This history changes our understanding of World War II by moving its epicenter to the east. Hitler's genocidal ambition may have helped unleash Armageddon, but as McMeekin shows, the war that emerged in Europe in August 1939 was the one Stalin wanted, not Hitler.
The volume is impressive even by the standard of histories of the second world war ... The book is well researched and very well written. It puts forward new ideas and revives some old ones to challenge current mainstream interpretations of the conflict ... McMeekin invites the reader to look at the history of the war from a vantage point rarely taken and appreciate the many tragedies and sad ironies of the grand alliance as it took shape and functioned during the war ... McMeekin’s criticism of the western leaders, while not entirely unjustified, sometimes reads like a reprimand for not adopting Stalin’s logic and his methods of foreign policy: dividing the world into capitalists and communists and, if needs be, allying himself with Nazi Germany or fascist Italy to achieve geopolitical goals that he shared with them ... the author is right to suggest that his is a new look at the conflict, which poses new questions and, one should add, provides new and often unexpected answers to the old ones.
McMeekin is a superb writer. There isn’t a boring page in the book. His familiarity with the archives of several countries is extraordinary. His breadth of approach, taking in events from Manchuria to Greece, as well as the main fronts, is refreshing ... When he is angry McMeekin can be magnificent ... However, McMeekin’s anger takes him to some strange places. Which provoked in me the greatest number of NOs I’ve ever scribbled on the pages of a proof ... That is indeed provocative, but strangely none of it is new. The isolationist strand of the American right from America First through McCarthyites to Pat Buchanan has always believed this version of the Second World War. Since the late 1930s their publications and their partisans have argued that this war against the Nazis was the wrong war, fought in effect to help atheist communism, and prosecuted by a president who was both unscrupulous and naive. When he wasn’t being just a dupe of the communists. And at every stage they have lost this argument. McMeekin has just reopened it.
Every once in a while a book comes along that can simultaneously educate, infuriate, and astound you as it upends everything you thought you know about a subject. Mr. McMeekin has written an astonishing recasting of World War II that truly revises some of the accepted historiography of that war ... Unlocking the secrets of Soviet, Russian, and Western archives, the author offers a harsh and overdue examination of the role Josef Stalin played in starting World War II, the brutal conquest by Stalin of his neighbors Poland and the Baltic States, and the complete duplicity of the Soviets in dealing with their erstwhile Western Allies in the fight against Hitler ... If you doubt that the American and British governments were thoroughly penetrated and influenced by Communist agents in the 1930s and 1940s, McMeekin will put those doubts to rest ... This book is revisionist history at its finest, offering a compelling narrative of the neglected factors that brought about the century’s bloodiest war, convincingly making the case that Stalin was nearly as culpable as Hitler in launching this conflict for his own reprehensible purposes.