Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
Winston Churchill's Last CampaignBritain and the Cold War 1951–1955$

John W. Young

Print publication date: 1996

Print ISBN-13: 9780198203674

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198203674.001.0001

Show Summary Details
Page of

PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.oxfordscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2018. All Rights Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use (for details see http://www.oxfordscholarship.com/page/privacy-policy). Subscriber: null; date: 21 June 2018

The Death of Stalin, March–April 1953

The Death of Stalin, March–April 1953

(p.131) 6 The Death of Stalin, March–April 1953
Winston Churchill's Last Campaign

John W. Young

Oxford University Press

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter discusses Stalin, who died of a stroke on March 6, 1953. It reviews the reactions of the British and Americans to the death of Stalin, and even looks at several Soviet leaders in relation to the Soviet dictator. Eisenhower's speech, which was dubbed ‘Chance for Peace’, was revealed to have gone through a series of drafts. The resulting speech stated that the West welcomed peace with the Soviets, but blamed the Soviets for the Cold War.

Keywords:   Stalin, death, Soviet leaders, Chance for Peace, Eisenhower, Cold War

ON 6 March 1953 the Communist leadership in Moscow announced that ‘The heart of Joseph…Stalin…no longer beats.’ Like Roosevelt before him, and Churchill after him, the Soviet dictator was the victim of a stroke. Such was the fear he inspired that for hours after the initial attack, as he lay stricken, alone in his room, none of his assistants dared open the door to discover why he was not up.1 He had been undisputed leader of the USSR for a quarter of a century. Through a ruthless personal leadership, an ambitious series of Five Year Plans, the terrible Purges of the 1930s, and the trials of the Second World War he had made his country the second greatest power on the globe. The costs had been countless millions of lives, social upheaval, and the creation of an oppressive police state; the rewards had been rapid industrialization, the unity of the Soviet Empire, and enormous international influence. When he died the USSR's post-war reconstruction was almost complete, the Red Army dominated Eastern Europe, Moscow possessed the atomic bomb and stood at the centre of an international Communist movement which included Mao's China. None the less the traditional Russian sense of insecurity remained strong, the Cold War was deadlocked and the Soviets feared America's atomic predominance. The belief that Stalin was bent on world conquest was always exaggerated. Even before he died of course there had been talk of a possible relaxation of tension, talk too of a Summit. He had seldom shown much enthusiasm for revolutionary Communism (except where it furthered Soviet policy) and had shown increasing interest in the pursuit of some form of ‘coexistence’ with the West. But his aim was to provoke division in the Capitalist world. The dictator's death was bound to have some impact on Soviet policy and on the Cold War, given his central role in Kremlin decisions. The main immediate (p.132) result was to provoke popular speculation in the West that far-reaching détente was now possible. In these circumstances Churchill's view of events, as so often before, conveniently changed. Where previously he had hoped to meet Stalin, and predicted that his death would bring chaos to Russia, now the Prime Minister was determined to meet the dictator's successors. Around him however among official circles in London and, just as importantly, in Washington, Paris, and Bonn, this desire continued to be faced by scepticism and disapproval. Indeed, so far as the views of Churchill, the FO, and Western governments were concerned the significant point is not how much Stalin's death altered their outlook on the Cold War, but how little.

The Collective Leadership

Ironically, in his last interview with a foreigner before his death, Stalin had made a special point of criticizing Churchill.2 The tyrant's last months were ones of growing fear in the USSR because of the ‘Doctors' Plot’. Though initially directed at Kremlin doctors, the Plot seemed to herald a new purge, of which leading ministers would be the main victims. Meanwhile, in foreign policy, there was little real activity from Stalin in early 1953 but sources agree that he was deeply fearful of the new Eisenhower government. Stalin had always accused America of aggressive intentions but now (as one official later recalled) ‘the two countries were considered to be on the brink of war’. One leading minister, Nikita Khrushchev, recorded that Stalin kept all discussion of nuclear issues severely restricted, was fearful of the US nuclear arsenal, and ‘trembled at (the) prospect’ of an American attack.3 Their leader's demise therefore left his inheritors, not only with the challenge of adopting his highly-personalized form of government to run a vast Empire, but also with the problems of unease at home and a deep-seated psychosis about the West. To the surprise of many Stalin was succeeded not by a single ruler, but by a ‘collective leadership’ under the chairmanship of his last favourite Georgi Malenkov, with several Vice-Chairmen, foremost of whom seemed to be the police chief, Lavrenti Beria (who nominated Malenkov as Chairman) and the new foreign minister Vyacheslav Molotov (who had held (p.133) the same position for a decade before 1949). Initially outsiders paid scant attention to the crude but able Khrushchev who was placed in charge of the Communist Party machine. The new leadership did not denigrate the memory of Stalin, for despite his cruelty and aloofness, he possessed a mystical power over the Russian people that was as great as any of the Tsars. He had become the living guarantee of internal stability, international security, and the advance of Marxism-Leninism and his successors shared his obsession with order, were jealous to retain his power, and thoroughly immersed in Leninist doctrines. Yet, whilst maintaining the general framework of policies which he bequeathed, the collective leadership also toned down his excesses. References to Stalin became fewer in official utterances, an amnesty was announced for certain prisoners (though not political ones) and in early April all those accused in the Doctors' Plot were released. Abroad, the new leaders immediately sought to ease tensions and adopted a much milder rhetoric. The announcement of Stalin's death included the statement that ‘The foreign policy of…the Soviet Union…is a policy of unswervingly preserving and strengthening peace…’, and at his funeral on 9 March the speeches by Malenkov, Beria, and Molotov had a similar emphasis. There was nothing remarkable in Soviet protestations of peaceful intent, but on these occasions there were none of the usual condemnations of Western activities. The most significant statement came on 15 March when Malenkov, in presenting the new Council of Ministers to the Supreme Soviet, declared that the USSR would defend itself and maintain the ‘people's democracies’ but added ‘At present there is no…question which could not be settled by peaceful means…This concerns our relations with all states, including the United States…’4

The reasons why the Soviet leaders were keen to reduce tension continues to be the source of considerable debate. There are reasons to believe that Malenkov and Beria, at least, genuinely wished to see a reduction of Cold War enmities and may have been ready, on some issues at least, to make deals with Western leaders. Under Stalin Malenkov had been charged with the management of Soviet industry and had emerged as a leading force after the death of his rival, Zhdanov, in 1948. Molotov later described Malenkov as ‘a capable apparatchik’ who had little interest in theoretical questions of Communism.5 Because he wished to (p.134) concentrate on the consolidation of Communism at home, Malenkov wished to relax tension abroad. Although he was no expert on foreign policy he also showed signs, as Chairman of the Council of Ministers, that he understood that nuclear war would destroy the USSR. In the 1940s Malenkov had, to British observers, appeared ‘inseparable’ from the ‘odiously forbidding’6 Beria, though the partnership of the two seems to have been based on common interests rather than strong personal rapport. For Beria too had been a rival of Zhdanov and, as head of the secret police apparatus, with little interest in party doctrine, he had a vested interest in concentrating upon order at home whilst being prepared to lower international tensions.7 Beria (who apparently had considerable influence over foreign policy at the start of the 1950s)8 and Malenkov had both been identified in 1951–2, of course, with calls for ‘peaceful coexistence’. None the less, despite such considerations, there were plenty of indications that the basics of Stalin's foreign policy, would be retained. Malenkov's 15 March statement showed a determination to maintain the system of Soviet satellites in Eastern Europe. Besides, foreign policy was now in the hands of Molotov, who remained a convinced Stalinist to his dying day, despite being seen as one likely victim of the purge that Stalin planned would follow the Doctors' Plot.

