MOSCOW (Valentin Falin, Soviet Ambassador to West Germany in 1971-78, for RIA Novosti)
Judgments can be reached through comparison, by strictly connecting cause and effect. Violence, except when it is used in self-defense, is evil. An aggression to seize and enslave whole nations is a thousand times more evil.
On June 22, 1941 Hitler started his "real war." This is how he defined the purpose of his campaign against the Soviet Union: To eradicate Jewish Bolshevism, reduce the Slavic population by ten times, seize property in the occupied regions and colonize them.
What price did the Soviet Union pay for the Nazi aggression? The death toll was 27,600,000. The number of people who were wounded or suffered war-related disorders exceeded 30 million. From 7 to 10 million Soviet citizens were forced into slave labor in Germany, where no fewer than a million and a half of them perished. Two thirds of the soldiers and officers taken prisoner by the Germans did not survive the war either.
History has rarely seen a country be given a suspended sentence after an international tribunal has found it guilty of perpetrating a global disaster. In fact, Germany could have lost even less had it not been for a bad joke played on it by Western democracies and their followers in Germany.
In late March 1945 Stalin reiterated the position he first made public on November 6, 1941: "Hitlers come and go, but Germany and the German people remain." At the Potsdam Conference he offered Truman and Churchill the chance to view Germany as a single whole, but the Americans and the British blocked these proposals. However, they refrained from making public their plans to split Germany into three or five different states and formally agreed to regard Germany as a certain economic community.
The French joined the Potsdam agreements with a reservation. They were against preserving German unity, while the British were playing up to De Gaulle on the sly. Truman adopted a wait-and-see attitude, trying to decide in which harbor to cast his anchor, which affected the performance of his Administration officials.
Secretary of State Byrnes reached an understanding with the Soviet leaders on virtually all questions discussed at the talks in December of 1945.
The "illusions" of Byrnes and his soul mates came to an end on January 5, 1946, when Truman summoned him and disavowed his position at the Moscow talks. The president defined the essence of the new line in U.S. policy as follows: no compromise with Moscow; from now on agreements with the USSR would only be justified if they were based on Soviet concessions without limiting U.S. freedom of action.
This day, January 5, 1946, launched the Cold War era, which meant a split of Germany, Europe and the whole world. Atomic diplomacy or, on a broader plane, atomic democracy dominated international affairs for half a century to come.
Moscow did not follow the Washington-dictated rules of co-existence right away. For years, Stalin adhered to his view that a split of Germany did not meet Soviet strategic interests. The task of anti-fascist forces was to complete the bourgeois-democratic revolution of 1848 that had been interrupted by Bismarck and Hitler. The Soviet example was not supposed to be copied.
The USSR proposed to the three powers that free pan-German elections be held on the basis of uniform law in order to form a German government. Moscow suggested holding a referendum in Germany so that the Germans could decide for themselves which social and economic system to choose and what political status their country should acquire. Secretary of State Marshall replied that the U.S. had no reason to trust the democratic will of the Germans.
Moscow repeatedly proposed holding talks with German participation to reach a peaceful settlement in Germany, which would provide for an end to the occupation and withdrawal of all foreign troops from Germany in the shortest time possible. The West rejected all these initiatives.
The moment of truth came in March 1947 when Hoover's report was published. It made it abundantly clear that the U.S. favored a partition of Germany and no longer wanted to implement in the Western sections the decisions that had been adopted by the Potsdam Conference and the Control Council.
Germany and Europe entered a new era. Politics became the continuation of war by other means.
What option did the Soviet Union have in view of this change? Until the summer and fall of 1947 the USSR refrained from efforts to put its proteges in power in Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Romania. It did not press with a purge in the state machinery of Poland and tried to tone down, with the help of friends, the social discontent that was growing in France, Italy and Britain.
But the change in U.S. policy forced Stalin to parry the challenge. Once again he made one exemption as regards Germany. After the formation of the Federal Republic of Germany, reciprocated by the establishment of the German Democratic Republic, the Soviet leader made it clear to Wilhelm Pick that the task of restoring Germany along the lines of the Weimar Republic had not been abandoned.
The West sacrificed liberation for confrontation. This did not happen because the USSR posed a threat. The explanation was both more simple and alarming: a desire to be first among equals.
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