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    BRAMA News and Community Press

    BRAMA, January 29, 2003, 11:00 am ET

    Press Release

    US Intelligence Perceptions of Soviet Power
    1921 – 1946

    By: Leonard Leshuk

    US Intelligence Perceptions of Soviet Power, 1921-1946
    Author: Leonard Leshuk
    FRANK CASS Publishers, London, UK
    ISBN: 0-7146-5306-3
    Price: (L)45.00/CDN$64.50
    Online Price: (L)40.50 ORDER NOW

  • The first comprehensive study ever published of the US government’s knowledge and perceptions of the Soviet Union before the Cold War.
  • The most in depth investigation ever undertaken of how US intelligence operations were carried out in the decades before World War II.
  • Challenges many generally held assumptions about US-Soviet relations and associated events before and during World War II.

    How did the USSR emerge from World War II militarily and economically strong enough to confront the United States effectively on a global scale? Was the USSR stronger than was accepted prior to the beginning of the Cold War? What did US officials really know about conditions inside the Soviet Union, the Soviet government's oppression of the people, and the extent of resistance to communist rule in the years leading to and during the Second World War? Were the pre-Cold War US policies concerning the USSR based on erroneous perceptions and assumptions and to what extent did this contribute to the Cold War?

    This important book seeks to answer these and a number of other questions through detailed examination of the US intelligence-gathering and analysis on the Soviet Union in the period 1921-46. It encompasses the several major factors in US officials’ perceptions of Soviet economic and military power during the entire 1921-46 period, while providing unique insight into the pre-World War II intelligence establishment in the United States. Presenting a wealth of documentary evidence from previously classified US intelligence files, Leonard Leshuk employs common sense and logic, often lacking in the intelligence and policy-making process, to bring to light new information about the significant Soviet military and industrial strength and the intention and capability to use such strength in a hostile manner. These important facts had generally been overlooked, ignored and misinterpreted by US officials.

    Whilst examining the Soviet strength in that period, the author’s main focus is to determine what the US intelligence perceptions were, on what information they were based and what connections they had to the US policy. The book also reveals many of the problems inherent in attempting to assemble useful data concerning the economy and military of a country such as the Soviet Union. Those problems, compounded by the failures in analysis of the limited intelligence that was obtained in that earlier period, resulted in totally inadequate knowledge and understanding of Soviet strength at the end of the Second World War, which in turn led to the widely varying, and so often erroneous, intelligence estimates concerning the USSR during the Cold War.

    This book gives new perspective on events in Eastern Europe in the first half of the twentieth century. Among the information which US officials obtained but generally ignored or discounted, was that concerning the pivotal role of Ukraine in Soviet power all through this period. The author makes the case that had US officials truly understood, and based their policies on, the intelligence gathered concerning matters such as the initial weakness of the new Soviet state due to the government not having direct control of Ukraine's agricultural wealth, the effects and ramifications of the forced collectivisation carried out by Stalin to finance military industrialisation, the stripping and destroying of Ukrainian resources by the Soviets in their 1941 retreat, the 'lesser of the two evils' attitude shown by the populace toward the invading Germans, and the nature of resistance to reoccupation by the Soviets, the Second World War could have been far less devastating and the Cold War avoided altogether. A very disturbing pattern of the US government's intentional concealment of Soviet crimes before and during WW II is also shown. By covering up what they knew about of the horrors of the man-made famine, the Soviets' desire to obtain German co-operation in an invasion of Poland years before the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, the discovery of the mass graves of hundreds of thousands executed at places such as Vinnitsia, abuses of American citizens, the Soviet collusion in the German attack on the US airbase at Poltava, the disappearance of thousands of "liberated" Allied POWs into the gulag, and similar matters, US officials made themselves accessories to those crimes. The author concludes that fear of that collusion being exposed was a primary reason for the US officials' unwillingness to confront or even risk angering the Soviets during and immediately after the war.

    Divided into seven chronological parts, the book examines critical aspects for each time period, including industrial and more general economic strength, espionage/counter-espionage activities and capabilities that contributed to strength. In the conclusion the author notes that despite the massive expansion of intelligence operations since 1946, many of the same serious problems continue to beset US policy-making, as evidenced by the lack of preparedness for the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Worryingly close parallels with recent US intelligence and policy failures concerning China and other countries are also included here.

    By bringing to light the long-neglected documentary evidence and challenging many of the existing beliefs concerning the early period of US-Soviet relations, as well as providing a new perspective on a number of events related to the Second World War, this unique and ground-breaking book will undoubtedly become essential reading for all scholars and professionals in the fields of intelligence, international relations, Russian/Soviet studies, Cold War studies, twentieth century European history, and military history.

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