Title

William C. Bullitt: Fear and loathing of the Soviet Union, 1917-1948

Date of Award

1997

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

History

Advisor(s)

William Stinchcombe

Keywords

Bullitt, William C.@

Subject Categories

History | International Law

Abstract

William C. Bullitt's significance in Soviet-American relations is demonstrated in how he mirrored American policymakers opinions and emotions directed toward the Soviets from 1917 to 1948. In 1919 Bullitt hoped to integrate moderate Bolsheviks under Vladimir Lenin into international liberalism. When this failed Bullitt disappeared into the expatriate world during the early interwar years. While the Soviet Union remained on the periphery of world relations, so also did American interest in the Soviet system remain on the periphery of their concerns. As the United States sank deep into depression, the Soviets appeared as one of many quick fixes for the economy. Once reestablishing relations proved otherwise, Americans again relegated the Soviets to the margins of consideration.

Bullitt helped bring the Soviets to prominence and then just as quickly abandoned the efforts. His subsequent antipathy and distance again mirrored American policy advisors who could ignore the Soviets in their murderous phase of isolation. But that relationship had to change. After the United States entered World War II, the Soviets became America's partner. There seemed little alternative for President Truman in 1945 than to follow the path Roosevelt's actions had laid out. But attempts at coming to terms with the Soviets mirrored the attempts Bullitt experienced from 1933 to 1936. The embracement of Bullitt's critique of Soviet actions in 1946, by way of George F. Kennan's Long Telegram, demonstrate how nearly Bullitt represented the ranks of policymakers from 1917 to 1948.

Based in part on Soviet archives this work demonstrates that Bullitt intended to integrate first the Bolsheviks in 1919, and then the Soviet Union in 1933 into an international liberal order under the Democratic administrations of Woodrow Wilson and Franklin D. Roosevelt. Although Bullitt turned against aligning with the Soviet government in late 1934, Roosevelt continued to incorporate the Soviet government into a larger liberal order. However, in 1946 the Truman Administration perceived, as had Bullitt in late 1934, that there was no difference between the Soviet government and communism. Thereafter the Administration led the way in forming a liberal world order with the Soviet Union now on the outside.

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