SOVIET DIPLOMACY AND "MASKIROVKA"
Sometimes, as a devoted observer of international events, I have wondered about, and studied, the newer and more modern techniques of Maskirovka developed by the Russian intelligence agencies often unofficially referred to as Special Services (In Russian: Спецслужбы России). From my point of view, at times they may lack the sophisticated dedication of the KBG, whereby the majority of those men and women in Soviet times were able to give themselves over to what they perceived as the maturity and receptivity towards the international ideas and struggles of communism, to which in these current times of ours, Russian and American oligarchs are indifferent.
However, I believe it is in the interest of military historians, strategists, and theorists to revisit the coda of the highest stakes in the game of Maskirovka, not only for the preservation of the health and well-being of the Russian people, but for the modern struggle against the Western and Eastern oligarchs in their relentless quest to achieve world economic domination at the peril of humanity. Indeed, in recent memory, there have been some very strong, even obscenely critical remarks against Lenin by Russian leaders and their oligarch minions. Let me say it is my desire that the current maestros of Maskirovka in the Russian Federation ultimately decide, with the greatest intelligence methodology created by pioneering Soviet military theorists, how to use to use Maskirovka as a positive and powerful force to return Russia to a socialist democracy way of life.
In my Master's Thesis in Military History and Diplomacy entitled In These Fields of Honor-- a historical view of the Soviet Army from an American perspective -- I devote an entire chapter to the intelligence methodology known as Maskirovka, a term meaning "masked, disguise or deception" historically applied to Soviet diplomacy. The techniques of Maskirovka, in military and diplomatic usage, would refer to engaging a perceived enemy on the battlefield as well as in the corridors of diplomacy. In the era since I wrote my original work on Maskirovka -- completed in the year 2000 while enrolled at Vermont College of Norwich University -- the Soviet intelligence doctrine has evolved as the Soviet Union has been replaced by the Russian Federation, and therefore modernized and used differently for multiple expansive purposes.
My own view as a military strategist and trained historian, observer of international events: now Maskirovka is no longer utilized in the traditional, strictly Soviet way, but in the more congenial, modern Russian way, that is, political propaganda, media manipulation, and military deception used to bring about Russian expansionism by any means possible. However, there are those within the Russian military, as well as those in the various Russian intelligence agencies, who remain democratic in nature and still value and uphold the political idea of Socialist Democracy and the profound values of Marxism-Leninism, even as they work within the Russian Federation to defend the Motherland.
~Luis Lázaro Tijerina, Burlington, Vermont, 2018
SOVIET DIPLOMACY AND MASKIROVKA
The war remains a war; the military bloc of aggressors remains a military bloc; and the aggressors remain aggressors.
J. V. Stalin, “Report to Eighteenth Party
Congress,” March 10, 1939
There are no absolute political paradigms in history. A metaphysician might say there is no perfect paradigm of politics. Whatever the choice of words, “absolute” or “perfect,” the sole thought or reasoning, as Hegel might have said, is that no single interpretation can be applied to all political systems. No system is impervious to time and change. This chapter will show the complex and creative process of dialectics in history, specifically in diplomacy and war. From the time of ancient Athenian imperialism, through the age of Roman world hegemony, up to the present political and military rivalry between the United States and the Soviet Union, states have always struggled to remain secure within the unsteady arena of international relations. Many modern diplomatic and political historians have argued about the possibility of creating such stable states in the midst of a century marked by tumultuous wars.
Before discussing Soviet diplomacy in the 1930's, it is important to emphasize what I term “absolutes” in the political arena of world politics. During the build-up towards World War II, the foreign policy establishments of most, if not all governments believed that other nations were driven by rigid, fairly narrow, goals that were not amenable to reasoned discourse. This rigidity influences diplomatic behavior. Such reasoning helps to fuel political conflicts, which can lead to war. Dogma, such as adhered to by religion, which can be paralleled with dogmatic ideology, discourages intellectual debate and is usually, although not always, enforced by physical and verbal excess. Dogma is grounded in the belief of an absolute, which can lead to the notion that all politics is war, or that war is simply a name for politics extended to the extreme. However, I wish not to be as dogmatic as Hegel, as when he asserted that, “this Idea or Reason is the True, the Eternal, the Absolute Power,” since the great German philosopher connected his idea of reasoning to the concept of God. There is no conscious effort on my part to impute an idea of the World Spirit. I am concentrating on the ever-changing process of history, not in general abstract terms but in its manifestation in harsh reality, as played out in diplomatic circles. As we shall see, diplomats mirror their governments’ desires. They also create their own web of emotions and contradictions, the effects of which can ultimately transform people’s lives.
It is not always apparent to the ordinary, common citizen in both the East and West that diplomats are concerned with the country’s “national interest” that they represent in the corridors of diplomatic offices. National interest in the modern and so-called post-modern world is the center core of any nation’s economic and military growth and prosperity, and any perceived threat from those outside its borders will only be tolerated for a time. This holds true even if a nation is defeated in war, such as the situation with Germany after its disastrous loss at the end of World War II. It could not and did not forget the arrogant, narrow-minded vision of the Allied Forces regarding financial payment, not excluding the dismemberment of German borders, all in the service of the victors. Therefore, it is not usual, nor should it be surprising that diplomats like the Nazi Joachim von Ribbentrop should display a primitive coyness at times, then anger, and then outright demanding ‘needs’ to Western and Soviet diplomats prior to the beginning of World War II.
Diplomatic relationships have always been characterized by communication through coded words or phrases. Ideological and political doctrine influence the interplay of diplomatic relationships; therefore, we can and must assume that ideological preferences are always present in the minds of these men and women who articulate their country’s political agenda. Not all governments, however, seek to impose their political beliefs on other nations. Soviet diplomacy during World War II is viewed by most Western historians as Marxist in orientation. But they fail to take into account other factors that pushed men like Litvinov, Astakhov, and Molotov to act or behave as they did in diplomatic circles. Like other politically powerful men in an ideology-driven regime, they reacted through an instinct for self-preservation when they dealt with the West and with Nazi Germany. Desiring to protect their frontiers in a world threatened by German fascism, they could not understand how that their ideological motives could be misinterpreted by the Western powers. So, even though there was room for creative change within the Soviet State and Soviet diplomacy, their political stance was in the end rigid toward those countries with which they had to deal, whether autocratic governments like Germany or Japan, or democratic imperialists such as Great Britain and the United States. Soviet Communist party leaders based their behavior on a desire to consolidate a socialist nation on their own terms. John A. Vasquez, a scholar of international relations theory, writes
In terms of the specific history of relations, Soviet leaders had few reasons to see the West as pacific. Their ideology did not permit for this possibility and there was much in reality to confirm this expectation beginning right in 1917 when the West, including the United States, intervened militarily to help the White Russians try to overthrow the Bolsheviks. Likewise, reluctance by the British in the 1930s to make an alliance against Hitler, coupled later with talk by Churchill and other conservatives of the benefits of a war between Germany and the USSR, hardly made Soviet leaders trustful of democratic states (357).
So began the kernel of mistrust between the Western Powers, emerging fascist governments, and the Soviet Union, that would result in war. The Japanese Imperial Army already had designs on economic bases in the Southern Pacific, and the United States government and her armed forces were aware of this, as were her allies, the British, French, and Netherlands, whose colonial power bases were also being threatened by Japan and her powerful navies. Although Word War I had ended for all intents and purposes in 1918, the call for a New World Order in the 1930s brought into play an understanding that the next world war would be an extension of the earlier conflict.
In an interesting work entitled Russia and the United States: U.S.-Soviet Relations from the Soviet Point of View, Soviet scholars, Sivachev and Yakovlev make a rather bold assertion about Soviet foreign relations in the ‘thirties, based on archival material released following the collapse of the Soviet Union at the beginning of the 1990s. Their use of the term cooperation (my italics) implies a complexity to events in this era that perhaps even they did not realize.
During the thirties peaceful coexistence, the basis of Soviet foreign policy underwent further development. The capitalist world was rapidly splitting into two hostile camps, one of which--the Fascist--was frankly aggressive and intent on redrawing the map of the world. Under these circumstances, the foreign-policy doctrine of the USSR was modified to take into account the obvious difference between the Fascist bloc and the mixed system of the bourgeois-democratic nations. The Soviet Union emerged as a determined opponent of the aggressive plans of world fascism and an advocate of cooperation with the non-Fascist countries (120).
However, on closer inspection one realizes that what seems obvious is perhaps not always obvious, but something more subtle, considering the strategy of diplomacy which emerged at this time. The key word “emerged” is also important, because the Soviet Government sought through diplomatic ways to attain political ground before the Second World War, pursuing a policy of diplomatic MaskirovkaC that is, either simple camouflage or the more sophisticated form of masking disinformation in her relationships with the Western governments. This was done to slow down the inevitable movement toward war. Before the Soviet Union emerged as a socialist nation-state that would ally herself, if not cooperate with Western bourgeois-democratic nations such as Great Britain and the United States, she first deployed diplomatic maneuvers that were veiled, temperamental at times, and creative, despite an aura of political dogmatism that infested the foreign policies of all nation-states prior to the war’s beginning in 1939.
