cover image Stalin’s War: A New History of WWII

Stalin’s War: A New History of WWII

Sean McMeekin. Basic, $40 (864p) ISBN 978-1-5416-7279-6

Soviet leader Josef Stalin cleverly manipulated the U.S. and Great Britain during WWII, sowing the seeds for Communist expansion throughout Europe and Asia, according to this richly detailed account. Historian McMeekin (The Russian Revolution) draws from recently opened Soviet archives to shed light on Stalin’s dark reasoning and shady tactics, documenting how he boozed up Nazi foreign affairs minister Joachim von Ribbentrop in Moscow and forged the 1939 nonaggression pact with Germany during phone calls with Hitler. (Stalin then began “wringing every last drop of nectar out of his honeyed partnership” by invading the Baltics and Romania, McMeekin writes, prompting Hitler to begin “clearing the decks for war.”) Ever the bully, Stalin cajoled Churchill and Roosevelt into sending enormous amounts of aid to the Soviet Union, then showed little gratitude to the Allies, despite “timely interventions” that helped defeat Hitler’s forces at Stalingrad and Kursk. Stalin also forced Churchill and Roosevelt into “swallowing” his slander of the International Red Cross after it accused him of having thousands of Polish officers killed and buried in a mass grave in the Katyn Forest during the Soviet occupation of Poland in 1940. Packed with incisive character sketches and illuminating analyses of military and diplomatic maneuvers, this is a skillful and persuasive reframing of the causes, developments, and repercussions of WWII. (Apr.)