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Post Kissinger's Strange Coziness with Putin
Created by John Eipper on 05/30/22 4:34 AM

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Kissinger's Strange Coziness with Putin (Boris Volodarsky, Austria, 05/30/22 4:34 am)

When a counterintelligence officer starts to investigate a suspected agent of influence, he first of all pays attention to the pattern. An agent, any agent, must behave according to a certain pattern and an agent of influence is always saying or writing something which corresponds to the pattern provided by his or her handler from the headquarters. So, as soon as the media reported Henry Kissinger's statements at the World Economic Forum in Davos (see, for example, The Washington Post of May 24) that Ukraine should cede its territory to Russia to end the war, but especially when his so-familiar exhortations were quoted on WAIS, I decided to do a quick due diligence check on Herr Heinz (Kissinger's first name at birth), who had served as a US Secretary of State and National Security Advisor.

As soon as Mr Kissinger made his statement in Davos on Monday, May 23, Yuri Shvets, a former KGB officer at the Washington KGB station, commented it in his YouTube channel (joining a number of prominent Ukrainian politicians like Inna Sovsun, MP, Mikhailo Podolyak, President Zelensky's adviser, Oleksiy Arestovych, another adviser, and others) calling this suggestion "truly shameful." But Mr Shvets went further saying that when he worked undercover in Washington as a TASS correspondent in 1985-7, it was a well-known fact that Kissinger used to be a KGB agent of the sort when he was active in politics. This explains his more than warm relations with Putin personally and his support of the Kremlin course in this war.

My first approach produced an immediate result, because quite by chance I came across a book by Frank Capell with a rather sensation title, Henry Kissinger: Soviet Agent https://www.amazon.co.uk/Henry-Kissinger-Soviet-Frank-Capell/dp/0972416013/ref=monarch_sidesheet

The book was first published in 1974 and was then reprinted a couple of times. I have found a copy in my home library but it soon became clear that the author bases his conclusions on wild guesses and exaggerations.

My next call was to Washington, DC, to General Oleg Kalugin, a former head of the KGB foreign counterintelligence directorate "K" who was also head of Line PR (political intelligence) at the Washington embassy in the late 1960s. Kalugin explained that Kissinger had never been a KGB agent but rather a so-called confidential contact who maintained close friendly relations with Kalugin's deputy Boris Sedov, a KGB officer under the APN (Novosti Press Agency) cover accredited in Washington. In his book, Kalugin remembers that in the course of his Novosti work Sedov had met Kissinger, who was then at Harvard University. They hit it off and began meeting frequently and although Kissinger had never been recruited, he was a good source of political intelligence. When Kissinger became a close political adviser to Nixon during the election campaign, this contact was used as a fruitful back channel between the Soviet Politburo and the US Administration. When Nixon was elected, Brezhnev forwarded a confidential congratulatory note to Nixon through Sedov, the KGB man, using Kissinger as a cut-out. Later, Ambassador Dobrynin began to meet with Kissinger directly. Once Kissinger became National Security Adviser to Nixon, Kalugin and Sedon established a good contact with one of his top aides, Richard Allen. Sedov met regularly with Allen to exchange information and these meetings continues when Kalugin left Washington in 1970 and Allen went on to become National Security Adviser to Ronald Reagan.

As the Russians use to say, the farther into the forest, the more firewood. The publication prepared by Marcel H. Van Herpen for Cicero Foundation in 2016 and entitled "The Strange Putin-Kissinger Friendship" turned out to be even more revealing. In my view, it is a fascination article where I found a lot of new, interesting information.

For example, Putin remembers his first meeting with Kissinger during the latter's visit to St Petersburg to participate in the Kissinger-Sobchak commission. (For those who do not remember, Anatoly Sobchak was the mayor of Leningrad/St Petersburg and Putin's boss.) On the way from the airport, among other things Kissinger said to Putin that he, Kissinger, could not understand why President Gorbachev let Eastern Europe out of Soviet control. In an interview for a book published as soon as he was pointed acting president, Putin recalled: "I had never imagined I might hear something like that from the lips of Henry Kissinger. I told him what I thought, and I will repeat it to you right now: Kissinger was right. We would have avoided a lot of problems if the Soviets had not made such a hasty exit from Eastern Europe." It seems Putin has always been inclined to correct what Gorbachev "did wrong," and namely, to restore Novorossiya as it existed before 1917, and to conquer back the Baltic states, Moldova, Poland, Bulgaria, Slovakia, Slovenia and other territories legitimising Russia's geopolitical ambitions.

