Posted by: Dr Churchill | September 16, 2017

What would Winston Churchill Do? (Chapter 46)

Churchill, was under no illusions about Stalin’s real intentions, and therefore never thought that the Soviet Union with its communist dictatorship, and its system of absolute rule, the complete antithesis of political freedom, would be willing to sit back and watch, or even allow, Britain and the United States act unencumbered in further spreading Western democracy to Europe and the World, as promised and predicated under the terms of the Atlantic Charter that himself had conceived and signed with Roosevelt his American brother in arms.

Yet although Winston Churchill never believed that Marshal Stalin would allow the European democratization process, he hoped that if the British and American partnership was strong enough, the Soviets would be forced to acquiesce to it.

This was the whole basis of his post-war conception and he expressed this to all the intelligence cables that crossed the Atlantic and the Channel. An example of that policy initiative is a letter to Field Marshal Smuts on the 5th of September, 1943, when he wrote: “I think it inevitable that Russia will be the greatest land Power in the world after this war, which will have rid her of the two military Powers, Japan and Germany, who in our lifetime have inflicted upon her such heavy defeats. I hope however that the “fraternal association” of the British Commonwealth and the United States, together with sea and air power, may put us on good terms and in a friendly balance with Russia, at least for the period of reconstruction and rebuilding of all the states involved. Further than that I cannot see with mortal eyes, and I am not as yet fully informed about the celestial telescopes.”

Meanwhile he attempted to “snow” the Soviet leader with agreements and zones of influence fully knowing that possession of a country is nine tenths of the law, and if the force of his guns was good enough — he could save as man countries as he can command.

That is why he established the concept of instituting Democracy n all the liberated countries as soon as possible after the German occupiers were booted out of the countries of Europe.

And that is what he shared with Marshal Stalin in the Yalta conference… albeit in not so many words, and that is how he managed to establish the percentages of his spheres of influence, that were calculated in the back of the envelop of his last telegram that he happened to carry in his pocket.

Stalin agreed and affixed his mark on it too…

 

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And since Winston Churchill’s plans for the post-war world were based on the keystone of a strong Anglo-American alliance, it is not surprising that he should have expanded all of his energies towards establishing a firm and intimate relationship with President Roosevelt, and his successor President Truman.

But it would be wrong to give the impression that Winston was motivated chiefly by ideology, or even by self interest, because he was not. Indeed he cared far more for the Peoples of Europe as a mosaic of nations that need to pursue their own independent identities as national entities, and to achieve their own aspiration in Liberty of being and individual Freedom, as Christians who were endowed with Free Will from their Creator upon birth and baptismal enlightenment.

And for those reasons the Transatlantic relationship made sense. And of course, logically the AngloSaxon partnership seemed right, since before the war Winston had developed this same theme of an Anglo-American Alliance in his History of the English-Speaking Peoples. But leaving logic aside, he also had a profound, almost romantic, admiration for the United States, the birthplace of his Mother Jennie, and the birth country of his Grandfather Leonard Jerome, hailing straight down the biological line from a lieutenant of George Washington, and the country of Lincoln, the Great Emancipator whom Winston saw as his intellectual Mentor. This is the America that Winston Churchill always referenced as “the great Republic” on the other side of the Atlantic ocean.
As such he was always deeply stirred emotionally; by the vision of Britain, with her age old wisdom, and America, with her youthful vigor & power, both working in tandem, to endow the world with safety and peace, through Democracy and Liberty.

To that end, Churchill never failed to dramatize his origin, and since he was half-English and half-American by birth, he felt that he had been appointed by Destiny to bring the Anglo-American partnership alive. He was especially conscious of this, when he made his historic address to the Congress of the United States in December of 1941. He wrote in the book ‘Closing the Ring’ that: “the occasion was important, for what I was sure was the all-conquering alliance of the English-speaking peoples. I had never addressed a foreign Parliament before. Yet to me, who could trace unbroken male descent on my mother’s side through five generations from a lieutenant who served in George Washington’s army, it was possible to feel a blood-right to speak to the representatives of the great Republic in our common cause. It certainly was odd that it should all work out this way; and once again I had the feeling, for mentioning which I may be pardoned, of being used, however unworthy, in some anointed plan.

Add to this that Winston Churchill’s friendship and affection for Roosevelt were certainly not manufactured. He had a deep, even fierce, loyalty to the President, which sprang from Roosevelt’s courageous help to Britain, in her most desperate hour.

Churchill never forgot how in January 1941 Harry Hopkins had appeared unbidden in London with a personal message from his Chief. “The President is determined that we shall win the war together. Make no mistake about it. He has sent me here to tell you that at all costs and by all means he will carry you through, no matter what happens to him, there is nothing that he will not do so far as he has human power.”

This unwavering and unsolicited overture from FDR won Winston Churchill’s everlasting gratitude. And even many years later whenever he related this memorable incident — his eyes would fill with tears.

During the war, people around him remember Winston saying: “He is the greatest friend Britain has ever had.” This is what Winston declared with emotion. And from then on, he allowed no Englishman to forget it. No one, not even a member of Winston’s most intimate circle, or even his family, has ever been permitted to make a disparaging remark about the President of the United States in his presence; and this rule surely would still hold good today, if the old man Winnie — the father of his nation, and grandfather of this American Churchill, were still alive today.

But apart from Winston Churchill’s emotional indebtedness, to America for his lineage and for her generosity of Spirit and for her supplying the victuals, the materiel, and the vital supplies, to Britain during the first two years of the war, when the English people were fighting all alone against the German Nazi armies and their Axis fascist allied war machine — Winston was also charmed by Roosevelt’s relaxed, easy going, optimistic and friendly manner. Indeed Winston was impressed by FDR’s ingenuity in focusing on the positive, his capacity in moulding public opinion, and his adroitness at winning polls & elections. These talents were not unfamiliar to Winston, but they had never come easily to him. Still both men enjoyed the rough excitement of political life, the historical research, the deep thoughtful conversations about the Future, and both were always considerate of the domestic problems that the other, had to take into account, when they had to consider the impacts of Foreign Policy and War Planning, on the domestic front.

