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November 23, 2008

WW2 Started By Hitler and Stalin, But Mostly By Stalin [Stumbo]

Hot off the presses: The Chief Culprit, by Viktor Suvorov ($25 hardcover, available at Amazon and elsewhere). It's a synthesis of several of his previous books in Russian, including The Icebreaker, M-Day, The Cleansing, The Suicide, and The Last Republic (only the first of which was ever translated into English). The author, whose real name is Vladimir Rezun, is a GRU (Soviet military intelligence) agent who defected to Britain in 1978. (One of the blurbs is by Vladimir Bukovsky, in case that name means anything to anybody.)

His goal is to disprove the conventional wisdom about the origins of WW2.

His smaller claim: Stalin was planning to invade Germany in early July of 1941, a few days after Germany instead invaded the USSR. His argument is simple: the USSR was well-prepared for war, but it was not prepared for a defensive war; so what does that leave? He cites lots of sources (which, having a full-time job and being lazy besides, I haven't personally verified) to the effect that the Soviet military was trained, equipped, and, in June of 1941, positioned for an offensive war. (E.g., huge masses of Soviet troops, equipment, ammunition, and other supplies were stationed right by the border, or on their way there; most Soviet airplanes were not designed, and their pilots not trained, for dogfights, but rather for a Pearl-Harbor-style surprise attack on enemy airfields, and complete control of the skies afterwards; most Soviet tanks were designed for fast travel on well-built foreign roads, rather than for slow-but-sure movement on their native territory; and so on.) This would explain the tremendous losses suffered by the USSR in the first hours and days of the war: you can be positioned either for offense or for defense, but not both. The proximity to the border which made the Soviet army ready to suddenly attack simultaneously made it extremely vulnerable to a sudden attack from the other side.

His larger claim: this was all part of Stalin's grand design to conquer Europe (and, eventually, the entire world). He helped Hitler re-arm the German military, expecting him to attack Western Europe, thus acting as "the icebreaker of the revolution"; signed the 1939 non-aggression pact, which was supposed to allay Hitler's fears of being attacked by Stalin, while also creating a common border where there was none before; waited for Hitler to invade Poland first, so that Hitler would be forever known as the villain who started the war; then, he was to strike at Hitler from behind, defeat him, and "liberate" all of Europe (i.e. install Communist puppet regimes throughout, or perhaps even annex it). Hitler somehow got wind of this, and, out of desperation, attacked the USSR first; but he really had no chance of winning anyway, so -- despite the huge initial advantage -- he still lost (but as a result, Stalin only managed to get half of Europe rather than all of it, and his hopes of world-wide conquest were pretty much dead).

Yes, Stalin had received several warnings of a coming German invasion, but refused to believe them -- mostly because Germany had no credible chance of defeating the USSR, so why would it try to do so? (esp. as part of a two-front war); and also because his intelligence services told him that Germany hadn't even taken any of several necessary steps towards such an invasion (e.g., providing its army with warm clothing, producing lubricating oil that wouldn't freeze at cold temperatures, and so forth.) Germany's only hope was for a successful blitzkrieg, before winter came (i.e. about 3-4 months) -- but how can you conduct a blitzkrieg against a country that spans eleven time zones? So the war naturally turned into one of attrition, which Germany couldn't possibly win.

(And don't give me any crap about how Hitler almost captured Moscow. Napoleon, in 1812, did capture it -- and ended up having to flee. Even in the early 19th century, it became clear that victory is only achieved by destroying the enemy's army and other military potential; capturing cities, even capitals, is almost pointless.)

It's a first edition, so there are some typos, and somelineswhichlooklikethis. Worse, it's a very condensed version, written (or translated) in a very dry style; gone are most of the sarcastic rubbings-in that made the Russian books such fun to read. In this book, Suvorov usually just cites stats, makes his point, and moves on.

Still, highly recommended.

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posted by xgenghisx at 07:12 PM

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