An overview of books and publications on alternative views of the military history of WWII 1939-1941. Possible applications and some similarities with the Russia’s undeclared war against Ukraine and the EU’s response.
Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada was among the first Western leaders who openly pointed out in his article in The Globe and Mail that “Russia’s aggressive militarism and expansionism are a threat to more than just Ukraine; they are a threat to Europe, to the rule of law and to the values that bind Western nations”. It became evident that Russia is an anti-Western power with a different, hostile and dark vision of global politics and that Russia is becoming increasingly dangerous. The EU has started to act more decisively as well. EU imposed first sanctions against 15 individuals and 18 entities in accordance with Regulation (EU) No 810/2014 only on July 25, 2014. All 15 individuals and nine of the entities are sanctioned for “undermining the territorial integrity, sovereignty, and independence of Ukraine”, while the other nine entities are designated because their “ownership has been transferred contrary to Ukrainian law”.
Next step was that the EU jointly with the US was the adopted sweeping economic sanctions against Russia on Tuesday, July 29, 2014 to “punish Moscow’s unbending stance in the Ukraine conflict. The trade and investment restrictions that EU governments agreed upon mark a major escalation of sanctions against Russia. New measures hitting Russia’s banks, oil industry and military could increase financial strains in Russian sluggish economy while withholding technology that the nation’s modernization relies on”. Further analysis in the Wall Street Journal article “Playing the Long Game in Russia” concludes that “the new sanctions have more teeth than previous measures, targeting sectors such as finance, defense and energy, rather than individuals and selected firms”. “Playing the Long Game in Russia” concludes that “Preventing Russian state-owned banks from raising fresh debt and equity will hurt flows of credit in the economy; the gates have likely clanged shut for any Russian borrower for the time being, hurting long-term investment.
The Wall Street journal further elaborated that “The U.S. followed the EU’s move by announcing similar sanctions against Russian banks as well as the energy, arms and shipping sectors. President Barack Obama hailed Europe’s adoption of its most significant sanctions yet against Moscow, saying the U.S. and EU steps would have “bigger bite.” However, “The rift with Russia is “not a new Cold War,” Mr. Obama said Tuesday. “What it is is a very specific issue related to Russia’s unwillingness to recognize that Ukraine can chart its own path,” he said”.
Bloomberg commented on consequences of US and EU sections against Russia in development of its energy sector “The U.S. and EU are restricting the transfer of certain oilfield technologies into Russia that are needed to develop its oil and gas fields in shale rock formations, deep water offshore and in the Arctic. That will include horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, which has helped boost North American crude production and set the U.S. on a course toward energy independence”.
Canadian sectoral sanctions on Russia are adding to the total effect. As reported by the Atlantic Council, Canada was the first NATO member which imposed sectoral sanctions on Russia. “Canada has imposed sanctions on nearly 150 individuals and entities. Earlier this week we broadened our approach, announcing economic sanctions against key sectors of the Russian economy. It is why Canada has pledged more than $220-million in loan and loan guarantees which, once the appropriate conditions have been met to ensure that the funds are being used for their intended purposes, will help Ukraine to stabilize its economy and promote economic and social development. It is why we are providing training for the Ukrainian military, as well as Canadian military personnel and equipment to NATO’s reassurance package in eastern and central Europe.”
In considering further measures against Russia and during the decision making process, US and EU leaders should take into consideration historical lessons and make the right decisions on how to handle issues with Russia.
Putin and Russia are widely compared with Hitler and Nazi Germany, but many experts avoid the comparison of Putin’s Russia with Stalin’s USSR just because Russia no longer has the Gulag and the same scale of repression as during Stalin’s rule. But the essence of expansionism in Stalinist USSR and Putin’s Russia remains the same. Most of the strategies used by Russia against Europe and Ukraine have been inherited from Stalinist USSR and adapted to today’s realities. Stalin’s plans included a plot to put all of Europe under the Soviet Union’s control. A lot of similarities exist with today’s situation, including, as probably Putin supposes, the weakness, indecisiveness, and lack of consensus among European leaders.
