This is the most accessible account of the career of Stalin's closest adviser now available. Derek Watson's biography may be outstanding in academic terms but its price would be off-putting for most readers. Geoffrey Roberts is proving to be an author who throws a fresh light on the numerous prejudices about the history of the Cold War and Soviet industrialisation. His previous work on Stalin's Wars was extremely enlightening and this biography of Molotov is a valuable addition to our understanding of what actually happened. New research on the basis of the now available Soviet archives shows how much of our assumptions will need to be revised. If only Molotov had been in the UN at the start of the Korean War much unnecessary bloodshed may have been avoided. Hopefully Geoffrey Robert's biography may encourage deeper reading of Molotov's influence on the 20th Century. I should recommend Molotov Remembers - Conversations with Felix Chuev as the next book to read.
Geoffrey Roberts, author of Stalin's wars: from World War to Cold War 1939-1953 and many other books, has written another splendid book. This biography of Molotov, based on archival research, sheds new light on the Cold War.
Roberts recounts the Soviet view of World War Two: "the Anglo-Soviet-American coalition had won the war together, but the greatest contribution had come from the Red Army, which had turned the tide of war in the Allies' favour a full year before the D-Day landings in France. It was the Soviet Union that had largely liberated Europe from German occupation and thereby saved European civilization." Roberts writes, "As Molotov was fond of saying, European civilization was saved by the Red Army, by the sacrifices of the Soviet people, and by the resources generated by the communist system."
Immediately at the end of World War Two, "The Soviet perspective was that great-power collaboration would continue in the long term to contain Germany and to maintain a stable setting for postwar reconstruction."
Stalin persistently urged peaceful coexistence between the socialist and capitalist systems, and the peaceful settlement of differences. The US and British governments replied with Churchill's Fulton speech (a virtual declaration of war on the Soviet Union), the Truman Doctrine and the formation of NATO.
Roberts points out that Stalin said in January 1949 that the Soviet Union would lift the Berlin blockade if the West agreed to another conference on the German question, and this is what happened.
In March 1952, Molotov sent a Note proposing a German peace treaty based on withdrawing all Allied forces from Germany, German unification, and a German pledge not to join NATO. As Roberts points out, Molotov wanted "a deal with the West on the German question that might have led to a loss of communist control in East Germany. In exchange for this sacrifice Molotov sought a comprehensive system of European collective security ..." - like Gorbachev's later proposal of a `common European home'. Giving up the GDR would have destroyed the whole Soviet bloc.
Stalin opposed Molotov's capitulationism. In April, Stalin told the GDR's leaders, "Whatever proposals we make on the German question the Western powers won't agree with them and they won't withdraw from West Germany. To think that the Americans will compromise or accept the draft peace treaty would be a mistake. The Americans need an army in West Germany in order to keep control of Western Europe. ... The Americans are drawing West Germany into the [NATO] pact. They will form West German forces ... In West Germany an independent state is being formed. And you must organize your own state."
In 1953, after Stalin died, Molotov, with Malenkov and Beria, continued to push for this German peace treaty. Malenkov said, "Profoundly mistaken are those who think that Germany can exist for a long time under conditions of dismemberment in the form of two independent states. To stick to the position of the existence of a dismembered Germany means to keep to the course for a new war." History proved that Molotov and Malenkov, not Stalin, were `profoundly mistaken'.