Thank you to the Department of the Interior Inspector General for Completely and Totally exonerating me in the clearing of Lafayette Park!
As we have said all along, and it was backed up in today’s highly detailed and professionally written report, our fine Park Police made the decision to clear the park to allow a contractor to safely install antiscale fencing to protect from Antifa rioters, radical BLM protestors, and other violent demonstrators who are causing chaos and death to our cities. In this instance, they tried burning down the church the day before the clearing. Fortunately, we were there to stop the fire from spreading beyond the basement—and it was our great honor and privilege to do so. Again, thank you to the Inspector General!
Namibian tribes have rejected Germany’s ‘offensive’ offer of €1.1bn (£950m) in recognition of an early 20th century genocide, throwing into doubt an agreement through which Berlin hoped to atone for the colonial atrocity.
Germany for the first time officially recognised the systematic murder of tens of thousands of Herero and Nama men, women and children by its forces between 1904 and 1908 as genocide last week.
On September 1, 1939, Germany launched their invasion into Poland marking the beginning of World War II. Among those units invading Poland was that of Lieutenant Hans-Albrecht Herzner. But when he phoned his superior boasting of his captured objectives, he was met with a different reply than he expected. Because it was the early morning of August 26th, one week before the official invasion of Poland. Lieutenant Hans-Albrecht Herzner and his 70 soldiers accidentally nearly started the Second World War one week too early.
Suvorov’s thesis can be summed up as follows: on June 22, 1941, Stalin was about to launch a massive offensive on Germany and her allies, within days or weeks. Preparations had started in 1939, just after the signing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, and had accelerated at the end of 1940, with the first divisions deployed to the new expanded Soviet borders, opposite the German Reich and Romania, in February 1941. On May 5, Stalin announced to an audience of two thousand military academy graduates flanked by generals and party luminaries that the time had come to “switch from the defensive to the offensive.” Days later, he had a special directive sent to all command posts to “be prepared on a signal from General Headquarters to launch lightning strikes to rout the enemy, move military operations to his territory and seize key objectives.” New armies were being raised in all the districts, with mobilization now reaching 5.7 million, a gigantic army impossible to sustain for long in peacetime. Close to one million parachutists—troops useful only for invasion—had been trained. Hundreds of aerodromes were built near the Western border. From June 13, an incessant movement of night trains transported thousands of tanks, millions of soldiers, and hundreds of thousands of tons of ammunition and fuel to the border.
According to Suvorov, if Hitler had not attacked first, the gigantic military power that Stalin had accumulated on the border would have enabled him to reach Berlin without major difficulty and then, in the context of the war, to take control of the continent. Only Hitler’s decision to preempt Stalin’s offensive deprived him of these resources by piercing and disrupting his lines and destroying or seizing about 65% of all his weaponry, some of it still in trains.
Stalin knew war with Germany was imminent, but he didn’t expect Germany to strike first.
Stalin was unconditionally devoted to Lenin’s goal of the sovietization of Europe.
From what we know of Churchill and Roosevelt’s secret intrigues before Barbarossa, it is doubtful that Stalin would have been deprived of their support if he had attacked first. Churchill had been urging him to attack Germany since 1940, and Roosevelt had started planning to help him right after his second reelection in November 1940, when he told Americans that their country must become “the great arsenal of democracy,” and appointed pro-Soviet Harry Hopkins to start making arrangements.
Since the first Five-Year Plan was inaugurated in 1928, the Soviet economy had been on a war footing. The production targets of the third Five-Year Plan, launched in 1938, were breathtaking, envisioning the production of 50,000 warplanes annually by the end of 1942, along with 125,000 air engines and 700,000 tons of aerial bombs; 60,775 tanks, 119,060 artillery systems, 450,000 machine guns, and 5.2 million rifles; 489 million artillery shells, 120,000 tons of naval armor, and 1 million tons of explosives; and, for good measure, 298,000 tons of chemical weapons.
