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View Diary: So. What to do with Russia? (271 comments)

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  •  White House ignores history (3+ / 0-)

    Short of nuclear war, if Russia wanted all of Europe we have no real means to stop them.
    Thankfully, they have no real need or desire to rule a bunch of xenophobic malcontents.

    It always amazes me when people talk about Western appeasement and the U.S. being unprepared for a surprise attack in WWII as a reason to fence in the Russians.

    These people must have slept thru history class - Operation Barbarossa

    The Russians have a far greater (and legitimate) fear of appeasement & surprise attack from THEIR lessons of WWII.
    In June of 1941, Germans forces staged a surprise attack out of Poland, Czechoslovakia and the Ukraine's neighbors Hungary & Romania.
    German propaganda made claims that the Red Army was preparing to attack them, and their own invasion was thus presented as being pre-emptive. (sound familiar?)  

    •  But we are paying to maintain it! (0+ / 0-)

      I agree with you, but in fact we do have the capacity. Technically, the US could obliterate Russia.  Even the UK and France could damage it so badly that any Russian aggression would be completey without benefit. But we won't.

      "True peace is not merely the absence of tension -- it is the presence of justice." MLK

      by dhaemeon on Sat Aug 16, 2008 at 03:17:18 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  In fact, there's quite another interpretation (4+ / 0-)

      of the "appeasement" policy that rarely gets aired in the West.  The term is now used as a synonym for short-sighted pacifism.  That wasn't what Britain and France were up to actually, certainly no one had to tell them about the dangers of German arms.  The appeasement era was shot through with cynical attempts to turn German attention East, towards the Soviet Union.  If war was to come, they thought, let it be between these two totalitarian nations and if they don't kill each other off, we will have had time in the meanwhile to rearm.  Russia had the opposite strategy, knowing that it could not count on former allies like France.  It sought to reach a modus vivendi with Nazi Germany for the a similar reason, to buy time for its industrial strength to catch up with the European powers.  Some historians paint the Molotov Ribbentrop Pact as a great betrayal, but it was just that the Russians, being more desperate (and, frankly, more naive), were easier to strike a deal with.  The British and the French would have been quite happy to do the same within certain limits imposed by domestic constituencies.  In the end, of course, they all got clobbered.

      Even in its bawdlerized form, the appeasement concept is pretty weak for the simple reason that, fortunately, there just aren't that many Nazi Germanies around.  Most perceived conflicts can be addressed by compromise and skilful diplomacy.  

      No one likes armed missionaries. -- Robespierre.

      by Gator Keyfitz on Sat Aug 16, 2008 at 03:33:46 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  It should be remembered (7+ / 0-)

          How young a country the U.S.S.R. was in 1939.  The Bolshevik revolution had taken place only 22 years earlier and put a whole raft of people who had zero political experience (if you don't count making speeches in little dark rooms to their fellow-conspirators) in charge of an immense nation.  For their first five years they were dealing with the close of World War I and with their own civil war.  Almost immediately after came political crises and splits between various factions (Trotsky, Zinovev-Kamenev, Bukharin, Stalin).  That took up the remainder of the 1920s and resulted in Stalin's complete victory.  Then from the mid-30s right up to the time of Operation Barbarossa, Stalin was engaged in purging (by mass execution) all of his political rivals, which included almost everybody who had been in the Communist Party in the 1910s.

          The Bolsheviks were indeed naive, first because they had never bothered to figure out how to actually run a country (their skill set tended more towards the manufacture of incendiary propaganda) and second because almost all the people who had acquired some practical ability (administrative or military) in the late 1910s and 1920s was systematically rubbed out by Stalin.

          Stalin's own accomplishments were meager.  He was adept at the political infighting in Bolshevik inner circles, and by no means as stupid or incompetent as Western historians (who usually have an unconscious Trotskyite bias) would make him out to be; but these were not skills that translated well into the practical skills of administration on a national level.  Stalin could frighten or coerce the Russian masses into engaging in colossal industrial projects, but who was to decide what those projects would be?

          World War II saved Stalin (though it nearly destroyed him at first) by giving him a concrete and achievable goal that he could mobilize the USSR toward; a goal that was pursued with typical ruthlessness.  (People who compare Putin with Stalin are comparing a cocker spaniel with a ravening wolf.) The goal was not per se defeating the Nazis; the goal was transforming the USSR into a military player on the world stage.  In this Stalin was remarkably successful, considering that the USSR had been a tepid non-entity for its first two decades, useful as a bogeyman to the public but not very frightening to statesmen.

          Of course, in the long run the emphasis on subordinating other state goals to the military would be disastrous for the USSR -- by ignoring or punishing its citizens, it lost the popular base it might otherwise have had.  That's a lesson the West could take to heart.

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