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Caught between Roosevelt and Stalin

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

Dennis J. Dunn
Copyright Date: 1998
Pages: 368
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  • Book Info
    Caught between Roosevelt and Stalin
    Book Description:

    On November 16, 1933, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Soviet Commissar of Foreign Affairs Maxim Litvinov signed an agreement establishing diplomatic ties between the United States and the Soviet Union. Two days later Roosevelt named the first of five ambassadors he would place in Moscow between 1933 and 1945.Caught between Roosevelt and Stalintells the dramatic and important story of these ambassadors and their often contentious relationships with the two most powerful men in the world.

    More than fifty years after his death, Roosevelt's foreign policy, especially regarding the Soviet Union, remains a subject of intense debate. Dennis Dunn offers an ambitious new appraisal of the apparent confusion and contradiction in Roosevelt's policy one moment publicizing the four freedoms and the Atlantic Charter and the next moment giving tacit approval to Stalin's control of parts of Eastern Europe and northeast Asia.

    Dunn argues that "Rooseveltism," the president's belief that the Soviet Union and the United States were both developing into modern social democracies, blinded Roosevelt to the true nature of Stalin's brutal dictatorship despite repeated warnings from his ambassadors in Moscow. Focusing on the ambassadors themselves, William C. Bullitt, Joseph E. Davies, Laurence A. Steinhardt, William C. Standley, and W. Averell Harriman, Dunn details their bruising arguments with Roosevelt over the president's repeated concessions to Stalin.

    Using information uncovered during extensive research in the Soviet archives, Dunn reveals much about Stalin's policy toward the United States and demonstrates that in ignoring his ambassadors' good advice, Roosevelt appeased the Soviet leader unnecessarily. Sure to generate new discussion concerning the origins of the Cold War, this controversial assessment of Roosevelt's failed Soviet policy will be read for years to come.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-5883-9
    Subjects: History, Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Dates of Service for American Ambassadors in Moscow, 1933-1946
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. Prologue: Early 1943
    (pp. 1-10)

    Not long after the Battle of Stalingrad turned in favor of the Red Army, William C. Bullitt entered the Oval Office. Behind a large, wooden desk in a wheelchair sat a vexed Franklin D. Roosevelt. Bullitt and Roosevelt had been close friends since 1932. Bullitt served FDR as the first ambassador to Stalin’s empire from 1933 to 1936, ambassador to France from 1936 until June 1940 when the Nazis arrived, ambassador at large from 1940 to 1942, and, finally, special assistant to the secretary of the navy from 1942 until 1944 when Bullitt resigned to accept an officer’s commission in...

  6. Part 1. William C. Bullitt, 1933-1936

    • 1 Stalin’s Kiss
      (pp. 13-30)

      On Wednesday, December 20, 1933, William C. Bullitt was beaming. He had arrived in Moscow to officially begin America’s first diplomatic mission to the Soviet Union on December 11, and finally he was to meet Stalin, the reclusive khan of Soviet Russia’s workers and peasants and the would–be ruler of the world’s toiling masses. Marshal Kliment Voroshilov, Stalin’s commissar of defense, had invited the ambassador to dine in his apartment in the Kremlin and to meet Stalin and the Communist “inner gang.” Bullitt took along George Kennan, his able specialist on all matters dealing with Russia, as his interpreter....

    • 2 Russia and the State of Grace
      (pp. 31-39)

      Everything in Bullitt’s life seemed to have prepared him to be the United States representative to the country that was apparently carrying on the revolutionary cause of liberty. Born in Philadelphia on January 25, 1891, into a distinguished and wealthy family, Bullitt had ties that stretched back to the American Revolution. His father’s grandmother was the niece of Patrick Henry, and his father’s grandfather was the son of a French Huguenot who came to Maryland in 1685 from Nimes, France, a city which gave Bullitt honorary citizenship in 1937. His father was a staunch member of the Democratic Party, a...

