The Place to Find All Things Churchill

“Comrades and brothers” Churchill, Stalin and the Moscow Conference of 1942

By Joshua Greenberg

Columbia University
Department of History
UN3011
The Second World War
Professor Paul Chamberlin
Final Research Paper


Much has been written about Winston Churchill, his travels, and the relationships which he built during the Second World War. Whilst historiography of intra-allied relations has paid the brunt of its attention to the meetings of the ‘Big Three’, little has been said of the way in which these relationships were originally constructed. In particular, limited historiography is dedicated to the way in which bilateral relationships, often of a very personal nature, ultimately created the working alliance between three different nations. This analysis seeks to explore this much-neglected angle of the Second World War’s historiography by focusing on the relationship created between Britain and the USSR.

The alliance forged between Great Britain and the Soviet Union during the Second World War is one unlike any that policy makers in the early 1930’s could have predicted; the two countries had been at odds with each other since the October Revolution of 1917 which toppled the three-century old Romanov Dynasty. They practiced polar opposite economic systems. One was, a template for democracy and the rule of law, while the other was a communist monolith known in the 1930’s for its authoritarian policies, political persecution and limits on individual freedom. The Second World War brought the Soviet Union into an unlikely alliance with Great Britain and the United States which over time developed into a close political and military relationship in a conflict unlike any which the world had seen. One, often overlooked event in August 1942 stands out in the history of the foundation of the Grand Alliance. A fateful and secretive mission to Moscow by Winston Churchill to meet for the first time with Joseph Stalin, would lay the groundwork for the wartime coalition now known as the ‘Big Three’. In the historiography of the Second World War, much more attention has been paid to the meetings of the Big Three at Teheran, Yalta and Potsdam. Historians have argued that these meetings were more important in the grand scheme of the Second World War. However, without Churchill’s establishing a personal relationship with Stalin, it is doubtful that future conferences would prove to be fruitful. The Moscow Conference of 1942 preceded any meetings of the Big Three and formed a basis for future interaction between the UK, USA and USSR. Furthermore, Churchill’s personal involvement in the conference was crucial to building a wartime alliance with Stalin. Without Churchill’s involvement, it could have been the case that the allies would have fought on each front as a separate conflict with little cooperation or coordination between their armies. Through careful diplomacy, Churchill, a staunch anti-communist, was able to embrace Stalin and the USSR as close allies, even ‘comrades’, leading to closer future relations.  As this paper seeks to demonstrate, the Moscow Conference of 1942 was decisive in forging the Grand Alliance and the outcome of the Second World War as we know it today.

Aside from analyzing the historical significance of the 1942 summit between Churchill and Stalin, this paper seeks to emphasize the significance of Churchill’s personal role in forging the Anglo-Soviet alliance. First, it must be argued that Churchill’s decades-long journey from firebrand anti-communist to pragmatic politician was a crucial factor in the successful creation of an Anglo-Soviet alliance. While Churchill was repulsed by many aspects of the Soviet system, as the Nazi threat loomed in the 1930’s, he ironically and swiftly became an early advocate for the normalization of ties with the Soviet Union in order to present a united bulwark against Hitler’s expansionist ambitions. Second, this analysis seeks to explore the skill and delicacy of Churchill’s diplomacy in maintaining Soviet cooperation in the war effort. Churchill’s efforts in consistently tempering Stalin’s high expectations and demands of his allied partners – while also assuaging Stalin’s infamous suspicion and paranoia – cannot be understated.

Following the Russian Revolution and throughout the interwar years, Winston Churchill was known for his fervent opposition to communism. He compared Lenin’s arrival in Moscow to a “culture of typhoid”[1], and feared the potential that communism had to throw the entirety of Europe into even more turmoil than it already faced in 1917. Following Russia’s withdrawal from the war, Churchill publicly supported a combined British, French and American intervention in the Russian Civil War on the side of the White Russian Army, arguing that “infant Bolshevism should have been strangled in its cradle.”[2] Such a mission did in fact take place in 1918, yet proved to be futile with the majority of allied troops leaving Russian soil by 1919. Appointed Secretary of State for War in January 1919, it was under Churchill that the order to evacuate British troops from Northern Russia was given, an operation which was completed by September 1919. In a letter published in 1920, Churchill explained the decision to order a British withdrawal, stating, “We have had enough of war and more than enough. It is not, however, the British who are making war, but the Russian Bolsheviks.”[3] Churchill continued the letter with a scathing attack on the Bolsheviks’ foreign policy, writing that “Their avowed intention is to procure by violence a revolution in every country… My sole object has been and will be to keep such hateful foreign oppressors far from our native land.”[4] From public statements such as these (in this case a letter to a Leicester Trade Council, later published in a British Army newspaper) it can be seen that to Churchill, saw Bolshevism as a considerable threat to Great Britain, and he was adamant to stop it from spreading farther than the borders of Russia.

