
The Dark Decade, 1931–1939
The Aggressors Triumphant, 1939–1941
Suggestions for Further Study
Chapter 2. The Grand Alliance, 1941–1945
Turning the Tide While Tensions Mount
The End of World War II
Suggestions for Further Study
Chapter 3. Cold War, 1945–1952
Two Rivals Emerge
Nuremberg: The Final Collaboration
1947: The Division of Europe
The World Outside Europe
Prague and Berlin
War in Korea
Suggestions for Further Study
Chapter 4. The Widening Conflict, 1953–1963
A Global Cold War
The Nuclear Question
Cuba and Berlin
Exit Kennedy and Khrushchev
Suggestions for Further Study
Chapter 5. The Sixties
The Cold War and Vietnam
June 1967: The Arab-Israeli War
Prague: August 1968
1968: International Human Rights Year
Suggestions for Further Study
Chapter 6. Détente, 1969–1975
Reducing the Nuclear Threat
Testing Détente, 1970–1974
Suggestions for Further Study
Chapter 7. Détente Collapses, 1975–1980
The Cold War in Africa
SS-20 Missiles and SALT II
The Middle East: 1979
Suggestions for Further Study
Chapter 8. The Second Cold War, 1981–1985
The Deterioration of US-Soviet Relations
Central and South America
The Middle East
Suggestions for Further Study
Chapter 9. The End of the Cold War, 1985–1991
The Gorbachev Revolution in International Affairs
1989: The Transformation of Eastern Europe
1990: German Reunification
1991: The Collapse of the Soviet Union
Suggestions for Further Study
Chapter 10. Aftermath: A New World Disorder
The 1990s: A Global View
America’s Global War on Terror
A New Cold War?
Suggestions for Further Study
3.1 The Berlin Airlift
4.1 The Bandung Conference
4.2 Budapest, 1956
4.3 The “Kitchen Debate”
4.4 The Berlin Wall
4.5 Kennedy and the Cuban Missile Crisis
6.1 Nixon in China
6.2 Brezhnev’s Visit to the United States
7.1 Sandinista Soldiers
7.2 Sadat, Carter, and Begin
7.3 Poster of Ayatollah Khomeini
7.4 Anti-Soviet Mujahideen
8.1 US Antinuclear Demonstration
9.1 Reagan and Gorbachev
9.2 Demonstrators in Tiananmen Square
9.3 The Berlin Wall, December 1989
1 The Cold War Division of the World, 1961
2 Territorial Changes in Europe After World War I
3 US-Soviet Confrontation, 1946–1948
4 The Establishment of the State of Israel
5 Europe After World War II
6 Germany Divided
7 East Asia After World War II
8 Decolonization After World War II
9 The Suez Crisis
10 The United States in Vietnam
11 The Middle East After the June 1967 War
12 The Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan
13 Flight of KAL 007
14 Central America and the Caribbean
15 The Falklands War
16 Middle East Wars, 1980–1988
17 The Disintegration of the Communist Bloc and the Soviet Union
18 The Breakup of Yugoslavia
19 The European Union, 2016
20 The World in 2016
Preface to the Second Edition
In Cold War: An International History I have distilled my many years of research, teaching, and writing into an accessible book for twenty-first-century readers: one that views the Superpower conflict in a broad and critical global perspective. Although the first edition was published only three years ago, there are several good reasons for a second edition. Because new documentation has been released and new books have appeared, it is imperative to update the original text and add additional titles to the bibliographies. The recent cooling of East-West relations has necessitated an examination of the “new Cold War.” Readers have praised the first edition, but they have also graciously offered suggestions, which have been incorporated in this work. Finally, this second edition of Cold War: An International History contains new maps and photographs and is accompanied by a website that includes discussion questions for each of the chapters as well as the entire book.
It is a pleasure to express my appreciation to several people who have aided the preparation of this new volume. At Westview Press, Acquisitions Director Grace Fujimoto has been a generous guide and supporter, Acquisitions Editor Katharine Moore an expert and gracious collaborator, Erin Granville a skilled copyeditor, and Cisca Schreefel a prompt and gracious project manager. I am also grateful to the six readers for their helpful comments.
I offer special thanks to David Lincove, History, Political Science, and Philosophy Librarian at The Ohio State University; Sue Ann Cody, Associate University Librarian for Public Services Emerita, the University of North Carolina at Wilmington; the Inter-Library Loan staff of the New Hanover County Public Library for helping me obtain essential research materials; and to Gary Webb, who has provided superb technical assistance.
I thank friends and colleagues who have given unstinting support to this project: Renate Bridenthal, Sandi Cooper, Emily Davidson, John Haley, Susan Hartmann, Anne Heideking, Stephen LeQuire, Marjorie Madigan, Melton McLaurin, Richard Nochimson, Nancy O’Donohue, Kay Phelps, Mary Ramshorn, Stephen Schuker, Ben Steelman, and, especially, Juanita Winner. I also wish to honor the memory of my deceased cousin Muriel Dimen, friends Hilda Godwin and Dorothy Kahn, and extraordinarily gifted former student Stuart J. Hilwig. Once more I thank my son, Stefan Harold Fink, for enriching my life.
This book is again dedicated to my students—including my recent Cold War classes at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, and the doctoral seminar at the Center for Twentieth-Century History at the University of Jena—in gratitude for their commitment and inspiration.
Wilmington, North Carolina
History does not long entrust the care of freedom to the weak or the timid.
—Dwight David Eisenhower
Whether you like it or not, history is on our side.
For readers in the twenty-first century, even those who experienced some of the events described in this book, the Cold War has taken on a patina of antiquity. Scarcely had the Berlin Wall collapsed and the Soviet Empire headed toward dissolution when the world faced new challenges in the Middle East, the Balkans, and Africa, culminating in the shock of September 11, 2001. Suddenly the Cold War was transformed from the dynamic reality of everyday life during almost five decades into a closed episode with a seemingly definitive outcome. Although some contemporary Russian and US politicians, journalists, and scholars have depicted the current East-West tensions as a “new Cold War,” the diplomatic configurations of the twenty-first century also differ markedly from the recent past.
This book brings a new perspective to the history of the Cold War. I examine the US-Soviet rivalry as part of a global contest that began with the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 and ended seventy-four years later when the world’s first communist state collapsed. Although the conflict between the two Superpowers was the Cold War’s principal element, this study also includes the crucial role of allies, rivals, and bystanders, and it stresses the linkages between personalities, ideas, and events around the globe.
In earlier cold wars, among them the struggle between the Habsburgs and the Ottoman Empire and the Anglo-Spanish conflict of the sixteenth century; the Anglo-French contest in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries; and the Anglo-Russian clash in the nineteenth century, the chief combatants faced each other directly on the battlefield but also indirectly, using espionage, propaganda, economic pressure, political subversion, and proxy wars. What made the twentieth-century Cold War unique were three key elements: the enormous nuclear arsenals accumulated by both sides; the role of political ideology,
Although the use of lethal weaponry predates the Cold War—in Europe’s imperial wars and in World Wars I and II there was mass killing of civilians and warriors—the advent of the atomic bomb utterly transformed international relations. Once both sides possessed weapons capable of not only destroying the other’s territory and population but also contaminating large parts of the earth, the Cold War developed into a rigid struggle driven by fear and a costly arms race. While nuclear weapons intensified several major Cold War crises, the threat of atomic warfare also served as a brake on the Superpowers.
