Diana and Ron: What Was Going On?
“With the publication of my second book, American Betrayal: The Secret Assault on Our Nation's Character, I am looking forward to a vigorous debate about my findings,” Diana West wrote when the book was released.
What followed was not exactly what she had in mind.
On August 9, 2013, after the book had received largely glowing reviews and endorsements from conservative writers, Frontpage Magazine published a blistering attack by Ronald Radosh, “McCarthy on Steroids.” The review questioned not only the author’s conclusions, but her competence.
This kicked off the nastiest internecine conflict on the right in recent memory, pitting, in the eyes of their adversaries, supine “court historians” against wild-eyed “yellow journalists.” Embroiled in the controversy were, among others, two groups of individuals who, in some cases, had been barely aware of each other -- critics of Islam and writers on Soviet subversion in the U.S. in the ‘30s and ‘40s.
These groups did not comprise two hostile two camps. Andrews Bostom and McCarthy wrote in support of West, the former entering into a heated exchange with John Earl Haynes. But M. Stanton Evans, author of an exhaustive study of McCarthy and a survey of the influence of Russian agents in the U.S., was also a stalwart supporter of West, while Rebecca Bynum, editor of the website New English Review, an inveterate critic of Islam, lambasted the book. Sites took take sides: Frontpage Magazine, First Things, and National Review supported Radosh; Breitbart and Gates of Vienna and others backed West. P.J. Media featured articles from both camps. On American Thinker a guardedly friendly, though critical review by Bernie Reeves was followed by attacks by others.
The distinguishing feature of the controversy was the venom directed at West.
The titles of some of the articles from Radosh and his cohort are revealing, starting with “McCarthy on Steroids”: “Diana West vs History,” “Why I Wrote a Take-Down of Diana West’s Awful Book,” “Diana West Attempts to Respond,” “Diana West’s Epic Fail,” “Diana West Down Crackpot Alley,”etc.
There was also a back-stage email campaign.
On September 3, an article appeared on the Gateway Institute site by Senior Fellow Claire Lopez, which drew on West’s account of the decision to recognize the Soviet Union in 1933. The article was pulled later in the day and the next morning Lopez was informed that her relationship with Gateway had been terminated. Less than a month after the Radosh review, Diana West had become radioactive.
Why a “take-down” of West instead of a review of her book?
The question can’t be answered without taking a close look at American Betrayal. The dispute has polarized the Right and attempts at dispassionate analyses have been in short supply: writers are either in West’s camp or Radosh’s. When Bernie Reeves ventured briefly into the DMZ, he was shelled by both sides. Andrew McCarthy, after a nuanced defense of West, also took hits from both camps.
The prosaic truth, however, is that Radosh has done West a real injustice, but American Betrayal nonetheless has some significant flaws. It’s an important book, as well as a riveting one, and deserves a close and critical reading.
“McCarthy on Steroids” is a review only someone who hadn’t read the book could love. It’s not surprising that so many who jumped on West over the next few weeks confessed they hadn’t cracked the spine -- or downloaded -- the execrable rant. Their trust in Radosh was misplaced: a scrupulous scholar is not always a scrupulous reviewer.
Radosh caricatures West’s arguments, misrepresents her conclusions, and ignores some of the book’s major themes and the contents of a number of chapters. He exaggerates the centrality of certain claims, in order to attack them. However, he was provoked.
The problems with the book, though, have less to do with West’s treatment of the Soviet penetration of the U.S. government or its impact on “our nation’s character,” the subtitle her critics ignore, as much as with its consequences for the prosecution of World War II. Her unfamiliarity with military history leads her to overemphasize the role of Communist agents in influencing strategic decisions. She also ignores the wider context of some decisions, rides her counterfactuals too hard, and engages in some rhetorical overkill.
Both Radosh and West tend to see things in black and white. For West, Stalin’s agents were responsible for Soviet control of half of Europe for nearly 45 years. For Radosh, they had nothing to do with it. The truth, unsurprisingly, is somewhere in between.
