Extract from a report called ‘The Threat to Western Civilisation’ from the Foreign Secretary to the British Cabinet in March 1948 (Catalogue ref: CAB 129/25)
I have set out in an earlier paper the steps that have been taken by Soviet Russia from the days of the war-time conferences until the present.
There is only one conclusion to draw. After all the efforts that have been made and the appeasement that we followed to try and get a real friendly settlement on a four power basis, not only is the Soviet Government not prepared at the present stage to co-operate in any real sense with any non-Communist controlled Government, but it is actively preparing to extend its hold over the remaining part of continental Europe and, subsequently, over the Middle East and no doubt the bulk of the Far East as well. In other words, physical control of the Eurasian land mass and eventual control of the whole World Island is what the Politburo is aiming at – no less a thing than that. The immensity of the aim should not betray us into believing in its impracticability. Indeed, unless positive and vigorous steps are shortly taken by those other states who are in a position to take them, it may well be that within the next few months or even weeks the Soviet Union will gain political and strategic advantages which will set the great Communist machine in action, leading either to the establishment of a world dictatorship or (more probably) to the collapse of organised society over great stretches of the globe.
- All our evidence indeed points to the probable staging by the Soviet Government of further efforts in this direction during the next few weeks or months. We cannot be sure where exactly this showdown will take place nor even that it will not occur in several places at once. All we know for certain (since Cominform has proclaimed it openly) is that its object will be the frustration by one means or another of the European Recovery Programme and the consequent development of a situation in which the Communist cause will triumph in many countries largely as result of a process of economic decay. But this does not mean that the Soviet Government are determined to have their way whatever the outside world may say or do. There is no reason even now to suppose that it could possibly welcome the World War which would undoubtedly result from it overstepping the mark. It is commonly accepted Communist doctrine that no issue should be forced until the moment is ripe and victory almost certain. If, therefore, the upholders of true democracy and opponents of dictatorship can present a really united front, and if the necessary economic means are made available by those who have them, the danger of war is, in my opinion, not imminent. Indeed it is my considered view that the only danger of war arises from the non-fulfilment of these two conditions. Provided they are fulfilled I believe that Communism will be forced on the defensive and that for many years at any rate we may look forward to a period of relative calm.
- On these two “ifs”, however, everything depends. As for the second one we can only do our best to assist the passage of the European Recovery Programme through Congress by continuing to war the Administration of the dangers of delay.