Sunday 9 June 2024

'We are in 1938': excellent weekend read


'Defence', you understand
... if you don't mind your weekend peace being rudely shattered.

From the Graun, of all places.



Clive said...

What's left unsaid in this -- very informative -- piece is, in my view, the most likely strategy to be at work here.

The collective west doesn't want Ukraine to lose. But it doesn't want it to win, either. That wasn't an approach you'll find anywhere in WWII from anyone.

Nick Drew said...

Well Clive, before the USA entered the war there were those in the powerful isolationist lobby who explicitly said they looked forward to Germany and Russia beating each other senseless

there's an isolationist lobby in the USA today, too ...

US isolationism, BTW, has a long and, some would argue, very reasonable history, given how the Monroe Doctrine was perennially used to embroil the US in all manner of more or less stupid conflicts over many decades

dearieme said...

I'm suspicious of all the lazy appeaser-beatings.

Before the war my father was certain that we'd end up fighting Germany - and planned his life around it - not because he was a Churchill fan but rather on his own guess at Hitler's ambitions.

He did not join in the sneering at "appeasers"; he thought them neither fools nor cowards; he viewed them as simply having proved wrong. People get things wrong all the time.

The "appeasers" had the British public on their side: the masses were dead against rearmament. They had the Opposition on their side; Labour didn't withdraw its opposition to conscription until after Germany had invaded Poland. That a Soviet stooge like Foot screamed that the "appeasers" were unpatriotic is particularly distasteful.

Anyway I have my own theory of what the major problem was. The question was whether Hitler was a Bismarck or a Napoleon.

If the former, he'd be a nationalist with rational, limited ambitions involving those Germans who lived in, or near the borders of, Germany. He'd be no risk to us. (Did we fight Bismarck? We did not.) If the latter he'd be an imperialist, monomaniac warmonger - reckless enough, like Boney, to fight in Russia and North Africa.

The point is that you couldn't tell which he was until he invaded Rump Czechoslovakia. Then, but only then, it was clear that he was a Napoleon.

There was another problem. What on earth could Britain do about him if the French wouldn't move? Do people really believe that our little army should march through France to attack Germany without French permission? Do they think we should have attempted a landing on the German North Sea coast? Lunacies. If the French wouldn't budge we were stalemated.

One more point: when do the anti-appeasers think we should have re-armed? 1934 maybe? Then we'd have entered the war with squadron upon squadron of biplanes. Fat lot of use they'd have been.

Matt said...

Putin is no Napoleon. He might want to have influence over the Russians in and around his borders but there is no chance of him going (much) further.

The main problem is that this has been caused by the warmongering US hawks who don't seem to be able to avoid poking the bear with sticks. That the Ukrainians were taken in by them is their own fault (well, that of their leadership) and has been an expensive lesson in terms of lives.

Caeser Hēméra said...

I'm not sure it serves as a rough parallel.

Should Ukraine fall - and it's not as guaranteed as Wadephul fears, just look at the Russian advance near Kharkiv, and how it fizzled out. The consequence being some donated weapons can now be used on Russian soil. No long as easy to build up forces safely at the border, find a soft spot, and push - Russia is going to find itself exhausted.

It's economy is changing, just look at the tax changes being implemented, and its noticeably weaker at its borders with NATO (as they know NATO won't agress), and it has destroyed a chunk of it military knowledge, replacing it with survivors of meat waves.

It is burning through hardware quicker than it is building it, even with a war economy, can it match that level of manufacturing? It certainly couldn't in WW2, hence the reliance on US hardware, and the likely reliance on NK and Iranian hardware here.

What it has got, and is the thing keeping people awake at night, is nuclear weaponry.

So, should Ukraine fall, there would no doubt be border skirmishes between Russian and NATO members forces, but WW3? Deeply unlikely, the corrupt are rarely raring to be martyrs, can't spend those ill gotten gains apre vie.

Much more likely there to be an expansion in the shadow war, interference in elections, cables cut... Although even there, Russia wouldn't go too far, it won't have escaped notice that having everything go through Moscow might help keep the government safe from internal threats, but is also a vulnerability.

China is the big concern, but there we have seen corruption gnaw at certainty. The citizenry are mostly docile, but we saw with Xi's Zero Covid plan, that as soon as it risked mass anger, a policy that was so central so him, Xi was willing to abandon it.

Even a nation that seems to be barrelling towards a genuine Orwellian dystopia had to change course as its citizens grew discontented.

NK is China's wayward lapdog that Beijing will eventually see to putting down, and I can't see the Iranian regime lasting another decade.

