The Corner

Rivkin On Meacham

NR and NRO contributor David Rivkin sends on this response to Jon Meacham’s “Bush, Yalta and the Blur of Hindsight” in yesterday’s Washington Post:

“Meacham takes issue with President Bush’s harsh characterization of the Yalta accords. Meacham basically argues that, while both Roosevelt and Churchill prove to be erroneous about Stalin’s intention, the accords were not a cold-blooded betrayal of central and east European nations; according to him, “the language in the agreement they signed that day was eloquent and high-minded.” This rosy assessment is hard to reconcile with the facts, since the accords contained a whole section on Poland, which basically delegitimized the London-based Polish government in exile, and blessed the establishment of a Soviet-dominated Polish provisional government. Significantly, this decision was made with the full realization of what the prior Soviet track record has been with regard to Poland — including Stalin’s aggression against Poland in 1939, in tandem with Hitler, the Red Army pausing on the outskirts of Warsaw, to enable the Germans to kill most of the participants in the Warsaw uprising, the Soviet imprisonment of a number of the Polish officials and officers who fell into their hands. This, by the way, charitably assumes that Churchill and Roosevelt were not aware in February of 1945, of the true state of play with regard the Katyn massacre of thousands of Polish officers by the Red Army and continued to believe that this was all German propaganda.

To put it in a nutshell, the Yalta accords consigned Poland, a country the protection of whose independence was the casus belli of the World War II, to the Soviet control. More broadly, by demonstrating to Stalin that the West was prepared to accept his domination of Poland, the accords gave Moscow the green light to do likewise in Hungary, Bulgaria, Czechoslovia and other countries. Even if one assumes that Stalin was prepared to go to war over this issue — and this is a huge assumption given how weak and devastated the U.S.S.R. was in 1945 — and that the West was unprepared to use force to protect Poland and other countries from Soviet domination, there was no need to legitimize Stalin’s policies. Indeed, if not for the misguided Yalta accords, the whole history of the Cold War might have looked quite different.”

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