FDR’s Death And The Cold War

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During the Cold War, the Right attacked FDR for his appeasement of Stalin, which assured the Soviet empire. In the words of moderate Republican Senator Ralph Flanders, the Soviet aggression America was faced with during the early Cold War period came about because Roosevelt “was soft as taffy on the subject of communism.”

The flip side to this came from the communist Left, who asserted that FDR was a progressive for peace and a better world along with Stalin, and with his death, the opportunity for peaceful co-existence was lost because of the “fascist” president Harry S. Truman. Faced with capitalist encirclement, Stalin had no choice but to assume a purely defensive posture.

But both sides were wrong, to a lesser extent, the Republicans, to an even greater extent, American Communists, for Stalin was starting the Cold War while FDR was alive.

As the war in Europe was winding down, FDR told confederates that the way to assuage Stalin’s legendary paranoia was to “give Stalin everything he wants, and ask for nothing in return.” But such a means to soothe Stalin was doomed, for such was the dictator’s suspicions that even when his inner circle agreed with him, he sensed a sinister plot behind the flattery.

Despite FDR’s friendly policies toward Stalin, the dictator was leaving the World War II coalition with America and Britain before the president’s death. A clue was provided by the ever-obedient American Communist Party, who took their cues from Moscow. As early as January 1944, the hard-line William Z. Foster who would replace the more “liberal” Earl Browder as CPUSA head,, stated “A postwar Roosevelt administration would continue to be, as it is now, an imperialist government.”

An even better gauge of Stalin’s intentions came from French Communist Jacques Duclos who advocated for a tougher line with the United States. Days after the Yalta accords in January 1945, Duclos began preparing an article, no doubt cued by his close associate Stalin that the partnership with FDR was at an end. The new order of the day was a return to the natural war between “progressive” Russia and “imperialist” America.. This new policy became apparent in Soviet actions toward countries they “liberated” from the Nazis. Mere few weeks after the Yalta accords, in which Stalin pledged to allow free elections in said liberated countries, Stalin cracked down even harder on Rumania and Poland and refused to allow them free elections.

Despite FDR’s friendly gestures toward Stalin, the dictator remained paranoid. Enraging FDR, Stalin accused America and England of conducting separate peace negotiations with Nazi Germany.

By now, even Roosevelt was convinced a tougher line with the Soviets was needed. He fired back at Stalin’s claim of keeping Russia out of the peace process with Germany as “vile misrepresentations.” To Churchill, FDR reported that he was “watching with anxiety and concern the development of the Soviet attitude,” and saw Stalin’s aggressive actions in what were by now his satellite nations as endangering “future world cooperation.” Mere days before his death, FDR told Stalin he was concerned about the Soviet “development of events” since the Yalta accords.

FDR, mere hours before his death, wrote Churchill that a harder line against Russia was warranted. “We must be firm,” FDR wrote, “our course thus far is correct.”

Thus, at the very least, the leftist claim, then and now (recently voiced by Oliver Stone in his documentary, “The Secret History of United States”) that the Soviets abandoned the war-time coalition after Roosevelt’s death is false. It is difficult to gauge what a president would do had he lived longer, but it is reasonable to assume that Roosevelt had abandoned giving Stalin “whatever he wanted.”

Ron Capshaw is a Senior Contributor to The Liberty Conservative from Midlothian, Va. His work has appeared in National Review, The Weekly Standard, and the American Spectator.