The Place to Find All Things Churchill

Churchill Proceedings – Sheriffs and Constables: Churchill’s and Roosevelt’s Postwar World

Finest Hour 141, Winter 2008-09

Page 36

Churchill Proceedings – Sheriffs and Constables: Churchill’s and Roosevelt’s Postwar World

Churchill frequently dismissed proposals for postwar planning. His thought on such matters has to be constructed from snippets of speeches and conversations. Roosevelt, though renowned for masking his thoughts, spoke clearly and often about planning. Just how close he and Churchill came in their thinking about the postwar order is illustrated by a phrase from WSC’s 1946 Fulton speech: “courts and magistrates may be set up but they cannot function without sheriffs and constables.”1

By Warren F. Kimball

This is a drastically, even uncomfortably, abbreviated version of my two papers at Hyde Park, New York: a Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute conference on FDR’s postwar legacy in 2005; and a FERI/Churchill Centre conference on the joint legacy of FDR and Churchill in 2007. All too often I can only allude to legacies and cannot discuss them. For more discussion, at least on one side of the ledger, see my “The Sheriffs: FDR’s Postwar World” in David Woolner, David Reynolds, and Warren F. Kimball, eds., FDR’s World: War, Peace, and Legacies (New York: Palgrave, 2008). My original title was “the Sheriff and the Gunslinger,” but I had second thoughts. The cartoon above notwithstanding, Churchill was not a “gunslinger,” whatever his popular reputation. WFK

William Henry Chamberlain, a biting and bitter critic of Franklin Roosevelt’s foreign policies, sarcastically warned in 1940 that “I am anticipating the day when possession of Tibet and Afghanistan will be represented as vitally necessary to the security of Kansas and Nebraska.” “Nothing short of eerie,” observed one historian.2

Whatever those eerie echoes in today’s world, FDR would have been appalled by the very concept. His vision of the postwar world order specifically excluded using military power for political goals, and envisaged a regional approach that would limit the direct policing and persuading role of the United States to the western hemisphere. But Winston Churchill, the dedicated steward of Britain’s international role (and that is a great deal larger and more expansive than merely “empire”), never questioned that Tibet and Afghanistan mattered.

FDR’s and Churchill’s legacies? All these legacies are interconnected. The Second World War created a tabula rasa of sorts that allowed Churchill and Roosevelt to distill the mix of what they inherited and what they foresaw into a world order or system that has lasted for sixty years— though not everything came out as they intended.

What were and are Roosevelt’s legacies for the world? There are two broad ones, although the subcategories make it a bit more complex.

1. “Regionalized cooperative internationalism” or globalism, which includes the “scrapping” of so-called isolationism (a.k.a. unilateralism), the dominant role of the great powers (the four-or-so policemen), the establishment of an international organization to facilitate great power collaboration, the everlasting American crusade for economic “liberalism,” the creation of an atmosphere into which “containment” could comfortably fit, and raising the issue of decolonization—although that fits also in the second great legacy, which is:

2. Americanism: shorthand for everything besides Franklin Roosevelt’s geopolitical thinking: the internationalization of the New Deal, Roosevelt’s conviction that leadership and persuasion were the means to create peaceful relationships, and his calm and unshakable belief in the American democratic tradition combined with the awareness that the results were far from perfect (as Eleanor Roosevelt constantly reminded him).

There are a number of mythical or non-legacies that serve as defining antonyms for Roosevelt’s shadow:

• Roosevelt was a believer in and practitioner of Realpolitik, or, contradictorily, Roosevelt made Wilsonianism the American foreign policy tradition.

• Roosevelt sought to establish the kind of international organization that emerged at the end of the Second World War—the United Nations Organization.

• Roosevelt caused the precipitate decolonization of European empires.

• Roosevelt became a “cold warrior” before his death. All these statements are myths, or exaggerations, or distortions.

Winston Churchill’s legacies often paralleled FDR’s, but there were distinct and fundamental points of departure. Two broad categories embrace Churchill’s patrimony. One is globalism, or universal internationalism. The other is the “Anglo-American special relationship,” a phrase that needs a good deal of decoding.