The ideological chasm separating the USSR from the capitalist world was substantial. The Cold War began as a messianic contest. One side presented itself as a regime dedicated to removing economic and political exploitation and ushering in an era of international peace and brotherhood. The other side presented itself as dedicated to individual freedom, political democracy, and unfettered national and international markets. And both sides claimed that the other was a menace to their security and way of life. However, when the Cold War spread to the former colonial world in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia and also to Latin America, these core ideological principles became blurred. Vying for influence over near and faraway clients, all with their own distinctive histories, political goals, and ancient quarrels, the Superpowers’ rivalry was transformed into a conventional military struggle. And even in Europe—the Cold War’s heartland—the ideological Iron Curtain was permeable: orthodox socialism and capitalism continually faced the challenges of religion and ethnic nationalism.
Although individual leaders’ decisions ultimately molded the course of the Cold War, these were subject to several internal and external factors. In the Soviet Union the Communist Party was the motor for political and international action, and in the United States there were two national political parties, but in both capitals economic interests exerted considerable influence. The leadership on both sides was also affected by a burgeoning military and intelligence apparatus as well as by the press and the intellectual elite. On the other hand, both sides were constrained by a web of sometimes competing domestic pressures and by their mounting international obligations.
Historical memories also played an important role in shaping Cold War decision-making. The leaders of large and small states were intent on replicating past triumphs and avoiding (or undoing) earlier setbacks, and not unexpectedly these memories diverged sharply. For Western leaders the “lessons of Munich”
Studying the history of the Cold War offers us broader historical insights. Despite its unique characteristics, this period was replete with instances of continuity in human affairs. For example, Russia’s challenge to the West dates back to the eighteenth century; America’s dominant role in Central and South America began in the early nineteenth century; and British foreign policy for two centuries was centered on coalition forming. Indeed, the emergence of political Islam in the late twentieth century was linked to several centuries of thorny relations between the Muslim world and the West.
Cold War history also teaches us the importance of unanticipated events. Mao’s victory in China, Castro’s ascension in Cuba, and North Vietnam’s victory over the United States remind us of the powerful role of human agency in political affairs, as do the fierce resistance to the Soviet invasion in Afghanistan, the rise of a national trade union in communist Poland, and the fall of the Berlin Wall. Moreover, these events reveal the limits of wealth and military power, and even of the most sophisticated intelligence gathering.
Finally, the Cold War left its mark on global culture. Some of its political iconography, rhetoric, and practice had historical roots—for example, the embalmed communist leaders in Moscow, Beijing, and Hanoi. But there were also new words, sounds, images, and occurrences—ranging from “hawks” and “doves,” to the beeps of the Soviet space-satellite Sputnik I in 1957 and the wondrous Earth photograph taken by an Apollo 8 astronaut on December 24, 1968, to the massacre in Tiananmen Square in June 1989 and the euphoria of Czechoslovakia’s peaceful “Velvet Revolution” later that year. In this way the Cold War produced its own legacy for the twenty-first century, one still to be understood from new perspectives.
Underlying this work is the old-fashioned conviction that history still greatly matters. Although we lack the ability to replicate yesterday’s events or fully comprehend the conditions under which our forerunners operated, historians have the obligation and the capacity to interrogate the past in order to increase our understanding of the world we inhabit today. In the case of the Cold War, our challenge is to sift a welter of testimonies and analyses in complete awareness that this effort will reap only preliminary conclusions but may nonetheless bring a measure of clarity.
Chapter 1: Prelude
Soviet Russia and the West, 1917–1941
It is easier to make war than peace.
We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.
The starting point for our study of the Cold War is the year 1917, when the Bolshevik leadership established a communist regime in Russia and defied the international order by preaching world revolution and challenging conventional diplomatic practices. The Western powers (Britain, France, and the United States) responded with military intervention and ostracism. During the next twenty-four years the estrangement between Russia and the West was overshadowed by the challenges of Italy, Japan, and Germany, but the capitalist world continued to regard the Soviet Union with fear, mistrust, and repugnance—sentiments that Moscow duly reciprocated.
War and Revolution
The Bolsheviks’ seizure of power in November 1917 not only shaped the outcome of World War I but also changed the history of the twentieth century. For more than three years tsarist Russia had been an indispensable member of the Triple Entente with France and Great Britain. It had pinned down vast numbers of German and Austro-Hungarian troops in the East by launching several valuable, if ruinous, offensives and also kept pressure on the Ottoman Empire. It had nonetheless been a difficult partner with the West: repressive at home, suspicious of its allies and their clients’ territorial designs in southeastern Europe and the Middle East, and insistent on annexations in Poland and Constantinople.
The March 1917 Revolution created Russia’s first constitutional government, kindling hopes of freedom among its subject peoples, salving its allies’ consciences, and facilitating the US entry into the war on the side of the Entente. But one month later, the charismatic Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin returned from his ten-year exile in a sealed train provided by the German government and was determined to seize power. When Prime Minister Alexander Kerensky chose to continue Russia’s disastrous combat against the Central Powers, the Bolsheviks—appealing to the population’s widespread war weariness and land hunger—led an insurrection of workers, soldiers, and sailors and toppled the provisional government on November 7.
Like the French revolutionaries of 1789, the Bolsheviks were imbued with messianic fervor. In his 1916 expansion of classic Marxism, Lenin had characterized Russia as “the weakest link in the imperialist chain” but also as the potential spearhead of a global uprising against the imperialist powers that had ravaged the earth with their greed and militarism. Accordingly, the Bolsheviks’ first acts were to call for an immediate end to the fighting (the Decree on Peace), to publish all the secret wartime treaties over the disposition of enemy territories, to denounce annexations and indemnities, and to proclaim the right of all nationalities to secede from foreign rulers.
Western leaders condemned the revolution as a German-Bolshevik conspiracy and feared the spread of strikes, mutinies, and rebellions across their borders. Russia’s erstwhile partners were also irate over Lenin’s repudiation of tsarist war debts, which wiped out some 25 percent of France’s foreign investments, as well as over the Bolsheviks’ seizure of private property. For European socialists, many of whom had sacrificed the principle of class solidarity for the defense of their homelands, the Bolsheviks’ ascendancy, the dictatorship of the proletariat, and the call for armed revolution had violated their patriotic and democratic creed. Consequently, after November 1917 the hostility between democratic and revolutionary Marxists became almost as strong as the enmity between capitalists and communists.
Russia’s former allies moved swiftly to counter Bolshevik propaganda. In January 1918 British premier David Lloyd George and US president Woodrow Wilson each enunciated their nations’ war aims in ringing and idealistic terms. In particular, Wilson’s Fourteen Points provided a democratic and capitalist alternative to Lenin’s dramatic appeal to the world by calling for open diplomacy, global disarmament, freedom of the seas, border adjustments based on national claims, and an international organization to secure the peace.
The Central Powers’ reaction was harsher. In March 1918, having driven deeper into a devastated Russia and impervious to Leon Trotsky’s audacious “no war—no peace” stratagem, the German military extracted a punitive peace at BrestLitovsk. The treaty eliminated Russian power from Europe, creating a string of puppet states in the western part of the former tsarist empire and establishing German control over vast amounts of its agricultural and mineral resources. A jubilant German Reichstag (parliament), ignoring its 1917 Peace Resolution and the Bolsheviks’ protests over a dictated treaty, ratified Brest-Litovsk by an overwhelming majority, with the opposition Social Democrats merely abstaining.