By end of the First World War, Churchill had encountered enough of Russia and its international role to form a firm opinion as to her nature in the international arena. From his experience as a young lieutenant in India, he witnessed firsthand the challenges of the ‘Great Game’ and the power struggle between the British and Russian Empires in the Middle East. In his role as First Lord of the Admiralty during the First World War, he took responsibility for the failure of the Gallipoli Campaign, an offensive with the intent of weakening the Ottoman Empire and taking control of the straits which provided a much-needed supply route to Russia. It was then an abrupt disappointment to Churchill when after the October Revolution, the Bolsheviks “betrayed their country and falsified its engagements to its Allies, and whereby they liberated more than 1,000,000 Germans to come over and attack our people in the West.”[5] Prior to the revolution, it can be argued that Churchill was a Russophile and a defender of the Russian Empire; unafraid to challenge it when it came to social issues and the lavish life of the Tsars, but also declaring that “there is no Power fighting on our side to whom we feel a deeper debt of gratitude than to the great Empire of Russia.”[6] Churchill’s denouncement and contempt of Bolshevism certainly stemmed from fear and loathing of its political system, yet more so from a sense of deep betrayal following Russia’s withdrawal from the First World War, leaving England and her allies to fight alone on the Western Front. In a speech entitled ‘The Bolshevik Menace’, given in 1919, Churchill claimed that “Every British and French soldier killed last year was really done to death by Lenin and Trotsky”[7] and that “Of all tyrannies in history the Bolshevist tyranny is the worst, most destructive, and the most degrading.”[8] Given Churchill’s own aristocratic heritage, the argument could be made that his bloodline was a reason for his avid hatred of Bolshevism. Ye, there is little evidence to support such an allegation made by David Lloyd George that Churchill’s “ducal blood revolted against the wholesale elimination of Grand Dukes in Russia.”[9] In 1919, Churchill would argue that “The miseries of the Russian people under the Bolshevists far surpass anything they suffered even under the Tsar.”[10] Later, in a speech in the Commons in 1920, he would state that “my hatred of Bolshevism… arises from the bloody and devastating terrorism which they practice in every land into which they have broken, and by which alone their criminal regime can be maintained.”[11] Suffice it to say, prior to the Second World War, Churchill saw the Soviet Union and the doctrines of Communism as the greatest threat to world stability and was adamant in his pursuit of stopping their spread.

Churchill’s anti-Bolshevik sentiment persisted throughout the 1920’s. Though he saw intervention in the ongoing Russian Civil War as a lost cause, Churchill was insistent in his fear that communism could spread to Great Britain, and would devote his rhetoric to making this clear. In November 1920, he made this point in a speech at the United Wards Club Luncheon, stating that “We can at any rate make sure that in our life and time the deadly disease which has struck down Russia should not be allowed to spring up here and poison us as it is poisoning them.”[12] By 1925, Churchill had ‘crossed the floor’ and changed his allegiance from the Liberal to the Conservative Party. As Conservative Chancellor of the Exchequer, Churchill continued his bearish view on Russia, both because of personal opinions but also since these views helped him to re-integrate into the Conservative Party. As Chancellor, in a speech outlining Conservative policy, Churchill declared that the parliament which he joined was “elected above and beyond all other matters on the issue of Anti-Bolshevism,”[13] showing that anti-Soviet sentiment was a broadly agreed upon topic and not just limited to the policies of the Conservative party. In 1927, he stated that “Socialism and liberty cannot coexist.”[14] From statements such as these it is evident that Churchill’s stance on Bolshevism only hardened in the years following the Russian Revolution. Though some of this rhetoric was pinned at undermining the Labour party, there is no doubt, that Churchill felt it a personal mission to hinder the progress of socialism from spreading in England. Nevertheless, as seen in his attitude prior to the Revolution, Churchill did, at times speak out in support of the Russia of old. The final tome of his account of the First World War, ‘The World Crisis’, was dedicated “To Our Faithful Allies and Comrades in the Russian Imperial Armies,”[15] a tribute to the soldiers who Churchill knew to fight so well, but who were betrayed by both the revolution and the “misfortunes and mismanagement of the War”[16] by the Tsar.

By 1933, with the rise of Hitler, Churchill’s focus shifted to confronting the growing threat of Nazi Germany and less so on the follies of Bolshevism, which he had previously referred to as a “philosophy of hatred and death.”[17] During the early stages of the period known as his ‘Wilderness Years’, a time when Churchill found himself out of government and frowned on by Britain’s political establishment for opposition to issues such as greater independence for India, the issue of Russia and the Bolsheviks came up increasingly infrequently in his rhetoric and published works. At a debate in parliament in July 1934, Churchill brought up the question of the “reassociation of Soviet Russia with the Western European system”[18], arguing that if elements in the British government were to advocate for the return of Germany to the League of Nations, he did not see any reason as to why Russia could not be included as well, even when holding “the greatest prejudices against the political and social philosophy and system of government which the Russian people have.”[19] This was a remarkable comment for Churchill to make, given that he had spent the previous fifteen years advocating extremely hawkish views on Russia. By 1934, Churchill was well into his diatribe over the threat posed by Nazi Germany. In a speech broadcast that year on the radio, he warned of a “nation of nearly seventy millions of the most educated, industrious, scientific, disciplined people in the world who are being taught from childhood to think of war as a glorious exercise and death in battle as the noblest fate for man.”[20] Yet, his opinions on India and early warnings against Germany led him to be the “odd man out in British politics,”[21] with little hope of a return to government. At the same debate in July 1934, Churchill continued his speech stating that, “Russia is most deeply desirous of maintaining peace at the present time”[22] and commented that Russia had the potential to “become a stabilising force in Europe and to take her part with other countries whose danger she feels herself to share.”[23] Though Churchill’s attitude to Russia had changed significantly in a few short years, it was not in any way a placation of his views on communism, but a pragmatic approach to a country which he recognized would be a major player in both world and European affairs in the years to come.