The article says that Putin and Kissinger used to meet regularly. Once Putin was even invited for dinner at Kissinger's home in New York. A "close and trusting collaboration" seemed in particular be established between the Kremlin and Kissinger Associates, Kissinger's consulting firm.

The annexation of Crimea and the Russian aggression in Ukraine did not negatively impact the Kissinger-Putin friendship. In May 2014 Kissinger declared that "Putin was not Stalin" and, instead of defending the sovereignty of Ukraine, he, once more, spoke out in favour of Ukraine's "Finlandization." In his article, Marcel H. Van Herpen, the author of Putin's Propaganda Machine--Soft Power and Russian Foreign Policy (Rowman & Littlefield, 2015) also reminds the reader Kissinger's advice "to prefer stability over justice" in international relations. However, he writes, it could rather be that Kissinger's cozying up to the Kremlin promotes neither the former, nor the latter.

JE comments:  Boris, this is a lot of firewood.  That Kissinger could be on "their side" forces us to radically rethink the entire Cold War period.  Yet unlike most figures in distant diplomatic history, Henry the K is still with us.  What has he said (if anything) about these shocking accusations?

I do believe the "stability over justice" part--isn't this the central tenet of "Realist" diplomacy?

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  • Kissinger a Russian Spy? Preposterous (Cameron Sawyer, USA 05/31/22 3:51 AM)
    Boris Volodarsky (May 30th) suggest that anyone who doesn't agree with the maximalist pro-war narrative concerning the Ukraine crisis must be a Russian spy. Even Henry Kissinger. Naturally. And talking to the Russians and trying to understand their point of view, as Kissinger has done, is also automatically suspect. That used to be called "statesmanship"; now it's some kind of treason. This reminds me very much of the McCarthy era in the US.

    In fact anyone not drunk on our own propaganda realizes that Ukraine will not get out of this crisis without giving up some territory. What Kissinger said is not really controversial or new. Zelensky himself said, just last week, "I'd consider it a victory for our state, as of today, to advance to the February 24 line without unnecessary losses. Indeed, we are yet to regain all territories as everything isn't that simple. We must look at the cost of this war and the cost of each deoccupation." https://www.ft.com/content/315346dc-e1bd-485c-865b-979297f3fcf5

    Zelensky's people are naturally protesting that they are fighting for final victory and throwing the Russians out of the pre-2014 borders of Ukraine. That's the only thing they can say, and that's correct posturing going into negotiations with the Russians. If they said anything different, they wouldn't be able to position any compromise as an actual compromise--Negotiations 101. They are fighting hard to gain a bargaining position, and are doing a good job of it. Zelensky will choose the right moment to go to the table; by fighting so well the Ukrainians are forcing the Russians' hands to come to the table themselves. But the hand should not be overplayed--the longer it goes on and the greater the cost incurred by the Russians, the most sunk cost and harder to make deal, the more difficult the politics become on the Russian side. Peace can be a complicated dance.

    If the Ukrainians were to somehow manage to drive the Russians out to the pre-2014 Ukrainian borders, just really hypothetically speaking, there would be chaos in Russia, and very likely regime change. That may or may not be desirable, at least the regime change part, if not the chaos. But what we have to understand about this is that for Putin avoiding this is literally a matter of life and death, so he will stop at nothing, probably not excluding nuclear weapons, to prevent such an outcome. Just so that we realistically size up what to expect from him. Nor does it seem possible that the Ukrainians, despite tens of billions worth of weapons flowing in from the West, will be able to accomplish this on the battlefield. The Russians are just about to complete the conquest of Lugansk Oblast' and already control the entire Sea of Azov coast. They really don't need to go much further, if any further at all, before they just dig into hardened positions and go over to defense. With their advantages in manpower it is pretty hard to imagine what the Ukrainians will be able to do with that, even with American howitzers. It is an axiom of warfare that war favors the defender--as von Clausewitz said, "defense is the stronger form of warfare" and "it is easier to hold than it is to conquer [or re-conquer] territory." The moment the Russians stop taking additional territory will be a very hard one for the outnumbered Ukrainians. The territory the Russians occupy is contiguous to their own country, with their own permanent bases and supply depots close at hand. We can keep the Ukrainians supplied (if the US public, reeling from inflation and other problems and with a nasty recession on the horizon, doesn't end up rebelling against the expense*), but as long as we are unwilling to put boots on the ground, we can't replace their dwindling manpower, of which they have 4 or 5 times less than the Russians. The Russian military has been amazingly incompetent so far, but WWII started out like that too, and we know how that ended. Wars of attrition are something the Russians just "do," and a long war of attrition will be devastating or even fatal to the Ukrainian nation. Which Zelensky knows far better than any of us.