The Bolsheviks’ diplomatic debut at Brest-Litovsk established important precedents for future relations between Soviet Russia and the West. Among them was the introduction of Lenin’s concept of a “breathing space,” a temporary coexistence with a more powerful enemy. Overcoming the hard-liners’ protests, Lenin insisted on the necessity of this retreat in order to save the Bolshevik Revolution. With stunning pragmatism, he also appreciated the value of dividing the capitalist world by establishing contact with the still-powerful Germans.
The West regarded Brest-Litovsk as evidence of Moscow’s treachery, which enabled Germany to break the Allied blockade and opened the way for its new offensive on the Western front. On the pretext of preventing a German seizure of their military supplies stacked up in Russian ports as well as rescuing stranded Czech and Slovak prisoners of war and reopening an eastern front, the Allies in March 1918 sent troops to the east. After landing in Murmansk, Archangel, and Vladivostok, their forces collaborated with anti-Bolshevik factions and were briefly embroiled in Russia’s civil war, stirring bitterness among the Soviet population.
In another major surprise, Germany’s western offensive failed in July 1918. When the Allies’ counterattack created panic within the imperial command, the German leadership appealed to Wilson for an armistice based on the Fourteen Points. Faced with Germany’s unexpected collapse and its revolution in November 1918, the victors made the momentous decision to convene a major peace conference—the first in a century—to rebuild the postwar world. And for the first time in history, a US president traveled to Europe to attend the conference. Thousands of supplicants from all over the globe along with a huge press corps thronged to Paris expecting the peace of justice that Wilson had promised.
A Contested Peace
Peacemaking between January and June 1919 was dominated by the leaders of the three democracies, Britain, France, and the United States—which were also the world’s largest empires. Their deliberations took place in the shadows of their clients’ expansive territorial claims, German recalcitrance, and communist uprisings in Berlin, Munich, and Budapest. Moreover, the Big Three had fundamental differences over the postwar order, with France demanding maximum security against Germany and Russia, Great Britain seeking to revive the old balance of power, and the United States promoting democracy and open markets, the end of colonialism, and a League of Nations to preserve the peace. As they plunged into a series of complex economic and territorial issues, the victors excluded their enemies, Germany and Russia, from their often fraught deliberations.
Predictably, there were awkward political compromises. Poland, a state resurrected after a century of partitions by its neighbors, was a prime test case. Out of Franco-British wrangling over its western border came the improvisations of the “Corridor” (giving Poland access to the sea, but also separating the main part of Germany from East Prussia), the Free City of Danzig (a German city placed under international control to serve as Poland’s port), and the plebiscite in Upper Silesia that would eventually divide the coal-rich province between Germany and Poland. Over Polish protests, the Allies forced the Warsaw government to sign the world’s first minority treaty to protect the rights of non-Poles, numbering some 33 percent of the population, and proceeded to impose similar arrangements on several other unwilling Eastern European governments.
The League of Nations was created at the peace conference, but it had several major impediments as a global body. Against the will of their populations, the former Arab territories of the Ottoman Empire, designated as League mandates, were divided between Britain and France, and Germany’s colonies in Africa, Asia, and the Pacific were handed over to Britain, France, South Africa, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand. There were other anomalies: US and British opposition blocked Japan’s efforts to insert a clause guaranteeing racial equality in the League Covenant. The League’s membership excluded Germany and Soviet Russia, two former great powers whose cooperation would be essential to creating peace. And the world’s first international organization left out most of the colonial world, whose populations would view the peace settlement as an old-fashioned distribution of the spoils of victory.
World War I officially ended on June 28, 1919, with the formal treaty signing in the Palace of Versailles. Germany was now a republic whose population was stunned by its unexpected defeat and whose leaders, determined to resist the Allies’ harsh territorial, military, and economic terms by any means possible, created a propaganda machine to denounce them. The Treaty of Versailles, which indeed fell far short of the victors’ promises, was almost universally criticized. Lenin termed it “a treaty of robbers and plunderers . . . which has made slaves of tens of millions of people.” British economist John Maynard Keynes decried the reparations clauses, which would thwart Europe’s recovery. French marshal Ferdinand Foch termed it a “twenty-year truce.” And the US Senate refused to ratify it, removing the major architect from both the enforcement and the modification of the peace settlement.
The Soviet Entry into World Politics
At the end of almost every major war, coalitions have dissolved and old rivalries erupted. What was unique in 1919 was the emergence of an ideological struggle between Lenin’s Russia and the West that sowed the seeds for the future Cold War. With his chronicle Ten Days That Shook the World, the American communist John Reed disseminated a heroic interpretation of the Bolshevik Revolution to a global audience. In March 1919 the new Soviet regime founded the Communist International (Comintern), a Moscow-directed organization of fellow Marxist parties, to conduct a worldwide struggle against capitalism and imperialism and deploy propaganda, espionage, and recruitment to subvert its enemies, the foremost of which was Great Britain and its empire. At the 1920 Congress of the Peoples of the East held in Baku, Comintern leaders—breaking the long silence of their Western socialist rivals toward European imperialism—pledged their solidarity with the global anticolonial struggle.
The United States, which had experienced a wave of labor strikes during World War I, was particularly sensitive to the communist threat. The Bolshevik Revolution heightened Washington’s fears of foreign agents stirring political unrest. America’s Red Scare intensified in 1919, when more than 3,600 separate strikes erupted, and there were explosions, fires, and race riots in several cities.
Soviet Russia’s first years of existence were indeed tumultuous. Instead of inciting war against its enemies, as France did in 1791, it found itself under an Allied blockade, fighting foreign troops, and defending itself against a band of opponents, from tsarist reactionaries on the right to the Mensheviks and Socialist Revolutionaries on the left. Thanks to Leon Trotsky’s military leadership and their enemies’ disorganization, the Bolsheviks were victorious in the civil war and reconquered Ukraine (as well as the Caucasus and Siberia), but they were forced to acknowledge the other new states created by the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk—Estonia, Finland, Latvia, and Lithuania—and also a greatly expanded Poland that had defeated the Red Army. By 1920 the revolution had survived in Russia, but with greatly reduced frontiers in Europe and horrific human and material losses. Moreover, the Bolsheviks had unleashed a wave of terror against the church and its political enemies, driving hundreds of thousands into exile and forcing the League of Nations to cope with its first major refugee crisis.
Lenin, ever the realist, changed course dramatically in 1921. In that year of pervasive drought, crop failures, epidemics, and anti-Bolshevik rebellions, he launched the New Economic Policy (NEP) and announced a temporary retreat from orthodox communism. Convinced that the West needed Russia in order to survive the postwar economic crisis, Lenin for the next two years pursued the dual path of advertising his country as the vanguard of world revolution while also advocating normal relations with the advanced capitalist world. From Moscow came the call for “peaceful coexistence” and an appeal for Western capital, loans, trade, and recognition, along with hints of concessions to prospective Western partners.
