What will happen when the war of the giants ends...?

16:28 17.05.2010 • Armen Oganesyan , Editor-in-Chief, International Affairs

In 1972, Molotov could not stop wondering: "Churchill is one of the victorious leaders, and I still can’t explain to myself how it could happen that he failed in the 1945 elections." In fact it is indeed extraordinary and inexplicable. Some romantically-minded historians even believed that with the departure of the "heroes" it was a time for mediocrity. Churchill later played up to such comments, for instance, throwing away phrases such as: "When the war of the giants ends, the war of the pygmies begins."

Of course, Eden, Churchill's successor, and Truman, the new "owner" of the White House were largely inferior to their predecessors. In 1944, Harry Truman, who became a candidate for vice-presidential United States, went on a tour of the country in a special train. The content of his appeals to the Americans came to the attention of President Roosevelt, who was forced to telegraph: "Stop him from continuing with all these awful stupid statements." However, the paradox is that within a few months after Truman’s inauguration, 87% of respondents of America citizens endorsed his work as President of the United States, and that was 3% higher than Roosevelt’s best ever share of the results. And while three years later at the beginning of the presidential campaign in 1948, his rating had dropped precipitously to some 36%, Truman won the election. On this occasion, "Harper's magazine," wrote: "Harry Truman is lacking in almost everything that is necessary to be a leader, even experiencing a lack of will to lead, but in generally coping with the challenges he faces, he is not so bad."

In the 1960’s an Americanist woman who rose to fame, put forward an explanation for Truman’s success, "Truman believed in the rule that guided the U.S. presidency in the middle of the XIX century:" The best government is the one which governs the least "... After Roosevelt's active intervention in the economy, which was not always desirable for the ruling monopolies ... Truman’s views appealed to big business. Truman did not lead the government of the United States, he chaired it ... it was said that in a difficult post-war period it was preferable to have an "average" or "little" man in the White House, as a "big" man who can take high risks, can make big mistakes. "

Churchill was undoubtedly a "big" man, and to explain his failure in the elections in 1945, the views of the Americanist’s conclusions are applicable. However, they still do not answer the question of why ordinary American and British people supported not only the "change" from more recent heroes to "mediocrity", but also welcomed their post-war policies. It must be borne in mind that the expectations of the rulers of the American and British voters were in many ways diametrically opposed.

The British historian Max Hastings tried to give his explanation: "The Brits were eager to establish a new course. Even in thanking the achievement of Churchill's war leadership, they could not in any way dispel their belief that he was not the person who would be able to carry out a social revolution in the way they imagined it. " The author recalls one of his contemporaries, who in the early days after the war had read on the wall of the toilet room at a railway station an inscription which read: "Winston Churchill is a scoundrel." When he shared his shocking experiences with one of the officers of the Royal Air Force, he just shrugged his shoulders and said, "Yes. The mood has changed. We encounter this everywhere ... People hate politicians. "According to Hastings, Churchill had done his part: "Britain came out of the war victorious, but it was not in his power to keep the nation from diminishing its role in the face of the dominance of the two new superpowers."

In fact, Truman was able to "reap the rewards"  of Roosevelt’s laurels and his post-war trophies, including one of the main prizes which was the weakening of the British Empire, as Churchill’s legacy represented a significant burden for Britain.

Deputy People's Commissar for Foreign Affairs Maisky, a long-time ambassador to London, on January 11th, 1944 wrote a memo addressed to Molotov under the heading “top secret” on the "future of peace and post-war. The note was sent to the country's leaders, including Stalin. In it, in particular, he said: "Britain is sure to come out of the war greatly impoverished and weakened compared to the past. Over the years it has eaten up, for example, nearly all of its foreign investments and had to go into debt with  the U.S. to pay for the American destroyers and bases on its territories. The food and weapons England now receives from overseas are on lend-lease, and it still does not know what price it will have to pay. The powerful American circles are planning to demand compensation from England in the form of the abolition of imperial preference, which is, the opening of the gates for the U.S. penetration of the market of the British Empire. In the spring of 1941 (before the German invasion of the USSR), the late Beatrice Webb (British economist, and trade unionism ideologist) once told me with deep sadness that at the end of the war, she expects the economic annexation of England by the United States. At the time, many thinking people in Britain thought the same way. Of course, the entry of the USSR into the war changed the overall situation and to some extent saved England from the U.S. annexation. Nevertheless, the overall economic situation in the UK after the war will be difficult and fraught with various dangerous consequences, including mass unemployment. "

We must pay tribute to Churchill, as in the last years of the war he made tremendous efforts in order to compensate for the huge economic losses and debts to overseas allies, in order to preserve the former greatness of Britain. For his part, Roosevelt clearly understood that the colonial system, which was dominated by Albion, was the main obstacle in the way of the implementation of the global economic expansion of the United States. Even in the creation of the UN Roosevelt saw an opportunity to use this organization as a tool in the struggle against colonialism. Churchill had only one option - to compensate for his country’s losses by right of conquest.

The main purpose of the British prime minister was to raise the profile of the British economy at the expense of post-war redistribution in Europe, while Washington was strongly opposed to such attempts. Churchill was in active negotiations on the division of Europe with Stalin, trying to negotiate with him on the division of spheres of influence in Europe on the eve of the Yalta Conference, and bargaining for himself a "free hand" in the Mediterranean, especially in Greece, in exchange for Romania and the domination of the Soviet Union in a number of other countries. All this was done almost in secret from Roosevelt, and at the Yalta conference Churchill even addressed a special message to Stalin about his plans for Greece. Stalin looked on it pragmatically. Stalin expressed his opinion in a different way which reflects his position on Churchill's attempts to strengthen London’s position in Europe at Europe’s expense. In Yalta, to Molotov’s puzzled questioning, he replied: "Later we can do whatever we want. It is all down to the balance of power. "

"But Roosevelt believed in the U.S. dollar” remembered Molotov. “Not that they had any more of it than us, but they believed that they were so rich, and we were so poor and so weakened, that we would come to them.”

When half of Europe walked away from them, they woke up. "Roosevelt jealously watched as Churchill tried to assert British authority in the remaining "half of Europe", and therefore strongly hindered London’s intervention in the internal affairs of capitulated Italy. London’s attempts to "harvest" at the expense of German industry also failed.

Finally, the crisis in Greece, which Stalin allegedly "lost" to England, brought an extremely sharp reaction from Washington, which was irritated by the uncontrolled rule of the British in this country and their attempts to solve political issues in the Peloponnese by force. On this occasion, Roosevelt and Churchill exchanged sharp messages. Earlier, there was a surprise from Paris. General de Gaulle refused the allies the right to turn to the French for their support of the Army in Europe and did not put his signature on bank notes, which the allied administration wanted to issue in liberated France.

The balance of power in fact played a fatal role in furthering Churchill’s political fate. In the eyes of most Britons, he remained a "man of war" rather than one for the peaceful reconstruction of Europe, and therefore, for Britain itself. But there was another important factor, which made a significant part of the electorate recoil from Churchill. The fatigue of Europeans from the war, not excluding, of course, the British, could hardly be overestimated. At the same time, in the eyes of a significant number of Britons, the Soviet Union was the ally that brought victory to the British shores. The reputation of the victorious Red Army after the capture of Berlin was huge, as was the awareness of its power. Against the background of such sentiments in society, Churchill made a fatal mistake by giving in the midst of the election campaign an order to develop a plan of war with Russia, shrewdly giving it the code name “unthinkable”...

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