    So we need to stop echoing all this propaganda, and be sure that it is clear to everyone that we will support whatever Zelensky can negotiate. Otherwise we run the risk of exacerbating Zelensky's own domestic problems, with his own nationalists, some of whom would prefer to see the Ukrainian nation destroyed, than give up one meter of supposedly sacred Ukrainian land. Besides that, the Russians won't come to the table so long as we are not open to a negotiated end to the conflict--they perceive us as calling the shots. Ukraine, and the world, need peace, and we will not get to peace without some kind of compromise. There is just no other way for war to end--it's either compromise of some kind, or destruction of one side or the other, and Russia is not going to be destroyed without nuclear holocaust. There is no other variant; that's just the way the world works. And it is just ugly for us to stand on the sidelines, not sending any of our own children to die, and cheerlead for war and more war, and more killing. It is up to Zelensky, not us, to decide where and when to compromise, how to get to peace and save his nation, and our job is to signal to the Russians that we will support whatever he negotiates, when he decides the moment is right.

    *Support in the US for the huge amount of financial outlay is already cracking, and unity of our NATO allies is already fading (see: https://www.ft.com/content/315346dc-e1bd-485c-865b-979297f3fcf5 , and really interesting article here: https://www.nytimes.com/2022/05/27/us/politics/ukraine-aid-heritage-foundation.html ). The $60+ billion we have spent and committed so far will run out in a few months, and the public is only just starting to even find out that a good part of that goes directly into the Ukrainian budget.  Fully $9 billion of the latest aid package goes to directly funding the salaries and pensions of Ukrainian government officials. We can see how this movie ends--the US is slipping into a nasty period of stagflation and economic hardship, the financial requirements of our position in the Ukraine war become greater by the month, and sooner or later there will inevitably be a corruption scandal involving misappropriation of some part of all this aid, which will sharply turn public opinion. Funding the Ukrainian general budget and sending tens of billions of military aid every quarter is not a long-term strategy.  For this reason, on top of everything else, time is of the essence, to get to peace.

    JE comments:  Land for peace is statesmanship of a sort, but in this sense Chamberlain was a statesman, too.  The only difference is that Chamberlain was surrendering someone else's territory.  Cameron, you omit two other possibilities--1) that Putin will come to his senses, declare victory and leave, or 2) some sort of palace coup or "spring" (summer?)-type uprising in Russia. 

    The biggest unknown:  is Putin rash enough to go nuclear?  Cameron, you are correct that our planet cannot afford to find out.

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    • Will Russia Break the Taboo against WMDs? (Harry Papasotiriou, Greece 05/31/22 2:26 PM)

      Cameron Sawyer has suggested that the West should not egg on the
      Ukrainians to fight Russia to the last Ukrainian. But Zelensky's
      posture seems to be that he will resist Western pressure to reach a
      compromise that leaves Russia in control of more land than before 24
      February. It is the Ukrainians, not the West, who seem eager not to
      give up the fight. It seems to me that a possible outcome once both sides get
      exhausted is a frozen conflict, whereby Russia controls significant
      Ukrainian territories in eastern and southeastern Ukraine and almost no
      one else--including Ukraine obviously--recognizes this formally.

      By the way, there is one indication that Russia may be unwilling to
      breach the taboo of using WMDs. In the Azovstal battle in Mariupol, the
      use of chemical weapons would have been the easiest way for the Russians
      to defeat the Ukrainian forces in the underground tunnels and bunkers.
      The Russians did not do it, prolonging the battle by weeks.

      JE comments:  So far in this insane war, there has been some restraint--no chemical weapons and (thank God) no nukes.  To use the tired analogy, even Hitler declined to go chemical, and of course he did not possess nuclear weapons.

      Harry Papasotiriou is the first WAISer to suggest the possibility of a "frozen" conflict--an uneasy truce with Russia continuing to occupy its conquered territories.  Could we call this the "Korean solution"?  It's worked there for seventy years.

