It is a conveniently forgotten fact, at least among most Americans, that credit for the Allied victory in World War II belongs at least as much to the Soviet Union as to the “free world,” and, indeed, undoubtedly more. In the five-month-long Battle of Stalingrad, 1942–43, well over a million people died, making it the bloodiest battle in the history of the world. The victory was cheered in the West, where the allies had been relying on a Russian victory to keep Germany from freeing up its troops to take over much of the world. But afterward, conservatives in the United States began to fret that communism, rather than fascism, threatened to take over Europe. The Nation, in a February 20, 1943, editorial, “Stop at Kiev!” mocked those self-interested concerns.
Until now it has been wonderful. It was both inspiring and comforting to watch the Russians fight with an efficiency that gave the other powers a chance to devote to the creation of a North African front the careful thought such a major enterprise required. There was no need to put any limit on the general applause. Of course the people of the left, the anti-fascists of twenty years’ standing, had to be restrained in their enthusiasm over Russia’s victories; any excess on their part would deliver them into the hands of Mr. Dies [chairman of the House Un-American Activites Committee]. But bankers, conservative columnists, and other respectable people might carry their Russophilia as far as they liked. Now things have changed. The Russians are going too fast. These same respectable people begin to wonder whether there is not at least a shadow of truth in Hitler’s warning of the threatened bolshevization of the Continent. Let the Russians go on dying for freedom—but not too near the frontiers of Western Europe. If Stalin duly appreciates the good opinion of the best people, he must now exhibit a talent for moderation. He must know where to stop. Kiev would seem to be the indicated point. There he should wait modestly until the opening of a European second front can reestablish a decent balance of power.
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