    • 3 “The Donkey, the Carrot, and the Club”
      (pp. 40-58)

      When Bullitt returned to Moscow on March 7, 1934, he expected the special relationship that characterized his visit in December 1933 to continue. He wanted to quickly resolve the problems of the debt, housing, and money exchange. He was anxious to arrange credits for the Kremlin as soon as it paid the debt. He also desired to modify a ridiculous regulation on use of an airplane that he brought with him when he returned to the Soviet Union. The Soviets reacted to this innovation by restricting the plane’s use to Bullitt and his pilot and to a flying distance of...

  7. Part 2. Joseph E. Davies, 1936-1938

    • 4 “His Brown Eye Is Exceedingly Kindly and Gentle”
      (pp. 61-72)

      Joseph E. Davies was “perfectly amazed and struck dumb with surprise.”¹ He was not expecting to meet Stalin. Like his predecessor, William C. Bullitt, Davies knew that Stalin rarely saw any ambassador, indeed any foreigner. The “Great Helmsman,” like the grand khans and autocratic czars of yesteryear, kept himself aloof for purposes of security and divine image.

      Stalin did not greet Davies when he arrived in Moscow in 1937 to take Bullitt’s place. It was a signal that Stalin was discounting the Americans. Now on June 5,1938, as Davies was preparing to take up a new assignment as the American...

    • 5 “The System Is Now a Type of Capitalistic State Socialism”
      (pp. 73-81)

      The new ambassador, his wife, and his daughter from his first marriage arrived in Moscow on January 19, 1937, in the dead of winter. Davies adopted a positive attitude from the beginning. He complimented everyone and everything. He found the lumbering Soviet trains to be efficient and the peasants to be like the friendly, sturdy farmers one found “in rural frontier districts of the United States.” He was very impressed by the concluding session of the Constitution Congress on January 21, by what he described as its democratic deliberations and above all by the singing of the Communist national anthem...

    • 6 “Less Objective and More Friendly”
      (pp. 82-94)

      As the purge trails progressed, the international situation became foreboding. Ofcourse, the two major foci of concern had not changed since Bullitt’s time: Germany and Japan. Following the German remilitarization of the Rhineland, the Spanish Civil War erupted in July 1936. Germany and Italy assisted Franco, and the Comintern swung behind the Republic. The Nazis portrayed the conflict as a struggle between international Fascism and international Communism.

      With Trotsky still available as a rival for leadership of the international Communist movement, Stalin evidently felt constrained to order the Comintern into Spain to show that he was exercising leadership and to...

  8. Part 3. Laurence A. Steinhardt, 1939-1941

    • 7 Old Testament Justice
      (pp. 97-107)

      Laurence A. Steinhardt was expecting to quickly present his credentials to Premier Kalinin and then depart immediately for a well–deserved vacation in Sweden where he had many friends and had been United States ambassador during FDR’s first term. The ambassador, his wife, Dulcie, and their daughter, Dulcie Ann, sailed for Europe on July 12, 1939. They stopped in Paris to see Bullitt, in Brussels to see Davies, and then after a brief visit to Sweden they reached Moscow on August 11, shortly after the French–British military mission had arrived in Moscow.

      The British and the French were there...

    • 8 “A Silent Partner to Germany”
      (pp. 108-125)

      Once the Germans attacked Poland, the English and the French declared war on Germany, but no major fighting ensued in Western Europe—a development called the “phony war.” The simple truth was that neither England nor France wanted to fight. They were not prepared to do battle, to put pressure on Germany from the West while Hitler attacked Poland in the East. Poland was doomed no matter what the western states did, but it probably could have held out somewhat longer if the English and French had helped. The Germany military machine marched through Poland with terrifying speed. The Polish...

    • 9 “Comrade Stalin” Becomes “Mr. Stalin”
      (pp. 126-144)

      The Nazi attack on the Soviet Union brought relief to Roosevelt. Friendship now had a legitimate rationale. The USSR was in desperate straits, and the United States could now step forward without embarrassment and offer unconditional aid as proof of its desire for good relations and as a means to keep the Soviet Union in the war against the Nazis. The eastern front would be the quid pro quo for American concessions in the short run. By the time the need for the eastern front had diminished, Roosevelt believed that the Soviet government would be so moved by selfless American...