Was Lend-Lease subverted by the Soviets to spirit classified information and embargoed uranium to the USSR? Or was it a lifeline to Britain and Russia, essential for the defeat of Hitler? It was both. Was it a good idea to offer the aid unconditionally? Absolutely not.
Could the decision as to where to launch a 2nd front have been influenced by the drumbeat of Communists and their sympathizers? Possibly, but only indirectly. The opinions of the U.S. chiefs of staff, based on geography and strategic priorities, were far more important.
Were overtures from Germans opposing Hitler short-circuited by Stalin’s agents and accomplices? Possibly, though there were other reasons for the lack of receptivity. Would it have made a difference? Possibly, again, though not likely. Did the activities of these agents also help stiffen German resistance and thus prolong the war? Almost certainly.
The first thing any historian is bound to notice about American Betrayal is that it doesn’t have a “scholarly apparatus” -- acknowledgements and a bibliography -- which indicate the archives and other primary sources the author consulted, and also help identify sources in endnotes. (N.B., A bibliography has been prepared recently by a supporter of West.)
Historians are taught to check these first, before they peek at the conclusion, to see what new evidence the writer is drawing on and to whom he or she is indebted.
West does not rely entirely on secondary sources; she’s looked at volumes of FRUS and at other government documents online, at the New York Times and other papers and magazines.
And she’s done a prodigious amount of reading, not only the post-Venona books on Soviet subversion and some diplomatic, political, and cultural history, but what would also be considered primary sources: the cornucopia of books and articles published in the ‘30s, ‘40s and early ‘50s by defectors, former communists, those investigating them, disillusioned government officials and army officers, and others with first-hand experience of the USSR and the CPUSA. This is a literature known to specialists, of course, but otherwise (except for Chambers’ Witness) forgotten today.
Readers not interested in bibliographies would still often like to get a feel for a book’s subject matter by taking a look at the table of contents -- like checking mapquest before a trip. But if they do, they will learn only that Chapter 2 follows Chapter 1 and precedes Chapter 3. In fact, most chapters cover multiple subjects, with chronological leaps. Chapter 7, for instance, appears to be about Harry Hopkins (also the subject of sections of earlier and later chapters), but then moves on to William Bullitt, the Katyn massacre and its cover-up, George Earle, and the UN. There is also a lot of repetition, not only of the zingers (“Have you no decency?” “They didn’t know the half of it.”), but of information -- sometimes on the same page.
If most readers weren’t bothered by the darting and weaving in the chapters, it’s because they were mesmerized by the voice. You would hardly know it from the reviews, but American Betrayal is a very personal book, a story in part about West’s own discovery of the evidence of Communist subversion and the way it’s been covered up. (“Warning: reading this chapter may; be hazardous to your worldview,” she writes at the beginning of Chapter 3. “Writing it was to mine.” She repeatedly takes the reader into her confidence: “then I did a little more research.”) There’s no pretense of scholarly detachment.
This is one reason the book is immensely more engrossing than the secondary sources it draws on -- even though many are written for general audiences, not scholars. West is also an accomplished writer. The prose is sometimes incandescent, sizzling with outrage, sarcasm, and, occasionally, hyperbole.
Chapter 4 -- one of several Radosh never refers to -- is particularly brilliant. It’s mostly about the corruption of culture and the corruption of values. It moves from Joseph Davies’ splendid art collection -- Fabergé eggs purchased at fire sale prices from the victims of the purges Davies was covering up -- to the censorship of outstanding exposés of Soviet crimes by Hollywood and publishers. Dalton Trumbo boasted about how his comrades had blacklisted anti-Communist classics like Darkness at Noon, I Chose Freedom, Out of the Night, etc.: they would not come to a theatre near you. When West’s father signed a contract for an anti-Communist novel, a group of Houghton Mifflin editors threated to resign en masse if it wasn’t cancelled. It was. Political correctness was an invention of the ’30s, not the ‘70s.