Their personal friendship began in 1939 when Churchill was First Lord of the Admiralty and Roosevelt, an ex-navy man, wrote him a sympathetic letter. This started a long and intimate correspondence, unprecedented between the heads of two great Powers, which continued unabated until Roosevelt’s death.

Since both men were capable of making up their minds, under their own council, and taking decisions on the spot, they soon fell into the habit of by-passing their ambassadors and communicating directly with each other — on all important matters. Sometimes when affairs were pressing they simply telegraphed each other, or got on the radio, or even rang each other up, on the telephone.

They also met on ten distinctly separate occasions during the war, and had the closest and longest collaboration with each other. They vacationed together, and they fought together, and indeed they had the best relationship either of them could have had, with another head of state. Their personal meetings and close-up discussions and relations, took place on an average with six-monthly intervals, and often times far more frequent.

Their first meeting was the point in History that gave birth to the Atlantic Charter, taking place on the destroyers off the coast of Newfoundland during the dark days of 1941. After that, Winston Churchill made four separate trips to visit Franklin Roosevelt in Washington DC, in order to further woo him into the Alliance, and once that was solidified — both Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill traveled twice to Quebec; once to Casablanca, once to Cairo, once to Teheran, and finally, both men met for the last time met in Yalta, for the last conference with Stalin, when Roosevelt was gravelly ill, and Churchill so tired and strained — that Stalin ruled the roost unopposed.

But it was in Washington that the Churchill-Roosevelt friendship flowered best. The US President Franklin Roosevelt welcomed Winston Churchill at the White House as a member of his family. He was given a room across from Harry Hopkins’ and the three invaded each other’s bedrooms as unselfconsciously as schoolmates. Roosevelt liked to go to bed early but when Churchill was there he was so fascinated by the conversation that he stayed up far later than usual.
Even so, Hopkins and Winston usually out stayed him, and carried their talk into the early hours of the morning. The three men always lunched together, and although dinner was usually a more social affair, including members of the family, or of the President’s inner circle — it still remained a small friendly group. Roosevelt liked to mix the cocktails and when he left the drawing-room Churchill always insisted on wheeling him to the lift.

Some idea of the informality of the White House is revealed in Harry Hopkins’ favourite story. He claims that one morning when the President was wheeled into Winston Churchill’s bedroom, the Prime Minister emerged from the bath stark naked. The President apologized and turned to go but Churchill bade him remain saying: “The Prime Minister of Great Britain, has nothing to hide from the President of the United States.”

Robert Sherwood once asked Winston if this story was true and he says that Winston Churchill replied that it was nonsense, and at any rate: “I never received the President without at least a bath towel wrapped around me.” And then Winston Churchill further smirked and said with mirth: “I could not possibly have made such a statement as that. The President himself would have been aware that it was not strictly true.”

At least as far as Churchill was concerned, no trace of jealousy ever marred his relationship with the American President. It is one of Winston’s characteristics that once he has formed a deep personal friendship he is completely faithful, never allowing selfish motives to influence him. He was loyal to Lloyd George when both were spoken of as potential Prime Ministers; now he was loyal to Roosevelt when both were world leaders. An interesting feature of his relationship with the President lay in the fact that whereas Winston was the head of a Government — Roosevelt was the head of a State.

A matter which indeed makes a great deal of difference and therefore Winston Churchill never lost sight of this fact, and yet instead of resenting it — Winston took great pleasure in showing Roosevelt a marked deference. Of course, his respectful behaviour undoubtedly did much to keep relations between the two men running smoothly.

And up until the end of 1943 Churchill was certainly the dominant figure
in the partnership. He not only had a far greater knowledge of military
matters than Roosevelt did, but until 1944 the British had more divisions in
contact with the enemy in both the European and Japanese theatres of
war, than the Americans. The only areas where the Americans could speak with a commanding voice were in the Pacific and Australasia. In these circumstances Churchill had the right to speak in a commanding voice, which he did not hesitate to do.

But all the time that the two men were concentrated on the military side of the war, Churchill never lost sight of his main objective: the bringing of Great Britain and the United States together in what he had termed to Field Marshal Smuts, was “a fraternal association.”

His ideas on this subject were far from orthodox, and when he visited Washington in 1943 he explained them to Roosevelt and then to the Vice-President of the United States Mr Wallace. He told Wallace that he: “Would like the citizens of Great Britain and the United States, without losing their present nationality, to be able to come and settle and trade with freedom and equal rights in the territories of the other. This might even be accommodated through the use of a common passport, or a special form of passport or visa, that might make each other part of their own kind of Commonwealth or partnership of the States… Winston theorized that there might even be some common form of citizenship, under which the citizens of the United States and of Great Britain and perhaps even of the British Commonwealth — might even enjoy some form of voting privileges after residential qualification and if they get naturalized as Citizens, they may become eligible for public office in the territories of the other, subject of course to the laws and the institutions there prevailing.”

Winston developed this same theme in a speech to Harvard University on the 6th of September, when he said: “This gift of a common tongue is a priceless inheritance, and it may well some day become the foundation of a common citizenship. I like to think of British and Americans moving freely over each other’s wide estates with hardly a sense of being foreigners to one another.”

