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Was the U.S. government at the very end of World War II willing to accept a more or less friendly division of Europe into spheres of influence? In a book that came out eight years ago, I argued that President Truman and (even more) Secretary of State Byrnes were willing by July 1945 to accept an arrangement of that sort, and James McAllister made a similar argument about U.S. policy on the German question in a book that came out three years later. In _From Roosevelt To Truman_, Professor Miscamble accepted much of what Professor McAllister and I had had to say, but Eduard Mark, in his contribution to the Miscamble roundtable, criticizes him for doing so. Dr. Mark disagrees with the claim that the U.S. government "abandoned Eastern Europe even before the Cold War had begun." The idea that the Americans had written off Eastern Europe by late 1945, he says (paraphrasing Wolfgang Pauli), was "not even wrong." He thus seems to think it was worse than wrong--that it was absurd to argue that Truman and Byrnes could have pursued such a policy "in defiance of every value that the government of the United States professed to represent and every identifiable interest it possessed." And he thinks there is very little evidence to support the argument about the U.S. government at Potsdam opting for a spheres of influence peace and thus in effect writing off Eastern Europe. According to him (in his n. 19), the evidence advanced in support of that idea "has a certain fanciful quality." He refers in this connection to Professor Miscamble's discussion of a meeting at Potsdam on August 1, 1945, at which Stalin, Truman, and Bevin were talking about dividing up Germany's foreign holdings. He points out, quite correctly, that "the subject of the discussion" was reparation, but then goes on to claim: "There is not a hint of a division of political influence." No "hint of a division of political influence"? When Bevin is quoted in the minutes Dr. Mark cites as asking whether "Greece would belong to Britain," or when he is quoted in another set of notes of that meeting as saying "Greece would belong to Britain," isn't it reasonable to assume that the British foreign secretary had something more than just Germany's foreign assets in mind? And if one concedes that point about Greece, wouldn't that tell us something about what was really going on, perhaps just a bit below the surface, at this meeting as a whole? More generally, isn't it reasonable to assume that these discussions, although dealing directly with economic issues, nonetheless had certain important political overtones? Even if remarks like Bevin's had not been made and the discussion had just been about economic issues--about Germany’s foreign assets being divided up using a "line running from the Baltic to the Adriatic"--wouldn’t it still make sense to assume that what was said might well have a certain political meaning, especially when the issue was being discussed by the top political leaders (and not just by experts)? Or should the historian just put the blinders on, note what the direct subject of the discussion was, and ignore the possibility that the discussion might have a certain broader meaning? These are very important issues, and I'm not trying to argue that the historian should have carte blanche to read whatever he or she wants into the evidence. All I'm saying is that a document of that sort has to be interpreted with some care--I'm sure Dr. Mark would agree with this point--and in interpreting it you have to bring your whole understanding of the period to bear. In this context, certain particular documents might be of special importance. Professor Miscamble (on p. 212 of his book) cites Forrestal's record of his July 28, 1945, meeting during the Potsdam Conference with Truman; the whole document is in the Forrestal Papers at Princeton. The president told Forrestal he was being "very realistic with the Russians." He noted that thanks to Hitler, it looked like "we shall have a Slav Europe for a long time to come," commenting that he didn't "think it is so bad." A "Slav Europe" was not "so bad"? Wouldn't that imply, at the very least, that Truman was willing to live with a Soviet-dominated Eastern Europe? Or is the idea that this document tells us something important about Truman also to be dismissed as "fanciful"? Now of course a single document can always be treated as something of an anomaly. So when you're making your mind up about this issue, it's important to try to get some sense for the whole thrust of U.S. policy at Potsdam and after, as reflected in hundreds of documents, many easily available in the extraordinary second volume of the _Foreign Relations of the United States_ collection on Potsdam. You look at how the Polish issue was treated (or not treated), how the German issue was dealt with, and so on, and you try to understand what Byrnes's and Truman's general approach to policy was. In doing that, I think it's reasonable to assume that all these issues were connected. It was not as though German questions were in one category and eastern European questions were in an entirely different category, and that policy in one area was independent of policy in the other. If Germany was being divided, that policy was rooted in a certain set of assumptions. If the basic assumption here was that the way for America and Russia to get along was for each side to call the shots in the part of Germany it controlled, then wouldn't that same philosophy carry over, at least to some degree, to Europe as a whole--that is, wouldn’t it go hand in hand with the idea that the way for the two sides to get along more generally was to accept the division of Europe into spheres of influence? And if you're convinced that in dealing with German economic issues, and especially reparation, the two sides at Potsdam were really dealing ultimately with fundamental political issues--and there are many indicators in the documents that this was in fact the case--then wouldn't that basic conclusion affect the way you interpret the sorts of discussions about the dividing up of Germany's foreign assets that took place on August 1? Finally, this sort of approach helps you assess how much weight one of the arguments Dr. Mark makes should carry, namely the argument that a divided Europe could not be accepted because it was assumed that the division of Europe might well lead to war. A policy that looked toward the division of Germany would scarcely have been adopted if it had been assumed that the division of that country between east and west might well lead to war, so if Truman and Byrnes pursued such a policy, they could not have assumed that a divided Germany would be a major source of east-west tension. But if that's the case, why would they think the division of Europe as a whole between east and west might well lead to war? Why was the division of Germany okay, but the division of Europe a source of danger? None of this is to say that the sort of evidence Dr. Mark alludes to (about the "constant encouragement of the opposition parties of the region," radio propaganda, press leaks, and contacts with partisan groups in Eastern Europe) is to be dismissed out of hand. It obviously has to be assessed carefully and fit into the larger story. We'd like to know how serious those efforts were, the degree to which they were controlled from the top, and especially how things in this area changed over time. So as someone who has deeply admired Dr. Mark's work over the years, I'm very much looking forward to reading the books he referred to in his footnotes when they come out. But chronology is crucial here. The mere fact that there were "extensive contacts in 1946 between the Central Intelligence Group and the partisan formations of the Romanian opposition" doesn't tell us much about what American policy had been in July and August 1945. Let me make one final point, and this has to do with the idea that the American government could scarcely have pursued a policy of dividing Europe and consigning Eastern Europe to the Soviet sphere "in defiance of every value the government of the United States professed to represent and every identifiable interest it possessed." Well, not every value and every interest. The U.S. government certainly put a high value on peace and thus on reaching some sort of accommodation with the Soviets; a spheres of influence policy would be perfectly consistent with that value. And the Americans certainly had a strong interest in both avoiding war and preventing the Soviets from taking over all of Europe; the spheres of influence policy could plausibly be viewed as an effective way to achieve those very fundamental goals. So it's by no means absurd to think that the American government at Potsdam could have pursued a policy of this sort. Whether it actually did so turns on what the evidence shows. I obviously can't review all the evidence here, but I think it's safe to say that the evidence supporting the "spheres of influence peace" thesis is by no means as weak as Dr. Mark suggests. Marc Trachtenberg email@example.com