The West responded warily to the Soviet initiative. Lenin’s regime, which the United States had excluded from the Washington Naval Conference of 1921–1922, had become a political blank space on the map of Eurasia. But the capitalist world was also divided. Although the United States and France were resolutely anti-Soviet, Britain sought to revive contacts with Moscow in order to restore its own and Europe’s economy. The small states wedged between Germany and Russia formed an illusory barrier against their still-powerful neighbors: at odds over their territorial disputes and weakened by their discontented minorities, lack of investment capital, and high tariff barriers along with the cost of their excessively large armies.
Western society was also in ferment.Artists and intellectuals bemoaned the crushed illusions, bodies, and landscapes destroyed by four years of mechanized warfare and the ensuing postwar economic and political crises. Workers in Western and Central Europe were suffering from inflation and high unemployment, and farmers from shrinking markets. As protests against a “peaceless” world mounted and the communists’ message intensified, Western leaders feared the spread of revolution.
One tantalizing diplomatic byway was the Genoa Conference, an unprecedented gathering of thirty-four states in April–May 1922 that included Germany and Russia. Its purpose was to quell public discontent by reintegrating the two outcast states, revitalizing the European economy, and forging a new world order based on neither victor nor vanquished. However, this brainchild of the mercurial Lloyd George faced too many obstacles, among them America’s refusal to participate, France’s obstruction, and the small powers’ panicky opposition. The denouement occurred within a week of the opening of the conference when the two outsiders delivered a shocking announcement: on Easter Sunday the German and Soviet foreign ministers had signed the Treaty of Rapallo, establishing full diplomatic relations and paving the way for close military and economic cooperation between their two countries.
Rapallo was a triumph for Lenin’s pragmatic foreign policy. It not only cemented relations between his revolutionary regime and a major capitalist government, much to the chagrin of German Marxists and Bolshevik hard-liners, but also foreclosed the possibility of a unified Western stance against Russia and stiffened Moscow’s resistance to making any concessions on debts or nationalized property. Seven months later, the ailing Soviet leader achieved his last major triumph with the formation of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), which survived until Christmas Day 1991.
Lenin’s death at age fifty-four in January 1924 marked the close of the world-revolutionary phase of Soviet politics. Proclaiming the doctrine of “socialism in one country,” his successor, Joseph Stalin, set out to build up the USSR’s economic and military strength as the best means of promoting the ultimate victory of global communism. While maintaining Moscow’s stance as a major critic of the peace settlement, Stalin also exerted greater control over the Comintern’s activities throughout the world.
By the mid-1920s, thanks to US financial assistance, a tenuous European peace was established that essentially excluded the Soviet Union. The Locarno Treaties (1925), signed by Britain, France, Italy, and Germany, paved the way for Germany’s entry into the League of Nations with a permanent council seat. During the next years Berlin, Moscow’s principal partner, maintained a delicate balancing act between the West and the Soviet Union, with which it had clandestine military ties and a shared aversion toward Poland.
France and Britain, on the other hand, remained hostile toward the Soviet Union, insisting on full debt repayment, restoration of private property, and cessation of the Comintern’s intrigues. Tensions heated up in 1927, when the British government severed relations with the USSR over Moscow’s machinations during Britain’s general strike and its intervention in China. Franco-Soviet relations also reached a nadir at that time.
Stalin, ever cautious, drew back from a confrontation with the West. The Anglo-Soviet dispute was defused but not forgotten. As part of his “great turn” in 1928–1929, Stalin launched the first Five-Year Plan to create a powerful and self-sufficient military-industrial complex. He also moved to destroy his domestic rivals (foremost among them Leon Trotsky and his followers) and to coerce the peasantry and expand the police and terror apparatus. Abroad, Stalin’s roving ambassador, Maxim Litvinov, exhibited the friendly face of the USSR. Despite its hostility toward the League of Nations, the Soviet Union engaged in multilateral peace efforts, such as the Kellogg-Briand Pact and the Preparatory Commission on Disarmament in Geneva. It also concluded security arrangements with neighboring countries and improved trade relations with the United States. Nonetheless Stalin remained inherently suspicious of the capitalist governments, which had excluded and threatened the world’s only communist regime and knew no other way of settling their rivalries except by recourse to war.
Soviet and American abstention from a leading role in world affairs had left a dangerous power vacuum. Britain and France continued to squabble over enforcing a contested peace, and Germany prepared for its overturn. The illusory calm of the late 1920s ended abruptly in 1929 with the outbreak of the global Depression, followed by the Japanese occupation of Manchuria in 1931 and Hitler’s ascent to power two years later.
The Dark Decade, 1931–1939
In 1931 Japan, which had been a permanent League Council member and had enjoyed amicable relations with the West, suddenly altered its domestic and foreign policies. Spurred by the collapse of Japan’s export markets and the revival of an expansionist form of nationalism, the military seized control and on September 18 launched an invasion of Manchuria.
The ensuing crisis set the pattern for the Western powers’ irresolute response to aggression. The League of Nations was unprepared either to halt the Japanese conquest or to respond to pleas for assistance from China, one of its members. The two most interested governments, Britain and the United States, reeling from the Depression, shrank from risking war with Japan, and the USSR, despite its considerable interest in Manchuria, also wished to avoid offending Japan. The League’s mild sanction—nonrecognition of the puppet state of Manchukuo—prompted Japan’s withdrawal from the Geneva organization and kindled widespread alarm among the League’s smaller members over their vulnerability to attack.
The advent of the Third Reich in January 1933 posed an even greater danger to the international order. In his book Mein Kampf (published in 1925–1926) Hitler, the new German chancellor, had made clear that his goals were not merely to overturn the Versailles treaty but also to vanquish communism and achieve German racial and political domination in Europe and the larger world. When the Nazis’ persecution of German Jews created a flood of refugees and the Third Reich peremptorily exited Geneva, the League issued only a mild censure. The West was unready to meet the threat of the Nazi dictatorship.
The Soviet Union, Hitler’s declared ideological enemy, had suddenly become a potential target of the Third Reich. Thereupon Stalin’s government made another crucial turn, ceasing to vilify the post–World War I peace settlement, preaching collective security, and joining the previously reviled League of Nations in 1934. In 1935 the Comintern reversed its long-standing refusal to cooperate with reformist socialists and bourgeois parties and ordered its members to pursue a Popular Front strategy to resist the spread of fascism.
Stalin’s about-face created ripples abroad. The United States, under its new president, Franklin D. Roosevelt, was mired in the Depression and swept by strong waves of isolationist and anticommunist sentiments; but to stimulate trade, Roosevelt established relations with the USSR in 1933 and sent a corps of wary diplomats to Moscow. The French government made even stronger overtures to the Soviet Union, proposing to create a barrier against Nazi expansion in Eastern Europe and concluding a Treaty of Mutual Assistance in May 1935. However, almost two decades of anti-Sovietism prevented the resurrection of the 1894 French-Russian alliance, which had saved Paris in World War I. Not only were France’s small allies, Poland and Romania, terrified of the price of Soviet “protection,” but France’s own political and military leadership was unwilling to forge an alliance with Stalin’s Russia. In addition, France’s aloof partner Britain was suspicious of Stalin’s goals and preferred to deal directly with Nazi Germany. Thus when Hitler in March 1935 scrapped Versailles and announced full German rearmament, Britain responded three months later with a bombshell—the Anglo-German naval agreement—that extinguished the treaty’s last disarmament clauses and thwarted Paris’s last independent diplomatic initiative.