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      • Hitler DID Use Chemical Weapons in WWII (Paul Levine, Denmark 06/01/22 3:27 AM)

        John E maintains that "even Hitler declined to go chemical" in WWII.

        Is this true?
        Tell that to the nice Germans who ran IG Farben and set up a special factory in
        Auschwitz-Birkenau to produce Zyklon B, which was used by other not-so-nice
        Germans to exterminate millions of people in the gas chambers. In Bloodlands
        Timothy Snyder argues persuasively that when the German invasion of Russia
        failed, Hitler decided to make the central aim of his war the total destruction of
        the Jews. So the Germans did use chemicals but against civilians, not soldiers.

        Does this sound familiar? Having failed to conquer Kyiv, Putin has decided to
        wage a war against civilians in Ukraine by leveling the country with continual
        bombing of cities, villages, hospitals, schools, any place that civilian life goes
        on. If these bad (Neo-Nazi) Ukrainians refuse to become good Russians, their
        cities, culture, economy, identity must be destroyed. Have nice new Russians
        replaced nice old Germans as destroyers of a civilization the cannot control?
        That would be quite an irony.

        As Pogo one memorably said: "We have met the enemy. And they are us."

        JE comments:  Paul, you are absolutely correct, and my apologies.  To my weak defense, I was thinking about the use of chemical weapons in combat, as in WWI--especially because the Nazis possessed nerve agents (Sarin), and the Allies did not.

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      • A "Frozen Conflict" in Ukraine Would be Extremely Dangerous (Cameron Sawyer, USA 06/03/22 3:21 AM)
        Harry Papasotiriou wrote on May 31st:

        "Cameron Sawyer has suggested that the West should not egg on the Ukrainians to fight Russia to the last Ukrainian. But Zelensky's posture seems to be that he will resist Western pressure to reach a compromise that leaves Russia in control of more land than before 24 February. It is the Ukrainians, not the West, who seem eager not to give up the fight. It seems to me that a possible outcome once both sides get exhausted is a frozen conflict, whereby Russia controls significant Ukrainian territories in eastern and southeastern Ukraine and almost no one else--including Ukraine obviously--recognizes this formally."

        My opinion, based on a pretty close study of available information, but which is nevertheless still just my opinion, is that Zelensky has an entirely realistic view of the situation, and is very well capable of making the hard decisions which will be required to end the war with diplomacy. He was elected on a platform of compromise and diplomacy to end the conflict with Russia. He has publicly stated several times that the war will only end through diplomacy.  I believe he simply cannot speak about this too openly, because:

        1.  He needs to show to the Russians determination to win the war, even if he knows he can't, in order to have the best possible position at the negotiating table, in order to have a stated position to back away from to show compromise.

        2.  He needs to inspire his people to keep fighting. The Ukrainian military needs to continue fighting well in order to get the Russians to the table, even if the military task is ultimately hopeless.

        3.  He needs to inspire the West to keep pouring in tens of billions of aid.

        4.  He needs to avoid unnecessarily provoking his own nationalists, or rather, provoking them at the wrong time. This is a very powerful force in Ukrainian politics and society. Ukrainian nationalists have threatened Zelensky's life, and it is a saying among the Azov Battalion fighters that once they deal with the Moskali, they will then turn to deal with Kiev (i.e. Zelensky).

        I think Zelensky has two main obstacles to ending the war: 1) lack of support by the US, which has publicly declared that "weakening" and "bleeding" Russia is the main goal for the rest, not helping Ukraine; and 2) lack of good faith by the Russians. He will deal with his nationalists, if the US doesn't sabotage him, by putting any territorial concessions to a public referendum--a very clever move on Zelensky's part in my view, going over the heads of his nationalists to take the question directly to the Ukrainian people. Zelensky has made repeated diplomatic overtures to the Russians, and has even proposed meeting Putin face to face, which the Russians have declared to have been unserious. We can't know for sure what the truth is, but in my opinion all signs point to seriousness of Zelensky's intent, and lack of serious intent to engage in diplomacy, on the part of the Russians. Zelensky has announced at various times that all of Russia's announced conditions for ending the war are on the table and discussable, but the Russians don't come to the table. In my opinion, Putin is waiting until he has some concrete military achievements to increase his bargaining power. That's a guess--Putin hasn't told me. And he has said a few times that he won't negotiate without the US at the table, as he considers that it is the US which is calling the shots. We have shown zero serious intent to engage in diplomacy, so that is likely another reason why the Russians aren't negotiating.

