Sunday, February 4, 2007

Reviewed: Fenby on the Cold War

"'Christ, I miss the cold war,' Judi Dench’s M memorably tells Bond in Casino Royale. We know what she means." So begins Brendan Simms' review of Jonathan Fenby, ALLIANCE: The Inside Story of How Roosevelt, Stalin and Churchill Won One War and Began Another (Simon & Schuster) in today's London Times. The review continues:
The standoff between the Soviet Union and the West was characterised by a certain stability and predictability. There were hotlines through which both sides could communicate in a hurry, and red lines that everybody knew or intuited should not be crossed. The cold war had its own painfully acquired language and rhythm. When the Wall came down, the world became a much better place, but also a far more unpredictable one.
Against this background, it is salutary to be reminded that the beginning of the cold war was defined by uncertainty. As Jonathan Fenby shows in his highly readable book, the protagonists, or at least some of them, were not even aware they were stumbling into a war at all. Roosevelt, for one, remained resolutely in denial about Soviet intentions until his sudden death shortly before the end of the second world war. Some of the American president’s entourage were far more obsessed with ending the British empire than containing Stalin’s expansionist plans in eastern Europe. Their attempts to put Stalin at ease and find a common language often morphed into abject ingratiation at British expense. Roosevelt’s repeated bypassing and humiliation of Churchill, sometimes accompanied by overt winks and nudges to the dictator, must have been particularly excruciating for the prime minister. These gambits were also pointless, as Fenby points out, because the Soviet leader automatically assumed that the Anglo-Americans were trying to stitch him up, and regarded any sign to the contrary as an elaborate deception.

For the rest, click here. Right now this book is only available on Amazon UK and from Canadian and UK booksellers. I suspect it is not yet released in the U.S., and will post an update later.