President Roosevelt, however, did not share Winston Churchill’s conviction that the hope of the world lay in a fraternal association between the English speaking peoples. He respected British institutions, but like many other Americans he was suspicious of British Imperialism. These suspicions grew deeper as the war developed until they became almost an obsession with him. He saw the challenge to the Atlantic Charter coming not from totalitarian Russia but from the colonial possessions of his Allies. “The colonial system means war” he told his son, Elliott. “Exploit the resources of an India, a Burma, a Java; take all the wealth out of those countries, but never put anything back into them, things like education, decent standards of living, minimum health requirements all you’re doing is storing up the kind of trouble that leads to war.”

This observation was not only a ridiculous travesty of the British colonial system, but even its conclusions were false. The two world wars of this century and the present threat to peace, have not sprung from discontented colonies but from the armed might of dictators, anxious to spread their totalitarian rule. It seems astonishing that Roosevelt could be more concerned with British colonial rule, than by the extension of Soviet authority which carried with it, as a matter of course, severe and brutal “liquidations” and national subjugations. Yet apparently this was the case, for at every major discussion with Churchill it was not the problem of Russia but of Britain’s overseas possessions, that came up for discussion. More than once he urged England to give up Hong Kong as a gesture, and in the spring of 1942 he pressed Churchill to grant India her independence at once, suggesting in a paper which must rank as one of the most naive documents ever drafted by a head of state, that she model her provisional government along the lines of America’s original thirteen states.

Churchill stood his ground firmly. Glory in the British Empire was as much a part of him as his life’s blood. Far from excusing England’s overlordship, he saw her rule as a great benefaction; was she not spreading the English tongue and with it all her light and learning and civilized institutions to the farthest corners of the earth? Besides, he argued with Roosevelt, if Britain withdrew she would leave a gap which undoubtedly would tempt some less civilized Power to assume her place.

Churchill could not convince Roosevelt, and both men stubbornly held their ground. What Winston failed to grasp until the Teheran Conference, however, was the feet that ingrained American anti-colonialism was having a marked effect on Roosevelt’s attitude towards Russia. “Of one thing I am certain, Stalin is not an Imperialist” the President remarked to the Polish leader, Mikolajczyk. This belief, based on instinct rather than logic, drew him away from Britain and towards the Russian camp. He apparently viewed Stalin in almost exactly the same light that Chamberlain had viewed Hitler; if he could implant a feeling of trust in the dictator everything would turn out alright. “I have a hunch” he told William Bullitt, who had been the American Ambassador in Moscow, “that Stalin doesn’t want anything but security for his country, and I think that if I give him everything I possibly can, and ask nothing in return, noblesse oblige, he won’t try to annex anything and will work for a world of democracy and peace.” As soon as he heard this nonsense, Bullitt started writing his pivotal article: “How We Won the War and Lost the Peace” by William C. Bullitt.

One can only comment that a “hunch” was a strange basis for a nation’s foreign policy. Although it can be argued that up until 1939 Russia had shown no imperialistic tendencies as far as her armies were concerned, her rule was being spread by Communist Parties all over the world which were often financed and controlled from Moscow. Far from being a static faith, Communism was a militant crusade, openly in conflict with the institutions of Western democracy.

Roosevelt, however, was not the only American who had trust in Russia. Many leading officials, including Harry Hopkins and General Eisenhower, shared his beliefs. Eisenhower wrote that judging from the past relations of America and Russia there was no cause to regard the future with pessimism; and Harry Hopkins, six months after the Yalta Conference, wrote glowingly: “We know or believe that Russia’s interests, so far as we can anticipate them, do not afford an opportunity for a major difference with us in foreign affairs. We believe we are mutually dependent upon each other for economic reasons. We find the Russians as individuals easy to deal with. The Russians undoubtedly like the American people. They like the United States. They trust the United States more than they trust any other power in the world, because above all, they want to maintain friendly relations with us. They are a tenacious, determined people who think and act just like we do.”

The American attitude towards Russia can only be described as appallingly ingenuous. The tragedy lay in the fact that although Churchill and Roosevelt were in accord about a world of free, independent nations, the President’s failure to understand the nature of Soviet totalitarianism allowed Stalin to drive a wedge between the two democracies and walk off with the spoils. The turning point in the relations between Roosevelt and Churchill took place at Cairo and Teheran in December 1943.

The Teheran Conference was the first meeting of “The Big Three” and it was almost exclusively a military conference. The leaders decided on the program which was to prove the grand climax of the war. Britain and America would launch a cross-Channel invasion in May, about the same time they would use the Allied force in Italy to strike at Southern France, and Russia would co-ordinate a large-scale offensive on the Eastern front. The Big Three were in full accord on this strategy. Much nonsense has been written about Winston Churchill’s reluctance to strike across the Channel, but according to The White House Papers of Harry L. Hopkins, edited by Robert E. Sherwood, Winston Churchill, was the dynamic pivot of action, around whom all the others revolved

Indeed Winston believed that an invasion of France was right and inevitable, but his experience of the huge and useless bloodletting on the Western front in the first War cautioned him not to undertake it until the enemy had been sufficiently weakened by attacks in other theatres to ensure its success. At Tehran, however, Churchill was in agreement with Roosevelt and Stalin that the time to invade was in the spring. He also was in favour of the joint operation in Southern France, although as an alternative he would have preferred President Roosevelt’s proposal that the Allied Army in Italy advance through the Ljubljana Gap to Vienna. However, he had no fixed thoughts on this subject and when Stalin raised objections and plumped in favour of Marseilles; Churchill backed the project.

There was only one point on which he did not see eye to eye with his two colleagues. Churchill believed that one-tenth of the Allied strength should be used in a third operation in the Eastern Mediterranean. He argued that there was an air force massed for the defence of Egypt standing idle; also that there were two or three divisions in the Middle East which could not be used elsewhere because there was no available shipping to move them to the main theatre. Why not employ them? If, by a small effort, Rhodes could be captured, the whole Aegean would be dominated by the Allied Air Force and direct sea contact established with Turkey. This might bring Turkey into the war, which would open up the Black Sea, and with it, unlimited possibilities. Surely, he argued, such a huge prize, was worth a minor effort, which would not detract in any way from
the other major undertakings.