        As to Harry's idea that the war may become a "frozen conflict," that was exactly the theme of an interesting piece in the Spectator yesterday, https://spectatorworld.com/topic/what-if-the-ukraine-war-is-never-won/ .

        "In late March, roughly a month into Russia's invasion of Ukraine, an unnamed NATO official told NBC News that the conflict was turning into a meat grinder for both sides. ‘If we're not in a stalemate, we are rapidly approaching one,' the NATO official said at the time. . .

        "Sure enough, a month and a half later, the Pentagon's top intelligence official testified to the Senate Armed Services Committee that ‘stalemate' is exactly what is occurring. ‘The Russians aren't winning, and the Ukrainians aren't winning, and we're at a bit of a stalemate here,' Lieutenant General Scott Berrier, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, said on May 10."

        Reference is made to Zelensky's recent statement that about 100 Ukrainian soldiers are dying every day of the conflict. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/may/23/up-to-100-ukraine-troops-could-be-dying-donbas-each-day-zelenskiy That's 3000 a month.

        "There is a strong feeling within the Ukrainian government that territorial concessions will simply whet Putin's appetite for land. It's a hypothesis that pundits in the West, The Atlantic's Anne Applebaum especially, have used to support their argument that nothing short of a full victory for Kyiv is appropriate.

        "That argument is popular inside the Washington Beltway, feeding the narrative of a morality play, where the good and righteous David slays the evil and bloodthirsty Goliath. In the context of Ukraine's war, however, Goliath still has a lot of firepower at his disposal, is willing to use that firepower recklessly, and is as convinced of its ability to succeed as Ukraine is convinced of its ability to resist.

        "Putin could have used his Victory Day speech earlier this month to throw out a diplomatic olive branch. The fact that he didn't do so speaks volumes, not only about his stubbornness and the insularity of his inner circle, but also about his mindset--losing, or even the appearance of losing, is unacceptable and won't be tolerated. By making the invasion the cornerstone of his two-decade legacy as Russia's leader, Putin has cornered himself like a crazed cat, where clawing his way out is the only thing standing in the way of being caught. And the more insistent Kyiv is about a military victory, the more desperate Putin will be to fight as hard as he can to avoid a defeat. [Not excluding the use of nuclear weapons, in the view of some commentators.]

        "Wars end in one of two ways: one side overpowers the other, or the battlefield becomes so fruitless and costly that the combatants decide to sit down and end it through a negotiation. Alternatively, you could have a frozen conflict, where the parties learn to live with the facts on the ground even as they stonewall each other (think Transnistria, South Ossetia, Abkhazia, and Nagorno-Karabakh and the Donbas between 2014 and February 2022)."

        A "frozen conflict" is an extremely undesirable outcome from Ukraine's point of view, and from the point of view of European security. An endless war would leave Ukraine dismembered, depopulated and unable to function as state. The US is already now funding the salaries, and even pensions (!) of Ukrainian government officials, because otherwise the state would already be collapsing, just three months in. How long will the US people tolerate that, while the country descends into stagflation and economic crisis and our attention turns fully to our own problems? The Ukraine war galvanized the attention of the US public for a few months, but how long is the attention span, and willingness to make economic sacrifices for a war half a world away? The heady days of just printing money in whatever quantity to fund whatever project have ended; we are now entering a painful era of belt-tightening. We are already seeing front pages of the New York Times (even), which used to be dominated by the war, but now without references to the war at all other than a one-line link to "Updates." Meanwhile, at least 3000 Ukrainian soldiers a month are dying (probably much more than that), and Ukrainian cities continue to be pulverized. We should all be hoping for a diplomatic solution, and peace, sooner, rather than later. Time is not our friend, and not Ukraine's nor Europe's friend, in this situation.

        JE wrote, in a response to a previous post of mine, and with regard to how the war can end, that "Cameron, you omit two other possibilities--1) that Putin will come to his senses, declare victory and leave, or 2) some sort of palace coup or ‘spring' (summer?)-type uprising in Russia."