With the failure of organized resistance, the aggressors moved quickly. Italy invaded Abyssinia (Ethiopia) in 1935 and in 1936 dispatched “volunteers” in support of the Nationalist leader Francisco Franco’s insurrection against the Spanish Republic, where he was joined by a special German air force unit. In February 1936 Hitler, claiming that the largely innocuous French-Soviet pact had created a “red menace,” renounced the Locarno Treaties and reoccupied the demilitarized zone of the Rhineland. And in July 1937 Japanese military forces, moving south from Manchuria, captured the principal cities and ports of northern and central China. The three formed offensive alliances: the Rome-Berlin Axis (1936) and the Anti-Comintern Pact (1937) linking Italy, Germany, and Japan.
World reaction was muted. The League failed to enforce sanctions against Italy, to condemn Germany’s violation of the Versailles and Locarno agreements, or to offer assistance to China, and the French-British–sponsored Non-Intervention Agreement, signed by twenty-seven governments in August 1936, did not halt the flow of arms and manpower to Franco’s forces in Spain. Despite efforts by liberals and socialists to mobilize an antifascist resistance, pacifism was widespread in Western Europe, epitomized by the powerful 1937 French antiwar film The Grand Illusion.
The United States was conspicuously silent. The Roosevelt administration, facing another severe economic downturn in 1937, resisted British pleas for a joint diplomatic initiative against the fascists’ aggression. Congress in 1935 and 1937 passed the Neutrality Acts banning sales or loans to belligerents in wars and in civil wars, harming the victims more than the aggressors. And although distressed over the Nazis’ racism and sympathetic to China’s plight, the American public—in a strongly isolationist mood, reinforced by anticommunism and antisemitism—was determined to avoid being dragged by the British Empire into another world war.
Stalin, who in 1936 had launched a major wave of purges against his political, military, and intellectual enemies, now faced major threats in Europe and in Asia. In line with his Popular Front strategy against fascism, the Soviet Union became the major outside supporter of the Spanish Republic, furnishing military supplies and advisers, directing the Comintern to mobilize an international army of volunteers, and producing a global propaganda campaign on behalf of the Madrid government. Not surprisingly, post–Cold War documents have confirmed that Stalin’s principal goals in Spain were to purge the local communists of Trotskyites, to create a Soviet satellite in Western Europe, and also, like Hitler, to prolong the conflict and to divert world attention from his ruthless domestic policies. The Soviet documents have also revealed that in the 1930s the NKVD, Stalin’s intelligence service, had begun mobilizing Communist Party members in the West—and especially in the United States—to bolster the Kremlin’s cause by providing political, military, and industrial intelligence.
Britain, faced with powerful rivals and restive colonial populations in Palestine and India, pursued an active policy of appeasement toward Germany and Japan. This approach, promoted in 1937 by Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, had historic and practical roots as well as a strongly ideological flavor. Deeply suspicious of US designs on the empire, Chamberlain was also appalled at the prospect of collaborating with Soviet Russia, a sworn enemy of Britain that had been stigmatized by the purges and by its self-serving policies in Spain. Lacking reliable partners—France was divided internally and Italy was now firmly in the Nazi camp—Britain sought to thwart Hitler’s aggressiveness by encouraging him to fulfill his territorial designs in the East.
British appeasement reached its apogee in September 1938 at the Munich Conference, convened to devise a peaceful solution to Hitler’s saber rattling against Czechoslovakia, which threatened to plunge Europe into war. Britain, France, Italy, and Germany, ignoring the League and excluding both Czechoslovakia and its Soviet ally, agreed to a substantial cession of Czechoslovak territory to the Third Reich. The Munich Agreement averted war and bought time for British and French rearmament, but it also represented a moral and political defeat for the West—the betrayal of a small democratic country and League member—and simply whetted Hitler’s appetite for armed conquest. It also had a jarring effect on Stalin.
Scholars have long debated whether Stalin had ever seriously intended to honor his treaty obligation to defend Czechoslovakia (with which he had no contiguous border and whose defense therefore would have involved the transit of Soviet troops and air power through Poland and Romania). One group, although acknowledging the dictator’s ruthless realism, views Soviet diplomacy between 1933 and 1938 as both a genuine quest for collective security and an attempt to stave off war against Nazi Germany and Japan. According to this perspective, Stalin, convinced by Munich that the appeasement-obsessed Western powers hoped to direct German aggression eastward, moved defensively into the Nazi camp.
The opposite argument, which has grown since the end of the Cold War, insists that Stalin had always been bluffing and that Moscow’s collective security strategy was simply a ruse to bait Hitler into a joint revisionist project against the new order in Eastern Europe. Thus Stalin’s infamous warning to the “instigators of war” (Britain and France) during the Eighteenth Party Congress on March 10, 1939, that he had no intention of “pulling their chestnuts out of the fire.”
There is evidence for both interpretations, which bring together Stalin’s growing conviction that another world war was imminent and his overall strategy for protecting the Soviet state. In the wake of the German seizures of Prague and Memel in March 1939, the Soviet dictator suddenly launched two seemingly contradictory initiatives. On March 18 he proposed to resurrect the Triple Entente of 1914 in the form of a military alliance with France and Great Britain for the purpose of protecting the nations of Eastern Europe against further Nazi aggression, but that same day he also informed Berlin of his interest in suspending their ideological conflict and negotiating a Soviet-German rapprochement. Unlike the Russian leadership in 1914, Stalin was appealing to the highest bidder over his response to Hitler’s anticipated attack on Poland.
Britain and France’s reluctance to negotiate an equal partnership with Moscow became quickly apparent. The Allies recognized that Soviet support would require politically undesirable concessions to a dangerous longtime ideological opponent and necessitate territorial sacrifices by their clients Poland and Romania. They also had considerable doubts over Moscow’s military value because of Stalin’s liquidation of almost the entire high command of his armed forces in the 1937–1938 purges and the Soviet Union’s inadequate transportation network. Thus, instead of immediately sending a high-level delegation (as had France twenty-five years earlier during the July 1914 crisis), London and Paris waited four full months to appoint a mission of low-ranking military officers, then postponed their departure for eleven days, and finally sent them to Moscow via a very slow form of sea transport, instead of by air. Upon their arrival on August 10, 1939, these hapless Allied envoys at once revealed their governments’ unwillingness to coordinate military operations with Moscow or to put pressure on the Poles or Romanians to permit the passage of Soviet troops. During these five crucial months the alliance that might have prevented the outbreak of World War II failed to materialize because of Anglo-French reluctanceand the Soviets’ loss of interest.
By May 1939, the German option had become increasingly attractive to the Kremlin. Through a Soviet agent in Tokyo, Stalin had learned that Hitler was determined to turn westward after crushing Poland, thereby diminishing the threat to Russia and the benefits of joining a new entente with Britain and France. An accommodation with the Third Reich would enable the Soviet Union to expand its military and economic forces while the capitalist powers exhausted themselves in a slugfest. In an important signal, Stalin replaced Litvinov (the apostle of collective security) as foreign minister with his crony Vyacheslav Molotov, who not only guided the German discussions but also taunted Berlin over the prospect of a Soviet deal with the West. In August Hitler, impatient to launch his Polish campaign and ready to placate Stalin, sent his foreign minister, Joachim von Ribbentrop, to the Kremlin.
