On April 28, the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation hosted a virtual conversation with Dr. Sean McMeekin.
World War II endures in the popular imagination as a heroic struggle between good and evil, with villainous Hitler driving its events. But Hitler was not in power when the conflict erupted in Asia—and he was certainly dead before it ended. His armies did not fight in multiple theaters, his empire did not span the Eurasian continent, and he did not inherit any of the spoils of war. That central role belonged to Joseph Stalin. The Second World War was not Hitler’s war; it was Stalin’s war.
Drawing on ambitious new research in Soviet, European, and US archives, Stalin’s War revolutionizes our understanding of this global conflict by moving its epicenter to the east. Hitler’s genocidal ambition may have helped unleash Armageddon, but as McMeekin shows, the war which emerged in Europe in September 1939 was the one Stalin wanted, not Hitler. So, too, did the Pacific war of 1941–1945 fulfill Stalin’s goal of unleashing a devastating war of attrition between Japan and the “Anglo-Saxon” capitalist powers he viewed as his ultimate adversary.
McMeekin also reveals the extent to which Soviet Communism was rescued by the US and Britain’s self-defeating strategic moves, beginning with Lend-Lease aid, as American and British supply boards agreed almost blindly to every Soviet demand. Stalin’s war machine, McMeekin shows, was substantially reliant on American materiél from warplanes, tanks, trucks, jeeps, motorcycles, fuel, ammunition, and explosives, to industrial inputs and technology transfer, to the foodstuffs which fed the Red Army.
This unreciprocated American generosity gave Stalin’s armies the mobile striking power to conquer most of Eurasia, from Berlin to Beijing, for Communism.
About the Speaker
Dr. Sean McMeekin is a member of the Academic Council of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation. He is the Francis Flournoy Professor of European History and Culture at Bard College. McMeekin holds a B.A. from Stanford University, and an M.A. and Ph.D. from University of California, Berkeley. After completing his postdoctoral fellowship at New York University’s Remarque Institute, McMeekin also studied at University of Paris 7, Moscow State University, Humboldt University, and Mezhdunarodny Universitet, Moscow, and taught at Yale and two universities in Turkey (Koç University, Istanbul and Bilkent University, Ankara).