The question of war or peace has entered a critical phase for us. If we conclude a mutual assistance pact with France and Great Britain, Germany will back off from Poland and seek a modus vivendi with the Western powers. War would be avoided, but down the road events could become dangerous for the USSR. If we accept Germany’s proposal and conclude a non-aggression pact with her, she will of course invade Poland, and the intervention of France and England in that would be unavoidable. Western Europe would be subjected to serious upheavals and disorder. In this case we will have a great opportunity to stay out of the conflict, and we could plan the opportune time for us to enter the war. …
Our choice is clear. We must accept the German proposal and, with a refusal, politely send the Anglo-French mission home. Our immediate advantage will be to take Poland to the gates of Warsaw, as well as Ukrainian Galicia …
For the realization of these plans it is essential that the war continue for as long as possible, and all forces, with which we are actively involved, should be directed toward this goal …
Therefore, our goal is that Germany should carry out the war as long as possible so that England and France grow weary and become exhausted to such a degree that they are no longer in a position to put down a Sovietized Germany.
Comrades! It is in the interest of the USSR—the workers’ homeland—that war breaks out between the Reich and the capitalist Anglo-French block. Everything should be done so that this drags out as long as possible with the goal of weakening both sides. For this reason, it is imperative that we agree to conclude the pact proposed by Germany, and then work in such a way that this war, once it is declared, will be prolonged maximally. We must strengthen our propaganda work in the belligerent countries, in order to be prepared when the war ends.
Although the partition of Poland had been Stalin’s idea, only Hitler was blamed for it. His Faustian pact with his worst enemy had not protected him from a war with France and England, and would not protect him either from a Soviet invasion. Clearly he had been duped. By enticing Hitler to invade Poland, Stalin had triggered the Second World War while staying on the sideline. All he had to do was wait for the countries of Europe to exhaust each other in a new war. On September 1, the very day of the invasion of Poland by Germany, the Supreme Soviet passed a general conscription law, which, under the guise of establishing military service for two years, was equivalent to a general mobilization. For Suvorov, this is proof that Stalin knew that the partition of Poland would trigger world war, rather than avoid it as Hitler hoped.
Meanwhile, Stalin would take every advantage he could of Germany’s predicament in the West, gobbling up three Baltic states bordering Germany and stuffing them with military bases. As McMeekin notes:
With his opportunistic moves against the Baltic states, Bessarabia, and northern Bukovina in the wake of the German humiliation of France, Stalin was wringing every last drop of nectar out of his honeyed partnership with Hitler while still, somehow, escaping the hostility of Hitler’s opponents. Britain, in what Churchill called the country’s “finest hour,” now stood alone against Nazi Germany. For some reason, though, Britain had not declared war on Berlin’s alliance partner, despite Stalin having invaded the same number of sovereign countries since August 1939 as Hitler had (seven). But there were limits to Hitler’s patience, and Stalin had just about reached them.
Arguably, Hitler might have prevailed and conquered the Lebensraum of his dream, had Stalin not been saved by Roosevelt’s Lend-Lease Aid: more than ten billions—equivalent to trillions today— worth of airplanes and tanks, locomotives and rails, construction materials, entire military production assembly lines, food and clothing, aviation fuel, and much else. Through four dense chapters, McMeekin makes it abundantly clear (as Albert Weeks before him in Russia’s Life-Saver: Lend-Lease Aid to the U.S.S.R. in World War II, 2010), that without U.S. help, the Soviet Union could not have pushed back the Germans, let alone conquer Eastern Europe in 1945. Another factor, on which McMeekin duly insists, was Stalin’s almost unlimited supply of cannon fodder: a total of 32 million soldiers throughout the war, led to the slaughter with machine-guns in their back and the threat that, if they were captured rather than killed, their families would be punished: “The USSR under Stalin is the only state in recorded history to have declared the captivity of its soldiers a capital crime.”
Yet, as Suvorov said, and as McMeekin leaves unsaid, it was probably thanks to Operation Barbarossa that Soviet troops failed to raise the red flag over Paris, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Rome, Stockholm and possibly London.
