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Henry Wallace Questions the "Get Tough" Policy, 1946


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Henry Wallace Questions the “Get Tough” Policy, 1946

Henry Wallace was Secretary of Commerce and appealed to Truman to seek accommodation, not confrontation with he Soviets. When Wallace went public with his criticisms, Truman fired him from the cabinet.
“How do American actions since V-J Day appear to other nations? I mean by actions the concrete things like $13 billion for the War and Navy Departments, the Bikini tests of the atomic bomb and continued production of bombs, the plan to arm Latin America with our weapons, production of B-29s and…the effort to secure air bases spread over half the globe from which the other half of the globe can be bombed. I cannot but feel that these actions must make it look to the rest of the world as if we were only paying lip service to peace at the conference table. These facts rather make it appear either (1) that we are preparing ourselves to win the war which we regard as inevitable or (2) that we are trying to build up a predominance of force to intimidate the rest of mankind. How would it look to us if Russian had the atomic bomb and we did not, if Russia had ten thousand mile bombers and air bases within a thousand miles of our coastlines and we did not? In a world of atomic bombs and other revolutionary new weapons, such as radioactive poison gasses and biological warfare, a peace maintained by a predominance of force is no longer possible…
Insistence on our part that the game must be played our way will only lead to a deadlock. The Russians will redouble their efforts to manufacture bombs, and they may also decide to expand their “security zone” in a serious way…We may feel very self-righteous if we refuse to budge on our plan and the Russians refuse to accept it, but that means only one thing - the atomic armament race is on in deadly earnest….
Russian history for over a thousand years has been a succession of attempts, often unsuccessful, to resist invasion and conquest…The first four years of the new regime, from 1917 to 19221, were spent in resisting attempts at destruction by the Japanese, British and French, with some American assistance…Then, in 1941, the Soviet state was almost conquered by the Germans after a period during which the Western European powers had apparently acquiesced in the rearming of Germany in the belief that the Nazis would seek to expand eastward rather than westward,. The Russians, therefore, obviously see themselves as fighting for their existence in a hostile world.
Second, it follows that to the Russians all of the defense and security measures of the Western powers seem to have an aggressive intent. Our actions to expand our military security system…appear to them as going far beyond the requirements of defense. I think we might feel the same if the US were the only capitalistic country in the world and the principal socialistic countries were creating a level of armed strength far exceeding anything in their previous history…
Finally, our resistance to her attempts to obtain warm water ports and her own security system in the form of “friendly” neighboring states seems, from the Russian point of view, to clinch the case…Russia believes she s entitled to recognition of her new status.
If this analysis is correct…the action to improve the situation is clearly indicated. The…action should be to allay any reasonable Russian grounds for fear, suspicions and distrust. We must recognize that the world has changed and that today there can be no “one world” unless the US and USSR can find some way of living together…It is of the greatest importance that we should discuss with the Russians in a friendly way their long-range economic problems and the future of our cooperation in matters of trade…
Many of the problems relating to the countries bordering on Russia could more readily be solved once an atmosphere of mutual trust and confidence is established and some form of economic arrangements is worked out with Russia…
This proposal admittedly calls for a shift in some of our thinking about international matters. It is imperative that we make this shift. We have little time to lose. Our postwar actions have not yet been adjusted to the lessons to be gained from experience of Allied cooperation during the war and the facts of the atomic age.

1. What is the attitude displayed by Wallace toward the Russians? What does he give as reasons for Russian behavior?

2. What are some of the criticisms Wallace makes about the US foreign policy towards the USSR?

3. What would Wallace’s stance be on the issue of containment?


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