17 MAY 2003, Page 37

Churchill's gift to Stalin

From Lord Black of Crossharbour

Sir: Malcolm Rifkind, in urging Tony Blair to stand up to George Bush (That's enough grovelling, PM', 10 May), falls into the popular trap of blaming Franklin D. Roosevelt for 'allowing Stalin to occupy large parts of Eastern Europe that could have been liberated' by the Western armies. The German occupation zones were decided at the European Advisory Commission, where the British voted with the Russians in February 1944, in determining the Allied occupation zones in Germany and Austria. Roosevelt and his advisers preferred to leave it to where the armies ended the war. Roosevelt died and Truman. Marshall and Eisenhower declined to squander the lives of Western Allied soldiers on territory that the British had ensured was committed to be handed back to Russia. It was Churchill and not Roosevelt who signed over to Stalin control of Romania, Bulgaria and Hungary, in Moscow in the autumn of 1944. Of course Stalin would occupy these countries and Poland anyway, but Churchill inadvertently legitimised this control over Roosevelt's objections. By the time Churchill left Moscow, three months before Yalta, the only country that Stalin occupied which still had a chance of a kinder fate was the Czech part of Czechoslovakia, but this was not the subject of any exchange between Churchill and Roosevelt, and was determined after Roosevelt died.

Sir Malcolm also subscribes to the canard that the current US administration is governed by the vice-president exercising a casting vote between Colin Powell and Donald Rumsfeld over who shall write the cue-card for the President. No one who accepts the BBC–Ken Livingstone view that President Bush is an idiot manipulated by officials whom he chose to serve him is likely to have much to say that is worthwhile about relations with the United States. Conrad Black London E14