Hitler attacked the Soviet Union, destroyed its army, and crushed a large part of Soviet industry. In the end, the Soviet Union was unable to conquer Europe. Stalin lost the war for Europe and global domination. The free world survived, and it could not coexist with the Soviet Union. Therefore, the crumbling of the Soviet Union became inevitable. … The Soviet Union won World War II, but for some reason disappeared from the globe after this distinguishing victory. … Germany lost the war, but we see her, one of the mightiest powers of contemporary Europe, at whose feet we now beg.
Editor’s Note If for Western Europe the end of the war meant the victory of democracy, for Ukraine it meant the enforcement of Stalinism. Traces of Soviet occupation still affect Ukraine, a country which during World War II was, in the words of Yaroslav Hrytsak, “in the heart of darkness.” with Ukrainians fighting against Ukrainians for the interests of occupying forces and, along with Poland, suffering the heaviest human losses of the war.
Putin attributes victory in WWII “first and foremost to the Soviet people,” organizing the 9 May parade as Russia’s “biggest holiday.” In contrast, there is no consensus among the majority of Ukrainians about celebrating 9 May as the day of Soviet victory. Especially among the young generation, which has become increasingly indifferent towards this holiday.
The war for Ukrainian independence was lost in 1920, and only on 22 August 1992 did the government of the Ukrainian Republic in exile officially transfer power to the government of newly-established independent Ukraine. At the same time, Soviet victory in WWII became yet another occupation for Ukraine while the role of all Ukrainians in WWII is tragic and divided.
More than 200,000 Ukrainians fought in UPA – the Ukrainian insurgent army. From 1942 to 1953, they maintained guerrilla warfare against both Soviet and Nazi armies. Another 200,000 participated in the Nazi police and fought in the Nazi army, including 14,000 volunteers of the 14th Waffen Grenadier Division Galicia. Also, 80,000 Ukrainians fought in the American army, 45,000 in the UK army and 6,000 in the French army against the Nazis. The largest number of Ukrainians, about 6,000,000, fought in the Soviet army.
One important note is that only the UPA and Galicia Division were volunteer units – all the rest were mostly compulsorily mobilized. In the Soviet army, the infamous anti-retreat forces, or barrier troops, had to follow Stalin’s order №227 “to be placed in the immediate rear of unstable divisions and, in case of panic and chaotic retreat of division units, to shoot panickers immediately and thus help honest soldiers of divisions to fulfill their duty to the Fatherland.”
Occupation of central Europe, tragedy for Ukraine, victory for Stalin
For contemporary Ukraine, the question of who among these soldiers should be glorified is a difficult one, usually influenced by personal family stories. Officially, the Ukrainian state equally condemns the Nazi and Soviet totalitarian regimes for their repressions, according to a law adopted in 2015. Unofficially, veterans of all armies claim in their memoirs that they fought for Ukraine, thus only highlighting the tragic nature of this war.
Those Ukrainians who voluntarily fought in the Soviet army claim that they defended their land against foreign invasion. Ukrainians who fought in the Galicia Division recall that they fought for Ukraine, believing Hitler’s promise to grant Ukraine true autonomy. Those who fought in UPA recall the most idealistic but the least realistic goal – fully independent Ukraine without any foreign dictatorship, be it German or Russian.
Only in 1945, after the occupation of western Ukraine, Soviet troops, a third of whom were Ukrainian, reported that they killed and detained 100,000 Ukrainian UPA “bandits.” UPA regiments, supported by locals, continued active resistance in Ukrainian forests until 1953.
The sad truth of WWII is that many Ukrainians killed other Ukrainians who belonged to different armies. Ukrainian historian and former head of the Institute of National Memory Volodymyr Viatrovychsummarizes:
In September 1939, when the war officially began… Ukrainians found themselves in the armies of all participants in the war. As of September 1939, about 120,000 Ukrainians were in the Polish army as citizens of the Second Polish Republic, defending their state. Many of them were taken as prisoners, many died.
At the same time, in 1939, millions of Ukrainians were in the ranks of the Red Army, which in the second half of September launched an offensive against Poland from the east. The rest of the Ukrainians fought on the side of Germany, hoping that it would become the force that would help restore Ukraine. Finally, in September 1939, divisions of the organization of Ukrainian nationalists in a number of localities in Galicia and Volhynia raised their uprising.
