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RUSSIA: CELEBRATING THE VICTORY OVER NAZI GERMANY IN THE SHADOW OF THE UKRAINE CONFLICT
Gamel Nasser Adam
On May 9, 2022 Russia celebrated the 77th anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany in the Second World War. It was the most brutal and bloody war in human history, and Russia refers to it as the Great Patriotic War. In fact, it was the Soviet Union, the predecessor nation to Russia, which suffered the brunt of that war and made the single most significant contribution to the victory over Nazi Germany. For us in Africa, the significance of this victory is that it helped provide the right background environment for the rapid decolonization of the continent. It also averted Hitler’s evil agenda of a new world order to be partly defined by his sinister eugenics programme which almost certainly would have ensured the total elimination of the African people as a race.
Conscious of the Soviet Union’s military vulnerability and lack of preparedness for war with Hitler, the Soviet authorities decided to buy time by signing the infamous nonaggression pact with Germany in 1939. Soon afterwards Hitler launched his blitzkrieg invasion of Denmark, Norway, Holland and Belgium, and all these countries fell in rapid succession. France surrendered after only two weeks of fighting. The English Channel was a barrier to a German invasion of Britain, but the German air force pummeled British cities with relentless savagery.
Hitler invades the Soviet Union
Hitler soon tore to shreds the 1939 non-aggression pact with Stalin and invaded the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941. Codenamed Operation Barbarossa, the invasion was sudden and overwhelming. The Germans deployed 150 divisions comprising over 3 million men. Together with 19 panzer divisions, 7,000 artillery pieces about 3,000 tanks, and 2,500 aircraft, this was the largest and most powerful invasion force in human history. More than 30 divisions of Romanian and Finnish troops joined this awesome German military buildup. With such a formidable force, the invading troops rapidly advanced very deep into Soviet territory and towards major cities, coming to within just 18 kilometres of Moscow inflicting heavy losses on the initially disorganized soviet resistance.
The fate of the entire world now hinged on the ability of the Soviet Red Army to successfully resist Hitler’s forces, but no outside help was offered beyond rhetoric. Missouri Senator who would later become President of the United States, Harry Truman, advised his fellow American political leaders that “if we see that Germany is winning, we ought to help Russia, and if Russia is winning, we ought to help Germany, and that way let them kill as many as possible.” The predictions of military experts in the West were that the Soviet Union would capitulate in three months at most.
The sitting American President, Roosevelt, however decided to act, ordering the delivery of war supplies under a so-called Lend-Lease Act. Intervening circumstances allowed the United States to supply only a quarter of the tonnage it had promised the Soviet Union and to make matters worse, much of it was defective. It is important also to note that it was only in 2016 that Russia finally finished paying off the debt it incurred from the United States under the Lend-Lease agreement. This should serve as a warning to the Ukrainian political authorities of today whom the United States is offering assorted weapon systems under a similar agreement.
Abandoned to its fate, and the odds weighing heavily against it, the Red Army showed remarkable resilience, defeating the German army in the Battle of Moscow. This was the first time in the entire war that the awesome German war machine had been stopped. The Red Army followed this up with a spectacular victory at Stalingrad, now Volgograd, annihilating the hundred-thousand strong German Sixth Army and capturing twenty German generals in that battle. War historians are unanimous in their opinion that the Stalingrad victory was what turned the tide of the entire Second World War. The Red Army would eventually drive the German army out of the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe and be the first to enter Berlin and capture Hitler’s headquatres.
By the time the West belatedly opened a second front with the Normandy beach landings in June 1944, the Red Army had already reversed the course of the war. It was singlehandedly engaging more than two hundred German divisions while the Americans and British together rarely confronted more than ten. Britain’s war-time Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, was honest to admit later that it was “the Red Army that tore the guts out of the German military machine.” It is very important to dwell on these facts especially as the West has lately been trying strenuously to rewrite history and downplay Russia’s significant contribution to the defeat of Nazi Germany.
