George W. Bush

Yalta Once More, With Feeling

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At the risk of flogging a dead treaty, I feel compelled to note that lefty writers have lost their freakin' minds over President Bush's Yalta reference in Latvia this Saturday, and that they are misreading or ignoring important recent history in doing so. To see how, keep reading after the jump!

Joshua Micah Marshall called Bush's statement a "historically ignorant and morally hideous claim," and said that "the president also makes common cause…with those who argued before the war and after that the US and the UK made their fundamental error in the war itself, by allying with the Soviets against Nazism rather than with Nazism against the Soviets."

David Greenberg compared the remark to Hitler's infamous "Stab in the Back" theory, and huffed that "for an American president to dredge up ugly old canards about Yalta stretches the boundaries of decency and should draw reprimand."

Joe Conason called it "ugly and erroneous criticism," "unforgivable" and a "historical falsification…to slander one of his greatest predecessors." Matthew Yglesias accused Bush of "taking up the John Birch/McCarthy line as the new official American take on this." And a conspiratorial Kevin Drum asked:

But here's what I'm curious about: why did Bush mention Yalta at all?…So who was the reference aimed at? Not just the Latvians, that's for sure. Bush is a master of using codewords in his speeches, and inserting Yalta into this speech wasn't a casual decision. It was there for someone. Who?

To which David Greenberg seconded: "Anyway, I don't think Yalta dealt significantly with Latvia. At least it wasn't a central issue there. Had Bush given the speech in Poland, or even in Hungary, Yalta might have seemed more relevant."

Well, Bush did give the speech in Poland—in June 2001—but Greenberg's right: Yalta didn't deal significantly with Latvia, if by "significantly" you mean "primarily." But from the Baltics' point of view (and yes, there are other points of view besides the domestic Cold War squabble), there was the not-insignificant matter of having their countries erased from the post-war map by the soon-to-be victorious superpowers. Latvians, like Poles and several other Mitteleuropean tribes, cannot stop yammering about "Yalta," and understandably so. When the first Clinton Administration tried out some compromise "Partnership for Peace" arrangement for Central Europe's leading new democracies, the Poles responded with a Yalta-Munich one-two punch. ("We've gone from Chamberlain's umbrella to President Clinton's saxophone," an aide to Lech Walesa memorably told me back then.) Ask any American diplomat who dealt with the Baltics from 1993 to maybe 2000—it was all Yalta, all the time.

Ronald Asmus was one such diplomat; he wrote an influential 1993 Foreign Affairs article advocating NATO expansion, and then was brought on during Clinton's second term to help get it done. Chapter 2 of his book Opening NATO's Door is entitled—wait for it, lefties!—"Dismantling Yalta." As Asmus makes clear, the pro-NATO expansion advocates in Clinton's team saw Yalta as a division that needed unification, a wrong that needed righting, and a diplomatic mistake to avoid repeating. On page 280, Asmus reports that at a pro-expansion ceremony in Washington, "Vice President Gore reminded Senator Biden that it was the fiftieth anniversary of the end of the Yalta conference that had started to cement the original division of Europe—and that the West was now overcoming." On page 177, we learn that "Albright also viewed enlargement as a moral imperative. It was an opportunity to erase the lines drawn by the armies of Hitler and Stalin and accepted by the West at Yalta."

Albright's own book contains a passage which, if I'm reading Conason and Marshall and Greenberg right, makes her a neo-McCarthyite John Bircher fond of discredited Hitlerite tactics:

After Madrid, the President went to Warsaw to congratulate Poland on its invitation [to NATO], then to Bucharest to reassure Romania. These were amazing stops. Working with our Polish hosts, the White House advance team produced an American campaign-style event in Warsaw's Castle Square. Thirty thousand jubilant "mourners" attended what was advertised as "Yalta's Funeral." There were marching bands, red carpets, balloons, and banners. The sun even broke through just as the President began to speak of the opportunities and obligations of NATO membership.

Italics mine, to drive home a point: It has been official American policy to bury Yalta in symbol and by name for at least a decade now. U.S. diplomats and leaders, many from Central European stock, have become fluent in the language of Munich and Yalta, which also comes dancing freely from the lips of the likes of such moral persuaders as Walesa and Vaclav Havel. I was shocked and appalled, living in Central Europe at the time, that respected American commentators so routinely misunderstood the easy-to-find stated motivations for our European policy. There were more than enough Capitol Hill hearings on the issue; it's not hard at all to find stuff like "the Clinton Administration adheres to the idea of a NATO club of European democracies, repeatedly emphasizing the compelling importance of 'righting the wrongs of Yalta.'"

Since I've wasted this much space I'll drive the rest of you away with four last quick points. 1) Bush never mentioned Roosevelt. 2) Note the sentence directly after his placing Yalta "in the unjust tradition of Munich and the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact."—"Once again, when powerful governments negotiated, the freedom of small nations was somehow expendable." This does not require a decoder ring, does it? 3) The comment was made in the specific and politically charged context of Vladimir Putin refusing to apologize to the Latvians for the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. 4) In making the above points, I am not laying out my 12-point program for What Roosevelt Should Have Done Differently. For that matter, neither was Bush. (His November 2002 speech in Prague, which also name-checked Yalta, followed its invocation with these two lines: "We have no power to rewrite history. We do have the power to write a different story for our time.") I'm just suggesting that those looking for a Stab in the Back or at least a John Birch slap within the remarks of the president may have stumbled onto a plot even more sinister, because the Clintonites are in on it, too.

NEXT: Orange You Glad He Was DHS Head?

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  1. Is this an H&R post or an article?

  2. H&R post. I’ll try to make this more clear….

  3. Wow, after all these years, its still true:

    Scratch a lefty, find a commie.

  4. Actually, I’m inclined to the opinion that the left doesn’t really think Yalta was a good idea; it’s just knee-jerk anti-Bush BS again, again. If he’d come out defending Putin’s stance, the left would have been all over him for that, and would have dug up the Clinton quotes for themselves, perhaps.

    Anyhow, it’s funny watching the left and anti-liberation Western academia etc. jerk themselves around trying to find plausible positions that contain no hint that GWB is doing anything worthwhile or ever has or ever could.

  5. I’m inclined as well to put this in the “if Bush says it, I’m against it” category.

    As Matt has pretty well documented, put the same words in Clinton’s mouth, or Gore’s or Albright’s et al., and Marshall, Drum et al. wouldn’t say much. My guess is a little more digging can find similar sentiments expressed by a whole legion of Democratic leaders/spokesman over the decades.

