Between Churchill and Stalin: The Soviet Union, Great Britain, and the Origins of the Grand Alliance

By Steven Merritt Miner | Go to book overview

CHAPTER SEVEN
TRIUMPH OF ACCOMMODATION? APRIL-JUNE 1942

I n the spring of 1942, the British, and more exactly Anthony Eden, were about to confront a vexing problem. The attempt to buy Stalin's friendship by recognizing the legitimacy of his territorial demands was doomed to failure from the start. The Soviets and the British were at cross purposes, as would become clear by the time Molotov arrived in London on May 21.

Eden hoped to achieve three positive results by acquiescing to Stalin. First, he wished to prevent a separate Russo-German peace. The Foreign Office did not regard such a peace as likely, but, as Sir Alexander Cadogan warned, one could never be sanguine with an ally like Stalin. Second, he hoped that recognizing Soviet sovereignty over the disputed territories would limit the future Soviet appetite for conquest while inclining the Kremlin toward making counterconcessions to the British. Eden had developed this theme in his memorandum of January 28 to the War Cabinet:

Superficially this demand [for recognition of his 1941 boundaries] is very reasonable when we recall how much M. Stalin might have asked for…. It may, of course, be argued that we have no right to suppose that M. Stalin's present demand is final, and that it will be followed in due course by others. But, even so, the fact that we had granted this demand would not prevent us from resisting further demands which he might subsequently make. Indeed it would strengthen our position for doing so.1

Eden's third and most important reason for accommodating Stalin was, as he stated at the time but failed to mention in his memoirs, to gain Stalin's trust. Acknowledging the influence of Sir Stafford Cripps, the foreign secretary wrote in his January memorandum that Stalin regarded the fron

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