Poor Neville Chamberlain believed he could trust Hitler. He was wrong. But I don’t think I’m wrong about Stalin.

—Winston Churchill. Remark to his cabinet ministers, February 23, 1945, quoted from the diary of Hugh Dalton.

Churchill understood the threat posed by Hitler, but he was utterly deluded about Stalin—as was Roosevelt, who thought Stalin was ‘a Christian.’ As a result of their stupidity, the whole of Eastern Europe was enslaved and brutalized for generations, and the world placed in danger of nuclear annihilation.

The lesson is clear—leaders should not trust their instincts when assessing the nature of tyrants. All tyrants are monsters, they rule through brute force and fear, they should no more be trusted—or ascribed human values—than hungry wolves. It is delusional to expect compassion, sincerity, decency or fidelity from a tyrant. Only force and dread can reach their base natures.

This article is an extract from the book ‘Principles of Good Government’ by Matthew Bransgrove