1. “Regionalized cooperative internationalism” is not a phrase that fits comfortably around Sir Winston. He was indeed an internationalist, and preferred a regional structure, especially in continental Europe, where the effect of British influence depended on persuasion and cooperation. But the history of the British Empire made his internationalism and his regionalism different from Roosevelt’s. Empires are, by definition, international. But the vast European commercial and political empires of the three centuries before World War II were global as well. For Churchill that meant Britain should be a (if not “the”) regional power in places like India, East Africa, the Middle East, even China. At the same time, that global instinct, stimulated by 300+ years of empire, was modified by the reality of a relative loss of geopolitical clout as the United States, and later the Soviet Union, became more powerful.

2. All that neatly segues into the second legacy: the “special relationship.” Roosevelt could assume that the United States was a world power. Churchill had consciously and constantly to ensure that Britain would have that status in the postwar world. He placed most (though not all) of his faith in a “special relationship” with the United States. That relationship had, after all, not only worked for Britain during World War II, but it had developed and persisted over the preceding century. This was no new notion for Churchill. His History of the English-Speaking Peoples, largely written before the Second World War, was not focused exclusively on the United States, but without the Americans it would have been shorter.

But the special relationship was often awkward. One example: Churchill and Roosevelt agreed that control of atomic energy (economics) and the bomb (geopolitics) should rest with them. Yet the Americans constantly dragged their feet about sharing Manhattan Project research with the British. Eventually Great Britain developed an atomic bomb on its own, and the special relationship survived. But it was an uncomfortable and humiliating (but perhaps not educational) experience for the British.

There are a number of mythical or non-legacies that serve as defining antonyms for Churchill’s shadow:

• Churchill was a reactionary Tory.

• Churchill was a believer in and practitioner of Realpolitik.

• Churchill thought the British Empire could be maintained as it was.

• Churchill was mulishly consistent.

• Churchill was a prescient, early “cold warrior.”

• Churchill was a prisoner of the “special relationship.”

• Churchill “loved” war.

These too are myths or exaggerations that have unfairly captured Churchill’s public image.

But before digging a little bit into the minds of Roosevelt and Churchill, before trying to assess their international legacy in the postwar world, we need a brief reminder of the legacies that helped shape their thinking.

The popular judgment, and FDR’s oft-repeated claim, is that his “great crusade” was against “the isolationists.” But what Roosevelt fought before the Second World War was not “isolationism,” no matter how useful he found that label. The real issue was American complacency, over-confidence, and even indifference regarding Hitler’s Germany. Just when Roosevelt started that fight is debatable, but what he had to fight was the persistent American conviction that the United States was always right and that what was “right” was invincible. He had to contend with the popular sentiment that the USA could “go it alone” in the world—something the founding fathers had rejected out of hand 165 years earlier. To the end of his days, FDR feared a resurgence of what he called isolationism, but he could not have foreseen that it would re-emerge in its true character—unilateralism.

Roosevelt’s early thinking on international affairs and structure came, according to most historians, from two presidents: his uncle, Theodore Roosevelt, and Woodrow Wilson, the man who brought FDR onto the national political scene. TR brought “realism” and great power politics to bear; Wilson offered, well…Wilsonianism, that idealistic combining of belief in an American-style political economy (although Roosevelt denied he was a Wilsonian) with a mission, a duty to proselytize, all wrapped neatly in a blanket labeled “international cooperation.”

Churchill likewise inherited a mix of concepts. Some were from Britain’s long and storied history. Others were more recent, particularly the experience of the First World War—the “Great War” until World War II came along. Britain’s tradition of “splendid isolation” was even less isolationist than the American version. Centuries of Anglo-French maneuvering and warfare had convinced British leaders to rely on alliances and control of the seas to protect and forward the nation’s interests. With a vast colonial and commercial empire to tend, British policies had tried to move away from military involvement on the continent. But threats of any dominant power in central or western Europe had repeatedly drawn Britain into wars across the Channel, and the last of those wars had drained Great Britain of its economic and military strength.