To assume that all nation-states are interested only in their “geographical asymmetry,” without including military geographical asymmetry that ultimately protects or expands their political potential, is to be ignorant of the objectives of war and peace. That the Soviet Union may have intended that its early treaties from the 1920s through the 1930s to be nothing but a political peredyshka or political pause, is only natural since like any other nation, it was looking out for its survival. However, some critics and historians argue that the Soviet Union, while claiming to represent an outlook that was uniquely anti-imperialist, that is a socialist democracy based on the indelible rights of the proletarian worker, nevertheless engaged in Soviet expansionism.
There is no doubt that the communist party and Sovnarkom (Sovet Narodnykh Komissarov) Council of People’s Commissars sought to maintain and control not only its domestic base but its foreign interests as well. The Soviet Union’s methods for dealing with its own security and the collective security of Europe was a complex situation. Early Russian Soviet diplomacy had not allied with the Paris Treaties after World War I, nor with the birth of the League of Nations. The Soviet leadership watched with disciplined animosity as the Western powers allowed former Russian territories to become known as Poland and the Baltic states. In order to preserve some kind of foreign police independence, the leadership of the Soviet Union allowed a basic de jure recognition of five former provinces to become nation-states: Georgia, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. During the Second World War, only Georgia resisted the invading fascist troops. The other former provinces welcomed the Nazi armies with open arms.
The Treaty of Riga brought a truce to the Soviet-Polish war, creating a bitterness not only against the Poles but against the Western powers who supported the so-called Polish cause, a cause based on nationalistic arrogance along with a deep fear and hatred for the revolution in Russia. The treaty, however, did not stop Lenin and his supporters within the party leadership to establish a relationship that would have deep consequences long after his death: The Treaty of Rapallo, signed in 1922, two years after the fabricated Treaty of Riga, brought Germany and the Soviet Union together as nominal allies. The Soviet entente with a defeated Germany did not result in complete military exchanges or collaboration at that time, but it did set up a strong trade between the two struggling nations and reaffirmed their strong political bond against an ever-growing, imperial Europe.
Although the Soviet Union was able to create another treaty in 1926 with the still-frail German government, the German leadership had sought to make its own way with the Locarno Treaty of 1925, which in affect broadened her political and economic horizons with Western nations. What is almost lost in modern history is that an early, embryonic Soviet-Nazi Non-Aggression Pact was already in motion as early as 1926, when at the Treaty of Berlin, the Soviets received a guaranty from the German leadership that Germany would not go to war against the Soviet Union regardless of what measures the League of Nations might enact against the Soviet Union. There was, however, a continual pull and tug between the Germans and Soviets on who would retain the diplomatic higher ground in persuading the other to do its bidding. Without question, relations between the early Weimar Republic and the Soviet Union were based, not on mutual respect, but on survival. Former Czech dissident Jiri Hochman displayed an intellectual narrow-mindedness about early German-Soviet political collaboration in his work, The Soviet Union and the Failure of Collective Security, 1934-1938, where he stated:
The most important foreign-policy asset ascribed to the relationship in Moscow was its role in averting a possible anti-Soviet configuration, with Poland, for example. Military and economic advantages drawn from the connection on both sides added weight to these considerations (17).
The alliance between Germany and the Soviet Union prior to the crises of the 1930s was not based totally on the Polish situation, although that was a corridor through which the Red Army had to pass in any war against Western Europe. Historian Craig gives us a more prosaic view of how the German foreign ministry viewed the early German-Soviet alliance in the decade before the Soviet-Nazi Non-Aggression Pact:
Stresemann [German Foreign Minister] was aware, for example, of secret agreement between the Reichswehr and the Red Army that provided the German soldiers with weapons and training in specialties denied them by the treaty... He did not particularly approve of these arrangements, but he made no energetic attempt to discourage them to do so would have embroiled him with General von Seeckt, the author of the arrangement....Moreover, although he never shared Seeckt’s dreams of a joint Soviet-German war to destroy Poland, the Foreign Minister could not exclude the possibility that a revision of the eastern frontiers might be possible only by means of military pressure; if that were so, the Russian military tie might prove useful. (513)
However, as we know, the Germans played it both ways. British Prime Minister Chamberlain, who helped to create the future Munich Agreement, was able to push forward the Locarno Treaty in 1925, in affect allowing Germany to appease both the Western powers and the Soviet Union at the same time. Even after defeat on the battlefield, the German nation continued to manipulate the political hatreds that were always there between the Western powers and the leadership of the Soviet Union. Craig, in analyzing German foreign policy prior to World War II, wrote:
The coolness between Berlin and the West was of relatively short duration, and why Stresemann was able in December 1926 to persuade Chamberlain and Briand to make good the promises they had made after Locarno by cutting their occupation forces to 60,000 men and by withdrawing the IMCC [Inter-Allied Military Control Commission] from German soil. (521)
Although the Western powers were aware of the military alliance between Weimar Germany and the Soviet Union, they convinced themselves that this would be of little military advantage. The Western leadership failed to understand that despite the military geographical asymmetry that existed between a defeated Germany and a growing Soviet military culture, much could be accomplished for both countries to achieve military parity with the Western military infrastructures. Joint German-Soviet military bases were created that included a tank experimental station located on the Kama River, as well as an air force base used jointly by German and Soviet pilots for pilot training and bomb run exercises. These bases were closed down in late 1933, when the Soviets failed to convince the Germans to carry on with the so-called extension of the Berlin Treaty of 1926.
Although Hitler had crushed the communist opposition in Germany in 1933, the Nazi takeover did not mean the immediate end of German-Soviet diplomatic cooperation. A diplomatic “reassurance” was printed in the Diplomatische Korrespondenz by the German Foreign Office. On December 29, 1933, Maxim Litvinov, the Commissar of Foreign Affairs of the USSR, convened with members of the Central Executive Committee and voiced his intent as well as that of the communist party to maintain “the best relations” with Germany, but the days of a great pragmatic political rapport with Germany had come to an end.
All this time, the Red Army could not be said to be idling away. What is interesting is the way the world viewed this former revolutionary army that was slowly evolving into a great professional army. It must be noted that its creative, if not abrupt ascendancy was likewise the outcome of influences from abroad. American historian Albert Seaton reports how these early influences came from none other than French military doctrine:
In tsarist times interest had also been shown in French military thought, and the Red Army continued to take note of French organization and methods. Tukhachevsky, [Marshal of the Red Army] who had no staff training and little military service in the tsarist army, gave von Manstein [Field-Marshal of the German Wehrmacht] the impression in 1931 that he was French oriented. Stalin, too, had a high opinion of the fighting ability of the French Army. (34)
It was Charles de Gaulle’s highly lyrical but instructive work, Vers l’armee de metier (roughly translated as Towards the Professional Army or The Army of the Future) that the technical implementation of armored forces known as tanks would be introduced as a serious force on the battlefield, at least in theory. De Gaulle was ahead of his time as he advocated powerful field divisions with heavy armored brigades. Even when he was appointed command of the 507th Tank Regiment (RRC) in July of 1937, according to French historian Jean Lacouture, “De Gaulle knew... about the astonishing progress of the panzers that the Third Reich was fitting out and exhibiting without reserve or discretion (Lacouture 150).
Ironically, the French Chief of Staff, who had very little creative imagination at the time, opposed the ideas of swift, mobile tank warfare as envisioned by the army colonel, while in the year of 1937, Chief of Staff of the Red Army, Mikhail Tukhachevsky, when visiting De Gaulle in Paris not only congratulated his French colleague on his book concerning tank warfare, but also informed him that those in charge of the Soviet Army were watching his work closely.
As history is full of twists and complicated fates, it might not surprise the reader to know that both De Gaulle and Tukhachevsky had been interned in the same prisoner of war camp at Ingolstadt in Bavaria during World War II, or the so-called Great War. During the middle years of the Great Patriotic War, De Gaulle pressed the British, according to Lacouture, to send French infantry to fight alongside the ranks of those in the Red Army. Although the British were reluctant to transport French troops into Russia proper, De Gaulle, “after his talks with Molotov in May 1942, did succeed in sending the USSR the Normandy air force unit; they flew Soviet Yak fighters...and they won a most unusual reputation among the Russians” (Lacouture 462). However, all of this genuine confederation as ‘brothers-in-arms’ took place long after the Soviet diplomatic delegations attempted to persuade the Western world, not least the Government of France, to form a joint military support alliance.
It is interesting that Stalin was cool towards De Gaulle during the war, but was it out of instinct or knowledge of De Gaulle’s actual view towards the Soviet Union before the war? In one of the last letters De Gaulle wrote to his mother, he admitted, “It is a question of surviving; all the rest is mere words. We do not possess the means to refuse Russian help, however much we may loathe their regime. It is the story Francois I allying himself with the Moslems against Charles V” (Lacouture 128). However, De Gaulle was confused in his thinking, as the German invaders were more like the Moslems of previous ancient history, and France would have more in common with the Soviets, whom he likened to the reign of Charles the Fifth. However, we have to ask ourselves where was the proof that the Soviets were truly interested in forming military alliances with nations advocating a capitalist way of life?
