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Origins of the Cold War

LAURENCE REES: And so the Cold War comes from this policy of stringing Stalin along?

ANDREW ROBERTS: No I don’t think so, I think had Stalin been more sensible he wouldn’t have imposed the Cold War on the world. I mean there was no need for the Cold War, Russia didn’t get anything out of it. And in fact, if anything, not least because they lost it in the end, it impoverished them for four decades. So I don’t think the Cold War was an act of statesmanship on behalf of Stalin, but it’s not wholly paranoiac to have behaved aggressively towards the West after the war.

LAURENCE REES: You start to wonder - if Britain’s survival had depended on launching the Second Front in France in 1943, we would have done it. So it's a question of risk balanced with self-interest. 

ANDREW ROBERTS: Well, quite early on, they want to cross the Channel with Sledgehammer, the smaller one, and they were hoping that would bring a lot of Germans over from the Eastern Front to the West to help Stalin survive. That’s only when they actually think that Stalin’s going to go down. Obviously the most dangerous point is mid October 1941 and then by the time the Siberian divisions are defending Moscow and Zhukov’s starting to win some victories there, and it starts to looks better for the Russians, and the chances of us doing this operation are lessened. Of course, you have to remember that there was quite a lot of pressure on Churchill about the Second Front. There were demonstrations in Trafalgar Square. Left wing, and indeed some right wing, newspapers - the Beaverbrook Press primarily - were demanding a Second Front as soon as possible. But fortunately although we are a democracy we’re not so much of one that the Chiefs of Staff have to listen to demonstrations in Trafalgar Square, and so it didn’t happen. Whether Stalin would have loved us anymore if it had, frankly, is unlikely. No, after the war’s over if Stalin saw it in his interest to have a Berlin blockade, for example, then he would have. And so what really breaks down, it seems to me, is our assumption that any of our actions, positive or negative, have any real effect beyond what those actions are themselves. So to chum up to Stalin or to double-cross him really makes very little difference because all the decisions he takes are always solely the ones guided by his Russian interests.