Yes, you read that correctly. No, it isn’t breaking news; this news is 70 years old. It has nothing to do with Putin and the Ukraine; it refers to Stalin and half of Europe.
But the events from each time offer an interesting story. Take a moment (and for a rational mind, it won’t take even a moment) to understand the differences between Putin and Stalin….
The desired narrative: Putin is a crazed madman, hell-bent on re-establishing the Soviet Empire. Uncle Joe, however, merely wanted to bring his version of democracy to all of Europe.
The reality: Putin has, what, a relative handful of deaths on his hands? Stalin? Tens of millions. Putin gets kicked out of the G-8. Stalin receives FDR’s blessing as the first American president to officially recognize the Soviet Union. Putin receives the scorn of the current regime in Washington. Stalin? Well, let’s allow Robert Nisbet tell the story, from his book “Roosevelt and Stalin: The Failed Courtship.”
Roosevelt, of course, made many concessions to Stalin during the war; I will not focus on the early years, but begin with Yalta – in February, 1945. By this point, the war in Europe was nearing an end and Americans were moving successfully across the Pacific toward Japan. Certainly, the worst attributes of Stalin and the Soviets were clear to Roosevelt and the administration.
In other words, by this point there was no need (as if there ever was one) for further favors to be passed the Soviets’ way; there was no excuse (as if there ever was one) for claiming ignorance of the unfathomable murder that coursed through Stalin’s veins.
Yalta did not hand Eastern Europe to Stalin – he already occupied or would soon occupy much of this, as privately agreed with Roosevelt in Tehran in November 1943. This private agreement was given concrete form by Roosevelt’s continuing insistence that the Allies not proceed into Central Europe via the Mediterranean to head off the Soviets (as Churchill would have preferred). Stalin wanted only an assault from the west against the Germans; Roosevelt ensured this would be the focus.
Yalta offered something to Stalin that he could never achieve on his own:
I have just stressed that Yalta is not the source of the Soviet possessions in eastern Europe; that Teheran is. But Yalta performed a service to the Soviets that was almost as important to Stalin as the occupied areas themselves. This was the invaluable service of giving moral legitimation to what Stalin had acquired by sheer force. (P. 70)
As Chester Wilmot wrote in his The Struggle for Europe, “the real issue was not what Stalin would or could have taken but what he was given the right to do.” (P. 71)
That Roosevelt did not agree to send the Allied military into central Europe through the Mediterranean and stop Stalin from taking even more territory is one thing; to legitimize the dark night over Eastern Europe is quite another.
…not only did power over the Baltic and Balkan peoples pass to Stalin; these people had to watch what democracy and freedom they had known before the war disappear, and then suffer the added humiliation of seeing such words as “free elections,” “sovereignty,” “democracy,” “independence,” and “liberation” deliberately corrupted, debased, made duplicitous…. (P. 71)
Kind of like the elections in Crimea.
After one of the plenary sessions at Yalta, Roosevelt wrote privately to Stalin regarding the Polish government-in-exile in London:
“The United States will never lend its support in any way to any provisional government in Poland that would be inimical to your interests.” (P. 72)
Yalta removed the post-war possibility of the Americans stating to Stalin “Get out.” Imagine: the United States government legitimized a massive land-grab by one of the two worst murderers of the 20th century.
Roosevelt further agreed to every request Stalin had in the Far East as a condition to join the battle against the Japanese – much of the territory belonging (or rightly reverting) to the Chinese, but handed to Stalin without consulting Chiang Kai-shek.
Back to Yalta: what happened immediately after the summit?
On March 6 messages reached Churchill…about mass arrests taking place in Cracow… As many as 6,000 former Home Army officers were put in a camp…. (P. 78)
Churchill notified Roosevelt; Roosevelt did not protest to Stalin.
On March 21, Averill Harriman carried a note personally to Roosevelt:
“We must come to clearly realize that the Soviet program is the establishment of totalitarianism, ending personal liberty and democracy as we know it.” (P. 81)
As if this was not known in 1933.