The Nazi-Soviet pact, signed on August 23, 1939, was a blatant license for aggression. The public document pledged both sides to observe strict neutrality should either become involved in a military conflict, and the secret protocol (known in full detail only after the Cold War) gave Stalin an impressive payment in kind: the annexation of eastern Poland; the assignment of Finland, Estonia, and Latvia to the Soviet sphere of influence; and the recovery of Bessarabia from Romania, thus restoring all of Russia’s losses after World War I. In an equally stunning coup, one month later Stalin ended hostilities with Japan, which Soviet troops had battled, on and off, over the previous two years, thus freeing his country from the immediate threat of a two-front war (and enabling Japan to focus on China, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific).
The news from Moscow shocked the world’s Marxists and crushed their resistance to fascism. Britain and France, disconcerted by Stalin’s defection, continued to seek a peaceful solution to the Polish crisis, but Hitler, refusing to return to the conference table, used a fictitious border incident as the pretext for his attack on Poland on September 1, 1939. When he ignored their ultimatum to withdraw, Britain and France reluctantly declared war two days later.
The Aggressors Triumphant, 1939–1941
The outbreak of World War II in Europe—it had already erupted in Asia—pitted only four official combatants against each other: the British Empire, France, Poland, and Nazi Germany. Mussolini, pleading unpreparedness, stayed out. On September 17, 1939, two days after concluding the accord with Japan, the USSR, without a declaration of war, sent troops across the Polish border, sealing the fate of its western neighbor, which collapsed at the end of the month and once more disappeared from the map of Europe.
The United States was jolted into action. Labeling Nazi aggression a threat to the Western Hemisphere, President Roosevelt urged the modification of the Neutrality Acts. On November 4 Congress, while still banning American ships and civilians from entering the war zone, voted to allow “cash and carry” purchases of arms and goods by France and Great Britain, which had as yet made no significant military moves against the Third Reich.
Indeed, the period between the autumn of 1939 and the spring of 1940 has been dubbed the “phony war,” with French troops languishing on the Maginot Line along its border with Germany and a few Anglo-German naval skirmishes around the British Isles. Yet in northeastern Europe a very real war exploded on November 30. After Finland had refused to follow the Baltic states and allow the Red Army to build bases on its soil, Stalin, ostensibly to protect Leningrad (only twenty miles from the border), now committed one of his greatest blunders. Again without a declaration of war, he ordered an invasion of his small neighbor, whom he suspected of having German sympathies. Although three times larger and far better equipped, the Soviet forces were poorly prepared to face an unexpectedly strong Finnish resistance and initially suffered high casualties. On March 12, 1940, Stalin, after a string of Soviet counterattacks (and perhaps fearing Allied intervention), ended the brutal 105-day war with the Moscow Treaty, which allowed Finland to preserve its independence but forced it to cede 11 percent of its territory, including a large swath of land on Lake Ladoga that would later shield Leningrad, and to allow a Soviet military base on the Hanko Peninsula.
The war with Finland had important consequences. Soviet-US relations plummeted after Stalin rebuffed Roosevelt’s mediation offer. The moribund League of Nations, which had been helpless against Japanese, Italian, and German treaty violations, was suddenly aroused by the attack on a neutral member. For the very first time in its history the League Council (with some notable abstentions and absences) voted to support the victim and expel the Soviet Union—too late, however, to save Finland. The principal victor of the Winter War was Nazi Germany. Watching from the sidelines, Hitler had noted the Red Army’s weakness and the West’s ill-coordinated and feeble responses, including the stillborn threat to punish Soviet Russia by bombing the Baku oil fields. Berlin also reaped the bonus of closer relations with Finland, which would be an important partner a year later.
The phony war finally ended on April 8, 1940. Britain and France, now facing two powerful opponents as well as an irate citizenry, opted to take the war to neutral Scandinavia and block the delivery of Swedish iron ore, which was crucial to Nazi Germany. In a highly risky operation (opposed by the Oslo government) British naval units laid mines in Norwegian waters and British and French troops prepared to land on the Norwegian coast. However Hitler, anticipating the Allies’ move, invaded Denmark and Norway, thus securing Nazi Germany’s northern flank, gaining a string of indispensable naval and air bases for future combat, and delivering a major setback to the Allies.
On May 10 the Reich launched its long-awaited western offensive. Luxembourg surrendered at once, the Netherlands in five days, and Belgium in eighteen. After the German army’s audacious sweep through the Ardennes and race to the sea, Britain and France were forced to evacuate some 337,000 trapped troops at Dunkirk, and after the Wehrmacht’s June 5 offensive sent the French government fleeing southward, France’s resistance crumbled. On June 22, 1940, France signed an armistice with the Third Reich placing almost two-thirds of the country under Nazi occupation.
Stalin, now the observer, had anticipated a lengthy struggle in the West and was startled by France’s sudden collapse. He was still building up his military force and also consolidating his newly expanded realm, extending the Soviet political system from the Baltic to the Black Sea. To ensure Poland’s permanent subjugation, in March and April 1940 Stalin ordered the mass killing of some twenty-two thousand captured Polish officers, which took place in Soviet prisons and in the Katyn Forest. In July, he ordered the incorporation of the three Baltic republics into the USSR, as well as the murder and deportation of thousands of their leading figures. That month, to secure his southwestern border, Stalin formally annexed the two former Romanian provinces of Bessarabia and northern Bukovina. After the Nazi victory over France, the Soviet Union also expanded its diplomatic contacts with Persia, Turkey, Bulgaria, and Yugoslavia, much to the annoyance of Berlin.
By the summer of 1940 the Third Reich dominated the entire European continent with its string of annexed territories, satellites, allies, and compliant neutrals, including the Soviet Union, which supplied the grain and oil to fuel the Nazi Empire. Only Britain, now led by the tenaciously anti-Nazi prime minister Winston Churchill, held out. Thanks to the quality of its air power, radar, and code breaking as well as Churchill’s indomitable grit and optimism, Britain in the fall of 1940 withstood the Nazis’ massive air offensive. It was also saved by Hitler’s indecisiveness and blunders, and by Germany’s naval weakness.
In November 1940 Europe’s flagging anti-Nazi resistance was stirred by Roosevelt’s reelection to an unprecedented third term. The next month, the US president urged Congress to adopt his Lend-Lease Program, which held out the prospect of substantially increased aid and supplies to a beleaguered and nearly bankrupt Great Britain. In the meantime Mussolini, who had entered the war against France and Britain, had forced Hitler to salvage Italy’s failed adventures in the Balkans and North Africa, temporarily diverting the Reich from turning eastward.
At 3:15 a.m. on June 22, 1941 (the 129th anniversary of Napoleon’s ill-fated attack on Russia), the Wehrmacht crossed the Bug River and Operation Barbarossa began. Hitler had assembled the largest invasion force in human history—approximately 3.5 million troops (including a half million non-German soldiers), 2,700 aircraft, 3,000 tanks, and 7,000 artillery pieces—which were hurled against the Soviet Union over a two-thousand-mile front from Finland to Romania. By the autumn of 1941, the Nazi offensive threatened to destroy the Red Army and overthrow Stalin’s regime: Kiev had fallen, Leningrad was under siege, and Moscow was within reach. Accompanying the attack were the SS Einsatzgruppen, the mobile killing units that not only targeted Soviet partisans but also massacred 1.5 million Soviet Jews.