Unlike FDR, Churchill helped to create part of the legacies he inherited as prime minister. The ongoing, futile attempt to hold on to a traditional colonial empire distracted Churchill and sometimes his government from more important strategic goals during the war—for example, his preoccupation with the Mediterranean, and with retaking Singapore with “European” troops.3

As Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1924-29, he understood the parlous state of British finances, a reality that forced the government (and Churchill) to ignore dreams of a Singapore “fortress” and which forecast hard times to come. As he ruefully wrote in 1939: “Money—above all, ready money. There was the hobble which cramped medieval kings; and even now it counts somewhat.”4

The place to start any analysis of both Churchill’s and FDR’s thinking is where they started—with the assumption that great wars are generated by great powers. Everything else proceeded from that premise. The grand myth held by twentieth century American warriors has been that a peaceful world would be the happy and legitimizing outcome of a vast military conflict. Roosevelt was no exception. He dreamily mused about worldwide disarmament, once blithely stating that “the smaller powers might have rifles but nothing more dangerous.” The great powers were exempted, of course, for he knew they would not disarm. But he decriminalized that exemption by calling the great powers “policemen”—an idea he broached even before the United States entered the Second World War. He mentioned it to Churchill at their first meeting in August 1941, and a few weeks later casually spoke during a dinner party about the need for Britain and America “to police the entire world.” He quickly went on to describe “police procedures”: the key was “trust,” not the application of “sanctions” or force.5

Crucial to understanding Roosevelt’s postwar vision is his consistent emphasis on the regional role of the policemen, which by the 1943 Teheran conference included the USSR and China. One journalist, writing with FDR’s approval and assistance about that first big three meeting, related how Roosevelt had conducted a “seminar” for Stalin on the good neighbor policy in the western hemisphere.6 But how are such “policemen” to avoid the Orwellian temptation of creating a sphere of influence in their region? How is such a region different from a Pax Britannica, a Russian empire, or a Monroe Doctrine? Roosevelt perceived a difference; but it was one of many apparent contradictions that he never clarified.7

Churchill’s vision was clearer. Great Britain had been, in some ways, the world’s policeman for over a century. But the Second World War had changed that. Establishment of a regional structure that Britain could manipulate without being an integral part of it would amplify British power, just as it had done for nearly two centuries. Britain as balance-weight in Europe while joined with America in a special relationship seemed the best guarantee for the UK (not a Churchillian term) to retain its role as a great power. Britain was “in” but not “of” Europe. As historian Max Beloff put it:

nothing could have been further from his [Churchill’s] thoughts than the emergence of a European super-state presenting exactly those pretensions to executive authority which Churchill regarded as the prerogative of the nation-state. . . . During his absence from the seats of power between 1945 and 1951, the essential components of a new Europe began to emerge; to Churchill, the Victorian, they were strange indeed. He was in no sense their prophet.8

For Churchill, an Anglo-American condominium seemed both sensible and possible. Yet, in October 1942, concern about the Soviet Union prompted him to suggest creation of a postwar European council. “It would be a measureless disaster,” he wrote Eden, “if Russian barbarism overlaid the culture and independence of the ancient states of Europe.” A “United States of Europe” would, presumably, include Russia, but a Russia safely neutralized within a “council consisting of…the former great powers, with several confederations…which would possess an international police and be charged with keeping Prussia disarmed.” Rarely did the Prime Minister so bluntly state his feelings and fears about the Soviets. Normally he was more cautious, putting the burden of any rift on the shoulders of the Bolsheviks. Yet, he left the door open to postwar cooperation with the Soviet Union, albeit on careful terms. FDR was not a Wilsonian idealist; nor was Churchill, for he too had “problems to resolve.”9

Half a year later, Churchill told Roosevelt and a group of American leaders that after the war he favored a “world council” that looked like what FDR called his four Policemen— Great Britain, Russia, the U.S. and (unenthusiastically) China. One step lower in the political pecking order would be regional councils, which in Europe could include nation-states and confederations for places like the Balkans, or a “Danubian federation” to replace the Austro-Hungarian Empire. At the same luncheon meeting, the Prime Minister called for a “fraternal association” between his nation and the United States; perhaps even common passports and a “common form of citizenship.”10 For him, Britain was the natural and necessary bridge between Europe and the United States.