Molotov was the only speaker at Stalin's funeral to show any real emotion. Despising Beria and with little respect for Malenkov, the dogmatic and stubborn Foreign Minister believed that Soviet policy should be dedicated to the achievement of Socialism at home and abroad, that concessions to the West must be opposed and that any relaxation of tension should be designed merely to divide the West.9 As a practitioner of diplomacy Molotov was a formidable foe for Western foreign ministers. Resourceful, lucid, never shaken by attacks and with a phenomenal memory, American diplomats considered him a rival to Dulles in mastering arguments.10 Even to those who worked with him Molotov was (p.135) ‘unemotional, tough, spiteful and often boring…’. Ever industrious himself, he believed ‘A well-disciplined man will never catch a cold.’ Obsessed with organization and convention he was seldom open to new ideas. None the less, his reputation for ‘stonewalling’ at international gatherings was only partly due to his rigid adherence to official positions: his suspicion of Capitalist motives was quite genuine and firm.11 Molotov could not ignore the influence of Malenkov and Beria but he was helped in his determination to maintain Stalinist foreign policy by the policymaking machine which, according to the evidence of Soviet archives, made no new analysis of Soviet aims but ‘tailored its reports to correspond with its…“consumers” after Stalin's death just as it had before…’. Intelligence analyses argued on the one hand that the West was aggressive, on the other that Capitalism already showed signs of collapse.12 As Khrushchev later attested ‘When Stalin died we went on as before out of inertia’, partly because ‘Stalin behaved like Almighty God’ and had not trained his ministers in foreign affairs beyond taunting them that, once he was gone, ‘the West will wrap you around its finger!’13

British Reactions to the Death of Stalin

Soviet foreign policy after Stalin's death certainly did see some moves designed to reduce tensions. However, this ‘peace offensive’ was not motivated by any deep-seated belief in détente as a superior form of doing business, but rather because the new leaders wished to concentrate on problems at home and feared war with an American government they believed was dominated by ideas of ‘liberation’ personified by the hardline Dulles. By lowering tensions, the Soviet leaders could reduce the risk of a potentially fatal conflict, more easily meet any attempt by the US government to stir up discord within the Soviet bloc and divide the West, especially by renewing public doubts about the necessity of German rearmament. Nevertheless, the ‘collective leadership’ fully intended to preserve the Eastern bloc and build up Soviet military strength. By using (p.136) the ‘peace offensive’ as a weapon of Cold War, Soviet ministers believed they were merely fighting a determined enemy in a struggle where lies and deception were accepted norms.14 At the time however the policies of the ‘collective leadership’ were bound to provoke confusion in Western capitals, where there was much ignorance about developments in the Kremlin. Initially the FO was reluctant to admit any change in Soviet policy at all. The Moscow Embassy quickly asserted that ‘No new tendencies were foreshadowed in the orations…at Stalin's funeral…’, whilst Under-Secretary, Paul Mason, and the Head of the Northern Department, Henry Hohler, saw little remarkable in Malenkov's statement on 15 March. In any case, in line with well-established FO policy, officials wished to see Soviet actions rather than words. As indications grew that the Soviets did wish to lower tensions, Moscow Embassy analyses became more accurate, interpreting this as an attempt to disrupt German rearmament while the new leaders took firmer grasp on the reins of power. Ambassador Gascoigne none the less advised Eden in mid-March to adopt a policy of caution towards Stalin's successors, whose basic aims remained those of the dead tyrant.15 British officials were particularly concerned at first (as Churchill had been earlier) that Stalin's demise would lead to a violent and dangerous power struggle in Moscow. On 4 March, when the dictator was first reported to be unconscious, Frank Roberts had been concerned that the new government might unite its people around a more violently anti-Western policy.16 Lord Salisbury too feared ‘a time of considerable anxiety’ and even asserted, in Churchillian tones, that under Stalin there ‘was a certain safeguard in having an old, ill man at the helm’. Initially the Moscow Embassy and Northern Department had seen Molotov as Stalin's natural successor, if one man were to be chosen, but Salisbury was content to see Malenkov emerge as the front-runner because ‘he was always supposed to be the steady, objective man of affairs…’.17 The FO was soon confident however that Molotov would dominate foreign policy which, on past experience with him, would be careful and unadventurous.18

When Stalin's death was announced Eden was in Washington with ‘Rab’ Butler, seeking an agreement with Americans on the development (p.137) of Western trade.19 Had Churchill been in the British party, events in Moscow may well have moved to the centre of the conversations. As it was the USSR was only briefly touched upon, with Eden making clear his wish to be cautious about developments and Dulles stating that he was opposed to any foreign ministers' meeting with the Soviets, because this could further delay the ratification of the European Defence Community (EDC).20 Eden and Dulles spent most of their time discussing German rearmament, Korea, and the Middle East and the Foreign Secretary reported to Churchill ‘the most encouraging exchange of views I have yet had with the new administration’.21 The Prime Minister's thoughts however were already moving towards the possibility of better relations with Moscow. On 4 March he sent his secretary, Colville, to express regrets over Stalin's illness to Ambassador Gromyko. When the dictator's death was confirmed, Gascoigne delivered Britain's official condolences in Moscow22 and Churchill issued a public statement of ‘Regret and Sympathy’. The Daily Mirror, never a newspaper to miss the chance of provoking the Prime Minister, castigated him for ‘crocodile tears’, an attack which reflected the common perception of him as a Cold Warrior. Churchill's regret was actually real enough, but as recorded by Lord Moran on 7 March, the Prime Minister soon felt that Stalin's death could bring a relaxation of the Cold War and that this opportunity would not recur; and to Eden's junior minister, Anthony Nutting, Churchill soon stated that ‘a new and softer breeze is blowing from the East’.23 Further evidence of this ‘softer breeze’ came on 11 March when Gascoigne was able to see Molotov for a few minutes to deliver Eden's personal condolences over Stalin's death. The Soviet foreign minister, looked ‘tired and old: his waxen colour was most unhealthy’, but he recalled that he and Eden were ‘old acquaintances’ who ‘sometimes quarrelled but sometimes…reached agreement’.24 Churchill however did not even await (p.138) signs of détente from the collective leadership before indulging his own hopes for a Summit, based on a partnership with America. On 10 March he wrote to the President, recalling their talk in Bernard Baruch's flat in January and enquiring whether there was a possibility of jointly approaching the Soviets, with the aim of bringing about a Summit. The Prime Minister pointed out that he had ‘done a lot of business with Molotov’ in the past and contended ‘we might be called to account if no attempt were made’ to end the ‘series of dangerous incidences…between the two divisions of the world’. The very next day however Eisenhower replied that, whilst he wanted to give ‘some promise of hope to the world’ and wished to work with Britain (‘and probably the French’) on a common programme, he did not want to pursue a Summit. In his own clumsy English, the President explained that such a meeting would simply allow the Soviets ‘to baulk every reasonable effort of ourselves and to make of the whole occurrence another propaganda mill…’. Dulles independently repeated to the British his own opposition to a four-power conference and made a point of warning the French Ambassador about Churchill's suggestion. Faced by this lack of American enthusiasm the Prime Minister, when asked in the Commons on 12 March if he would initiate ‘his declared policy of three-Power talks’, refused to be drawn.25

