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Cold War Blame

THE COLD WAR AND ITS ORIGIN, by D.F. Fleming. Doubleday. $15.


(Tocsin has stressed the need for students to make themselves with literature treating disarmament and related problems. Toward this end, the CRIMSON has asked Richard D. Wolff '63, a Tocsin member, to contribute a review. Similar pieces from other political groups will be solicited.)>

TO an audience that blames the conflict of East and West on "the expanding tyranny of Soviet Russia," Professor D.F. Fleming has addressed The Cold War and Its Origins.> Here, the Vanderbilt University specialist in international relations shows the Western assessment of guilt to be inadequate, based on false premises and conclusions, and all too suited to the nuclear build-up we wish to curtail.

In his first 250 pages Fleming describes Western relations to the Soviet government from 1971 to 1945 as a preface to the heightened postwar tensions. A sketch of his interpretation could run as follows: Western reaction to the Russian Revolution was interventionary; on four fronts the West tried to crush the new regime before it consolidated its position. This effort was, of course, thwarted, and the unforgiving Bolsheviks held undisputed power by 1921. The west, however, led by Britain and later the United States, tried to isolate the nation it could not destroy.

Russia's Ambassador to the League of Nations, Maxim Litvinov, was outspoken in his opposition to the aggressive crimes against Ethiopia, Spain, the Rhineland, Austria and Czechoslovakia. At first Litvinov, was only ignored; by 1940, Russia was officially ejected for an aggression in Finland. The meaning of appeasement, to Fleming showed a Western preference for Hitler over the Reds. Best of all would be, as then-Senator Harry Truman put it, "If we see that Germany is winning the war we ought to help Russia, and if Russia is winning we ought to help Germany, and in that way let them kill as many as possible." Thus the West sacrificed Eastern Europe to turn Hitler eastward, and only when he betrayed the trust and demonstrated his intention to annihilate the West did Russia become important for the Allies. Munich with its opportunistic implications, represented the second unforgettable episode, which, for the Soviets, foreshadowed the Cold War.

To Fleming the War and post-War years read like a catalogue of Western intransigence, duplicity and unjustified demands. Churchill and Stalin had agreed that the former would rule Greece while the latter controlled Rumania and Bulgaria. Consequently, when the left wing Greek government was crushed by Churchill in favor of the monarchy, Stalin looked on in stormy silence, though the West loudly decried Stalin's "friendly" regimes in Bulgaria and Rumania as unjust and undemocratic. Russia was expected once again to allow us a cordon sanitaire.> After Yalta agreements accepted the fact of governments friendly to Russia in Eastern Europe, Byrnes and Bevin initiated and conducted the great drive for free elections there. Then Churchill's Fulton speech, Truman's Containment and Devil theories, the Berlin blockade and the formation of NATO followed in regular fashion. On September 23, 1949, the first Soviet A bomb "hung the threat of total destruction over Western Europe." And when Truman, early in 1950, embarked on a drive for the H bomb, the frantic arms race commenced.

Volume Two is an account of the period 1950 to 1960 and covers the rise of McCarthy, Khruschchev's anti-Stalin speech, Hungary, Suez, Iraq, Quemoy, Sputnik and the Summits. From a careful examination of these events, their interrelation, and the pre-War period, Fleming says, "It is difficult to find evidence of any desire on the part of the Soviets to plunge into conflict with the West." The Cold War is made to seem a creation of the West; so too is the iron curtain. Fleming even relates the Hungarian Revolt to the forced armament of Eastern Europe following the United States' armament of Germany after September 12, 1950.

As for the future, "The basic question before us is whether we can move fast enough to build such a (world) community, before we 'cease to exist'. . . . To say that this is utopian or idealistic after the abysmal tragedies of the two world wars, and after a thermonuclear arms race is well along is to invite the oblivion which now hovers over us."

THERE are several immediate criticisms of Fleming's massive work. It obviously cannot qualify as formal history. More important, it is a study of diplomatic, governmental and public opinion development. There is an element of shallowness, too, for it is unsatisfactory to describe events only in terms of the consciousness of the times without any reference to the changing reality conditioning that consciousness.

However, these criticisms lose much of their importance when the book is considered in terms of its American audience. Certainly non-Marxist, Fleming's analysis sees a Soviet Union isolated and dependent for its existence and growth entirely on itself. Its fundamental concern is peace to permit development and friendship to facilitate it. The analysis finds the West fearful and suspicious, determined--in varying degrees--to root out the menace.

Quite possibly, the most partisan readers will question Fleming's loyalty sooner than weighing his thesis. But at any rate, they will not find re-affirmation of Cold War half-truths in this well-documented study.

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