Churchill never clarified his vague and very unofficial remarks, leaving the Americans little to go on beyond Foreign Office papers and statements. Harry Hopkins, FDR’s principal adviser, expressed the American concerns when he warned the British against any attempt to establish a European council (based, of course, in London) for fear it would result in American “isolationists” doing the same thing in the western hemisphere. Regionalism was not to be exclusive, which was where British proposals seemed to lead. FDR’s regional groupings could not exclude any of the great powers lest that set one region (and one policeman) against another.11 The Good Neighbor policy and U.S. relations with Canada both illustrated what FDR had in mind. Leadership—which combined persuasion, power, and especially patience—would prevent local crises from morphing into global confrontations.

At the start of the war, Roosevelt had viewed European power politics and colonialism as the greatest threats to postwar peace. But by 1943, he recognized that the Soviet Union had become a new major player on the scene and could, if it so chose, be an even greater threat. The President had no intention of fighting the Second World War in order to get ready for the Third, so bringing the USSR into a cooperative relationship with the other great powers became the priority. From the outset, Stalin had been unequivocal about having “friendly” governments around the Soviet periphery in Eastern Europe, and Roosevelt’s (and an occasionally dubious Churchill’s) dreams of persuading Stalin to be a cooperative participant in the postwar world required that the Soviet leader feel sure of Anglo-American reliability. But since self-determination meant independence for the Balts and the establishment of an anti-Soviet government in Warsaw, how then to avoid the obvious?

Both Roosevelt and Churchill had tried to create a good postwar relationship with the Soviet Union even before the Stalingrad victory, in February 1943, demonstrated the likelihood of Red Army occupation of the territory Stalin demanded. What recourse was left to London and Washington? Military confrontation was no option, at least not with Anglo-American forces still struggling in North Africa and fifteen months away from an invasion of western Europe. More to the point, what long-term hope for peace if the United States and Britain chose to confront the Russians? More frightening and apparently possible, what if playing diplomatic hardball prompted Stalin to cut a deal with Hitler? Then there was Japan waiting in the wings. Rather than fruitlessly opposing any expansion of Soviet power in eastern Europe, the Anglo-Americans opted to continue to promote long-term cooperation. As the Americans told British Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden, “the real decisions should be made by the United States, Great Britain, Russia and China, who would be the powers for many years to come that would have to police the world.” Self-determination would, quite obviously, be bestowed by the Big Four, assuming they could agree on the details.12

What then, of the legacy of Churchill’s and Roosevelt’s policies towards the Soviet Union? Some have argued that it was a horrible, unhappy legacy that “appeased” Stalin’s insatiable appetite for expansion into eastern Europe and beyond. Roosevelt and the British concluded early on that Stalin was “a political descendant of Peter the Great rather than of Lenin.”13 But how could confrontation solve that dilemma?

There is truth in what historian Arthur Schlesinger wrote: “it was the deployment of armies, not words on paper, that caused the division of Europe.”14 That is certainly the case for events from summer 1944 to war’s end. But timing is everything. The fundamental postwar agreements (concessions if you prefer a critical phrase) between the Soviet Union and the Anglo-Americans came before mid-1944, largely during or after the Teheran conference in December 1943. FDR and Churchill assumed, conceded or sacrificed the Baltic nations and much of eastern Europe to Soviet “liberation” well before the great offensives in the east and the west began in June 1944. Given Stalin’s (and Churchill’s and Roosevelt’s) axiom, “whoever occupies a territory imposes on it his own social system,” the postwar political results were a foregone conclusion. But then that was also true for places like West Germany, Italy, and Greece. Churchill’s version of Stalin’s axiom was more grandiloquent: “the right to guide the course of history is the noblest prize of victory.”15 Better to acknowledge that reality than to wait for potential disagreements to arise. The Normandy invasion, quickly followed by the massive offensive in the east that Stalin had promised, ensured that the Russians would not be tempted to roll all the way to the Atlantic, though there is not a shred of evidence that Stalin ever thought, planned, and even dreamed in such terms.