A most interesting development regarded the direct communication between Eisenhower and the Soviets. This was discussed between Roosevelt and Stalin at Yalta:
“The President said he felt that the armies were getting close enough to have contact between them and he hoped General Eisenhower would communicate directly with the Soviet Staff rather than through the Chiefs of Staff in London and in Washington.” (P. 84)
Stalin readily agreed. Stalin was even more pleased when he received a telegram from Eisenhower on March 28. In it, Eisenhower outlined his military strategy in the coming weeks, making no mention of Berlin – despite Berlin being included in the Combined Chief’s strategy that was unanimously approved at the beginning of February. (P. 84)
Stalin’s joy must have been intense…. The Soviet capture of Berlin, courtesy of General Eisenhower, would be a crowning completion to a larger Soviet plan to assume hegemony in all of central Europe…. (P. 84)
Nisbet suggests that Eisenhower would never send such a telegram on his own authority – Ike had the endorsement of Marshall, and it is highly doubtful that Marshall’s endorsement came without Roosevelt’s approval, if not at Roosevelt’s direction.
“What difference did this make?” you ask. “The Soviets would have captured Berlin with or without Eisenhower’s permission.”
Not so fast.
The 9th U.S. Army under the command of Lt. General William Simpson, which was then part of Montgomery’s larger army group, reached the Elbe River on April 11. (P. 84)
With Berlin practically in sight, Simpson’s army was transferred from the British Montgomery to the American Bradley – who immediately ordered Simpson to stop at the Elbe. Bradley said the order came from Eisenhower (who did nothing without clearance from Marshall). (P. 84)
Churchill protested to Roosevelt – why not continue the strategy agreed by the Combined Chiefs? Roosevelt’s reply was “a model of the blandly evasive….”
In 1972, General Simpson gave a detailed interview on this matter; after detailing both the strength of his army and supply, as well as the logistics support, Simpson concluded:
“So I think we could have ploughed across there [the Elbe] within twenty-four hours and been in Berlin in twenty-four to forty-eight hours easily.” (P. 87)
Simpson stressed that the area between the Elbe and Berlin was lightly defended – with the heavy German concentrations instead facing the Soviets. (P. 87)
According to Simpson, he could have reached Berlin by the 13th or 14th. Stalin began his final push on the 16th:
The final chapter in the destruction of Hitler's Third Reich began on April 16, 1945 when Stalin unleashed the brutal power of 20 armies, 6,300 tanks and 8,500 aircraft with the objective of crushing German resistance and capturing Berlin. …By April 24 the Soviet army surrounded the city slowly tightening its stranglehold on the remaining Nazi defenders. Fighting street-to-street and house-to-house, Russian troops blasted their way towards Hitler's chancellery in the city's center.
Stalin did not break through the final significant German defenses outside of Berlin until the 19th.
I don’t know enough to say if Simpson would have reached Berlin first. It seems significant that he didn’t get to try. Perhaps it was merely another example of leaving the heavy lifting and dying to the Soviets. Perhaps it was done to ensure the Allied armies would not end up fighting each other.
But why make this unilateral change to the previously agreed-upon strategy? Why would the British be opposed to this? Why would Eisenhower be authorized to circumvent command?
Perhaps it was merely another favor from FDR to Uncle Joe.
Consider the post-war map of Europe, and how much territory Stalin’s Soviets incorporated with Roosevelt’s blessing. Now, consider today’s Crimea – and if you want to stretch it, portions of eastern Ukraine; consider that today’s relatively insignificant breech by Russia, if it even is one, is raising the heat significantly between two nuclear-armed powers.
Consider the labels placed on Putin – whether deserved or not – for actions within a few miles of current Russian borders. Consider the actions taken by the west to confront Putin’s supposed aggressions.
And contrast this with Roosevelt’s support to ensure Stalin received maximum territory in Europe at the conclusion of the war. Consider Roosevelt’s exclamation at Yalta regarding Stalin:
“Of one thing I am sure, Stalin is not an imperialist.” (P. 96)
It is an interesting contrast: the United States government considered the Soviet Union as a friend when the Soviets were bent on co-opting as much of Europe as possible after the war – Stalin’s design from the beginning in driving Germany to war; conversely, the Russians today are a pariah state for, at worst, stepping a few feet out of bounds.
Perhaps Obama can take a lesson from his hero, FDR; if Roosevelt could appease and even encourage Stalin’s territorial designs for all of the wrong reasons, perhaps Obama could cut Putin a little slack while waiting for the right reasons – you know, like getting at the truth?