Evidence shows that the Soviets, including their diplomats abroad, were interested in the military expertise of potential adversaries. The French, however, were reluctant to reciprocate in exchanging military methods. As Michael Jabara Carley reports in his highly polemic and passionate work, 1939: The Alliance That Never Was and the Coming of World War II, the early interaction between French and Soviet diplomats over the question of military support and general staff exchanges came down to this:
Potemkin [Soviet Ambassordor to France] accused Laval [foreign Minister of France] of double-talk and playing hard to get, as though France was making a sacrifice in concluding an agreement with the Soviet Union. Certainly Laval was stalling. In March 1935, the Soviet government issues what amounted to an ultimatum to complete negotiations on the mutual assistance pace. Litvinov put forward fresh proposals in April, which the French “blackballed.” Laval eventually concluded the pact because an intransigent Hitler left him little choice.
After promising speedy ratification of the mutual assistance pact and suggesting military staff talks to Stalin, Laval delayed ratification for the rest of the year and let the French general staff evade military conversations. The general staff blamed the delay on Laval, but the generals themselves were in no hurry to parley. (17)
We see then, that there were always direct military ties to the diplomatic procedures brought about by the Soviet government. The masking of their ultimate intentions was necessary in dealing with a bourgeois government like France. However, Stalin himself would unmask the Soviets’ true intentions in his important talk to the Seventh Party Congress in January, 1934. That the Soviet diplomats had ulterior motives in their discussions with their political equals from abroad is difficult to grasp by Western political standards. Soviet diplomats, like their military counterparts, imbued with Marxist revolutionary theory, could sometimes be blunt and harsh, at other times brilliantly subtle. Military historian David Glantz best describes it from a Western point of view:
Marxism-Leninism is founded upon the truth of inevitable and predictable dialectical change. The dialectic is deterministic. Based on economic, social, and political realities...To one who accepts the nature of the dialectical change, any and all measures that accelerate that process are desirable, if not essential. War, in its various forms, is a natural element of that process. Thus, deception is a legitimate tool to hasten change both in peace and war. (3)
However, a serious Marxist would not use the term “inevitable” to describe the creative changes or ebb and flow of history. The theory of Maskirovka is based on creative deception which is free from dogmatic rules of so-called normal diplomatic and military bourgeois constraints.
These brief examples of the first incursions of Soviet diplomacy prior to the Great Patriotic War illustrate the significance of Maskirovka in achieving the military goals of the early Soviet State, regardless of its flaws and short-comings in anticipating the war that nearly destroyed them.
The strategy, tactics, and operations of Maskirovka are something akin to peeling away the layers of an onion skin with the utmost care and patience. Although the American Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is also capable of misleading its opponents, it has rarely achieved the skill of its Soviet counterparts in misleading its enemies regarding its true intent with respect to its political, diplomatic, or military objectives. It has always been the mainstay of American foreign policy to threaten, corrupt, or lie.” However, there are historians, particularly American historians, who would say that there are clear political distinctions between the propensities or political inclinations domestic policy and that of American foreign policy, and that American cloak and dagger techniques are not unusual to any modern nation state, but that this is only natural as it is the right of a nation and its national character to want to survive regardless of the cost and the injury it may incur upon its adversaries and so-called American perceived enemies.
The national way or American national manner in which Americans react to those outside their borders is much different from the way the Soviet Union reacted to its enemies and friends prior to the Great Patriotic War. For instance, it is historically known that piracy from the Isthmus of Panama to the shores of North America was part of the everyday reality before the American Revolution.
Those immigrants and pioneers who came from old Europe did not come from the wealthy and educated classes but were for the most part impoverished Anglo-Europeans, not to mention Spanish and Portuguese adventurers and soldiers who came seeking cities harboring gold and silver. It was, however, within the confines of the United States that the wholesale slaughter of Native Americans and dispersal of their cultures began in great earnest; but this greed for land buttressed their hopes for a so-called better life. In fact, the so-called American dream was not ratified into the national culture of the United States after World War II, but was actually always a part of the aspirations of those who sought independence from a world across the seas where only poverty, debtors’ prisons, and religious persecution were the mainstay of life for those people who sought “Freedom”.
It was from the leadership of these same immigrants that the greed to acquire more land beyond the Eastern and Southern landscape of the United States that the Mexican War came about, and the Mexican people lost not only that war, but were forced to give up the lands known to Americans as Texas, New Mexico, and California. Much later, other predatory wars would evolve like the Spanish-American War and the war of the Philippines. The character of Americans and their government is to take when the taking is good and to risk defeat at the hope of overreaching their goal. The Americans are more tempted by taking from others in what they see as rightfully theirs than in securing peace through economic parity. Their national goal in life is not peace and reflective quiet, but a bourgeois mentality and cultural attitude is a major reflection of Americans and the general American trait.
As the Americans developed their deception skills to a high point of sophistication by first betraying treaties with the Native Americans, they were able to create better skills in the field of foreign policy activities that required audacity. However, it was their daring even during seemingly utter defeat that they could come back and defeat an enemy, as they did during the Pacific War after the Pearl Harbor debacle. The Soviets on the other hand, after years of revolutionary activity in their homeland and a brutal civil war in the 1920s were slow and reluctant to go to war unless it suited their own nationalistic and revolutionary activities which were calculating and enforced after much debate and consideration within the ruling circles of the Soviet State. The Soviet Union did not enter into war lightly, as they had known destruction through the physical and political suffering that had destroyed much of their economy because of not only the struggle between the White and Red forces during the life time of Lenin and after his death, but also during the time of Stalin’s rise to power.
This history of confrontation within their own borders, as well as dealing with the Western allies who attempted to crush the October Revolution of 1917 by siding with the monarchical forces, created an atmosphere of caution and bitter prudence which was much different from their Western adversaries. Interestingly enough, the American character has more in common with the modern German national character, particularly of the kind of German national character that was displayed during the rise of the Nationalist Socialist Movement led by Hitler and his Fascist forces. Both powers were never afraid to push the other side to the wall and make them tremble if it suited their political purposes.
Thus we see that the Americans, the Germans, and even the Japanese peoples displayed a character of self-confidence that bordered on arrogance. The Soviet peoples, on the other hand, were forced to mask their aspirations and intentions not simply because they were a shy or awkward people, but because they were educated within the Soviet State to pursue what they envisioned as socialist goals, while at the same time advocating revolution among foreign workers through the guile of great secrecy and even openness as they did in Spain and France during the Popular Front Movements. However, at the same time the Soviets attempted not to pursue any risks to their security unless they had the enforcement and backing from allies.
It was not that the Soviets were cowards, but it was the repeated economic and internal political blows after the aftermath of the revolution, not to mention the predatory blows by the Nazi forces which brought them into greater shock which was contrary to their sincere hopes of revolutionary expectations. Because of this perceived lack of quick action within the Soviet Government during the years of crises prior to the Great Patriotic War, many historians pronounced a verdict of the lack of resolve among the Soviet leadership in not building stronger defense forces along their Western borders the German threat. And now, in the so-called Post Modern era there is also the feeling that the United States government had the perfect enemy in the Soviet regarding the nature of war. While the Soviet Union was slow to going to war and was slow to anger, the United States is impulsive and innovative in its relationships towards controlling or destroying its enemies, especially when it had the great navy powers on the high seas to back up its political vision. Thus it is apparent that ‘the cloak and dagger methods’ as employed by American foreign policy is complex in nature, the Soviets although lacking in political daring would make-up for it with subtle even sublime techniques of political maneuvering through cautious deception and patience.
The Soviets knew from the beginning of their rise to power that what is implied is not always implied, what is information is not always information in the strictest sense. The Soviet use of Maskirovka was to preserve the Soviet State.
In truth, Maskirovka in the political and military sense is and always has been the art of deception. Political and military deception is the element of surprise and ultimately control over one’s enemy. Maskirovka is the creative art of all forms of theoretical and practical methods to influence the enemy’s political, social, economic, and cultural acts, including diplomatic and military agendas. In all inter-war periods, it is this kind of deception, i.e., Maskirovka, that is the first and final weapon used to buy time to prepare for political and military victory over one’s adversary. Soviet diplomats and officers are not concerned with bourgeois moral values regarding the art of war or the achievements of creating peace. It is the practical achievements or methods in letting the enemy think you are going in one direction, when in reality you are going in another direction that is the fundamental achievement in the dialectical process toward the desirable end. The ultimate goal is victory in the field or at the diplomatic conference table, all of which lead to Democratic Socialism, that is the justifiable ethical standards of Marxism-Leninism.
The Council of People’s Commissars (Sovet Narodnykh Komissarov or Sovnarkom) was in essence part of the overall machinery contributing to the patterns of Soviet diplomacy during the interwar period and in the years of the Great Patriotic War. Sovnarkom, composed of eleven departmental commissars, included a standing committee of three functionaries responsible for army and navy activities. Lenin himself was a chairman of Sovnarkom. Although Lenin wielded great power within Sovnarkom, its decline began not long after his death, and the Politburo and leadership within the Central Committee of the Communist Party began to absorb the actual political power of Sovnarkom. Under Lenin, Sovnarkom functioned as the actual government of the Soviet Union, sharing its power with the Central Executive Committee of the Congress of Soviets (TsIK). It was not until 1936 that Stalin declared Sovnarkom as the sole instrument of power which constituted the government of the USSR. However, there was widespread confusion about the role of the party, in particular the Central Executive Committee of the Congress of All-Russian Soviets (VtsIK), and Sovnarkom’s contribution to the issuance of decrees. Historically speaking, the leadership of the party and the diverse leadership within Sovnarkom constantly merged, which only added to the political confusion observed by other nations.
When Stalin became General Secretary of the Central Committee in April, 1922, changes developed within the power bases of the Politburo and Sovnarkom. A political drive developed in which Sovnarkom’s power as sole holder of the law (osnovnoi zakon) decreased, while the Congress of Soviets, and ultimately its successor body, the Supreme Soviet, created and upheld what was known as the fundamental law, as well as lesser laws (podzakony). The most important and most politically powerful, was the edict (ukaz) enforced by the Supreme Soviet, which saw itself as the preserver or shield of the Soviet Constitution. Under Stalin’s leadership, Sovnarkom could no longer initiate legislation or issue decrees. Now the Supreme Soviet was the only political body that could alter the laws endorsed by the 1936 Soviet Constitution. Stalin had an ally in Molotov, who would eventually become Sovnarkom chairman. The role played by Sovnarkom in the development of Soviet foreign policy during the interwar years, according to British historian Derek Watson, was both simple and complex.
In the late 1930s when Molotov became chairman of the Politburo sub-committee on foreign affairs, there can be little doubt that the procedure whereby foreign policy bypassed Sovnarkom was facilitated.NarkomInDel’s [People’s Commissariat of Foreign Affairs] representation for 1930-31 demonstrates that attendance at Sovnarkom was not a high priority for the commissariat... During 1931, of thirty-four meetings, M.M. Litvinov, the commissar, attended seven ... and the commissariat was unrepresented at eight.
In the case of defense, another area of Politburo control, representatives of the commissariat of war and naval affairs regularly attended Sovnarkom because thecommissariat was greatly affected by Sovnarkom decisions, for instance those relating to industrial production (18-19).
This example illustrates that although Sovnarkom was to play a role in arms production during the interwar period, it would not play a significant role in foreign policy decisions, although Litvinov and Molotov were both commissars or ministers within the political body of Sovanrkom. In assessing their reaction to the policies and personalities of foreign states toward the Soviet Union, it is important to remember that these men were first and foremost trusted representatives of the party, not just representatives of the Soviet Government.
It was also essential to have a trusted senior politician to head Sovnarkom who was to become recognized as the Soviet ‘premier’abroad and Molotov was to perform many of the formal functions of premier, receiving foreign ambassadors and delegations and signing agreements with foreign states through the 1930s. (Watson 45)
With the arrival of the Second World War, Molotov’s term of office as head of Sovnarkom was terminated. Stalin replaced Molotov as chairman of Sovnarkom, but was actually always a part of Sovnarkom, because according to historians, he “seems to have acted as chairman of a Bureau of Sovnarkom” from the beginning of 1941.
Molotov remained at the head of NarkomInDel and was one of the thirteen Sovnarkom deputy chairman who helped Stalin in the responsibilities of fighting the invader during the early days of the Great Patriotic War. While it was Molotov who give the radio speech on June 22, 1941 regarding the insidious attack by Nazi Germany upon the territory of the Soviet Union, it was Stalin who was eventually asked by the overall Soviet leadership to head the State Defense Committee known in the Western world as GKO. The Gosudarstvennyi Komitet Oborony (GKO) would become the main political organ along with Stavka, the General Headquarters of the Soviet High Command which included such men as Stalin, Molotov, Voroshilov, Budienny, Shaposhnikov, and Zhukov, Chief of Staff.
As far as Soviet diplomacy is concerned regarding the inter-war period and the various political moves made within the inner circles of the Soviet authorities, there is this interesting comment about Molotov becoming the People’s Commissar of Foreign Affairs, replacing the affable and astute Maxim Litvinov:
There was no mention of Maxim Litvinov, who had resigned on the previous day “at his own request” and whom Molotov had so abruptly replaced at the head of Soviet diplomacy... The small item caused a sensation throughout the world, where it was interpreted as the end of an epoch. (Werth 3)
The Russian-born émigré journalist reports that Hitler saw Litvinov’s resignation as something of “a cannon shot,” a signal that Soviet Russia had changed its attitude toward the West. But had the Soviet government, and the Soviet leadership, actually “changed” its attitudes and views of the bourgeois Western world, or had it merely disguised its strategy and tactics vis-a-vis the ongoing war between her ideological values and those of her opponents? I contend that the implementation of Maskirovka played a conscious and unconscious role in the changing of the guard regarding Soviet policy.
All great victories in the annals of diplomacy and war have been achieved through the art of deceit. I do not mean the kind of deceit one cultivates for personal gain or to thwart one’s enemies for revenge. In pursuing what I would call a heroic view of deceit, I would like to put forth the theory that not all nation-states within their culture or shared cultures possess the discipline or ideological sensibilities of ever-changing Marxist thought, nor are they able to transform deceit into a vital, creative strategy capable of defeating another nation-state. Maskirovka was a policy, a political and military strategy that came to terms with the complexities of the dialectical nature of history. In other cultures, for instance, the United States, which employs a methodology similar to that explored and utilized in fascist Germany in the 1930s and during the Second World War, a pattern of lying to one’s friends, as well as one’s enemies, prevails. We have only to look at the past to see how Germany, under the guidance of Hitler and his foreign advisors lied to the various countries around them. Today, we observe how the United States lied to its neighbors in Central and South America, as well as in the Middle East to continue American imperialist Pan-Americanism. I cite the meddling in the affairs of Mexico, Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, Panama, and Chile, as well as the various coups initiated in Iran.
There is, of course, duplicity and submissiveness on the part of the Central and South American leadership regarding its economic and political alliance with the United States. And within their own borders the mainstay of power among the military dictatorships and oligarchic families in South and Central America is the factor of fear. It is through the fear of death squads, economic censorship among the people of these nations, the threat of the loss of their civil rights, that the people have thought twice before revolting. This kind of imposed psychological and political fear is understood by the American Government and her leadership. Demands change among her allies only if they feel that revolts would result from an overly repressive dictatorship, otherwise they are silent unless it suits their interest to oppose such conduct, and that is only when they want to rid themselves of a man who no longer panders to its interest.
In Chile, the greatest tyrant to impose the physical and psychological methods of terror and fear among the masses was the military officer, Pinochet, which he did to such a profound and successful degree that for years the people lived not only by the need to work for their bread, but also by the need to remain silent so as to live another day. The opposite of Pinochet was the Panamanian leader, Manuel Noriega, who when no longer useful to the American vision of foreign policy that could dominate south of the North American borders, was eliminated politically through a well-orchestrated military invasion.
There is also deceitfulness among American leadership and the leadership among these various nations for any serious undertaking in developing healthy economic communities. Instead, there is implicit collusion among the United States and these nations to plunder the peoples that dwell there, and only mild and tentative political action against nations like Mexico and Columbia, some of the main providers of drug trafficking in the North American hemisphere have been taken. As long as these nations remain corrupt in the sense that their dealings with their own internal political and economic borders remain within the confines of their borders, then the American leadership was willing to look the other way.
In many ways, the various nations of Central and South America have being economic satellites for the United States. But conquest of other nations by the United States is not always one of military entrenchment within the confines of other people’s borders, but can also be incurred by payments in cash sums. During the Persian Gulf War, the United States government in effect fought a war against the regime of Saddam Hussein for Middle Eastern nations like that of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait by receiving monies to pay for military expenditures. It was a form of economic tribute paid to the American armed forces, which means that the American government and her army and navy became a national mercenary force. The reason for me relating to this particular event in the Middle East is to show how the United States has been able not only to control or put down revolts among her allies, but to also show by example how these events during periods of war and peace increased the American empire.
Only Ancient Athens rivals the United States of America for its massive intrusion and coarse intervention in the domestic affairs of other nation-states.
The use of various forms of deceit to achieve political victory over one’s enemies constitutes courage, heroism, and a form of greatness. As Niccolo Machiavelli writes in his Discourses on Livy:
Although employing deceit in every action is detestable, in waging a war it is, nevertheless, a laudable and glorious thing, and the man who employs deceit to overcome the enemy is to be praised, just like the man who overcomes him by force...I shall say only that I do not mean that deceit is glorious when it causes you to break your word and your agreements, because this kind of deceit,even though it may on occasion gain state and kingdom [my italics] for you...will never bring you glory (348).
Although Machiavelli is right in his assessment about not “employing deceit in every action,” one can go even a step further in tying the bonds of deception and political victory over one’s enemies. The very wise and instructive work of Sun Tzu called The Art of War, which is really essays on the deeper nature of war and politics, goes deeper into the art of espionage which is a part of the art of political and military deceit. In fact, the author or authors of the classic manual on war talks of the “need for foreknowledge” and even emphasizes that “One who confronts his enemy for many years in order to struggle for victory in a decisive battle yet who, because he begrudges rank, honors and a few hundred pieces of gold, remains ignorant of his enemy’s situation, is completely devoid of humanity” (Sun Tzu 144). The Chinese generals from ancient times were well aware that when they went fishing, that the greatest haul could only be attained by serious calculations regarding the deposition and nature of the enemies armies and political interests, and that to obtain such information, “It must be obtained from men who know the enemy situation” (145). My view is that it is possible to combine the theory of military and political deception as advocated by Clausewitz’s logical concepts, Machiavelli’s more secretive methods, and Sun Tzu’s more philosophical and rich clarity regarding what the Soviets called “Maskirovka”.
Let us return to the crux of the matter regarding the preparations for war between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. Although both nations may have utilized a form of Maskirovka in order to either invade or resist invasion, only one nation was able to achieve total victory, not only by the methods of deceit that it employed from the inter- war period to the beginning of that great war, but because of the inherent ethical view that was part of the fabric of that deceit. The “end justifies the means” as implemented by Maskirovka is evident in the context of advancing socialism and revolutionary war. Lenin wrote: “The philistine does not understand that war is a ‘continuation of politics’ and therefore limits himself ... without trying to understand why, by which class, and for what political object the war is being conducted” (Lenin on War and Peace, 6).
Deceit plays a major role in the strategy to wage a People’s War. Maskirovka is the continuation of politics and war by another means. However, Maskirovka is but one phase in achieving victory. Lenin also said the spiritual condition of a nation is the paramount source for winning wars. “In every war, victory is conditioned in the final analysis by the spiritual state of those masses who shed their blood on the field of battle” (18).
Former Czech dissident Hochman contends that the Soviet Union and its leadership still desired a favorable relationship with Nationalist Socialist Germany, even though the two great powers differed in world outlook. As Hochman attempts to state the Soviet position:
...as late as January 1934, the Soviet leadership still desired an improvement of relations with Germany and a return to the old cooperation. Stalin himself expressed the same attitude in his speech before the Seventeenth Congress of the CPSU on January 26, 1934: “Some German politicians say that the USSR has now taken an orientation toward France and Poland; that from an opponent of the Versailles Treaty it has become a supporter of it, and this change is to be explained by the establishment of the Fascist regime in Germany. That is not true... The point is that Germany’s policy has changed.” Divorce, however, was obviously inevitable. (26)
However, whoever said that there actually was a political marriage between Fascist Germany and the Soviet Union. Who said that these two rivals came together out of a great love for one other?
Like many historians who regard the former Soviet Union and its past leadership as lacking any kind of sophistication regarding a foreign policy outlook, Hochman does not include other important passages that Stalin uttered during that speech which was more than about political suitability or propriety. Although it was indeed on that same day-January 26, 1934- that Fascist Germany signed a nonaggression treaty with Poland, Stalin was able to balance his need to handle Germany with a political acumen that did not imply a “special relationship with Germany,” as Hochman implies in his study of Soviet diplomacy and collective security in Western Europe. Stalin in his Report to the Eighteenth Party Congress, commented further on Germany’s urge to expand its horizons toward the West and East:
Germany’s withdrawal from the League of Nations and the specter of revanchism have further added to the tension and have given a fresh impetus to the growth of armaments in Europe. Chauvinism and preparation of war as the main elements of foreign policy; repression of the working class and terrorism in the sphere of home policy as a necessary means for strengthening the rear of future war fronts. It is not surprising that fascism has now become the most fashionable commodity among war-mongering bourgeois politicians. I am referring not only to fascism in general, but primarily, to fascism of the German type, which is wrongly called national-socialism-wrongly because the most searching examination will fail to reveal even an atom of socialism in it.
It is well known that ancient Rome looked upon the ancestors of the present-day Germans and French in the same way as the representatives of the “superior race” now look upon the Slav races... between ourselves be it said, ancient Rome had some ground for this, which cannot be said of the representative of the “superior race” of today...The upshot was that the non-Romans, i.e., all the “barbarians,” united against the common enemy and brought Rome down with a crash (684-685).
Although Stalin was neither an academician nor a historian in the classical sense, he understood that prudent foreign policy and strong domestic leadership could be a bulwark against a common enemy. Certainly Germany was not modern Rome, nor would it ever be the thousand-year Reich that Hitler envisioned, but like all arrogant nations that attempt to bend everyone to its will, it faced in the end its utter destruction. Although Stalin did not contribute to the total welfare of the Soviet State with regard to foreign policy strategy, he was somewhat like the prince that Machiavelli described: “that ... prince whose people are armed and organized for warfare should always wait at home for a violent and dangerous war and should not go out on the attack” (185).
Stalin was no prince, but he was a shrewd statesman who knew how to warn his enemies, but who also knew how to be patient and destroy his enemies, or any nation-state he saw as physically threatening the Soviet Union. Perhaps he should have attacked Nazi Germany before being attacked. However, throughout history the Russian people have been most successful at waging war on their own home ground, rather than pursuing a war of aggression outside its borders. The emotional devastation of victimization by invasion was a historical fact among the Soviet people.
What brought about this uneasiness was not always apparent to Soviet diplomatic circles. I suggest that a suspicion of Western foreign policy since the time of the Czars was embedded in the Russian political world vision. Invasion by the Mongols, the Swedes, the Poles, and the French were not events that could easily be forgotten. An invasion, and especially a pattern of invasion, into a territory always leaves fear and a defensive attitude among the people who endure such violent incursions.
Soviet diplomacy was also to play a part in the way the Soviet government would react to events outside its borders. In probably the most important speech he was ever to give to Communist party members in Soviet Russia, Stalin laid out to the Eighteenth Party Congress his vision of the world as seen within the Socialist camp. He did not mince words, but he was careful to describe the alliances that were being formed prior to the war, the causes of these alliances, and how the Soviet Union intended to react to a dangerous situation. It was reported that laughter erupted in the hall in the Kremlin, where Stalin spoke with eloquence, humor, and sarcasm. There was no need to explain Stalin’s subtleties to the audience. They were a part of his culture, and responded naturally to his wit. Here is the first explanation Stalin gave for the Second World War:
Thus the war, which has stolen so imperceptibly upon the nations, has drawn over 500 million people into its orbit and has extended its sphere of action over a vast territory, stretching from Tiensin, Shanghai and Canton, through Abyssinia, to Gibraltar. After the first imperialist war the victor states, primarily Britain, France, and the United States, set up a new regime in the relations between countries, the post-war peace regime... The main props of this regime were the Nine-Power Pact in the Far East, and the Versailles and a number of other treaties in Europe (881).
As we see, Josef V. Stalin, the primary leader of the Russian Communist Party paid immediate homage to the fiercely contested conflict that erupted among the cities and provinces in China between Nationalist Chinese forces and battle-hardened Japanese forces in 1937. The Japanese were not only interested in expanding northward but also southward where oil could be taken from the colonies in the Pacific basin controlled by the Dutch petroleum companies. The Japanese knew that if they were to be successful in their push outward from their island bases, they would have to conquer the Chinese, then the British, Dutch, French, and American forces entrenched along a southern route in the Pacific Ocean.
The road of aggression by Japan was not as easily traveled as a war map might indicate. It was in the early months of 1940 that the Japanese thought better of going to war against Soviet Russia, although she had designs on Soviet Outer Mongolia. Gorodetsky, an Israeli historian, gives this description of Japanese “good will” towards the Soviet leadership and the Red Army:
In Japan, the new Prime Minister Fumimaro Konoe, an ardent advocate of an alliance with Germany, now sanctioned the Japanese expansion southward against the British and the Americans and sought to regulate relations with Russia through German mediation. However, the Soviet advance into Bessarabia, a move precipitated by the dynamism of Hitler’s policies, was bound to divert Germany to the Balkans. Schulenburg continued to rebut suggestions that the Soviet annexation of Bessarabia was motivated by a wish to seize the Rumanian oilfields. (40)
The Japanese government allowed to some extent the Nazi leadership to direct them as to the Soviet Union’s intentions.
The beginning of the Second World War did not begin with the capitulation of Czechoslovakia through the Munich Agreement in which the Western powers gave away that country in order to placate Hitler. Nor did the engines of the Wehrmacht of the German Sixth Army in Poland mean that war would devastate all of Europe, including Russia. The fact is that World War II began with Japan’s invasion of China, which happened to run ahead of, and was politically parallel with, Germany’s interest in dominating modern civilization.
Some historians claim that the Spanish Civil War was the start of the Second World War. To the question of where and why the Second World War broke out, I would have to say that the rapid military growth of German Fascism, along with the rising power of the United States which brought fear and a normal feeling of threat among Imperial Japan, including the spread of the ideas of revolution and communism from Soviet Russia also played a major and significant role as to the real cause of the war. However, I will submit that it is fair to give some ground to those who claim there were other causes, one of those being the beginning of the Spanish Civil War. According to one American historian:
The outbreak of the Spanish Civil War marked a major turning point in the European balance of power. Adolf Hitler, the Fuhrer of Germany, and Benito Mussolini, the Duce of Italy, aided the Spanish military rebellion in a cooperation that paved the way for their political understanding in October 1936- the Axis. On the other side of the barricades, the Soviet Union supported the Spanish Republicans, and substantial unofficial aid flowed from France to the Loyalists, though the French and British governments officially avoided confronting the Fascist and Nazi dictatorships (Whealey 1).
This so-called “last great cause” in Europe did not mean that the whole world showed a deep interest in the two opposing sides who vied to control the Spanish people and their nation. The Spanish generals were given verbal and military assurance from the Third Reich regime. One of the leaders of the Spanish military coup, Francisco Franco, was in league with three other powerful generals: Jose Sanjurjo, Emilio Mola, and Gonzalo Queipo de Llano. Franco made a “personal appeal” to Hitler to come to his aid regarding not only his return to mainland Spain from Tuetan, Spanish Morocco, but also requested transport planes and arms. Not without hesitation, Hitler made one of the first of his gambling and restless choices, although he was to confer with two German businessmen with strong connections with the coup leaders, who convinced Hitler on July 25, 1936, that indeed a military victory looked not only possible but favorable for Franco’s Moroccan African troops. Hitler then issued the first of a number of orders regarding his entry into the political and military fray in Spain. The first operation, called Operation Feuezauber (named “Magic Fire” after Wagner’s operatic theme) began with the setting up of military bases near Tetuan and Seville which included eighty-five Germans military specialists, as well as JU 52 planes (Whealey 7).
Two parallel interventions regarding the matter of internal chaos or civil war occurred when the United States covertly became involved with the coup against the Allende regime in Chile, and Israeli General Ariel Sharon’s belligerent meddling with the Palestinian uprising in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Therefore, it would not be too far-sighted to say that the first modern ‘pioneering’ of political and military intervention in another nation’s affairs began with Nazi Germany’s intrusion into the Spanish conflict, and that later, the United States and other nation states such as Israel would refine further the darker side of this political arena. Thus, the Luftwaffe and German tanks would come over the skies of Spain and on the battlefields from Spain down to the Ebro River and beyond. And in the latter days of October during the bitter Spanish struggle:
....unknown to the few Germans actively serving Spain and the Nationalist leadership, the German government made the decision to increase the German involvement in the form of a composite air organization of about 5,000 men with their equipment. This organization was composed of a Bomber Group, Fighter Group, Reconnaissance Squadron, Seaplane Squadron, Antiaircraft (flak) Group, and the required ground support squadrons. The Germans already committed to Spain would be incorporated into its ranks. The organization was to be known as the “Condor Legion”... (Proctor 3).
Ironically, German fighter pilots would find themselves fighting against Soviet fighter pilots with whom they might have had contact at secret airbases deep within the Don Basin during the years when there were joint military exercises and training with the Soviets and the German forces. There were many military lessons to learn in Spain which would contribute to the creative art of war for both the Soviet Union and the German air force and armies. The Luftwaffe were to improve their fighter planes after engaging both French and Russian fighter planes over the skies of Spain. If the Stuka dive bombers did not prove as valuable as the Germans would have liked them to be, then its long-range strategic bomber units did achieve a large degree of effectiveness, especially in avoiding daylight anti-aircraft artillery and flak units, delivering bomb payloads over the Spanish cities and battlefields at night. According to American historian, Whealey,
There were other general benefits to the German military from the Spanish war. Needless to say, some of the 16,800 to 19,000 who served in Spain entered Poland in the fall of 1939 as combat veterans. ...More specifically, the Legion Condon veterans organized a training team in Germany upon their return and trained 200 air crews for the Polish Campaign (Whealey 107).
Although the successful Spanish experience whetted Hitler’s appetite for Anschluss, the war in Spain would not be as totally convincing to put fear into the British, French, and Soviets as many historians have argued. Even the German Luftwaffe General, Adolf Galland would state in his autobiography, The First and the Last: The Rise and Fall of the German Fighter Forces, 1938-1945:
The Spanish civil war had only yielded knowledge and experience in the technical and tactical fields. Strategically we broke new ground in the summer of 1940.... As a result of experience gained on maneuvers and in the Spanish Civil war, fighters were only regarded in air defense as an extension to the AA guns (Galland 63, 165).
There was then progress on the battlefields of Spain regarding military experimentation or on the ‘test lab’ of Spanish territory, but this does not mean that the Spanish experience brought the world to the next world war. Thus we are able to see that the German involvement with Spanish and air units who fought the Republican forces was but a short-range military operation and that “The lessons of Spain should not, of course, be exaggerated. Some of the German military experience proved valuable in World War II, while other ‘lessons’ were misapplied by the successors of the Legion Condor or were show to be misleading” (Whealey 108).
The Republican forces were given vast support by the International Brigades which were aided and supervised by the Popular Front forces in France and that of the Cominter, which was directed by Georgi Dimitroff. The stages of Soviet support and development with the Republican Government was a rather slow process and actually proceeded with the caution for which the Soviet Government was famous, especially during the years of the ‘thirties.
While Hitler was concerned to some extent with Germany’s southern flank, the government of the Soviet Union was more concerned with its Western borders, especially the area along the Polish frontier. What is interesting in hindsight after years of the beginning of the Spanish struggle is that “Russian personnel as such did not, therefore, bulk large as a military factor on the side of the Spanish Republic. An estimated total of 600 to 800 Russian military advisors served in Loyalist Spain at any given time, while throughout the war the total number of Russians never exceeded 2,000" (Whealey 23).
The great clash between German AA artillery against the powerful Soviet two-engine Katiuska SB-2 bombers during that period prior to the World War, the sky duels of the awkward He-51s German fighters and the Italian Fiat CR-32 fighters against the Soviet planes known as the Polikarpov I-15 fighters, not to mention the Soviet T-26 tanks with their bristling machine guns, 45mm cannon, and revolving turret, all made for serious creative drama in the air and on the fields of Spain. Much later, many Soviet tank men and Soviet air force personnel would apply their own lessons on the homeland of their own country in fighting the German armies and air forces. As for the ‘test lab’ of killing human beings in great numbers, the pioneering efforts did begin in Spain to some degree, which would also influence modern nations in waging war in the last years of the twentieth century and into the beginning of year 2000. At the Spanish city of Badajoz southeast of Merida near the Portugal border, General Juan Blanco Yague not only defeated the small band of Republican militiamen and:
On 14 August , after heavy artillery and bombing attacks, the walls of Badajoz were breached by suicidal attack from Yague’s Legionarios. Then a savage and indiscriminate slaughter began during which nearly two thousand people were shot, including many innocent civilians who were not political militants. According to Yague’s biographer, in ‘the paroxysm of war’, it was impossible to distinguish pacific citizens from leftist militia-men, the implication being that it was perfectly acceptable to shoot prisoners. The Legionarios and the Regulares unleashed an orgy of looting and the carnage left streets strewn with corpses, a scene of what one eye-witness called ‘desolation and dread’. After the heat of battle had cooled, two thousand prisoners were rounded up and herded to the bull-ring, and any with the bruise of a rifle recoil on their shoulders were shot. The shootings went on for weeks thereafter (Preston 166).
If the beginning of mass executions would begin in Spain, then they would further escalate in the countries of Poland, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Greece, and finally in the lands of the Soviet Union. The line between mass murder and military expediency or military elimination became blurred. This kind of behavior is not necessarily unusual, as witnessed by the Imperial Athenian forces that executed and slaughtered innocent citizens at Mytilene. In one sense, the siege of Badajoz was similar in character to the siege and taking of Mytilene during the Peloponnesian War, except that it was raised to a higher murderous degree.
Human nature involving war goes through historical cycles in an almost repetitive manner. Modern violent impulsive behavior and the rational side of human behavior is different from that of ancient times in that the contest between peoples and nations is not just about territorial gain but also about ideological aspirations and needs. Thus, the camps of capitalism which can and do produce fascist states run counter to the welfare of those who live and abide by the rules of socialist convictions. But even among these different political camps is the need either to gain more by war and political duplicity, or by the naive hope that because one does not hold to the side of greed that one will survive. Before and during the period of war, all kinds of psychological manifestations occur which lead people to think that they can get away with executing others with hidden or open malice, or that death need not be feared because the cause is worth it.
After the military incursion into Spanish territory, the Germans wanted more, which caused them to have overconfidence and overreach themselves for more territorial booty into Poland and beyond. It was with the encounter with the Soviet Union that the issue of Imperialism and Socialism came to a head, and it was to this profound degree that the other issues like morbid nationalism and the belief in military fortune or luck, was part and parcel of the overall pattern of modern warfare. So, we must ask ourselves if Spain or the need for other territorial aspirations on the part of the German forces brought about the greatest of all wars in modern times.
Others argue that the taking of the Sudetenland by German armies was the event that ignited World War II. And still others would say that Poland was a bombshell that wreaked havoc in Europe, and that’s what ultimately caused the War. It is impossible to mark precisely a war’s beginning. The participants posture and pose towards one another like guests at a masquerade ball, until the terrible moment when the masks are removed and the killing starts. Diplomacy is but an invitation, a courtesy, a veiled screen, for the preparation for war. Stalin and the Soviet Government played a dramatic, shifting game. The initial deception lay in the call for “collective security” by M. Litvinov, who was seen as a Western-style diplomat within the Soviet Foreign Ministry. Known as the Narkomindel, men such as Litvinov, Maisky, and Surits, would ride out the storm of pursuing peace while quietly and pragmatically preparing for war. It was finally Viacheslav Mikhailovich Molotov who put the coup de grace to the Soviet policy of “spheres of influence” that lay beyond the borders of Soviet Russia.
The relative shortness of these spheres of geographical influences made the preparation for war more difficult and created anxiety in the various governments that were either interested in the invasion process or in the protection of their own borders. For instance, from Berlin to Moscow it is only 1006 miles as the crow flies, and only 545 miles from Berlin to Paris. Although there was a body of ocean water to eventually navigate if one desired to invade Great Britain, it was still only 577 miles from the capital of Nazi Germany to the gates of London.
