Refugee History in 20th Century Europe: A Brief Primer

A lot of smart people are discussing the current refugee crisis stemming from the Syrian Civil War.  Much of this commentary is critical of European states and asserts that Europe should look to a kinder gentler past when refugees were treated with dignity.  One of these commentators is Emily Bazelon of the New York Times. She is a extremely intelligent women, and I find her discussions on Slate’s Political Gabfest to be insightful, especially when clarifying legal issues in the United States Supreme Court.  There are few who can break down such complicated legal arguments and present them to the to the informed layperson.  Nevertheless, I find her recent attempt to delve into the refugee crisis in the New York Times Magazine an oversimplification of history.

Bazelon makes the case that during the 1920s  and after the Second World War the world was much more receptive to refugees.  In the 1920s, she emphasizes the care given to refugees of the Russian Civil War and other unstable regions who were issued Nansen Passports by the League of Nations.  She asserts that those who received these passports were quickly resettled in other countries belonging to the League of Nations (and therefore not the USA).  However, this is a major misinterpretation.  As Jay Milbrandt makes clear in his article Statelessthe Nansen Passports were not identical documents and issued haphazardly, leading some countries to rejected them.  Moreover, the passports had to be renewed every two years or they became invalidated.  As time went on, many states stopped validating the passports and started questioning the motives of those holding them.  In fact, Milbrandt suggests that those designated stateless faced a significant burden:

Although these documents [Nansen Passports] served to facilitate cross-border travel for many refugees, it provided no guarantees of protection from the state in which these individuals settled. In effect, although these individuals were granted increased freedom of movement through the Nansen Passport, they did not assure the protection enjoyed by citizens or nationals of the state in which they settled, such as personal welfare, access to employment, protection against expulsion, and other protections and liberties traditionally preserved through the state.

Therefore, simply because these refugees were permitted to flee their home countries did not mean that they were treated with dignity or accepted.

Next, Bazelon discusses the situation after the Second World War.  She seems to posit that was a period when refugees were gladly accepted by the nation’s of the world, especially the victims of the Holocaust.  However, this is flat out wrong.  In fact, in the case of the United States, the Congress only grudgingly passed legislation to aide postwar refugees.

In 1946, as camps in Germany began to swell, some European countries and the United States did began accepting refugees, but not enough to alleviate the problem. President Harry Truman’s special directive in December 1945 giving Displaced Persons (DPs) the first positions on the annual immigration quotas failed to alleviate the problem; moreover, the quota for Eastern Europe was only 13,000, leaving millions in camps. The situation was further aggravated in 1946 when thousands of Jews fled postwar Poland, following continued discrimination and pogroms.[1]  Unwilling to return home, the DPs presented a significant problem for the occupation forces that demanded a solution.  The result was the Displaced Persons Act of 1948 (DPA) which allowed 200,000 DPs to enter the United States; however, the legislation that emerged from the Congress specified quotas for each nationality, including the Jews.[2]  The DPA’s inherent problems were evident in Truman’s statement that the “bill was flagrantly discriminatory,” “mocks the American tradition of fair play,” and “discriminates in a callous fashion against displaced persons of the Jewish faith.”[3]  But, the bill passed on the last day of the 80th session. Truman only signed it because refusal meant, in his words, “there would be no legislation on behalf of displaced persons.”[4]

Passed in 1948, the DPA lasted for two years and allowed 200,000 DPs into the USA, and was restricted to only 10,000 Jews.  Further, in crafting this bill, the Congress called for strict investigations into refugees backgrounds.  The first step involved certification by the International Refugee Organization (IRO), a United Nations agency created in 1946, which screened refugees.  However, a former IRO official before the Congress described the IRO process as fraudulent stating that employees refused to check documents and were more interested in filling quotas then inspecting an individual’s background.[5]  The second step in the screening process called for an investigation of each individual by the Displaced Persons Committee (DPC), but the DPC delegated its responsibility to the U.S. Army which conducted neighborhood spot checks and examined German military records, UN camp records, and records in the Berlin Document Center.[6]  Eventually the DPA was renewed in 1950 and expired in 1952; however, with thousands of DPs still in camps, the 83rd Congress approved the Refugee Relief Act in 1953 allowing 200,000 more European DPs into the country.  Together, these two pieces of legislation permitted nearly 600,000 immigrants to enter the United States.[7]

