A prize-winning historian reveals how Stalin—not Hitler—was the animating force of World War II in this major new history.
World War II endures in the popular imagination as a heroic struggle between good and evil, with villainous Hitler driving its events. But Hitler was not in power when the conflict erupted in Asia—and he was certainly dead before it ended. His armies did not fight in multiple theaters, his empire did not span the Eurasian continent, and he did not inherit any of the spoils of war. That central role belonged to Joseph Stalin. The Second World War was not Hitler’s war; it was Stalin’s war.
Drawing on ambitious new research in Soviet, European, and US archives, Stalin’s War revolutionizes our understanding of this global conflict by moving its epicenter to the east. Hitler’s genocidal ambition may have helped unleash Armageddon, but as McMeekin shows, the war which emerged in Europe in September 1939 was the one Stalin wanted, not Hitler. So, too, did the Pacific war of 1941–1945 fulfill Stalin’s goal of unleashing a devastating war of attrition between Japan and the “Anglo-Saxon” capitalist powers he viewed as his ultimate adversary.
McMeekin also reveals the extent to which Soviet Communism was rescued by the US and Britain’s self-defeating strategic moves, beginning with Lend-Lease aid, as American and British supply boards agreed almost blindly to every Soviet demand. Stalin’s war machine, McMeekin shows, was substantially reliant on American materiél from warplanes, tanks, trucks, jeeps, motorcycles, fuel, ammunition, and explosives, to industrial inputs and technology transfer, to the foodstuffs which fed the Red Army.
This unreciprocated American generosity gave Stalin’s armies the mobile striking power to conquer most of Eurasia, from Berlin to Beijing, for Communism.
A groundbreaking reassessment of the Second World War, Stalin’s War is essential reading for anyone looking to understand the current world order.
Soviet leader Josef Stalin cleverly manipulated the U.S. and Great Britain during WWII, sowing the seeds for Communist expansion throughout Europe and Asia, according to this richly detailed account. Historian McMeekin (The Russian Revolution) draws from recently opened Soviet archives to shed light on Stalin's dark reasoning and shady tactics, documenting how he boozed up Nazi foreign affairs minister Joachim von Ribbentrop in Moscow and forged the 1939 nonaggression pact with Germany during phone calls with Hitler. (Stalin then began "wringing every last drop of nectar out of his honeyed partnership" by invading the Baltics and Romania, McMeekin writes, prompting Hitler to begin "clearing the decks for war.") Ever the bully, Stalin cajoled Churchill and Roosevelt into sending enormous amounts of aid to the Soviet Union, then showed little gratitude to the Allies, despite "timely interventions" that helped defeat Hitler's forces at Stalingrad and Kursk. Stalin also forced Churchill and Roosevelt into "swallowing" his slander of the International Red Cross after it accused him of having thousands of Polish officers killed and buried in a mass grave in the Katyn Forest during the Soviet occupation of Poland in 1940. Packed with incisive character sketches and illuminating analyses of military and diplomatic maneuvers, this is a skillful and persuasive reframing of the causes, developments, and repercussions of WWII.
Nothing new, just an axe to grind
If you’ve done any reading on the USSR prior to and during WWII you will find little new here, in fact, you may find yourself reading quotes from what you’ve already read. The only real difference in this presentation is the authors unbridled hatred of Stalin. Not unwarranted, but not what I expect in a scholarly piece. Present the evidence, and let your readers come to their conclusions.