Roosevelt, however, was not only uninterested in the project but the fact that Winston pressed it so hard aroused his suspicions. Was Churchill seeking some gain for Britain in the Balkans? At the end of the first day in Tehran he remarked to his son: “Elliott, I see no reason for putting the lives of American soldiers in jeopardy in order to protect real or fancied British interests on the European continent. We are at war and our job is to win as far as possible, and without adventures.”

Other American leaders shared Roosevelt’s suspicions. Even General Eisenhower believed Winston had hidden motives for after the war he wrote: “I could not escape a feeling that Winston Churchill’s views were unconsciously coloured by two considerations that lay outside the scope of the immediate military problem. The first of them was his concern as a political leader for the future of the Balkans The other was an inner compulsion to vindicate his strategical concepts of World War I, in which he had been the principal exponent of the Gallipoli campaign.”

Churchill had never been a devious intriguer, or for that matter a secretive, or even a subtle man. He was so outspoken that he never left anyone in doubt as to what he thought, or what is it that he wanted.

Yet in his day, because people were fearful, and many misunderstood his vast & extraordinary intelligence, as being used in the dark arts of intrigue, scheming, and politicking — the inclination to attribute concealed motives to his Policies, to his Speeches, to his Memorandums, and to his Political Arguments, and his Tactics and his Military Strategies — had become so widespread, that many writers and historians have mistaken them for facts.

For example, Chester Wilmot in his brilliant and authoritative book ‘The Struggle for Europe’ asserts that: “During 1943 Winston Churchill became increasingly concerned about the necessity of restraining Stalin’s ambitions. . . . The Prime Minister sought to devise a plan of campaign which would not only be a military success, but would ensure that victory did not leave the democratic cause politically weaker in any sphere.”

Yet, there was no foundation for this statement, because the truth is that it was not until 1944, when the great European landing invasion across the channel, was only a matter of a few months — that Winston Churchill seriously concerned himself with the design of the post-war world, and with the plans for the European nation building anew.

Indeed, up until the time of the Teheran Conference, he had given surprisingly little thought to the blueprint of the post war World Order. And as we now know from his Memoirs, Winston Churchill had decided in his own mind, that the only hope for a secure world lay in an Anglo-American alliance, far closer than anything that has evolved so far. He also hoped for a Continental Common Market, and Community for Europe, with an Eastern facing defense shield — hoping that this combination would deal with the problems stemming from Russia when the time came.

Yet in all reality Winston Churchill had turned all his thoughts and energies on ending the war by securing a total Victory against Germany, Italy, and Japan, and against all their erstwhile allies across the globe, Axis of Evil allies, declared and undeclared.

Churchill himself makes it plain, in his fifth volume of memoirs, that at Teheran he was thinking in terms of military strategy only when he advanced his arguments about Turkey. He emphasizes that he was in complete agreement with the Cross-Channel invasion and the attack on the South of France; and that he merely wanted a third, and a very minor, operation in the Eastern Mediterranean at the same time in order to employ all available forces: “This was the triple theme which I pressed upon the President and Stalin on every occasion, not hesitating to repeat the arguments remorselessly. I could have gained Stalin, but the President was oppressed by the prejudices of his military advisers, and drifted to and fro in the argument, with the result that the whole of these subsidiary but gleaming opportunities were cast away. Our American friends were comforted in their obstinacy by the reflection that “at any rate we have stopped Churchill entangling us in the Balkans.” “No such idea had crossed my mind. I regard the failure to use otherwise unemployable forces to bring Turkey into the war and dominate the Aegean as an error of war direction which cannot be excused by the fact that in spite of it victory was won.”

However, it was not the military aspects of the Teheran Conference that upset Churchill. It was Roosevelt’s aloof, almost hostile attitude. At Cairo, before the two leaders proceeded to Teheran, Roosevelt lectured Winston sharply about his outlook towards colonialism. The Prime Minister remarked that he thought Chiang Kai-Shek had designs on Indo-China. The President replied: “Winston you have four hundred years of acquisitive instinct in your blood, and you just don’t understand how a country might not want to acquire land somewhere if they can get it. A new period has opened in the world and you will have to adjust yourself to it.”

 

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Churchill arrived in Cairo hoping to hold preliminary and private talks with Roosevelt about the forthcoming invasion. But the President insisted on Chiang Kai-Shek being present, and he also invited Russian observers (who declined the invitation) despite Winston’s protests. This gesture was undoubtedly made to show Churchill that Britain had no right to regard her relationship with the United States, as either favored or exclusive.

At Tehran the President continued the same tactics. He refused bluntly to meet Churchill alone on the grounds that “the Russians wouldn’t like it.” Yet at the same time he had several meetings with Stalin from which Winston was excluded. The latter was astonished and hurt by this behavior which was contrary to his own code of friendship and loyalty.

 

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But Roosevelt went even further.

When, after three days at Teheran, he felt he had not made as much progress with Stalin as he would have liked, he tried to ingratiate himself with the Russian dictator by making fun of Churchill: “I began almost as soon as we got into the conference room” he told Frances Perkins. “I said, lifting my hand to cover a whisper which of course had to be interpreted: “Winston is cranky this morning, he got up on the wrong side of the bed.” “A vague smile passed over Stalin’s eyes, and I decided I was on the right track.” “I began to tease Churchill about his Britishness, about John Bull, about his cigars, about his habits.” “It began to register with Stalin. Winston got red and scowled, and the more he did so, the more Stalin smiled. Finally Stalin broke out in a deep, hearty guffaw, and for the first time in three days I saw light. I kept it up until Stalin was laughing with me, and it was then that I called him “Uncle Joe.” “He would have thought me fresh the day before, but that day he laughed and came over and shook my hand.” John Gunther, the American journalist, asked someone who was there if the incident had really taken place. “Yes” replied the official, “and it wasn’t funny either.”