    I think this shows on one small level how superficial the Left understands the Right. Because of the general dominance in academia and elite opinion by the Left, the Right tends to be exposed more to progressive views than vice-versa. And so the Left sees criticism by anyone on the Right of Yalta as being simply in the McCarthy/Bircher category.

    A bit unfair on my part and I’m admittedly painting with huge swathes of paint; but the picture has some resemblance to real life.

    SMG

  6. Hmm, actually Bush should have praised Yalta as a great example of international diplomacy and “idealpolitik.”

    That would have really scrambled the brains of the Left.

    Drum would need to be sedated trying to decipher those “codewords” praising FDR. Viz.: “Let’s see Bush said it so I’m against it. But he praised FDR so it must be a signal to the neocons. But Yalta wasn’t a success because Albright and Gore and Clinton criticized it so Bush must be wrong but then FDR screwed up and. . . well Bush was AWOL from TANG anyway. . .”

    JB

  7. Dammed, Drum has figured it out.

    What the hell.

    Krauthammer has a message in two parts: Red sky alpha with the brown hat. The prothonotary warbler flies at noon.

    Second part to follow.

    Whittaker

  8. Pres. Bush:

    “Once again, when powerful governments negotiated, the freedom of small nations was somehow expendable. Yet this attempt to sacrifice freedom for the sake of stability left a continent divided and unstable. The captivity of millions in Central and Eastern Europe will be remembered as one of the greatest wrongs of history. “

    Right on Pres. Bush! Now that feels very strange to say, especially in view of his support of regimes that deny liberty to others, particularly the Israeli government’s occupation of Palestine, but truth is where you find it.

    Has the left forgotten that they were wrong about the commies?? Their defense of the Soviet Union in the past helped along one of the most hideous tragedies of history. The left’s current defending of FDR’s disastrous caving into the Soviet Union at Yalta is like spitting on the graves of its victims.

  9. Bush indirectly rebukes Vladimir Putin by using a line of argument going back decades (as Matt illustrates). It is nothing more than a purely symbolic gesture, and it only took Bush until May of 2005 to make it

    I guess you take your gestures where you can find them. But sometimes its nice to see actions speak louder than words

    Anon

  10. Matt is right to say that the Clinton administration also used “Yalta” in the way Bush did (though without mentioning it in the same breath as the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact…)

    However, it is unfair to the Left to suggest that it offered no objections then. Admittedly, there wasn’t much about it on the blogs because there were few if any blogs in those days. However, at least one of the objectors to Bush’s speech (Arthur Schlsinger, Jr.) was just as opposed to what he regarded as the misrepresentation of Yalta by the Clinton administration:

    http://groups-beta.google.com/group/soc.culture.polish/msg/96252b06ebb6bdc8

    Quoting the late New York Daily News columnist Lars-Erik Nelson:

    “‘There may be good arguments for expanding NATO, but the Clinton administration is using some shameless ones. Eizenstat yesterday repeated a 50-year-old right-wing slander in asserting that the Poles belonged in NATO because they had been ‘betrayed’ by Yalta agreements signed with Stalin by Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill.

    “In fact, points out Prof. Arthur Schlesinger, there was no such betrayal. The Yalta agreements provided for free elections in Poland–and Stalin broke the pact to impose Communist rule. ‘I don’t know what Stuart Eizenstat would have done about that,” Schlesinger said yesterday. ‘We were still fighting a war with Japan at the time, and we could not have saved Poland by military intervention. The Red Army was already there.'”

    So there is at least a partial answer to the argument that if Yalta-bashing means recycling right-wing slanders, then the Clinton administration was guilty of it, tooo, and should have been criticized by the Left. The answer is that at least two people on the Left (Professor Schelsinger and the late Mr. Nelson–at least assuming that this Usenet post was quoting them correctly) did exactly that.

    One should add that not all the objectors to Bush’s speech were on the “Left” anyway–unless you somehow locate Conrad Black there, as I pointed out in my comment to Matt’s previous post on the subject.

  11. The American Left, like King Canute failing to stop the sea from rising, cannot stop the tide of history receding from them. They so utterly detest the President they repudiate values all Americans should stand for, simply so they can convince the rest of us he’s the moron they’re convinced he is. Yet they fail to grasp they’re not only losing, they are embarrasing themselves as well.

  12. “The American Left, like King Canute” yadda yadda yadda.

    Look, I often disagree with the Left but in condemning the myth of “eastern Europe was sold out at Yalta” they are right. It *is* a myth, no matter how many eastern Europeans sincerely believe in it, and however expedient US dipolmats find it under both Clinton and Bush to take this belief into account.

    If you doubt that a non-Leftist can condemn the “Yalta betrayal” myth, read the following.
    Do you consider *this* man left-wing? (I’m cutting-and-pasting it instead of just linking to it because I think the site requires registration; by the way it was also printed in that notorious left-wing rag the New York *Sun*):

    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/ArticleNews/TPStory/LAC/20050510/COYALTA10/TPComment/TopStories

    “Yalta was no betrayal, Mr. Bush

    The U.S. President is perpetuating a canard, says FDR biographer CONRAD BLACK

    By CONRAD BLACK

    Tuesday, May 10, 2005 Page A19

    In his otherwise eloquent remarks at Riga on the weekend, U.S. President George W. Bush, as has been his habit when in Eastern Europe, revived the Yalta myth about the origins of the Iron Curtain and the postwar division of Europe. He said that “the Yalta Agreement followed in the unjust tradition of Munich and the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. Once again, when powerful governments negotiated, the freedom of small nations was somehow expendable.”

    Yalta’s Declarations on Liberated Europe and on Poland were all that the most ardent democrat would have wished: assurances of free, multiparty elections, secret ballots and the benefits of Western standards of freedom. Apart from these two declarations, Yalta did not otherwise dispose of Eastern Europe. As historian Ted Morgan wrote: “Yalta was a defeat for the Soviets and they so regarded it. What they won at the negotiating table, their armies already possessed. If Yalta was a sell-out, why did [Stalin] go to such lengths to violate the agreement?” The problem with Yalta was not that it was a bad agreement but that Stalin ignored it.

    Eastern Europe was not written off, as Mr. Bush implies. At Tehran in November of 1943, it was agreed to move the Soviet and Polish western borders 200 miles to the west, rewarding Russia for her mighty war effort and compensating Poland at the expense of Germany. Stalin made it clear that the USSR would reoccupy the Baltic states of Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania, which had been Russian provinces for 200 years from the time of Peter the Great to the end of the First World War. He dismissed Franklin Roosevelt’s request for a referendum in those countries and pointed out that the British and Americans had never asked the Romanovs to hold referendums there.