What is striking is that Putin and his propagandists are trying to manipulate Germany and its people with feelings of guilt – putting all the blame for WWII onto Germany and avoiding unpleasant truths about the USSR’s role and its contributions, which made WWII possible. Like the USSR in 1938-1939, Putin tries to utilize to his advantage, as probably assumed by him, the weakness, indecisiveness, and lack of unity and consensus among European leaders. That time this resulted in grave and disastrous consequences for all of Europe and led to WWII.
Mass media points to parallels in today’s situation with the Munich agreement, which was signed by Germany, France, the United Kingdom, and Italy on September 30, 1938 and which resulted in the annexation, by Germany, of those portions of Czechoslovakia inhabited mainly by German speakers. Unfortunately, less attention is paid to the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact (or Nazi–Soviet Pact), a non-aggression pact signed in Moscow during the late hours of August 23, 1939. The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact opened the gates for the Sovietization of the eastern parts of Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and [the historical regions of] Bessarabia and Bukovyna, as well as attempts to sovietize Finland in 1939-1940.
Still, the time period when Stalin and Hitler were allies are a cause for uneasy feelings in Russia. Nazi Germany and USSR started WWII together by invading Poland: Germany on September 1, 1939, USSR on September 17, 2014, Joint Wehrmacht and Red Army victory parade was held in Brest, at the end of the invasion of Poland on September 22, 1939. German Major General Heinz Guderian and Soviet Brigadier Semyon Krivoshein commanded that parade were brothers-in arms during that time.
The topic of WWII is very sensitive for me as two of my grandfathers served in Red Army in WWII and were killed fighting against Hitler. One was killed near Sevastopol in 1942; he had previously served as a fighter pilot in the Soviet Air Force during the USSR’s Winter campaign against Finland. Another grandfather was killed in action near Kursk, Russia in 1943. Therefore, this topic is very hard for me to explore, but I would also like to understand what it was that my ancestors died for and what values they defended, pumped up with the Soviet propaganda of that time. It is important to learn these historical lessons in order for Europe not to repeat the mistakes of the 1930s and 1940s and fall victim to Russian tricks in 21st century.
As metioned in previous publications for Euromaidan Press, Vladimir Rezun, a former operative of the Soviet Main Intelligence Directorate, became famous under the pen name Viktor Suvorov as the author of Icebreaker: Who Started the Second World War? (an English pdf and video + books views are available), which sold several million copies around the world. Viktor Suvorov was the first researcher who dared to challenge traditional and classical views on the history of WWII.
Even before he published this research, Suvorov became well known in the intelligence community when, in 1978, he disappeared from his apartment in Geneva with his wife and children and reappeared in the UK. The ex-spy claims he was sentenced to death in absentia for his defection. According to the Ukrainian Internet journal Gordon.UA, Viktor Sovorov now lives in England and works as an intelligence analyst and lecturer. For over 35 years Suvorov has been living in Bristol, writing military articles and books, and closely watching his native country. This means not only Russia but also Ukraine, since Suvorov’s father and grandfather were born in the Cherkasy Oblast in central Ukraine.
His books Inside Soviet Military Intelligence and The Liberators: Inside the Soviet Army give insights into Soviet GRU’s (Soviet Military Intelligence) methods and signs indicating Soviet army assault preparations. It is striking that these methods and tactics are still relevant to the Russian army today.
Viktor Suvorov claims the main reason behind WWII was not only Hitler, but also Stalin’s policy and his plans to conquer Europe in the summer of 1941. It does not mean, in any case, that Hitler was not the aggressor responsible for WWII. There were two dictators, Hitler and Stalin, responsible for the world war that raged in Europe. Trying to deceive each other, they accumulated huge resources for their crazy march to dominate the entire European continent and, subsequently, to achieve world dominance. Viktor Suvorov presented a mass of evidence to show that when Hitler launched his Operation Barbarossa attack against Soviet Russia on June 22, 1941, German forces were able to inflict enormous losses against the Soviets precisely because the Red Army was much better prepared for an aggressive offensive war scheduled for early July – not the defensive war forced on the Soviet troops by Hitler’s preemptive strike.