It was certainly not Winston Churchill’s idea of humour, nor, for that matter, of statesmanship. It turned The Big Three into The Eternal Triangle, with Roosevelt the female, almost feline, character, and Stalin and Churchill, both aggressively male, the respective villain and hero of the piece.

Churchill pondered the lessons of Tehran deeply. Roosevelt’s actions made it plain that he was not only unwilling to regard Britain as a favored partner, but that he was prepared to put as much trust and faith, and perhaps even more, in totalitarian Russia than in democratic Britain.

This came as a profound shock to Winston. His whole foreign policy was based on the concept of an English-speaking authority. If the foundations were faulty there was only one alternative: to act on his own and try to safeguard Britain against the consequences of a Soviet domination of Europe.

Five months later, in the spring of 1944, these new and pressing worries began to manifest themselves. On 4 May, he sent a minute to the Foreign Office: “A paper should be drafted for the Cabinet, and possibly for the Imperial Conference, setting forth shortly … the brute issues which are developing in Italy, in Roumania, in Bulgaria, in Yugoslavia, and above all in Greece. Broadly speaking, the issue is: “Are we going to acquiesce in the Communization of the Balkans and perhaps of Italy? I am of the opinion on the whole that we ought to come to a definite conclusion about it, and that if our conclusion is that we resist the Communist infusion and invasion, we should put it to them pretty plainly at the best moment that military events permit. We should of course have to consult the United States first.””

A month later, in June, family friend and journalist Virginia Cowles was invited to 10 Downing Street for lunch, and reports her experience thus: “It was the day after the great invasion had begun and the papers were filled with little else. Winston Churchill appeared in a blue siren suit and he seemed worried and preoccupied. He scarcely referred to the invasion, but in the middle of lunch launched forth into an angry discourse on foreign affairs, and he growled: “When this war is over, England will need every ally she can get to protect herself against Russia. I’m sick of these parlour pinks, always criticizing the internal regimes of countries. I don’t care a whit what people do inside their own countries so long as they don’t try to export their ideas, and as long as their relations with Britain are friendly. Spain is ready to make her peace with Britain and I am ready to accept it; the Italian Monarchy is friendly to Britain and I would like to see it preserved. The idea of running foreign affairs on personal prejudices is criminal folly.””

The Red Army had not, at this date, made any serious inroads into the Balkans, but Churchill knew that time was short because Stalin and the International Communist Association had already planned the usurpation of the Balkan governments utilizing the armed Communist partisans they controlled fully in Greece, Croatia, Bosnia, Slovenia, Serbia, Bulgaria, & Romania. If any part of Eastern Europe and the Balkans, was to be saved from Communist domination — he must act, and act quickly.

At the moment, he decided to act and without consulting his American Friend Roosevelt, he wrote a missive to Stalin suggesting that maybe Russia would find it profitable to grant Great Britain a free hand in Greece, and Yugoslavia, in return for the controlling interest in Bulgaria and Roumania. You can see his genius here — when he included Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia, and Slovenia, four distinct countries in his basket of Yugoslavia, in an attempt to save them all from the Soviet bear’s bloody claws and red teeth. But when the American Secretary of State, Cordell Hull, learned of his proposal to the Soviets — he angrily denounced it as an attempt to “carve up the Balkans” for the Brits and the Soviets.

Churchill, however, was undeterred and during his visit to Moscow in October 1944 worked out an agreement with actual percentages, shared as spheres of influence that both nations understood as their own respective spheres of interest. The State Department branded the agreement as “Churchiavellian” but Winston insisted that it was his only hope of preventing Stalin from gaining control of the whole area, and from killing the ancient birthplace of Democracy of Athens — Greece. He said that Greece needed to be preserved at any cost due to the lights and inspiration that she had given to the Western Christian Greco-Roman Civilization and that it continued to have that intellectual fountain of wisdom to this day. In addition the Greeks had fought bravely against the Fascists and the Nazis and they had secured the very first victory of the Second World War.

So he could never abandon them to the dismal fate, of becoming live bait for the Soviet Bear… This was the line, he was going to fight for.

 

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And fight he did, because as time slowed towards the end of the war — Churchill whose complex mind had never been idle — he now began to think of military strategy in terms of political aims, and how the Strategy would fit his post war designs. It was thus fast becoming apparent in July, just a month after the cross-Channel invasion had begun, that the Southern France operation was no longer strictly necessary. Originally the Allies had considered the port of Marseilles vitally important to handle the flood of troops and supplies scheduled for the main assault. But now the Allied invaders had captured and possessed ports in Brittany which, Winston argued, would do just as well. If instead of sending the Anglo-American Army from Italy to Marseilles he could persuade the Americans to advance towards Vienna, much of Central Europe might be saved from the Soviet influence.

Since Eisenhower wielded supreme authority it was on him that Churchill turned all his persuasive powers, resulting in what the General has described as “the longest-sustained argument I had with Prime Minister Churchill during the war. But Eisenhower was still suspicious. “I felt that the Prime Minister’s real concern” he wrote, “was possibly of a political rather than a military nature. He may have thought that a post-war situation which would see the Western Allies posted in great strength in the Balkans would be more effective in producing a stable post-hostilities world than if the Russian armies  should be the ones to occupy that region. I told him that if this were his reason for advocating the campaign into the Balkans he should go instantly to the President and lay  the facts on the table. But I did insist that as long as he argued the matter on military grounds alone I could not concede validity to his arguments.”