        I think the first thing is almost unthinkable, for the reasons well stated in the Spectator article. Putin is all in on this war. He has staked everything on it. He is not going to just leave after having sacrificed tens of thousands of young Russian lives and vast amounts of treasure and having created the international storm he has. I think he would go nuclear before doing that, and there is a good bit of opinion in accord. What he might do, however, is just stop and dig in. He already has all of Lugansk Oblast' (any day now), most of Donetsk Oblast', big parts of Zaporozhets and Kherson Oblasts, comprising a significant percentage of Ukraine's heavy industrial base, all of Ukraine's Sea of Azov coast, and a significant proportion of Ukrainian population. He has successfully blockaded all of Ukraine's remaining ports. Once Putin stops and digs in, the outnumbered Ukrainians will be at an enormous military disadvantage.  They will no longer be defending against Russian advances, a posture which greatly favors the defender, they will be trying to reconquer territory, a posture which greatly favors the other side from a military point of view. This is a formula for the conflict just going on forever, without a diplomatic solution, and with the constant risk that the Russians will renew their attack after reconstituting their forces. Just look at the situation from 2014 to 2022 in Donbas--the Ukrainian military could stop the advances of the rebels, but could not push back even that ragtag band.

        As to a palace coup--there is a lot of talk about that at high levels in Russia, my friends there tell me. There is widespread recognition in Russia that the war was a disastrous mistake. And the third variant which JE didn't mention--Putin, who is rumoured to be in bad health, might just die. Either of these situations might bring to power someone not so invested in the war and more willing to compromise. We can hope. But it might well not--what we might get might in fact be even worse. It was recently reported that Putin is being criticized in some high circles for being too soft in Ukraine, if you can imagine that. Some of the people around him are even more aggressive than he is. In any case, we can't count on one of these things happening, and so we can't delay negotiations beyond the earliest optimal moment, continuing the slaughter, for the sake of such an abstract hope.

        JE comments:  Excellent essay, Cameron.  And to think that there was a time (1990s) when Kremlinology was considered a doomed science!  If Putin should meet his Maker naturally, isn't Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin in line to succeed him?  What do we know about this guy, described as a "former tax official with no political base"?  Of course, the more likely scenario is a full-blown power struggle.

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    • Chamberlain Was a Good Statesman (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 06/01/22 3:45 AM)

      Our esteemed moderator, when commenting on the excellent post of Cameron Sawyer (31 May), wrote: "Chamberlain was a statesman."

      While John made this statement in irony, I would say that Chamberlain was a good statesman.

      On 21 June 1938 in a speech to the Commons, he declared the following principles in accordance with the International Conventions:

      1) Intentional bombings of the civilian population are illegal;

      2) The objectives that can be attacked must be of military interest and well identified;

      3) As far as possible, an attack against legitimate military objectives must be carried out to not involve the civilian population.

      In September 1939 he further declared, "No matter what the other powers do, the government of His Majesty will never deliberately attack women and children."

      As soon as 10 May 1940, the new Prime Minister Churchill took advantage of a mistake of a German plane that erroneously bombed a civilian area (for which the Germans presented excuses) and ordered an attack on German towns. The attacks culminated between 25 August and 5 September 1940, when Hitler finally ordered the (self-defeating) Blitz on London, after six attacks on Berlin.

      British historian A. J. P. Taylor (1906-1990) in spite of his anti-German bias wrote: The almost universal belief was that Hitler started the indiscriminate bombing of civilians, while instead it was started by the British leaders, as some among the more honest among them bragged. See the book Bombing Vindicated by former Undersecretary J. M. Spaight, in which the decision of 11 May 1940 to attack German towns is called a "splendid decision." In March 1942 the Lindemann Plan recommended a (racist?) bombing of the workers' quarters of the towns where the houses were closer together, and therefore the bombs would claim more deaths than bombing residential areas where the houses were farther apart.

      By the way, Taylor was one of the first historians to recognize that the sanctions against Italy in 1935-1936 drove Mussolini into an alliance with Nazi Germany.

      It is possible to discuss also the bombing of Warsaw and Rotterdam, but here the history is controversial about whether article 25 of the International Convention of the Hague 1907 was violated or not.

      Finally, Chamberlain was not "surrendering someone else's territory." The real owners of the Sudetenland were the Germans, who had been living there for centuries.  The criminal Versailles and Trianon Treaties detached this region from the Motherland in a clear violation of Wilson's famous 14 Points of the sacred self-determination of peoples.  This was further supported by US Ambassador Archibald Coolidge, who recognized the good reasons for a German Sudetenland.