In our times, if a war is contemplated in Washington D.C. on the Peoples Republic of China, then it is 6, 941 miles at least to Tiananmen Square in Beijing. If the United States chose to attempt a first strike at the heart of Russian, the mileage in the footsteps of war is 4,873 miles. If the United States decided that they could afford a two-front war then the mileage is eminent should the adversaries be the Russians and Chinese. During World War II, it was not only an ideological outlook that concerned nations in the East and West in relationship to their own borders and their abutting spheres of influence, but confined land space was a major issue in the transporting of armies to the front lines during the first signals for an attack. In today’s modern age, these same fears of geographical shortness regarding war and the preparation for war exist because nuclear-tipped missiles can travel with relative swiftness, that is should there be no missile shield to protect against incoming nuclear missile attack.
During the Great Patriotic War, the Soviet armies were able to retreat deep into mountain ranges and even land areas, where it would takes months, if not years, for the German forces to dislodge them. Another factor of great importance is the land armor and the aircraft that was used at that time during all the theaters in that war. The lack of enough fuel for fighter and bomber craft and the need for tank trends that could endure over thick mud and uneven earth were also of great concern. Even though the topography varied from country to country during the major war theaters of World War II, the shortness from initial line in the attack to the enemy final defense position depended not only on the courage of the troops, navies, and air forces to wage war, but also their logistic support and the materials they fought with would also decide the outcome. Even though the mileage from Berlin to Paris or London was relatively shorter than from say New York to Chicago (810 miles), the shortness of the time of conflict depended on the sophistication of war equipment. Although the German forces would prove that they could invade the Soviet Union easily enough, what they showed to the world was that horse-driven lorries could not defeat the endless mud of Russia in the Springtime.
Litvinov shared Stalin’s attitudes about prudence towards the enemy, but it was Molotov who proved to be a brilliant, irascible diplomat, when it came to demands and concessions. Although it was Litvinov who coined the term “collective security” regarding a pact with Western allies who opposed, at least nominally, the first political and military pronouncements of Nazi German, it was Stalin who chided the Western governments and their leaders in his Eighteenth Party Congress Speech by saying:
The chief reason... that non-aggressive countries, particularly Britain and France, have rejected the policy of collective security, the policy of collective resistance to aggressors, and have taken up a position of non-intervention... might be defined as follows: “Let each country defend itself against the aggressors as it likes and as best it can. That is not our affair. We shall trade both with aggressors and with their victims.” But actually speaking, the policy of non-intervention means conniving at aggression, giving free rein to war. (883-884).
Stalin at first put on the mask of succinct, harsh diplomatic theory, while offering the olive branch of “collective resistance” to Japan, and particularly Germany. It is my contention that all nation-states during the twentieth century, regardless of their ideological fusions or sympathies, were involved in self-seeking purposes. The difference in the outlook of diplomatic behavior between competing powers during World War II was that the Soviet Union had no interest in seeking out new colonies; its main concern was to maintain security within its own borders. Of course, the Soviet leaders were not naive: they sought new outlets for trade, passages to the seas without feeling threatened by foreign navies, and a stronger presence in international relations in general. They were not hypocritical in declaring their intentions but practiced deception to cultivate strategies to retain what they had. They wanted to open trade possibilities with other nation-states sympathetic to their socialist constructs formed from the revolution of 1917. At the same time, the British, American, French, Japanese, and especially the Germans, sought to expand their natural geographical boundaries at the expense of other nation-states. Thus, contradictions arose between these nation-states that created conflict.
The flirtation towards a Soviet and Japanese alliance was full of theatrical drama and intrigue. During the autumn of 1940, Beria, head of the People’s Commissariat of Internal Affairs, or NKVD, warned Stalin of Hitler’s intent to forge an alliance between Japan, a member of the Tripartite Axis, and Bolshevik Russia. Gorodetsky articulates this assumption without substantiation, referencing recently opened archival material. He concludes that Stalin would not be receptive to a de facto alliance with Japan because Stalin wanted to gain “a clear impression of Hitler’s plans during Molotov’s forthcoming trip to Berlin” (Gorodetsky 191). What that clear impression was, Gorodetsky does not say, leaving an ambiguous conclusion: either Stalin was buying time in the hope that the Treaty of Nonaggression between Germany and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, signed by Ribbentrop and Molotov in Moscow on August 23, 1939, would delay the onset of war, or prevent war between the two emerging world powers.
Stalin’s flirtation with the Tripartite Axis may not have been so much to appease the Germans as to neutralize the Japanese through laborious and tedious diplomatic maneuvers. Stalin’s aim, according to Gorodetsky, was to delay by drawing the Japanese into exhaustive and tedious negotiations on fishing rights. Once the fishing convention was concluded at the end of January, Stalin moved on to equally arduous negotiations on a trade agreement (Gorodetsky 191).
Canadian historian Michael Jabara Carley, in his work, 1939: The Alliance That Never Was and the Coming of World War II, gives a brief, but succinct account of the Soviet perception of Japan prior to their meetings in 1941: “Schulenberg also let it drop that Germany might assist the Soviet Union in improving relations with Japan. This was no doubt to sweeten German offers since the Red Army was again involved in serious fighting with the Japanese Kwangtung army along the Manchurian frontier” (177). In response to Schulenberg’s provocative chit-chat, Potemkin noted, “I limited myself to the dry observation that nothing prevented Germany from showing the seriousness of its intent to improve relations with the USSR. As for Japan, until now it has done everything possible to demonstrate its hostility toward our country” (Carley 177).
However, Soviet perceptions about the international situation in the 1930s were in place prior to the war itself. The Soviet government was assisted in forming its view by the German journalist Richard Sorge, a Soviet intelligence agent, who warned that an alliance between Germany and Japan would lead to war. Gorodetsky’s presentation of Sorge’s information left little doubt as to the nature of the two Tripartite members’ goals. Sorge’s first significant report, dated March 10, 1941, focused on the pressure exerted on Japan to “invigorate her role in the Tripartite Pact” against the Soviet Union rather than make a move southward. Information obtained from a special courier who just arrived from Berlin added that such an approach was particularly popular among military circles. (Gorodetsky 182). However, the information given to Stalin contradicted his intelligence reports, which predicted that the Nazi government would not strike against the borders of the Soviet Union until the war in the West was won.
Stalin likely thought that he had time to concentrate on further strengthening the Red Army forces along the Baltic frontiers, as well as consolidate his own power at home. It is important to note Stalin’s warning at the Eighteenth Party Congress speech, in which he cautioned against taking sides against Britain, the United States, and France, or voicing opposition to the creation of a military bloc against German, Italian, and Japanese interests on a global scale.
Diplomacy could still play a role between Germany and the Soviet Union, despite signals of Germany’s preparations for war. In May, Sorge briefed Moscow that Hitler was resolved “to crush the Soviet Union.” The statement was modified to leave room for diplomatic maneuvers, suggesting that war would become “inevitable” only if the Russians were to cause further problems. The dismissive attitude of the German generals towards the Red Army and its defensive capabilities could also be addressed through a careful show of force and confidence, such as that evinced in Stalin’s speech to the graduates of the war academies on 5 May (Gorodetsky 182).
Later, in June, 1941, Sorge informed the Soviet government of an impending German attack in the second half of the month. Despite great efforts at intelligence gathering and the interest on all sides to engage in diplomatic téte-a-tétes, entangled political maneuvering continued among all parties concerned. In addition to the warnings received from Sorge, Stalin was aware that relations between the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany had deteriorated. British Ambassador to Moscow Sir Stafford Cripps believed that war would eventually occur between these two countries. Assessing this information, some of which was based on innuendos and hearsay, was complicated by the fact that Stalin was also aware of Cripps’ desire for a split or parting of ways between Germany and the Soviet Union.
In time, it became apparent that none of the Western powers involved in these diplomatic machinations and negotiations that led to World War II were concerned with a so-called lasting peace but only with holding onto power at all costs. Raw power, whether military or political, was the overwhelming desire of both tyrants and false democratic leaders, and their ambitions led directly to war. We only have to look at the end of the twentieth century with conflicts raging far and wide in areas such as Grenada, Panama, the Persian Gulf, the Balkans, various nation-states in Africa and South America, and in Chechnya. In World War II, this natural human inclination was aided by diplomatic practices that had ceased to be effective by the end of the nineteenth century. The Americans, the British, and particularly the French-and to some extent Soviet ambassadors like Litvinov, Maiskii, and Surits-were all capable of soothing their enemies’ passions with language that concealed other intentions.
Relations between Germany and Russia have always been complex. Since the time of Peter the Great, there have been both cooperation and rivalry regarding culture, society, trade, and defense in relations between these two countries. Underlying their historical connection has been a desire on both sides to master Western Europe. The Russians, and then the Soviets, have always known that Germany would eventually control Western Europe. The Germans have known since the time of Frederick the Great that Russia is a vast territory, isolated from the seas, making difficult the business of trade, cultural interests, and military advantage. It is no surprise then that Nazi Germany sealed her fate not by invading Czechoslovakia and Poland in 1939 and 1940, but by her desire to further isolate and destroy the Soviet Union, who more than any other country in the world wanted to get beyond the “lake” that confines her, the great Black Sea. Russia has always wanted open access to the seas.