This is a chapter no historian could have written. If, as some supporters have said, the publication of American Betrayal is itself an historical event, this is one of the sections that makes it so.
Unfortunately, the vivid writing sometimes creates problems. Radosh targets, correctly, the phrase “de facto occupation,” West’s characterization of Soviet penetration of the government. Nothing is repeated just once in American Betrayal. I lost count of the number of times West uses the phrase. After awhile, she drops the “de facto” fig leaf.
This is bound to irritate any historian of the Cold War.
Loy Henderson, George Kennan, and other State Department protégés of anti-Communist section head Robert Kelley were not shot, and recovered Sovietoholics William Bullitt and Averill Harriman were not moldering in an Arctic Gulag. It was these men Harry Truman turned to after he took the oath of office. Harry Hopkins and Joseph Davies, FDR’s disastrous advisors, were belatedly shown the door. (Hopkins was sent on one final mission to Moscow to urge that 16 non-Communist Polish ministers imprisoned by the NKVD be released.) On April 23, 1945 came Truman’s famous confrontation with Molotov. In increasingly belligerent tones, he kept repeating his demand that Stalin carry out the Yalta obligations in Poland.
“I’ve never been spoken to like this in my life,” said the Soviet Foreign Minister. “Carry out your agreements and you won’t be talked to again like that,” Truman snapped. When Molotov tried to change the subject, the President cut him off and ordered him out of the office.
The exchange was eventually followed by the announcement of the Truman Doctrine on March 12, 1947, committing the U.S. to providing military and economic aid to contain the spread of Communism. Later that month the White House issued Executive Order 9835, enabling the FBI to eliminate Party members from the federal government.
For his pains, Truman would be vilified by the New Left historians of the ‘60s and ‘70s, including Radosh and David Horowitz, for having unilaterally launched the Cold War. The war soon got hot. Over 81,000 Americans would be killed stopping the spread of Communism in Korea and attempting to in Vietnam. Proxies were supported throughout the world, including, fatally for the USSR, the mujahedeen in Afghanistan -- with not so brilliant results for us either.
Truman, however, figures in West’s book only as someone who suppressed information in the Venona decrypts. (He could not have known the contents of these when he was briefed in 1945. He may have been told by Omar Bradley in 1950, according to an NSA official, Oliver Kirby. But Truman certainly received FBI intelligence confirming that numerous federal officials were working for the Soviets, and his Justice Department continued to protect from prosecution some spies outed by Bentley, Chambers, and FBI surveillance.)
Of course West’s supporters argue that “occupied power” is a metaphor: it doesn’t mean that Soviet tanks rolled down Pennsylvania Avenue or NKVD agents patrolled the halls of Congress. But it’s a metaphor out of control.
“Occupied power” is not the only or most flagrant example of overheated prose. At the conclusion of a discussion of Harry Hopkins’ efforts to promote a cross-Channel invasion, West calls this “the crime of the century.” Say what? Not the Holocaust or Holdomor, not the Armenian genocide or the rape of Nanking? The invasion of France by the Allies in 1944 was the crime of the century? Not the invasions of Poland in 1939 or Belgium in 1914?
But OVERLORD was apparently not the only crime of the century. On p. 61, it’s the “loss of cultural confidence” engineered by the Left. Still another crime of the century was the abandonment of American citizens in the Gulag. (p. 311)
There is a downside to high-voltage writing.
Readers would have little sense from Radosh’s review that American Betrayal is about the cover-up, broadly defined, as much as it is about the activities of Communists and fellow travellers.
This had two phases. The first began in 1933, with the diplomatic recognition of the Soviet Union in the midst of what was truly one of the crimes of the century, the war on Ukrainian and Russian peasants, the forced collectivization launched at the end of 1929. The U.S. government was obliged to lie, to pass along Soviet disinformation. It’s revealing that FDR, at Stalin’s behest, shut down the anti-Communist Eastern European section of the State Department, assigning its members to other posts and dispersing its excellent library.
