cover image Grand Delusion: Stalin and the German Invasion of Russia

Grand Delusion: Stalin and the German Invasion of Russia

Gabriel Gorodetsky. Yale University Press, $60 (424pp) ISBN 978-0-300-07792-6

Gorodetsky's diplomatic history of the period immediately preceding WWII effectively refutes the argument, made most popular by Viktor Suvorov's Icebreaker, that Stalin authorized the Nazi-Soviet nonaggression pact of 1939 because he was preparing to bring revolutionary war to Europe and wanted to neutralize Hitler. Having examined recently opened Soviet archives, Gorodetsky, a professor of history at Tel Aviv University, shows that, while Stalin feared a German attack, he thought he could work out a traditional balance-of-power arrangement with Germany that established recognized spheres of influence. The reason Stalin succumbed to this delusion, according to Gorodetsky, was that he distrusted Britain more than he feared Hitler. He loathed the idea of becoming Britain's pawn, believing (not without reason, as it turned out) that a Soviet-British alliance would make cannon fodder of the poorly prepared Red Army. Gorodetsky reveals that Stalin both courted and bullied the leaders of Bulgaria and Turkey in hopes of gaining control of the Bosphorus and then using that control as a bargaining chip when striking a balance of power in the region. As for the contention that Stalin planned to export revolution by war, Gorodetsky, like many before him, observes that Stalin's purges of the officer corps had rendered the Red Army ill-prepared for a defensive war, much less an attack on Nazi Germany. Though stiffly written in some places, this thorough analysis of Soviet diplomatic brinksmanship makes it more than clear that Stalin was ultimately driven more by a combination of paranoia and realpolitik than by Bolshevik ideology. (Sept.)