In 1932, the diplomat Ivan Maisky was appointed as Soviet Ambassador to the Court of St James. His appointment, which would continue until 1943, when Maisky returned to Moscow to be promoted to Deputy Commissar of Foreign Affairs, coincided with an increasingly visible shift in Churchill’s approach to what was by then known as the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). Writing in his diary on New Year’s Eve 1934, Maisky acknowledged that 1934 was a year in which Anglo-Soviet relations took a monumental turn. He mentioned the July debate in parliament, calling it ‘astonishing’, and speculated that the Soviet Union had now become “such a major and stable international force that… even the most incorrigible Conservative beasts can ignore us no longer.”[24] In his biography of Maisky, published in 1944, the journalist George Bilainkin would argue that July 18th 1934 was the start of the thaw in ‘Anglo-Soviet frost’. In his first, lengthy meeting with Lord Vansittart, the British Permanent Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs, Maisky would express that “in modern Russia’s cupboard there were no plans that need in any way clash with Britain’s”[25] and that “Russia and Great Britain could, must, gladly join and hold hands in the interests of world peace.”[26] Churchill and Maisky first met at a dinner in June 1935 hosted by Vansittart. During their meeting, Churchill reportedly told Maisky that he was “abandoning his protracted struggle against the Soviet Union”[27] as he did not see it to pose a threat to Great Britain in the near future, and that the combined efforts of both nations should now be focused to preventing the rise of Nazi Germany. Churchill’s interactions with Maisky would continue throughout the 1930’s, highlighting his vision for increased Anglo-Soviet cooperation in the face of Nazi Germany. In November 1937, at a State Dinner hosted by George VI in honor of King Leopold of Belgium, Churchill and Maisky entered into an “animated and extended conversation”[28] during which Churchill explicitly stated that “We need a strong, very strong Russia.”[29] Churchill scolded the Anti-Comintern Pact of 1936, arguing that that it was directed at the British Empire as well as the USSR, and in a hushed tone, quizzed Maisky as to the strength of the USSR’s armed forces in the wake of what Maisky described as the “old wives tales… about the effect of the ‘purge’ on the general condition of the USSR.”[30] Whilst there is no doubt that Maisky was lying to himself in his diary by referring to Stalin’s purges as an ‘old wives tale’, his conversation with Churchill was something unlike Churchill had ever previously stated in public, let alone to an Ambassador of the Soviet Union. In September 1938, Churchill invited Maisky to visit his family home, Chartwell, in Kent. Maisky was astonished when Churchill, in conversation about his wine collection, referenced a bottle he had in his cellar from 1793 which he was saving for a special occasion. When asked as to what occasion he was referring to, Churchill declared “We’ll drink this bottle together when Great Britain and Russia beat Hitler’s Germany!”[31] Whilst Maisky did not note anything else of importance from this meeting, which was a social call and not an official visit, it is astonishing to see Churchill’s swift change of opinion on the Soviet Union, which just a few years prior, he considered the greatest threat to peace and stability in Europe as well as the wider world. As his future rhetoric and actions would demonstrate, Churchill’s nurturing of his relationship with Maisky would prove to be useful in the coming years.

By 1938, with German forces on the march and the Anschluss with Austria, Churchill’s attitude towards the USSR continued to shift towards one of mutual cooperation and not hindrance. Writing in the Manchester Guardian in 1938, Churchill warned that the British government need not be “improvidently foolish… to put needless barriers in the way of the general association of the great Russian mass”[32] in response to any Nazi aggression, arguing against the upcoming Munich agreement with Germany, and rather for Chamberlain to make an agreement with Stalin. Even by the time of the Nazi-Soviet Pact of August 1939, Churchill still suggested the possibility of Anglo-Soviet cooperation, arguing that a Russian occupation of Poland could keep Germany out of the Balkans. In 1939, Churchill was appointed to Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s War Cabinet and given the position of First Lord of the Admiralty, the same position he held at the beginning of the First World War. One month after his appointment, Churchill invited Maisky to a late-night meeting at the Admiralty to discuss the state of Anglo-Soviet relations, and what could be done in the future to improve them. By this stage, Britain was in a state of war with Germany, an ally of the Soviet Union, with which it had signed the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, and participated in invasion of Poland in September 1939. Churchill was in the precarious position of attempting to influence Soviet policy for the benefit of Great Britain, against Germany, whilst knowing that the Soviet Union was signatory to a non-aggression pact with the Nazis. He told Maisky that it was better for the Baltic States to “be brought into the Soviet state system rather than the German one”[33] and that “It is especially important not to let Germany reach the Black Sea.”[34] Churchill knew that at this point there was little he could do to lure the Russians away from their alliance with Germany. Though the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact is commonly analyzed as a time-buying measure for the Soviet Union, neither Churchill nor Maisky knew for how long it would last. Churchill’s courting of Maisky in the early days of the Second World War can be seen as a tactical measure which he saw would be useful for any potential Anglo-Soviet alliance in the future. Churchill would take advantage of such meetings at every opportunity to stress Great Britain’s changing attitude to the Soviet Union. At a lunch with Maisky and Brendan Bracken, an early supporter of Churchill and later Minister of Information in Churchill’s War Cabinet, Churchill brought up the historical ties between Great Britain and Russia. In between puffs of his cigar, Churchill mulled over the “historical debt”[35] that Britain and France owed Russia, because of Russia’s intervention in the First World War, which resulted in the allied victory at the Battle of the Marne, blocking the German advance on Paris. He added that they now had a moral obligation to help Russia, “whatever Russia that may be – Red or White… to strengthen her position on the Baltic Sea,”[36] referring to the Winter War between the USSR and Finland. Even though official British policy, though neutral, was distinctly pro-Finnish, Churchill was aware of the greater picture at play, and convinced of the inevitability of a Soviet-German conflict.