American Reactions to the Death of Stalin

Churchill's message to Eisenhower about a Summit had come at a key moment during the American government's own intense debate over Stalin's demise. Although, as Eisenhower explained to his Cabinet on 6 March, ‘the so-called experts have been yapping about what would happen when Stalin dies’ for years, the US had no contingency plan to deal with the event when it occurred.26 However on 4 March, when the news that Stalin was ill began to filter out, Washington was quickly buzzing with excitement and, even before the President awoke, a meeting was arranged between the CIA Director, Allen Dulles (brother of the Secretary of State), the psychological warfare chief C. D. Jackson, and others. (p.139) Jackson in particular was determined to exploit the situation ‘to overload the enemy’ by launching various ‘psywar’ operations. He had been an adviser on such matters to Eisenhower during the war, helped run the CIA-funded ‘Radio Free Europe’ in the early 1950s and, as speech writer to ‘Ike’ in 1952 had been enthusiastic about ‘liberation’. Some of Jackson's ideas were patently dangerous (one was to offer $100,000 to the first Soviet pilot who would defect with his MiG to the West) and his ‘gungho’ approach meant that he was far better at generating ideas than in getting them accepted.27 However at the meeting on 4 March he succeeded in pressing for a moderately-worded public statement which would please those in the West who wanted peace, whilst exploiting Stalin's illness for US ends. The discussion was continued later in the full National Security Council (NSC). As issued later that day, the initial American statement hoped that the Russians would come ‘to live…in a world where all…dwell in peace and comradeship’. The NSC discussion was interesting for remarks by the President, similar to Churchill's view, that Stalin had been a moderating force in the Kremlin, who had probably not wanted East-West tension after 1945! The belief that ‘Uncle Joe’ Stalin had been a benevolent force in the Kremlin during the war was widely held indeed; Eisenhower and Dulles both feared that any new leader could be more dangerous to deal with. The President continued the moderate public tone on 5 March by assuring the Press that ‘all of us will seriously pursue the goal of peace’28 but Dulles warned American embassies in Europe that ‘Stalin's passing may well portend increasing threat (of) Soviet foreign adventure’. The State Department and CIA had remarkably similar initial predictions about the future course of events, similar in fact to those made by the FO: the USSR would witness a power struggle but Stalin's policies were likely to be maintained. Paradoxically however, Dulles feared that if Soviet policy did become more moderate, that too would cause difficulties (not least for EDC) by raising Western public expectations that the Cold War could be ended.29

Stalin's actual death gave C. D. Jackson renewed determination to exploit the propaganda potential of the situation, with a full-blown speech (p.140) by the President. A group of academics, led by Walter Rostow, were called in and quickly drafted a possible address. However, Jackson's ideas caused a major rift with the State Department. For, in their drive to put Moscow on the defensive, Jackson and Rostow wanted to see a Presidential speech made quickly with radical ideas of ‘serious diplomatic substance’ such as a proposal for four-power talks, a Korean settlement, an Austrian Treaty, and the unification of Germany by free elections. They had some support from professional diplomats for this. George Kennan, the ex-Ambassador to Moscow, showed sympathy for the idea, but as the architect of containment under Truman, he was out of favour with Dulles and now carried little influence.30 The US High Commission in Germany argued that the Western powers could afford to be more forthright at this juncture about discussing the future of Germany with the Soviets, but only in order to make such talks a ‘more useful supplement to psychological strategy…’. There is no evidence that any US officials wished to retreat from the Western position adopted during the 1952 ‘Battle of the Notes’, but there did seem to be an opportunity to pressurize the Kremlin at a difficult moment and emphasize to German people the Western interest in German reunification. In the State Department proper however, a very different view prevailed. Charles Bohlen, designated as America's next Ambassador to Moscow, argued that any increase in Cold War pressures on the Soviets might provide the collective leadership with the excuse to tighten their grip in Russia. By adhering to current Western policies, and allowing events in the Soviet bloc to develop naturally, Bohlen believed that strains could grow between Moscow, Eastern Europe, and Peking. Bedell Smith, now Under-Secretary of State, supported Bohlen, and the State Department particularly pointed out how difficult it would be for Eisenhower to propose a foreign ministers' conference with the Soviets. If a conference were intended to discuss European issues, there would have to be prior consultation with NATO allies, and there was a strong risk of causing delays to the ratification of EDC. Besides, the State Department had always wanted an armistice in Korea as a pre-condition for any wider talks. This debate reached its peak on 10 March, just as Churchill's message arrived for Eisenhower, talking of a Summit.31 It is understandable that such a radical proposal was discouraged when the debate in Washington was at a critical stage.

(p.141) The NSC met to discuss Stalin's death on the 11th. There Jackson pressed the case for a Presidential speech, including a proposal for four-power foreign ministers’ talks. This was ‘a serious…proposal not to be dismissed as…propaganda…’ but the intention was to ‘exploit Stalin's death to the limit of psychological usefulness…’. Evidently for tactical reasons John Foster Dulles did not oppose a speech outright (as his Department may have preferred). Instead he agreed that Stalin's death must be exploited and that the US must not appear negative about the possibility of peace. But he did criticize the proposal for four-power talks, arguing that this could divide the Western allies, damage the chances of EDC and provide the Soviets with an opportunity to ‘dig up all their old plans for Foreign Ministers meetings…’. Dulles was ready to agree to a Presidential speech but it should be a call for peace in Korea and Indochina as a prerequisite for further discussions. Eisenhower, significantly, agreed with his Secretary of State on the undesirability of four power talks but suggested a different, more hopeful theme for the speech, ‘a higher living standard for all the world’.32 Like Churchill to an extent, Eisenhower was (as he told an aide) ‘tired…of just plain indictments of the Soviet regime’ and was keen to hold out the hope to the world of material progress if the Cold War were ended. Jackson was sceptical about the wisdom of appealing to Marxists with the offer of materialism, but he and Dulles did not resist the President's line.33 The key point for the Secretary of State was to avoid four power talks and push on with EDC, and this vital point had been won on 11 March.

Disagreements in Washington delayed the planned Presidential address, eventually, until mid-April despite Eisenhower's intense annoyance at the coverage given to Malenkov's moderate statement of 15 March which seemed to give Moscow a propaganda advantage.34 Throughout the drafting process Dulles ‘murmured his distrust and dislike for the whole project’. He knew he could not prevent Eisenhower going ahead35 but the Secretary of State's own public statements at this time emhpasized the threat posed by the USSR, the necessity of EDC and the need for a Korean armistice.36 He successfully insisted that Eisenhower's speech should include various ‘tests’ of Soviet intentions, not just peace in Korea (p.142) but also an Austrian Treaty, and he pressed for America's major European allies to be consulted about the address, so as to preserve Western unity.37 The speech was to prove very different to Jackson's ideas for a speedy initiative with radical proposals for East-West talks. There was still grave concern in the State Department that any positive statement by Eisenhower could stimulate unrealistic speculation of an end to the Cold War. The greatest concern in the Department centred on the fate of EDC, the need for which might again be questioned by the French public. C. D. Jackson however, who wished to see Germany rearmed as much as anyone, suggested a strategy for securing that aim: America should take the (important psychological) initiative of proposing a conference with the Soviets, and should make the ratification of EDC by the Europeans a prerequisite for it. Over the following months this strategy was to find sympathy elsewhere, as it became clear that the French parliament would not ratify EDC until the possibility of a settlement of the Cold War had been explored.38 For the moment however the State Department preferred to minimize speculation about détente. As to Eisenhower, whilst the speech was being drafted he was frequently impatient with the State Department's negativeness. He even momentarily thought of renewing his offer, originally made in February, of being ready to meet a Soviet leader in a neutral capital. Ultimately however the President allowed his willingness to explore detente to be offset by the need to keep the West strong and united, and by the belief, championed by Dulles, that Soviet concessions were testament to the success of the West's policy of strength. ‘It's obvious that what they're doing is because of outside pressure’, Dulles explained at the end of March, ‘and I don't know anything better we can do than keep up those pressures…’.39

An Eden-Molotov Meeting?