This time Eisenhower’s surmise was right, but his advice to Winston to approach the President was gratuitous. Winston had already argued out the matter with Roosevelt but the latter had insisted that: “In view of the Tehran agreement I could not agree without Stalin’s approval to any use of men or equipment elsewhere.”

This setback did not diminish Winston’s resolve. He was more determined than ever to play every card in his hand to protect British interests regardless of American opinion; and he did not have long to wait. Before the end of the year grave situations arose in Italy and Greece. Both these countries were battlefields; both had an Allied army which was predominantly British; and both recognized the necessity of preserving law and order. The Italian crisis was provoked by the resignation of the Bonomi Coalition Government.

Carlo Sforza, an anti-Fascist who had lived many years in the United States, flew to Rome and tried to establish himself as the leading Republican spokesman. He was violently opposed to the monarchy and it became apparent to Churchill that if post-war politics were allowed to flare up while the country was in a state of upheaval the large Communist Party already in existence might manage to install itself. Winston did not like or trust Sforza; he felt he was being foisted on Italy by an unthinking American public opinion, and he was determined not to allow the country to slip into extremism by mis-
management. He therefore made it clear that Britain would not look with any favour upon an Italian Government which included Sforza as Prime Minister or Foreign Secretary. This caused a storm of protest in the United States.

In a public statement on 5 December Stettinius, the American Secretary of State, rapped Churchill over the knuckles for his suspected interference in Italian affairs. Churchill sent a furious cable to Roosevelt and in the House of Commons on 8 December, 1944, said bitterly: “Poor old England.” Perhaps I ought to say, “Poor old Britain!” We have to assume the burden of the most thankless tasks, and in undertaking them to be scoffed at, criticized and opposed from every quarter; but at least we know where we are making for, know the end of the road, know what is our objective We have not attempted to put our veto on the appointment of Count Sforza. If tomorrow the Italians were to make him Prime Minister or Foreign Secretary, we have no power to Stop it, except with the agreement of the Allies. All that we should have to say about it is that we do not trust the man, we do not think he is a true and trustworthy man, nor do we put the slightest confidence in any Government of which he is a dominating member. I think we should have to put a great deal of responsibility for what might happen on those who called him to power.

Churchill won the battle, since Sforza failed to establish himself as a real leader, but the relations between London and Washington over the Rome episode, were distinctly cooled.

Then came the Greek troubles. Stalin wanted the country for himself, and he unleashed hundreds of thousands of armed communists to do just that. The Communists were the only well armed insurgent group of fighters in Greece at the time, and were directed to converge into the capital Athens, and into the major cities and spread abject terror in what was called the “Dekemvriana”  episodes, and thus seize the controls of power and turn the ancient country, into another Soviet satellite state. Yet, thankfully there were other claimants to the country’s controls of Power who were contesting the Communists, even though they were unable to check their advances, due to the vast power imbalances in terms of armed battalions and divisions, as well as in arms and firepower.

Yet for some time these three elements in Greece had been in some form of balance, as they struggled for power: On the ascendancy were the Royalist faction which centered around George II, the Greek King, and included the Greek army and some partisans who had fought against the Germans during the occupation with British help. Then in a peculiarly competitive yet somewhat allied position with them, was the anti-Communist faction, that was centered around Colonel Zervas a nationalist leader. And last, was the all powerful Communist military resistance force known as E.L.A.S. and E.A.M. that were led by a partisan leader who had bravely fought against the German occupiers, Aris Velouchiotis, and who at the moment occupied Athens and all the major cities and the countryside, but was hampered by the interminable committees of the communist political management system, that when coupled with the Greek spirit of multiplicity of opinions even within the mind of a single person — made his leadership untenable and ineffective. This last group were the real Greek partisans, that had been the most active in the fight against the German occupation forces and the Gestapo, but now they were usurped by the Communist Commissars, and were all busy killing off the liberals, the socialists or the less vitriolic communists while trying to grasp the control mechanisms of the State’s power of the Government by guerilla methods.

Naturally when they stormed the Parliament building, the British troops were called in to maintain some semblance of order and control in the center of Athens, and they fired at the crowd of demonstrators in a clear communist provocation and blood was shed.

That was the moment that the propaganda war was won, by the Communists… but Winston Churchill having seen all of the false flags, and the red herring incidents, of provocative communist actions before — recognized these events for what they were, and he did not even waver for a moment before sending in the British paratroopers and the marines.

Of course, the British and the American public did not know much about the communist partisans; except that they were violently anti-Nazi, and once again opinion flared up against the British forces. It rose so high that Admiral King, the United States Naval Chief of Staff, ordered Admiral Hewitt, the American Commander in the Mediterranean, not to allow any American L.S.T.S to carry supplies into Greece. Hopkins intervened and the order was countermanded, but not before Churchill had sent angry protests.

The Athens situation was hopeless with General Scoby and a few hundred men holding only a couple of squares and four city blocks in the center of the city whereas the partisans with many tens of thousands of fighters and support personnel held all the rest. With a few men versus 75,000 partisans amassing in Athens, Scoby realized his position was untenable and he radioed the command to evacuate Athens and Greece…

When Churchill heard of this new defeat — he became livid and immediately radioed and ordered Scobie to hold the center of Athens at all and any cost, because it was the classical leanings of Greek history, language, and culture that rekindled the heroic age of Greece and her warriors of ancient times, and Churchill was stirred to action like no other time, out of respect for the heroes of Thermopylae, Marathon, and Salamis, and as a stirring tribute to the birthplace of Democracy as the nation that even in current times had fought bravely and had garnered the first Allied Victory during the early day conflicts of the Second World War, when they beat back the invading Italians.

