A unique (personal) relationship between Soviet Union and the United States in the 20th Century
Originally planned as (just) a book review, now also a collection of several articles on the matter of cooperation and ideologies that sponsor it.
History — a fabric of etched actions on the fabric of time — is available to numerous interpretations. Some of them naive. Some politically charged. Some — conscious and diligent. The latter is a rare find. In the world of media platforms, that sponsor emotionally charged messages, the former often leads the way.
In contrast to flood of obfuscated (and selective) allegations about “anglo-saxons” stifling Russia for centuries — it was rather a game all aspiring “empires” played.
Italian “republics” disrupted by Portuguese and then Roman Empire of Spain, contested by Dutch and British, followed by Russia after Peter the Great and his descendants. Even prior, Moscow kingdom during Ivan III subjugated others of Pskov, destroyed Novgorod republic (the only Slavic member of Hanseatic League), not talking about other repressions and occasional use of violence — hiring mongol mercenaries with whom they built an uneasy alliance after the unravelling of the Mongol conquest.
“The Great Game” of the 19th century, on the back of humanism and political realism and minerals resource required to accelerate industrialisation and resulting growth, provided different ways for countries to impress their domination on “lesser” states they believed to be the sole guiding light bringing from barbarity to civilisation — to their humiliation — while fomenting with some hundreds of years of ire and stimulated a search for “ressentiment”.
When the British instigated and won the Opium wars, the Russian empire got itself in the fray and received Primorsky Krai (Maritime Province) under Aigun Treaty, previously threatening Qing dynasty to open a second front during Second Opium War:
“The sale of Alaska to the United States in 1867 was outweighed in importance by the acquisition of the Maritime Province from China (1858 and 1860) and the founding of Vladivostok as Russia’s far eastern capital (1860), the definitive subjugation of the Caucasus (in the 1860s), and the conquest of central Asia (Khiva, Bokhara, Turkestan) in the 1870s”
Facts and numbers and their careful preservation and respectful interpretation helps to dispel the messianic halo of certain events: for example the role of Churchill in abetting the disastrous Bengal famine of 1943 showing his failings in otherwise momentous leadership over the years. His anymosity towards Gandhi and his followers led him to use several acerbic comments in his correspondence:
In July 1944, Viceroy Archibald Wavell reported, “Winston sent me a peevish telegram to ask why Gandhi hadn’t died yet.” In the fall of 1944 in Quebec, Churchill baldly maintained to FDR and Mackenzie King that the starvation “has been due to the hoarding of food by the people themselves for speculative purposes.”
As many as 3 million people died in the famine.
Ignored in the fabric of violent acts — there are valiant acts of collaboration, understanding: actions to collaborate and create vs. playing the zero-sum game.
A book by Susan Butler about the formed personal relationship between Roosevelt and Stalin — one that helped to carry the Soviet Union through the Second World War — is a nice reminder about the complex fabric of time and the need to keep the facts sound and proper.
Full of personal anecdotes and notes on face-to-face meetings the tome is a careful rendition of what formed and supported the tri-party framework on the wage of war during the most pivotal years and at its end.
Without lend-lease of the US — Soviet Russia should have perished.
“The Moscow protocol, as it would be called, would save Russia. The list of goods that Roosevelt committed to send to the Soviet Union was astounding.
It included shipments every month of 400 planes, 500 tanks, 5,000 cars, 10,000 trucks, and huge quantities of antitank guns, anti-aircraft guns, diesel generators, field telephones, radios, motorcycles, wheat, flour, sugar, 200,000 pairs of boots, a million yards of woolen overcoat cloth, as well as 500,000 pairs of surgical gloves and 15,000 amputation saws.
Shipments began virtually immediately. By the end of October ships carrying 100 bombers, 100 fighter planes, and 166 tanks — all with spare parts and ammunition — plus 5,500 trucks were on the high seas.”
Such was the relationship built between the countries, that, upon Roosevelt demise:
“Stalin ordered the Soviet nation into mourning. All government agencies in Moscow were ordered to display mourning flags on their buildings. It was an unheard-of occurrence, that the bourgeois leader of a capitalist country should be so honored.”
- Regions, countries can follow various ideologies: Monroe doctrine, world socialist revolution, mercantilist policies, isolationist tendencies: tried and tested for centuries they have shown the cost and benefit in terms of money spent and lives lost.
- Political realism and ability to follow the hard view on numbers and support them through professional technocratic networks — tends to carry the day vs. costly and disastrous ideological frays. Realistic view on capabilities — and wrongs committed or omitted- stopped several disastrous acts: Vietnam, Cuba. It should have stopped another with sovereign Ukraine. Alas.