Toronto Sun | 06Sep2009 | Eric  Margolis

Russians try to rehab Stalin
Does the Soviet dictator really deserve credit for saving Europe from Hitler?

The 70th anniversary of the Second World War has reopened old wounds and ignited an ugly battle of words between Russia and its unloving neighbours, Ukraine, Poland and the Baltic states. They accuse Moscow of having stabbed them in the back in 1939.

The European parliamentary assembly, OSCE, recently held the U.S.S.R. and Germany "equally responsible" for the war. About time.

"A flat-out lie," angrily retorted Russia's president, Dmitry Medvedev. The war cost the Soviet Union 25 million dead. Russians rightly believe they, not the U.S. and British Empire, defeated Hitler's Germany.

Underlining Moscow's worrying rehabilitation of the Soviet dictator, Medvedev claimed Josef Stalin saved Europe from Hitler and rejects all attempts to equate him with the Fuehrer.

My view: Stalin was an even worse criminal and mass murderer than Adolf Hitler, but also a much more clever strategist, war leader and diplomat. Hitler stumbled into a war that Germany could not possibly win.


PM Vladimir Putin admitted the 1939 Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact that partitioned Poland between Germany and the U.S.S.R., returned the Baltic states to Moscow, and put Romania's Bessarabia under Russian control, was "immoral." But Putin correctly claimed the 1938 Munich Pact that handed Czechoslovakia's German Sudeten region to Germany was equally immoral. He reminded Poland of its role in carving up Czechoslovakia.

A reader in Israel recently pointed me to a fascinating book of which I was unaware, The Chief Culprit by Viktor Suvorov, the pseudonym of a defector from Soviet military intelligence GRU. My old friends at KGB despise GRU. But it was GRU that got two or three high level agents into Franklin Roosevelt's White House.

Suvorov's argument is simple. Stalin cleverly lured Hitler into war by offering to divide Poland. This act, Stalin knew, would prompt Britain and France to declare war on Germany. Stalin expected to pick up the pieces.

Stalin also knew Germany was no match for the U.S.S.R. Hitler had only 3,332 tanks, most of them light, and 75% of German transport was horse drawn. Most important, Germany had no raw materials save coal. Its sole sources of oil were Romania and Russia. Germany had only enough oil for a two-month campaign against the Soviet Union.

From digging in GRU files, Suvorov asserts that in the spring of 1942, Stalin was poised to launch 170 divisions, 24,000 tanks and thousands of warplanes in a surprise blitzkrieg against Western Europe, supported by mountains of munitions and more armies from Asia and the Far East. The Red army and air force were deployed in vulnerable offensive formations hard on the new German-Soviet border. Stalin ordered all defensive works removed.

But Hitler struck first. Learning of the Soviet threat, Hitler secretly massed his armies and attacked on June 22, 1941. Operation Barbarossa caught the Russians flat-footed: Warplanes on the ground, tanks on rail cars, munitions in the open. Soviet ground forces were quickly enveloped, cut off and destroyed in vast numbers.

Soviet propaganda later tried to cover up Stalin's plan to attack Europe, claiming his forces were outmoded and unprepared and generals incompetent. This view still prevails.

Not so, claims Suvorov, to the fury of most historians. I pored through Suvorov's meticulous military analysis. His figures show Stalin was just about to attack when Hitler pre-empted him.

By 1945, Stalin's Red army had taken half of Europe. But, contends Suvorov, had Hitler not attacked first, Stalin's 30-million man army, backed by mammoth industrial production, would have overwhelmed all of Europe in 1941.

Suvorov's unstated conclusion: Hitler saved Western Europe from Stalin. This, in turn, inevitably led to the downfall in 1991 of the U.S.S.R. -- and the real end of the Second World War. He adds: If Poland had given back German-populated Danzig to Germany, war might have been avoided. The British Empire collapsed because of its fatal decision to go to war with Germany in 1939.

All this is grand heresy. We need more. Our view of the war remains choked by wartime propaganda.

Suvorov has done us a service.

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The Chief Culprit
Viktor Suvorov
ISBN 978-1-59114-838-8