The second, post-war phase persists down to the present, West argues. While today only a few unregenerate English professors deny Soviet crimes, the Leftist consensus prevails: those who investigated the CPUSA’s subversive activities were Red-baiters and witch-hunters; Party members were harmless idealists, persecuted for their high principles. Che still adorns t-shirts; Warhol’s Mao hangs in living rooms. And the film industry continues its blackout of Communist crimes. For Hollywood, there are no Soviet villains.
On the screen, Soviet and East German agents are either loveable and blundering, like the character played by Alan Arkin in The Russians are Coming! The Russians are Coming! or troubled and sensitive, like the character played by Oskar Werner in The Spy Who Came in From the Cold.
Radosh knows something about this. He and his wife wrote a book called Red Star Over Hollywood. But he doesn’t see, or choose to reveal, that American Betrayal is a book about the corrosive effects on American culture of a litany of lies. Diana West is writing about a double betrayal, and the second betrayal is ultimately more important. West argues that it has corrupted the country and rendered it defenseless.
Much of the book, though, is about what was covered up. Radosh complains that “for anyone familiar with the historical literature, the core of what she has written is well known….”
Is West just adding dollops of sarcasm to the existing literature on subversion? Is American Betrayal “Ann Coulter does Haynes and Klehr”?
Even if all West was doing was drawing together evidence from the major post-Venona works on Soviet espionage and subversion, as well as the forgotten exposures of the CPUSA from the ‘30s and ‘40s, the book would be performing a valuable service. But West claims to be doing much more. She is “connecting the dots” in a way that blinkered historians have failed to do.
The dots lead in three directions:
- The extent of subversion of the U.S. government;
- The consequences for foreign policy and military strategy;
- The implications for the response to Islam in the West today;
Each deserves a close look.
The extent of the subversion
Harry Hopkins puts in brief cameos in textbooks as FDR’s “crony” and “close advisor.” Readers for whom Hopkins is barely a name will be incredulous at the influence this ex-community organizer wielded and about how he exercised it. Also at how puerile his thoughts were on economics and history.
From May 1940 to the end of 1943 Hopkins was living in the White House, and had virtually unlimited access to Roosevelt. Unquestionably, he not only played a key role in decision-making in the Oval Office and in major appointments, but he controlled what Roosevelt learned from diplomatic sources, even, when he chose, consigning to the round file messages for FDR from Churchill and the U.S. Ambassador in London. On one occasion, in October 1944, when Churchill was determined to confront Stalin personally about Poland, he asked for Roosevelt’s support. Focused on the election, FDR gave him a carte blanche to speak for him on this issue. Hopkins, who for once had not been consulted, discovered the President’s reply and on his own authority cancelled the cable to Churchill as it was being transmitted. He then prevailed on his boss to withdraw his approval.
There is no question that he was deeply committed to the USSR. As George Marshall put it to his biographer: “Hopkins represented the Soviet interests, I represented the American interests.”
Was HLH also a Soviet agent?
In an essay published in 1998, Air Force historian Eduard Mark theorized, by the process of elimination, that he was “Agent 19” mentioned in Venona 812. Andrew and Mitrokhin called the article “a detailed, meticulous, and persuasive study,” but the Vassiliev papers revealed that this individual was in fact Lawrence Duggan, a State Department official. The identity of 19 was disclosed in 2009, in Haynes, Klehr, and Vassiliev’s Spies.
Instead of merely calling West’s attention to this (the conclusion had also been ignored in books by Romerstein and Breindel and by Evans and Romerstein), Radosh attacked West for not knowing about an alleged retraction Mark had made at a 2009 conference shortly before his death. The details of this retraction morphed alarmingly. In any case, it was not recorded and Mark put nothing in writing. The pursuit of this red herring involved lengthy email exchanges and angry recriminations.
West’s other source for identifying Hopkins as an agent was the recollection of defector Oleg Gordievsky of a lecture by Iskhak Akhmerov, “illegal” NKVD spy chief during the war. The lecture was given some 40 years before Gordievesky reported it, and Radosh hammers West for accepting the identification, condescendingly questioning her credentials as an historian.
