Q: How does the Soviet Union respond to the end of WWII, particularly Hiroshima Nagasaki?
JLG: I think the way to think about the impact of Hiroshima is to think about it
as a sudden shift in the balance of power. If it had not been for the atomic
bomb, the Russians would have been in a position to argue that they really had
won the war, that their power was dominant, at least on the European continent.
And there was really the prospect that they would be unchallenged on the
European continent, because the American commitment in the Pacific, the
probability that the United States would pull back from the European continent,
was such that I think the Russians had every reason to expect dominance in that
part of the world, in 1945.
The atomic bomb comes as a great shock to them. There's no question about
that. They surely knew that we were building it, but they didn't know that we
were going to use it. The use of it, I think, does come as a powerful surprise
to Stalin. And we know from the speed with which he accelerated his own
program in the aftermath of that, what an impact this had on them.
Q: What about American side? What sort of impact does it have on the
thinking of Truman and his administration?
JLG: It goes through several stages, the thinking of the Americans about the
atomic bomb. First of all, there was no assurance that it would work. So when
it does work, it's a surprise. It's a bonus, from their point of view.
Certainly, the fact that it provides the means to end the war is exhilarating,
from their point of view. There briefly was the thought, certainly among
Truman's advisers ([Henry] Stimson, [James] Byrnes, no doubt Truman himself),
that the possession of this weapon would be useful in the dealings with the
Russians in the early post-war years, that the simple possession of this weapon
would make the Russians more malleable. What is interesting is how quickly
they back away from this, in the light of the first experiences of trying to
use it in that way with the Russians, within a month or so of the end of the
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