At a reception on the occasion of Russia Day, Putin held court, and talked about . . . the United States. After awarding the State Prize to Sergei Nikulin, head of the bureau that designed a new nuclear missile designed specifically to defeat US missile defenses, Putin launched into a disquisition on American history:
Pooling together traditional Soviet-time propaganda clichés, Putin recalled the US “genocide” of Native Americans, slavery and racial segregation that is still, according to Putin, very much evident in the United States today. Putin deplored the US nuclear bombing of Japanese cities in 1945 and expressed doubt that Soviet dictator Josef Stalin would have dropped an atom bomb on Nazi Germany if the USSR obtained nuclear weapons in 1945, when an overall victory was already assured. After expressing his “personal opinion” that Americans and their leaders are worse than Stalin, Putin acknowledged that the US is basically a democratic country, built on the principle of individual rights and freedoms, whereas Russian society is built on “collectivism,” which makes it fundamentally different. The Russian national soul, according to Putin, is eternal and directly connected to God, unlike, apparently, the pragmatic American one—“so it is very hard for us to understand each other, but it is possible sometimes”.
Russian soul, blah blah blah. Interesting, that, during a week when a survey was released showing that Russians were among the least religiously observant people in the world. And as Felgenhauer notes, rather than being a narod united in collective solidarity, Russian society is atomized: the Russian social capital account is heavily overdrawn. In other words, Putin’s characterization of Russia is a crock.
We are so in Putin’s head. He is obsessed with the US. Can you imagine any US president discussing, say, Russian conquests in the Caucasus, or Central Asia?
There is one part of Putin’s remarks that is particularly outrageous: ”Putin deplored the US nuclear bombing of Japanese cities in 1945 and expressed doubt that Soviet dictator Josef Stalin would have dropped an atom bomb on Nazi Germany if the USSR obtained nuclear weapons in 1945, when an overall victory was already assured.”
That is more than a crock: it is an ahistorical outrage. Allied victory over Japan might have been assured, but the cost would have been horrific. It took almost 3 months for the US 10th Army to take Okinawa. It cost about 12,500 American lives (5,000 on Navy ships, killed in Kamikaze attacks).
But it cost over 200,000 Japanese lives, about 107,000 Japanese soldiers and over 100,000 Japanese civilians.
Okinawa followed the appalling battle at Iwo Jima.
American B-29s were firebombing city after city, night after night.
Yet Japan’s military steadfastly refused even to contemplate surrender, and was preparing for a defense of the home islands to the last ditch and the last man. And the last woman and child.
Contrary to Putin’s insinuation, the war against Japan was not in its denouement. It was approaching a gruesome climax that would have cost hundreds of thousands of lives. Most of them Japanese.
Truman weighed the facts, and made a decision. The fates of millions of American and Allied soldiers rested on his shoulders. I cannot imagine any American president reaching a different decision. The only reason Stalin would have chosen invasion over the use of atomic weapons is that the lives of Soviet soldiers meant little to him.
Note that even after the US dropped atomic weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Japanese military resisted surrender. Hirohito made the decision, and even then, the military attempted a coup to prevent the broadcast of the Emperor’s surrender statement. Achieving the “assured” victory against Japan would have been a humanitarian catastrophe, won against a fanatical enemy at a cost against which the toll of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, as horrific as it was, would have paled in comparison.
Putin’s slur is particularly disgusting coming from a man who has attacked WWII revisionism, and supported laws criminalizing criticizing the Soviet role in the war:
“We must keep and defend the truth about the war,” he said after attending the opening ceremony of a Red Army World War II memorial in the Israeli city of Netanya.
The rewriting of history is a crime to the millions of people who gave their lives for the victory in WWII and future generations who should know the true heroes of the war and be able “to distinguish the truth from blatant and cynical lies,” Putin stressed.
Yeah. Take your own advice: distinguish the truth from blatant and cynical lies.
Sergei Shoigu, the respected emergency situations minister, has called for a law, based on Holocaust denial legislation in Germany, that would make it a criminal offence to suggest that the Soviet Union did not win the War.
Mr Shoigu indicated that the legislation would also seek to punish eastern European or former Soviet states which deny they were liberated by the Red Army. The leaders of those countries could be banned from Russian soil, he said.
The minister’s comments appeared particularly aimed at Estonia, which relocated a statue a Red Army soldier from a central square in the capital city Tallinn two years ago to a nearby war cemetery, prompting outrage in Russia.
“Our parliament should pass a law that would envisage liability for the denial of the Soviet victory in the Great patriotic War,” Mr Shoigu said. “Then the presidents of certain countries denying this would not be able to visit our country and remain unpunished.”
I suggest reading that whole article. Shoigu, by the way, is currently Russian Defense Minister.
Putin’s obsession with the US would actually be pathetic, if it weren’t so destructive. The catastrophe in Syria, for instance, is a direct consequence of this obsession, and the zero sum attitude Felgenhauer mentions (and which I’ve written about repeatedly in the past). Russia is “led” by a warped, cynical, twisted man. The destination to which he is leading it is frightening to contemplate.
Addendum: Victory over Nazi Germany was assured in April, 1945, yet Stalin ordered a relentless assault on Berlin, pitting Zhukov against Konev to goad them to getting to Berlin quickly. The casualties were appalling. Official estimates of Soviet dead are around 81K, but it is widely believed that actual deaths were far in excess of that. Probably 100,000 Germans were killed. Do you doubt Stalin would have used everything at his disposal to hasten the conquest of Berlin, despite the fact that victory was assured? And what about Stalin’s launching war against Japan in August, 1945 . . . again when the ultimate outcome was assured.