    Mr. Bush is correct that the liberty of small countries must be protected against the aggressions of larger powers, but there was no practical step the Western leaders could take to assist the Baltic countries as the 360 divisions of the Red Army rolled into Central Europe.

    In February of 1944, the European Advisory Commission, against the wishes of the United States, produced a plan for the division of postwar Germany into three approximately equal zones. This was a triumph for the British, who would have only a fraction of the forces of the Americans in Western Europe at the end of hostilities, much less the Russians. Not knowing that Tehran had a secret agreement and changed the Polish borders, the commissioners awarded most of the Russian zone of prewar Germany from territory that would be Polish.

    This condemned Poland to Russian occupation, but also assured that Germany would move demographically to the West and become an unambiguously Western country for the first time. About 10 million Germans decamped to the West ahead of the Red Army. It was a tragedy for the Poles but a good geopolitical trade for the West. The United States had not wanted to demarcate occupation zones in Germany but leave it to where the armies ended up. Roosevelt correctly believed that the Germans would resist more fiercely in the East against the Russians than against the Western Allies, who generally observed the Geneva Conventions.

    Winston Churchill, who was hardly soft on communism and was leader of the opposition to the 1938 Munich agreement, went to Moscow in October of 1944 and agreed that the Soviet Union would have pre-eminent influence in Romania, Bulgaria and Hungary; that the West would prevail in Greece; and that Yugoslavia would be a 50-50 division between them. This was essentially what occurred. It was, in Churchill’s phrase, a “naughty” arrangement, made against Roosevelt’s wishes, but it reflected military realities on the ground. Apart from these agreements, Eastern Europe was not formally carved up or assigned among the Great Powers.

    The Russians were taking almost 90 per cent of the casualties among the Big Three Allies in fighting the Germans. It has never been clear how Roosevelt and Churchill were to deny Stalin what he considered his share of the spoils. Roosevelt wanted the Russians to take some of the anticipated one million casualties that would be involved in subduing Japan, if atomic weapons did not work. The first atomic test was only in July of 1945, more than five months after Yalta.

    Roosevelt had hoped that the existence of atomic weapons in the hands of the U.S., plus a promise of immense economic assistance and co-operation in the durable demilitarization of Germany, could induce Stalin to be comparatively flexible in Eastern Europe. Stalin’s rejection of this offer from Roosevelt and Harry Truman was a colossal blunder. The violated Yalta accords furnished much of the moral basis for the Western conduct of the Cold War, which ultimately the Russians could not win and which led to the collapse of the Soviet Union and of communism itself.

    Mr. Bush should remember, even if he does not want to repeat it to live audiences in Eastern Europe, that, of all those countries, only the Czechs were politically distinguished before the war. The Hungarians and Poles jubilantly joined in tearing up Czechoslovakia after Munich. Munich was a bad arrangement, undertaken with good intentions by British prime minister Neville Chamberlain, because he knew that Britain and France could not go to war against the desire of the Sudeten Germans to join Germany.

    The Nazi-Soviet Pact of 1939 was an act of stupefying cynicism, carving up Poland and the Baltic states, and submitting them all to brutal occupation. Yalta was an unexceptionable arrangement that required 45 years of vigilant containment to enforce. Mr. Bush should not perpetuate the Yalta myth and should not give ammunition to the forces of anti-Americanism in Europe, which claim that the English-speaking countries betrayed Eastern Europe. The West went to war for Poland. The English-speaking countries liberated Western Europe and, with those liberated countries, withheld recognition of Stalin’s violation of his Yalta promises until Eastern Europe, too, was liberated.

    Sixty years after V-E Day, this Republican president should stop parroting McCarthyite defamations of Roosevelt, Churchill and Truman. He cannot seriously lament that the West did not go to war with the USSR over Eastern Europe in 1945. He should stop apologizing for what was not, in fact, a discreditable episode in American diplomatic history.”

  13. The difference there, David T, is that Conrad Black is making an argument about the historical accuracy of Bush’s remarks, rather than questioning their sentiment. Marshall, Drum, et al., are looking for coded messages to neo-McCarthyites.

    There’s a wide sea between “Bush is mischaracterizing the choice FDR faced at Yalta” and “Bush thinks we should have fought with Hitler instead of against him.”

  14. David T:

    One should add that not all the objectors to Bush’s speech were on the “Left” anyway–unless you somehow locate Conrad Black there

    Black is certainly on the left:

    “What’s funny is that Lord Black, author of the recently published “Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Champion of Freedom”, recently took libertarian Jim Powell to task for questioning the Roosevelt myth. Black retails the liberal-Marxoid misconception that FDR was somehow the “savior of capitalism.”

    From:

    “CONRAD BLACK & THE CORRUPTION OF EMPIRE”

    http://www.antiwar.com/justin/j112103.html

  15. It seems like just yesterday I was schooling you children on where the real blame for Yalta lies. Holy Moses, it was just yesterday!

    Since my comment there came just as the thread was dying out, I’ll place it a little higher up here so’s you all can cogitate and percolate over the truth.

    The context is that various and sundry had made the indisputable point that by February of Old ’45, Stalin had created facts on the ground that made Yalta inevitable. The only proper study of man is to understand what the Western Allies did to help Uncle Joe create that situation:

    It has never been clear how Roosevelt and Churchill were to deny Stalin what he considered his share of the spoils.

    How about this: Concentrate on winning the war instead of pursuing Churchill’s pipedream of maintaining the Mediterranean as a British lake. Don’t waste two years doing bupkes in Africa and Italy. Open the second front in the spring of 1943, when France was occupied by about 12 or 13 Germans. Knock Hitler out while the Eastern Front was still deep inside Russia.

    The road to Yalta was paved by the British Mediterranean strategy. You folks are right: FDR wasn’t to blame; Churchill was.

    Discuss.

  16. More food for thought — By February 1945, the Red Army hadn’t created *all* those facts on the ground (for instance, Prague), and in fact it would have been no great hardship for Patton’s army to seal the deal in some of what would eventually by the East Bloc (for instance, Prague). To what degree did Yalta pre-determine the “facts on the ground,” in terms of who got to play Liberator *after* Yalta? Also, bonus points to anyone who tells long stories about Andrei Vlasov.

