Elsey, George

Kane, Jim


Lunghi, Hugh

Roberts, Frank


Continuation of Interview with Sir Frank Roberts

Q: Do you think Germany was the extent of his Western ambitions in terms of territory?

Sir FRANK ROBERTS: Yes, I think in terms of territory. I don't think he wanted Germany as part of the Russian empire, the Soviet Union, not at all, because after all don't forget that it was a Germany Karl Marx who'd started Marxism/Leninism and the East Germans were always rather a frightening lot for the Russians, he wouldn't have wanted the Germans running Russia as it were. But he wanted to have Germany as a - as part of the Communist world, just as China was on the other side. But it was never practical politics, I mean he was never attempting to do it in his lifetime. And I don't think Stalin had any territorial ambitions on France or Italy or anything like that. I mean it was a very different thing. I mean Russia was not a - he never had the sort of ideas that Hitler had that I have to conquer the Ukraine whilst I'm alive in order to have space for Germany. But what the Russians were thinking in terms of was that - and I think Stalin taught him these terms, was that communism was one day going to rule - be the dominant ideology in the world and all countries gradually were going to become communist. And in the meantime you didn't - Stalin's idea, start dangerous wars which you might lose, but if you had a good chance of pushing the cause along you always pushed it along. And if the French Communist Party had taken over in France and turned to him he'd have gratefully accepted their friendship.

Q: How correctly did the Americans assess Soviet policy during the Cold War?

Sir FRANK ROBERTS: Well, I mean no country, least of all a country with so many responsibilities as America failed to make mistakes, and indeed we did in the days of our greatness. But I think by and large they had it pretty right..because they were very lucky in having a very good small group of Soviet experts, George Kennan, Chip Boland and Tommy Thompson were the leading ones. And they had studied Russia very carefully and they knew pretty well. And I think they had it pretty right, because they - none of them wanted to have a perpetual quarrel with Russian, none of them wanted to go to war with Russia, but they did feel very strongly that you have to be extremely realist and understand what the Russians want, and where - where they can be given, give it them, but where it's dangerous you must stop it. Now I - and by and large I think also one has to give full marks to Reagan, I mean, you know, people don't like doing that, but I think it was in fact Reagan's - first of all rallying the American sort of national spirit which before Reagan was in a rather poor like the French _ Gaulle, and then carrying out this defensive policy mean these wonderful technical weapons they were going to have, I mean which maybe they were never going to have them, but still they were spending a lot of money on it and they were defensive, they weren't aggressive. And the Russians were pushed in to - in a military effort which was too great for them. And that - that's what really ended the Cold War and ended Communism in Europe, produced Gorbachev and the independence of all the Warsaw power countries. And the independence of Russia itself in a sense.

Q: If you could put yourself in the opposition point of view of how clearly did the Soviets assess American policy, did they have the equivalent of the Kennans and the Bolands?

Sir FRANK ROBERTS: Well, they had - they had able diplomats, but I think the trouble with Russia, throughout a lot of this period, particularly in the Stalin days was that Russian diplomats like all other Russian officials or party members or whatever, lived in terror of the great man, and justifiably so, because if they gave unpopular advice, they might find themselves in a concentration camp or with a bullet in the back of their heads. It wasn't very easy to give good advice to - to Stalin, it was unpalatable. And I don't - I don't think therefore they were as well - and they were rather too dependent, obviously, upon advice from - to whom I call sympathetic sources, like, well, you see now the importance that the Russians attach to their contacts in this country. Well, obviously it was a good thing to have a contact with Michael Foot, not that he was ever an agent but he did become Minister, although one later or anything, Prime a rather odd on, but they don't - they never judged between one good contact and one bad one, they just wanted contact and to show how - how many they had. So I don't - I don't think they were as well informed as they should - as they could or should have been.

Q: Could you...

Sir FRANK ROBERTS: But I mean that one doesn't know. I mean - and I - I think they made big mistakes. I mean, for example, Stalin being convinced that Hitler was not going to attack him to the extent that he wouldn't allow his troops to go on to - to any minor defense position and they were all rolled up in the first days of the war. Again Stalin made the mistake of signing the Molotov... Pact which resulted in a war which he thought would be a long term war between - as the First World War had been, between Francand Britain on the one side and Germany on the other. And he never thought for one moment that France was going to collapse, and result in his being attacked by Hitler a year later.

Q: If you could speculate on who, if anyone, won the Cold War.

Sir FRANK ROBERTS: Won the Cold War. Well, I suppose winning the Cold War is ending the Cold War, isn't it, really. I mean it's not like a battle which you defeat the enemy, and I would have thought the West won the Cold War. We lasted out longer. And the end of the Cold War was not the collapse of the Western system with all its faults, I mean but it was the collapse of Marxism/Leninism, and the country in which Marxism/Leninism had been established as the state ideology and religion of the Soviet Union. So I don't see how anyone can for one moment think of the West having lost. But that doesn't mean that the Cold War was an ideal situation, far from it. But it was better than a hot war.

Q: Thank you.

Sir FRANK ROBERTS: ..In the nuclear age.