In his new book The Chief Culprit: Stalin’s Grand Design to Start World War II, available on Amazon.com, Viktor Suvorov explains that Stalin’s strategy leading up to World War II grew from Vladimir Lenin’s belief that if World War I did not ignite the worldwide Communist revolution, then a second world war would be needed to achieve it. Stalin saw Nazi Germany as the power that would fight and weaken capitalist countries so that Soviet armies could then sweep across Europe. Suvorov reveals how Stalin helped German leaders circumvent the Versailles Treaty, which forbid German rearmament, and secretly trained German engineers and officers and provided bases and factories for the war. He also calls attention to the 1939 non-aggression pact between the Soviet Union and Germany that allowed Hitler to proceed with his plans to invade Poland, fomenting war in Europe.
Viktor Suvorov’s first book, Icebreaker, presents irrefutable evidence that Stalin had been preparing for a massive invasion of Europe for a long time and would eventually have attacked England and the US. The amount of weapons the Red Army had by 1941 was staggering. The name of the book Icebreaker is symbolic: Stalin allowed Hitler to play the role of Icebreaker, crushing Europe before Stalin would arrive as the liberator.
In Icebreaker, Suvorov details the deployment of Soviet forces in June 1941, describing how Stalin amassed vast numbers of troops and armaments facing Europe, not to defend the Soviet homeland, but in preparation for a westward attack and decisive battles on enemy territory.
Thus, when German forces struck, the bulk of Red ground and air forces were concentrated along the Soviet western borders facing European countries, especially the German Reich and Romania, in final readiness for an assault on Europe.
The ratio of tanks in January 1941 was 22,600 (USSR total in all areas) and 5,261 Germany (total in all areas). As of July 1, 1941 USSR had 23,103 tanks.
Besides this disproportion, it should be noted that Germany did not have heavy tanks. The most powerful German tank of the first half of World War II was the medium tank Pz-IVA with a 75 mm gun and which did not match with Soviet T-34 tanks (967 in 1941) in its characteristics as well as with KV-1 and KV-2 heavy tanks (611 in June 1941). The USSR also had armoured units using BT-7 tank for swift aggressive assault operations. On field roads, the BT used caterpillar tracks, but when it was on good roads, the heavy tracks were removed and it sped forward on wheels like a racecar (above 70 kilometers per hour which was fast for 1941). BT tanks were not good for the bad roads of Soviet territory. The BT tanks, as specified in Icebreaker (ch3, pdf), could only be used in aggressive warfare, only in the enemy’s rear, and only in a decisive aggressive operation, when hordes of tanks suddenly broke through enemy territory and bypassed points of opposition, thrusting deep behind enemy lines, where there were no enemy troops, but where cities, bridges, factories, airports, ports, storage facilities, command posts, and communication units were located.
Compare the most advanced German tank T-IV or PzKpfw IV in 1941 with Soviet tanks in 1941.
The Red Army had 1,000,000 air assault troops in June 1941 compared with 4,000 in the German army. Airborne troops were to be deployed and dropped behind enemy lines in several waves, each wave consisting of five airborne assault corps (VDKs), each corps consisting of 10,419 men, staff and service personnel, an artillery division, and a separate tank battalion (50 tanks)
Military drills of Soviet assault troops in early 1930s. USSR was the first country which introduced these troops. The founding date of airborne troops considered to be August 2, 1930, the first military drill showing the abilities of this new type of armed forces.
According to Viktor Suvorov the ratio between Germany and USSR at the start of the war (June 22, 1941) in the areas of future conflict between Germany and USSR was:
|Germany and its allies||USSR|
|Manpower||3 300 000||5 500 000|
|Tanks||3 712||23 106|
|Artillery and mortars||47 200||148 000|
|Aircraft||4 950||28 000|
The ratio is self-explanatory.
Stalin’s innovations included covert mobilization and the transformation of border guards into strong military units with all types of armaments to create a stronghold behind the border to facilitate an invasion. These innovations were explored in detail in ‘Icebreaker’ (ch 28, pdf, video).