  17. Conrad Black:

    “there was no practical step the Western leaders could take to assist the Baltic countries as the 360 divisions of the Red Army rolled into Central Europe.”

    What nonsense! That’s no excuse. As a result of Yalta, many of those Red Army divisions were repositioned, but FDR turned a deaf ear to those who begged that the plight of the Baltic peoples be pleaded at the Yalta conference. He acceded to the Soviet thugs and refused to even bring up the matter of Baltic liberty. As a result, at Yalta, the Baltic States were not even specifically mentioned!

    http://www.csdr.org/96Book/Birkavs.htm

  18. David T., tell it to General Patton when you meet him on the other side.

  19. Right on Pres. Bush! Now that feels very strange to say, especially in view of his support of regimes that deny liberty to others, particularly the Israeli government’s occupation of Palestine, but truth is where you find it.

    In a perfect world, President Bush could commit troops to a joint US/Israel task force and free the Palestinian people from the generic thugs and the likes of Hamas, Hisbollah, and assorted others that oppress them.

    I suppose one could criticize Israel for its plan to withdraw its military from Gaza and the West Bank and abandon the local population to their fate, but one does have to be realistic at some point about just how much can be acomplished at once.

  20. David T — Hey, I’ve always said that the Czechs were the most effective Ethnic Cleansers of the 20th century…. But I’m scratchy enough on my ’46-48 history that I certainly don’t remember the part about the Red Army withdrawal.

  21. You know what they say about hindsight, and who gets to write history…

    What I love most is how this discussion thread has turned into a political Rorschach test: If you see Yalta as a betrayal of Mitteleuropean nations and a disgraceful example of the Western powers rolling over to appease Stalin, then you are clearly an FDR-bashing McCarthyite; take the opposite view, and you are, as RC Dean put it, a Commie in lefty’s clothing.

    Is it possible that both extremes in this debate lack a monopoly on the truth?

  22. FDR can be blamed for Yalta. FDR was a sick man who should have retired in 1944, but he put his own ego above the country’s interest.
    Stalin took advantage of him the way a hungry bear takes advantage of a sick deer. Its part of the bear’s nature.
    If someone healthy was President at Yalta instead of sick FDR, post WWII would have turned out better for US. A good guess is that Korea never would have been split since something would have been written into the Yalta accords or Stalin would have gotten the impression that he better not fuck with the President, an impression FDR was incapable of given.

  23. There is something they could have done. Left Patton in Germany and let him start the big war. Push em back to their original borders and let em keep that as spoils.

  24. The only cause lefty journalists love more than Bush bashing is Marxism. Way before Bush came around the left was actively supporting all things Soviet and denegrading capitalism at every turn. There’s no doubt in my mind the writers at the Nation would have preferred we lose the cold war.

  25. That guy Tim Cavanaugh really is a hoot!

    “How about this: Concentrate on winning the war instead of pursuing Churchill’s pipedream of maintaining the Mediterranean as a British lake. Don’t waste two years doing bupkes in Africa and Italy. Open the second front in the spring of 1943, when France was occupied by about 12 or 13 Germans. Knock Hitler out while the Eastern Front was still deep inside Russia.”

    As to lack of historical knowledge, nobody comes close to Reason’s one and only web editor. But he’s the hell of an armchair strategist, no shit!

    Invading France in the spring of 1943 of course would have been a breeze — except for lacking air superiority over northwestern Europe then, not to mention other trifles like the shortage of landing craft (in particular for tanks and heavy guns), the still existing U-boat problem, the shortage of tonnage etc, etc.

    But who cares for historical facts and other small potatoes — Mr. Cavanaugh sure as hell thinks really BIG!

  26. SPD – my remark was entirely a reaction to the venom being spat by the lefties, seeing two of their historical icons (the Soviets and FDR) gored in a single speech.

    I was commenting on their apparently reflexive and uncontrollable urge to slap back at anyone daring to criticize the Soviet Union.

    You’d think that Bush’s remarks about how big countries shouldn’t stomp all over little countries would be music to their ears, but, no, once someone criticizes the Revolution and Mother Russia, even by implication, they go all wiggy.

    Even after all these years.

  27. Citing quotes from Bill Clinton isn’t a very good way to make your case. Bill Clinton isn’t exactlyl know for his commitment to the liberal left line, nor for his courage in putting truthfulness above political concerns.

    I’m inclined to think that the “dog whistle politics for McCarthyites” theory is overwrought. Bush was more likely just telling his audience what they wanted to hear, repeating conventional wisdom, and speaking within a frame of reference his audience understood to make a point.

    Nonetheless, it can only be a good thing that this mini-drama has encouraged people to take a second look at the conventional wisdom, because it appears to be wrong. Yalta wasn’t a treaty to enslave Eastern Europe, it was a treaty to secure democracy in Eastern Europe, albeit a treaty without enough teeth to be enforced.

    Mr. Stephenson, what if we’d lost? They were bigger, we were on their home turf, and many of our allies wouldn’t have joined us. Also, there was Japan.

  28. RC, are you actually deluded enough to think that Josh Marshall, David Greenburg, and Joe Conason consider the Soviet Union to be one of their “icons,” or are you just being disagreeable?

    In case you didn’t notice, they didn’t take exception to Bush’s criticism of the Soviet Union, but of FDR. How does “the Soviets, not FDR, are responsible for the tragedy in Eastern Europe” become, in your mind, “Yay, Soviets!”

  29. While reasonable men may disagree about Yalta, this has got to be the stupidest thing said in public in at least a month: “the president also makes common cause…with those who argued before the war and after that the US and the UK made their fundamental error in the war itself, by allying with the Soviets against Nazism rather than with Nazism against the Soviets.”

    This jackass doesn’t really believe that, does he?

  30. There is something they could have done. Left Patton in Germany and let him start the big war. Push em back to their original borders and let em keep that as spoils.

    In 1945, the USSR would have beaten the piss out of the US in a European ground war, even assuming British and French support. They would have swept the US off the continent with pure numbers and it wouldn’t have even taken them a long time to do. They probably would have overrun Japan in fairly short order too. The three big advantages the US had in May 1945 were its Navy, it’s atomic bomb, and its productive capacity. The first is pretty meaningless for pushing back the Soviets, the second hasn’t been tested yet and would be available only in very limited numbers for the next few years, and the third would have been temporarily moot because the US had sent billions of dollars of Lend-Lease equipment to fuel the Soviet war machine.

    I also daresay that a liberal democracy would never accept a foreign war with the kinds of losses that the Soviets were capable of inflicting on the Eastern front.