As the case of the USA after the Second World War indicates, there was hardly a welcoming of refugees and much debating over quotas, something that Bazelon identifies as a problem in Europe today. After the war, Britain, in fact, sought every means to prevent Jews from migrating to the Palatinate Protectorate.   Yet, these actions demonstrate that not much has changed.  All nations remain protective of their boarders and want to make sure they know who is crossing their borders.  This is particularly difficult in Europe where the Nazi genocide removed the most persecuted minority and the Cold War basically froze borders, making nation-states rather homogeneous.  Yes, countries had minority populations, like the Turk guest workers in Germany, but most states had a dominant majority.

However, the opening of borders, the wealth of the European Union, and opportunities for immigrants has created new problems, leading to the increasing racism and right wing political parties like UKIP in Great Britain and the NPD in Germany.   The problem facing Europe, as many have pointed out, is that for centuries the continent was a net exporter of individuals, but now it’s wealth is making it a net importer.  Furthermore, the Syrian crisis partially stems from Europe and the USA’s decision to remain hands off, even after the use of chemical weapons.  Perhaps the best way to solve the refugee crisis is to solve the crisis, but geopolitical situation grows ever more complicated.

What we are witnessing is Europe coming  to grips with the challenge of being a net importer of individuals, and it will not be easy or simple.  One can criticize Europe and say that refugees were treated better in the past, but this is ahistorical.  One can say that Europe should open its borders and aid refugees, but a commentator must also consider history and domestic politics.  One can point to the acceptance of Vietnamese refugees in the 1970s, but one must consider the Vietnam War and American’s moral responsibility.  History, especially the history of refugees, is complicated.  Anyone providing a simple narrative has overlooked the extreme complexity and grayness of the past.  Does the crisis need solved? Yes.  Should refugees be treated with dignify? Yes.  But, looking for some romantic past doesn’t solve the current problem.

[1] Jan T. Gross, Fear: Anti-Semitism in Poland after Auschwitz, (New York: Random House, 2007).

[2] Leonard Dinnerstein, America and the Survivors of the Holocaust, (New York: Columbia University Press, 1982), 163-182.

[3] Harry S. Truman, “Statement by the President Upon Signing the Displaced Persons Act,” June 25, 1948. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project. http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ ws/?pid=12942.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Edward M. Glazek, Hearings before the Subcommittee on Amendments to the Displaced Persons Act, Committee on the Judiciary, United States Senate, 81st Congress, 1st and  2nd Session, February 3, 1950, 490-495.

[6] Allan A. Ryan Jr. Quiet Neighbors: Prosecuting Nazi War Criminals in America, (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich Publishers, 1984), 20-22.

[7] Ibid., 26.

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Fiscal Military States in Early Modern Europe

According to Nicholas Henshall, historians have long misinterpreted the term “absolutism.”  The term “absolutism” emerged after the fall of the ancien regime and came to describe “a highly centralized and despotic government ruled by an all-powerful monarch authority extended to all parts of the realm and was not subjected to any constitutional, aristocratic, or legal constraints.” (Dunning and Smith, “Moving Beyond Absolutism,” 2006.) For Henshall, this approach is no longer tenable, and he argues that “absolutism” in fact never existed – it was a myth.  Rather than expanding their powers and destroying corporate bodies like the Parlements, Henshall asserts that absolute monarchs were simply enhancing the powers they already controlled in the realm of foreign policy, military forces, government minsters, and the collection of revenues.  In rejecting the concept of “absolutism,” Henshall instead adopts the term fiscal military state, as used by John Brewer, to describe the expansion of the English state; moreover, Henshall argues that this concept can be applied to other European states.