Whilst Eisenhower's speech, dubbed the ‘Chance for Peace’, proceeded slowly from draft to re-draft, Churchill and Eden considered a possible initiative of their own to lower East-West tension. In London, Soviet (p.143) actions during March were keenly observed and, to some, suggested a fundamental change in Kremlin policy. Aside from important, internal relaxations in the police state, the collective leadership showed numerous signs of wanting a friendlier international atmosphere. Demands were dropped that the US and British Embassies must change their premises, Molotov accepted Dag Hammarskjöld as Secretary-General of the UN and, on 28 March, most importantly, the Communists in Korea agreed to exchange sick and wounded prisoners. China, it seemed, was now ready to make progress on the vexed issue of repatriating prisoners of war which had hitherto blocked a Korean armistice. Both sides were exhausted in Korea and the Eisenhower administration was making veiled threats to use nuclear weapons, but the significant change in the Communist position seems to have come round about the time of Stalin's death.40 Another sign of Soviet goodwill, which particularly affected Britain, was a proposal for talks on air safety over East Germany. This followed an unpleasant incident on 12 March when an RAF Lincoln bomber was shot down, and all seven crew killed, in what Churchill condemned as a ‘cruel and wanton attack’. The bomber was forty miles within East German airspace.41 Churchill quickly decided to accept the proposal for Anglo-Soviet talks, which began on 31 March and were soon extended to include American and French representatives. The discussions were initially quite friendly, and Churchill was kept regularly informed about them. Although, ultimately, they failed to achieve progress, they had an important impact in the months following Stalin's death.42 At the same time Eden was, characteristically, impressed by reports that Soviet representatives had been much friendlier at international gatherings. (In early April even Andrei Vyshinsky, now reduced to being Molotov's deputy, adopted a softer tone during UN disarmament talks.) The Foreign Secretary, in similar terms to those he had used in late 1951, told the French Ambassador on 21 March that courtesy was ‘no bad thing’ in international affairs. The Permanent Under-Secretary, Strang, also seemed more hopeful about the chances of a measure of détente.43 This was despite the (p.144) fact that Ambassador Gascoigne, from Moscow, saw conciliatory Soviet moves as amounting only to ‘a temporary easing of the Cold War, without giving away anything of importance…’, a view which Paul Mason in the FO shared. Importantly, Frank Roberts, responsible for German affairs, shared Dulles's worry that any talks with the Soviets would further disrupt EDC.44 FO officials feared that Eden, who looked increasingly pale and unwell and was still trying to maintain his usual hectic pace,45 might even be tempted to take up Churchill's idea of a Summit. The Prime Minister, perhaps remembering his talk with Eisenhower in January and the possibility of America and Britain pursuing separate lines to Moscow, was now thinking of an Anglo-Soviet meeting, and he claimed that he did not mind at which level such a meeting was held, whether between leaders or foreign ministers, telling Eden, ‘If it is Moi, you go. But if it is Mai, it's me.’

FO officials soon acted to scotch any initiative for an Anglo-Soviet conference, just as the State Department had opposed C. D. Jackson's proposal for four-power talks. Even Shuckburgh, who was asked by Eden to sound out the FO view on the matter, shared Gascoigne's view that ‘The Russians have not made any concession which is more than a trifle, but they look as if they (are) going to adopt a much cleverer policy for dividing…the West than Stalin ever did.’ On 27 March Strang summoned a meeting with Mason, Roberts, Pierson Dixon, and Henry Hohler. The last remarked, with regard to recent Soviet overtures, ‘a few swallows do not make a summer’. Their considerations were very similar to those which affected the American debate. The Western allies must be consulted before any British initiative, since Eden and Molotov were bound to touch on issues, like Korea, which were vital to other states; any conversations about the future of Germany might be used in France as an excuse to delay EDC, which should therefore be ratified before discussions took place; and, most importantly, various ‘tests’ should be set for the Soviets before any conference was held. Officials drew up a list of possible ‘tests’ which could be made solely in the area of Anglo- Soviet relations. However, as Strang reported to Eden, ‘because Anglo-Soviet relations, in their bilateral aspect, are themselves very thin’, the list was very short. It amounted to a series of requests to Moscow to extend the duration of a fisheries agreement, to resolve a claim for damages (p.145) (from 1946) against a Soviet ship, to restore a special ‘diplomatic rate’ for the rouble and to settle various cases involving individuals, such as that of a Soviet woman who could not join her husband in Britain. Eden was rather disappointed with the list but accepted the strength of his officials' case against a meeting with Molotov, telling Churchill that the Soviets ‘may think…they may more successfully disintegrate the anti-Communist front…by a policy of moderation’ than by Stalin's ‘rigid and aggressive’ attitude. Eden also supported a suggestion from Hohler to recall Gascoigne to London for talks.46

Unfortunately for the FO, Strang's meeting was held immediately before the Communist announcement of their concessions in Korea, which gave the Prime Minister the ideal opportunity to issue a riposte. Churchill could see little point in sending the FO's proposed list of topics to the Soviets, nor did he see any point in recalling Gascoigne, since the Soviets themselves seemed to think little of Ambassadors as channels of communication. Far better, argued Churchill, to use the Communist initiative in Korea as an excuse to write to Molotov, proposing a ‘friendly and informal meeting’ with Eden, perhaps in a neutral venue like Vienna. ‘Such talks…might lead us all further away from madness and ruin’, wrote Churchill in the draft of a proposed letter to Molotov; ‘even if nothing much came of it, I can't see that any of us would be worse off.’ The Prime Minister now overlooked the fact that, by raising public expectations of détente he might indeed run the risk of making the world ‘worse off’, since the failure of such talks could actually deepen tensions, and he seemed to pay no mind to the problems that talks with Russia might create for EDC. To Eden, Churchill admitted that his hope was still to see a Summit between himself, Eisenhower, and Malenkov.47 The Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary discussed their differences, with Strang on 29 March. It is not clear what passed between them, but Gascoigne was recalled to London the following day48 and joined a meeting with Eden, who was ill in bed, on 1 April. The Foreign Secretary again appeared keen to meet Molotov and (perhaps because the meeting was to be at foreign ministers' level, or because they feared differences with Eden) Gascoigne, Strang, and Hohler toned down their earlier scepticism and seemed ready to concur. After all, in late 1951, and under the logic (p.146) of PUSC (51) 16, the FO was committed to lower tensions with the Soviets and had favoured an Eden—Vyshinsky meeting. Even Gascoigne felt a meeting ‘worth trying’ and it was suggested that Eden could talk to Molotov about the FO's list of bilateral issues, supplemented by a general exchange of views. Problems arose however when Shuckburgh again raised the problem of when to inform the US and other allies about what was proposed. Interestingly the most senior official, Strang, argued the need to demonstrate to the public that the government was not losing an opportunity for peace but his younger colleague Shuckburgh feared that Molotov would seize the opportunity to divide London and Washington. Why not wait and discuss these matters with the whole of NATO, whose ministerial council was due to meet in three weeks time? Eden was evidently impressed by the danger of dividing the West and, when the FO that day drew up a possible agenda for talks with Molotov it included the point that ‘There are no grounds for believing that the ultimate objectives of Soviet policy are in any way changed.’49 A further meeting was held between Eden, Strang, and others the next morning, at which the younger officials, Frank Roberts and Pierson Dixon, echoed Shuckburgh's fears that an Eden-Molotov meeting would upset Britain's allies for little purpose. The Foreign Secretary was now completely convinced, recording ‘we all agreed…that meeting would endanger EDC…and generally cause confusion at this time’ [emphasis added]. For the present, the Foreign Secretary confirmed that Gascoigne should ‘test the water’ by raising the FO's list of bilateral problems in Moscow. Importantly the US was to be consulted about the list before it was presented.