  31. Since when do you have to be a lefty to find Bush’s remarks objectionable? I am a bolshevik-hating pro-free market Russian patriot, and I have no sympathy for the Baltics whatsoever. The dissolution of the Soviet Union/Russian Empire has resulted in the erection of barriers to economic activity that did not previously exist, has put additional limits on the ability of the populace to move freely, and has resulted in the creation of new and more venal bureacracies in every newly created state. What a victory for libertarian principles. Why should 19th century nationalist attitudes based on ethnicity trump economic logic and efficiency? And if you look away from the Baltics toward Central Asia the results of the Soviet breakup have been an unmitigated disaster – less political freedom, less economic freedom.

  32. A good example of the kind of fascist stupidity evident in Latvia today:

    http://izvestiya.ru/world/article1738160

  33. I generally agree that liberal pundits deride whatever GWB says, and that such pro forma objections should be taken with a grain of salt. Even a stopped watch is right twice a day.

    But I do have a problem comparing Yalta with the Ribbentrop-Molotov pact. The Nazi-Soviet alliance was a cynical agreement to carve up Eastern Europe. Yalta, while more disastrous in the long term, was a naive agreement on the part of the Allies that the Soviets would actually permit free elections. I think comparing the diabolical designs of the Nazis for conquest in 1939 and the desire to settle a calamitous war on the part of the Allies in 1945 is incorrect.

    Nonetheless, Yalta was a disaster and I agree that GWB (a very rare occurrence) for acknowledging it as such. I have one question however – what was the alternative in 1945? Should the United States and Britain really used force against the USSR, an questionable ally who nonetheless sacrificed 12 million dead in the war and could by force influence the postwar structure? While still fighting in a Pacific front that would take a substantial effort? The effects of the atom bomb were largely unknown at Yalta and the Americans were planning an full scale invasion of the Japanese home islands. Such a invasion would have cost hundreds of thousands of lives. I doubt any significant segment of the American citizenry would have supported such actions.

    Thanks to Matt Welch for the Andrei Vlasov reference – Wikipedia is great (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andrei_Vlasov). But, could the Russian Liberation Army really be potent in rolling back Soviet forces, even with substantial American assistance?

  34. Good thing there’s no self interested hyperbole on the left.

    In other news, Bush tells teachers group ‘Kids don’t like spinach.’ Liberals outraged at this extreme attack on nutrition. Lefty bloggers are outraged:

    ‘Yet another bit of evangelical spinach hatred.’

    ‘It is precisely this sort of disregard for the truth that led us into Iraq.’

    ‘Where is the decision making process? Did a burning bush tell him to condemn greens?’

    ‘Now it’s a vegetable. Tomorrow, all homosexuals will be put in camps!’

  35. Andrei Vlasov asks the right question: “…what was the alternative in 1945?” The liberals are at least half right. Bush is wrong to compare the Yalta agreement with a deal struck between Hitler and Stalin. “Yalta” as a symbol has engulfed the agreement itself and the facts as they existed at the time.

    It is a myth that the United States is responsible for the division of Europe. Stalin’s tanks decided who would rule those places, not FDR. Churchill and FDR were in no position to threaten Stalin on behalf of the Eastern Europeans. There is no way the British or American publics were going to support a war with Stalin for the Poles, the Czechs or anybody else. And a threat of war, or an actual war, is the only conceivable thing that could have driven out the Red Army. And it is dangerous and stupid to make empty threats, especially to someone like Stalin, to whom human life had no value.

    A further myth is the idea that all the world’s problems should be and can be solved by the United States. Wrong. When bad things happen to people in foreign countries it is not necessarily the fault of the United States. Eastern Europe is free now because of America. It was oppressed for 50 years because of the Soviet Union. America owes them no apologies.

  36. East Germany and the Czech Republic were never part of the Russian Empire or the Soviet Union. I don’t think many Russians have much objection to them throwing out their Communist masters. However the break-up of Czechoslovakia is a good example of the kind of stupid nationalism-trumps-common sense that we saw in the break-up of the Soviet Union. No one is really better off except some petty bureacrats in Slovakia. Honestly Central Europe would be in better shape if they reconstituted the Austro-Hungarian Empire. It would be more economically liberal than the EU by a long shot.
    Logic and efficiency were hardly the hallmarks of Soviet Communism – common sense and the wishes of individuals were never allowed to stand in the way of ideology, which makes Soviet Communism very similar to the nationalism you see in Latvia or Estonia. Seriously. If a poll were taken of all the people who actually live in Latvia, and not just ethnic Latvians, it is not at all clear that the majority would want to break ties with Russia. If the US could annex Texas by moving in settlers why can’t Russia do the same?

  37. Vanya – I think that the Baltics possess more economic freedom/freedom to move around/press freedom etc as independent states(cf. EU membership) than they would as being a part of Russia. I think the legacy of Russian tanks rolling in is going to keep ‘good relations’ away for a bit longer….

  38. joe: The USSR being an icon doesn’t necessarily mean that people claim it’s perfect. For example, some people just give it a free pass for world-class evil. E.g., the logic in Josh Marshall’s article (supporting his claim that it’s “morally hideous” to compare Yalta even to Munich) probably goes down easy if Stalin was self-evidently not morally hideous in the way Hitler was, but it seems pretty incoherent otherwise. And as far as I can see, the advantage in Munich-to-Yalta comparison is if anything Hitler’s, since Hitler (at Munich pact time) was only pretty clearly planning to be one of the 20th century’s great murderous maniacs, while Stalin (at Yalta pact time) had already established his exterminate-millions-of-subjects credentials. In hindsight, Stalin at Yalta might be less hideous, since Stalin seems to have been less energetically murderous after Yalta than Hitler was after Munich. But does anyone think FDR at Yalta reliably knew that the mantle of extermination achievement was to pass to Mao, so that the Poles and all were being abandoned merely to a bad tyrant instead of a spectacularly murderous one?

    Incidentally, and less seriously, yes, it does seem like a pretty good bet that the Soviet Union would have stomped the bejesus out of the US in a ground war around Germany in 1945. And no, I don’t think trying the experiment would’ve been a good idea. However, if the experiment *had* been tried, I feel a certain morbid curiosity as to what “the outcome” would’ve been. I mean, at some level, it’s certain what the outcome would’ve been: megadeath charnel house. But where would the armistice line have ended up?