That is, Ukrainians who did not have their own state not only served in different armies, but sometimes killed each other, fighting for other people’s interests. All participants in the war tried to use Ukrainians as a resource.
Polish historian and editor-in-chief of Gazeta Wyborcza Adam Mikhnikelaborates further, emphasizing that the end of WWII turned into occupation of Poland and was tragic for both Poland and Ukraine:
The Second World War… began with the joint aggression of Hitler and Stalin against Poland, and ended with a great political triumph of Stalin. But the war was tragic for both Ukraine and Poland…
The Ukrainian tragedy is that in those days Ukrainians fought among themselves: a large part of the Ukrainian population was associated with the Ukrainian insurgent army fighting for an independent Ukraine. But most Ukrainian patriots fought in the Red Army against Hitler. Which often led to Ukrainians shooting at Ukrainians, as was the case in Poland during the First World War and then, after 1944, when Poles from the underground often shot at Poles who were in the Communist army.
The complicated Ukrainian situation is not the case in Putin’s Russia. The obsession with Victory Day (“pobedobesie”) became the core of Putin’s policy. He claims Russia’s special role in the world as the main victor of WWII and blames Ukrainians, Poles, Baltic nations and other central Europeans for alleged collaboration with Nazis and historical revisionism.
The Russian president has even authored an article for The National Interest in June 2020, where he claims that the “Soviet Union saved the entire world.” He blames the weak and selfish policy of western countries regarding Nazi Germany at the beginning of the war and places the Soviet Union as a great liberator:
“It is essential to pass on to future generations the memory of the fact that the Nazis were defeated first and foremost by the Soviet people and that representatives of all republics of the Soviet Union fought side by side together in that heroic battle, both on the frontlines and in the rear.”
The 9th of May, Victory Day, is the biggest holiday for Russians, Putin claims. He praises contemporary soldiers fighting in Syria and the North Caucasus who “proved that they deserve to inherit the feat of the warriors of our homeland who defended it during the Great Patriotic War.”
Putin openly claims that the USSR disintegration was “the biggest geopolitical tragedy.” Constantly referring to wartime USSR as “our Motherland,” he indirectly recognizes that the USSR was in fact a Russian communist empire that forcefully occupied other republics.
As Ukrainian historian from Kyiv-Mohyla Academy Vladyslav Hrynevych stresses, Ukrainians were always the “weak link” in the USSR, who unwillingly fought against the Germans, and who created their own army and nurtured hidden opposition to the USSR. He writes:
The predominantly peasant Ukraine, which experienced a colossal humanitarian catastrophe in the 1930s, the Holodomor, which killed at least 3.5 million people, remained a potentially “weak link” in the Stalinist empire… The Nazi occupation of 1941–1944 sharply separated Ukraine from Russia, both politically and mentally, removing it for several years from the influence of Soviet ideology and propaganda.
The level of loyalty of the Ukrainian population to Stalin’s power was low: this was evidenced by the mass surrender of Red Army soldiers at the initial stage of the war, and the fact that more than 90% of the local population (5.6 million of them soldiers) remained in German-occupied territory, and an extremely low level of resistance to the new occupier. The national liberation movement in the western regions also became a mass phenomenon.
Speaking on symbolic things, one of the Ukrainian UPA insurgents, Ilya Oberyshyn, came out of the underground, where he had been hiding since the 1950s, only on 3 December 1991, after the results of a referendum confirming Ukraine’s declaration of independence from the USSR.
Ukraine and Russia differ dramatically in their attitude to Stalin, but neither Ukraine nor Europe have fully condemned communism
The cult of Stalin and victory in WWII was always important for Russia as a justification of Russia’s dominant role in the postwar world order. Moreover, a sociological survey by Levada center demonstrates that Stalin’s glorification has increased in Russia over the last years.
