14 December 2017
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PRESS RELEASES AND NEWS

25.07.2017

Embassy comments on The Sunday Telegraph Christopher Booker’s piece on Dunkirk

        It is preposterous to say that Russia would rather forget Dunkirk. We had a similar tragedy in the summer of 1941, and had no other option but keep on fighting. Russia was the means of last resort in dealing with that existential threat to European civilization.

In our Twitter poll (on 19 July) we wanted to draw attention to the origins of that calamity on the Western front. And those are in the policy of appeasement. In fact, the British and French troops were badly let down by their Governments. Since they stayed idle along the border with Germany for eight months (September 1939 to April 1940), it was impossible to see where the will to fight would have come from. All the more so that the Germans executed the same Schlieffen plan, they couldn’t successfully accomplish in August 1914 because of an early action by the Russian army in East Prussia. Like in 1914, they moved through Belgium, and the Maginot Line didn’t protect that breach. We didn’t mention the Cliveden Set, Munich etс. for the sake of level-headed debate.

         But the most important thing from the point of view of contemporary European politics is that the Versailles system was utterly flawed. It marginalized Germany and the Soviet Union, leaving them no other choice but to cooperate bilaterally. Unlike the Western neighbours of Germany, her Eastern neighbors’ borders were not guaranteed. The plans for an Eastern Locarno were defeated by the Western elites. What came out of this project was a system of two bilateral treaties between Prague and Paris/Moscow. In the fall of 1938 the Soviet Union was willing to come to Czechoslovakia’s assistance, but could do so only together with France, and the French Government preferred a sellout to Hitler in Munich. Obviously, Nazi Germany was easier to defeat in 1938 than in 1939, and in 1939 than 1940.

We didn’t say that the Revolution in Russia was to a great extent due to the consequences of WWI, and even the Provisional Government could have done better and haven’t lost control, had it not been pressed by the allies to continue the war effort that the country couldn’t afford. Shall we mention that the Western powers were well aware of the futility of the war by the first Christmas, but still didn’t have enough wisdom to stop the slaughter? Another chance for peace arose in the spring of 1917, but was also missed. Then Paris and London failed the Wilsonian “peace without victors” test. J.M.Keynes in his “Economic Consequences of the Peace” made a convincing argument why the Versailles created economic conditions for another war in Europe. A big issue of causality in terms of European order/national regimes.

It is obvious that the Western powers failed to create a region-wide collective security system to prevent war in Europe. Instead they reacted to “the mass political awakening” (Zb.Brzezinski) with the “Soviet threat” in mind, and wouldn’t mind fascism as a way to manage it. That is why the appeasement and the effort to channel the German aggression eastwards. The partitioning of Czechoslovakia and invasion of Poland were viewed as necessary to ensure direct territorial contact for a military clash with the Soviet Union.

         We are very much in favour of good knowledge of history, including the Phoney War and Dunkirk. By the way, the Phoney War proved Moscow right in that it couldn’t count on Western powers had it chosen to stand up to Hitler in 1939. The Phoney War is hardly ever mentioned in history books here. It ought to be explained, however difficult it might be. But without that one cannot understand the tragedy of Dunkirk and the scale of courage of the troops put in that impossible position by their own government’s folly. It also illustrates the elites’ capacity for self-delusion and outright lunacy, which is always useful to bear in mind.

         Naturally, bigger issues of history arise. It is easy to understand the eagerness to disown Germany as black sheep (or later prodigal son) of the West. Yes, indeed, Germany was the first major European power to occupy another major European power since Napoleon in its war with France in 1870-1871. Prior to that Prussia had wars with Denmark and the Austrian empire. But the European order, agreed at the Congress of Vienna in 1815, was destroyed by the Crimean War in 1853-1856, which re-introduced war into European politics. Orlando Figes calls it, quite rightly, the first total war. Some historian would call it unnecessary. For others it was World War Zero, for it started the countdown to WWI, having provided the window of upportunity for the wrong unification of Germany, i.e. as a Prussian empire. 20 years before it happened, Fedor Tyutchev predicted that it would bring about a European catastrophe. Here, in Britain, that war is mostly remembered for the Charge of the Light Brigade. As Lord Tennyson put it, “someone had blundered.” It was the least consequential of the blunders in European politics that followed, including the British Government’s insistence on humiliating provisions in the Peace of Paris. Overall, this is about the importance of being knowledgeable in history, the view that we wholly share.




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