    I invoke the “economic calculation is hard” rule to exclude the possibility that losing US supplies might’ve hit the USSR war machine rather harder than vice versa. And I invoke the “well, duh” rule to exclude analysis of technological sea changes underway, like “hold out ’til we get A-bomb production ramped up, boys.” That leaves me curious about how well the USSR would’ve continued prosecuting the war after switching opponents at the far end of their supply lines. Those last few hundred km, where trucks face the overwhelming US/British superiority in tactical aircraft, seem like a particular problem. The US/British supply problem wouldn’t be easy either, esp. since US forces were amazing supply pigs. But overwhelming air inferiority, absolute naval inferiority, relatively weak manufacturing capability, and perhaps a significant number of unusually pissed locals scattered through the MR zone, seem to suggest the Russian supply problems around Germany would be much worse. Possibly bad enough to interfere with a strategy of flooding the zone with mechanized divisions?

  39. Bill Newman,

    “the logic in Josh Marshall’s article (supporting his claim that it’s “morally hideous” to compare Yalta even to Munich) probably goes down easy if Stalin was self-evidently not morally hideous in the way Hitler was, but it seems pretty incoherent otherwise.” No, it doesn’t. You’re assuming that the agreements themselves were comparable, and the only distinction is between Hitler and Stalin. But that’s not the case.

    Munich was an agreement to allow Germany to annex part of another country. Yalta was an agreement to allow the Red Army to administer the areas under its control until elections were held. The former treaty authorized Hitler to add the Sudetenland to his empire. The latter forbade Stalin from doing the same, and recognized the right of the smaller countries to self determination and democratic governments. Stalin had to BREAK the treaty to add the countries to his empire.

    While what actually happened on the ground may have been similar, the behavior of the wester powers, and the morality of that behavior, were completely different. Yalta certainly isn’t a proud moment in American diplomacy, but it was not an agreement to give anything at all to a tyrant.

    I agree that signing similar agreements with Hitler and Stalin would have been similarly immoral. But the agreements were not similar.

  40. Vanya writes “If the US could annex Texas by moving in settlers why can’t Russia do the same?”

    As a matter of principle, that’s an interesting analogy. But principles are much less important in real history and international relations than I would like, and I think as a real historical source of bitterness, it’s not a very good parallel. Partly because it’s longer ago; probably even more because the border has exactly the opposite characteristics as the old USSR border.

    Imagine an alternative world where Central and South America were one of the two or three most prosperous regions of the world, where refugees most wanted to go — and that that prosperity had been suddenly extinguished at the boundary where territory had been annexed by the US. In that world, Texans looking south, and wishing they could be like Mexico or Costa Rica or Brazil, might feel like Latvians in this world do when looking west at Finland or Italy or Spain.

    One reason that I think that elapsed time is less important is extending the analogy a little; imagine a world in which the annexed Texans had been forced to work and killed if they tried to escape. Then considerable bitterness might endure, right? American blacks were simply kidnapped, not annexed by moving in settlers, so their case doesn’t quite fit the analogy you’re trying to make, but I think the enduring bitterness about that historical injustice suggests that equanimity about Texan annexation isn’t just a matter of time healing all wounds.

  41. joe — Citing quotes from Bill Clinton isn’t a very good way to make your case. Bill Clinton isn’t exactlyl know for his commitment to the liberal left line, nor for his courage in putting truthfulness above political concerns.

    My “case” is that criticizing Yalta is not, as the other writers suggest, a new dusting off of a hideous old right-wing canard. So quoting Clinton-era officials strikes me as an excellent way to make it.

  42. Joe: My snap reaction is one of doubt of the seriousness of people who say that signing over de facto control to Stalin’s USS “Republics” was mitigated by the expectation of formal elections, so that the signers are exonerated from predictable results on the ground. But I don’t know any of the details — either of Yalta or to what extent the USSR in any sense admitted that its was not an elected government, so that its democratic commitments at Yalta weren’t laughable in the context of its own claims to republicness — so quite possibly there’s something in there that makes it less insane than it sounds.

  43. Vanya — Russian patriots like you make me glad the Baltics are in NATO.

  44. Grumpy Misfit,

    You’ll find a no more thuggish person with power in Israel/Palestine that Sharon. The tragedy and hypocrisy is that our government, after justly opposing the Soviet occupation of the captive nations, supports the Israeli government’s thieving and murderous occupation. The hypocrisy is aggravated by the fact that the Sharon is an open racist.

  45. Rick,

    Of course I got that you were being sarcastic. But your sarcasm is misdirected, unless you think free markets are a bad thing.

  46. If the US could annex Texas by moving in settlers why can’t Russia do the same?

    Most Texians vowed to be loyal to Mexico, and many took Mexican wifes and some even became Catholic. Many were leaving the taxes of the US, and to some extent the Mexicans appreciated them as a buffer on the frontier.

    When Santa Ana became dictator and violated the Mexican Constitution of 1824, the Texians became alarmed. Even more so, when they heard about santa Ana’s excesses (allowing several days rape & pilliage to reward his troops & punish the people of a state that resisted his overthrow of the Constituion).

    War began when the Mexican army attempted to sieze the Golidad cannon (“Come & Take It”).

    Deaf Smith, the famous Texian scout, initially didn’t want to fight, and only did so because Mexican troops abused his family (his wife was Mexican; he spoke Spanish, and was happy as a Mexican citizen).

    After Santa Ana lost, it was another 8 years before Texas became part of the US. Both Texas and the US had to vote for this to happen. Initially (IIRC) the US didn’t want Texas (we wanted to avoid war with Mexico), and later the Texians were not sure they wanted to become part of the US. Of course, the eventual union resulted in war with Mexico.

    In all, I’d have to say that the US/Texas union was a lot more subtle than the heavy handed Russian behaviour.

  47. Okay, let me see if I have this straight: Yalta wasn’t a sell-out to the Communists because Stalin was promising a democracy and we couldn’t have done anything about it anyway?

    Firstly, how many times were US troops ordered to slow up or not take a section of ground because we wanted the Soviets to have it as per Yalta? I know there were all sorts of slow-downs ordered by Eisenhower on the road to Berlin, precisely so the Red Army could get there.

    Secondly, who in the hell trusted Stalin to be a man of his word in 1943-44?

  48. Matt,

    I’m pretty mild, you won’t find much support for states like Latvia or Turkmenistan anywhere along the Russian political spectrum. Objectively you are supporting a state (Latvia) that judges people solely on ethnic criteria and takes active and officially sanctioned steps to suppress the political and economic freedom of people born in that country, but not blessed with Latvian ethnicity. Russia may be full of racists and xenophobes but at least they haven’t turned those ideas into official government policy.