At this calamitous moment the antifascist alliance, unachievable in peacetime, suddenly materialized. On June 22 Churchill, characterizing Hitler as a “monster of wickedness” spreading desolation in Russia, swallowed his longtime anti-Bolshevism and pledged to aid the Soviet Union. One day later, US secretary of state Cordell Hull, speaking on behalf of the US president, announced that his country would give Russia “all aid to the hilt.” Stalin’s reply on a grim July 18 was a masterpiece of arrogance and desperation. While defending the terms of the Nazi-Soviet pact, he urged his new partners to launch offensives in France, Norway, and Finland to relieve the struggling Red Army.
Almost a quarter of a century after the Bolshevik Revolution, the Soviet Union and its two principal capitalist enemies had been drawn together by Axis aggression, but the habits of exclusion, rivalry, and suspicion remained.
Suggestions for Further Study
“Agreement Between the United Kingdom and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, July 12, 1941.” Yale Law School Avalon Project: Documents in Law, History and Diplomacy. http://avalon.law.yale.edu/wwii/brsov41.asp.
Auswärtiges Amt (German Foreign Ministry). Documents and Materials Relating to the Eve of the Second World War. 2 vols. New York: International Publishers, 1948.
“Comintern Electronic Archives.” Russian State Archives for Social and Political History. https://rena.mpdl.mpg.de/rena/Record/ERS000000104.
Dallin, Alexander, and F. I. Firsov, eds. Dimitrov and Stalin, 1934–1943: Letters from the Soviet Archives. Translated by Vadim A. Staklo. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2000.
Firsov, Fridrikh, Harvey Klyer, and John Earl Haynes. Secret Cables of the Comintern, 1933–1943. Translated by Lynn Visson. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2014.
Foreign Office of Great Britain. Documents Illustrating the Hostile Activities of the Soviet Government and the Third International Against Great Britain. London: H. M. Stationery Office, 1927.
“Foreign Relations 1918—The Conclusion of the Peace of Brest-Litovsk.” Yale Law School Avalon Project: Documents in Law, History and Diplomacy. http://avalon.law.yale.edu/subject_menus/blmenu.asp.
Gromkyo, A. A., ed. Soviet Peace Efforts on the Eve of World War II. Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1973.
Hitler, Adolf. Mein Kampf. Originally published in German as two volumes, 1925–1926. New York: Reynal & Hitchcock, 1939.
Lenin, Vladimir Ilyich. The Foundations of the Communist International. New York: International Publishers, 1934.
“The Papers of Neville Chamberlain.” Gale/Cengage Learning: Archives Unbound. gale.cengage.co.uk/images/Chamberlain-Papers.pdf.
Roosevelt, Franklin Delano. “Quarantine Speech, October 5, 1937.” Miller Center, University of Virginia. http://millercenter.org/president/speeches/detail/3310.
Sontag, Raymond, and James Beddie, eds. Nazi-Soviet Relations, 1939–1941: Documents from the Archives of the German Foreign Office. Washington, DC: US Department of State, 1948.
Stalin, Joseph. Correspondence: The Stalin-Kaganovich Correspondence, 1931–1936. Edited by R. W. Davis, Oleg V. Khlevniuk, and E. A. Rees. Translated by Steven Shabad. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2003.
———. Stalin’s Letters to Molotov, 1925–1936. Edited by Lars T. Lith, Oleg V. Naumov, and Oleg V. Khlevniuk. Translated by Catherine A. Fitzpatrick. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1995.
Wilson, Woodrow. “President Woodrow Wilson’s Fourteen Points, 8 January, 1918.” Yale Law School Avalon Project: Documents in Law, History and Diplomacy. http://avalon.law.yale.edu/20th_century/wilson14.asp.
Borkenau, Franz. The Communist International. London: Faber and Faber, 1938.
Eastman, Max. The End of Socialism in Russia. Boston: Little, Brown, 1937.
Trotsky, Leon. The First Five Years of the Communist International. New York: Pioneer Publishers, 1945.
Alexander Nevsky. Directed by Sergei M. Eisenstein and Dmitri Vasilyev. Moscow: Mosfilm, 1938.
The Czar Wants to Sleep (Poruchik Kizhe). Directed by Aleksandr Faintsimmer. Moscow: Belgoskino, 1934.
Daybreak (Le Jour se lève). Directed by Marcel Carné. Paris: AFE, 1939.
Five Cartridges (Fünf Patronenhülsen). Directed by Frank Beyer. East Berlin: Deutsche Film (DEFA), 1960.
The Flowers of War. Directed by Yimou Zhang. Beijing: Beijing New Picture Film, 2011.
The Grand Illusion (La Grande Illusion). Directed by Jean Renoir. Paris: RAC, 1937.
Land and Freedom. Directed by Ken Loach. London: British Broadcasting Corporation, 1995.
The Last Train from Madrid. Directed by James P. Hogan. Los Angeles: Paramount Pictures, 1937.
Ninotschka. Directed by Ernst Lubitsch. Los Angeles: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1939.
October (Ten Days That Shook the World). Directed by Grigori Aleksandrov and Sergei M. Eisenstein. Moscow: Sovkino, 1928.
Reds. Directed by Warren Beatty. Los Angeles: JRS Productions, 1981.
Triumph of the Will. Directed by Leni Riefenstahl. Berlin: Leni Riefenstahl Produktion, 1935.
The Winter War. Directed by Pekka Parikka. Helsinki: National Filmi Oy See, 1989.
Bulgakov, Mikhail. The Master and Margarita. Translated by Diana Burgin and Katherine Tiernan O’Connor. New York: Vintage, 1995.
Koestler, Arthur. Darkness at Noon. New York: Macmillan, 1941.
Malraux, Andre. Man’s Fate. Translated by Haakon M. Chevalier. New York: Random House, 1934.
Orwell, George. Animal Farm: A Fairy Story. London: Secker and Warburg, 1945.
Platonov, Andrei. Soul. Translated by Robert and Elizabeth Chandler et al. London: Harvill, 2003.
Sartre, Jean-Paul. Troubled Sleep. Translated by Gerard Hopkins. New York: Vintage, 1950.
Auden, W. H. “September 1, 1939.” In The Collected Poems. Edited by Edward Mendelson. New York: Modern Library, 2007.
Diaries, Memoirs, and Journals
Dimitrov, Georgi. The Diary of Georgi Dimitrov. Edited by Ivo Banac. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2003.
Djilas, Milovan. Memoir of a Revolutionary. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1973.
Fischer, Louis. Men and Politics: An Autobiography. London: Cape, 1941.
Kennan, George F. Memoirs. Vol. 1: 1925–1950. Boston: Little, Brown, 1967.
Litvinov, M. M. Notes for a Journal. New York: Morrow, 1955.
Maisky, Ivan. The Maisky Diaries: Red Ambassador to the Court of St. James’s 1932–1943. Edited by Gabriel Gorodetzky. Translated by Tatiana Sorokina and Oliver Read. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2015.
Orwell, George. Homage to Catalonia. New York: Harcourt Brace, 1952.
Adi, Hakim. Pan Africanism and Communism: The Communist International, Africa and the Diaspora, 1919–1939. Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press, 2013.
Boyce, Robert. The Great Interwar Crisis and the Collapse of Globalization. Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009.
