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Posts Tagged ‘Soviet Union

It’s not likely that many readers of history will take much time

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American soldiers taking up defensive position...
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to think back 65 years to November 1944 when Allied forces seemed to be bogged down in Western Europe and held back by a resilient Nazi ground force. Of course, that wasn’t the case on the Eastern Front where Soviet forces were mowing down the Nazi Wehrmacht on the ground and in the air.

But the point here is that an unlikely scenario is described in this NY Times Opinion piece titled “how WW II wasn’t won”. This is the first time I have heard of this controversial decision taken by Gen Eisenhower the Supreme Allied Commander that seemingly gave Hitlerian forces the brief space and time to launch the attack leading to the Battle of the Bulge, a bloody and cruel battle in Belgium around Bastogne to mention one key place held by a surrounded force of US paratroopers.

The backstory of this unlikely scenario is that Eisenhower shut down an effort to hook around the German forces by crossing the Rhine in the south. He may in effect have shut it down because of  a personality conflict with the commanding US general of Allied Forces on that Southern flank position. Go figure!

 

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Previous exchanges in the USSR vs. other Eastern European countries were just the curtain raiser

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Stalin (in background to the right) looks on a...
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It seems that the full blooded words are just beginning today on the 70th anniversary of the Nazi invasion of Poland and Danzig. Check out this link for the latest. And this is how the Guardian characterized verbal exchanges in Poland where official ceremonies were held.

Putin today condemned the Nazi-Soviet pact, but equated Stalin’s actions with those of western leaders at the time. “All attempts to appease the Nazis between 1934 and 1939 through various agreements and pacts were morally unacceptable,” Putin said. “We must admit these mistakes. Our country has done this.”

Adam Rotfeld, a former Polish foreign minister, described the Russian campaign in the run-up to today as “disgusting”. The Polish tabloid press has been screaming with indignation. “Russia! Apologise for your crimes!” said the banner headline in the Super Express. “Apologise for attacking Poland, for the Katyn genocide, for murdering our heroes, for sending Poles to Siberia.”

The Russians are particularly outraged over what they see as western attempts to equate Stalin with Hitler. “Those who falsify history forget the things they gained as the result of the Red Army‘s liberation campaign,” said Lavrov.

But “liberation” ushered in 45 years of repressive Soviet communism in Poland and the Baltic. Adam Michnik, a leading Polish intellectual, told the Russians: “For us, Stalin was a criminal and an aggressor. The creator of the lands of the gulag is entirely comparable with Hitler.”

Of course, a very credible British historian, Richard Overy, who is considered an expert on the Hitler and Stalin, did say very bluntly that the “victory of the Western Allies” over the German war machine, was largely set up by bloody war waged on Russian and Chinese soil.

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Written by BobG in Dalian & Vancouver

2009/09/01 at 21:56

Seventy years ago on Sep 1, 1939

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An Arrow anti-ballistic missile interceptor
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and as day broke on  the Polish-German border the armed forces of Germany invaded the sovereign territory of Poland in a full blooded invasion. On Sep 3, 1939 the British and French governments declared war on Germany after the latter failed to obey an ultimatum to stop its military operations in Poland and return to its own territory.

CBC Radio made this news announcement then:

Germany invades Poland

Broadcast Date: Sept. 1, 1939

“Germany has invaded Poland and has bombed many towns. General mobilization has been ordered in Britain and France.” The announcer in this BBC news report from Sept. 1, 1939 may sound calm and composed, but the news he’s delivering is deeply disturbing. With Germany’s attack on Poland, the Second World War has begun.

These actions followed several days after a pact of non-aggression and mutual military and economic support were signed in Moscow under the watchful eyes of Josef Stalin, the Soviet de facto dictator and head of state. The current Prime Minister of Russia, which is the main successor state after the disintegration of the USSR about 20 years ago, is now describing that pact as “immoral” and will be travelling to Poland to discuss several historical aspects of that sad time in Poland, the USSR and Germany.

It seems to be the view of Russia’s government that plans to install an American ABM system in Poland is as dangerous as conditions set in motion by the Hitler-Stalin pact of late August 1939.

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Written by BobG in Dalian & Vancouver

2009/09/01 at 03:31

Here’s USSR Foreign Minister signing the fateful 1939 deal with the Nazi regime in Moscow

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A photograph of Joachim von Ribbentrop during ...
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That’s Mr Stalin on Molotov‘s left shoulder and the Nazi Foreign Minister von Ribbentrop next to Stalin. The German armed forces attacked days after that signing event in Moscow, while representatives of France and England were still in Moscow hoping to sign an agreement with the USSR regime.

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Written by BobG in Dalian & Vancouver

2009/08/31 at 12:25

The debate in Eastern Europe about the main cause of WW2 points to a tweaking of history

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Adolf Hitler
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Panzer IV Ausf.
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One side says that Poland caused the war and guess who that is?