On the 22nd of June 1941, Germany launched its invasion of the Soviet Union, codenamed Operation Barbarossa. By this time, Churchill was Prime Minister of a country that stood alone against Nazi Germany, with the threat of invasion, and omnipresent bombardment from the air. On the evening of the 22nd of June, Churchill took to the radio to inform the British public of what had occurred, and its ramifications for the future of the war effort. In a bold and impassioned speech, Churchill spoke of the need to immediately enter into an alliance with the Soviet Union, and how “the cause of any Russian fighting for his hearth and home is the cause of free men and free peoples in every quarter of the globe.”[37] Importantly, Churchill also mentioned that he had given Stalin and others (notably Maisky) prior warning as to what could happen and that he hoped that “this warning did not fall unheeded.”[38] Furthermore, Churchill drew historical comparisons as to the situation which Russia and Great Britain faced in 1914 when, “the Russian armies were our allies against the same deadly foe,”[39] implying that in 1941, the two nations could together fight as allies. Importantly, Churchill did not forget his previous convictions as to the nature of communism. In his remarks, he stated that “No one has been a more consistent opponent of Communism that I have… I will unsay no word that I have spoken about it. But all this fades away before the spectacle which is now unfolding.”[40] Writing in his diary, Maisky, who just days before had written that he was “disinclined to believe that Hitler will attack us,”[41] stated that he though Churchill’s speech was “bellicose and resolute: no compromises or agreements! War to the bitter end!”[42] On his attacks on Communism, Maisky remarked that “The prime minister had to play it safe, of course, in all that concerned communism”[43] whether to save face at home, or because of Churchill’s hope of America entering the war as well. In a speech lasting less than twenty minutes, Churchill delivered a message that would see Great Britain and the Soviet Union form the first bonds of the ‘Grand Alliance’, leading to the creation of the greatest military and political coalition of the twentieth century, and heralding the beginning of the end for Nazi Germany.

Even prior to the formation of the Anglo-Soviet Alliance, Churchill had made a number of overtures to Stalin, hoping to convince him of the threat of making an agreement with the Nazis. However, Churchill waited a number of weeks following Barbarossa before sending him a personal message. On July 8th 1941, Stalin received a message from Churchill, stating that “We shall do everything to help you that time, geography and our growing resources will allow.”[44] Churchill also detailed the attacks of the Royal Air Force against Germany which could “force Hitler to bring back some of his air power to the West and gradually take some of the strain off you.”[45] The significant time lag between the invasion of the Soviet Union and Churchill’s first personal message to Stalin can be interpreted as Churchill attempting to weigh what scarce resources Britain had available, but also to see the military situation which the Soviet Union was confronted with and how it would respond. Almost immediately, Churchill was enthusiastic for an Anglo-Soviet alliance that would endure the war, understanding that Stalin would be skeptical following his betrayal by Nazi Germany. On the other hand, Stalin persisted in calls for the opening of a second front as early as 1942. Though military cooperation ensued, and both Russian and British advisors were dispatched to each country, Churchill understood that he would have to meet with Stalin, establish a personal relationship with the “great Revolutionary Chief”[46] and “have it all out face to face… rather than trust to telegrams and intermediaries.”[47]

At 06:30 on the morning of Wednesday August 12th 1942, Churchill, accompanied by a number of senior military officials, took off from Teheran in the final stretch of his journey to Moscow. Gazing out of the windows of the B-24 Liberator, Churchill could see vast swathes of Russian countryside, the occasional collective farm, and the mighty River Volga. Writing in his memoirs, Churchill pondered over his “mission to this sullen, sinister Bolshevik State (he) had once tried so hard to strangle at its birth, and which, until Hitler appeared, (he) had regarded as the mortal foe of civilized freedom.”[48] Churchill knew that his mission to the Soviet Union was not going to be easy. The overbearing message which he brought: that there would be no second front in 1942, was, as Churchill himself put it, “carrying a large lump of ice to the North Pole.”[49] Nevertheless, Churchill regarded it imperative for him to personally break this news to Stalin, but also to prove to him, that Great Britain was committed to winning the war as an ally of the Soviet Union. After a ten-and-a-half-hour flight from Teheran, Churchill arrived in Moscow on the afternoon of Wednesday August 12th 1942. Accompanied by Molotov, the Soviet Minister of Foreign Affairs, and the Chief of the Soviet General Staff, Marshal Shaposhnikov, Churchill reviewed a Red Army Guard of honor and then said a few words in front of the assembled press. In his remarks, Churchill referred to the alliance between the Western allies and the Soviet Union as one of “comrades and brothers”[50] committed to destroying the Nazi regime until it was “beaten into the ground, until the memory only of it remains as an example and a warning for a future time.”[51] It was clearly a change of tone for Churchill to refer to anyone as a comrade, but fitting for his first speech on Soviet soil, one which would be broadcast in the Soviet mass media as soon as Churchill’s trip concluded.