When Churchill was told, later in the day, of what was proposed he apparently ‘at once agreed on the line proposed…’.50 (Certainly, in public, the Prime Minister continued to dampen any speculation about a Summit.)51 However he seems to have been confused about what was said to him. For, on the 3rd, he bitterly complained to Eden ‘So you have given up the idea of seeing Molotov. I don't like that at all.’ An astonished Eden had again to go over all the FO's arguments with the Prime Minister and once more the latter ‘appeared to agree’. Yet the effects of age on Churchill were such that, when asked to approve a telegram to Eisenhower, explaining British thinking, the Prime Minister again ‘showed he hadn't understood our reasons for not asking for (an) early (p.147) meeting…’52 After some renewed debate, Churchill did inform Eisenhower on 5 April that Britain wished to explore ‘minor points’ with the Soviets in order to ‘give us some further indication of…Soviet purpose'. Evidently against Eden's wishes however, the Prime Minister also talked of ‘the apparent change for the better in the Soviet mood’ and again hinted at an eventual Summit. Once again Churchill and Eden had demonstrated that they shared a desire to lower Cold War tensions. Furthermore, Eden and his senior officials could be tempted by the prospect of a foreign ministers meeting. However Eden, like Dulles, still had no liking for a Summit; and the FO, like the State Department, preferred cautious, gradual advances to the dramatic gesture. Yet the two foreign ministries could not entirely control events, even in their own capitals, and Churchill was perhaps given encouragement about pushing forward with détente in Eisenhower's next telegram to him, which revealed the President's plans for a speech which would set ‘concretely before the world the peaceful intentions of this country’ with a list of ‘specific steps’ to reduce tension. As Dulles had wanted, the President promised to send a copy of the speech in advance to London (as well as Paris and Bonn) for approval.53 It was an indication of the pressures created by popular expectations of détente that in Washington Under-Secretary Bedell Smith suggested to Ambassador Makins that the best way to deal with the Soviet peace offensive and secure EDC, was to hold a quick four-power conference with Molotov in order to demonstrate to the public that Soviet policy had not changed.54 This was only a suggestion, but it marked a radical departure from earlier State Department views and meant that there were now three suggested lines of advance on détente and EDC: Dulles's preferred course of avoiding all talks with the Soviets until EDC was achieved; C. D. Jackson's idea of demanding EDC's ratification from the French Assembly as the price for meeting the Soviets; and Bedell Smith's argument that an early four-power conference could clear the way for EDC ratification. The very fact that such divided counsels were heard in the US government was a powerful demonstration of the capacity for Soviet moderation to provoke disagreements in the West. In London, where the Prime Minister was already on public record in favour of a Summit, those disagreements would soon be far worse, despite the FO's initial victory in the debate over an Eden-Molotov meeting.

(p.148) Churchill, Acting Foreign Secretary

A month after Stalin's death, despite the continuing ‘peace offensive’, the consensus among Western diplomats remained firm: there was no real change in the USSR. It was possible to argue that the new Soviet leaders were trying to gain ‘a breathing space’, to reduce the danger of war and to slow down Western rearmament so that the ‘peace offensive is easily explainable within the framework of the flexible tactics which are so familiar in Soviet policy’.55 In the FO, the Russia Committee circulated a special study on 7 April, again arguing that changes in Soviet foreign policy were purely tactical and short-term, and adding that domestic changes in Russia were designed to make the new regime popular. The collective leadership might lack Stalin's prestige; Malenkov might wish to concentrate on internal problems and avoid a bellicose foreign policy; the Kremlin might find its relations with China and Eastern Europe more difficult. None the less, Malenkov and his colleagues were all Stalinists and the USSR remained a potent threat. The Russia Committee believed it was safest to continue the existing NATO policy of a build-up of strength hoping that this would eventually force the Soviets into genuine changes in outlook. Essentially therefore this paper confirmed the general lines of PUSC (51) 16. A hostile, bellicose policy towards Moscow was firmly ruled out but any negotiations must be pursued cautiously.56 The conclusions of the paper were soon shown to the Americans and French, both of whom said they broadly agreed with them.57 The State Department indeed circulated a very similar analysis to its Embassies in mid-April and in the Psychological Strategy Board there was a tendency to see all Soviet moves as having evil intent: friendly Soviet moves were described as ‘lures’, whilst unfriendly moves were said to reveal true Soviet intentions!58 (Where some in the State Department differed from the FO was in hoping in some way to take advantage of Stalin's death ‘to induce one or more satellites to slide out from under Soviet hegemony…’:59 as in 1951 and 1952 the Americans were more ready to consider the (p.149) possibilities of ‘liberation’.) In Paris, foreign minister Georges Bidault agreed that Soviet ‘peace moves’ were actually insubstantial and probably aimed at the destruction of EDC, but he was very concerned at the new flexibility in Kremlin policy. Bidault's view was shared by his officials in the Quai d'Orsay who were all too aware of their vulnerability to Soviet pressure on EDC, had experienced past peace offensives and, like the FO, were looking for concrete Soviet concessions before they would alter Western policies. A telegram circulated by the Quai to its embassies on 8 April had already argued that Soviet policy changes thus far were insubstantial and that Western rearmament should proceed, although it might be wise to ‘test’ what the Kremlin wanted.60 The British began their own process of ‘testing’ Soviet intentions on 11 April when Gascoigne saw Molotov and delivered the FO's list of bilateral problems for resolution. The foreign minister, looking healthier than he had during Gascoigne's first visit and, still outwardly friendly, promised to study them. When this was done, Eden told the FO News Department to ‘go on plugging the line that “we believe in settlements one by one”’. In sending this instruction he referred directly to his UN speech of early November 1951 which had had a similar message. He, at least, believed he had a consistent policy.61

Hardly had the FO's policy for a cautious approach been put into effect however than it was threatened by a mischance of lasting significance. On 12 April, having looked ill for several weeks, Eden was forced into hospital for the removal of gallstones, but what should have been a routine operation went horribly wrong. A surgeon accidentally cut Eden's bile duct, spreading poison round his body and provoking a fever. Another operation was planned to try to rectify the mistake.62 The new American Ambassador, Winthrop Aldrich, had already warned the State Department that, whilst Selwyn Lloyd, the Minister of State, would be nominal head of the FO in Eden's absence, Churchill would ‘make decisions in the areas where he feels his judgement is needed and this will certainly include…Communist peace feelers…’. The Ambassador ruefully added that ‘Eden's absence in [sic] this critical time is unfortunate.’ Now, following the failed operation, Churchill decided to take over the (p.150) FO as acting Foreign Secretary, reassuring Eden ‘I will look after your foreign policy as well as your political interests’ (a pointed reference to Eden's hopes of the premiership, and a reminder of his vulnerability on this point). When Doctor Moran protested that it was unwise to take on the new burden, Churchill insisted it did not add much to his burdens and cheekily declared that Eden wanted to remain involved in foreign policy but ‘I cannot deal with a sick man’.63 The Prime Minister's determination to pursue his own policy towards the USSR, was seen on 16 April when he saw Andrei Gromyko who, as a protégé of Molotov's, had just been posted back to Moscow to become deputy foreign minister. Churchill expressed hopes of a continued improvement in Anglo-Soviet relations, reminisced (inevitably) about the war and made a point of going to the door of 10 Downing Street to be photographed with the outgoing Ambassador.64 The situation became even worse on 29 April when, during his second operation, Eden bled profusely and almost died. A third operation was now needed and would be carried out by an American specialist, who was unable to operate until June.65 Before he left England, the Foreign Secretary pleaded with his junior ministers, Selwyn Lord and Anthony Nutting, ‘not to allow too much appeasement of the Russian bear in my absence’.66 But resisting the pressure from Downing Street was far from easy. Lloyd soon found that Churchill was interfering in the FO, making the Minister of State feel ‘I was competing in a league well above my own’, yet at the same time Churchill did ‘not do any detailed work’: his interference was very much on an ad hoc basis, often involving petty issues.67 Officials felt that the acting Foreign Secretary provided them with ‘rather intermittent supervision’ and Churchill himself, by his own admission, was determined not to work as hard in the job as Eden: the Prime Minister claimed that he had not heard of some countries with which he was now asked to deal68 and was anxious to reduce the length of incoming telegrams, advising that ‘Ambassadors should…encypher their reports themselves.’69 Nevertheless on certain (p.151) issues he did take a great interest and, as Aldrich predicted these included the USSR.

Eisenhower's ‘Chance for Peace’

The most important question to arise in Western policy as Eden fell ill was Eisenhower's ‘Chance for Peace’ speech. A draft copy was shown to Churchill by Aldrich on 9 April. By now any hint of an offer to meet the Russians had been withdrawn from the address. It stated that the West had no ‘aggressive purpose’ in the Cold War and was ready to welcome ‘genuine evidence of peaceful purpose from the USSR’, but it also blamed the Soviets for the Cold War, defended NATO and EDC, called for German unity in freedom, and looked forward to the independence of Eastern Europe. Moscow was asked for certain ‘deeds’, as evidence of its good faith, including an armistice in Korea, peace in Indochina, and an Austrian Treaty. The speech noted the costs of the Cold War, especially the arms burden, and talked both about disarmament (in the atomic and conventional fields) and about the opportunity to tackle ‘poverty and need’, especially in the developing world, if Cold War tensions could be ended. The address also included a Presidential ambition which would become the centre-piece of another speech later in the year: the ‘international control of atomic energy to promote its use for peaceful purposes…’.70 Germany's Konrad Adenauer and France's premier, Rene Mayer, were also sent advance copies of the speech and approved it warmly. Adenauer, who was actually in Washington on a visit at the time, was predictably very sceptical about the Soviet ‘peace offensive’ and keen to proceed with EDC. Mayer, who had recently been on his own visit to America, was particularly pleased with Eisenhower's reference to Indochina and eager to avoid all talk of German reunification.71 In London, however, the draft address received a lukewarm reception at best. Even Eden, who was visited by Aldrich in hospital on the 10th, feared it was too anti-Soviet in places and pressed his usual case for ‘step-by-step’ advances.72 Churchill went much further in his criticisms, writing to Eisenhower on the 11th, that the speech looked ‘formidable’ but should not state Western (p.152) demands in Korea so baldly and perhaps need not be delivered at all. The Prime Minister argued that ‘great hope has arisen…that there is a change of heart in…Russia…’ which might even lead ‘into revolution’. At such a moment issues should not be forced, rather the situation in the USSR should be allowed to develop and the West should simply encourage changes. Churchill explained to one of his Cabinet colleagues, Harold Macmillan, ‘The most dangerous moment for evil governments is when they begin to reform’, and the danger was that Eisenhower's speech, with its criticisms and desire to tackle specific problems, could ‘nip in the bud’ any real relaxation in Soviet policy.73

Churchill's doubts provoked consternation in Washington. Having spent six weeks on the speech, Eisenhower now had second thoughts about the whole project. Ironically, for once, Churchill's doubts seemed to match those of Dulles and Bohlen. In a meeting with Bedell Smith and White House speech-writer Emmet Hughes however, it was argued that Churchill's motives were not as they appeared: most likely the British premier simply did not want Eisenhower to steal the limelight from him on the Soviet issue with such a statesmanlike address. Eisenhower replied to Churchill, undertaking to soften the speech in places but determined to deliver it. Churchill made a second appeal for patience on the 12th arguing, as he had with Macmillan, ‘It would be a pity if a sudden frost nipped spring in the bud,…even if there was no real spring.’ Nevertheless, Churchill himself evidently believed the address would now be made, because he also sent some more suggested amendments. He was keen, too, to stress America and Britain's unity of outlook and praised Adenauer as ‘the best German we have found for a long time’. Eisenhower duly made his address, to the American Society of Newspaper Editors on 16 April.74 It was the first major Presidential speech of the administration and the first major statement by a Western leader since Stalin's death. It ‘came as a complete surprise’ in Moscow, was reproduced in Pravda and Izvestia and was also the subject of a long editorial in Pravda on 25 April, which was notably lacking in invective. But Churchill had been correct in arguing that the emphasis on ‘preconditions’ for peace would not get the Americans far. Pravda insisted that the Soviets did want ‘a just peace in Korea’, that Eisenhower's speech offered ‘no basis for a solution’ to the German problem and that the US must come to terms with the Communist triumph in China and Eastern Europe. The (p.153) Soviet Press continued to see Washington as the head of an ‘Anglo-American bloc’, threatening the globe with nuclear Armageddon. Besides, the impact of the President's words had been blunted by another address, a few days afterwards, by Dulles who laid greater emphasis on the need for EDC, restated US support for Chiang Kai-shek, and denounced any idea of ‘a settlement based on the status quo’ as an ‘illusion’ because it would leave Eastern Europe in ‘captivity’. Anyone who compared Dulles's strident tones with the moderately worded but uncompromising Pravda editorial could have little expectation of real peace. Certainly Soviet foreign ministry experts had justification for believing that Eisenhower's speech was an attempt to neutralize their own ‘peace offensive’. They were also right in believing that the US feared that ‘negotiations could lead to a fiasco regarding ratification of’ EDC.75 However for their part, the British and American embassies in Moscow were correct that the Soviet reaction to Eisenhower's speech was a well-prepared exercise in psychological warfare which marked no change in Kremlin policy: ‘the leopard is not likely to change its spots.’76 Little then had altered since Stalin's death except in the tone of each side's propaganda. The West looked likely to continue its build-up of strength; the Soviets would continue their efforts to divide the West.

Hasty as ever, Churchill had not awaited Pravda's comments before using Eisenhower's speech as the excuse to talk, once more, of a Summit. Having criticized the speech before it was made, Churchill was now ready to exploit it as a step to his own more radical ideas of an East-West conference. On 17 April the Prime Minister spoke to Scottish Conservatives, with themes strongly reminiscent of his speeches in the general elections of 1950 and 1951. The unity of the English-speaking world was a basic essential, nuclear destruction was an ever-present menace but events in the Soviet Union had brought ‘a new breeze blowing on the tormented world’ and if the Cold War could be ended there might be ‘a golden age of prosperity’. Eisenhower's recent speech was praised and the Prime Minister was at pains to condemn the ‘cruel and wicked falsehood’ that he was a warmonger.77 Three days later Churchill made another optimistic statement, this time to the Commons, again welcoming Eisenhower's speech, hoping that an armistice in Korea could pave the way to (p.154) wider détente and also expressing the desire ‘that at this momentous juncture we shall not be hampered by party controversy’. As in 1951, again, the Prime Minister clearly saw détente as a way to neutralize his detractors on the left and unite Conservatives and Labour behind a bipartisan national foreign policy. For the moment not all opposition MPs were impressed: one complained that Churchill had advocated a Summit since 1950 but, after eighteen months in office, had ‘done nothing’. Just as important as the Commons statement itself however was the fact that, beforehand, Churchill had sent a personal message to Molotov, asking that he study it. Opinion in the FO was so concerned about this step that William Strang wrote to Downing Street, underlining that any meeting with the Soviets would offend Konrad Adenauer and risk further delays to the ratification of EDC in Paris. Given Churchill's low opinion of the European Army however, this was not the best argument to use to deter him, and it is significant that Strang did not feel he could oppose a Summit outright. Rather, he conceded ‘There is much to be said in favour of a meeting’ and merely asked that it be approached circumspectly.78 In any case, Churchill was not to be dissuaded from sending a message to Eisenhower, on 21 April, enquiring about how the President wished to build upon his recent speech and predicting ‘a strong movement here for a meeting between Heads of States and Governments’. The Prime Minister did not hide the fact that he was one of those most likely to favour such a meeting and, referring to his conversations with Eisenhower in January, suggested a Summit in Stockholm. The French government would have been disappointed to hear that Churchill wanted the Summit to include only ‘the three victorious Powers, who separated at Potsdam’, and Eisenhower and the FO cannot have been happy about Churchill's ominous warning, ‘If nothing can be arranged I shall have to consider seriously a personal contact.’ The prospect of a Prime Ministerial visit to Moscow like that of October 1944 had again been raised.