Apt description of 1945 - I would take issue with your characterization of the current events in Ukraine. Regardless of what the US and the EU is doing (that's another discussion) Putin is doing way more than having a "relative handful deaths on his hand". I was born and raised in Hungary during the soviet/communist times so I know personally Stalin's design. And that knowledge and fear that makes us all Eastern/Central Europeans watch nervously what Putin is doing in Ukraine at the present - knowing full well how similar his Nororussia and Eurasianism is to the soviet times. For us, a LOT is at stake in Ukraine and whether a genuine free and strong democracy movement is allowed to succeed or crushed by Putin.ReplyDelete
I would just like you to understand the context - without the surrounding noise of US imperialism that unfortunately dominates US libertarian discourse these days and even Ron Paul, his RPPPI or Lew Rockwell had fallen into. Unfortunately too much US gov't hatred blinds many libertarians to see and support a genuine grassroots libertarian movement trying to be born and survive between two imperialist powers...
Norbert, thank you for the comment.Delete
I have tried to walk carefully on this path - I know it is a sensitive issue especially for those living in the region.
I purposely used the term "relatively" in describing Putin as compared to Stalin - within the context of the paragraph in which the statement is found; I am certain you cannot disagree with this comparative term.
Yes, I agree that Putin is "relatively" benign compared to Stalin. But as you alluded to, for those living in the region now that's hardly a solace.Delete
In any case thank you for acknowledging my comment and concern. While I am far away from the conflict (currently living in Japan) I am and always will be Hungarian in heart and it's painful to watch the very painful and bloody birth of a freedom movement in the region. I just wish true freedom to all the people in the region - unfortunately history and geopolitics doesn't give much hope :-(
Norbert, may I ask you a question?Delete
I understand the concerns about Ron Paul and LRC to which you alluded earlier (and have written a post on this which was subsequently published at LRC!); in other words, too much focus on the US role and not enough on the role of Russia, etc..
But do you see that the US role - let's stick specifically to Ukraine for now - as being helpful to the people living there or harmful?
Depending on your answer, I will have a follow-up.
I thank you in advance.
Excellent question - and hard to answer as the situation is very complex and unfortunately no matter how positive and truly grassroots the current freedom movement is, you can't divorce it from the recent 10-14 years of history of US meddling there (of course Russian as well but you've asked specifically about US).Delete
I would say that overall is harmful:
1. It creates a perception that the whole revolutions was/is orchestrated and led by US agencies - and of course Russia fully exploits this perception. Undoubtedly they played a role but they weren't leading Maidan (see my link later). Too many Ukrainians were simply fed up - I know the feeling.
2. It's not the US' or even the EU's business; the people in the region have to wake up and realize that they HAVE TO rely on themselves, they have to win their own freedom, and create a neutral "borderland" independent from both East/West powers.
I am for (and dreaming about) a Misesian type of Central European Confederation with likely members of Poland, Czech, Slovakia, Hungary, Ukraine, and perhaps the Baltic states, and the Balkan states optionally. Both historically and geopolitically would make sense to pursue freedom, prosperity and independence that way as their interests and security are closely tied together in the region. Consequently I would get them out of EU and NATO and form their own economic and security alliance. The EU was an economic free zone idea in the beginning anyway and they could just keep the free trade going with them but without the overbearing EU bureaucratic BS.
Finally, I do believe the US actually has played a positive role in Ukraine; a much better and cleaner role than other places. But since the US became so imperialistic all over the world it's really hard to shed that image and evaluate things individually on its own merit.
If you want to know more background on Ukraine I highly recommend two people as excellent resources and both living in Ukraine:
1. Roman Skaskiw - an American-Ukrainian, returned to Ukraine two years ago. A bona fide libertarian (also published at LRC), and a Desert Storm vet. Three excellent stuff from him:
- Putin's Libertarians: http://dailyanarchist.com/2014/04/10/putins-libertarians/
He addresses three major issues, one of them being "the whole thing orchestrated by foreign intelligence agencies". Long but worthy read.
- On Ukraine not being part of EU: http://romaninukraine.com/why-im-against-ukraine-joining-the-eu-and-you-should-be-too/
I love this one; very libertarian, localized and practical.
