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Publisher's Summary

Brought to you by Penguin. 

In this remarkable, groundbreaking new book Sean McMeekin marks a generational shift in our view of Stalin as an ally in the Second World War. Stalin's only difference from Hitler, he argues, was that he was a successful murderous predator. With Hitler dead and the Third Reich in ruins, Stalin created an immense new Communist empire. Among his holdings were Czechoslovakia and Poland, the fates of which had first set the West against the Nazis and, of course, China and North Korea, the ramifications of which we still live with today.

Until Barbarossa wrought a public relations miracle, turning him into a plucky ally of the West, Stalin had murdered millions, subverted every norm of international behaviour, invaded as many countries as Hitler had and taken great swathes of territory he would continue to keep. In the larger sense the global conflict grew out of not only German and Japanese aggression but Stalin's manoeuvrings, orchestrated to provoke wars of attrition between the capitalist powers in Europe and in Asia. Throughout the war Stalin chose to do only what would benefit his own regime, not even aiding in the effort against Japan until the conflict's last weeks. Above all, Stalin's War uncovers the shocking details of how the US government (to the detriment of itself and its other allies) fuelled Stalin's war machine, blindly agreeing to every Soviet demand, right down to agents supplying details of the atomic bomb.

©2021 Sean McMeekin (P)2021 Penguin Audio

Critic Reviews

"Gripping, authoritative, accessible and always bracingly revisionist." (Simon Sebag Montefiore)

"McMeekin's approach in Stalin's War is both original and refreshing, written as it is with a wonderful clarity." (Antony Beevor)

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  • tom morton
  • 05-06-21

Perspective Altering

My entire view of WW II has been changed by this book, Stalin The Pawnmaster

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  • Geek tragedy
  • 06-28-21

Fascinating, but flawed

I've read a wide range of books on this subject. This is easily one of the more interesting analyses. The author grasps thoroughly the basic point that many have struggled with, that as another great historian has said about the Soviets, 'they were Communists, it wasn't something that they put on in public, it was what they sincerely were.' There are a number of egregious errors, despite the authors praise of his editors. Just to pick up one, referring to Alan Brooke as an Airforce officer, for example, how difficult was that to check? If you're going to discuss military equipment, it might be a good idea to understand what you're talking about. The author doesn't seem to have a firm grasp of where the crew members in a tank are placed, if you want to mention technical faults in T34s, of which there were a great many, it's better to focus on real issues than mangle some that, seemingly, the author doesn't understand himself. For me, that simply undermines credibility elsewhere. That said, the political, diplomatic & economic arenas are what this book is about. The assessment of the roles of Roosevelt and Churchill, and their advisers, especially the advisers is brutal, but firmly based on the evidence base within the text. As a British taxpayer it still rankles that we not only paid our lend-lease debts in full, including interest, having bankrupted our country by 1940; but that the enemy, dedicated to the destruction of our society, were simply had theirs written off at 2cents on the dollar, in 1951. It's on a par with the British [Labour] Governments decision to sell the Rolls-Royce Nene to the Soviets, which went on to power the MiG 15, which our own pilots faced in Korea. Part of a long tale of Communist technology theft, from 1920 onwards, aided and abetted by western companies & governments. As the man himself said, 'When we hang the capitalists, they will sell us the rope we use'. Lend-Lease has to be the biggest & best example of that, and the US let the Soviets off the debt. We deserved the cold war, we created it, this book tells that story.