World War II casualties
At the end of the war in 1945 over 60 million people were dead. Of this number, 27 million were Soviet citizens, mostly civilians, more than 20 million Chinese, 6 million Jews, almost 6 million Germans, 3 million Poles, two and a half million Japanese and one and half million Yugoslavs. Great Britain, France, Italy, Hungary, Romania, and the United States of America each counted between 250 thousand and 333 thousand dead. Deaths among soldiers from the colonies were counted among the casualties of the colonial power. Gold Coast deaths were therefore part of Britain’s dead.
The loss of 27 million of its citizens and the almost total destruction of their country were traumatic experiences for the Soviet Union, the predecessor nation to Russia, and have continued to define the Russian national psyche which, understandably, is very sensitive to any threatening military developments on its western border. It was from here that many previous invasions of Russian territory emanated, the most devastating being the German invasion. Russian attitudes today can therefore be partly traced to these harrowing historical antecedents.
As the war was getting to an end, the harrowing experience seemed to have driven home the urgency of ensuring that never again should humankind inflict such catastrophe on itself. Unfortunately, hopes in that direction were dashed when America dropped the atom bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the dying embers of the war. The atom bomb became an instrument of blackmail, and mistrust dominated the post-war arrangement for a new world order. Former allies turned into mortal foes with the formation of two belligerent military organizations both armed to the teeth; first was the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and later the Warsaw Pact and the subsequent unleashing of the Cold War. With the collapse of the Soviet Union and the disbanding of the Warsaw Pact, a triumphalist euphoria got the better part of the collective West, especially the United States. Hubris blinded America and its European vassals to the new opportunity of reorganizing NATO into a new security architecture that took into account the legitimate security interests of Russia.
NATO plans to encircle Russia militarily
The United States had other plans. The Project for the New American Century (PNAC) outlining an American plan for a new world order under the George W. Bush presidency made it abundantly clear that never again would the United States allow a rival power to emerge to challenge its global hegemony again. Exploiting the prostate weakness of Russia under Yeltsin, the United States pushed for NATO’s eastward expansion, inching closer and closer to the Russian border and threatening its core strategic interests. In 1999 NATO admitted the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland. A second wave of expansion added Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia. In 2009 Albania and Croatia were admitted.
Earlier in 2008, against cautious counsel from Germany and France, the Alliance approved plans to admit Georgia and Ukraine. When the United States announced its withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty, it left no doubt about America’s intention to gain a first-strike capability against Russia. This withdrawal effectively removed a Cold-War era arrangement which had ensured a strategic balance between the two nuclear superpowers under the so-called Mutually-Assured Destruction (MAD) doctrine.
The push to admit Ukraine and Georgia into NATO was considered by Russia as a direct threat and part of a grand scheme to encircle it militarily and neutralize it as a potential geopolitical counterweight to American hegemony. One can easily imagine American outrage, as demonstrated during the Cuban Missile Crisis, in a hypothetical situation where the People’s Republic of China would form a formidable military alliance and attempt to admit Canada and Mexico into it.
Leveraging its power in a unipolar world, America went on a destructive trail globally, initiating violent regime changes in Africa, Latin America and the Arab world. A later Russian assertiveness ensured that America and its NATO vassals would not visit on Syria the same fate it had inflicted on Libya a few years earlier. The consequences of the Libyan tragedy are still visible not only in the raging chaos in what is effectively a failed Libyan state, but also in the creation of fertile grounds for the Al Qaeda franchise to flourish in the entire Sahel region and beyond.
Russia’s resurgence under President Putin
Meanwhile, as America was busy on its global rampage, Russia stealthily reformed its economy, purged the country of an American fifth column, and rebuilt its defences as well as its army. And in March 2018 President Putin announced that Russia had developed a new generation of weapon systems unique in their awesome power, and unstoppable by any existing antimissile defence system in the world. American arrogance was shaken to its core. There is a saying that the Russians take a long time to saddle their horses, but they ride really fast.