  9. Part 4. William H. Standley, 1942-1943

    • 10 The Secret Message
      (pp. 147-171)

      In early October 1942 Roosevelt and Hopkins received an urgent, disturbing request. Ambassador William Standley, who had been in the Soviet Union just seven months, asked to return to Washington for important consultations. FDR and Hopkins immediately granted permission. They concluded that Standley was carrying a secret message from Stalin, something so sensitive that it could not be cabled or entrusted to the diplomatic pouch. They decided that it was a warning from Stalin that he would sign a separate peace treaty with the Nazis unless aid were substantially increased. Of course, aid was already pouring into the Soviet Union...

    • 11 The News Conference
      (pp. 172-182)

      While Standley was gone, the great Battle of Stalingrad unfolded. It and the ensuing Battle of Kursk in July 1943 were the proverbial turning points in the war. When Standley finally reached Kuybyshev in January, the Battle of Stalingrad was still raging, but it was clear by then that the Soviets had turned the tide against the German invasion. The embassy was moved from Kuibyshev back to Moscow in January 1943. In February the German Sixth Army, led by Field Marshal Friedrich Paulus, surrendered to the Red Army. In that same month the British cornered Rommel and his army in...

    • Illustrations
      (pp. None)
    • 12 Joseph Davies to the Rescue
      (pp. 183-198)

      When Ambassador Standley was informed in April 1943 that Joseph Davies would be arriving in Moscow in May as a special representative of the president with a rank higher than the ambassador and that he should make an appointment for him with Stalin, he did not have to be hit over the head with a hammer to get the message. He had tried his best. He was totally disillusioned by Roosevelt’s policy of “speak no evil, hear no evil” in Moscow. Like Bullitt and Steinhardt, he had essayed on his own a policy of quid pro quo, and it seemed...

  10. Part 5. W. Averell Harriman, 1943-1946

    • 13 “Uncle Joe”
      (pp. 201-222)

      “I am the president’ loyal lieutenant,” W. Averell Harriman told Winston Churchill on September 14, 1942. With those words, Harriman summarized his position and relationship to Roosevelt. Next to Harry Hopkins and Joseph Davies he was one of a handful of key advisers to Roosevelt during the war. In asking Harriman to accept the ambassadorship to Soviet Russia, FDR came as close as possible, given the fact that Hopkins and Davies were not available, to placing himself in Moscow. Harriman agreed generally with FDR’s policy of concessions and friendship for the Soviet Union, although he preferred mutually advantageous rather than...

    • 14 “The Russian Bear is Biting”
      (pp. 223-241)

      Harriman returned to Moscow immediately after the Teheran Conference. He was confident about the future. His spirits were buoyed when Stalin met with him on December 18 and told him that he now felt he knew President Roosevelt very well and that he was comfortable with him. The ambassador was thrilled that his intuition had been borne out. Roosevelt’s charm seemed to have worked its magic once more. Harriman even had his daughter Kathleen and a newly assigned foreign service officer, John Melby, join a Soviet-led research team into the Katyn Forest massacre. Kathleen and Melby both concluded that the...

    • 15 “The Russians Have Given So Much”
      (pp. 242-262)

      Yalta looms large in the history of American-Soviet relations. It represents the climax of Roosevelt’s policy of attempting to cooperate with the Soviet Union. Roosevelt was sick, and within two months of Yalta he was dead. Hopkins was also sick, and during the Yalta Conference he had to drag himself out of bed to attend sessions. But sickness and weariness do not explain what happened at Yalta. It was, rather, the logical end of Roosevelt’s policy of uncritical friendship and unshakable belief that Stalin was developing,mutatis mutandis,into a liberal democrat rather than being and remaining an ideological opponent...

  11. Epilogue
    (pp. 263-274)

    When FDR told Bullitt in 1943 that Stalin was not the rapacious dictator whom Bullitt had described but a security-conscious ally who wanted to work with the United States on establishing democratic governments in Europe and elsewhere, he was speaking from the point of view of a Wilsonian idealist who had adopted the theory of convergence. He and his key aides believed that democratic internationalism was spreading everywhere and that collective security in international institutions was the best way to achieve peace in the new global order. They thought that Soviet Russia was a country evolving toward democratic socialism. It...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 275-324)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 325-336)
  14. Index
    (pp. 337-350)