      JE comments:  It's a historiographical truism that WWI begat WWII--or more precisely, that the "peace" after the Great War guaranteed that there would be a sequel.  So here's a thought exercise that may be of value as we look towards peace in Ukraine:  Could there have been a more "just" Versailles?  Obviously the painful reparations imposed on Germany were unfair, as was requiring Germany to admit guilt for starting the war.  But how could the redrawn map have been handled better?

      The problem with national "self-determination" is that there will always be someone coming up short.  Hence revanchism and its associated ills.

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      • Chamberlain: A Reappraisal (Cameron Sawyer, USA 06/01/22 7:15 AM)
        I'm glad Eugenio Battaglia brought up Chamberlain.

        The snide references to Chamberlain one reads in the media these days from time to time originate with Churchill's mostly mythological and entirely self-serving narrative about how WWII started--that is, that it all comes down to Chamberlain's alleged spinelessness at Munich, and that if Churchill himself had only been in charge, standing up to that Nazi with strength, Hitler would have never dared to start the war.

        I think by now most serious historians reject this narrative as a self-serving fairy tale. Chamberlain had no other cards to play other than diplomacy, as he was not prepared to go to war with Hitler in 1938 and was still not prepared two years later in 1940 when the BEF had to flee for its life in the face of the Wehrmacht and was nearly destroyed at Dunkirk, but for the miraculous evacuation. Chamberlain struck the best deal he could; it wasn't good enough, but there was no other choice at the time. To the great credit of the British school systems, Chamberlain playing his cards at Munich is now one of the standard history class problems.  See here:


        The exercise shows how easy it was for Churchill to blacken him and how much more complicated the real situation was, by putting students in Chamberlain's place at the negotiation. The modern historical view of Chamberlain is well depicted in the recent film Munich (have any WAISers seen this?), where Chamberlain is played by Jeremy Irons as a tragic hero, entirely different, and much truer to life, than Churchill's cartoon clown and dupe, in Churchill's counterfactual memoirs. A good essay on contemporary historical views of Chamberlain can be found here:


        Whether the annexation of the Sudetenland was inherently just or not, as Eugenio asserts, is a different question. It's a bit like the annexation of Crimea in 2014. Certainly there was some justice in the Sudetenland, unjustly separated from Germany at Versailles, being reunited with Germany, like there was some justice in the annexation of Crimea, which never had anything to do with Ukraine except an administrative accident in 1954. But in both cases, a legal international border was changed unilaterally and illegally by the threat of force (even if bloodlessly). This cannot be allowed in the community of nations, if we are not to have chaos in international relations. Neither Hitler, nor Putin, was right in these cases. They should have used diplomacy.

        The narrative of my distant cousin Churchill (my third great grandmother was a Churchill, married by the way to a Cromwell) has generated singularly pernicious views on how to deal with war and peace. As has the very existence of Hitler, who makes it easy to think that pure evil exists in international affairs, and that this automatically makes us purely good, a point of view which makes effective diplomacy and real practical peacemaking impossible. Churchill whitewashes our barbaric attacks against the civilian districts of German cities (and even French and Dutch cities) during the war, but shows no sense of irony in demonizing the Germans for their own much milder offenses against British cities.

        If we want to know where WWII really started, it was not at Munich. It was, of course, at Versailles. During WWI we demonized the Kaiser and demonized the Germans as "Huns" and barbaric baby-killers, although that was entirely a case of our believing our own propaganda (see poster below).  The Germans weren't really any worse than we were, at least in that war, and in that spirit went out of our way to punish them as cruelly as possible at Versailles, the terms of which ensured total economic collapse of Germany, unspeakable hardship for the German people, humiliation, plow the earth with salt and let the cursed Huns starve, which created all the conditions for the rise to power of a crazy failed artist who could not have been elected dog-catcher in any more normal society, and then the bloodiest war ever fought in human history. Versailles, not Munich, caused WWII, and Versailles, not the wrong conclusions Churchill made about Munich, is the lesson which is entirely relevant to today.

        JE comments:  Cameron Sawyer echoes the truism we mentioned earlier today:  WWI begat its sequel.  Which once again brings up my thought exercise:  How could a different version of Versailles have prevented World War II?  Certainly a gentler treatment of Germany would have lessened the resentment.  But "malice towards none"?  Not politically feasible, especially for the French and the British.  We must be practical about this; the victors had to be able to show something for their sacrifice.

        An observation to prime the pump:  did national self-determination go too far at Versailles, or not far enough?  I vote for the latter, especially with regards to the colonized peoples of Asia and Africa.

