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From World War To Cold War
In an exchange of letters, a man who had an immeasurable impact on how the great struggle of our times was waged looks back on how it began
December 1995 | Volume 46, Issue 8
I had always conceived that when we had made it evident to the Soviet leaders that they had reached the real limits of their political expansion in Europe, the time would come when we would sit down with them and see whether we could not get their agreement to some sort of a workable understanding about the future of the continent. A central issue in any such discussion was bound to be the treatment of Germany. But it was clear that we would not be in a position to discuss this question in any promising way with the Russians if we had already committed ourselves to a line of policy, in relation to the part of Germany that was under our influence and control, that would clearly and not unreasonably be unacceptable to the Soviet side. Yet it was already becoming obvious, as noted above, that our government was planning not only to rearm Western Germany but to bring it into the Atlantic Pact. To me, such a policy meant in reality the congealing of the line of division through the center of Europe, and I felt bound to oppose it.
Whether or not I was right or wrong in these reactions, I cannot see that they were in any way inconsistent with the warnings I had tried to give about the nature of Soviet power. The Russians had, after all, carried at least 80 percent of the enormous burden of defeating Hitler on the ground. That they were entitled to have some say in the question of the future of Central and Eastern Europe seemed to me obvious. But the only way to find out whether we could or could not come to some sort of an understanding with them that would reduce the growing military tensions and assure a more peaceful passage of Europe through the postwar period was to test them in reasonably private and realistic negotiations. If no agreement was possible, that was that; and then we would plainly have to face the consequences. But we would not know whether any such understanding was possible or not until we had talked with them. And this we were never willing to do. The sporadic public exchanges we had with them in the various foreign ministers’ meetings, with both sides figuratively talking largely out the window to the world public outside, were mere propaganda exercises on both sides and did not qualify, in my view, as serious negotiations.
So I still see no inconsistency between the views I held in 1945 and those that I put forward in later years.