If the Prime Minister did wish to propose a Summit there was abundant evidence that it would find little official encouragement in the West. Eisenhower soon made it clear that, despite his ‘Chance for Peace’ address, US policy remained wedded to a build-up of Western strength. He did not rule out a Summit in future, but opposed ‘precipitate initiatives’ and said he had seen ‘no concrete Soviet actions’ that suggested a real desire to talk. Britain's own embassy in Moscow continued to take a similar line79 and the whole of the NATO alliance confirmed its belief, (p.155) ‘that there had not yet…been any change in the fundamental threat to the security of free peoples’, during the Atlantic Council meeting on 23–5 April in Paris (where ‘Rab’ Butler represented Britain).80 The main British brief for this meeting opposed ‘any provocative declaration by NATO which might spoil the chances of peaceful coexistence’ but followed the FO view that ‘the new Soviet tactics, though they provide an opening to seek agreement on specific…questions, are no reason to change NATO policy…’.81 During the Atlantic Council the French foreign minister, Bidault, took the view that, in order to safeguard EDC and avoid any four-power conference on Germany, the Western powers should only talk with the Soviets on disarmament. Bidault's motives for suggesting this were quite negative: after the deadlock in UN negotiations on disarmament over recent years he knew that talks on the subject were unlikely to see any progress.82 Nor in late April did the Soviets seem ready to give any succour to Churchill's hopes of a Summit. The Russia Committee noted that the Soviets appeared ‘in no hurry for genuine talks of general scope’. Indeed April had seen a distinct ‘slowing down’ in conciliatory gestures from the Kremlin.83 Not to be dissuaded, the Prime Minister raised the issue of a revived Potsdam meeting in Cabinet at the end of the month. However this simply provided an opportunity for his ministers to express their doubts about a conference.84 No world leader but Churchill it seemed could see any real hope of détente two months after Stalin's death. Nor it seems did some of them have any wish to see it.


(1) Stalin had died on the morning of 5 March. D. Folliot (ed.), Documents on International Affairs, 1953 (1956), 1–3; on Stalin's demise see D. Volkogonov, Stalin: Triumph and Tragedy (1991), 570–5.

(2) D. J. Dallin, Soviet Foreign Policy after Stalin (1960), 119. Stalin's last foreign visitors had both found him well: National Archives (NA), Washington, decimal files, 761.00 (21 May).

(3) G. Arbatov, The System: An Insider's Life in Soviet Politics (New York, 1992), 43; J. L. Schechter and V. V. Luchkov (eds.), Khrushchev Remembers: The Glasnost Tapes (Boston, 1990), 69, 100–1.

(4) Folliot (ed.), Documents, 1953, 1–2, 8–9, and 11–13.

(5) F. Chuev, Sto Sorok Besed Molotovym (Moscow, 1991), 323. I am grateful to Ms Karen Henderson of the Department of Politics, University of Leicester, for translating sections of these reminiscences of Molotov.

(6) J. Balfour, Not too Correct an Aureole (Salisbury, 1983), 93–4.

(7) On the power struggles in the 1940s see W. M. McCagg, Stalin Embattled, 1943–8 (Detroit, 1978), though some of its interpretations are now seriously challenged. On Beria see A. Knight, Beria: Stalin's First Lieutenant (Princeton, 1993), esp. 183–91 on his relaxation of the police state after Stalin's death.

(8) S. Talbott (ed.), Khrushchev Remembers (1970), 295–6.

(9) Molotov's Stalinism is attested by Chuev, Sto Sorok, passim (see 263–4 on Molotov's insistence that he was closer than any other minister to Stalin). And see Schechter and Luchkov (eds.), Glasnost Tapes, 69. Although Knight, Beria, 194–5 argues that Molotov was not ill-disposed to Beria, the evidence of one of Molotov's officials strongly points quite conclusively to the opposite: V. Yerofeyev, ‘Ten Years of Secretaryship, Part 2’, International Affairs (Moscow), 94.

(10) Eisenhower Library, Abilene, Columbia Oral History Project, evidence of Livingston Merchant.

(11) V. Yerofeyev, ‘Ten Years of Secretaryship, Part 1’, International Affairs (Moscow), September 1991, 106 and 109; A. Gromyko, Memories (1989), 314.

(12) V. Zuboks, ‘Soviet Intelligence and the Small Committee of Information, 1952–3’, Cold War International History Project, Working Paper 4 (Woodrow Wilson Center, Washington, 1992), 9–10.

(13) Schechter and Luchkov (eds.), Glasnost Tapes, 72–3 and 79–80; Talbott (ed.), Khrushchev, 392–3. According to Molotov foreign policy during Spring 1953 was largely in the hands of himself, Malenkov and Beria but Khrushchev ‘was invited to…appropriate sessions’: D. M. Stickle (ed.), The Beria Affair (New York, 1992), 27.

(14) See the discussion in Zubok, ‘Soviet Intelligence’, 11–13, 17, and 27–8.

(15) Public Record Office (PRO), FO 371/106515/31 (9 March); FO 371/106524/21 (16, 17 March) and 23 (20 March); FO 371/106533/15 (16 March).

(16) C. L. Sulzberger, A Long Row of Candles (1969), 846–7.

(17) Swinton papers, Churchill College, Cambridge, SWIN 1/6/1 (Salisbury letter, 8 March); FO 371/106515/1, 2, 4, and 6 (4 March).

(18) PRO, PREM. 11/540 (7 March).

(19) On the trade talks see esp. PRO, CAB. 128/26, CC (83) 20th (17 March); and, for a discussion, A. Dobson, The Politics of the Anglo-American Economic Special Relationship (Brighton, 1988), 148–50.

(20) Evidence on the informal discussions in Washington about Stalin's death are sparse: PRO, FO 800/839 (12 March); Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS), 1952–4, vi (Washington, 1986), 903 (and see 887–963 on the talks in general); FRUS, 1952–4, Secretary of States Memoranda of Conversations (Washington, 1992), document 16.

(21) FO 800/778 (6 March).

(22) PREM. 11/540 (4 March); FO 371/106515/15 (6 March).

(23) Lord Moran, Winston Churchill: The Struggle for Survival, 1940–65 (1966), diary of 7 March; A. Nutting, Europe will not Wait (1960), 49, where the precise date of Churchill's statement is unclear.

(24) Gascoigne had suggested such a meeting and Eden approved it. FO 371/106553/11 (7 March), 12 (8 March), and 15 (11 March).

(25) P. Boyle, The Churchill-Eisenhower Correspondence, 1953–5 (Chapel Hill, NC, 1990), 31–2; PREM. 11/422 (12 March); FRUS, Memoranda of Conversations, document 72; 512 H.C. Deb. 5s., col. 1502.

(26) Minutes and Documents of the Cabinet Meetings of President Eisenhower (microfilm, Frederick, Md., 1980), minutes of 6 March; quote from E. Hughes, The Ordeal of Power (1963), 101; and see R. Donovan, Eisenhower: The Inside Story (1956), 42.

(27) Jackson records, Eisenhower Library, box 2 (4 March) sets Jackson's aims. On Jackson see H. W. Brands, Cold Warriors (New York, 1988), ch. 6: and for criticisms of his methods; Hughes, Ordeal of Power, 101–2; P. Nitze, From Hiroshima to Glasnost (1989), 143–4.

(28) FRUS, 1952–4, viii (Washington, 1986), 1091–5; Public Papers of the Presidents of the US, Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1953 (Washington, 1960), 75–6; R. Cutler, No Time to Rest (Boston, 1965), 320–2; Donovan, Inside Story, 40–1.

(29) NA, decimal files, 740.5 (5 March); FRUS, 1952–4, viii. 1086–90; and on CIA views, W. W. Rostow, Europe after Stalin (Austin, Tex., 1982), 91–101.

(30) Rostow, ibid. 84–94, 102–4, and 106–7; NA, decimal files, 761.00 (Berlin telegram, 10 March). In September 1952 Kennan had advocated early negotiations with the Soviets: FRUS, 1952–4, vi. 654 and 549.

(31) FRUS, 1952–4, viii. 1113–15; and see Rostow, After Stalin, 111–12, 105–6.