The idea of the fiscal military state developed from the debate over the early modern military revolution.  First articulated by Michael Roberts in 1955, the military revolution paradigm argues that a dramatic change in military technology, tactics, strategy, training, the size of armies, and the cost of war significantly affected early modern states (see Clifford Rogers, ed. The Military Revolution Debate).  By exploring Sweden and the Dutch Republic, Roberts suggested that this military revolution resulted in the expansion of the state and administration to supply money, men, and materiel.  Scholars quickly adopted the idea of the military revolution and built upon this concept, for example, Geoffrey Parker asserts that the growing cost of war forced bureaucrats and kings to seek out additional sources of revenue, a process that generally increased both the size and power of the central state authorities.  Nevertheless, these scholars simply plugged the military revolution into the theory of “absolutism” without investigating whether “absolutism” proved an adequate descriptor of early modern states.  Proponents of the military revolution argue that the revolution acted as a catalyst for the formation of “absolutism,” describing the power shift from the nobles to the monarch and his ministers who extrapolated money and resources from the state.  (Dunning and Smith, “Moving Beyond Absolutism,” 2006.)

By simply plugging the military revolution into the theory of “absolutism,” scholars failed to investigate the structures or process of the early modern state.  One of the first scholars to challenge the paradigm of “absolutism” was John Brewer who coined the term fiscal military state in his 1989 study The Sinews of Power.  Prior to Brewer’s study, the historical literature credited the rise of the liberal British state as a result “English exceptionalism,” particularly emphasizing Britain’s political culture, geographic isolationism, and representative assembly.  This view described early modern England as a “weak” state that became a great power; however, Brewer overturns this assumption by examining public finances in England.  In exploring this development, he discovered that far from being weak, early modern England developed fiscal military structures similar to European continental powers.  This expansion of state power occurred rapidly after the Glorious Revolution of 1688 as England increasingly involved itself in European and world affairs.  Moreover, the desires of the English government and private investors supported the rapid growth of the world’s most powerful navy.  Though costly, the financial revolution that occurred with the founding of the Bank of England in 1694 and the development of a modern credit system provided the institutions and instruments needed for this large scale project, but it still required the increase of taxes and a large bureaucracy to collect them.  This development ensured that by the 18th century, England was the most heavily taxed and militarized state in Europe, with a bureaucracy larger than Prussia.

The theory of the fiscal military state is applicable beyond England and Jan Glete has provided a comparative study of the fiscal military state by examining early modern Spain, Sweden, and the Netherlands.  Yet, in considering a comparative approach to the fiscal military state, it is important to consider the timing.  As Thomas Ertman emphasizes in Birth of Leviathan, the onset of international pressure, access to technology, and the stage of economic development can explain the variations among fiscal military states.  The earliest fiscal military states tended to use coercive methods to extract resources and revenue from domestic economies without concern for their actions, yet these predatory actions slowed the development of capitalism.  Later fiscal military states would be wiser and extracted resources without causing significant damage to the economy, particularly through the use of well-trained bureaucrats.  Thus, collecting resources and revenue in a state based on cooperation rather than coercion proved to be a defining characteristic of successful fiscal military states.

According Glete and other historians, Spain (Kingdom of Castile) was the first fiscal military state.  As a product of the Reconquista of the Iberia Peninsula, Spain develop a highly militarized culture, and the king of Castile wielded enormous power over his subjects and the economy.  Using a centralized bureaucracy, Castile formed a strong administrative structure to increase tax collection and to manage a growing military force.  Nevertheless, the king and his administrators did not coerce traditional elites, but rather reached a cooperative agreement.  Glete characterizes this relationship as “protection selling” whereby the local elites willingly entered into the growing kingdom in return for the protection of the king.  This cooperation reduced violence between elites and enabled the state to grow.  Yet, Glete suggests that the kingdom’s continued desire to expand its territorial possessions rather than its colonial empire caused its downfall.  To continue funding wars on the European landmass, Castile’s resource extraction harmed the economy, slowed the development of capitalism, and caused short-term fiscal crisis that resulted in even more extreme forms of extractions.  Ultimately, the growth of the Spanish empire created a sense of hubris and prevented the empire of implementing the reforms needed to maintain its imperial ambitions.