“When looking at changes in Russians’ attitudes toward Stalin, three different periods can be observed: one defined by negative perceptions (2001-2006), one defined by indifferent attitudes (2008-2012), and one defined by positive assessments (2014-2018)… The stable attitude is praise for Stalin’s contributions to winning the Great Patriotic War. This assessment is stereotypical amongst Russians, and its significance has not changed substantially over the past ten years,” Levada Center outlines the dynamic.
Significantly, only 44% of Russians in 2018, versus 68% in 2008, agree that Stalin was a cruel and inhuman tyrant.
The study also highlights the radical difference between Russian and Ukrainian perception of Stalin:
While 40% of Russians have positive feelings about Stalin (“admiration,” “respect,” and “sympathy”) and 12% have negative feelings (“dislike,” “fear,” “disgust”), Ukrainians display this ratio in reverse—14% versus 42%.
Ukrainian historian Olena Stiazhkina thinks that neither Ukraine nor the rest of Europe is ready to strictly condemn communism, as they did with Nazism. That is why the discussion around WWII is still hot:
“In my opinion, we cannot think that we have put an end to World War II as long as we have a situation where Nazism is recognized as a hostile and unacceptable ideology that encouraged crimes against humanity and communism is not.
Non-condemnation of communism constantly creates traps – in description, analysis, perception and so on. Unfortunately, the normalization of the Soviet Union still remains a dictionary for historiography. Normalization of the Soviet Union remains a part of Ukrainian everyday life. The Sociological Center is conducting a survey: ‘What do you think about the St. George ribbon?’ [symbol of Soviet victory in WWII]. If communism was condemned, it would sound like ‘How do you feel about the Nazi swastika?’”
“Never again” gets its practical meaning if one compares the revanchist Weimar Republic and Putin’s Russia
German political scientists Steffen Kailitz and Andreas Umland in their 2018 article for the scientific journal Nationalities papers warn that contemporary Russia and the German Weimar Republic have too many similarities and both demonstrate a similar way of descending into totalitarianism:
The Weimar Republic and the Russian Federation emerged from the radical decline of once-powerful empires: the German Second Reich (1871–1918) and the Soviet Union (1922–1991);
Many of the two peoples believed that rule by their former adversaries after their collapse would be humiliating;
Most Germans felt disgraced by the conditions and accusations made by the Entente forces in the Treaty of Versailles;
Many Russians saw Western influence on post-communist Eastern Europe, the South Caucasus, and Central Asia as victorious and derogatory towards Russia and its supposedly special rights in the former Soviet empire;
Both nations claimed that part of their own former main ethnic groups lived abroad. About 8.6 million so-called “Volksdeutsche” lived in Eastern and Southern Europe after 1918, and about 25 million so-called “Russian compatriots” lived in the former Soviet republics after 1991;
As a result, radical chauvinism in these two countries has become extremely pan-Germanist or Panslavist.
This tendency in contemporary Russia is well reflected in contemporary Russian domestic TV narratives:
The further limitation of freedom of speech in Russia regarding WWII underpins this dangerous trend towards radicalization. Article 354.1 of the Russian criminal code envisages 5 years of imprisonment for “dissemination of knowingly false information about the Soviet Union during World War II, veterans of the Great Patriotic War.”
The amendments signed by Putin on 5 April 2021 also introduce fines and imprisonment for internet publications and posts about WWII that the Russian government would consider false.
The Ukrainian issue
Ukraine, along with Poland, suffered the heaviest human losses during the Second World War. Famous Ukrainian historian Yaroslav Hrytsak says that in the period of WWII, Ukraine was “in the heart of darkness.” That makes the Russian victorious narrative alien to Ukraine, which suffered at the hands of both Nazi and Soviet occupiers. That also makes the Ukrainian perception of the second World War different from Western Europe.
If for Western Europe the end of the war meant the victory of democracy, for Ukraine it meant the enforcement of Stalinism. Traces of Soviet occupation still affect Ukraine.
Historian Hrytsak notes in his speech, that the Ukrainian issue was the key for WWII. Ukrainian resources – coal, oil, food, and above all people – were key in winning the war:
“The fate of the war was decided not only on the Western Front, but in the area between Berlin and Moscow – a territory that Timothy Snyder calls ‘bloodlands.’ At the center of these lands was Ukraine and the ‘Ukrainian question’…”
There is nothing good about being a land of resources “in the heart of darkness” between two aggressive competitors. The World War II for Ukrainians serves as a reminder of the horrors that occurred and may occur again if a free independent state is lost to an aggressor.
