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Saturday, May 07, 2005

Digging up Yalta

Roosevelt sold them out, Bush says

Bush: U.S. Had Hand in European Divisions

By TERENCE HUNT, AP White House Correspondent 1 hour, 14 minutes ago

Bush said the lessons of the past will not be forgotten as the United States tries to spread freedom in the Middle East.

"We will not repeat the mistakes of other generations, appeasing or excusing tyranny, and sacrificing freedom in the vain pursuit of stability," the president said. "We have learned our lesson; no one's liberty is expendable. In the long run, our security and true stability depend on the freedom of others."

Bush singled out the 1945 Yalta agreement signed by Roosevelt in a speech opening a four-day trip focused on Monday's celebration in Moscow of the 60th anniversary of Nazi Germany's defeat.

In recent days Bush has urged Russia to own up to its wartime past. It appeared he decided to do the same, himself, to set an example for
Vladimir Putin, the Russian president.

Bush also used his address to lecture Putin about his handling of the emergence of democratic countries on Russia's borders. "No good purpose is served by stirring up fears and exploiting old rivalries in this region," Bush said. "The interests of Russia and all nations are served by the growth of freedom that leads to prosperity and peace."

Bush spent the day with the leaders of three Baltic republics — Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Many in the Baltic countries are still bitter about the Soviet annexation of their countries and the harsh occupation that followed the war for nearly 50 years. Acknowledging that anger and frustration still linger, Bush said that "we have a great opportunity to move beyond the past." His message here — and throughout his trip — is that the world is entering a new phase of freedom and all countries should get on board.

While history does not hide the U.S. role in Europe's division, American presidents have found little reason to discuss it before Bush's speech.

"Certainly it goes further than any president has gone," historian Alan Brinkley said from the U.S. "This has been a very common view of the far right for many years — that Yalta was a betrayal of freedom, that Roosevelt betrayed the hopes of generations."

Bush said the Yalta agreement, also signed by Britain's Winston Churchill and the Soviet Union's Joseph Stalin, followed in the "unjust tradition" of other infamous war pacts that carved up the continent and left millions in oppression. The Yalta accord gave Stalin control of the whole of Eastern Europe, leading to criticism that Roosevelt had delivered millions of people to communist domination.

This is wrong. As a historian I once read said, the Red Army could have stopped at the English Channel and there is nothing the US could have done about it. This was a bullshit argument in 1950 and it is today.

Stalin wanted to secure his borders over everything else. He had made the mistake of trusting Hitler and he wasn't going to trust Soviet security to petty dictators. Dictators who had turned on him in 1941.

People who are inclined to be romantic about Eastern Europe know little about it before 1939. It was dictatorships which were broke and barely stable. Poland, Hungary, Greece, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, either kingdoms or dictatorships reliant on Germany or France for political and military support. Stalin's methods were criminal, but his impulse was no different than the czars who took over Finland and Poland.

The Polish government was divided between the Lubin Poles and the London Poles, there is no way to know, in a free Poland, who would have won. Of course, the AK attacked the Germans in a doomed offensive, while Stalin lifted little to help them. Not only was his army clapped out from the Destruction of Army Group Center, it wasn't in his interest to save the London Pole run AK. Stalin had invaded Poland in 1939 to secure his frontier. Is it fantasy to think he would allow free elections in Poland according to US and British demands. What were they going to do? Cut off his arms and support? Unlikely.

Roosevelt agreed to Stalin's terms for a very simple reason: Japan. The expectation was that in the fall of 1945, the British would have to reconquer Malaya and the Americans would land on Kyushu. While Stalin knew all about the bomb, funished by American spies, the Allies had very little idea what the Japanese would do. The battle for Manila was especially bloody and would be folowed by Iwo Jima in February and Okinawa in April, while the Australians reconquered Borneo and the British pushed the Japanese to the Thai border.

Roosevelt and Truman were in no position to argue about Poland and Hungary when they needed Stalin's help to attack the Japanese in Manchuria. Remember, Stalin kept his word. His troops stopped in Eastern Germany and divided up Berlin after 100,000 Russians died in the battle. The right forgets that Stalin could have easily claimed that since Russian blood was shed for the city, that they should be the sole administrators.

Stalin acted badly, murdered those who opposed him and got away with it because defeating Hitler was more important. The US made a deal: you keep Eastern Europe, and we keep Japan. Because Stalin wanted to occupy Hokaido and took over the Sahkalin islands. Thousands of Japanese prisoners never returned from Stalin's gulags. This tacit understanding keept the peace for 60 years. The right, never liking Roosevelt, feel free to sneer at this, but the reality was that the Russians had enough power to control all of Europe simply by rolling over the US.

This argument was one of the Nazis final talking points: ally with us and stop the Russians. They pitched this over and over as the allies overran the concentration camps. They got Nuremburg instead.

Americans like to forget that the Russians won World Wart II with our help, not the other way around.

Bush's argument shows a stunning lack of historical knowledge, which is hardly surprising

posted by Steve @ 7:31:00 PM

7:31:00 PM

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