Which brings us to an issue of candor and honesty— the Yalta agreements, a document that is less of a legacy than its reputation suggests. The real problem about Yalta was not the nature of the agreements, but the matter of transparency and expectations. Neither Churchill nor Roosevelt believed they could admit to their publics or their political opponents that they had consigned the Baltic nations, Poland, and much of the south Balkans to the tender mercies of Soviet control. Neither could admit that they had made concessions in northeast Asia that restored Russian economic and political influence in Manchuria and northern Korea. In each case the reasons were mixed— ensuring Soviet entry into the war against Japan, shoring up Chiang’s regime in China, the reality of Soviet occupation of much of eastern Europe—but establishing a cooperative rather than a confrontational relationship with the Soviet Union was the overriding motive.

It was sometimes a case of making a silk purse out of a sow’s ear, especially in places like the Baltic, but better that than playing dog-in-the-manger and getting suspicion and enmity in return. The Declaration on Liberated Europe, agreed to at Yalta, called for the kind of openness and political freedom enjoyed in the United States and Britain. But that was no rhetorical “victory” over the Soviet Union, nor was it intended as such. It expressed a hope not a reality, and thus served to raise expectations for the war’s outcome to unrealistic levels. When those expectations were dashed, American and British frustrations and disillusionment would, as after the First World War, intensify tensions. Only this time it became the Cold War.16

Neither Churchill nor Roosevelt created the tensions between the Soviet Union and their nations. Churchill and Roosevelt were, each in his own way, less ideological than their successors. Despite Churchill’s angry anti-Bolshevik rhetoric when out of office, as prime minister he never chose between a Russia as classic great power to the east, or a Soviet Union as threat to British and American democratic and economic principles. He seemed to speak of Russia when geopolitics were at issue, and Bolshevism when ideology was afoot.

FDR bragged that the New Deal had saved capitalism, but he routinely avoided referring to the Soviet Union in ideological terms. Despite his conscious attempts to avoid the mistakes Woodrow Wilson made after World War I, Roosevelt repeated one of the major errors by promising a just and fair settlement to the war that would bring peace. Neither man promised either “a war to end all wars,” or a “to make the world safe for democracy,”17 but domestic politics, their own hopes, and their search for a favorable historical verdict combined to prompt both to exaggerate the success of what today we would call the “peace process,” which inaccurately came to be labeled the “Yalta agreements.” Once again, overblown rhetoric created great expectations that, when unmet, led to an atmosphere that heightened the intensity and depth of the Cold War.

The over-analyzed Anglo-American special relationship is the most powerful example of Roosevelt’s and Churchill’s overlapping shadows. Since 1945, Great Britain and the United States have almost always found that, after careful consideration and sometimes considerable argumentation, their interests and desires coincided. The most obvious exceptions are the Vietnam war, where Britain steadfastly refused to support American policy, and the Suez War, where the opposite occurred. But those exceptions did not break the pattern, which has lasted through today and the Iraq War and occupation. There are forceful arguments, particularly among British commentators, about how the “special relationship” has dragged their nation into unwise and even immoral conflicts, but claims that the “special relationship” did not exist are ahistorical political wishes.18

The precedent of working with allies set by Churchill and Roosevelt lived on, through and beyond the Cold War, but in a way fundamentally different from what they imagined. Instead of globalism (regionalized cooperative internationalism), unilateral (formerly isolationist) nationalism returned to rule the roost. What Roosevelt feared the most, what he believed to be the basic cause of the Second World War, once again threatened the peace of the world. Stalin, responding to Churchill’s musings about federations in Eastern Europe, warned Churchill that “after this war all States would be very nationalistic.”19 The Soviet leader ignored his own advice, spreading the Soviet empire west-ward, but he was on the mark. Over the half-century following World War II, East European nationalism intensified, largely in response to Soviet domination. Eventually that nationalism triumphed, and the Soviet imperial system collapsed of its own weight.

As for Churchill, his retro-focus on reconstructing a version of the world of Franz Joseph with the Austro-Hungarian Empire as a buffer (hardly a bulwark) against Russian expansion apparently blinded him from recognizing the intensity of nationalism in Europe—just as he underestimated it in Britain’s colonial empire. FDR’s warnings about colonial uprisings in the European colonies suggests that he sensed the power of nationalism, but all he could hope for in eastern Europe was that the Russians would act with caution.