This headline puts it clearly:

The war? Nothing to do with Stalin, says Russia’s president, Dmitry Medvedev

The other says that Stalin’s deal with Hitler in late August 1939 gave Hitler the military cover he needed to launch his Panzers into the first blitzkrieg action. Now Mr. Medvedev promises a commission and documents to prove his case against Poland. That does sound like Putin is very much in favor of at least tweaking history here.

There is little doubt that the USSR, which was dissolved in the late ’90s and replaced to all intents by the Russian Republic, fought the nasty Nazis and bled Hitler’s armed forces dry and then reconquered the Eastern Front until Berlin was occupied.

But Stalin was playing a many sided game in the late 1930s. When it seemed that the democracies couldn’t cut bait to his satisfaction he certainly seemed to trigger the deal with Hitler which led to the double invasion of Poland in 1939 by the Germans from the West and by USSR forces from the East.

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Written by BobG in Dalian & Vancouver

2009/08/31 at 12:03

Some leaders of nearly failed states just can’t face historical facts

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Here is the headline that got my attention:

Medvedev: Blaming Soviets for WW2 a ‘Cynical Lie’

It seems that Medvedev is ready to deny that Stalin, the practical dictator of and head of state of the USSR during the dirty ’30s and ’40s, directed foreign policy that focused on direct intervention in the affairs of many countries such as Spain during it’s Civil War, China during the ascent of Mao Zedong to the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party and the brutal partition of Poland after signing an agreement of mutual support with Hitler in 1939 days before the Nazi horde invaded Poland.

According to Medvedev all those terrible historical verities are a string of cynical lies, which is on the face of it a much bigger CYNICAL LIE today.

There is little doubt that the USSR suffered enormously during the German Nazi invasion and spoliation of the Russian, Ukrainian and Belorussian homelands from 1941 until counterattacks from the USSR armies in 1943-44 and 1945. There is also little doubt that that conflict had more to do with the demise of the Hitlerian 1000 year Reich than any number of pinpricks by Western Allied armies. Those are big facts, but it’s not a fact that the USSR had nothing to do with the invasion and partition of Poland in 1939-40. That was deliberate foreign and military policy/action of the USSR. During that time the USSR armies invaded Finland also!

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Images of street fighting and air raid in Barcelona 1936-39

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A Spanish Civil War Photo Essay.jpg

Image above by Robert Capa. And street fighting in July 1936 below

A Spanish Civil War Photo Essay-1.jpg

My father stayed in Barcelona for extended periods from the beginning of the Spanish Civil War in July 1936. He did not experience many threatening situations when hostilities broke out in Barcelona. At first Anarchists tended to have more visibility and apparent control but that changed once Stalin began using USSR contributions to the Republican cause and USSR agents maneuvered the Spanish Communist party into more control of the Republican governance.

But the beginning of the end for my father continuing to work and live in Catalonia began once the Italian Air Force began a major intervention with bombers from flying from Majorca while Franco’s Nationalist military forces began controlling more of the Spanish land mass and threatening Barcelona. He finally left after mid-1938 because daily bombings became a major hindrance to daily normality. Franco’s army entered Barcelona in the early spring of 1939 at about the same time that Hitler finished the takeover of Czechoslovakia. This was a bad time in Europe but much worse would soon come!

Savoia-Marchetti SM.81 in the Spanish Civil War
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Written by BobG in Dalian & Vancouver

2008/06/20 at 11:55

Man of Steel, Re-forged

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I have posted in below a long excerpt from a review appearing in National Interest written by Andrew J Bacevich. He reviews a recent book written by Geoffrey Roberts, Stalin’s Wars: from WW II to Cold War 1939-1953 and here is the excerpt:

In brief, the story that Roberts tells goes like this: Josef Stalin, uncontested leader of the Soviet Union from 1927 until his death in 1953, deserves to be remembered as a great statesman—indeed, as the greatest of the age. Although Stalin made his share of mistakes, especially in the early phases of World War II, he learned from those mistakes and thereby grew in wisdom and stature. Among allied chieftains, he alone was irreplaceable. He, not Churchill and not Roosevelt, was the true architect of victory, “the dictator who defeated Hitler and helped save the world for democracy.”

Furthermore, once Germany went down to defeat—with British and American leaders immediately turning on the Soviet Union—Stalin strove valiantly to sustain Allied unity. Time and again he exerted himself to avert the confrontation that became the Cold War. Even after his efforts failed, “He strove in the late 1940s and early 1950s to revive détente with the west.” In British and American eyes, Stalin became the embodiment of the totalitarian ideologue and warmonger. This was a misperception. To the very end, “Stalin continued to struggle for the lasting peace that he saw as his legacy.” In denying Stalin the reconciliation for which he devoutly worked, Western governments succeeded only in inflicting grave injury on the Soviet people. The East-West rivalry thrust upon Stalin nipped in the bud his postwar efforts to nurture within the Soviet Union a “more relaxed social and political order.”