Like the Spanish with the Reconquista, the Dutch fiscal military state also developed with the onset of geopolitical conflict – the Dutch Revolt of 1566.  By the time of the revolt, the Netherlands was already economically dominate with the wealthiest ports in the world; a product of the shift of the European economy from the Mediterranean to the North Atlantic following the collapse of Constantinople and Venice.   As a possession of Philip II, the king saw the Dutch as wasteful and attempted to force obedience on the Dutch in 1566.  The Dutch nobles and merchants joined forces against Philip and were especially outraged at the king’s attempt to impose Catholicism on the Calvinist region.  The formation of a state by nobles and merchants subordinated the state to elite interest, and Glete in fact argues that the Dutch were the first middle class army.  The wealthy Dutch merchants and their dominance over the Baltic and Mediterranean trade (along with defeat of the Spanish Armada by England) enabled the Dutch to provision and feed their armies; moreover, as their access to capital was not denied, they were able to pay their army on regular basis.  This regularly paid army was much less likely to rebel and underwent new and rigorous reforms introduced by Maurice of Nassau to discipline the army.  Thus, broad interest groups in the northern Netherlands willingly provided the fiscal resources needed for the military as it was good business – the military protected the Dutch ports ensuring the continuation of trade and the accumulation of wealth.

Glete also considers early modern Sweden a fiscal military state, emphasizing the years 1520-1660 as coherent period of state formation process.  This emerged with the Vasa rulers who sold protection to the church, aristocracy, and peasant communities in exchange for taxes, furthermore, the Vasas also administered their own military apparatus, unlike other states that relied on military contractors.  With the geography of the Baltic region and Sweden’s lack of natural resources, Sweden waged war offensively, rarely ever actually fighting on Swedish territory.  To extract resources, the Vasas employed local bailiffs who collected taxes and reported directly to a central administration controlled by the king.  The bailiffs maintained detailed knowledge of the local communities, enabling them to collect resources more effectively.  While Glete emphasizes the use of bailiffs, Robert Frost, in his study The Great Northern Wars, suggests that Sweden attracted officers and nobles because they were able to offer large tracts of land confiscated during the Reformation, moreover, as they were paid in land contracts, they had desire to see the state expand.  These concepts are not mutually exclusive and both demonstrate the cooperation between the state and the elites in the formation and functioning of the Swedish fiscal military state.

When considering the development of fiscal military states in the early modern era, Brandenburg-Prussia often receives much attention due to its legacy of militarism.  However, its position in the center of Northern Europe made Brandenburg vulnerable to invading armies, particularly evident during the Thirty Years’ War.  The Great Elector recognized both the vulnerabilities and the need for a standing army and he was able to start the foundations of an army; however, most historians identify his grandson, Frederick Wilhelm I, as the creator of the organizer of the Prussian fiscal military state.  This is particularly evident in Reinhold Dorwart’s Administrative Reforms of Frederick William I of Prussia which describes the legal, administrative, and military reforms of Frederick Wilhelm.  These historians emphasize the implementation of the canton conscription system that incorporated the peasantry into the conscription system; the close cooperation between nobles and the monarch through the use of positions and salaries; and the formation of the General Directory which centralized state power into one body.  Furthermore, historians such as Hans Rosenberg in Bureaucracy, Aristocracy and Autocracy argue that Frederick Wilhelm’s reforms demonstrate the authoritarian nature of Prussia and provided the foundation for Germany’s Sonderweg

Nevertheless, recent research by Peter Wilson suggests that the Prussian fiscal military state was weaker than previously considered.  Frederick Wilhelm’s “reliance on the nobility, especially for local government, forced the Crown to respect their regional interests.” (Wilson “Prussia as a Fiscal-Military State, 1640-1806,” 2009) This prevented Frederick Wilhelm from developing a truly uniform system of government throughout the Brandenburg-Prussia, rather, Prussia remained, in Karin Friedrich’s words, a composite monarchy whereby each region maintained its own institutions and traditions.  This interpretation is further supported by William Hagan’s Ordinary Prussians.  In this work, Hagan demonstrates the ability of peasants to appeal to higher courts if they were dissatisfied with the estate courts; moreover, continued peasant insubordination leads the author to doubt the thesis stressing the militarization and discipline of villagers by Junker lords.  This revisionism, however, should not ignore the fact that peasants carried an unfair burden.  Thus, Wilson and Hagan’s research indicates a lack of cooperation between the monarch and the nobles, a central pillar of the fiscal military state argument and, looking into the late 18th and early 19th centuries, suggest that Prussia did not want to undermine the tax and conscription system it developed.  Instead, research emphasizes the regional differences within Prussia, concluding that historians need to be wary of considering Prussia a fiscal military state.

