May 14, 2022
Mounting tensions with Russia, a global pandemic and a reckless scramble for nuclear energy: the echoes of 1957 are alarming – we would do well to heed them
On 10 October 1957, Harold Macmillan sent a letter to President Dwight Eisenhower. The question he asked his US counterpart was: “What are we going to do about these Russians?” The launch of the Sputnik satellite six days earlier had carried with it the threat that Soviet military technology would eclipse that of the west. The prime minister was hoping to boost British nuclear capabilities, and was desperate for US cooperation.
On that same day, however, the UK’s most advanced nuclear project went up in flames – putting the knowledge and bravery of its best scientists to the test, and threatening England’s peaceful countryside with a radiological disaster. Continue reading...
Apr 05, 2021
An impressive study of the conflict’s major players contends that the Soviet despot was the dominant force
“It is necessary to deprive the German command of all initiative, forestall the adversary, and to attack the German army when it is still in the deployment stage and has no time to organise the distribution of forces at the front,” wrote the Soviet commanders to Joseph Stalin. The day on which they did so is by far the most surprising part of the document: 15 May 1941, one month and one week before Hitler attacked the USSR. In the spring of 1941, the Soviets considered attacking the Germans first, writes Sean McMeekin in his latest book, Stalin’s War.
The volume is impressive even by the standard of histories of the second world war. It is more than 800 pages long, including a 20-page list of archival collections and files consulted. The list of source publications and literature is even longer, while the notes, often limited to citations, occupy more than 90 pages. The book is well researched and very well written. It puts forward new ideas and revives some old ones to challenge current mainstream interpretations of the conflict. Continue reading...