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    justify this..., 2005-08-07 15:23:56 | Main | Chris Rock's HBO special 'Neve..., 2005-08-08 00:28:52

    reading from the same page of two different stories:

    For some time I've been keen in working up an adequately exhaustive parallel timeline to this one, following fumbling Soviet escapades as they trolled across Africa and the Middle East for client states. I have the lovably colorfully Kermit Roosevelt working for the CIA to overthrow democratically elected, America-friendly governments, but I have no dour, taciturn personality from the KGB for him to mingle with at cocktail parties during the mutually cooperative period of annihilation of independent third world governments called the Cold War. Then I'd just need to start a timeline of hoaxes pulled from Pravda and the New York Times and publish a funtime coloring book for the kids.

    It ought to be a relatively trivial matter with the Soviet archives having been opened in 1991, but I haven't found any particularly illuminating histories, except those that simply revisit already well-covered conflicts over Eastern Europe and Afghanistan, and don't add much if anything to Angola, the Ogaden war, or various other third world Soviet intrusions.

    And on the well-covered topics one gets the feeling that historians who offer a dive into the archives haven't thought it worthwhile to revisit what seem valid revisionist histories, or those who have visited them haven't thought in turn to visit the archives. Specifically I'm thinking of Petro/Rubinsteins' (extremely overpriced, $80) narrative of the Soviet absorption of Eastern Europe:

    the Soviet Union agreed to treaties with Italy, Finland, Hungary, and Romania in February 1947. The West got the treaties it coveted, but time quickly revealed how irrelevant they were. The Soviet government ignored the provisions guaranteeings democratic safeguards and entrenched its domination of Eastern Europe. Stalin eliminated all Western influence from the area with a singleness of purpose that became only too clear to the Western powers by early 1947.

    There's nothing particularly disputable there, you could probably read similar accounts from the New York Times in 1948, and the Western powers similarly eliminated all Soviet influence with a similar singleness of purpose under their domain, if by more sophisticated, less brutal means. What's lacking is mention of the origin of the dispute that became said "domains", as one might wonder why post-war administrations of liberated territories were not representative of all allied powers in a more cooperative framework. I.e. I would expect some inclusion of the case, addressed or affirmed, that post-war politics in Europe simply followed the reality and precedent of the Allied Control Commission in Italy between 1943 and 1944, e.g.:

    at the beginning of 1944 it had become obvious that the control system established in Italy by the Western powers did not correspond to the pattern agreed on at the Moscow conference of Foreign Ministers in November 1943. In other words, tripartite collaboration, which should have made possible the future cohesion of the Allies, had unequivocally failed in Italy. Even if it is true that London and Washington did not deliberately intend to exclude Moscow from Italian affairs, it is indisputable that the Italian armistice was considered as a test case by the Soviets, one which they subsequently used as a pretext to exclude the Western powers from the East European armistice regimes.

    That is in 1999 pretty much verbatim paraphrase of the argument (first?) set forth by Gabriel Kolko in 1968, on, coincidetally, the same page:

    Stalin support the West's surrender policy in Italy, and at Teheran he avoided taking an unequivocal position against the king of Italy, being far more interested in getting part of the captured Italian fleet assigned to the U.S.S.R. But obviously the Russians strongly felt they had a right to be represented in the Aliied control of Italy, hence their proposals during August through November 1943 for a Political-Military Commission and certain reforms in Italy itself. In November the matter of Allied cooperation on italian political matters came up when Vishinsky arrived with two senior officers to take his place on the Advisory Council and the British feared he might arrogate executive functions to himself. What was the Soviet status to be? Allied authorities in Italy referred the matter to Washington and London, where policy-makers on the highest levels carefully considered it, and the United States accepted the "British formula." They would give the Soviet representative "token representation" on the Allied Control Commission, but he would be excluded from the actual operational structure itself - "a kind of superior 'liaison officer,'" as Hull explained to Roosevelt. The Russians accepted the "formula" without much enthusiasm, but carefully noted the arrangement for future reference and as a precedent.

    The reason the Russians entered into direct relations with the Badoglio government was self-evident to American analysts: "... it would seem to reflect," American charge in Algiers Selden Chapin immediately wired [Secretary of State Cordell] Hull, "Soviet impatience at the not inconsiderable barrier to unhampered Soviet activities in Italy presented by the machinery of the Allied Control Commission an the Advisory Council." Washington generally accepted this analysis, and when Harriman complained to Vishinsky in Moscow on March 13 the Soviet diplomat offered it as an explanation. For a short time the State Department considered recommending a change in the Allied Contgrol Commission structure to meet what they begrudgingly recognized as a legitimate Soviet complaint, but the Allied headquarters in Italy had them drop the proposal.

    It would be interesting - Kolko had particular access only to American records, and for Mezei it's just "indisputable" - to know what was in the Soviet archives relating to the matter. Whether they add anything or not I don't know, but Petro and Rubinstein apparently don't consider it worth so much as a mention.


:: posted by buermann @ 2005-08-07 17:27:33 CST | link





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