Churchill decided to break the bad news immediately to Stalin. In a meeting on the evening of his arrival, Churchill explained to Stalin that both British and American planners agreed that there could be no cross-channel invasion of France in 1942. Churchill continued, that by 1942, over one million American troops would be able to reach the United Kingdom, which would increase their total troop numbers, creating “an expeditionary force of twenty-seven divisions, to which the British Government were prepared to add twenty-one divisions.”[52] Stalin did not take this news lightly, questioning whether the British were afraid to fight the Germans and stating to Churchill that “a man who was not prepared to take risks could not win a war.”[53] Churchill then leaped on the opportunity to pivot the conversation to the allied landings in North Africa, Operation ‘Torch’, as well as the British efforts in bombing industrial areas of Germany. A Second Front, Churchill added, did not limit itself to the “fortified coast opposite England.”[54] To illustrate this point, Churchill drew a picture of a crocodile, and illustrated to Stalin that the Western Allies could attack its “soft belly… as we attacked his hard snout.”[55] Churchill identified a number of reasons as to why a landing in North Africa could be advantageous in taking some strain away from the Russians. Firstly, that victory in that theatre of operations would be much more reachable than that in Europe in 1942. This would pave the way for future operations in Europe in 1943. Furthermore, victory in North Africa would give the allies a stronger foothold in the Mediterranean, therefore making the war increasingly difficult for Hitler’s ally, Italy, as well as securing influence for the Western Allies throughout Southern Europe. In a few moments, Stalin was able to comprehend the strategic advantages of Operation Torch, something which Churchill himself had been “wrestling with for months.”[56] Stalin commented on the effectiveness of the landings for the first time by telling Churchill, “May God help this enterprise to succeed.”[57] Churchill was able to continue to pivot the meeting to explain the potential of allied success in North Africa, but also suggested the possibility of an “Anglo-American Air Force on the southern flank of the Russian armies in order to defend the Caspian,”[58] as well as possible raids on France and Norway to gather information on the German resistance. Churchill’s first meeting with Stalin, which lasted close to four hours, succeeded in establishing a positive contact between the two leaders. In a Telegram to the War Cabinet following their meeting, Churchill wrote, “I expect I shall establish a solid and sincere relationship with this man.”[59]

However, such self-congratulation on the part of Churchill proved to be short lived. Upon his return to State Dacha No.7, Churchill reportedly remarked to his military advisors that “Stalin was a peasant whom he knew how to handle.”[60] One can speculate on the likelihood that the State Dacha, which “was prepared with totalitarian lavishness”[61] and a dining room “with every form of choice food and liquor, including of course caviar and vodka,”[62] was bugged. The next day, the atmosphere of goodwill of the Wednesday night meeting had disappeared.”[63] Late in the evening of August 13th 1942, Churchill returned to the Kremlin to continue his talks with Stalin, accompanied by Averell Harriman, the envoy of President Roosevelt. The second meeting between Churchill and Stalin proved to be much more argumentative and frank than the first, with points at which Harriman noted that Stalin was “really insulting.”[64] Again, Churchill needed to defend his argument for no cross-channel invasion in 1942, and instead push for Operation Torch, which Stalin had decided “did not concern the Soviet Union directly.”[65] Churchill, nevertheless continued in his attempts to convince Stalin that “TORCH would assist the Soviet Government and would be… the only active military operation that could have this effect”[66] in the Autumn of 1942. Seeing an impasse, both leaders turned to the issue of the Arctic convoys. Stalin felt the need to criticize the amount of aid that the USSR received, suggesting that more had been promised that had been received, an issue which both Churchill and Harriman denied, with Harriman, on behalf of the United States, stating that “supplies for Russia had over-riding priority.”[67] Following this meeting, Churchill would send a message to Clement Atlee, the Labour Deputy Prime Minister. He mentioned that Stalin had said “a great many disagreeable things, especially about our being too much afraid to fight the Germans,”[68] a reference not only to Great Britain, but one that was also aimed at the United States. Averell Harriman, present at most of Churchill’s official interactions with Stalin would remark that “For Churchill, this trip was sort of going into the unknown and he didn’t want to make any commitments,”[69] seeing as Churchill, though accompanied by Harriman for much of his journey to Moscow, did not lay out any strategy for his interactions with Stalin to Harriman. Following this tense meeting, Churchill was scheduled to leave Moscow on the morning of the 15th of August, but Stalin had invited Churchill and his party to dinner on the evening of 14th and questioned whether Churchill could stay for longer. Churchill responded to this request by stating that “there was no ring of comradeship in his (Stalin’s) attitude… (and that he) had travelled far to establish good working relations… (and) had done (his) utmost to help Russia and would continue to do so.”[70] Churchill, in his own humble words described his utterance of the above as “animated,”[71] yet according to Harriman, Churchill had given one of the “most brilliant of his wartime utterances,”[72] which broke the newfound tension between Stalin and his western visitors, and led to Stalin’s acceptance of there being no allied invasion of France in 1942.

The next morning, (August 14th), Churchill prepared an aide-memoire, in response to one which was received from Stalin the previous evening, recounting the conversation they had. In the document, Churchill re-stated the advantages of Operation Torch and confirmed his continued support for aid to Russia “by every practicable means.”[73] The same evening, Churchill’s party drove to the Kremlin for a state dinner with Stalin., which Churchill confirmed had “passed off in a very friendly atmosphere.”[74] At both Churchill and Stalin’s insistence, the British delegation remained for one more day so that meetings between the military leaders of the United Kingdom and USSR could he held, though these did not go as planned since the assembled Soviet officers were not authorized to answer many of the questions posed by the British. Reporting back to Roosevelt, Harriman concluded that, “Under all the circumstances I believe the discussion could not have been developed better nor the conclusion more satisfactory… The relationship between the two men had reached a most friendly basis.”[75]

On the evening of the 15th, Churchill made his final journey to the Kremlin (on this trip) to bid his farewell to Stalin. Churchill described their conversation that evening as a “useful and important talk.”[76] Churchill promised Stalin that the RAF would intensify its bombing of Germany as soon as the nights became longer. Churchill also promised Stalin to intensify lend-lease, specifically the shipment of lorries to the Red Army, which Stalin saw as a priority due to their need in transporting infantry units in support of the armored brigades, an issue which Churchill promised he would see to swiftly, and which he reported to the War Cabinet the following day.[77] Shortly before Churchill’s planned departure, Stalin invited Churchill to his personal residence to continue the conversation, a meeting at which the two, in a much less formal setting, where Stalin’s daughter and a housekeeper laid the table, were able to discuss topics ranging from the Arctic convoys, to a potential British landing in Norway, but most importantly for Churchill, to cement the relationship which he had planned for so long to build. In the early hours of the morning of the 16th of August 1942, Stalin and Churchill released a joint statement which concluded that the Soviet Union, Great Britain and the United States of America would continue the fight against Nazi Germany until “the complete destruction of Hitlerism and any similar tyranny has been achieved.”[78]

