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Stalin and de Gaulle

'You played your hand well. Well done.' High praise indeed from Stalin to an uneasy ally, as John Young describes in this account of the one and only meeting of 'Uncle Joe' and France's 'Man of Destiny'.

In December 1944 Josef Stalin and Charles de Gaulle met for the first, and last, time in Moscow. There the two statesmen held several days of talks, signed a military alliance and gained a personal appreciation of each other which would help shape their countries' foreign policies over the following years.

De Gaulle's visit to Moscow had been publicly announced in a speech by France's foreign minister, Georges Bidault, to the French Consultative Assembly on November 21st. The motives for each side in wanting such a meeting reflected much about inter-Allied politics and post-war security concerns. In 1940, when General de Gaulle flew to Britain and founded the 'Free French' movement, Stalin's 1939 pact with Adolf Hitler still held good. Soviet propaganda condemned the Free French as British 'mercenaries'. After June 1941, however, relations became more complex. Stalin remained contemptuous of France for its defeat in 1940, had bitter memories of French support for the 'cordon sanitaire' against Bolshevism in the inter-war years, and had little desire to re-create a strong France as a rival on the Continent.

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