* In October 1945, Navy Day 1945 in New York City, at the Commissioning of the aircraft carrier USS Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry Truman gave a speech.
* Here’s a clip.
* FAKE TRUMAN ACCENT: “We don’t seek any more land – because we already took as much as we could from the Native Americans, and the Mexicans, and the Hawaiians, and the Spanish.”
* He went on to say The world “cannot afford any letdown in the united determination of the allies in this war to accomplish a lasting peace.”‘
* So he’s all about working with the Soviets and finding a lasting peace.
* Or is he?
* Privately it seems like he didn’t believe peace with the U.S.S.R. was possible.
* Like FDR before him, Truman envisioned a world with open international trade – something the U.S. economy desperately needed – which meant global capitalism.
* But the U.S.S.R. had just turned back the Nazis, fighting them for years without much support, and had played a huge role in their final defeat.
* and they had the world’s largest land army.
* They weren’t about to kowtow to the American new world order.
* The only way the USA could force the Soviets to go along with it was war.
* And the Soviets had just proven – again – how difficult their country was to invade.
* And the American people wouldn’t support another war.
* Especially not to overthrow a recent ally, just because they wanted to enforce their own new world order.
* Not yet, anyway.
* Some in Washington believed the U.S. had no real choice but to find a way to work with the USSR
* Other believed the Soviets couldn’t be trusted, and pointed to Poland, Bulgaria and Romania.
* They conveniently ignored the places where the Soviets had kept to their agreements – Greece, Czechoslovakia, Hungary.
* As of October 1945, Truman and his inner circle seem to have no grand strategy regarding working with the Soviets at this stage.
* But over the next few months, they started concluding that they weren’t going to be able to work with Stalin.
* And by late 1947, the term “Cold War” had already entered the political lexicon.
* and America’s containment strategy had been implemented.
* At the end of World War II the United States possessed far and away the world’s largest economy.
* Its GDP was five times that of Great Britain, four times that of the Soviet Union.
* As we’ve pointed out many times – this was mostly due to the fact that the U.S. was the only major economy not flattened by the war.
* And now it also had the bomb.
* Initially Truman and Byrnes, his new Sec of State, thought they could dangle the bomb in front of Stalin as a way to induce him to accept their view of the world.
* Not in a “do it or we’ll drop it on you” approach, although that was always an unspoken threat, but in a “do it and we might share our atomic secrets with you” approach.
* Of course, what they didn’t know at the time, was they didn’t HAVE any secrets.
* Stalin knew it all.
* In the first Council of Foreign Ministers (CFM) conference, which took place in London from September 11 to October 2, Byrnes tried to use a combination of threats and sweets to get Molotov to budge on a range of issues – the control of Germany and eastern Europe – but Molotov just laughed in his face.
* By December, Byrnes had been told by Truman to stop trying to woo the Russians.
* In fact, Truman got all up in his face for trying to conclude a deal without the White House’s approval.
* He felt Byrnes had over-stepped his authority.
* It’s like Truman has become Stalin and Byrnes is Molotov.
* Truman is beginning to mistrust and sideline Byrnes already and he’s only six months into the job of SoS.
* Now Truman is going to start playing tough again with the Russians.
* In September the departing secretary of war, Henry Stimson, suddenly made an impassioned plea for international atomic control, spelling out to the president and the rest of the cabinet very clearly exactly what was required.
* “I consider the problem of our satisfactory relations with Russia as not merely connected but as virtually dominated by the problem of the atomic bomb;” the veteran statesman said in a secret White House meeting.’
* His logic was simple.
* The United States and Great Britain had kept the building of the bomb a secret from their Soviet ally and had used it ruthlessly to end the war in Japan.
* This collusion and secrecy with respect to a manifestly powerful weapon was so threatening to the Kremlin that it would take all steps necessary to build a comparable weapon for itself.
* Once it did so, Stimson maintained, an arms race would ensue and the prospect of international cooperation would disappear. Hence the necessity of moving quickly to reach a deal with the Soviet Union that could lead to the establishment of a truly international agency in control of all atomic technologies.
* Without such an agency, the two new powers would sooner or later commence an atomic arms race.
* But his plea fell on deaf ears.
* Speaking to reporters “on the record;’ Truman vowed that the United States would never transfer its atomic material and scientific facilities to an international agency, and added that if other nations wanted the bomb they should acquire it “on their own hook.”
* In a speech to Congress in December he called for a foreign policy built on military power.
* He was quite clear – The United States would not cooperate seriously with the Kremlin on the question of atomic control and would not use its bomb monopoly as a negotiating tool to secure Soviet concessions either.