  49. One more thing Matt,

    Long Beach is going to meet the same fate as Latvia, it will be incorporated into the Greater Los Angeles co-prosperity sphere!

  50. Vanya — Over my dead fashizzle!

  51. Vanya,

    Yoy may rest assured that I think free markets/capitalism and individual liberty are a very good thing.

  52. Bill Newman,

    In reading the German side of the war, several things stand out:

    1) The Germans flew Stukas against the Reds up to the very end, with devistating results on Soviet tanks. Stukas were long obsolete on the Western Front, where Anglo-American air dominated.

    2) Anglo-American air destroyed the concealed (parked under tree cover) Panzer Lehr division during Normandy. It’s just a division, but I don’t believe the Red’s ever came close to such a success via air power, or even artillery.

    3) German units remained mobile during daylight on the Eastern Front. On the Western Front, they moved at night, or under the cover of bad weather.

    4) The Germans were awe struke by Anglo-American air power, and the accuracy of our artillery. To the Soviets, artillery was the “god of war”, and they invested huge resources in artillery. Yet from what I’ve read, the much more accurate American artillery made much more of an impression on the Germans.

    5) In the East, small numbers of German tanks inflicted huge casualties on the attacking Russians. Just past the Sealow Heights (and before Berlin), an ad-hoc German tank unit shot the crap out of the advancing Soviet tanks, then, ammo low, escaped. Such success was rare against the Western allies, who would have dealt with this problem with massive air attacks.

    Also, the US provided much of the Soviet propelants and aviation fuel; as I understand it, the high grade American gunpowder was critical to Soviet tank/anti-tank guns. The T-34’s 76mm or 85mm gun may have been a good weapon, but if the powder in the shell doesn’t achieve the necessary velocity, it will not be effective.

  53. Joe wrote “Munich was an agreement to allow Germany to annex part of another country. Yalta was an agreement to allow the Red Army to administer the areas under its control until elections were held. The former treaty authorized Hitler to add the Sudetenland to his empire. The latter forbade Stalin from doing the same, and recognized the right of the smaller countries to self determination and democratic governments. Stalin had to BREAK the treaty to add the countries to his empire.”

    Encyclopedia Britannica may not be what it once was, but in this vale of tears, I’ll take my short sweet megadoses of irony where I can find ’em:
    http://www.britannica.com/ebc/article?tocId=9372819

  54. Firstly, how many times were US troops ordered to slow up or not take a section of ground because we wanted the Soviets to have it as per Yalta? I know there were all sorts of slow-downs ordered by Eisenhower on the road to Berlin, precisely so the Red Army could get there.

    The Western German armies attempted to surrender. Churchill deferred to FDR, who didn’t want to accept anything but unconditional surrender. So, many good men died due to FDR’s ego, or anti-German bias, or whatever.

  55. Don: Thank you; I am curious about the history of technology and bottlenecks, and I may look up the ammo and refining things. But I propose that we also agree, for the particular benefit of grumpy Russians reading this (some sizable number of whom will be related to various Russians buried on what we know as the Eastern front), that by the simple and robust method of counting dead Germans (and destroyed German tanks, and so forth) the USSR’s army looked deadlier than US+British. They did some important things right, and numbers count, and they were a ferociously effective army against the threat that by 1945 they were designed for (evolving Wehrmacht). I think, and I would guess that you would agree, the main hope for US+Britain vs. USSR would’ve been if the USSR’s strengths against the Germans somehow ended up misfitted for coping with some US+Britain advantage: force composition, manufacturing strength, tech innovation, or something.

  56. Woulda, coulda, shoulda . . . this has been quite the thread so far!

    The Right certainly has made hay over FDR’s “capitulation” to Stalin at Yalta (funny how Churchill’s presence always gets overlooked), but the screeching by the Left over President Bush’s recent remarks is incredibly overdone. Bush was obviously trying to placate the Baltic governments while scoring a point or two on Putin over the refusal to apologize for the Nazi-Soviet Pact.

    Eisenhower did order the US 9th Army to halt its advance on the Elbe, because of Yalta and also because he didn’t feel that taking Berlin was worth 100,000 Allied casualties so close to the end of the war. Stalin did value Berlin that highly, so it was the Soviet army that took those 100,000 casualties. Notice that Stalin honored the agreement to divide occupied Berlin, even though he tried to renege on it in 1948-49.

    I have no idea what Don is talking about – unconditional surrender had been official Allied policy since the Casablanca conference in 1943. There was certainly no talk of German surrender at that time, nor would there be as long as Hitler was alive. German armies surrendered to the Western Allies in Italy, the Netherlands and Scandinavia in early May 1945, by which time both Hitler and Roosevelt were dead.

    As for invading northwestern Europe in 1943,the odds that such an invasion would have succeeded were very low. The US military buildup in the UK was in its early stages, there was a worldwide shortage of landing craft, and the U-boat campaign was it its critical phase. The much more limited amphibious operations in Sicily and Italy demonstrated how much the Allies still needed to learn about this kind of warfare – at Salerno, 3 German divisions came very close to driving the US VI Corps back into the Mediterranean. The Churchillian plan for invading Yugoslavia via the Ljubljana Gap and forestalling the Russian drive into the Balkans was logistically ludicrous and could not have been supported by Allied land-based tactical air power.

    Nobody “gave away” anything at Yalta – the West got guarantees of free elections from Stalin, which he chose to ignore. There was a savage war with Japan still going on and FDR believed that Soviet intervention in that war was critical, so he wasn’t about to try arm-twisting the Soviet Union via such tactics as withholding Lend-Lease supplies. There was no A-bomb at that point to hold over Stalin’s head, and he was already in control of Poland, Rumania, Bulgaria and the Baltic States, so there was no chance of affecting the political outcomes in those countries.

    Patton might have captured Prague, but the Russians still overran Moravia and Slovakia, so I don’t know how much physical occupation of the Czech capital would have mattered. In 1945,the last thing anyone wanted was to have WW III start on the heels of WWII, so my guess is that US forces would have withdrawn from Czechoslovakia anyway, Yalta or no Yalta.

  57. have no idea what Don is talking about – unconditional surrender had been official Allied policy since the Casablanca conference in 1943. There was certainly no talk of German surrender at that time, nor would there be as long as Hitler was alive.

    The Western German armies offered surrender in ’44, either prior to or just after Normandy (have to dig up my WW2 books for more information). This wasn’t, obviously, an offer from Hitler. But it would have fully exposed Germany to the Anglo-American forces.