By exploring the relationship between monarchs and nobles, many historian have abandoned the term “absolutism” to describe early modern states.  The term implies that monarchs commanded the power to force nobles and regions into the growing state apparatus and most proponents of “absolutism” point to French King Louis XIV.  However, the term fails investigate how monarchs extended their power; it simply assumes they already had the fiscal and military instruments to expand, but recent research has called this into question.  In adopting the term fiscal military states, historians are now examining the relationship between monarchs and nobles and how these cooperative relations enabled for the expansion of centralized power as nobles accepted political and military positions in exchange for cooperating and working with the monarch.  This provided the monarch with loyal officials, a growing bureaucracy, and an increasing tax base to support a centralized state.  Although this process is hardly uniform across early modern Europe, it demonstrate more effectively the shrinking of powerful nobles and the expansion of state power.

Night Will Fall

Night Will Fall is a 2014 documentary that examines World War II film crews from the three Allied powers who captured the liberation of Nazi concentration camps and killing centers.  The chilling footage captured by these film crews was meant to be part of documentary film overseen by Sidney Berstein, but the contingencies of the Cold War prevented the documentary’s completion, though some of the footage was used by the U.S. Military in a short film titled Death Mills.  Until recently, this footage remained buried in the British archives, but scholars working at the Imperial War Museum pieced together the film using the original script and instructions left by the original staff.

For many, the draw is the fact that legendary film director Alfred Hitchcock was involved in the project, however, as the documentary makes clear, Hitchcock was involved and offered important advice to the staff, but he spent a very limited amount of time working on the project.  The advice Hitchcock provided though seems crucial –   to display long shots rather than short shots in order counter any criticism that might suggest the film was the product of Hollywood film making (Hollywood “magic”).

In presentation, Night Will Fall is documentary about a documentary.  It tells the story of the WWII cameramen, soldiers involved in liberating camps, survivors who can be seen in the original footage, and those at the Imperial War museum who reconstructed the original documentary.  While this story is important and demonstrates the overwhelming inertia of the Cold War, the crucial feature is the original footage. The images are grim.  Footage of former Nazi prison guards dragging the bodies of those they murdered to mass graves is particularity disconcerting.  This documentary is not afraid to show the barbaric results of the Nazi racial state.

Another important feature of the original film footage is the effort made by the British and Americans soldiers to walk German civilians through the camps – to show them the what the Nazi state did and prevent them from ever denying that they did not know what the Nazis were doing.  Yet, even though thousands of German civilians passed through these camps witnessing the criminal actions of the state they supported, it was not until the 1960s, when the youth of German challenged their elders, that Germans finally confronted their Nazi past.  The efforts needed to rebuild a state destroyed by war and the oncoming of the Cold War enabled German civilians to focus on reconstruction rather than Nazi crimes.

The Night Will Fall tells a fascinating story and shows how geopolitics led the American and British governments to quickly sweep the Holocaust under the rug during the Cold War.  In fact, the Holocaust would remain dormant until the 1970s miniseries Holocaust reminded the public of the German crimes.  However, while this story is informative, the horror of the original footage is why this documentary is important.  It once again reminds us of the brutality of not just Nazi Germany but also of humankind.  What people can do to one another based on rigid ideologies that exclude other humans for being different, whether that be religiously, ethnically,  racially, sexually, etc.  The images show us how harsh rhetoric can lead to devastating actions and cautions us to take the language employed by world leaders, politicians, and businessmen seriously as they can have unimaginable outcomes.

