This week's syndicated column:
On Saturday, Nov. 16, the United States marks a milestone: the 80th anniversary of when President Franklin Delano Roosevelt recognized the Soviet Union and “normalized” U.S.-USSR relations. It is a day that should live in infamy.
But it’s a day hardly anyone has ever heard of. I certainly hadn’t before researching my book, American Betrayal. As I studied the event, however, it became clear that it was on this day 80 years ago that what I call “American betrayal” began. It is the date on which the U.S. government institutionally learned to lie.
After the Bolsheviks seized dictatorial powers in the aftermath of the Russian Revolution of 1917, four U.S. presidents (starting with Woodrow Wilson) and six secretaries of state (starting with Bainbridge Colby) refused to normalize relations with the new and bloody regime of Lenin and then Stalin.
Does the phrase “global communism” ring a bell? The Soviet Union was openly committed to and already fomenting communist revolution against all nations, including, of course, the United States. (This call to conquest echoes today in Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamic groups’ calls to jihad for a global caliphate.) It was clear to our leaders back then that it wasn’t possible to conduct normal relations with such an abnormal state.
Secretary of State Colby, stating the Wilson administration’s position in 1920, noted there could be no “mutual confidence” when one party – the USSR – had no intention of honoring pledges, which, of course, is the very basis of normal diplomatic relations. Furthermore, Colby continued, the U.S. couldn’t recognize “a government which is determined and bound to conspire against our institutions.”
This made perfect sense – at least from an American point of view. Indeed, George F. Kennan, a young diplomat training as a Russia expert at the time of recognition, would write in his 1967 memoir, “Never – neither then (in 1933) or at any later date – did I consider the Soviet Union a fit ally or associate, actual or potential, for this country.”
Nonetheless, following deliberations I haven’t seen sufficiently explicated, FDR normalized relations with the Red monster-regime early in his first term. In exchange, the U.S. received Soviet pledges, including that the USSR would not support organizations or groups aimed at the overthrow of “the political or social order of the United States.” In other words, the Soviet Union pledged not to wage a secret intelligence war against us.
But such a war was already under way. Post-recognition, this Soviet war on America, spearheaded by traitors directed by Moscow, would intensify. A veritable army of Stalin’s secret agents, agents of influence, fellow travelers and dupes entered the U.S. government and related institutions. They would fight an unceasing stealth war against this country, even – I should say, especially – during World War II. Much to the executive branch’s consternation, the House and Senate would do much to expose this stealth Soviet war in the House Un-American Activities Committee and other committees.
Here’s where the government’s institutional lying comes in. To maintain “normal relations” as initiated in 1933 – and, later, military alliance with Stalin in 1941 – the U.S. government had to pretend everything having to do with the USSR, with communism, with Soviet mass murder, with Soviet subversion was “normal,” and to ignore or reject evidence, testimony and results to the contrary. The U.S. government, in other words, had to learn to lie. And so it did, enmeshing itself and the lives of millions of people in a kind of darkness we have yet to shine a light on and fully appreciate – something I attempt to do in American Betrayal.
Eighty years ago, then, that first U.S.-USSR agreement wasn’t worth the paper it was written on. But, for the sake of “normal” relations, it didn’t matter! Similarly, the boxes full of U.S.-USSR agreements to come would be worthless, or worse. But for too long, that didn’t matter, either.
As detailed in “American Betrayal,” U.S. recognition of the USSR was more than a strategic blunder (although the strategic nature of the blunder is also examined). There was a hideous moral cost as well.
FDR’s decision to convey legitimacy on the Communist dictatorship followed (or came in a lull of) what we now know as the Ukraine Terror Famine. This was Stalin’s state-engineered famine that purposefully starved 5 or 6 million people to death, maybe more. While officially lied about – the first “Big Lie,” as epic chronicler Robert Conquest calls it – the truth of Stalin’s famine was “widely available” in the West in scores of newspapers. The subject, however, didn’t even come up in U.S.-USSR negotiations over recognition.
This, theoretically, would be akin to Hitler’s Holocaust not coming up in a similar set of diplomatic negotiations.
In other words, ignoring, or even tolerating, the millions of people Stalin killed became a prerequisite to recognition – the “unprincipled deal with totalitarianism,” as Solzhenitsyn would call it in 1975. “In 1933 and 1941 your leaders and the whole Western world made an unprincipled deal with totalitarianism. We will have to pay for this; someday it will come back to haunt us. For 30 years we have been paying for it,” the sage and courageous author of “The Gulag Archipelago” said. “And we’re going to pay for it in an even worse way in the future.”
It’s time we try to understand what he meant.