    Churchill wanted to accept, but deferred to FDR, who refused to deal with “Junkers”. It was in keeping with the pre-established “unconditional surrender” decision, but from any practical viewpoint it was a hideously bad decsion. Even Stalin seems to have not liked the decision.

  58. Bill Newman,

    Yes, it was largely the Red Army that won WW2 . . . backed up with US supplies (including about 95% of the Red Army aviation fuel, 30% of their trucks, etc.).

    In fact, it is striking to what extent the Germans placed most of their fighting force on the Eastern Front. My point isn’t that US forces defeated the Nazis (clearly the bulk of the credit lies with the Reds), but that US forces had significant capabilities lacked by everyone else. I think we had the ability to plaster the Soviets in a fight.

    That said, I doubt we had a stomach for more war, particularly with one viewed as an ally; and a significant Soviet Fifth Column existed in the US. I don’t view a US war with the USSR as a good bet in ’45, but I do believe we had the “tools” to win. So to refrase, think we had the ability to plaster the Soviets in a fight, but not nessarly the will to use that ability.

  59. I must be missing something.

    Bill Newman’s link doesn’t contradict anything I wrote.

  60. Invading France in the spring of 1943 of course would have been a breeze — except for lacking air superiority over northwestern Europe then, not to mention other trifles like the shortage of landing craft (in particular for tanks and heavy guns), the still existing U-boat problem, the shortage of tonnage etc, etc.

    It wasn’t a breeze in the spring of 1944 either. Unlike the North African and Italian campaigns, however, invading France served a purpose. The only purpose of the invasion of Italy was as a place to dump America’s worst general. Your logistical comments are horse pucky. Concentrated Allied air power was more than a match by 1943, and the necessary vessels would have been available if they’d been willing to give the Mediterranean theater the neglect it deserved. The Allies could have put an army in France in 1943 and kept it there. They might not have overmatched the defenses as thoroughly as they did in 1944-though it’s worth noting that France in ’44 was considerably better defended than it had been in ’43.

    A guy in the other thread suggested I read An Army At Dawn, which considers the reasons for the Italian campaign. Although I’ve read 32 lineal feet of WWII history and have pretty much resolved to waste no more time on this, I may give it a look, but I’d be surprised if it included anything beyond the talking points you parrot here. Of the two popular justifications for spending two and a half years in the Mediterranean-that it was a vital proving ground for a developing military and that it kept up crucial pressure on the Germans-the first is true but exaggerated (most of troops who fought in Western Europe in 1944 had never seen action before) and the second is a complete lie. If the invasion of France had happened a year earlier, Germany would have been defeated sooner, and Stalin (who ironically was the one complaining loudest about how long the Allies were taking to get into France) would not have been able to set the postwar terms.

    This is hindsight, obviously, but the value of the Mediterranean was widely disputed at the time. As usual, the British view won out, with unfortunate results.

  61. Matt: “But I’m scratchy enough on my ’46-48 history that I certainly don’t remember the part about the Red Army withdrawal.”

    The standard work is Karel Kaplan, *The Short March: The Communist Takeover in Czechoslovakia, 1945-1948* (New York: St. Martin’s Press 1987).

  62. As for invading northwestern Europe in 1943,the odds that such an invasion would have succeeded were very low. . . and the U-boat campaign was it its critical phase.

    The U-boat crews enjoyed a “happy time” in ’42, sinking some 1,700 Allied ships. In ’43, it dropped to around 600, and by ’44, about 200.

    As for German losses, they lost 86 U-boats in ’42, 236 in ’43, and 235 in ’44.

    So the loss ratio went from about 20:1 in ’42 down to 2.5:1 in ’43 and 0.85:1 in ’44.

    One could say that the Germans were winning the Atlantic in ’42, but by ’43 things had shifted significantly.

    It should also be pointed out that the U-boats attempted to survive the additional threats of ’43 by attacking unescorted merchantmen, etc., in essence mitigating the increased risk by attacking less significant targets. So the numbers alone don’t fully capture the turn of events.

  63. Joe: The Britannica summary that I linked to makes it sound as though an apologist could, without being technically incorrect, argue that “Munich was an agreement to allow the Wehrmacht to administer the Sudetenland pending further consultation. Hitler had to BREAK the treaty to add the region to his empire.” I found that noteworthy in the context of your arguments that Munich and Yalta were incomparable: “No, it doesn’t. You’re assuming that the agreements themselves were comparable, and the only distinction is between Hitler and Stalin. But that’s not the case. […] Munich was an agreement to allow Germany to annex part of another country. Yalta was an agreement to allow the Red Army to administer the areas under its control until elections were held. […] Stalin had to BREAK the treaty to add the countries to his empire.”

    The ellipses include other arguments for incomparability, mostly about how Yalta guaranteed elections. I have already expressed some skepticism about crediting Soviet democratic commitments. To that I can now add to that that a little further down from E. Britannica on my “munich treaty full text online” search one can find
    http://www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/imt/document/munich1.htm
    “Plebiscite,” hmm. Admittedly it’s a translation of the actual German text. And you probably have trouble taking seriously people who would credit a democratic guarantee from Hitler. But still…

    At this point, would it be fair for me to gently contradict you by suggesting that perhaps it is not me assuming that the agreements are comparable, but you who assumes that the agreements are incomparable? In fact, it seems almost as though you hold that assumption so strongly that you have treated it as an axiom from which you can derive conclusions about the historical details: whether Yalta not Munich guaranteed elections, or whether Munich not Yalta allowed annexation.

  64. Bill, the “further consultation” in the Britannica piece didn’t refer to the Sudetenland, but to other German aspirations. There were no elections, consultations, or anything else called for in determining the final disposition of the Sudetenland – it was handed over to Hitler, and that was its final disposition. That was not the case with Yalta.

    Of course, setting aside the question of elections, Germany wasn’t occupying the Sudetenland when Munich was signed – the treaty allowd the Nazis to expand into territory held by another power. Yalta did not do that – at worst, it recognized the facts on the ground.

  65. This is both belated and probably not of interest to this audience, but IMO the difference between Bush’s recent remark and those of Clinton et al. was that he crossed the line of wanting to correct Yalta’s unfortunate effects (as he reiterated in the 2002 speech) to saying — or at least very strongly implying — that it shouldn’t have been done.

    That’s clearly his intended meaning, even if he didn’t lay out a specific plan for what should have been done instead. Hell, he won’t even do that for Iraq now.

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