This was the great Greek Victory against the Italian fascists. The first ever victory of the Allies against the hordes of Mussolini and the AXIS powers, who had invaded Greece. This in turn caused Hitler to come rescue the Italian from being thrown into the sea, and thus he had to delay the start of his Russian campaign. All this because he had to come to Southern Europe, in order to defeat the Greeks, who were driving his ally Mussolini into the sea, and back into Italy. The historical influence of that pivotal delay was writ large in the mind of Winston Churchill in that it had ultimately caused the defeat of the German Armies in the Eastern front when they had to fight the best of Russian generals: ‘General Winter’ and they all froze to death on the outskirts of Moscow and outside Stalingrad. It was the Greek victory against the Italians that caused the Germans to pivot south and delay the Eastern campaign so that they had to fight the great Russian General ‘Winter’ and thus lose the war.

And as it all had started with the defiant and fiercely patriotic Greeks whom Winston Churchill had earlier described as Lions in his BBC broadcast of their early Victory saying that: “It is not the Greeks that fight like Heroes but rather that Heroes fight like the Greeks” — he could not forget them to their fate.

He would not resign the cradle of Democracy to the Communists, and he had communicated this to General Scobie, who rose to the height of the hour and to the changing circumstances. He assured the Prime Minister that he will hold to the last man and to the last drop of his blood.

Winston Churchill promised him imminent help. What the Prime Minister didn’t say to General Ronald Scobie tasked with holding Athens free from the Communists, is what he was planning to do. Like another Byron, he then took the unexpected action of flying into the first Anti-Communist fighting front of the war, inside Athens, all kitted-up in a fighting uniform, in order to stave off communist totalitarianism in Greece.

Indeed the Prime Minister Winston Churchill flew to Athens on Christmas Day. He brought some troops and supplies with him, and opened a corridor for Scobie towards the airport & the sea port of Faliron. Thus Winston Churchill strengthened the garrison of British troops in the center of Athens and and also increased the presence of Greek forces and thus succeeded in bringing hostilities to an end, by establishing a temporary political government as a Democratic regency under Archbishop Damaskinos and by obtaining from King George of Greece the assurance that he would not attempt to return to Greece “unless summoned by a free and fair expression of the national will that were to be held within a year’s time.”

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Temporarily, at least, the crisis in Greece subsided, and the Communist takeover was averted. Stalin was not best pleased. Nevertheless the atmosphere of the Yalta Conference, which was held a few weeks later and which proved to be the last meeting between Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin, was not as happy as it might have been, had Greece not been the cause of division amongst the three Great wartime leaders.

Greece was coveted by all, much like the young debutante at the ball, that everybody lusted after, and knives were drawn in conflict and manly competition vying for he favors. But with the communists it was rape and not conquest from free will, so Churchill put a stop to that rape once and for all.

Yet, Greece was not to be quiet for long, and a vicious Civil War soon ensued, but she firmly held onto the mantle of Democracy, and to her rightful place amongst the Free Countries and the Democratic nations of the World.

Indeed, if we look at the historical record it was only Churchill’s respect for the birthplace of Democracy — saved Greece from a dismal fate behind the Iron Curtain. But for a time it became the first battlefield of the Cold War in the two phases of the Civil War that was waged as a proxy war inside Greece, between the Allies and the Soviet Union, and it was considered a test of will between Josip Stalin and Winston Churchill. A serious test designed by Stalin in order to test the other man’s limits, appetites, and tolerances, for post war conflict after the ‘percentages agreement’ about the postwar influence of the erstwhile Allies on the small nations of Europe, as defined in the fourth Moscow conference of 1944….

This was a poisoned relationship from the beginning; and yet most of the troubles of the postwar world have been blamed on the Yalta conference alone.

But the truth is that this conference took very few new decisions, for the pattern of Europe had been moulded over the previous two years.
Only one Yalta decision can be severely criticized and that is the large concession which Roosevelt made to Stalin throughout the Far East in return for the dictator’s promise to enter the war against Japan. This concession made Stalin the virtual master of Manchuria and, in effect, the master of North China. Many members of the British delegation were strongly opposed to the plan, and Eden begged Churchill not to put his
signature to it. The Prime Minister replied that: “The whole position of the British Empire in the Far East was at stake and if he refused to sign he might find himself excluded from any further say in these affairs.”

As far as Europe was concerned, however, the Russians made no new gains on paper. The frontiers of Poland were thrashed out; German reparations were discussed; the design of the United Nations was sketched; the three-power occupation of Germany, which had been agreed upon in principle by the Foreign Ministers in October 1943, was extended to include France. The most important and hopeful event in the eyes of
Britain and America was the fact that the Soviet Union reiterated its promise to uphold the Atlantic Charter which was firmly pledged to the freedom and independence of the small states of Europe. If Russia meant what she said, peace was assured.

Should the democratic leaders have placed an implicit faith in Russia, or should they have attempted to safeguard their interests wherever they had a right to do so?

Roosevelt believed the first, and Churchill the second, which led to severe altercations between the two Gentlemen and their respective Governments in the months to follow.

Since the Russians had promised to allow free elections in Central and Eastern Europe, Roosevelt was confident that democracy would establish itself as soon as the Nazi grip was broken. But he felt strongly that the only way to keep Russia to her bargain was to accept her word as her bond. Any outward suspicion or ill-will on the part of the democracies, he believed, would bring down the structure in ruins. Consequently
American policy recognized only one objective: “To destroy the German Army. Once that was accomplished it was believed that Europe would right itself, of its own accord.”

Churchill was highly sceptical of this thinking. Although he agreed with the President that post-war policy must be based on the assumption that Russia would honour her pledges, he saw no reason why, at the same time, the Allies should not grasp the initiative when they could, and guard their interests against any possible contingency. After all, Stalin was still insisting that the Lublin Committee, which was a Moscow-controlled body, should become the rulers of Poland. And only a few weeks after Yalta he had summoned the King of Romania and ordered him to install a Communist Prime Minister.