The conscript age in USSR was decreased from 21 years to 19 years which secretly allowed the government to recruit additional manpower (in 1939 19 – 21 year old men were conscripted, while in 1938 21 – 22 year old men were conscripted). But all of these servicemen needed to be demobilized by the end of 1941. In May 1941, 800,000 reservists were secretly mobilized into the Red Army. The secret mobilization of peasants and technicians before the harvest had been gathered would have led inevitably to a famine in 1942, even without any intervention by the Germans. There was no option but to send them into action the same year. If they stayed where they were, they would have nothing left to eat. A surprise attack by the Red Army in 1941, on the other hand, held the promise of new rich territories with abundant reserves of food.
The next innovation had the NKVD (Soviet police) border guards cross the borders first. Operating in small groups, they would seize and hold river crossings and road junctions. This tactic was tested during the Winter War with Finland in 1939; we explored this earlier in Euromaidan Press. As explored in the book “Icebreaker’, in the war with Japan some five years later, using border guards, ‘320 assault detachments were formed, each consisting of between 30 and 75 men armed with machine guns, sub-machine guns, rifles and grenades. Separate detachments had a strength of between 100 and 150 men… The training which was carried out was based upon previously worked out and precisely defined plans of surprise attack… The surprise element in the operations was to play a paramount role in being successful.’
The NKVD border troops operated exactly the same way in the first days of the war with Germany. Interestingly, at the time of the German attack these elite and highly trained NKVD troops, stationed on bridges at the border, had made no preparations either to repel an attack or defend the bridges. They surrendered to the enemy almost without a fight. When they had to capture the western part of a border bridge, however, these frontier troops revealed excellent training and skills. When they had to defend the eastern part of the bridge, these same soldiers showed a total lack of preparedness. It was simply that no one had trained them to do this. No one had ever put them through any defensive exercises.
Now we can see almost the same tactics when we analyze what happens at the Russian – Ukrainian border. Of course with great deal of modifications: Russian border guards just letting highly trained mercenaries into Ukraine as well as the basing of Russian army units near the border with Ukraine and shelling Ukrainian positions. One of the Russian ‘innovations’ was presented by the RNBO (National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine) earlier: “First the terrorists open demonstrative fire aimed at deserted Russian territories bordering on Ukraine. Then the Russian military responds with massive shelling of Ukrainian army positions. Columns of heavy Russian military equipment and Russian backed mercenaries cross the Russian-Ukrainian border under the cover of this intense artillery shelling.” Russian forces don’t restrict their activities to the shelling of Ukrainian territory. Among the ‘modifications’ is shooting down Ukrainian aircraft from the Russian territory by Russian air forces.
Viktor Suvorov explores and provides evidences of his assumptions and exposed Stalin’s Plan to Conquer Europe in several books. ‘Icebreaker’ (which has been published in an English-language edition), ‘Den M’ (“M Day” is not available in English), “The Last Republic: Why the Soviet Union Lost the Second World War,” (not available in English) published in Russian in Moscow in 1996.
Viktor Suvorov’s latest book on this topic is available in English: “The Chief Culprit” was released in 2009. The launch of this book was made at the United States Naval Academy on October 7, 2009 (link to the video with the presentation provided below). In this book Viktor Suvorov summarizes newly released Soviet documents and reevaluates existing material to analyze Stalin’s strategic design to conquer Europe and the reasons behind his controversial support for Nazi Germany.
He makes the case that Stalin neither feared Hitler nor mistakenly trusted him. Suvorov maintains that after Germany occupied Poland, defeated France, and started to prepare for an invasion of Great Britain, Hitler’s intelligence services detected the Soviet Union’s preparations for a major war against Germany. He again proves that Germany’s detection of USSR war preparations led to the former’s preemptive war plan and the launch of an invasion of the USSR. Stalin is shown in the book as a mad genius consumed by the vision of a worldwide Communist revolution at any cost and as a leader who manipulated Hitler and Germany to use them in his own effort to conquer the world.
Viktor Suvorov again provided evidence that Stalin was caught just days before launching his own assault into Central Europe. Again he proved that the Red Army’s offensive posture rendered it uniquely vulnerable to German attack.
