A Preponderance of Power: National Security, the Truman Administration, and the Cold War
At the end of the war, U.S. officials...wanted to cooperate with the Kremlin. But they harbored a distrust sufficiently profound to require terms of cooperation compatible with vital American interests. Truman said it pointedly when he emphasized that the United States had to have its way 85 percent of the time. Senator Arthur H. Vandenberg, the Republican spokesman on foreign policy, was a little more categorical: "I think our two antipathetical systems can dwell in the world together -- but only on a basis which establishes the fact that we mean what we say when we say it..."
Humanitarian impulses also were a minor influence on U.S. policy. Principles were espoused because they served American interests and because they accorded with American ideological predilections and not because top officials felt a strong sense of empathy with the peoples under former Nazi rule and potential Soviet tutelage...In Washington, top officials -- Truman, Byrnes, Leahy, Forrestal, Patterson, Davies, Grew, Dunn, Lincoln -- rarely thought about the personal travail caused by war, dislocation, and great power competition...Suffering had to be relieved and hope restored in order to quell the potential for revolution. Rarely does a sense of real compassion and/or moral fervor emerge from the documents and diaries of high officials. These men were concerned primarily with power and self-interest, not with real people facing real problems in the world that had just gone through fifteen years of economic strife, Stalinist terror, and Nazi genocide.
Perhaps nothing better illustrates this moral obtuseness than the way top U.S. officials felt about Stalin. Who could doubt his barbarism? Although the full dimensions of the Gulag were not known, the trials, purges, and murders of the 1930's were a matter of public record. Yet far from worrying about their inability to satisfy Stalin's paranoia, American officialdom had great hope for Stalin in 1945. He appeared frank and willing to compromise. Truman liked him...Lest one think these were the views of a naive American politician, it should be remembered that crusty, tough-nosed Admiral Leahy had some of the same feelings. And so did Eisenhower, Harriman, and Byrnes...What went on in Russia, Truman declared, was the Russians' business. The president was fighting for U.S. interests, and Uncle Joe seemed to be the man with whom one could deal...Truman, among others, frequently voiced concern for Stalin's health; it would be a "real catastrophe" should he die. If "it were possible to see him [Stalin] more frequently," Harriman claimed, "many of our difficulties would be overcome."