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Today, in 1941, Hitler invaded the Soviet Union less than two years after the world shocking Ribbentrop-Molotov agreement in August of 1939, and just days before France and Britain declared war on Germany. Despite warnings from Churchill who was picking up German messages through the Ultra Machine the Brits had, Stalin was taken by surprise and the Wermacht made huge gains in the early going. Indeed it took Stalin two weeks before he could get himself together again and rally the nation – and rally them he did.

Communism does not work except when the only customer is the state and there it works very well. To see this picture clearly, I recommend Hedrick Smith’s The New Russians, Random House, 1990 (it has been updated to include the fall of Gorbachev.) Because Communism has no marketplace demand is created by supply, not the other way around. When demand is by a government at war the marketplace are the armed forces. By war’s end. Soviet tanks and fighter aircraft were considered by many who know about these things, to be the best in the world.

What is little remembered is that in 1938 and 1939 Soviet and Japanese armies tested each other in two full-scale battles along the border of Manchukuo. Ironically, a neutrality pact was signed in April 1941 – two months before Germany invaded the USSR with Germany acted as intermediary!

The war deaths in the USSR are estimated to be over 26 million.

Fast forward to April 1945 when the so-called “Big Three”, Prime Minister Churchill, American President Franklin Roosevelt and Stalin met at Yalta in the Crimea. It has been said that the Churchill, weakened by a crumbling empire, and a dying Roosevelt lay down before the Soviet dictator and let him get away with what he wanted in Eastern Europe. This just wasn’t so. Stalin simply refused to pay any attention to the agreement once the Soviet army had Eastern Europe and much of Germany under its control and as Churchill observed, there was nothing anyone could do about it.

Stalin’s objective was what had always been “Mother Russia’s desire – to have its borders buffeted by neutral and friendly countries. Once Czechoslovakia went communist in 1948 and Mao’s Peoples’ Liberation army had secured Russia’s western extremity in 1949 the buffer had been completed. (It should be borne in mind that the USSR had already neutralized Finland while nations to her south hated the west as much as it feared the Soviet Union.

Once we understand that Russia was not trying to build an expanding empire but was protecting itself from having nations on its borders being in league with its enemies the Cold War and its aftermath become easier to understand. Premier Vladimir Putin’s increasing coolness to the United States and its allies or (as they seem to Mr. Putin, its satellites) is prompted by an historic national fear of being surrounded.

When the Soviet Union disintegrated in 1990-1 it seemed to many in high places in the US that this was the opportunity to castrate the Russian bear. We know the story – instead of abandoning NATO because the opposing Warsaw treaty was dead, NATO was expanded to include former Soviet satellites. One has to wonder why? The only answer I can see is triumphalism. The United States wanted to rub Moscow’s nose in it ignoring the fact that Russia was still a very powerful country indeed with enough of a nuclear force to blow the world up almost as many times as the US can.

Then the European Community began to expand into the former Soviet sphere – another pair of upturned fingers to Moscow.

Then came what may be the fatal gesture of US missiles based in former Soviet satellites.

Putin doesn’t buy the American assertion that these are defence missiles aimed at Iran. Putin understands the obvious – if the US builds a defence shield which neutralizes Russian ability to shoot back, it gives the Americans the ability to strike first. No leader can permit his nation to become defenceless.

Now, let’s fast forward to today. If one looks at the globe from the North Pole instead of the Equator, the proximity of Russia to Canada and the United State becomes starkly obvious. Looking at the globe that way shows the Arctic shelf which is thought to have huge oil reserves. This potential bonanza has spawned studies which, in an amazing coincidence, say that the country that paid for the study has the best of all claims. These studies have been enhances by flag raising under the ice pack reminiscent of Europeans of yesterday planting flags and claiming ownership in the name of their monarch.

What then of the prospects for world peace 20 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall?

I would argue worse than ever. Russia is upgrading its military including its nuclear capability and with China now competing for first place in the power race, and so many former satellites, all with grudges, on its western borders, it sees itself surrounded on all sides. That means we have an ongoing danger worse, in my view, that during the “Cold War”.

It’s said that even if you back the most timorous rabbit into a corner it becomes vicious and dangerous.

Russia is no timid rabbit and now there is a common sense president in the White House, it’s in Canada’s interest to become the “honest broker” amongst the great powers of today – The United States, China, and, yes, Russia.


2 Responses to “Thoughts on the end of the Cold War”

  1. Igor Lavrovski says:

    Dear Mr. Mair,

    As historical evidence suggests, J. Stalin had precise information about time of German invasion from several Soviet intelligence sources. Two weeks is not a long time to recover from the immense shock of initial German strike. As we know, two weeks were enough to crash France.

    The figure of 26 million war victims was revised several times according to political situation. As of today, the war losses of the Red Army are estimated as 8,860,400 people. Civil casualties are very difficult to account for, but we know that the highest documented losses were in Leningrad under siege for more than two years – 650,000 people. About half of Jews perished during Holocaust were from the former Soviet Union. Adding these reliable figures up plus an estimate of other direct war losses at 2-3 million people we come at a number of 15-16 million people. It’s a huge and tragic number, but during Khruschev and Brezhnev time it was enlarged for political reasons by inclusion of people who died during war time from other causes or did emigrated to the West after being in German captivity, first, to prove “inability” of Stalin to fight Hitler, and then, to distract attention from growing inadequacy of Soviet regime.

    Similar math was done by A. Solzhenitsyn, who calculated tens of millions victims of Stalin’s rule. However, historical evidence shows that the total number of political prisoners during two decades of Stalin in power was about 500,000 people and about 50,000 were sentenced to death. If you need sources, I can refer you to some recent academic studies in Russia. It’s a big number but it’s not “millions-upon-millions’.

    Once, Solzhenitsyn wrote: let’s not live upon lies. I only can agree. Let’s keep to facts, not political propaganda.

    Igor Lavrovski

  2. I’m afraid that both you Raif and the commenter above are way out of line in your figures and in the assorted motives and explanations for Soviet Russia and its policies prior to, during and after WW2.

    Estimates of deaths resulting from the Boshevik’s practises of forced labour in the Gulag plus the forced genocide of the Ukrainians, apart from war casualties places the figure of death around the 66 million mark. Unfortunately you both appear to be relying for your information on Communist/Zionist sources.

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