- His interview on the Corbett Report: http://www.corbettreport.com/interview-873-roman-skaskiw-gives-the-ukrainian-perspective-on-the-ukraine-crisis/
2. Nikolai Holmov with his blog at http://www.odessatalk.com/
A British guy living in Odessa, Ukraine. A political analyst/consultant with a strong freedom/rights/rule of law narrative, and who knows deeply the underlying (read political-underworld cartel) landscape. If you wanna now more about Ukraine's oligarchs, he's the one to read.
Well, that's it :-)
If you ever wanna directly communicate feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org :-)
Thank you for the links. I read “Putin’s Libertarians” (and many of the comments) and listened to the interview.
I have a couple of brief comments / observations:
1) If I understand correctly, Saskiw is born American, with only two years living in the Ukraine.
2) I read his comments at least as, if not more, one-sided than anything I have read in the libertarian community; basically, no Ukrainian has done anything wrong or violent, all the violence is Russian. This is not 100% his view (I know I am exaggerating somewhat), but overwhelmingly so. This is so highly implausible – when power-politics is involved, it is not believable.
3) He is supportive – or at least favors as the lesser of two evils – the Ukraine joining the EU. This is certainly understandable on one level, for all of the reasons he mentions. It is also (coincidently) completely compatible with the globalist agenda. One can easily suggest that Saskiw is on the payroll of the elite/west, given how easily he makes the similar accusation of certain libertarians being on the payroll of RT. I suggest neither – and would not do so based solely on the evidence Saskiw presents.
But it is an easy spin – former military, recently moved to the Ukraine – coincidently just before the troubles started – built some libertarian credibility, now writes in favor of EU membership. Again, I don’t suggest it, but it is a much tighter connection than the one he makes toward certain libertarians at the beginning of the interview.
I do not make these comments in order to dismiss all of what he writes / says. Putin is no saint, of this I am certain. However, my observations cause me to temper certain of his views.
Now my turn to offer a link. In my exploration of this topic – American libertarians seemingly praising foreign tyrants – I wrote the following (keep in mind, it was written four months ago):
As an aside, Lew Rockwell posted it at LRC. Please also read the referenced first post, and also the comments. If you like, we can continue this dialogue as I find it enlightening.
Glad to continue. I am busy today so I can only read your link tomorrow but shortly, I agree that Roman is also biased - aren't we all? ;-) That's why we should take everything with a grain of salt. However, his views and explanations are very informative and do contain a lot of facts about history and current events that are very useful for a proper context.Delete
Where did you get that he's supportive of Ukraine joining the EU? I have never read that anywhere from him and my second link (which you didn't say you've read so perhaps you missed his points there) addresses particularly this point where he's clearly against joining the EU. It was written last November so perhaps he might have changed his mind to be more pragmatic at the moment but it would strike me as against his stated principles.
Anyway; please check out and peruse wwww.odessatalk.com as well - Holmov is not a libertarian but very solid freedom/rights/just laws based society advocate and has lots of insight on the deeper power struggles of oligarchs in Ukraine. It gives you another dimension behind the scenes - and sadly reinforces the view that regular people don't have much to say at the end...
I will be back after I read your links.
A quick reply, as it bothered me that I may have misunderstood this most basic point….Delete
At 24:30 or so of the interview – although I misunderstood his point the first time and when I wrote my previous response – he says it is completely rational for the Ukrainians to want EU membership. NATO, EU, World Bank is not the worst thing in the world. Best for Ukraine is as a borderland, second best would be within the EU. I am paraphrasing, but this is the meat of it.
But given how clear he states he does not favor this, I will retract that portion of my earlier comment, with apologies.
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I imagine that Roosevelt's "courtship" of Stalin was more like a bribe - a bribe to entice Stalin into joining the "New World Order" (i.e. the Bretton Woods System) to be established after World War II. Apparently there were major businesses in the US which made a killing doing business with the Soviets before and during the war.ReplyDelete
Interesting topic and great reading the posts from Norbert as well. To me the bulk of the meddling in Ukrainian politics definitely is from the U.S. It seems as though Russia must be outside of the influence of the western cartels to be the object of so much attention lately.ReplyDelete
B M I would really appreciate your view of why Russia does not fit into, or perhaps is unable to fit into the geopolitical game being played.
Russia might very well fit into the game being played – more precisely, is Russia (and China) merely playing the game with the western Anglo-elite, all for the purpose of consolidating power further? Or, is there a true conflict between west and east (for lack of a simpler description)?Delete
I explore this idea further here: