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The war is over ... prepare for war

24-05-2010, 22:33


More than one generation of historians will ask themselves the question, "when did the Cold War begin?" The complexity of the matter is that it slid into place gradually and secretly. However, it seems clear that each of the former allies moved to their own Rubicon and this transition did not coincide synchronously in the actions and intentions of the three great powers. There is no doubt that Churchill was the first. He was to take public action that can be seen as the first salvo in this war. It is worth to look critically at those historical commentators who believe that the inevitability of the Cold War was laid like a time bomb in the mutual distrust between the allies almost from the first days of the anti-Hitler coalition. Mutual distrust was natural for such an unusual alliance in such unusual circumstances, when the fate of the warring nations was being decided, streams of blood flowed and national resources swiftly dwindled.

However, the lack of trust, which is always present to some extent in the relations between countries and within any unions, does not mean a secret or explicit departure from the principle of Alliance, not to mention the severance of relations and turning them openly hostile. The danger of the Cold War was that it was the most protracted conflict of the twentieth century, accompanied by the threat of mutual destruction against a background of the murderous power of the participating states. There is a well-known thesis that history does not know the subjunctive mood, in fact, it establishes a fatalistic assessment of history. However, the "impending doom" of its members in the actions that they took cannot be traced in the history of the Cold War.

Let's go back to the events of those years. Oddly enough, the desperate requests of Churchill and Eisenhower to come to the aid of the Anglo-American forces in the Ardennes and the beginning of the Vistula-Oder operation served as a prelude to the Cold War. It was during this operation, that Soviet troops reached the German border. The Allies did not expect at all that the outcome of the partially prepared operations would be the most rapid offensive in the history of the Second World War, and would open the way for the Russians to Berlin. From this time, Churchill began to "keep one eye" on the progress of the Allies, and the other one on the actions of the Russian, who were occupying more and more of Eastern Europe and Germany.

Already by March 1945, Churchill had strongly tried to convince Eisenhower to change his plans and hurry to attack Berlin, in order to get ahead of the Soviet troops. As Eisenhower’s biographer mentioned, the U.S. general tried to oppose "this turn of affairs.”  There were both political and military reasons for this resistance, the most important and simplest of which was that Eisenhower would believe in the end of the Wehrmacht only after its unconditional surrender.

On March 27th, reporters asked Eisenhower at a press conference: "Who do you think will be first into Berlin – the Russians or us?" - "You see,” replied Eisenhower,” I think they will do this, for the simple reason that they are closer. In the end, they are just 33 miles from the city. Their distance is much shorter than ours. “At the time the Allies were separated from Berlin by more than 200 miles, and the number of possible losses in the capture of the city was estimated to be 100,000. In Eisenhower’s eyes it was "too high a price for a prestigious goal, which he then would have to give the other guys ..." In accordance with the Yalta Agreement, Berlin was part of the USSR occupation zone.

However, Churchill continued to mount pressure on the commander of the Anglo-American army. On March 31st, he wrote a telegram to Eisenhower: "Why do we not cross the Elbe and move as far to the east as we can? This is of great political importance, as the Red Army in the south seems certain to capture Vienna "... But Eisenhower was adamant.

Churchill was forced to retreat before such a tough stance. However, as shown by documents declassified in the mid-1990s, even before the end of the war, he ordered the development of a large-scale operation named "Unthinkable." Max Hastings in this regard says: "Churchill was so disappointed with Stalin’s actions in Eastern Europe, that in the last weeks of his premiership he gave orders to the Chiefs of Staff to develop a plan for an offensive military operation by 47 Allied divisions and the remnants of Hitler's armies for the expulsion of the Russians from Poland." However, this is not a completely accurate assessment of the strategic goals and tasks that Churchill set before the military.  The Prime Minister’s doctrine to force the Soviets from Eastern Europe was formulated very clearly: "To force Russia to obey the will of the United States and the British Empire."  It named a specific start date for possible military action against the Soviet Union - July 1st, 1945.

It is absolutely clear that to compel Russia to obey the will of yesterday's allies at the expense of squeezing the Soviets out of Poland and even from Eastern Europe would be militarily and politically absurd. The talk was about a new blitzkrieg of all-out war. In particular it planned, the occupation of the territory of the Soviet Union, major naval operations, primarily in the Baltic Sea, the bombing of industrial centers in the depths of the USSR by the Strategic Air Command, and military operations covering the Middle East, Persia and Iraq. The plan laid special emphasis on the use in this war of the remains of the Wehrmacht as "the German general's staff and officer corps are likely to decide that being on the side of the Western Allies will meet their interests." By the way, despite a strong protest from Marshal Zhukov, two corps were formed from the German Army Group "Nord", "Stockhausen" and "Vitthof" tank units and signal corps in the British zone of occupation.

Military historians believe that, given the time needed to develop such a complex operation, appropriate instructions from Churchill had to follow no later than April 1945. To the credit of the British military, they formulated a reasonable warning "about the extreme unlikelihood of the allies achieving a complete and decisive victory." However, the British generals expressed a controversial military counter argument. Already being the chief of the Imperial General Staff, General Montgomery wrote: to Eisenhower "The Soviet nation is very much exhausted. There has been terrible destruction in Russia, and the country is not ready for war." Montgomery believed that "the English-speaking democracies should build friendly relations with the Soviets, and not fill them with insults and threats" (Stephen Ambrose, "Eisenhower").

It is safe to say that the development of the "Unthinkable" plan marked the beginning of the Cold War, which later was full of all sorts of plans for mutual "defense", "containment" and "destruction." However, the first "shot" in this war belongs to London. Despite all the secrecy surrounding the development of "Operation Unthinkable", Churchill became the first public figure who publicly proclaimed a confrontational policy towards the Soviet Union, an erstwhile ally, who had punctually fulfilled their obligations, and saved Britain from an imminent invasion. This publicity damaged Churchill’s political career. Part of the secret "Unthinkable" plan found itself in a telegram he sent to Field Marshal Montgomery, in which he spoke of the need to collect and preserve German weapons and keep the Wehrmacht in combat readiness.

The Soviet delegation’s open protests at the meeting of the Supervisory Board of Management of Germany forced Churchill at one of the pre-election rallies to admit that he gave such an order to prepare the German units to fight the Russians. The British voters reacted to it quite clearly: "the man of war" did not suit them, they needed peace, not war with the Soviets. Also the fruitless attempts by Churchill to "patch up" the economic hole of the British Empire by the partition of postwar Europe were dashed by the military successes of Moscow and by political opposition in Washington. The hero of the nation and the war hero Winston Churchill lost the election.

Already retired, in Fulton, Churchill pushed the idea of combining the English-speaking peoples in a campaign against the Soviet Union. The rest of Europe, "deceived" his hopes, and moved away from him. Infected by the bacteria of communism he needed a guide, and this was updated into a closer Anglo-American alliance, the opening of new era of a "special relationship" between Britain and the United States. The "pilot" led his ship across the ocean, where the Atlantic alliance promised to England was not so glorious, but guaranteed the future. Truman was so frightened that Churchill's speech in America would be regarded as a consistent challenge from the West to Soviet Russia that he hastened to justify to Stalin.

As often happens, the "classical" and political understanding of the meaning of the war could be appreciated by only a few, and mostly by those who looked it in the eye and saw it up close. During a meeting with Zhukov in Frankfurt, Eisenhower, along with words of sincere gratitude, in his address, said: "This war was sacred, no other war in history has so clearly divided the forces of evil and the forces of good."

<!--[if gte mso 9]> 96 800x600 <!--[if gte mso 9]> Normal 0 false false false RU JA X-NONE <!--[if gte mso 9]> <!--[if gte mso 10]> /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Обычная таблица"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-priority:99; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0cm 5.4pt 0cm 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0cm; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:10.0pt; font-family:Calibri;} <!--StartFragment--> On the basis of such a moral sense of life you can build a world, but those in 'high' office decided otherwise.<!--EndFragment-->

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  • Category: Editor's Column
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