By the end of World War II the United States had become the greatest
military power of all time. Not only did we have a monopoly on nuclear
weapons, but we had something approaching global air and sea supremacy.
America also had large and successful ground forces. The Germans could
stop our armies, though they gave it their best try in the Battle of the
Bulge. In this famous battle Hitler massed the weight of his elite
panzer divisions against the American forces. But the panzers were
In early 1945 the Russians were advancing from the east, the
Americans and British from the west. Roosevelt and Churchill were ready
to agree, in principle, to give half of Europe to Stalin — who began
the war as Hitler’s partner in aggression. The allies intended to keep
faith with Stalin, to
hand over Russian prisoners and deserters to him. These poor people were
subjected to cruel treatment in Stalin’s labor camps. It was shameful
that we accommodated him. But our desire was to have a good working
relationship with the Communist dictator.
After the war, Soviet Russia was exhausted; its economy was in ruins.
If we had been faithless allies, determined on dominating the globe
without interference, we could have rearmed the Germans and marched over
Russia, liberating the East from a dictatorship as evil as Hitler’s.
Some, like Gen. George S. Patton, believed that war with Russia would be
inevitable in the long run. According to his hopeless minority opinion,
any failure to forestall Russian ambitions would only lead to a
disastrous future war.
Americans are generous people. We do not approve treachery or
faithlessness. The Russian and American people fought and bled on the
same side, against a common enemy. Attacking an ally is vile, so it was
not in our character to attack Russia. We did not break her power when
indisputable mastery over the land, air, and sea. If our leaders and our
people had been cynical enough, we could have engineered a crisis or
discovered a pretext for crushing the Soviet Union. Instead, we gave our
friendship to Russia. Even conservatives mumbled vaguely that the evils
Communism had been canceled by the blood of the Red Army. Gen.
Eisenhower, on returning from Europe, told Congress that “nothing guides
Russian policy so much as a desire for friendship with the United
But it wasn’t true. We know from defectors and other historical
sources that the Kremlin hated the Western countries. According to
Robert Conquest, a noted historian of Soviet Russia, the Kremlin was so
determined on enmity with America that the Soviet government ordered
hundreds of thousands of Russian soldiers to be arrested and imprisoned
because they had met and fraternized with American troops in Germany.
One Soviet official was sentenced to five years imprisonment for
praising America’s roads. Even before Hitler’s defeat, Stalin openly
told a Yugoslav delegation that he was thinking of the next war, which
would be fought against America.
But the Americans did not imagine a future war with Russia. After
Hitler’s defeat, articles appeared in American magazines which painted a
very false and rosy picture of Russia. Look magazine ran a cover story
entitled, “A Guy Named Joe,” telling what a nice fellow Stalin was.
and newspaper stories praised Communist democracy. Collier’s magazine
asserted that Russia had “a modified capitalist set-up.” Other articles
claimed that Russia was becoming more liberal, and would soon be like
the countries of Western Europe.
Not realizing the true state of affairs, the United States began an
unprecedented disarmament after the surrender of Japan. Thousands of
ships and tens of thousands of planes were retired from service. The
greatest military arsenal up to that time was allowed to rot. The
Kremlin, on its side, demobilized in a partial and calculated way.
America had no designs on Russia, no plans to squeeze the Communists out
of existence, but a similar resolve did not appear on the Soviet side.
Stalin was determined to have nuclear bombs of his own. He imposed
Communism on the states of Eastern
Europe, contrary to earlier assurances. Stalin also supported revolution
in Greece. He even put the squeeze on West Berlin. He gave the green
light for North Korea to invade South Korea. President Truman was
furious. At one point Truman called the Soviet foreign minister a liar.
The United States had acted in good faith. We did not want the Cold
War, and we did not start it. The Russians were determined to build a
force of strategic missiles armed with thermonuclear warheads. Their
military writings referred to a future nuclear world war and the
necessity for preparedness. But America did not prepare for such a war.
