Soviet Union, CIA, United States discussed on Fresh Air
Experience. More at hub spot dot com grow better. This is fresh air and were speaking with veteran war correspondent Scott Anderson. He has a new book about the early years of the CIA from the end of World War two through the Mid 19 fifties, when the agency was a key instrument of policy in the Cold War with the Soviet Union. Anderson's book is the quiet Americans. Historians hate to be asked to play what if, but but let's just do this for a second. You know, you look at when Stalin dies. One was at about 1953, right? Yes, Khrushchev comes to power. He talks about peaceful coexistence. At one point, I think he says, you know. Well, if you guys were forming NATO is mutual defence. Maybe we should join NATO. You know, he does. Once the Hungarian rebellion occurs, there's a moment where he seems to Relent and say, Okay, you can have the reformist prime minister. I'll pull Soviet troops out of the country will have sort of a common wealth rather than this Soviet client states. And throughout all of these steps, the U. S. Policymakers, led by Secretary of State John Foster Dulles have no interest in courting ahh, friendship with the Soviet Union or encouraging some of these steps. Had they taken a different approach. Would history be different? I think it would be. I think it would be radically different. I often think that that and I think you hit it on the nose that that moment. In this. Why? Why my book ends with Hungarian revolution because I think that was the absolute key moment. When this Cold war could have started to end right there. The Soviet Pole bureau at Khrushchev's insistence on October 31st 1956 Decided they were pulling out of Hungary and as you said that they were going to change the relationship of all the eastern European countries with the Soviet Union to being this loose confederation The next day, November 1st 1956 over the course that night, Khrushchev had a complete change of heart and he goes back to the Politburo the next day and says, Look, if the Americans were going to do anything, they would have done it by now. And if we lose, Hungary were going to lose all the others. This is this is going to become a cascade. So on that day, Khrushchev and the Poulet bureau completely changed course, and they ordered the tanks back into into Hungary. Um, And of course, this was after you know, three years of there being a number of overtures by the Soviets towards the West for a rapprochement. And being rebuffed every time and what you see after Hungary is the Christians who really had been very much a reformer for the previous three years, he was the one who led the desalinization policy. He becomes more and more of a hard liner to the point that he precipitates the October missile crisis in 1962, But that was absolutely one of those great historical what, if moments if the Americans had played things differently with Hungary? The CIA was, of course, active in other parts of the world. I mean, not just Europe. Quickly in the developing world where you know you had a lot of countries that had been European colonies for decades, and we're looking to strike out on independent course in general, what was U. S policy in the third world at a time when they feared Soviet in, you know, ambitions everywhere. Right initially after the underworld war to there was this idea that it was FDR is idea of that We will be a force for fostering democracy in the developing world. That went very quickly by the way side by just the onslaught of events. I think that was really ultimately discarded completely by the time of the Korean War in 1950. Now the United States saw the world as we need to defend what we have. We're not gonna be a force for change. We're going. It's gonna be this defensive policy of protecting people against Spread of communism. So if that means propping up or cozying up to military Dictatorships around the world or despot's, then so be it on DH. What you also saw happening at the same time was and again as a result of largest of Korea. Was now the United States. All of a sudden is supporting the French and British in maintaining their colonial outposts throughout the world, especially in Asia. So the United States under FDR that had been demanding the French leave their possessions in Indochina. In Vietnam now in 1950 for the Americans were actually bankrolling the French to stay on in Vietnam. So there was this is this is just a complete turnaround in this in this very short spent a time right? Then there were cases where governments would come to power in some cases through democratic elections and pursue courses that were regarded as dangerous, you know, expropriating foreign investments, etcetera. You want to give a couple examples off ways in which the CIA dealt quickly and effectively with those? Yeah, And I think this is the next stage on and you see this when Eisenhower comes to power, and as John Foster Dulles is secretary of state Now. Now we're not just propping up Dictatorships were creating on the two places that happened early in his administration was in Iran in 1953 and then Guatemala the following year. Both democracies, but they both had functioning working parliaments, and the irony is that neither of them had really had any sort of relations with the Soviet Union. But as you said industrial powers in Iran's case, the oil companies and in Guatemala, the either United fruit company that ran Guatemala is essentially a plantation. Days began fomenting that these leftist leaders are going to you know they're going to take their countries into the Soviet orbit, and we've got to get rid of them. So Under orders from on high the CIA over three. Both of those governments that the most today regime in Iran and the Arbenz regime in Guatemala, you've covered a lot of conflict zones and the parts of the book of the United States. In some cases, you know, cynically supporting right wing Dictatorships, you know is not exactly news. People have talked about this before. I will say that. The stories that you tell in Europe where the United States the CIA is pursuing these really foolhardy missions against Eastern European states, which get You know, sincerely intended. Patriots killed time and time and time again, but speak Kind of a lack of clear thinking. A lack of strategy. This this improvisational approach, which is really reckless. Do you think that's changed? Or were you surprised by it? You know, I wasn't surprised by it. I think what happened Wass. One thing I was not aware of until really started t look at this whole period, you know, almost on a day by day account. The barrage of events that were happening constantly. And you know you talk about foreign crises today, and so there's you can't compare to what was happening in the 19 forties 19 fifties. I have this line in the book in one month in 1950. The U. N launched its counter offensive into Korea that pushed the communist back in North Korea. Same month Communist China invaded Tibet. A French garrison of 6000 soldiers in into China was wiped out by, you know, coming story. Ullas and the Polish government arrested 5000 dissidents in 24 hours Dragnet, and I was in one month, so I think these guys were just getting pummeled by so many things happening so quickly. That they just went into this reactive mode of we have to try something. And even if it doesn't work, we don't have the luxury of time to sit back and and think out, thoughtful.