But he is himself guilty of a more egregious lack of judgment in assessing evidence. He writes, “FDR said to Anna Rosenberg Hoffman, his unofficial advisor on labor matters, ‘Averill is right: we can’t do business with Stalin. He has broken every one of his promises he made at Yalta.’ He said this on March 24; a few weeks before his death. I looked in vain for that statement in West’s book. ”
This was a comment spoken in private to one individual, without witnesses. While there’s no reason to imagine Hoffman made up the quote -- FDR is reported to have made a similar observation to at least one other individual -- the idea that this off-hand remark somehow obliterates eleven years of accommodating Stalin is astonishing. The scales eventually fell from Neville Chamberlain’s eyes, too. “No word given by Germany’s ruler could be trusted,” he concluded after Hitler invaded Poland. Chamberlain has had his defenders, but no one has thought to vindicate him on the basis of his belated insight into Hitler’s character. In Roosevelt’s final letter to Churchill, after this conversation, he wrote, “I would minimize the general Soviet problem as much as possible because these problems…seem to arise every day and most of them straighten out.”
Radosh’s criticism is worth noting for what it reveals about his lingering affection for FDR.
Gordievsky, Andrew writes, eventually decided that Hopkins was “an unconscious agent.” This is not a helpful label. Whether he was receiving instructions or simply anticipating Stalin’s wishes, he was conscious of what he was doing. The authors’ conclusion suggests that they believe Akhmerov to have been exaggerating, but they offer no evidence to support this assumption. The identification of HLH as a Soviet agent is not something anyone would have forgotten in 40 years, or 60, or 80.
In his book with Mitrokhin, Andrew also issues a perfunctory denial: “Hopkins was an American patriot with little sympathy for the Soviet system.”
Again, no evidence is provided. West is right to be skeptical.
Still another high-level KGB defector, the not-always-reliable Pavel Sudoplatov, also fingered Hopkins as a “Soviet agent.” This was the opinion as well of Gordievsky’s CIA and MI6 colleagues after he became a double-agent.
A couple of actions of the “American patriot” lend some credence to the charge.
When KGB courier Victor Kravchenko defected in March 1944, Hopkins made strenuous efforts to have the “deserter” returned to the USSR. Kravchenko was spared only because Harry admitted to the Boss that he couldn’t guarantee that the former spy wouldn’t be executed by Stalin upon his return. This might cost FDR some votes.
In May 1943, when Hopkins was told by J. Edgar Hoover that a Comintern agent, serving as Third Secretary of the Soviet Embassy, was transferring large amounts of money to West Coast CPUSA honcho Steve Nelson to place agents “in industries engaged in secret war production,” Hopkins immediately notified the Soviet Embassy.
Haynes and Klehr claim that HLH would have contacted his handler, not the ambassador (though the report only says the embassy) and that his action was evidence simply of his willingness to win Stalin’s trust. Romerstein and Breindel argue that the very fact that he worked with Akhmerov, ostensibly a furrier in Baltimore, is grounds for suspicion. Any Russian “businessman” with access to the Kremlin was obviously an NKVD operative. There were other back-channel contacts the Co-President could have used.
If Hopkins was not an “agent of influence,” he was clearly a sympathizer and fellow traveller. While the distinction is of great importance to historians of Soviet espionage, it is of less consequence for the rest of us. The difference between “fellow-travellers” and Party members in terms of the services they rendered was not always clear-cut. Many of the former hewed loyally to the Party Line and put the Kremlin’s interests above America’s. There were certainly instances when the Party preferred that an individual not join, just as the NKVD sometimes preferred that its agents of influence not engage in espionage.