So I don't think we're as locked into a war as some may think.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure China sees itself the way a Westerner might.

They are more likely seeing themselves as recovering their rightful place as the world #1 economy, after the roundeyes stole that title for a couple of centuries.

The risk isn't so much of Russia/China starting WW3, as of the US taking a gamble - because, as I'm reading in all sorts of places (almost like word has gone out) Russia must not be allowed to win.

And as it is winning, what are they going to do to try and prevent it?

Diogenes said...

Russia having a go at Ukraine is so 'on brand' for Russia.

WWII was an aberration as they had a genuine need to defend the motherland. Just prior they were threatening the 'nazis' in Finnish Karelia. They didn't land a knockout blow there, they just used their endless supply of cannon fodder and ground the Finns into agreeing to let them have their win in return for peace.

As has been pointed out above and in many places, they just don't have the capacity to mount an efficient war / take and hold positions over large distances. It is essentially a kleptocracy looking for marginal gains and new sources of income for their elite.

** Slightly OT. There is a rise in kleptocracy worldwide. They label them with right-wing/left-wing/communists but they are essentially 'biznizmen' looking for maximum gain for minimal cost to themselves.

Nick Drew said...

OT? Only very slightly so, Diogenes - it's a very good & very germane insight.

Russia (see earlier post on flavour of corruption there) has its share of people who desire riches beyond the regular dreams of avarice. Like anywhere else. Except in the west, there are (or have been) ways of getting that via more-or-less legit activity - see Rockefeller, Ford, Gates, Zuck, Musk, Bez et al; and the Rausing types in Eu. (China, too, in recent years.) But Russians - along with African dictators etc - are stuck with theft instead.

(Of course, many lefties would say the 'legit' ways are theft, too.)

I think we'll have a post on this.

Wildgoose said...

@dearieme's comment was very astute. I personally detest all the pejorative attacks on Chamberlain who was an honourable man attempting to do the best job he could do.

We aren't in 1938 though. Perhaps in 1944. Russia's win is inevitable. Russia manufactures 3 times as many artillery shells as the entire West combined. Russia manufactures weapons to be used. NATO manufactures weapons to be sold. And Russia has insisted on maximising "dual-use" manufacture that can grow both the civilian and military economies in tandem.

Corruption is a problem all over the world. It's not that long ago that France was told their companies would no longer be allowed to put the bribes they pay against their taxes as legitimate business expenses.

By contrast, before taking power Putin had a reputation as "the only honest bureaucrat in St Petersburg" - and he appears to be slowly cleaning up Russian corruption at the top. Only time will tell how far that succeeds.

The USA has had an easy ride by being able to simply print dollars to buy whatever they need. That is now coming to an end because Russia is also winning the simultaneous economic war. The global South has picked the side they want to win - and it's not the "Western nations".

All the constant talk about Russia being "exhausted" and at the point of collapse is just fantasy and wishful thinking. Paid propagandists like this Guardian author are part of the problem. The dishonesty just makes it harder to rescue anything from the wreckage.

Anonymous said...

Diogenes - were their Finnish incursions/attacks/conquests a product of worries about Leningrad, only 20 miles from the border? Given subsequent events I could see why they were worried.

An interesting question is - had the Soviets not invaded, would Finland still have joined Hitler?

I must say the Soviets were no slouches at the Colour Revolution game:

"On 24 July, Molotov accused the Finnish government of persecuting the communist Finland–Soviet Union Peace and Friendship Society and soon afterward publicly declared support for the group. The society organised demonstrations in Finland, some of which turned into riots."

Could be Georgia today.

Sobers said...

No we're not in 1938. Not least because 10% of the population of the country have foreign passports (and the vast majority of those will be working age, not children or retired). As soon as it looked like 'War with Russia/China/whoever' was on the cards, a decent proportion of the UK's population would up sticks and leave. Unless of course we suddenly find we can ignore international law after all and kidnap millions of citizens of foreign countries, and virtually enslave them to work and fight for us.

And of course a significant proportion of those who actually are UK citizens hate us and wouldn't fight on our behalf anyway, and would probably aid the enemy given half a chance.

The UK is not a serious country any more. Its given up on all the things that serious countries do, such as control who comes into and out of it, have an economy capable of producing the basic requirements of human existence and self defence, run itself for the benefit of its inhabitants, not the rest of the world, requiring those who live here to be loyal to it, maintaining a homogenous culture. Its allowed itself to become a place where people come because its economically advantageous to do so, but to which no one owes any allegiance, nor is any demanded. The whole country would dissolve if there was a hot war in prospect.