Burkman, Thomas. Japan and the League of Nations: Empire and World Order. Honolulu, HI: University of Hawaii Press, 2008.
Caballero, Manuel. Latin America and the Comintern, 1919–1943. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1986.
Carley, Michael Jabara. 1939: The Alliance That Never Was and the Coming of World War II. Chicago: I. R. Dee, 1999.
———. The Silent Conflict: A Hidden History of Early Soviet-Western Relations. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2014.
D’Agostino, Anthony. The Rise of Global Powers: International Politics in the Era of the World Wars. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2012.
David-Fox, Michael. Showcasing the Great Experiment: Cultural Diplomacy and Western Visitors to the Soviet Union, 1921–1941. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2011.
Davis, Donald E., and Eugene P. Trani. The First Cold War: The Legacy of Woodrow Wilson in U.S.-Soviet Relations. Columbia, MO: University of Missouri Press, 2002.
Ericson, Edward E. Feeding the German Eagle: Soviet Economic Aid to Nazi Germany, 1933–1941. Westport, CT: Praeger, 1999.
Fink, Carole. The Genoa Conference: European Diplomacy, 1921–1922. Rev. ed. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1993.
Groys, Boris. The Total Art of Stalinism: Avant-Garde, Aesthetic Dictatorship, and Beyond. Translated by Charles Rougle. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1992.
Haslam, Jonathan. The Soviet Union and the Threat from the East, 1933–1941: Moscow, Tokyo, and the Prelude to the Pacific War. Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1992.
Hehn, Paul N. A Low, Dishonest Decade: The Great Powers, Eastern Europe, and the Economic Origins of World War II, 1930–1941. New York and London: Continuum, 2002.
Imlay, Talbot. Facing the Second World War: Strategy, Politics, and Economics in Britain and France, 1938–1940. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2003.
Iriye, Akira. The Origins of the Second World War in Asia and the Pacific. London: Longman, 1987.
Jacobson, Jon. When the Soviet Union Entered World Politics. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1994.
Khlevniuk, O. V. Master of the House: Stalin and His Inner Circle. Translated by Nora Seligman Favorov. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2009.
Kotkin, Stephen. Stalin. Vol. 1, Paradoxes of Power, 1878–1928. New York: Penguin, 2014.
Leitz, Christian. Nazi Foreign Policy, 1933–1941: The Road to Global War. London and New York: Routledge, 2004.
Leonhard, Wolfgang. Betrayal: The Hitler-Stalin Pact of 1939. New York: St. Martin’s, 1989.
Lindemann, Albert S. The Red Years: European Socialism Versus Bolshevism, 1919–1921. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1974.
Madeira, Victor. Britannia and the Bear: The Anglo-Russian Intelligence Wars, 1917–1929. Suffolk, UK: Boydell & Brewer, 2014.
Manela, Erez. The Wilsonian Moment: Self-Determination and the International Origins of Anticolonial Nationalism. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2007.
Marks, Sally. The Ebbing of European Ascendancy: An International History of the World, 1914–1945. London: Arnold, 2002.
Mayer, Arno J. Political Origins of the New Diplomacy, 1917–1918. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1959.
———. Politics and Diplomacy of Peacemaking: Containment and Counterrevolution at Versailles, 1918–1919. New York: Knopf, 1967.
McDonough, Frank. Hitler, Chamberlain and Appeasement. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2002.
McKenzie, Kermit. Comintern and World Revolution, 1928–1943: The Shaping of Doctrine. New York: Columbia University Press, 1964.
Miner, Steven Merritt. Between Churchill and Stalin: The Soviet Union, Great Britain, and the Origins of the Grand Alliance. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1988.
Neilson, Keith. Britain, Soviet Russia, and the Collapse of the Versailles Order, 1919–1939. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006.
Overy, Richard. 1939: Countdown to War. New York: Viking, 2009.
Patel, Kiran Klaus. The New Deal: A Global History. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2016.
Pons, Silvio. Stalin and the Inevitable War, 1936–1941. London: Frank Cass, 2002.
Ragsdale, Hugh. The Soviets, the Munich Crisis, and the Coming of World War II. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2004.
Reynolds, David. Roosevelt’s America and the Origins of the Second World War. Chicago: Ivan Dee, 2001.
Richard, Carl J. When the United States Invaded Russia: Woodrow Wilson’s Siberian Disaster. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2013.
Roberts, Geoffrey. The Soviet Union and the Origins of the Second World War: Russo-German Relations and the Road to War, 1933–1941. Houndmills, UK: Macmillan, 1995.
Sanborn, Joshua, Imperial Apocalypse: The Great War and the Destruction of the Russian Empire. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2014.
Saul, Norman E. War and Revolution: The United States and Russia, 1914–1921. Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas, 2001.
Smele, Jonathan. The “Russian” Civil Wars, 1916–1926: Ten Years That Shook the World. New York: Oxford University Press, 2015.
Stedman, Andrew David. Alternatives to Appeasement: Neville Chamberlain and Hitler’s Germany. London and New York: I. B. Taurus, 2011.
Steiner, Zara. The Lights That Failed: European International History, 1919–1933. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2005.
———. The Triumph of the Dark: European International History, 1933–1939. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2010.
Tarling, Nicholas. Britain, Southeast Asia and the Onset of the Pacific War. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1996.
Thorne, Christopher. The Limits of Foreign Policy: The West, the League, and the Far Eastern Crisis, 1931–1933. London: Hamish Hamilton, 1972.
Wapshott, Nicholas. The Sphinx: Franklin Roosevelt, the Isolationists, and the Road to World War II. New York: W. W. Norton, 2015.
Weinberg, Gerhard L. Hitler’s Foreign Policy: The Road to World War II, 1933–1939. New York: Enigma, 2005.
According to the old Julian calendar, which remained in use in Russia until 1918, the March 1917 Revolution occurred in February and the November 1917 Revolution in October.
In a joint resolution in July 1921 the US Congress declared the war at an end, and one month later the new president, Warren G. Harding, concluded separate treaties with Germany, Austria, and Hungary that omitted the League of Nations.
In 1920 the Federal Bureau of Investigation, newly created within the Justice Department, placed thousands of individuals under surveillance and launched raids across the nation but never discovered evidence of a foreign plot against the United States. After the September 16, 1920, Wall Street bombing, in which 38 people were killed and 141 wounded, the Red Scare gradually diminished.
Among them, Vicente Blasco-Ibáñez, Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1918); Paul Nash, We Are Making a New World (1918); Fernand Léger, The City (1918); Igor Stravinsky, The Soldier’s Tale (1918); George Bernard Shaw, Heartbreak House (1921); T. S. Eliot, The Wasteland (1922); and Oswald Spengler, The Decline of the West (1918).
Pablo Picasso’s graphic depiction of the bombing of Guernica, displayed at the Paris International Exposition in 1937, brought world attention to the atrocities against Spanish civilians.
Lithuania was added one month later in another agreement, in which Stalin relinquished territory in eastern Poland and the German-Soviet border was established on the River Bug.
In September 1939 Stalin had announced: “The USSR is interested in a strong Germany and will not let it be beaten.”
Because defeating the Third Reich had become his foremost objective, the prime minister famously announced: “If Hitler invaded Hell, I should at least make a favorable reference to the Devil in the House of Commons.”