Q: So the U.S. nuclear monopoly was really seen as aimed against the Soviet
DH: Oh, yes, I think Stalin and the leadership basically saw [the atomic
bombing of] Hiroshima as directed against the Soviet Union. They thought,
believed that the war with Japan would be over quickly. Of course, the Soviet
Union was moving troops to the Far East in order to enter the war with Japan.
Stalin was committed to doing that; he had wanted to do that in order to secure
concessions and strengthen the Soviet strategic position in the Far East...
So [bombing Hiroshima] was seen as something unnecessary because...it was
clear that Japan would be defeated. And secondly, it was seen as a kind of
anti-Soviet, a kind of sly, or cunning anti-Soviet political move. So yes, it
was seen very much as directed against the Soviet Union and directed against
the Soviet Union, not only in order to deprive the Soviet Union of gains in the
Far East, but generally to intimidate the Soviet Union. You know, look what we
have. We have this bomb which is so powerful that with one detonation, we can
destroy a city. And you better behave yourselves. You better be more
tractable, more amenable in the dealing with the post-war settlement in Europe.
And I think that's very much how Stalin interpreted Hiroshima.
Q: So how did Stalin respond to the bombing of Hiroshima?
DH: His response was to show that he would not give in to pressure. It was not
to become more amenable and more tractable. In fact, if anything, it was to
show that the Soviet Union would not be intimidated. And how would you show
that? You would show it by being difficult, or if you would like, even more
difficult than before. Even less willing to reach agreements on Western terms.
So that if anything, I think the political effect of Hiroshima was to reinforce
a sense in Stalin's mind of the need to be very tough-minded in dealing with
the West. Because any concession would be taken as a sign of weakness. A sign
that atomic diplomacy was working and I think his reading was, if you make one
concession, then they ask for more concessions, so you just have to be very
tough, that was the nature of the game.
Q: In 1946 Soviet leader Joseph Stalin makes his famous Bolshoi speech,
which very much alarms the West. What does he say?
DH: One of the curious things about Stalin is that he does not make very many
public statements after World War II and the last years of his life. Probably
the most important public speech was one he gave in the Bolshoi theater in
February 1946 which was a very, kind of somber assessment of the post-war
world. In which he said, essentially, that war was inevitable as long as
imperialism existed. That this was kind of Lenin's theory that imperialism
generated war. That that had been the cause of World War II, and imperialism
hadn't vanished, so one could expect wars in the future. And that was linked
with a domestic policy focusing again on investment in heavy industry and
indeed investment in science and technology, including you know, the atomic
bomb, rockets, radar, jet propulsion and so on.
And that speech was taken in the West to mean that Stalin not only thought
that war was inevitable and therefore needed to direct his domestic policy
towards preparation for war, but also that he was kind of willing to engage in
war. I think the interpretation of the speech in the West was actually more
alarmist than was warranted. I think Stalin did not want war, but I think that
people in the West read this as a sign of a very bellicose and potentially
aggressive Soviet Union. So the speech shattered, I think, illusions inside
the Soviet Union, that the postwar world would be easier and more tolerant and
freer. And it also contributed to the feeling in the West that we are in for a
very tough ride in relations with the Soviet Union because this man is intent
and willing, in fact, to contemplate starting a war.
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