Friday, November 07, 2014

In defence of Vladimir Putin, albeit reluctantly

So apparently there's outrage over published remarks of Vladimir Putin on the (excellent) Kremlin website. He was meeting with young historians on Wednesday and said --

Or, for example, there are still arguments about the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, and the Soviet Union is blamed for dividing Poland. But what did Poland itself do, when the Germans invaded Czechoslovakia? It took part of Czechoslovakia. It did this itself. And then, in turn, the same thing happened to Poland. I do not want to blame anyone here, but serious studies should show that these were the foreign policy methods at the time. The Soviet Union signed a non-aggression agreement with Germany. They say, “Oh, how bad.” But what is so bad about it, if the Soviet Union did not want to fight? What is so bad?

The outrage being that Putin seemed to endorse the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact.

But did he? There's a longer discussion of which this was a part --

But I completely agree with you that we need to fully study this period, as well as others. Why? That period is also interesting. Because before that, we had the so-called Munich Agreement in 1938. And what is it? Incidentally, your colleagues in western nations hush it up. Chamberlain arrived, shook his paper and said, “I brought you peace” when he returned to London after the talks. To which Churchill, I believe, in private, stated, “Well, now the war is inevitable.” Because appeasement of the aggressor, which Nazi Germany was, would clearly lead to a major future military conflict, and some people understood that. There should be a deep multilateral study of what was happening before World War II. 

[then the section above] 

Moreover, even knowing about the inevitability of war, supposing that it could happen, the Soviet Union desperately needed time to modernise its army. We needed to implement a new weapons system. Each month had significance because the number of Katyusha rocket launchers or T-34 tanks in the Soviet army was in the single digits, whereas thousands were needed. Each day had significance. So idle thoughts and chatter on this matter on a political level may have a purpose, in order to shape public opinion, but this must be countered with serious, deep, objective research.

The issue is really his inconsistency in criticizing Chamberlain's Munich deal, and then justifying the pact with Hitler on the grounds that the USSR needed time to rearm. So did Britain, and Chamberlain used the late 1930s period before war to massively build up the RAF -- which proved to be the guarantor of its security.