Had Churchill not travelled to Moscow to meet Stalin in August 1942, it is highly doubtful that the Soviet Union would have been as committed as it was to the allied cause throughout the Second World War. Churchill arrived in Moscow with no specific policy goals, but to establish a rapport with Stalin which could be used to lay the building blocks of the Grand Alliance for the future. Anglo-Soviet cooperation was a course of action which Churchill had explored and advocated for since the 1930’s, and the summit of August 1942 provided Churchill with the opportunity to materialize his desire for such a desperately needed alliance. Through skillful diplomacy, Churchill was able to persuade the Russians that it was improbable to open a second front in Europe in 1942, but also to convince them of the need to drive the Germans out of North Africa in order to hold a winning streak in the war. It was therefore imperative that Churchill meet with Stalin to close the gap in the still nascent Big Three relationship and lay the groundwork for future conferences at which more material issues could be discussed. Furthermore, following the meeting, any suspicion that Stalin had of the Western Allies had been significantly diminished, at least in the short term, in favor of the war effort. Churchill’s journey to Moscow led to a plan of action for the course of the war, increased confidence in the allied relationship, and convinced Stalin as to the importance of Operation Torch. The allies agreed on intensifying the bombing of Germany, increasing military aid to Russia, but also left Stalin with the understanding that the timing for an invasion of France would be up to Great Britain and the United States. Churchill left Moscow proud of an alliance growing in confidence and strength. It is highly likely that this trip was vital in securing the allied victory in 1945 and shaping the outcome of the Second World War as we know it today.

 

Works Cited

Bilainkin, George. Maisky: Ten Years Ambassador. London: George Allen & Unwin Ltd, 1944.

Churchill, Winston S. In Churchill By Himself: The Definitive Collection of Quotations, edited by Richard M. Langworth. Newburyport: RosettaBooks, 2013. https://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/columbia/reader.action?docID=5503195

Churchill, Winston S. (Attributed to), “Churchill’s Greatness”, Jeffery Wallin with Juan Williams of Fox News, from “Special Report with Brit Hume,” Fox News Channel, 4 September 2001. https://web.archive.org/web/20031216033237/http://www.winstonchurchill.org/i4a/pages/index.cfm?pageid=282

Churchill, Winston S. “MR. CHURCHILL AND RUSSIA: LETTER TO LEICESTER TRADES COUNCIL”, The Cologne Post: A Daily Newspaper Published by the Army of the Rhine; Aug 10, 1920; 421; Trench Journals and Unit Magazines of the First World War.
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Churchill, Winston S. Commons Sitting of Tuesday 29th July, 1919. 20th Century House of Commons Hansard Sessional Papers. Fifth Series, Volume 118.
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Churchill, Winston S. Winston Spencer Churchill: His Complete Speeches 1897-1963, edited by Robert Rhodes James, New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1974.

Churchill, Winston S. Commons Sitting of Thursday 8th July, 1920. 20th Century House of Commons Hansard Sessional Papers. Fifth Series, Volume 131. https://parlipapers.proquest.com/parlipapers/result/pqpdocumentview?accountid=10226&groupid=106481&pgId=fc7a5740-4e43-41a7-ae18-25788185e89e&rsId=169D55C2A1E

Churchill, Winston S. Winston Spencer Churchill: His Complete Speeches 1897-1963, edited by Robert Rhodes James. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1974.

Churchill, Winston S. The World Crisis, Volume VI. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1931

Churchill, Winston S. The World Crisis, Volume IV, The Aftermath, 1929. Newburyport: RosettaBooks, 2013. https://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/columbia/reader.action?docID=5503188

Churchill, Winston S. Commons Sitting of Friday, 13th July, 1934. 20th Century House of Commons Hansard Sessional Papers. Fifth Series, Volume 292.
https://parlipapers-proquest-com.ezproxy.cul.columbia.edu/parlipapers/docview/t71.d76.cds5cv0292p0-0005?accountid=10226

Churchill, Winston S. “The Threat of Nazi Germany”, November 16th 1934. https://winstonchurchill.org/resources/speeches/1930-1938-the-wilderness/the-threat-of-nazi-germany/

Churchill, Winston S. Commons Sitting of Friday, 13th July, 1934. 20th Century House of Commons Hansard Sessional Papers. Fifth Series, Volume 292. https://parlipapers-proquest-com.ezproxy.cul.columbia.edu/parlipapers/docview/t71.d76.cds5cv0292p0-0005?accountid=10226

Churchill, Winston S. The Manchester Guardian, 10 May 1938.

Churchill, Winston S. “Alliance with Russia”, June 22nd 1941. https://winstonchurchill.org/resources/speeches/1941-1945-war-leader/the-fourth-climacteric/

Churchill, Winston S. The Second World War, Hinge of Fate. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1950.

Churchill to Attlee, 13 August 1942, FO800/300; Jacob diary, 13 August 1942, published in Charles Richardson, From Churchill’s Secret Circle to the BBC: The Biography of Lieutenant-General Sir Ian Jacob. London: Brassey’s, 1991.

Folly, Martin. “Seeking comradeship in the “Ogre’s Den:” Winston Churchill’s quest for a warrior alliance and his mission to Stalin, August 1942”, Brunel University, 2007. https://bura.brunel.ac.uk/bitstream/2438/5738/2/Fulltext.pdf

Gilbert, Martin. Winston S. Churchill, Volume VII, Road to Victory, 1941-1945. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1986.

