By Soroor Ahmed
The Ukraine crisis and the recent decision of Finland and Sweden to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation have provided an opportunity to re-visit the history of World War-II because we have till now been bombarded by the distorted and one-sided information from the West.
As history is written by the victor, all the blame for the start of World War-II had been heaped on the vanquished, that is the Germans, and their leader Adolf Hitler. After all, there is virtually nobody left to contest and challenge the western version of history.
The truth is that against the general impression created by the western historians, public opinionmakers and journalists, Britain, France and the then Soviet Union were equally – if not more – responsible as Germany for the start of World War-II.
The on-going Ukraine-Russia War has, in a way, provided an opportunity to objectively re-evaluate the developments in Europe between 1939 and 1945. The decision of the two Scandinavian countries to jump on the NATO bandwagon cannot be seen in isolation.
What we call as World War-II was in the beginning just an invasion of Poland by Germany on September 1. Two days later, that is, on September 3, 1939 it was Britain and France which declared war on Germany, thus escalating the fighting.
The Allies justified their decision by stating that they have a defence pact with Poland. It is another thing that France, one of the initiators of World War-II lost Paris by June 1940.
As if that was not enough, it was Stalin’s Soviet Union, which instead of helping Poland, chose to attack that embattled country from the east and captured a portion of it. It was simply backstabbing of Poland by Moscow, but London and Paris were keen on teaching the Nazis a lesson.
This encouraged Stalin to attack Finland on November 30, 1939. This bloody conflict which is called the Winter War continued till March 13, 1940. Finland was forced to give nine per cent of its territory to the Soviet Union after the agreement. Though the Soviet Union did manage to win the war, it suffered huge loss and thousands of its soldiers died from frost-bite and inclement weather.
So the excuse of the Soviet Union behind the attack on Finland was somewhat similar to the plea it took before invading Ukraine. It said that the 1,300 kms long Finnish-Soviet Union border was only 32 kms from Leningrad, now called St Petersburg. So when breakaway Estonia became a member of NATO, Moscow argued that it would be a security threat because St Petersburg is 160 kms away. In the same way, if Ukraine becomes a member of NATO, its border will be only around 500 kms away from Moscow, the present capital.
So far as World War-II is concerned, one can say that while Germany initially only invaded Poland, the rivals, especially the Soviet Union attacked Poland and Finland and Britain and France declared war against Hitler when they were not targeted in the beginning. Even the United States did not join the World War-II till December 6-7, 1941 and that too when it was attacked by Japan.
When Germany launched a massive onslaught on the over-ambitious Soviet Union on June 22, 1941 and within months its forces reached the outskirts of Moscow, Leningrad and Stalingrad, the same Finland, which a year ago succumbed to Stalin’s naked aggression, fully backed the Nazis. So, unlike the general impression, Germany and Italy were not the only partners against the Allied forces.
Besides Sweden, Switzerland, Portugal, Spain and Ireland were the European countries which remained neutral throughout the War. Turkey too was among them, but it is spread over to Asia too.
What is ironic is that just four years after the end of World War-II, that is in 1949 the western countries formed NATO, that is even before the takeover of China by Communists on October 1 the same year. Initially 12 countries – the United States and Canada as well as 10 of Europe – joined this military alliance on the plea that the same Soviet Union has become too strong after the fall of Nazis in Berlin. No doubt, the Red Army had captured 11 countries of East Europe, which included Poland and half of Germany, called East Germany. In the meantime, the United States, which helped the reconstruction efforts in Britain and France fully assisted them in becoming nuclear powers.
The moot question is: Why the US, Britain and France were in so hurry to check Stalin now and not in 1939 when he senselessly attacked Poland and Finland? It is a well-known fact that the United States provided material support to Stalin when his forces were facing humiliating defeat in the initial phase of war with Germany in 1941-42.
It was in 1955 that the Soviet Union retaliated with the formation of Warsaw Pact.
Curiously, NATO’s expansion started after the collapse of Communism and dismemberment of Soviet Union in 1991, that is after the end of security threat in Europe. The Warsaw Pact was dissolved. In return the West assured the rump Russia that NATO would not expand an inch towards east. But within a matter of a few years the number almost doubled to reach 30.
The new entrants included most of the members of the Warsaw Pact as well as countries which were part of the then Soviet Union – the closest being Estonia. In the same way, efforts were made to make Georgia and Ukraine members of NATO. It is said that these expansionist moves alarmed Russian President Vladimir Putin and prompted him to send troops to Ukraine.
The amazing fact is that Finland and Sweden were not enamoured by NATO at the time of Cold War between the US and Soviet Union and remained neutral since 1945.
If Finland becomes a member of NATO, it would provide further provocation to Russia as its border is much closer to St Petersburg than Estonia. So the tension in Europe is likely to escalate further rather than come down. And for this the western powers are more responsible as in the case of the sparking off World War-II.