By Nicholas Wade and cross-posted from The Bulletin.
The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted lives the world over for more than a year. Its death toll will soon reach three million people. Yet the origin of pandemic remains uncertain: The political agendas of governments and scientists have generated thick clouds of obfuscation, which the mainstream press seems helpless to dispel.
In what follows I will sort through the available scientific facts, which hold many clues as to what happened, and provide readers with the evidence to make their own judgments. I will then try to assess the complex issue of blame, which starts with, but extends far beyond, the government of China.
By the end of this article, you may have learned a lot about the molecular biology of viruses. I will try to keep this process as painless as possible. But the science cannot be avoided because for now, and probably for a long time hence, it offers the only sure thread through the maze.
The virus that caused the pandemic is known officially as SARS-CoV-2, but can be called SARS2 for short. As many people know, there are two main theories about its origin. One is that it jumped naturally from wildlife to people. The other is that the virus was under study in a lab, from which it escaped. It matters a great deal which is the case if we hope to prevent a second such occurrence.
I’ll describe the two theories, explain why each is plausible, and then ask which provides the better explanation of the available facts. It’s important to note that so far there is no direct evidence for either theory. Each depends on a set of reasonable conjectures but so far lacks proof. So I have only clues, not conclusions, to offer. But those clues point in a specific direction. And having inferred that direction, I’m going to delineate some of the strands in this tangled skein of disaster.
A tale of two theories. After the pandemic first broke out in December 2019, Chinese authorities reported that many cases had occurred in the wet market — a place selling wild animals for meat — in Wuhan. This reminded experts of the SARS1 epidemic of 2002, in which a bat virus had spread first to civets, an animal sold in wet markets, and from civets to people. A similar bat virus caused a second epidemic, known as MERS, in 2012. This time the intermediary host animal was camels.
The decoding of the virus’s genome showed it belonged a viral family known as beta-coronaviruses, to which the SARS1 and MERS viruses also belong. The relationship supported the idea that, like them, it was a natural virus that had managed to jump from bats, via another animal host, to people. The wet market connection, the major point of similarity with the SARS1 and MERS epidemics, was soon broken: Chinese researchers found earlier cases in Wuhan with no link to the wet market. But that seemed not to matter when so much further evidence in support of natural emergence was expected shortly.
Wuhan, however, is home of the Wuhan Institute of Virology, a leading world center for research on coronaviruses. So the possibility that the SARS2 virus had escaped from the lab could not be ruled out. Two reasonable scenarios of origin were on the table.
From early on, public and media perceptions were shaped in favor of the natural emergence scenario by strong statements from two scientific groups. These statements were not at first examined as critically as they should have been.
“We stand together to strongly condemn conspiracy theories suggesting that COVID-19 does not have a natural origin,” a group of virologists and others wrote in the Lancet on February 19, 2020, when it was really far too soon for anyone to be sure what had happened. Scientists “overwhelmingly conclude that this coronavirus originated in wildlife,” they said, with a stirring rallying call for readers to stand with Chinese colleagues on the frontline of fighting the disease.
Contrary to the letter writers’ assertion, the idea that the virus might have escaped from a lab invoked accident, not conspiracy. It surely needed to be explored, not rejected out of hand. A defining mark of good scientists is that they go to great pains to distinguish between what they know and what they don’t know. By this criterion, the signatories of the Lancet letter were behaving as poor scientists: They were assuring the public of facts they could not know for sure were true.
It later turned out that the Lancet letter had been organized and drafted by Peter Daszak, president of the EcoHealth Alliance of New York. Daszak’s organization funded coronavirus research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology. If the SARS2 virus had indeed escaped from research he funded, Daszak would be potentially culpable. This acute conflict of interest was not declared to the Lancet’s readers. To the contrary, the letter concluded, “We declare no competing interests.”…