Fittingly in the post-WW2 world, the last legacy to address is The Bomb. Prompted by warnings and advice from Albert Einstein and other scientists about German research into atomic energy, the British and Americans, early in the war, pooled their knowledge and resources into what became the Manhattan Project. Time, strategic bombing, and sabotage ensured that the Germans would not succeed in reaching a similar goal before their defeat. Anglo-American scientific success came too late for the atom bomb to be used against Germany, but two were dropped on Japan, seeming to shorten the war.20

But a most unhappy outcome of Roosevelt’s and Churchill’s work together is the absurd, jejune dream that the Anglo-Americans could maintain monopolistic control over atomic energy and nuclear weapons. Whatever the strategic advantages or entrepreneurial benefits, it was a dream doomed to failure—a dream that became a night-mare. Proposals to create international controls over atomic energy failed when the “policemen”—Britain, the USSR and the USA—all opposed the plan. That it could have worked is uncertain, but certainly monopoly did not. So here we are in 2009, scrambling in vain to hold on to the atomic secret, even as membership in the nuclear “club” (one of those “soft” words that seem to legitimize nuclear weapons) continues to grow.

Since World War II we have experienced a half-century of meetings, conferences, back-stairs diplomacy, and back-channel parleys. Even Dwight Eisenhower, the most intense and committed Cold Warrior of all the presidents—he spoke of the Soviet Union in terms of evil long before Ronald Reagan—ignored his own hyperbole and used back-channel diplomacy and negotiations (too slowly for Churchill) within the informal structure FDR had fostered. It was precisely what Roosevelt expected, even if Churchill was more cautious. They created the unwritten “system,” the informal structure that channeled Cold War tensions into regional confrontations between proxies, not global ones between the Great Powers. That offers small consolation to those whose land and societies have been devastated, but it was arguably better than World War III.

Whatever their other (undiscussed) legacies, the world “system” (a word that evokes too strong a sense of order and structure) that Churchill, Roosevelt—and Stalin—established proved a powerful, long-lasting patrimony. Undemocratic, unfair, and often unjust, it hit upon a certain practicality that enabled the world to avoid disaster. At least for a while.


1. Churchill once commented, “There is therefore wisdom in reserving one’s decisions as long as possible and until all the facts and forces that will be potent at the moment are revealed.” Churchill to Eden, 4 January 1945, in Winston S. Churchill, Triumph and Tragedy (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1953), 351. For FDR, see U.S. Dept. of State [Harley A. Notter], Postwar Foreign Policy Preparation, 1939-1945 (Washington: USGPO, 1950) and Post World War II Foreign Policy Planning: State Department Records of Harley A. Notter [microform] (Bethesda, Md.: 1987).

2. Mark Stoler, “Avoiding American Entry into World War II (Feature Review),” Diplomatic History 27:2 (April 2003), 286.

3. But see Wm. Roger Louis and Ronald Robinson, “The Imperialism of Decolonization,” The Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, 22:3 (September 1994), 462-511: a persuasive argument that the Cold War, and American support, preserved the British Empire as a military and political informal empire.

4. As quoted in Warren F. Kimball, “The Most Unsordid Act”: Lend-Lease, 1941 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins, 1968), 91.

5. Discussion of the policemen, and the quotations, are from my Forged in War: Roosevelt, Churchill, and the Second World War (New York: Morrow, 1997), esp. 201-05. See also my The Juggler (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1991), esp. chapters 5 and 6.

6. The approval process is made clear in a letter from the journalist Forrest Davis to Steve Early, 23 March 1944, Roosevelt papers, Official File (OF) 4287 (Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, Hyde Park, New York). Davis, “What Really Happened at Teheran,” Saturday Evening Post 116 (13 and 20 May 1944); Kimball, The Juggler, 96, 110.

7. I shamelessly quote and paraphrase myself from The Juggler, 96ff. But also see Lloyd C. Gardner, Spheres of Influence (Chicago: Ivan Dee, 1993).