* This was partly about domestic politics.
* Truman wanted to look tough on the Soviet issue to disarm any criticism of him or the Democrats so they could maintain their majority in Congress after the 1946 midterm elections.
* But there was another reason.
* In September, just as Stimson was pleading for cooperation and as Byrnes and Molotov were meeting in London, FBI director J. Edgar Hoover informed Truman that a massive spy ring operating out of Ottawa had infiltrated the Manhattan Project with Canadian and American spies working for Moscow.
* Washington officials had known of this network since 1942, but new revelations from the Canadian government indicated that the scale of the espionage was much greater than had been previously suspected.
* Truman was incensed!
* How DARE Stalin put spies inside the Manhattan Project?!
* It’s almost like he didn’t trust the Americans to share the knowledge with him, their ally!
* Oh wait, that’s right, they didn’t.
* But STILL.
* He didn’t know that at the time!
* So all of a sudden, Truman better understood why Stalin was giving them the middle finger in negotiations.
* Maybe he knew he could build his own bomb.
* But a third reason Truman went tough on Stalin was that if the news got out that the Soviets had infiltrated the Manhattan Project on the Democrats watch, it was going to look VERY bad.
* Especially as many of its spies were American citizens, and – as Hoover would later make abundantly clear to Truman – that many of these individuals had connections to leading Democratic Party figures in the State Department and elsewhere, the damage to his party and to his own political stature could be devastating.
* if such revelations were made public at the same time that Truman was proposing to give away America’s atomic bombs to an international agency, the ensuing political assault on the White House would have been incalculable.
* The espionage revelations made serious international control a political impossibility for the president, and further inclined him to regard the Soviet Union with suspicion and hostility.
* None of this was yet public knowledge.
* As far as the American people were aware, the Soviet Union was still an ally, and the administration’s plans for the postwar world were still wholly undetermined.
* Truman faced an array of foreign policy criticism on this question in the first weeks of 1946.
* There was still a lingering suspicion of American internationalism throughout parts of both the Democratic and Republican parties, especially among politicians wary of Great Britain and those keen to reduce the power of the federal government now that the war had ended.
* Many liberals in the Democratic Party – led by Henry Wallace, vice president under Roosevelt during much of the war and now Truman’s secretary of commerce – Roosevelt appointed Wallace to be Secretary of Commerce in January 1945, shortly before Roosevelt’s death, as a sort of consolation prize for losing the vice presidency – were unhappy with the increasingly frosty nature of the Soviet-American relationship and demanded that Truman honor Roosevelt’s call for a perpetuation of the Grand Alliance to keep the postwar peace.
* Conversely, many influential Republicans, sensing a political opening, argued that the administration was dangerously slow to respond to the Soviet threat and pressed for a more resolute policy.
* Fortunately, the American public didn’t know about the Soviet spy ring.
* That all changed in February 1946, when the syndicated columnist Drew Pearson gave a radio address where he said a source inside the government leaked him secret details on an extensive Soviet atomic espionage network operating out of Canada.
* That source?
* Probably J Edgar Hoover.
* When the Canadians confirmed the story a couple of weeks later, there was “near-hysteria” in many newspapers and throughout Washington during the second half of February.
* Not only had America’s wartime ally run a major-and apparently quite effective-espionage operation during the war; the operation evidently had been conducted largely by American citizens, secretly working for Moscow while they went about their treacherous business in Los Alamos or Washington.
* The public effect of the Pearson revelations did not come to full fruition until the heyday of McCarthyism in 1950-1953, but the political impact on Truman’s foreign policy was immediate.
* Of course, after this revelation, an international atomic deal, especially with the Russians, was totally off the cards.
* In fact, Truman was so shaken by the Pearson scandal that he canceled an atomic cooperation deal with Great Britain, reneging on a promise Roosevelt had made to Churchill in 1944.
* Then, on cue, In a public speech on February 9, Stalin announced that his government would maintain its wartime (and prewar) policies of state control over the economy and would continue to divert maximum resources toward heavy industry and military production.
* Stalin did not attribute the policies he was announcing to American behavior as such but rather to the need for the USSR to maintain its military strength in a world of continuing imperialism.
* He endorsed Lenin’s line that the nations of the West were impelled by the logic of late capitalism toward unending conflict and war.
* The Soviet Union would not be caught up in this logic, but it could find itself-as it did in 1941-in a capitalist war not of its own making.
* Until the global triumph of communism, Stalin maintained, the world would be dangerous and the threat to the Soviet Union imminent.
* The aspirations of the long-suffering Soviet citizenry for prosperity and domestic reform would have to wait.
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