For the Soul of Mankind – Review

In Melvin Leffler’s book For the Soul of Mankind: The United States, the Soviet Union, and the Cold War, the author identifies five key moments of the Cold War and seeks to understand why American and Soviet leaders were unable to bridge their differences. By focusing on individual leaders, Leffler explores the backgrounds and experiences of these individuals and argues that their choices were “strongly influenced by their ideological mind-sets and historical memories.” (7) This suggests that individual personalities and their experiences were far more important to the ebbs and flows of the Cold War than economic, strategic, and domestic politics; moreover, this line argumentation indicates that emotions, rather than cold rationality, played a much more significant role in the perpetuation of the Cold War. To support his argument, Leffler’s study relies on recently released primary sources material from the Cold War International History Project and the National Security Archive which hold documents concerning the Soviet side of the Cold War. The author also relied on documents from Presidential Libraries, the Library of Congress, and the National Archives. This multi-archival research allows Leffler to present a narrative that includes both the Soviets and American perspectives of the Cold War and investigate how personalities shaped policy.

Leffler’s first case study examines President Harry Truman and Soviet General Secretary Josef Stalin in the immediate period after the Second World War. The author asserts that the Cold War was not inevitable, and instead suggests that Truman’s support for self-determination and open elections conflicted with Stalin’s desire for security, particularly in Eastern Europe; moreover, Stalin perceived American economic aid to Western Europe as capitalist encirclement, thus confirming his Marxist-Lenin ideology. These two leaders who initially planned to work together ultimately started a decades long conflict based on personal experience, ideology, and perception of the international system. The other case studies examined by Leffler include Malenkov and Eisenhower, Khrushchev, Kennedy, and Johnson, and Brezhnev and Carter. In all of these examples, the author shows how individual leaders were unable to put aside ideological differences to pursue common interests. According to the author, the first individual willing to put aside his ideological blinders was Mikhail Gorbachev. In the final chapter examining Gorbachev, Reagan, and Bush, the author asserts that Gorbachev understood that the Soviet Union’s geopolitical competition with United States diverted attention and money from the Soviet Union’s rapidly deteriorating domestic problems. This recognition spurred the Soviet leader to reduce tensions with the United States. Although Gorbachev never renounced communism, he was the first leader willing to put aside ideology in order to reach agreements with his American counterparts.

By focusing on personalities, Leffler’s study depicts how ideology and memory played a significant role in prolonging the Cold war throughout the 20th century. Scholars such as Vladislav Zubok agree with this line of analysis, and in his study A Failed Empire, Zubok asserts that Soviet leaders were motivated by a “messianic ideology.” (Zubok, xxiv) However, while Leffler examines the “lost opportunities” of American and Soviet leaders to transcend ideology, Zubok argues that security and power remained the only interest of Soviet leaders – their ideology never permitted them to seek out opportunities to work with their American counterparts. Moreover, Zubok, in stark contrast to Leffler, critiques Gorbachev’s foreign policy pointing his naiveté, lofty ideals, and inability to negotiate from a position of power. Thus, although these two scholars find ideology as a crucial point of analysis, they fail to find common ground. This perhaps arises from their different perspectives during the Cold War.

Review – Grand Delusion: Stalin and the German Invasion of Russia by Gabriel Gorodetsky

Gabriel Gorodetsky’s study Grand Delusion: Stalin and the German Invasion of Russia examines the foreign policy of the Soviet Union from the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact in August 1939 to the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941.  In this study, Gorodetsky asserts that Stalin’s foreign and military policy were non-ideological and based on realpolitik whereby Stalin carefully calculated the rapidly shifting power within Europe and worked to prevent the Soviet Union from being drawn into war.  Moreover, Gorodetsky strongly argues against the interpretation advocated by Victor Suvorov and others that Stalin was planning to attack Nazi Germany which forced Germany into a preemptive strike against the Soviet Union.  Instead, Gorodetsky shows Stalin working vigorously to keep the Soviet Union from being dragged into war and attempting to make territorial gains in the Balkans while his enemies the Germans and British were fighting each other.  To support his argument, the author utilizes documents from numerous archives including the old party archive, the Soviet foreign policy archive, the Russian Military Archive, the Presidential Archive, and archival material from Great Britain, Germany, Bulgaria, Sweden, and the former Yugoslavia.  By incorporating these sources into his study, Gorodetsky’s study of Soviet foreign policy is comprehensive and able to depict the many nuances of the diplomacy between these European states.