Someone certainly appreciated the assistance Hopkins was rendering, even if he was volunteering it gratis. When FDR’s affable gin-rummy partner entered the room at the Tehran Conference in November 1943, Stalin leapt to his feet, walked across the room, and shook hands with him. “He was the only man I ever saw Stalin show personal emotion for,” Averill Harriman recalled. Hopkins had received the same treatment in 1941. The Co-President had been given his own bomb shelter, stocked with champagne and caviar, and was cordially welcomed in person by the Engineer of Human Souls.
If Hopkins was not working for the NKVD or GRU, other highly placed government officials were. West discusses at length and persuasively the way in which Soviet agents Alger Hiss, Laughlin Currie, and Harry Dexter White, helped shape policy in Asia and in Europe. It was the latter who drafted the Morgenthau Plan, calling for the post-war de-industrialization of Germany, and handling Goebbels a valuable weapon in closing months of the war.
There were, in fact, some 349 individuals, many in federal agencies, mentioned in Venona who were working for the Soviets -- a staggering number. The cables, of course, used code names, and only about half of these individuals have been identified. And the project decrypted about 2900 cables out of several hundred thousand. Altogether over 500 agents may have penetrated the government.
But it’s Hopkins West credits with influencing FDR in three critical matters: the initiation and operation of Lend-Lease, the decision about where a second front should be opened, and how overtures from anti-Nazi Germans should be received. She devotes chapters, or most of chapters, to each.
This is the second set of dots: what West believes were disastrous policies influenced by the de facto occupiers in D.C.
The consequences for foreign policy and military strategy
On October 26, 1942, the President and Co-President waited with bated breath as the U.S. Ambassador to the Soviet Union, Admiral William Standley, was ushered into the Oval Office. It was not easy returning to the country in the middle of the war, but Standley had requested a personal meeting with Roosevelt; what he had to say could not be cabled or entrusted to the diplomatic pouch. FDR and Hopkins were convinced that the Ambassador had information about a separate peace that Stalin was negotiating with Hitler. His message, though, was about U.S., not Soviet, policy: “Stop acting like Santa Claus, Chief,” Standley said. “Let’s get something from Stalin in return.”
Hopkins was incredulous: “Is this why you asked to come home for consultations?” It was.
Alger Hiss had little trouble manipulating his inexperienced boss, Secretary of State Edward Stettinius. The same was true for Harry Dexter White, Henry Morgenthau’s assistant at Treasury. But Standley resented that control of Lend-Lease shipments was in the hands of General Philip Faymonville, formerly known as “the Red Colonel,” whose position and promotion had been pressed by Hopkins and who reported only to the Lend-Lease Administration. Faymonville was in fact a Soviet asset, having been blackmailed in a “honey-trap” sting. In the days before “don’t ask, don’t tell,” a male NKVD agent had spent a night with the general.
Standley’s plea is not recounted by West, but it reveals the gratuitousness of the charges leveled by Radosh and others about Lend-Lease.
The admiral knew perfectly well the great service the Red Army was rendering the Allies and its pressing need for war materiel. What he wanted was some oversight of what was being transferred to them. What he also wanted was reciprocity.
To any student of European diplomacy, nothing is more astonishing than the failure of the U.S. government to use the transfers as leverage with the Soviets. It was astonishing to some State Department officials as well.
The quid pro quos Standley had in mind were modest. In the first place, he hoped for a “thank you.” The Russian people were not being informed of the aid, and he wanted a public acknowledgement of American largesse. When he suggested this at a news conference, FDR and Hopkins were outraged, and immediately decided to replace the plain-speaking admiral. (The useful idiot Joe Davies -- Standley called him a “clown” -- was at once dispatched to the Kremlin, where, after the admiral was asked to leave the room, he delivered a personal letter from FDR to Stalin pleading once again for meeting between the two -- the very large bee in Roosevelt’s bonnet.)
Standley also hoped to see a little civility on the part of Soviet officials; the embassy staff were treated as spies. But the reciprocity he was most interested in was the release of U.S. flyers interned in Siberia after they’d landed following bombing runs on Japan. He also wanted the Soviets to provide weather maps, exchange other information, not permit the Japanese to fish in Russian waters, etc.