Clive said...

@ ND — yes, you’re right, easy to forget how long the US sat on its hands now.

To the various “Russia is winning” or “Russia will win” crowd — well, depends on how you define “win”. The allies won in WWII — unconditional axis surrender. Is that really what you’re envisaging for Ukraine?

Wildgoose said...

@Clive Yes.

There was a real chance for Peace right at the beginning of the War.

Scotched, on behalf of the Americans.

The West is "not agreement capable".

After over 100,000 Russian dead (and considerably more Ukraininan) this only ends with capitulation.

Remember, Zelenskyy insists that Ukraine will not negotiate with Russia while Putin is in charge. Putin is legitimately elected. Zelenskyy has cancelled elections, gaoled opposition MPs, banned opposition parties and remains in power illegally. I don't think Russia can seriously negotiate with an illegitimate Nazi-backed dictator.

The real question is How does Ukraine collapse? Will there be a military coup that deposes Zelenskyy and reaches out to Russia?

I can't see Russia wanting anything to do with Galicia (North-Western Ukraine).

What is the End-Game?

Clive said...

@ Wildgoose 12:05

But if Ukraine is at the mercy of neo-Nazis then how does a military coup work? Surely the neo-Nazis, being, well, Nazis, are ruthless, murderous and brutal adversaries and would either take charge by being behind the coup themselves or else swiftly dispatch the coup plotters if for no other reason than a coterie of Putin sympathisers in power would not be advantageous for them?

Wildgoose said...

@ Clive 12:41

Yup. It's a mess. You are just as likely to get a pro-war coup (backed by the US) as any other. Japan narrowly avoided such a coup in 1945.

Another possibility is simple assassination to "reshuffle the deck".

Ultimately, it is like Hemingway's description of the onset of bankruptcy. "Gradually, then Suddenly".

That will be why the US is already looking for "Ukraine Part Two" in Georgia, as mentioned by Anonymous above.

Bloke in Callao said...

The global South has picked the side they want to win - and it's not the "Western nations".

WHich part of the 'global south' is that then? In this part the yanquis are the bloc of choice - as they always have been.

Anonymous said...

N. S. Khrushchev said, recently I talked with the British Ambassador and asked him how many atomic bombs needed to be exploded to liquidate Britain. The Ambassador replied, six bombs. Then I informed him that several dozen atomic bombs have been prepared for them in the USSR. The Western leaders know that if they get involved in a war then in one day we will blow up Europe in one salvo. Nothing will remain of Britain, West Germany, and France.

Plus ca change...

dearieme said...

"six bombs": I wonder where they'd be aimed at.

London, obvs.

The universities, "both of them" as Sir Humphrey would say.

Brum, Manchester, and ..???.. Leeds/Bradford.

Leave Scotland/ Wales/NI/Liverpool untouched in hopes of exploiting them later? Come to think of it, there must be a huge exploitable population in London so maybe remove it from the list and add a more English city?

Here's a new game: which cities do you bomb to leave as large a readily exploitable foreign population in place as possible? So perhaps remove Leeds/Bradford from the list too?

Diogenes said...

Only 1 nation has ever used the bomb, but there have been a few using biological and chemical weapons. If you want to leave a readily exploitable foreign population in place, one option has advantage over other choices.

But why? As soon as the existential threat has gone your left with your supporters wondering if they can get top spot. Putin's concern is that he may not see retirement unless there is something to unite people behind him. He's a student of Russian history wanting to be Peter the Great rather than a later day Romanov.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I'd leave Brum, Bradford, Manchester, maybe even London were it not the seat of govt and MI6. Trouble is we haven't got much worth bombing these days, because we don't make anything.

Portsmouth? A few frigates. Bristol perhaps? Barrow - a sub every few years. Chester with Airbus wings? Cheltenham and Harrogate for GCHQ and Menwith Hill?

It's like the Baedeker Raids of WW2, only now they're avoiding the big cities because all they produce are kebabs and hand car washes?

Anonymous said...

OT but quite important - US/Saudi petrodollar deal expired on the weekend.

The petrodollar agreement, formalized after the 1973 oil crisis, stipulated that Saudi Arabia would price its oil exports exclusively in U.S. dollars and invest its surplus oil revenues in U.S. Treasury bonds. In return, the U.S. provided military support and protection to the kingdom. This arrangement was a win-win situation for both; the U.S. gained a stable source of oil and a captive market for its debt, while Saudi Arabia secured its economic and overall security.