Caught between Roosevelt and Stalin: America's Ambassadors to Moscow.

Author:WALKER, WILLIAM T.
Position:Review
 
FREE EXCERPT

DENNIS DUNN, Caught between Roosevelt and Stalin: America's Ambassadors to Moscow (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1998), 384 pp., index, $29.95 cloth (IS BN 0-8131-2023-3).

The history of Franklin Roosevelt's foreign policy and his diplomatic wisdom, skill, and leadership has commanded renewed interest among scholars in recent years. In particular, his personal style of diplomacy has been considered in important books by Amos Perlmutter(1) and Warren Kimball.(2) Dennis Dunn, director of International Studies at Southwest Texas State University and editor of Religion and Nationalism in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union,(3) has produced a needed and valuable study of Roosevelt's ambassadors to Stalin's government--from William C. Bullitt's appointment in November 1933, shortly after formal American recognition of the Soviet Union, to W. Averell Harriman's service at the time of Roosevelt's death on April 13, 1945. In addition to Bullitt and Harriman, Dunn examines the appointments and work of Joseph E. Davies, Laurence A. Steinhardt, and William H. Standley. The views and impact of the chief advisers to the ambassadors (George F. Kennan, Loy Henderson, Charles Bohlen, and Philip Faymonville) are also considered.

In the epilogue of his study, Dunn argued, "In the conduct of foreign policy, where the goal is to intelligently promote the security, economic well-being, and vision of society, it is important to be guided by experience, not ideology." Within the context of that sentiment, Dunn's analysis portrays FDR as a rather naive diplomat who grounded his policies on two major principles: (1) the Wilsonian values of a new world order that was predicated on the demise of colonial empires and a commitment to the practice of open diplomacy and (2) the force and ability of his own person to serve as the conduit through which these goals would be realized. Viewed by many as an ideologue in foreign policy, Roosevelt considered himself a pragmatist who could "bring around" anyone, including Stalin, to his view. Not only did he fail to recognize Stalin for what he was, an amoral sociopath focused primarily on his own position, but FDR also refused to accept the documented reports of his own ambassadors--especially Bullitt, Steinhardt, and Stanley--on Stalin's behavior and Soviet intentions. Furthermore, Roosevelt discarded Churchill's arguments on Stalin and indicated that he considered Churchill's Britain would be relegated to a minor...

To continue reading

FREE SIGN UP