He was particularly frustrated by the Soviet non-response to inquiries he made about 15,000 Polish officers captured by the Russians.
In the end, it was the failure to use Lend-Lease to good effect in disputes over Poland that’s most puzzling.
When the Warsaw uprising began at the end of July 1944, after Soviet forces had reached the suburbs and were urging the Home Army to attack the Germans, Allied planes dropping supplies to the insurgents were not permitted to land and refuel on Soviet-held territory; fighters thus couldn’t accompany the Liberators and Halifaxes, and London-based commandos could not be flown in. And the Red Army stayed put, refusing to assist the “handful of criminals” its broadcasts had incited. While the Allies could not insist on a Soviet offensive, they could threaten the suspension of aid unless landing strips were made available. Eden proposed this but was over-ruled.
Aid continued to flow despite other affronts -- like the arrest of sixteen leaders of the Polish government-in-exile when they arrived in Moscow to negotiate post-war arrangements.
Withholding information about the Katyn Forest massacre by the U.S. could be justified if this, too, were used as leverage. Public opinion in the America would be outraged if the truth should emerge, the Kremlin might have been told. Diplomacy often requires blackmail.
But the aid was always unconditional. “If I give him everything I possibly can and ask nothing from him in return, noblesse oblige, he won’t try to annex anything and will work with me for a world of democracy and peace,” FDR told William Bullitt.
“Everything,” in the end included top-secret information about the Manhattan project and ¾ of a ton of uranium. West documents this in Chapter 5, relying primarily on the testimony of Maj. George Racey Jordan, who oversaw the shipments, and she exercises some caution in presenting the evidence. Jordan opened black suitcases bulging with maps, classified State Department documents, naval and shipping intelligence, etc. He also observed Russians -- or Americans who had been living in the USSR -- scampering out of the Soviet cargo planes and disappearing into the Montana woods; hundreds of Russians also entered the U.S. in official capacities connected with Lend-Lease.
In rebuttal, Radosh offers a disquisition on uranium isotopes and the difficulty of producing a bomb. That Russia eventually developed a plutonium bomb is beside the point.
Unfortunately, West’s rhetorical excesses again act as a red flag. Repeatedly, Lend-Lease is labeled “a rogue operation.” Readers of American Betrayal would have no clue that, as the name suggests, the program was originally intended to help Britain: funds and supplies were lent in exchange for leases on British territory. When Lend-Lease was launched in March 1941, Stalin was Hitler’s ally. (It was proposed, by the way, in an carefully-crafted letter from Churchill on December 7, 1940, not as West suggests.) She also doesn’t acknowledge that Britain in the end received the great majority of Lend-Lease aid: over $31 billion versus about $11 billion for the USSR. Readers would not know how desperately that aid was needed, and how perilous Britain’s situation was. “How much longer can you hold out?” a worried American diplomat asked his taxi driver. “One day longer than the bloody ‘un,” the cabbie grimly replied.
It was very much in U.S. interests to have Russia engaging the bulk of German forces in the east. Even after the invasion of Italy, Anglo-American forces faced about a dozen divisions, whereas 205 were fighting on the eastern front, along with 14 satellite divisions.
Soviet losses boggle the mind. By the end of the war, some 8-13 million soldiers and 13-18 million civilians had been killed. Comparable figures for the U.K. were 385,000 and 70,000, for the U.S. 407,000 and fewer than 1,000.
But this doesn’t mean Ambassador Standley’s complaints about Lend-Lease were not fully justified.
Tomorrow, Part 2: The Second Front
Jeff Lipkes is the author of Politics, Religion and Classical Political Economy in Britain and Rehearsals: The German Army in Belgium, August 1914. A second edition of Rehearsals, abridged and revised, will appear at the beginning of July, along with a selection of the letters of Sir Edward Grey, Dear Katharine Courageous. Lipkes’ translation of Henri Pirenne’s La Belgique et la guerre mondiale, Belgium and the First World War, was published earlier this year.