Streetwise Professor

June 14, 2013

Vladimir Putin: Revisionism for Me, Not For Thee

Filed under: History,Military,Politics,Russia — The Professor @ 10:46 pm

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.

And remember, Russia has criminalized criticism of its role or tactics in WWII.

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.

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  1. The Russians also don’t like people pointing out the fact that ethnic minorities were vastly over represented in the mass conscript army of the USSR in WW2.

    It was a kill two birds with one stone for the Slavic Russians, kill Germans and their “troublesome and politically unreliable” ethnic minorities such as Chechens, Georgians, Kazakhs, Ukrainians, etc etc etc at the same time.

    Also, when Putin dribbles on about the 27 million dead “Russians”, sorry Putin, most were not Russians.

    Comment by Andrew — June 15, 2013 @ 12:11 am

  2. On the bright side, he apparently likes US football, or at least Super Bowl rings as evidenced by this story:

    Comment by Jim Overdahl — June 15, 2013 @ 1:43 pm

  3. @Jim. I saw that. Un-freaking-believable. I was going to blog on that this evening. Two unfreakingbelievable parts of that story. 1. That Putin would take the ring. 2. That the Bush Admin would enable this, by covering it up.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — June 15, 2013 @ 3:03 pm

  4. Please post, as I think there are many who are interested in your take on the episode. I particularly liked the delicately-worded request from the White House to consider the stolen ring a gift.

    Comment by Jim Overdahl — June 15, 2013 @ 5:13 pm

  5. “I cannot imagine any American president reaching a different decision.”

    The current occupant of the WH would surrender.

    Comment by ObamaPutin — June 15, 2013 @ 7:21 pm

  6. To surrender he would have had to fight in the first place. The current twit would probably have followed Kennedy seniors advice and supported the Nazi party…..

    Comment by Andrew — June 16, 2013 @ 9:40 am

  7. Let us not forget that it took TWO BOMBINGS to get the Imperial Rescript for surrender. Even after the Rescript was recorded, there was an attempted coup d’état by junior officers to seize the recording and prevent it from being released; one that had the conspirators murder the Lieutenant General in command of the Imperial Guards Division.

    Comment by Sotos — June 17, 2013 @ 7:48 am

  8. Professor-You know better than I but I thought Americans were bombing day after day and the Brits in Lancasters were bombing night after night.

    Comment by pahoben — June 20, 2013 @ 9:46 am

  9. @Sotos. Exactly. That’s what I was referring to when I mentioned the coup attempt that tried to prevent the airing of Hirohito’s recording.

    @pahoben. Yes. Absolutely. Some of the most horrific bombings occurred after the German defeat was inevitable. Think of Dresden-which was done at Soviet behest, by the way. Thanks for reminding me of that.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — June 20, 2013 @ 10:01 am

  10. Erlikhman is not exactly a russophile. The vast majority of Soviet military losses were Russian and Ukrainian. And if partisan activity is to be included, Belarussian as well.

    The Japanese surrendered because the Soviet Union declared war. The Japanese options were:

    1) Fight to the bitter end. Get divided up between the SU and the US. The former – a poor war ravaged country which will probably strip mine any industry left.
    2) Surrender to the US and hopefully become its proxy against the SU.

    They simply chose the lesser of two evils. It’s simple balance of power stuff. Wired into us at the biological level. No explicit records required.

    IMO, the SU should have simply let the US go through with the invasion and grab Manchuria at the last minute. But Russians have always sucked at diplomacy. Always gave up more than they had to, grabbed less than they could. The Convention of Peking the one and only exception. Making loud empty threats when it’s best to keep quiet, meekly staying quiet when they should have raised their voice.

    Comment by So? — June 22, 2013 @ 2:18 am

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