Roberts neither denies nor conceals the cruelty and ruthlessness that marked the Stalinist era. He freely admits that Stalin was “responsible for the deaths of millions of his own citizens.” He concedes that in the 1930s Stalin presided over the Great Terror in which “millions were arrested and hundreds of thousands were shot.” He notes that Stalin directed “a process of ethnic cleansing involving the arrest, deportation and execution of hundreds of thousands of people living in border areas” of the Soviet Union. He holds Stalin accountable for the Katyn Forest massacre of 1940, involving the liquidation of 20,000 Polish officers and government officials. Although speculating that “Stalin must have bitterly regretted the subsequent embarrassment and complications” when the events at Katyn Forest became known, Roberts makes it clear that the Soviet leader employed mass murder as an instrument of policy—and did so without compunction.

Still, Roberts leaves the distinct impression that when it comes to evaluating Stalin’s standing as a statesman, such crimes qualify as incidental. He acknowledges them in order to dismiss them. Whether intentionally or not, Roberts suggests that Stalin’s penchant for ordering people shot qualifies as a sort of personal quirk, akin perhaps to FDR’s infidelities or Churchill’s fondness for drink. For Roberts, there are only two marks on Stalin’s report card that really count: The first conferred for defeating Hitler, the second for doing his level best to forestall the Cold War. In each instance, Roberts awards Stalin an A-plus.

So Roberts maintains the Stalin was a great statesman, the greatest of his age! That should get the attention of lots of historians.

My own view is that that could be true. But after reading about the political roles and ubiquity of Comintern agents in China in the countrywide turmoil from the early ’20s till the breakdown between Mao and Moscow and about the same sort of scenario in Civil War Spain, Stalin also had to be a political provocateur on a global scale, even more than the US of A at its imperial zenith. I guess I suggest that he was a political rain-maker in much of the world, especially during the peak of the Cold War.

But Roberts’ thesis is provocative because it sets out to re-frame an awful lot of alleged foreign policy victories by US dominated NATO et al. And it throws up an interesting and new perspective about the US led Crusade in Europe.

The brouhaha about Mulroney, PET and Chretien seems like a lot of fetid lukewarm air in comparison to the white heat of world scale politics played out between the White House, Whitehall, the Elysée Palace and the Kremlin until the dissolution of the USSR.

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Written by BobG in Dalian & Vancouver

2007/09/08 at 19:51

Napoleon developed principles for industrial warfare and …

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napoleon.jpg

Cover of
Cover of Empire

‘The Utility of Force’ – New York Times

My life till I was about 5 years old was dominated by two wars, the Spanish Civil War and WW II.

Later on at age 70some, I decided to read about how those wars got started and how they were fought. I recently learned that a few key principles about fighting industrial warfare were worked out by Napoleon more than 200 years ago. They are well described in the First Chapter piece linked to above.

I also realize that there is a big difference between a principle and how it is put into action. In the end mass, industrial mass, will win as long as effective leadership is provided on the battle and home fronts. Napoleon understood and practiced that well until he over-committed the resources and means of communication he commanded. The same happened to Hitler.

The Allies, especially the French and the English, couldn’t apply those principles when WW II began and suffered many quick and humiliating defeats. Hitler was winning until Stalin worked out how to find the resources and shape his armed forces to break the back of the Nazi military juggernaut on the eastern warfront in several epic battles, including Leningrad, Stalingrad and Kursk.

Eventually American industrial and manpower resources as well as battlefield leadership finally came to grips with and defeated the more efficient Wehrmacht in Western Europe and the Japanese Empire in the Pacific.

In the end mass should win any contest of industrial war. Today the US has undertaken a war on terrorism in which the principles of industrial war don’t work any longer since this seems to be more of a war of shadows.

The Spanish Civil War did have some characteristics of a war of shadows until intervention by German and Italian forces turned the force of superior firepower against the under-armed and splintered Republican armed forces, which were refused support by the Allied democracies.

Those leaders, including Churchill at that time, were unwilling to confront the threat of military force deployed by the Axis powers and manifested greater anxiety about the USSR.

The day after I posted the above, I found this text in a review by Niall Ferguson, which seems to me the best description of the Iraq quagmire:

Still, “The Utility of Force” remains an impressive and absorbing work of military analysis. At his best, Smith is the Clausewitz of low-intensity conflict and peacekeeping operations. If, in the end, he does not quite solve the riddle of how to win the small wars of our time, he brilliantly lays bare the newfound limits of Western military power. The more Iraq looks like Bosnia on the Tigris — as a war amongst the people becomes another bloody war between peoples — the more prescient his book will seem.

Update 2008-10-20:

Ben Weider, founder and president of the International Napoleonic Society died at 85 years of age.

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