18.1) Assess the view that the disagreements about the Second Front were the most significant cause of tension between Russian and the West between 1941 and 1945.
There were two main causes of tension between Russia and the West from 1941 and 1945. One cause, according to historians was the disagreements over a Second Front being opened. Tensions arose due to the West’s perceived delay in opening a front, the front being used as a political tool by Stalin and the perceived lack of supplies and materials being sent to the soviets as aid. A more significant cause of tension, however, is believed by some to be Stalin’s attempts to create a sphere of influence in Eastern Europe and his actions in Poland. Kolko argues that the West failing to open a Second front would have raised questions in the Kremlin about ‘the ultimate value and reliability of the coalition’ between the West and Russia. The Soviets were fighting against Germany alone on the Eastern front and it appeared ‘the West was making politics while Russia made war’ so Russia wanted the West to open a second front to show more commitment and relieve Russia’s strain over the Eastern Front. However Kolko being anti- Capitalist and a critic of America’s Foreign Policy in the 20th century, would be inclined to blame the West as he is biased against both their ideology and policy. Tensions over the Second front may have been aroused as early as July 1941 as Stalin first requested the front to be opened on the 18th of July 1914 after Churchill had promised to do ‘everything we can to help’ and that the West would ‘gradually take some of the strain off of [Stalin]’. This suggests that Churchill had promised Stalin as much support as his should need and then failed to deliver upon these promises. The West felt they were not capable of opening a second front due to military reasons, Churchill said to open a second front would be a ‘bloody repulse’ and would do ‘far more harm than good to both of us’. Kolko also claims that Russia expected a Second Front to be opened, and were misled by the West who had ‘broken promises’ as failing to open a Front to aid Russia after promising to do everything possible to help seems as though Britain had gone back on their promise. However, the genuineness behind Churchill’s pledge is questionable as he was keen to appease the Russians for without them the war would have been more difficult; he may have made the pledge to keep Stalin onside. If the West had made promises and given Stalin the wrong impression it would be a cause of tension because Stalin would feel betrayed by his allies. Although, LaFeber argues that there’d been a misunderstanding between Russia and the West, not broken promises. The West offering Russia support had been misinterpreted as an ‘ironclad pledge’ by Stalin who thought the West had ‘indicated readiness’, when in reality Britain hadn’t got the military capability to do so, which is supported by Churchill. But regardless of the West’s reasons, the delay in opening a second front would have caused significant tensions. If Stalin was under the impression there would be a front opened a delay would have caused him to feel mislead and lied to by the West, causing tension. In support of this, Molotov states that Stalin never expected a Second Front to be opened and how Stalin knew opening the Front would be ‘a completely impossible operation for them but our demand was politically necessary, and we had to press them for everything’. This indicates that Stalin used the excuse of needed an additional Front to be opened in order to gain aid from the West as help, instead of a Front. Molotov’s account is a reliable source as he was close to Stalin so had an accurate view of Stalin’s thoughts at the time and would have taken part in the second front discussions. The interview, in which he divulged this information, was given 30 years after Stalin’s death, meaning Molotov would have been able to speak freely about...
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