What shall be noted is that neither Soviet nor current Russia historians were able to refute evidence and assumptions shown by Viktor Suvorov in an open discussion. All of these discussions ended in their inability to refute his theses with a re-inforcement of the feeling that the traditional presentation of the history of WWII needs to be re-evaluated.
Not only Viktor Suvorov has made these assumptions. More and more historians in Russia appeared who challenge official Soviet and Russian version of WWII. One of them is Mark Solonin. He supports the view that Soviet Union prepared and planned for an offensive war against Nazi Germany before Operation Barbarossa was initiated.
Mark Solonin’s books have sold over 240 000 copies in Russia (as of 2014). His books have been translated into Polish, Czech, Estonian, Lithuanian, Romania and his presentations have been translated into in English. He focused on the first weeks of the war of Germany against USSR with the purpose to find the reason why the numerically and technologically superior Red Army couldn’t even slow down the Wehrmacht’s advance into Soviet Union. In his researches he concludes that the Red Army’s losses were not only because of lack of fighting spirit of the Red Army caused by almost twenty years of Stalin’s regime of terror, but also because of Stalin’s preparation of an aggressive war to conquer all of Europe.
In his first book “22nd June or when WWII started” (on-line in Russian) Mark Solonin explores why Stalin’s empire, after years of preparation for the Big War, having concentrated all the resources of the richest country in the world, having reinforced his army with the best up-to-date weaponry, aviation and, finally, having amassed the biggest army in the world, suffered a crushing defeat in the summer of 1941.
In a book “23rd of June: M-Day” (on-line in Russian) Mark Solonin summarizes his research of the tragic events of the summer of 1941 and provides answers to all the questions which arose after the first two books were published. This work dwells mostly on Soviet material and the technical preparations for the world war, and especially on strategic military planning. By developing Victor Suvorov’s idea, Mark Solonin demonstrates that Stalin prepared a large-scale invasion of Europe, which was to occur in July 1941. A scrupulous analysis of documents and recollections of the participants of the events led to the hypothesis that Stalin changed the date in the very last moment and decided to initiate the assault on June 23rd,1941, and without knowing the fact that Hitler made an anticipatory strike – only one day in advance of Stalin. Viktor Suvorov supposes that Stalin planned to strike Germany in July 1941, but the exact date remained unknown; he had only assumptions. It looks very suspicious that most of the documentary evidences of that period of Soviet military history of 1939 – 1941 are still classified.
Russia has not changed mentally, it just changed its appearance from Communist to would-be-democratic. Its expansionist ideology has remained the same. Euromaidan Press has already explored this recently in various articles.
More food for thought for European leaders. They should finally re-evaluate everything about Russia in order to avoid falling into a trap like in the ‘30s and which in turn lead to the European disaster of 1939 – 1945 with more than 50 million killed during the conflict. Most evidences allows us to assume that Stalin dreamed of combining Russian resources with European technologies in order to achieve world dominance. Whether the Stalinist dream of a Europe from Lisbon to Vladivostok under the dominance of Russia will come true or not and whether a World War III in Europe will become a reality depends mostly on the US, Canada and European leaders’ implementation of the new sanctions against Russia in the bank, energy, arms and shipping sectors. Very important that a bill recognizing Ukraine’s as US major non-NATO ally passed. Major non-NATO ally status would entitle Ukraine to broad financial aid from US to buy military equipment and weapons. It confers a variety of military and financial advantages that otherwise are not obtainable by non-NATO countries. EU and NATO shall follow US initiative and pass similar legislative acts and decisions necessary for provision military equipment and weapons to Ukraine.Written by Vitalii Usenko, MD, MBA, expert of the Center of Military-Political Studies in the sphere of psychology of communications and Dmytro Usenko, student at Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto in co-operation with , Euromaidan Press armament and military questions specialist, consultant to French TV and radio
Edited by Myron Spolsky
1, Video ‘Who Started World War II?’ recorded during Viktor Suvorov book “The Chief Culprit” presentation at the United States Naval Academy on October 7, 2009
2. Mark Solonin articles in English: Why are new versions that disprove earlier interpretations of the events of WW II possible? The defeated Red Army significantly exceeded the Wehrmacht in number.