Harriman, Averell. “Minutes of a Meeting held in the Kremlin, Moscow, on Thursday, August 13th 1942, at 11:15PM” Page 2. WF-12, “To Moscow with WSC” William Averell Harriman papers on Special Envoy to Churchill and Stalin 1941-1946, 1941-1974, Columbia University, Rare Book and Manuscript Library.

Harriman, Averell. Recollections of Mr. Harriman, “How I Came to Go to Moscow with Churchill”, October 29th 1953. WF-12, “To Moscow with WSC William Averell Harriman papers on Special Envoy to Churchill and Stalin 1941-1946, 1941-1974, Columbia University, Rare Book and Manuscript Library.

Harriman, Averell. “Personal for the President Only from Harriman” 14 August 1942, WF-12, “To Moscow with WSC William Averell Harriman papers on Special Envoy to Churchill and Stalin 1941-1946, 1941-1974, Columbia University, Rare Book and Manuscript Library.

Maisky, Ivan. The Maisky Diaries: Red Ambassador to the Court of St James’s, 1932-1943, edited by Gabriel Gorodetsky. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2015.

‘Moscow, August 1942’,’Commentary’: Premier Papers, 4/71/4, folios 952-5. In Martin Gilbert, Winston S. Churchill, Volume VII, Road to Victory, 1941-1945. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1986.

Pearce, Robert, “Churchill: The Wilderness Years”, History Review, Issue 59 (December 2007) http://ezproxy.cul.columbia.edu/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.cul.columbia.edu/docview/216210508?accountid=10226

Pelling, Henry. Winston Churchill, London: 1974.

Quinault, Roland, “Churchill and Russia”, War & Society, Volume 9, Issue 1 (1991)
https://columbia-illiad-oclc-org.ezproxy.cul.columbia.edu/illiad/zcu/illiad.dll?Action=10&Form=75&Value=847525

The Kremlin Letters: Stalin’s Wartime Correspondence with Churchill and Roosevelt, edited by David Reynolds & Vladimir Pechtanov. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2018

Footnotes

[1] Winston S. Churchill, Churchill By Himself: The Definitive Collection of Quotations, ed. Richard M. Langworth (Newburyport: RosettaBooks, 2013), Accessed April 16, 2019, https://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/columbia/reader.action?docID=5503195

[2] Winston S. Churchill, (attributed to), “Churchill’s Greatness”, Jeffery Wallin with Juan Williams of Fox News, from “Special Report with Brit Hume,” Fox News Channel, 4 September 2001. Accessed April 26th 2019, https://web.archive.org/web/20031216033237/http://www.winstonchurchill.org/i4a/pages/index.cfm?pageid=282

[3] Winston S. Churchill, “MR. CHURCHILL AND RUSSIA: LETTER TO LEICESTER TRADES COUNCIL”, The Cologne Post: A Daily Newspaper Published by the Army of the Rhine; Aug 10, 1920; 421; Trench Journals and Unit Magazines of the First World War. Page. 1. Accessed April 26th 2019, https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.cul.columbia.edu/docview/1630293335?pq-origsite=summon

[4] Ibid.

[5] Winston S. Churchill, Commons Sitting of Tuesday 29th July, 1919. 20th Century House of Commons Hansard Sessional Papers. Fifth Series, Volume 118. Accessed April 27th 2019, https://parlipapers-proquest-com.ezproxy.cul.columbia.edu/parlipapers/docview/t71.d76.cds5cv0118p0-0012?accountid=10226

[6] Robert Rhodes James (ed.), Winston Spencer Churchill: His Complete Speeches 1897-1963 (New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1974), III: 2494/5.

[7] Churchill, Complete Speeches, III: 2771.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Henry Pelling, Winston Churchill (London: 1974), 258, in Quinault, Roland, “Churchill and Russia”, War & Society, Volume 9, Issue 1, 1991, Accessed April 30th 2019: https://columbia-illiad-oclc-org.ezproxy.cul.columbia.edu/illiad/zcu/illiad.dll?Action=10&Form=75&Value=847525

[10] Churchill, Complete Speeches, III: 2771.

[11] Winston S. Churchill. Commons Sitting of Thursday 8th July, 1920. 20th Century House of Commons Hansard Sessional Papers. Fifth Series, Volume 131. Accessed April 30th 2019, https://parlipapers.proquest.com/parlipapers/result/pqpdocumentview?accountid=10226&groupid=106481&pgId=fc7a5740-4e43-41a7-ae18-25788185e89e&rsId=169D55C2A1E

[12] Churchill, Complete Speeches, III: 3025.

[13] Robert Rhodes James (ed.), Winston Spencer Churchill: His Complete Speeches 1897-1963 (New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1974), IV: 3766.

[14] Churchill, Complete Speeches, IV, 4148.

[15] Winston S. Churchill. The World Crisis, Volume VI, (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1931) Page vi.

[16] Churchill, World Crisis, Volume VI, Page 375.

[17] Winston S. Churchill. The World Crisis, Volume IV, The Aftermath, Page 357. Accessed May 4th 2019, https://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/columbia/reader.action?docID=5503188

[18] Winston S. Churchill. Commons Sitting of Friday, 13th July, 1934. 20th Century House of Commons Hansard Sessional Papers. Fifth Series, Volume 292. Accessed April 27th 2019, https://parlipapers-proquest-com.ezproxy.cul.columbia.edu/parlipapers/docview/t71.d76.cds5cv0292p0-0005?accountid=10226

[19] Ibid.