(32) Ibid., 1117–25.

(33) Hughes, Ordeal of Power, 102–7.

(34) On the delays, see FRUS, 1952–4, viii. 1133–5; Hughes, Ordeal of Power, 107–12; Rostow, After Stalin, 142–7.

(35) Hughes, Ordeal of Power, 109–10 and 112; see also Nitze, Hiroshima to Glasnost, 144–5.

(36) Dulles Papers, Mudd Library, Princeton, box 69 (3 April).

(37) Rostow, After Stalin, 132–3, 138–9.

(38) The Papers of John Foster Dulles and Christian A. Herter, 1953–61 (microfilm, Frederick, Md., 1986), White House Memoranda Series, draft Presidential correspondence and speeches sub-series (Bohlen and Nitze memoranda, 1 and 2 April). On Jackson's argument see Rostow, After Stalin, 109–10.

(39) See the discussion, largely based on the diary of speech writer Emmet Hughes, in D. Larson, ‘Crisis Prevention and the Austrian State Treaty’, International Organisation, 41: 1 (Winter, 1987), 36–9.

(40) See esp. R. Foot, A Substitute for Victory (Cornell, 1990). It is possible that Stalin himself advocated a change of policy before his death.

(41) 512 H.C. Deb. 5s., cols. 2067–70; PREM. 11/896 (passim); FO 371/109655/5 (8 Aug. 1954, on results of Court of Inquiry). There were later suggestions that the Lincoln was on an intelligence-gathering mission although records stated it was on gunnery practice: N. West, GCHQj The Secret Wireless War (1986), 237; A. Thomas, ‘British Signals Intelligence after the Second World War’, Intelligence and National Security, 3: 4 (1988), 106–7.

(42) 513 H.C. Deb. 5s., cols. 548–9; PRO, AIR 8/1855 (24–7 March, 21–2 April and see progress reports of 24 Aug., 9 Dec., 1953 and 28 April 1954).

(43) Ministère des Affaires Étrangères, Paris (MAE), Massigli Papers, box 78 (21 March).

(44) FO 371/106524/29 (26 March); FO 371/106537/31 (21 March) and 32 (23 March). US officials in Moscow remained similarly sceptical: FRUS, 1952–4, viii. 1131–2.

(45) R. R. James, Anthony Eden (1986), 361; C. L. Sulzberger, A Long Row of Candles (1969), 848.

(46) E. Shuckburgh, Descent to Suez: Diaries 1951–6 (1986), 82–3 (who omits Roberts's name from the meeting); FO 371/106537/40 and 41 (28 March); and see Avon Papers, Birmingham University Library, AP 20/16/10 (28 March).

(47) PREM. 11/422 (28 March, and Eden's reply suggesting a talk).

(48) Avon Papers, 20/1 (diary, 29 March) and 20/16/10 (30 March).

(49) Shuckburgh, Descent, 84; Avon Papers, 20/16/10 (1 April).

(50) Shuckburgh, Descent, 84–5; James, Eden, 361 (citing Eden diary, 2 April).

(51) 513 H.C. Deb. 5s. 831–4 (26 March) and 1209–10 (1 April).

(52) James, Eden, 361–2 (citing Eden diary, 3 April).

(53) Boyle, Correspondence, 34–8; and see PREM. 11/422 (3–4 April).

(54) PRO, FO 800/778 (7 April).

(55) Eisenhower Library, White House Office, Office of the Special Assistant for National Security Affairs, NSC series, Subject subseries, box 5 (8 April), probably of CIA origin.

(56) FO 371/125030/9 (drafts of 28 March and 7 April); see also PREM. 11/540 (9 April).

(57) FO 371/106525/37 (11 April) and 47 (16 April); PREM. 11/540 (8 April).

(58) NA, Decimal Files, 700.00 (S) (14 April), and see 740.5 (13 April); Eisenhower Library, White House Office, NSC Staff Papers, Psychological Strategy Board Central Files series, box 18 (26 March, 15 April).

(59) US State Department, Central Files, Soviet Union, Foreign Affairs, 1950–54 (microfilm, Frederick, Md., 1985), reel 2 (14 April).

(60) Ibid, reel 2 (11 April); MAE, EUROPE, 1944–60, URSS, File 153 (Joxe telegram, 15 April) and file 141 (11, 13, and 20 April); Bidault Papers, Archives Nationales, box 45 (16, 20 March); Auriol Papers, Archives Nationales, 4 AU 116 (circular telegram, 8 April) and 4 AU 97 (Cabinet, 15 April).

(61) FO 371/106533/18 (8 April) and 23–5 (11 April); PREM. 11/422 (13 April).

(62) James, Eden, 362.

(63) NA, Decimal Files, 741–13 (8 April); Avon Papers, AP 19/1/76 (16 April); Moran, Churchill, 24 April.

(64) PREM. 11/422 (16 April); A. Gromyko, Memories (1988), 154–5.

(65) James, Eden, 363–6.

(66) A. Nutting, Europe will not Wait (1960), 50 (including quote); A. Thompson, The Day Before Yesterday (1971), 105; D. R. Thorpe, Selwyn Lloyd (1989), 171.

(67) Selwyn Lloyd Papers, Churchill College, Cambridge, SELO 1/105 (3 May).

(68) J. Cable, The Geneva Conference of1954 on Indochina (1986), 17; Moran, Churchill, 28 April.

(69) Pierson Dixon papers, by permission of Piers Dixon, diary note of 2 May 1953. Dixon found that Churchill ‘took a lively interest’ in the FO.

(70) PREM. 11/429 (9 April); FRUS, 1952–4, vi (1986), 968–70. M. Gilbert, ‘Never Despair’ (1988), 818–19 is mistaken in asserting that Eisenhower did not consult London about his speech.

(71) On Adenauer see: FRUS, 1952–4, vi. 433–4, 447; K. Adenauer, Memoirs, 1945–53 (1966), 442–5; Rostow, After Stalin, 49–51. On Mayer: L. Gerson John Foster Dulles (New York, 1967), 129–30.

(72) FO 800/821 (10 April).

(73) Boyle, Correspondence, 41–2; H. Macmillan, Tides of Fortune (1969), 508–9.

(74) Hughes, Ordeal of Power, 110–12; Boyle, Correspondence, 42–5; Folliot (ed.), Documents, 1953, 45–51.

(75) Arbatov, The System, 43; Folliot, Documents, 1953, 51–7 (on Pravda); Zubok ‘Soviet Intelligence’, 13–14. Dulles's speech reproduced in Rostow, After Stalin, 122–31.

(76) FRUS, 1952–4, viii. 1165–6 and see 1168–9; FO 371/106537/52 (25 April, including quote) and 106538/62 (25 April).

(77) R. R. James (ed.), Winston S. Churchill: His Complete Speeches (1974), viii. 8465–70.

(78) 514 H.C. Deb. 5s, cols. 649–51 and 1168–9; FO 800/831 (20 April) and 759 (20 April).

(79) Boyle, Correspondence, 46–7; FO 371/106525/50 (22 April); and on US views see also FRUS, 1952–4, viii. 1156–62.

(80) Folliot (ed.), Documents, 1953,220; and on results of this meeting see PRO, CAB. 134/ 765, AOC (53) 5th (27 April) and CAB. 128/26, CC (53) 29th (28 April).

(81) CAB. 134/766, AOC (53) 14 (revised) (17 April); CAB. 128/26, CC (53) 28th (21 April).

(82) FO 371/103664/2 (23 April); FO 371/107446/14 (24 April); PREM. 11/429 (25 April); FRUS, 1952–4, v (Washington, 1983), 373–8. On the formal Council discussion of Soviet policy see: FO 371/106530/39 (24 April); FRUS, v. 373–8.

(83) FO 800/821 (23 April); FO 371/106528/6 (6 May).

(84) CAB. 128/26, CC (53) 29th (28 April).