Roosevelt's Lost Alliances: How Personal Politics Helped Start the Cold War

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Overview

In the spring of 1945, as the Allied victory in Europe was approaching, the shape of the postwar world hinged on the personal politics and flawed personalities of Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin. Roosevelt's Lost Alliances captures this moment and shows how FDR crafted a winning coalition by overcoming the different habits, upbringings, sympathies, and past experiences of the three leaders. In particular, Roosevelt trained his famous charm on Stalin, lavishing respect on him, salving his insecurities, and rendering him more amenable to compromise on some matters.

Yet, even as he pursued a lasting peace, FDR was alienating his own intimate circle of advisers and becoming dangerously isolated. After his death, postwar cooperation depended on Harry Truman, who, with very different sensibilities, heeded the embittered "Soviet experts" his predecessor had kept distant. A Grand Alliance was painstakingly built and carelessly lost. The Cold War was by no means inevitable.

This landmark study brings to light key overlooked documents, such as the Yalta diary of Roosevelt's daughter Anna; the intimate letters of Roosevelt's de facto chief of staff, Missy LeHand; and the wiretap transcripts of estranged adviser Harry Hopkins. With a gripping narrative and subtle analysis, Roosevelt's Lost Alliances lays out a new approach to foreign relations history. Frank Costigliola highlights the interplay between national political interests and more contingent factors, such as the personalities of leaders and the culturally conditioned emotions forming their perceptions and driving their actions. Foreign relations flowed from personal politics--a lesson pertinent to historians, diplomats, and citizens alike.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The premise that "the Cold War was not inevitable" launches this penetrating, personality-focused exploration of its WWII roots and the late 20th century conflict whose aftershocks are still being felt today. Costigliola (Awkward Dominion) is deft in his characterization of the Big Three: Churchill—boyish, flamboyant, and thrilled by armed conflict; Stalin—a piercingly intelligent former seminarian capable of merciless brutality for the sake of a cause; and FDR—the fulcrum, a blue-blooded trickster willing both to humor Churchill's nude effusiveness as a guest in the White House and win at Yalta the honest admiration of the insecure Stalin. With all the trappings of a dramatic HBO series (sex, intrigue, hierarchy, and global and historical resonance) Costigliola dutifully traces the reasons Roosevelt's vision of three (or four) world policemen committed to global stability failed to win out in the post-war near-term. After Roosevelt suffered a fatal stroke on the virtual eve of Allied victory, Churchill—grasping for relevance in the aftermath—delivered the Iron Curtain speech in Missouri; and Stalin, clumsily advancing violent suppression in Poland, grew resigned to isolation and saber-rattling in anxiety over the atomic bomb and Western brinksmanship. B&W Photos. (Jan.)
Library Journal
Costigliola (history, Univ. of Connecticut) describes the functional alliance among the big three—Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin—during World War II and how, after Roosevelt's death, it was undermined by smaller "alliances" among FDR's couriers. Churchill is presented as an unchanging warrior and colonialist, whereas Stalin is portrayed not as a conventional madman but a "realist" who, despite his brutality, sought secure borders, internal order, modernization, and respect for the Soviet Union. FDR is pictured as being in reasonable health at Yalta and not bamboozled by Stalin. The three forged a pragmatic relationship in which their nations would police the world via the Security Council of the United Nations. Yet the author argues that FDR was too demanding of his top assistants; once FDR was out of the picture, his assistants formed new alliances with and were able to manipulate Truman, whom FDR had never taken seriously as his vice president. VERDICT This book offers a provocative psychological thesis on leadership and diplomacy that contributes to understanding the origins of the Cold War. It will appeal to scholars and general readers interested in the transition of the Allies from World War II to the Cold War. Highly recommended.—William D. Pederson, Louisiana State Univ.-Shreveport
Kirkus Reviews
A meandering mishmash of biography and history delves into the personalities of World War II's Grand Alliance--especially its "fulcrum," FDR. Roosevelt kept the three Allies working together to fend off the Nazi menace, balancing the tenacity of Churchill with the ruthlessness of Stalin by sheer dint of Roosevelt's magnetic personality. Yet by FDR's death in 1945 the alliance cracked, and President Truman, no friend of the Soviets, allowed the prevailing suspicions among the three to undermine the postwar relationships and usher in the Cold War. In this sometimes entertaining but thematically flailing work, Costigliola (History/Univ. of Connecticut; France and the United States: The Cold Alliance Since World War II, 1992, etc.) casts among the diplomatic players that contributed both to the success of the Grand Alliance and its unraveling. The author compares the background and schooling of the three--e.g., the privileged aristocracies of Churchill and Roosevelt versus the hardscrabble working-class upbringing of Stalin and the varying degrees of parental love (e.g., Stalin was brutalized by his father, while Roosevelt was doted upon by his mother) as having affected their respective leadership styles. In particular, Costigliola traces the indispensable working friendship between Roosevelt and Marguerite "Missy" LeHand, who became "in effect his chief-of-staff," and Roosevelt and Harry Hopkins, a man of action who moved into the White House during the war years so that he could be at Roosevelt's disposal. Both Churchill and Stalin, likewise suffering ill health due to the pressures of war, had their long-suffering assistants, while Stalin had his "political club," who adored their leader but felt abused by the purges, and grew resentful. All worked their personal touch at conferences such as Yalta and Tehran. With Roosevelt's death, relations with the Soviets were dominated by issues around the atomic bomb, and alarmist policies over Soviet intentions fueled perilous mutual distrust. Costigliola provides engaging pick-and-choose historical highlights rather than a fluent narrative.
BostonGlobe.com
Even with 60 years of writing on the Cold War's origins behind us, Roosevelt's Lost Alliances can boast of a novel thesis.
— Jordan Michael Smith
Newark Star-Ledger
As an exercise in wedge revisionism, Costigliola advances a powerful viewpoint, albeit one he might have couched with more shading and less certitude.
Choice
This well-written work, based on extensive use of the private papers, personal correspondence, and published memoirs of the major participants, provides an interesting perspective on the wartime alliance and the origins of the Cold War, guaranteed to spark discussion.
49th Parallel
Every so often appears a new publication that demonstrates the complexities of the historian's craft and reminds professionals that their scholarly pursuits—no matter how evenhanded, rational, or seemingly definitive—must ultimately land somewhere between art and science. So is the case with Frank Costigliola's engaging and thought-provoking new study of 'personal politics.'
— Steven M. George
H-Diplo
In Roosevelt's Lost Alliances Costigliola deploys a finely tuned methodology to produce a learned and satisfying histoire totale of the inner workings of the Big Three wartime alliance and the reasons for its demise. He re-examines familiar material in the light of new questions and draws on previously ignored or under-utilized sources, of which the ones by women are especially important.
— Michaela Hoenicke Moore
BostonGlobe.com - Jordan Michael Smith
Even with 60 years of writing on the Cold War's origins behind us, Roosevelt's Lost Alliances can boast of a novel thesis.
H-Diplo - Michaela Hoenicke Moore
In Roosevelt's Lost Alliances Costigliola deploys a finely tuned methodology to produce a learned and satisfying histoire totale of the inner workings of the Big Three wartime alliance and the reasons for its demise. He re-examines familiar material in the light of new questions and draws on previously ignored or under-utilized sources, of which the ones by women are especially important.
49th Parallel - Steven M. George
Every so often appears a new publication that demonstrates the complexities of the historian's craft and reminds professionals that their scholarly pursuits—no matter how evenhanded, rational, or seemingly definitive—must ultimately land somewhere between art and science. So is the case with Frank Costigliola's engaging and thought-provoking new study of 'personal politics.'
American Historical Review - Hannah Gurman
Among its many contributions, Costigliola's impressive book reminds us that the emotional truths of the earlier Cold Warriors' positions will be forever undermined by the costs and scars of the conflict they helped to set in motion.
From the Publisher
"Costigliola seeks to render a new, more Roosevelt-friendly judgment. Even those historians who will doubtless quibble with, or challenge, his conclusions will still find an enormous amount to enjoy and to stimulate them in this important book."—Steven Casey, War in History
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780691121291
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Publication date: 1/16/2012
  • Pages: 544
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Frank Costigliola is professor of history at the University of Connecticut and former president of the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations. He is the author of "France and the United States" and "Awkward Dominion".