According to Gorodetsky, Stalin interpreted the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact not as a commitment to Germany but as neutrality for the Soviet Union; moreover, the agreement secured a buffer zone between the Soviet Union and Europe in the north and center.  For Gorodetsky, the south remained a problem for Stalin and he feared an agreement between Turkey and Great Britain which might create a location for the Allies to attack Russia.  This concern led Stalin to pursue complete security around the Black Sea while Germany’s focus was on defeating Great Britain.  Stalin’s initial overtures were made towards Romania and he ultimately forced Romania to give up control of Bessarabia which gave the Soviet Union access to the Danube.  However, this event drew Germany’s attention to the Balkans as this region was essential to Germany’s oil supply.  This led Germany to continue pressuring the Balkan countries to join the Tripartite Pact, a Nazi defense alliance, which eventually muscled the Soviet Union out of the Balkans.  The author views the diplomatic disputes between Germany and the Soviet Union in Balkans as the key to understanding Hitler’s decision to invade the Soviet Union.  Stalin’s realpolitik practices to create a security zone in the south angered Hitler who ordered his military staff to draw up the invasion plans.

Throughout these diplomatic disputes between Germany and the Soviet Union, Gorodetsky also describes the interactions between Great Britain and the Soviet Union.  In discussing Great Britain, Gorodetsky downplays Churchill’s April 1941 warning to Stalin of a looming German strike and musters evidence showing why Stalin rejected this warning.  Examining the diplomatic interactions between Great Britain and the Soviet Union, Gorodetsky argues that British policy was constantly antagonistic towards the Soviet Union and was consistently trying to drag the Soviet Union into war with the Germans.  Since British attempts to thwart the Bolshevik Revolution, Stalin never trusted the British and always viewed them with suspicion.  Gorodetsky specifically emphasizes Great Britain’s refusal to commit to a defense pact, support of Finland during the Winter War, and plans to bomb Baku oil fields as actions that reinforced Stalin’s suspicion of the British.  By presenting Britain actions towards the Soviet Union, Gorodetsky depicts numerous reasons for Stalin to remain wary of British warnings.

Although Stalin’s paranoia of the British remains explainable, Stalin’s refusal to believe Soviet intelligence sources concerning the German build-up is characterized as a failing in Stalin’s foreign policy.  Herein lays Gorodetsky’s grand delusion.  Stalin ignored the overwhelming information provided by his own intelligence sources because he deluded himself into believing that the massing of German forces was not going to result in an attack.  Instead, Stalin dismissed the German build-up as posturing to pressure the Soviet Union into further negotiations over Germany’s need for raw materials.  In fact, Gorodetsky shows that Stalin’s anger towards his subordinates concerning the German build-up resulted in the tailoring of intelligence reports to meet Stalin’s preconceived understanding of the situation.  This resulted in an intelligence failure only because Stalin refused to accept the accurate information provided by his intelligence services. Rather, he deluded himself by believing that Germany did not want war only further economic and military agreements.

Overall, Gorodetsky’s study is well researched and provides significant insights into Stalin’s foreign policy in the twenty-two months between the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact and the beginning of Operation Barbarossa; however, the author’s argument that Stalin’s foreign policy lacked ideology remains suspect.  Stalin’s domestic policies, particularly the ending of NEP, the collectivization of agriculture, and the drive for industrialization, demonstrates that Stalin was a believer in Marxist-Leninism ideology.  If Stalin’s actions domestically were ideological, why would his foreign policy be any different?  Stalin’s efforts to supply weapons to the communist forces during the Spanish Civil War, to establish communism in Soviet occupied Poland and the Baltic States, and his attempt to invade Finland depict ideological motivations in foreign policy.   Thus to dismiss ideology altogether from Stalin’s foreign policy is an inaccurate approach as ideology always played a role in Stalin’s thinking and worldview.  Instead of dismissing ideology, the author needs to demonstrate how ideology played into Stalin’s foreign policy decisions.  This approach to Soviet foreign policy places Gorodetsky within the orthodox interpretation according to Teddy Uldricks because Gorodetsky supports the idea of mutual security. Gorodetsky asserts that Stalin desired mutual security with Britain but was rebuffed by Britain’s staunch anti-communist ideology which blinded them to a potential alliance with the Soviet Union.  This ultimately led Stalin to reach a security agreement with the Nazis creating the conditions for the beginning of the Second World.