Was this the furtherance of democracy?

What did the Russians mean by the word Democracy anyway?

Churchill felt strongly that the Allies should fashion their military strategy in accordance with certain obvious political aims. The Western Powers should liberate key cities and territories whenever the opportunity presented itself. This was important not only from the point of view of psychology and prestige but for hard-headed, practical reasons as well. Their advance would not be in contravention of any agreements they had made with the Russians; yet it would place them in a position to see that the pledges Stalin had given on free elections were really upheld.

Czechoslovakia became one of the major points of issue. In April, as the Allied Army moved towards its frontiers, the British Chiefs of Staff made it clear that they felt great advantage would be derived from liberating the Czech and the Slovak Peoples who were still suffering under cruel German occupation and were fighting street to street, in order to liberate themselves with primitive weapons and no ammunitions. Prague was a bloodbath, and the people sought Liberty and Democracy, yet on speaking about Prague’s plight, the General Marshall passed this information onto Eisenhower with the following heartless and politically naive comment: “Personally, and aside from all logistic, tactical, or strategic implications, I would be loath to hazard American lives for purely political purposes.”

Eisenhower agreed with Marshall; and since he did not feel that an advance into Czechoslovakia would have any bearing on his sole aim, the destruction of the enemy’s armed forces, he halted his troops on the other side of the German frontier. Although he received frantic appeals for help from Prague which was being subjected to a severe German attack he remained stationary; and when, on 4th of May, the Russians asked him formally not to move forward any further, he agreed. Three days later he received a wire from Churchill begging him to proceed to Prague, but, instead, he instructed the Czechs to refer their requests for aid to Moscow.

The following week Czechoslovakia was “liberated” by the Russians, and a Communist government was instituted swiftly thereafter. The once proud country made up of Freedom loving people, had now joined the Soviet block as another satellite of Stalin’s Russia.

Berlin raised an even more heated issue. General Montgomery became convinced in September 1944 that if the Allies made a ‘powerful and full-blooded thrust’ into Germany, they could capture the Ruhr and liberate the German capital. But although Berlin had been listed by SHAEF in a pre-D-Day plan as the Allies’ ultimate goal, in the months that followed Eisenhower had come to regard it as increasingly unimportant. From a military point of view he decided it was better to move forward more slowly on a broad front, rather than concentrate his forces in a single thrust.

Churchill felt passionately on the subject of the German capital. Berlin was not only a great prize but he believed it would give the Allies an invaluable bargaining point. Although they would be obliged to move back into the zones of occupation that had been agreed upon by the Russians, it would provide them with an opportunity, and their only
opportunity, to see that Stalin carried out his treaties as well. On the 3rd of April, five weeks before the war ended, he took up the matter with Roosevelt.

Churchill wrote to Roosevelt this: “If the Russians also take Berlin, will not their impression that they have been the overwhelming contributor to the common victory, be unduly printed in their minds, and may this not lead them into a mood which will raise grave and formidable difficulties in the future?”

But right then, President Roosevelt’s reply was curt.

He said that: “he regretted at the moment of a great victory, that we should become involved in such unfortunate reactions.”

A few days later, on 7 April, Eisenhower informed the Combined Chiefs of Staff: “I regard it as militarily unsound at this stage of the proceedings to make Berlin a major objective, particularly in view of the fact that it is only thirty-five miles from the Russian lines.”

“Why Eisenhower’s Forces Stopped at the Elbe” was written by Forrest Pogue, and is the main article on the subject that was printed in World Politics, of April 1952, and published by the Princeton University Press. The extract is from an official paper-74256, 28 April, 1945, Shaef Cable Log.

Churchill continued to urge his point of view with desperate insistence. When Truman succeeded Roosevelt a week later, he turned his fire on him. But the new President merely replied that “the tactical deployment of American troops is a military one.” And the American Army was adamant. General Omar Bradley sums up the situation in his book A Soldier’s Story, in this manner: “I could see no advantage accruing from the capture of Berlin that would offset the need for quick destruction of the German army on our front. As soldiers we looked naively on this British inclination, the desire to go to Berlin, as complicating the war with political foresight, and non-military objectives.”

Yet this American position was full of naivety, and consequently, we all lost this battle, because the Russians liberated Berlin, as well as Prague, and kept both to themselves for the next half century….

Today the results are apparent for all to see. Within three years, Czechoslovakia was a Communist country; the Russian sector of Germany was decapitated from the rest, despite Soviet assurances at Potsdam that trade would flow freely between the Eastern and Western zones; and the whole of Eastern and Central Europe was paralysed into subservience to Moscow. In many cases the Russians not only broke their treaties but
they did not even try to honour them.

What differences would it have made if Churchill had gained his way and Eisenhower had secured control of Germany? Remembering the rise of Left-wing opinion all over the world at the end of the war, could the Allies have dealt with Russia with a firm hand or would public pressure have been too strong against them? No one can answer these questions, and it may be argued that it was necessary for the democracies to learn
by bitter experience; otherwise the close entente which exists between the English-speaking world might not have come into being.

But whatever conclusions one draws it is difficult to see how the costly innocence and naivete of the American leaders, coupled with their failure to understand that all wars have political objectives, carry with them political responsibilities,  and ultimately determine the future of whole nations and Peoples — can escape severe condemnation.

The results of this American political “innocence and naivete” is evidenced by the final disposition of Europe and of Asia, in that when the second world war ended, and the borders were secured again, and partial animosities, local conflicts, and all the nasty aftermaths of the war in localized civil wars and fratricidal conflicts like Greece, China, Serbia, had subsided, and when finally all was said and done — it was Communism and not Democracy, that had been the ultimate victor over the largest part of the world.

 

To be continued:


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