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Books: Rationalizing Russia

8 minute read

THE ROAD TO TEHERAN—Foster Rhea Dulles—Princeton University ($2.50).


Pitirim A, Sorokln—Dutton ($3).

USSR: THE STORY OF SOVIET RUSSIA—Walter Duranty—Lippincott ($3).

RUSSIA AND POSTWAR EUROPE—David J. Dallin—Yale University ($2.75).

Despite a few fumbling attempts to forbid the banns, the writers of three of these books insist that the U.S. should prepare for a golden honeymoon with postwar Russia. There is unabashed wooing in Foster Rhea Dulles’ The Road to Teheran. More surprising is the headlong courtship of Pitirim A. Sorokin, the Harvard sociologist who was once a member of Kerenski’s Cabinet and an unrelenting foe of Lenin and Trotsky. There is nuptial jubilation in Walter Duranty’s USSR. But there is little besides gloomy foreboding in David J. Dallin’s Russia and Postwar Europe.

For Balance of Power. Professor Dulles’ book is the least controversial. From the library and the newspaper morgue he has assembled the facts about U.S.Russian relations during the great crises of 150 years of history. There have been four high points in these relations:

¶ When Napoleon was Europe’s Hitler, the governments of Thomas ‘ Jefferson and Czar Alexander I had similar interests in opposing both British interference with neutral shipping and Napoleon’s efforts to create a western European autarchy. When the Czar espoused the reactionary Holy Alliance, which planned to regain the rebellious South American colonies for Spain, the U.S. answered with the Monroe Doctrine.

¶ In the early 19th Century the fur-hunting Russians came pelting down the Pacific coast from Alaska, established a colony some 50 miles north of San Francisco. War between Russia and the U.S. might have resulted, but just then the sea-otter trade began to peter out, the Court of St. Petersburg lost interest in its California and Oregon claims.

¶ In 1863, when the North feared that Britain would recognize the Confederacy, units of the Russian Navy put in at New York and San Francisco. The Russians had really scattered their fleet to have it free for raiding should war come with France and England over the Polish question. But the North took the visit as a symbol of U.S.-Russian solidarity.

¶ The U.S. was enthusiastic about the Provisional Government that succeeded the Czar, but when the Bolsheviks took Russia out of World War I the U.S. sent “protective” U.S. forces to Archangel and Vladivostok. The Bolsheviks considered this part of a general capitalist plot against the “Workers’ Fatherland,” though the presence of U.S. troops kept Japan from biting off eastern Siberia.

Standing on high geopolitical ground, Dulles argues that the U.S. and Russia will always tend to remain friends since they tend to have the same enemies when ever a European or an east Asiatic power gets too big for its breeches.

For Egalitarianism. The astounding thesis of Russia and the United States is that the two nations tend to resemble each other in culture, morals, industry and democratic standards. Russians and Americans, says Sorokin, have a common instinct for egalitarian philosophy. He predicts that the economic systems of the two nations will converge more & more, as small-property rights come back in Russia and as big-property rights in the U.S. are subjected to increasing Government manipulations.

Russia, says Sorokin, is moving to the right even as the capitalist world moves toward its own compromise with statism. Sorokin never seems to suspect that that compromise may be saving Stalin the trouble of collectivizing the democracies.

USSR is another version of the book that Walter Duranty has been writing ever since he became the New York Times’ correspondent in Moscow shortly after the Bolshevik Revolution. Packed with firsthand observations by a brilliant reporter of Russian life, politics, and politicians, the book is a history of the U.S.S.R. from 1917 to date. But it must be borne in mind that Author Duranty was long Russia’s No. 1 apologist among foreign correspondents. He is also the man who, when Stalin deliberately doomed some 3,000,000 peasants to death from starvation by withholding grain, remarked that “You can’t make an omelet without breaking eggs.” Oncoming Glacier. David J. Dallin’s study is perhaps the most enlightening book that has appeared about Soviet for eign policy. Most foreign observers of Bolshevik policy are defeated at the start because they do their thinking within the context of European political traditions.

European foreign policies are often ruthless and immoral in the sense that they violate the basic premises of Europe’s Christian culture. Bolshevik foreign policy is always ruthless and amoral, in the sense that it denies these premises — an important distinction. Professor Dallin, a former member of the Moscow Soviet, at best thinks like a Bolshevik, at worst understands how Bolsheviks think. Soviet foreign policy which for Winston Churchill has been “a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma” is for Dallin a sphinx without a secret.

Dallin’s main point : the tactics of Russian foreign policy change with circumstances ; the grand strategy never changes. The aim of that strategy: to keep all other powers in hostile balance or at war among themselves so that they will be too divided to unite against Russia, and eventually too weakened by war to resist the spread of Russian foreign policy when, in Clausewitz’ phrase, it is continued by other means — i.e., by the Red Army. Thus there is nothing mysterious (and from the amoral Bolshevik viewpoint, nothing perfidious) in Russia’s series of sudden switches from alliance with the French-British-U.S. political cartel to the German power trust, and back again. When viewed through the Kremlin windows, the Moscow-Berlin pact was strategically impeccable. (It embroiled all Russia’s important enemies except Japan and the U.S.) Tactically, it involved a miscalculation —the Allies were weaker, the Germans stronger than the Kremlin realized.

What Russia Wants. Russia and Postwar Europe minutely investigates (chiefly with the aid of Soviet sources) the shifts of Soviet foreign policy between 1917 and 1943 — an investigation lit up by such flashes from the Bolshevik mind at work as Lenin’s comment on his meeting with France’s diplomatic representative, Count de Lubersac: “We shook each other’s hand . . . aware that each one of us would readily hang his partner. But our interests coincided.” But most interesting for U.S. readers will be Dallin’s forecast of Russia’s cur rent territorial ambitions in Europe. In the Czar’s secret archives the Bolsheviks found a plan of the Russian territorial and political demands after World War I (see map, p. 98). They included:

¶ East Prussia and parts of Pomerania and German Silesia up to the Oder River.

¶ Galicia and northern Bukovina (now parts of Poland and Rumania).

¶ Most of European Turkey and the Asiatic shore of the Bosporus.

¶ Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia and Bulgaria to be a Russian sphere of influence, with a corridor along Austria’s eastern frontier connecting the Czechs and the Yugoslavs, cutting off the Austrians from the Hungarians.

¶ Hungary and Rumania, nominally inde pendent but surrounded by the Russian sphere of influence.

This plan, says Professor Dallin, “is still accurate” Chief differences: Turkey is not now at war with Russia, Rumania is.

“Hence, the road to the Balkans now leads across Rumania and not through Turkey,” while Czarist Pan-Slavism has been replaced by Partisan armies (Yugoslavia), Liberation Committees (Poland), mutual assistance pacts (Czecho-Slovakia).

But even more important than this prognosis, in the last analysis, are Professor Dallin’s chapters about Russian relations past & future with Germany. There is an old saying that “Whoever controls the Moravian Gate [the gap between the Tatra and Bohemian mountains] controls Europe.” Professor Dallin is well aware that Germany is the Moravian Gate of European politics—that control of Germany will determine whether Europe is to go Communist or democratic. The question is: Who will control Germany after the war—Russia or Britain and the U.S.? Professor Dallin does not know the answer to this one, which only the history of the next two decades can give. But he quotes Lenin (“We cannot live in peace—memorial services will be sung either over the Soviet Republic or over world capital-ism”); and the official Soviet review, Bolshevik (“He who does not understand the German question does not understand the path of the development of proletarian revolution in Europe”). Professor Dallin’s book is above all a contribution to such understanding.

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