August 5, 2021

Saving Stalin

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In a column that ran in the July 25 edition of The Weekly, Mr. Kuropas examined how the United States saved the Soviet Union during Lenin’s rule. In this column, Mr. Kuropas details how the United States saved the Soviet Union under Stalin’s rule.

Vladimir Lenin consolidated his coup d’ etat of Russia’s provisional government in 1918.

U.S. President Woodrow Wilson refused to recognize the bandit regime. Presidents Warren G. Harding, Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover followed suit.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt decided to change course. The Soviet Union, now under the firm leadership of Joseph Stalin, was recognized as a legitimate state by the United States of America in 1932, just as the Holodomor was gaining traction.

America’s flood gates were opened for Stalin soon after the Soviets established their embassy in Washington, D.C. “By the end of the 1930s,” Prof. Sean McKeen wrote in his book “Stalin’s War: a New History of World War II,” “there were hundreds of paid Soviet agents working inside the U.S. government (221, according to contemporary Soviet records, or 329, according to the Venona decrypts), from the Depart­ments of Agriculture to State to the Treasury to the U.S. Army.”

Add to that number 75 plus spies and informants who stepped up their activities once Soviet nationals were allowed to operate legally under diplomatic cover thanks to FDR’s recognition of the Bolsheviks as legitimate rulers.

There were also hundreds of soft sympathizers lurking in the wings ready to do Moscow’s bidding. “The Soviet Embassy in Washington was a critical strategic foothold for Stalin as he prepared his Communist empire for war,” Prof. McKeen wrote. “Purges of Russia hands in the U.S. State Department carried out in 1937 deprived Roosevelt of informed advice on Stalin and his foreign policy.”

At over 800 pages “Stalin’s War” is a door stopper. It is also a great read, filled with little known or forgotten facts that jogged my memory. I had forgotten, for example, how many times FDR and Stalin mocked Winston Churchill in his presence. At Yalta, Prof. McKeen wrote, the behavior of America’s president suggests a “near-catatonic condition….”

The most significant factor that saved Stalin during the Roosevelt administration was America’s lend-lease policy, formally titled “An Act to Promote the Defense of the United States” (H.R. 1776), which was enacted on March 11, 1941. The initial purpose of the legislation was to provide the United Kingdom, free France, the Republic of China, eventually the Soviet Union, and other allied nations fighting the Axis powers with food, oil and material. Between 1941 and 1945, a total of $50.1 billion ($575 billion in 2019 dollars) was eventually spent.

Soon after Russia invaded Finland in 1939, Roosevelt placed a “moral embargo” on any assistance to the Bolsheviks. Hitler’s attack on the Soviets in June 1941 lifted the embargo, sending some $11.3 billion of the original $50 billion Stalin’s way.

Republicans such at Sen. Robert Taft and Robert M. LaFollette were vehemently opposed to Soviet assistance. “Senator LaFollette warned that ‘in the next few weeks the American people will witness the greatest whitewash in all history. They will be told to forget the purges…, the persecution of religion, the confiscation of property, the invasion of Finland and the vulture role Stalin played in seizing hold of prostrate Poland, all of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. These will be made to seem the acts of a ‘democracy’ preparing to fight Nazism.’” Roosevelt ignored the criticism.

The U.S. lend-lease program eventually “fed, armed and provisioned the Red Army and Russian war industry for four years, arguably contributing more than any of Stalin’s generals to the Soviet victories over Germany and Japan,” argued Prof. McKeen.

The man largely responsible for this amazing feat was Harry Hopkins who enjoyed a kind of “Rasputin” existence in the Roosevelt administration. Mr. and Mrs. Hopkins actually lived in the White House itself. Once the U.S. was at war, it was Mr. Hopkins who made the Soviet Union his number one priority, ignoring the pressing needs of Gen. Douglas MacArthur fighting the Japanese in the Pacific theater. As America came to his assistance, Stalin’s appetite for more was insatiable.

Lend-lease aid during the Battle of Stalin­grad, for example, included a monthly allowance of two million short tons of wheat, 10,000 trucks, 5,000 tons of explosives, 15,000 tons of canned meat, 12,000 tons of lard, 5,000 tons of soap and 10,000 tons of vegetable oil. All this in addition to more than 267 Bell P-39 Airacobra combat airplanes.

“There was little Soviet gratitude,” wrote Prof. McKeen. In exchange for all of its assistance, “the U.S. government could have asked any price: payment in cash, by loan or in kind; political concessions inside Russia, or promises from Stalin of better behavior abroad, such as abandoning his spying operations in Washington… Instead, the Americans simply gave and demanded nothing in return aside from a vague, nonbinding promise of loan repayment beginning five years after the war was over, at no interest.”

Stalin, meanwhile, was working behind the scenes to force Japan into war with the U.S. When it appeared that the U.S. would reach an agreement with Tokyo before hostilities broke out, Stalin’s agent at the Treasury Department, Harry Dexter White, penned a memorandum demanding that Secretary of State Cordell Hull inform the Japanese ambassador that negotiations will continue only after Japan withdraws “all military, naval, air and police forces from China as well as Indo-China.” This was an impossible demand for the Japanese, who came to believe that war was inevitable. Pearl Harbor was the answer. For Stalin, this was a godsend. Russian troops protecting Moscow from a Japanese invasion could now be sent to Stalingrad.

Stalin was not only “saved” by the U.S., he was greatly empowered. Prof. McKeen concluded with the following: “By objective measures of territory conquered and war booty seized, Stalin was the victor in both Europe and Asia, and no one else came close.”
There are many more events in Prof. McKeen’s treatise that may come as a surprise to some readers of this column.

Stay tuned.

Myron Kuropas’s e-mail address is kuropas@comcast.net.