The Soviet Union realized rather early on that to survive economically and militarily, she had to have access to the Turkish Straits. Hitler also knew that the Turkish straits, particularly the Dardanelles, that thin but important water way leading to the Aegean, must be controlled at all costs. It was not enough to subjugate the Poles or the Czechs. It was the oil fields in Rumania, and more importantly the country of Bulgaria which held the key to enslaving Western Europe and the Baltic States. However, what Hitler and his German generals failed to realize was that the Soviet Union, whether or not it had a “collective security” with England, France, or even the United States, would not passively stand by and be cornered.
Poland had naively thought she could play the West against Russia, and demanded Teschen, a wealthy district in Czechoslovakia. But before the Nazi-Soviet Pact was even ratified in 1939, Western diplomacy made it apparent to high Soviet authorities that the West could not be trusted. Both the French and the English were disposed to allow nations like Poland to take advantage of a dangerous situation, thinking that the Soviet Union would not care or notice what was taking place so near its borders. (Garley 45). Carley has this to say about French behavior toward Poland’s expansionism:
Although French officials often pointed out to the Poles that they had an interest in supporting Czechoslovakia and in resisting German aggression against it, the Poles saw matters otherwise. Their attitude toward the Czechs was hostile and covetous: Czechoslovakia was an inevitable state and nesting ground for communists. It held the district of Teschen, which the Poles claimed as irredenta... In April, the French ambassador in Berlin, Andre Francois-Poncet told the Soviet charge d’affaires that Poland was “clearly helping Germany” in its anti-Czech activities. The ambassador threw up his hands in a gesture of helplessness-but was the French government really so helpless? (45).
Although they saw the disaster coming, the French were loath to take political or military action against the Poles. The British likewise failed to stop Poland from collusion with Nazi Germany. Carley makes this dry and understated comment about French and British apathy regarding the Polish question:
It was the old question of whether the Polish government would permit the Red Army to cross its territory to meet the Nazi enemy. This was a crucial issue in 1938, though French and British diplomats had earlier reported the difficulty. Soviet troops, Payart [French chargé d’affaires] had noted, once on Polish territory might not want to leave. The Polish government, having taken Soviet territory in 1919-1920, understandably feared that the Soviets might one day want to take it back. Little wonder, Sir Howard Kennard, the British ambassador in Warsaw, commented after Munich, that collective security had foundered on Polish opposition. Although the British government took a dim view of the Polish seizure of Teschen, its attitude to the Poles in March, 1939 was to let bygones be bygones (107).
Although certain French foreign policy makers such as Leger and Corbin testified in various diplomatic briefs that the British were too lenient with the Polish government, it was little more than a liberal stance that these diplomatic gentlemen advocated. They knew that Colonel Beck, the Polish foreign minister, was closer to the adventurous policies of Nazi Germany than to any prudent foreign policy of actually preparing for war against German invaders. So, although I have pointed out certain disadvantages for the Soviet Union regarding its sphere of influence with such states as Czechoslovakia and Poland, there were other irons in the fire that the Soviets were concerned about, and pulling the “chestnuts out of the fire” for the leaders of the West could never be one of their major concerns.
By late summer of 1939, the German and Soviet leadership agreed that the time had come to sign a treaty of non-aggression. The post-modern view, exemplified by historian Gorodetsky, who was influenced by the so-called “leading expert” on Soviet foreign policy, Teddy Uldricks, contrasts with the view proposed by historians of a Leftist persuasion, which viewed the signing of the pact by the Soviet Union as not only a way to secure their borders but to strengthen the garrisons of the Red Army along the Baltic frontiers.
Idealistic Americans viewed the signing of the pact both with dismay and relief; they wanted confirmation that the Soviet Union’s priority was world revolution, not an expansionism towards the West and beyond. Revisionist historians such as Robert Tucker and V. Rezun are convinced that Stalin was able to manipulate Hitler into power by misusing the Comintern, the Communist International, and the German Communist Party as political provocateurs to undermine elections held during the fateful year of 1932. Soon after the disastrous Reichstag elections in which the power to rule Germany was up for grabs, Hitler came to power as the result of a Rightist coalition cabinet that developed due to fear of revolution and German communist political gains. British historian Craig fully understands the problem regarding pre-Nazi Germany and its efforts to destroy or neutralize the German Communists, which had nothing to do with Soviet communism, Stalin, or possible invasion of the Soviet Union. Six years before the Nazi-Soviet pact was signed:
The only soldier who made an effort to keep Hitler from the chancellorship was Hindenburg, who did not like the corporal and who wanted his favorite Papen back at his side. But Papen himself had seen that was impossible and that the only way to get the support of the NSDAP [ National Socialist Worker’s party] which a government would need if it were to be strong enough to restore stability and stop the growth of Communism, was to give Hitler the post he coveted (Craig 568).
As Craig explains, the ripening of fascism in Germany became a German internal affair. This is not to say that Stalin was on the other side of the fence with such men as Chamberlain and Daladier, both conservative prime ministers from their respective countries, Britain and France. On the contrary, Stalin courted neither Hitler nor the leadership of the Western allies. If one reads the Eighteenth Party Congress Speech seriously, one can see that Stalin’s goal is to consolidate socialism within the borders of the Soviet Union. Unlike Lenin, Stalin lived through a different era, and this is important to remember. Stalin had other concerns, even if they do appear rather idealistic at the end of this century. In his report to the Soviet peoples on March 10, 1939, almost five months before the signing of the pact with Nazi Germany, Stalin said this about the conditions in Europe and the progress he thought was being achieved in Soviet Russia:
It might be attributed, for example, to the fear that a revolution might break out if the non-aggressive states were to go to war and the war were to assume world-wide proportions ... but at present this is not the sole or even the chief reason. The chief reason is that the majority of the non-aggressive countries ... have rejected the policy of collective security...The abolition of exploitation and the consolidation of the socialist economic system, the absence of unemployment,... the enormous expansion of industry-all this has created effective conditions for a further rise in the standard of living of the workers and peasants. In its turn, the improvement in the standard of living of living of the workers and peasants has naturally led to an improvement in the standard of living of the intelligentsia. (883, 906)
In 1939, the Soviet State was beginning to recover from the purges initiated by the political organs of the CCP, as well as those by Stalin himself. The famines resulting from bureaucratic bungling in agriculture areas, not to mention the weeding out of elements within the military and party cadres themselves, left Soviet Russia with no choice but to pursue the road of cautious and pragmatic activity in foreign policy. Moral judgments of other countries’ affairs were in the interest of the Soviet foreign policy makers, but a political consolation of power within the borders of the Soviet Union was paramount, and this could only be achieved by taking all the necessary zigzag routes in foreign policy.
The consolation of power within the borders of the Soviet Union envisioned by the Soviet leaders is reflected in the six or seven articles of the Treaty of Nonaggression Between Germany and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. (See Appendix A.) The key clause in ARTICLE I is “to desist from any act of violence...any attack on each other, either individually or jointly with other powers.” As I have tried to show through citing various historians, Germany and her allies, not to mention such nations as Poland, were intent on exploiting the disruption of Europe following the Depression and the rise of fascism in Central and Southern Europe. As I shall point out in the following chapters, states such as Rumania, Turkey, and Bulgaria played an even more significant role in the aggressive nature and tactics implemented by fascist powers in Europe during the first half of the twentieth century.
ARTICLE II states: “Should one of the High Contracting Parties become the object of belligerent action by a third power...the other....Party shall in no manner lend its support to this third power.” Nazi Germany did, in fact, through diplomatic and military channels covertly encourage the Japanese to test the will and resolve of the Soviet Union. Molotov, Stalin, and the others who were part of the Narkomindel, were well aware of German intrigues before and after the pact was signed.
Interestingly, ARTICLE III states that both parties shall “maintain continual contact with one another for the purpose of consultation...,” which actually took place up to the last day, when Nazi Germany attacked the Soviet Union.
ARTICLE IV concerns the agreement that “Neither of the two High contracting Parties shall participate in any grouping of powers...,” which would constitute a threat to either party. Both nations, in effect, backed off from ARTICLE IV. Germany had the Tripartite countries to lean on, while Soviet diplomats repeatedly met with British, French, Turkish, Rumanian, Bulgarian, Japanese, and even American diplomats to ascertain their position, not only on a pact of “collective security,” but the possibility of direct military alliance.
ARTICLE V’s rather tragic vision states that “both parties shall settle these disputes or conflicts exclusively through friendly exchange of opinion or, if necessary, through the establishment of arbitration commissions.” In fact, no “arbitration commissions” ever took place, because both nation-states were continually jockeying for position of military and trade agreements with other nations that would ally with them in case of war. War took place, and any “friendly exchange” that had ever existed between the diplomats of Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union proved to have been merely surface gestures.
ARTICLE VI, divided into two sections, was an understanding that the treaty would stand the test of time for at least several years, and allowed for the possibility that the agreements could be “extended” or re-ratified for another five years. In fact, there was no extension of the treaty, and the pact lasted less than two years. Hitler instead took his chances and gambled away his treaty with the Soviet Union. On a hot and humid day on June 22, 1941, German tanks, along with German fighter planes and bombers, crossed into Soviet territory, accompanied by thousands of German infantry, and the Nazi-Soviet Pact was ground up like so much fodder under the treads of Nazi tanks rumbling over the Russian countryside.