Putin had earlier made it clear that Ukraine was a red line, and that Russia would take all necessary measures to prevent NATO from having a nuclear foothold at Russia’s doorstep. He is even reported to have told President Bush that Ukraine would cease to exist were it to be admitted into NATO. The swift military incursion into Georgia in 2008 to prevent its fanatically pro-NATO President, Saakashvili, from militarily reoccupying the two breakaway Russian enclaves of Abkhazia and South Ossetia was a clear message by Putin that he meant business. And with particular reference to Ukraine, it is important to take note of the comment recently made by Pope Francis to the effect that the ongoing Russian military operations in that country are the consequences of “the barking of NATO at Russia’s door”.
Russia’s military operations and plans to de-Nazify Ukraine
The ‘barking’ intensified with the American-orchestrated coup in 2014 against the democratically elected and pro-Russian President of Ukraine Victor Yanukovych, and the installation of a rabidly anti-Russian and pathetically pro-Western political faction dominated by neo-Nazis of the ideological progeny of the notorious Ukrainian Hitler ally, Stepan Bandera. The infamous Azov Regiments, which run parallel to the regular Ukrainian army, are the most successful of the military wing of Ukraine’s neo-Nazis. Azov soldiers wear shoulder patches with Nazi insignia on them, and have tattoos of the swastika on their bodies. Andrey Biletsky, its first commander, is on record to have stated that Ukraine has a mission to ‘lead the white races of the world in a final crusade … against Semite-led Untermenschen [inferior humans]’. These neo-Nazis dominate the political and military power structure in Ukraine today, and this is why de-Nazification of the Ukrainian army is one of the stated objectives of Russia’s ongoing special military operations.
The military operation is now in its third month, and the initial strategy was to pressurize Ukraine into accepting a peace deal in which it would declare its neutrality, abandon its ambitions to join NATO and recognize the independence of Crimea, the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics in return for concrete security guarantees for Ukraine. An agreement on these demands would have ended the conflict, and there would not have been the need for Russia to launch the second phase of its military operations. At first the Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelensky, indicated a willingness to accept this deal, but Britain and the United States pressurized him out of it. Since then NATO has been pumping large amounts of weapons into Ukraine urging it on to fight to the last Ukrainian in a conflict it has no chance of winning. And as Ukraine is running out of men, literally, and the country is saturated with arms which are of doubtful military use to the Ukrainian resistance, western arms manufacturers are smiling all the way to the bank.
Boomerang effect of Western sanctions against Russia
America’s overall strategy is to weaken Russia by prolonging the conflict. The unprecedented sanctions NATO countries have continued to pile up against Russia are intended to induce an economic collapse which is expected to trigger a political crisis and, in the American calculation, bring about regime change. Well, this American pipedream has so far failed to materialize. President Putin’s approval ratings are beyond 80 percent, even according to polls conducted by agencies politically very unfriendly to him. And contrary to all predictions, the Russian economy has shown remarkable resilience. Despite the ongoing military operations and the unparalleled levels of sanctions, Bloomberg has reported that the Russian currency, the ruble, is the best performing currency in the world since the beginning of 2022, outstripping 31 of its major peers on the global financial scene.
While it is true that the Russian economy will suffer from the effects of the Western-imposed sanctions, the fact of the matter is that the suffering is, and will be worse, among American and European consumers as they face astronomical rises in the prices of gas, fuel, electricity and food. Clearly, the attempt to induce an economic collapse in Russia has failed. The attempt also to turn Ukraine into NATO’s military and geopolitical bastion on Russia’s borders has been a disaster, and the entire world is suffering the consequences. It would be a bigger disaster if the United States and its European vassals allow hubris to blind them to the first law of holes, which is to stop digging. They should give their puppet, President Zelensky, the greenlight to cut Ukrainian losses and negotiate an honourable way out of this conflict which is exacting such a heavy and bloody toll on Ukraine.