[20] Winston S. Churchill. “The Threat of Nazi Germany”, November 16th 1934. Accessed April 28th 2019, https://winstonchurchill.org/resources/speeches/1930-1938-the-wilderness/the-threat-of-nazi-germany/

[21] Robert Pearce, “Churchill: The Wilderness Years”, History Review; London, Issue 59, December 2007. Accessed April 28th 2019, http://ezproxy.cul.columbia.edu/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.cul.columbia.edu/docview/216210508?accountid=10226

[22] Winston S. Churchill. Commons Sitting of Friday, 13th July, 1934. 20th Century House of Commons Hansard Sessional Papers. Fifth Series, Volume 292. Accessed April 27th 2019, https://parlipapers-proquest-com.ezproxy.cul.columbia.edu/parlipapers/docview/t71.d76.cds5cv0292p0-0005?accountid=10226

[23] Ibid.

[24] Ivan Maisky (ed. Gabriel Gorodetsky), The Maisky Diaries: Red Ambassador to the Court of St James’s, 1932-1943. (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2015) Page 28.

[25] George Bilainkin, Maisky: Ten Years Ambassador, (London: George Allen & Unwin Ltd, 1944) Page 123.

[26] Ibid.

[27] Maisky, The Maisky Diaries, Page 50.

[28] Maisky, The Maisky Diaries, Page 88.

[29] Maisky, The Maisky Diaries Page 89.

[30] Ibid.

[31] Maisky, The Maisky Diaries, 125.

[32] Winston S. Churchill, The Manchester Guardian, 10 May 1938 in Quinault, Churchill and Russia, Page 107.

[33] Maisky, The Maisky Diaries, 233.

[34] Ibid.

[35] Maisky, The Maisky Diaries, 238.

[36] Ibid.

[37] Winston S. Churchill. “Alliance with Russia”, June 22nd 1941. Accessed May 5th 2019, https://winstonchurchill.org/resources/speeches/1941-1945-war-leader/the-fourth-climacteric/

[38] Ibid.

[39] Ibid.

[40] Ibid.

[41] Maisky, The Maisky Diaries, 364.

[42] Maisky, The Maisky Diaries, 366.

[43] Ibid.

[44] David Reynolds & Vladimir Pechtanov (eds.) The Kremlin Letters: Stalin’s Wartime Correspondence with Churchill and Roosevelt (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2018) Page 23.

[45] Ibid.

[46]  Winston S. Churchill, The Second World War, Hinge of Fate (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1950) Page 477.

[47] Reynolds & Pechantov (eds), The Kremlin Letters, Page 35.

[48] Churchill, The Second World War, Hinge of Fate, Page 475.

[49] Ibid.

[50] ‘Moscow, August 1942’,’Commentary’: Premier Papers, 4/71/4, folios 952-5. In Martin Gilbert, Winston S. Churchill, Volume VII, Road to Victory, 1941-1945 (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1986) Page 173.

[51] Ibid.

[52] Ibid., Page 478.

[53] Ibid., Page 479.

[54] Ibid., Page 480.

[55] Ibid., Page 481.

[56] Churchill, The Second World War, Hinge of Fate, Page 482.

[57] Martin Gilbert, Winston S. Churchill, Volume VII, Road to Victory, 1941-1945. (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1986) Page 181.

[58] Churchill, The Second World War, Hinge of Fate, Page 483.

[59] Churchill to Attlee, 13 August 1942, FO800/300; Jacob diary, 13 August 1942, published in Charles Richardson, From Churchill’s Secret Circle to the BBC: The Biography of Lieutenant-General Sir Ian Jacob (London: Brassey’s, 1991) in Martin Folly, “Seeking comradeship in the “Ogre’s Den:” Winston Churchill’s quest for a warrior alliance and his mission to Stalin, August 1942”, Brunel University, 2007. Page 286.

[60] Ibid. Page 287.

[61] Churchill, The Second World War, Hinge of Fate, Page 476.

[62] Ibid. Page 477.

[63] Gilbert, Winston S. Churchill, Road to Victory, Page 184.

[64] Ibid. Page 185.

[65] “Minutes of a Meeting held in the Kremlin, Moscow, on Thursday, August 13th 1942, at 11:15PM” Page 2. WF-12, “To Moscow with WSC” William Averell Harriman papers on Special Envoy to Churchill and Stalin 1941-1946, 1941-1974, Columbia University, Rare Book and Manuscript Library.

[66] Ibid. Page 3.

[67] Ibid. Page 4.

[68] Gilbert, Winston S. Churchill, Road to Victory, Page 186.

[69] Recollections of Mr. Harriman, “How I Came to Go to Moscow with Churchill”, October 29th 1953. WF-12, “To Moscow with WSC William Averell Harriman papers on Special Envoy to Churchill and Stalin 1941-1946, 1941-1974, Columbia University, Rare Book and Manuscript Library.

[70] Churchill, The Second World War, Hinge of Fate, Page 487.

[71] Ibid.

[72] Gilbert, Winston S. Churchill, Road to Victory, Page 186.

[73] Gilbert, Winston S. Churchill, Road to Victory, Page 492.

[74] Ibid., Page 494.

[75] Harriman, “Personal for the President Only from Harriman” 14 August 1942, WF-12, “To Moscow with WSC William Averell Harriman papers on Special Envoy to Churchill and Stalin 1941-1946, 1941-1974, Columbia University, Rare Book and Manuscript Library.

[76] Churchill, The Second World War, Hinge of Fate,  495.

[77] Gilbert, Winston S. Churchill, Road to Victory, Page 201.

[78] Churchill, The Second World War, Hinge of Fate, 500.

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