8. An excellent detailed examination of Churchill’s thinking about Britain and Europe is Klaus Larres, Churchill’s Cold War (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2002). A brief but stimulating analysis is Max Beloff, “Churchill and Europe,” in Churchill, Robert Blake and Wm. Roger Louis, eds. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993), 443-55. The quotation from Beloff is on 454-55.

9. Churchill minute to Eden, 21 October 1942, M.742/2 [T8/8/11], Churchill Archives, Churchill College [emphasis added]; Winston S. Churchill, The Hinge of Fate (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1950), 561-62. Martin Gilbert, Road to Victory (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1986), 239-40, substitutes Russia for Prussia and thus erroneously quotes Churchill calling for “keeping Russia disarmed.” That mistake apparently led Gilbert to assume that Churchill excluded Russia from the United States (Council) of Europe, which does not appear to be Churchill’s intent, although his phrase “former Great Powers” could be so interpreted. Foreign Office thinking at this time is presented in Woodward, British Foreign Policy, V, 1-21. FDR’s denial of Wilsonianism is quoted in Kimball, Forged in War, 201.

10. Churchill & Roosevelt: The Complete Correspondence, W. F. Kimball, ed. (3 vols.; Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1984), II, 222-27 [C-297/1].

11. Kimball, The Juggler, 96.

12. U.S. Dept. of State, Foreign Relations of the United States (Washington: GPO, 1862-, 1943), III 39.

13. The comment about Stalin as Peter the Great is that of British Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden; Eden to Halifax, 22 January 1942, FO 954/29xc/100818, Public Record Office (now the British National Archives).

14. Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., foreword to My Dear Mr Stalin: The complete correspondence of Franklin D. Roosevelt and Joseph V. Stalin, Susan Butler, ed. (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2005), xiv.

15. As quoted in Kimball, Forged in War, 209-10.

16. This echoes the persuasive argument of Eric Alterman, When Presidents Lie (New York: Penguin Books, 2005), esp. 59-82, who points out that “in refusing to reveal the truth about the accords, the administration only aided and abetted the Yalta conspiracy-mongers…” (62).

17. Wilson’s request to Congress for a declaration of war against Germany on 2 April 1917 included the justification that “The world must be made safe for democracy.” The call for World War I to be “a war to end all war(s)” is frequently attributed to Wilson [try “Googling” it], but I have not found a citation. An interview with British Foreign Secretary Lord Grey was reported on 14 May 1916 under the headline “ALLIES FIGHT TO END ALL WAR, SAYS GREY” but the closest Grey came to that phrase was, “Unless mankind learns from this war to avoid war, the struggle will have been in vain.” New York Times, 14 May 1916.

18. I have participated in that over-analysis. See my “Dangerously Contagious? The Anglo-American Special Relationship,” a debate with Alex Danchev, in The British Journal of Politics and International Relations 7:3 (August 2005), 437-41, excerpted in comments by the editor on an abstract of Danchev’s argument in “Whence the Anglo-American Special Relationship?” Finest Hour 129, Winter 2005-06, 40-41. “The ‘Special’ Anglo-American Special Relationship: ‘A fatter, larger underwater cable,’” Journal of Transatlantic Studies 3:1 (Spring 2005), 1-5. The Suez Crisis strained relationships at the very top, but at the next level British policymakers agreed that the invasion was ill-considered.

19. Minutes of the TOLSTOY Conference as quoted in Gilbert, Road to Victory, 1026.

20. I have graced or sullied the pages of Finest Hour 137 with ruminations about that world-shaping event (at least geopolitically). This paraphrases what I wrote there.

Related Story

Join Now

Join or Renew NowPlease join with us to help preserve the memory of Winston Churchill and continue to explore how his life, experiences and leadership are ever-more relevant in today’s chaotic world. BENEFITS >BECOME A MEMBER >

The International Churchill Society (ICS), founded in 1968 shortly after Churchill's death, is the world’s preeminent member organisation dedicated to preserving the historic legacy of Sir Winston Churchill.

At a time when leadership is challenged at every turn, that legacy looms larger and remains more relevant than ever.