The release of previously unavailable Soviet archives has allowed a re-examination of Anglo-Soviet relations during Churchill's peacetime administration, with special emphasis on the Kremlin's motivation for resisting the Prime Minister's attempts to end the Cold War. Throughout 1951-55, the time was not yet ripe for detente: the USSR and Western powers were less than willing to accommodate each other. Instead they engaged in the consolidation of their own blocs and the build-up of their defensive potential. With Winston Churchill becoming the most outspoken advocate of detente, the Kremlin greeted the return to power of the Conservative Party under his leadership with a general mistrust. After Josef Stalin's death in March 1953, detente remained a distant reality. The collective leadership was keen to reduce international tensions without modifying its predecessor's foreign policy, or abandoning Soviet strongholds of central and eastern Europe. As part of its peace offensive, the Kremlin was prepared to improve the atmosphere in relations with Britain and increase the volume of Anglo-Soviet trade.
However, the British remained mistrustful of the intentions of Stalin's successors, and refrained from initiatives leading to a relaxation of export controls independent from American embargo policy. The author demonstrates that Stalin's heirs suspected that Churchill's pursuit of detente was designed to secure far-reaching concessions. Moscow also felt that as a junior partner acting in full dependence on and in co-operation with US policy, Churchill was in no position to conciliate between the USSR and the USA. Engaged in a domestic struggle for power, members of the collective leadership were reluctant to allow their opponent, Georgi Malenkov, to negotiate single-handedly with western statesmen. It was only after Nikita Khrushchev's ascendance to power and Churchill's resignation from office that the Kremlin was prepared to participate in summit talks with the western heads of government.
Uri Bar-Noi is Lecturer in the History Department of Bar-Ilan University, Israel. He is a former Research Fellow at Chaim Herzog Center for the Study of the Middle East and Diplomacy, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. He has published articles on Moscow and the Curtailment of British Exports as Part of the American-led Embargo of Trade with the Communist bloc, 1951-4; Georgi Malen- kovs Leadership and the Post-Stalinist Power Struggle in the Soviet Union, 1953-5; and the Rapprochement between the USSR and Palestinian Guerilla Organisation following the 1967 War.