The Stalin Affair: The Impossible Alliance That Won The War, by Giles Milton.

Expected publication: June 2024.

What did it take to establish and support the alliance that won World War II? This is what Milton aimes to uncover in this thrilling account of the envoys linking Washington and London to Moscow. The writing is excellent and well-paced. Largely based on unpublished sources, mostly diaries and journals, the captivating story reveals important yet unknown bits of 20th century history. A short-lived alliance that changed the course of history.

On Nazi Germany’s invasion of the Soviet Union:

“[In the Red Army,] most lacked weaponry. All lacked information.” “Muscovites greeted news of the invasion with horrified astonishment. For the previous two years, they had been fed uplifting stories about Stalin’s ongoing alliance with Hitler. Now, in a startling volte-face, they were being told their Nazi ally was a treacherous thug.” “Occasionally trenches had to be dug with helmets, since there were no spades.”


“I have only one purpose, the destruction of Hitler… If Hitler invaded Hell, I would make at least a favorable reference to the Devil in the House of Commons.”

When the UK ambassador to Moscow mentioned wanting an appointment to Washington:

“What are you talking about?” asked Churchill, with a booming voice and a scowl on his face. “Don’t you realise that I have just appointed you to the most important job in the world?”

“May God help you,” [Stalin] said “God, of course, is on our side,” joked Churchill “And the devil is, naturally, on mine,” retorted Stalin with evident relish.

Stalin on the Normandy landings:

“[He] was filled with admiration at what had been achieved and told [the US envoy] that “he considered the cross-channel operation unparalleled in history.” He used superlative after superlative. It was a “grandiose operation” and “an unheard-of achievement” … Stalin viewed D-Day as one of the greatest military endeavors of all time.”

On Soviet betrayal:

“If they expect really to play a part in world affairs, they will have some time to learn to stop eating with their knives.” “One cannot help but feel that being an ally of these bastards is only one step better than being their enemy.”

On eastern Europe and the Baltics:

“Stalin wanted weak neighbors, because weak neighbors could be dominated.”

Khrushchev on Stalin’s assessment after the war:

“[Stalin] stated bluntly that if the United States had not helped us, we would not have won the war.”

Thanks to NetGalley for providing an advance digital copy for review.
Photo source: Giles Milton