        Chamberlain may have done the best he could, but the question remains:  what do you do with an international bully?

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        • Can Revanchism Ever Be Resolved through Diplomacy? (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 06/02/22 6:32 AM)
          Marvelous post from Cameron Sawyer (1 June), and I thank him very much for mentioning my previous post.

          Cameron described Hitler's occupation of the Sudetenland as a "legal international border changed unilaterally and illegally... they [both Hitler and Putin] should have used diplomacy."

          In reality, we may say that Hitler did use diplomacy, as in the Munich meeting. But let's be honest. Diplomacy could not have solved anything due to the stubbornness of the Czech government, which never considered the wishes of the people as more important than a piece of paper from the victors of WWI. Not only did the Germans want justice, but also the Slovakians and the Polish and Hungarian minorities. Why in the hell do we always blame Hitler and only him?

          Professor Coolidge tried his best to solve the problem by diplomacy, but he was not successful.

          Very few examples can be cited of solutions to border disputes realized without war and only by diplomacy.

          One case solved through diplomacy was the problem of the Alto Adige/Sud Tyrol thanks to Hitler, who decided to integrate the German population within the Third Reich and recognize the geographical border as the official border between the Italian and German peoples. A plebiscite was carried out among the German minority.  Of the 267,265 who voted, 185,365 decided to move to the Third Reich and 81,900 chose to remain in Italy and be assimilated. Unfortunately, the war thwarted the success of this accord.

          The other two cases may be the separation of the Czech Republic and Slovakia, plus the reunification of Germany.

          Historically, as far as I know, there were no clear cases of one country recognizing a minority within its borders and granting it the right to secede. For example, Ukraine after the Minsk Accord II of 2015 opted for bombing instead of constitutional reforms.

          When after WWI the Maltese were sick and tired of being a European colony of the UK and wanted to unite with Italy, the UK certainly did not consider diplomacy. (The UK had occupied Malta when it was part of the Kingdom of Sicily with a concession to the Knights of Malta.  It had been occupied by the French troops of Napoleon.)

          The British Authorities abolished Italian as the official language, suspended the irredentist local government, and oppressed the leaders of the National Party. On the first day of WWII, the UK arrested the irredentist leaders and sent them to a concentration camp in Africa, and then hanged Carmelo Borg Pisani. Of course, Italy was foolish not to land on Malta during the first day of the war, and Malta was lost for good. It was Mussolini's old idea of wanting to make war without firing a shot, hoping instead for a peaceful solution. How naive in such a case.

          JE comments:  A curiosity.  Was Italy in 1940 tactically able to launch an amphibious assault on Malta?

          We do blame Hitler for nearly everything, even now for Putin's aggression in Ukraine and the failure to reach peace (lest the appeasers be accused of Chamberlainism).  But let's face it:  the blame is deserved.  What can Hitler be "credited" for, other than building the autobahns (2400 miles of it)?

          Returning to our topic:  I agree with Eugenio that revanchism leads to war.  And that in turn leads to more revanchism, and more war.

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  • Post Unpublished - please check back later

  • Let Us Not Forget the Crimes of Henry Kissinger (Paul Levine, Denmark 06/02/22 10:49 AM)

    I don't know if I share Boris Volodarsky's suspicions (May 29th) about Henry (Heinz) Kissinger as a Soviet agent.

    But Kissinger certainly shares a "Realpolitik" mindset with Vladimir Putin, who regrets the demise of the Soviet
    Union and the loss of Russia's regional domination since 1991. This seems to be the rationale for his
    brutal invasion of Ukraine with its attempt to destroy a sovereign nation's culture along with its people.

    But I do know I don't share Cameron Sawyer's unbridled admiration for Kissinger, who believes that
    "power is the ultimate aphrodisiac." Like the late Christopher Hitchens, when I hear the name "Kissinger"
    I think of war crimes and not peace prizes. Read items from Harvard Crimson, The New Yorker, Vox and
    Human Rights Watch that itemize Henry's crimes and misdemeanors. If you need more evidence I will
    be happy to provide it.





    JE comments:  Kissinger's Realpolitik, as in respecting the interests of other nations, seemed to apply only to the "Great Powers" (USSR and China), but certainly not to Latin America.  There it was destabilize, intervene, and murder in the name of national interest. 

    Has Kissinger gained his present distinction of Senior Statesman due to his longevity, or have subsequent US statesmen and stateswomen been so bad that he shines in comparison?

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