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Table of Contents


Introduction 1
CHAPTER 1: A Portrait of the Allies as Young Men: Franklin, Winston, and Koba 21
CHAPTER 2: From Missy to Molotov: The Women and Men Who Sustained the Big Three 58
CHAPTER 3: The Personal Touch: Forming the Alliance, January-August 1941 97
CHAPTER 4: Transcending Differences: Eden Goes to Moscow and Churchill to Washington, December 1941 141
CHAPTER 5: Creating the "Family Circle": The Tortuous Path to Tehran, 1942-43 163
CHAPTER 6: "I've Worked It Out": Roosevelt's Plan to Win the Peace and Defy Death, 1944-45 205
CHAPTER 7: The Diplomacy of Trauma: Kennan and His Colleagues in Moscow, 1933-46 259
CHAPTER 8: Guns and Kisses in the Kremlin: Ambassadors Harriman and Clark Kerr Encounter Stalin, 1943-46 291
CHAPTER 9: "Roosevelt's Death Has Changed Everything": Truman's First Days, April-June 1945 312
CHAPTER 10: The Lost Alliance: Widespread Anxiety and Deepening Ideology, July 1945-March 1946 359
Conclusion and Epilogue 418
Acknowledgments 429
Bibliographical Note 433
Notes 437
Index 523
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