Yes, we built nuclear missiles, but these were made for purposes of
deterrence — not in order to win the Third World War. While Russia dug
bomb shelters and deployed ABM systems, America developed its consumer
For a long time the Cold War was a nuclear stalemate. Russia and
America were armed with nuclear missiles. The side that wanted to
destroy the other did not have sufficient means. The side that could
have destroyed the other did not desire a war. If America had decided to
build bomb shelters and ABM defenses, Russia would have fallen
hopelessly behind. If America had decided to prepare for World War III,
no country could have matched our preparations. But we didn’t want World
War III, and we didn’t want to burden ourselves with preparing for it.
We had an opportunity to live comfortably in the present. We took that
opportunity without thinking about the future.
Carl von Clausewitz, Europe’s most famous philosopher of war, made a
fascinating point about armed stand-offs. He said that if two parties
arm themselves against each other but do not begin to fight, then one of
the two parties is waiting for a more favorable moment to act. If
objective was to destroy Russia, then Russia would not have a chance.
Russia would have long since ceased to exist as a nuclear superpower.
But since Russia was the weaker country, it had to wait for a favorable
opportunity. Clausewitz noted that when the weaker power has the
stronger motive to
aggression, the equation becomes one of prolonged stalemate.
The nuclear balance of terror was exactly such a stalemate. The
reason that nuclear war has not happened is because the side with
military victory in mind — the Russian side — was always too weak. The
United States possessed a superiority that defied any serious challenge.
But now the
tables are being turned, and America’s position of comparative strength
is evaporating day by day.
In recent weeks the Russian security forces have been calling up
medical personnel to military bases, picking up men of military age
wherever they can find them and shipping them off for basic training.
Russia is engaged in a huge war mobilization. Last week there were at
least four major ballistic missile tests. Last month Russian bombers
probed our air defenses off Alaska. At present the Russians are engaged
in joint naval exercises with the Chinese — who are also mobilizing
their forces because of a dispute with Taiwan.
The mobilizations in Russia and China are not being matched by the
United States. As in the period immediately after World War II, we
believe in peace and friendship with Russia. Our officials see the
crisis in Dagestan and Chechnya as further proof that Russia is
disintegrating. But is the Russian
civil war crisis a set-up? Has it been created by the Russian secret
police and Interior Ministry as a diversion to mask war mobilizations
against the West? Consider the surprising statements made last week by a
Russian general, Aleksandr Lebed, in an interview with the French
newspaper, Le Figaro. Lebed suggested that the terrorist bombings in
Russia were “the result of an agreement between central authorities and
(Chechen leader) Basayev.”
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin reacted to Lebed’s statement
with sarcasm: “Those who make such claims could have gone further by
saying that we changed uniforms, attacked the Botlikhsky and Tsumadinsky
districts and took the loot back to Chechnya.”
Is Gen. Lebed fed up with Moscow’s games and determined to tell the
truth? Or is Gen. Lebed an irresponsible person who dares to slander his
own government because he wants to run for president?
Late last week Prime Minister Putin made an amusing statement that
obliquely supported Lebed’s claim. Putin said that in Russia “nothing
happens without the government.”
Garry Kasparov, the famous Russian chess champion, has also raised
questions about the crisis in Russia. Last week Kasparov suggested there
was a connection between the Bank of New York money-laundering scandal
and the wave of terrorist bombings in Moscow and Volgodonsk. “We are
asked to believe,” says Kasparov, “that the guerrillas, supported by the
local population, can fight a 70,000-strong regular army force. But the
same TV channels also present polls showing that 90 percent of
Dagestanis wish to remain part of Russia. …”
Something is obviously wrong with this picture. The Islamic rebels do
not enjoy military ascendancy or popular support. They have no hope of
winning. What is their motive for attacking a territory that wants
nothing to do with them?
Kasparov says there are only two possible theories on the crisis in
Russia. Either Chechnya has become a center for international Islamic
terrorism, which is now directed against Russia, or the Russian secret
police are behind the bombings. As Kasparov notes, neither theory is
easy to swallow. The answer, he says, is to look at who benefits from
the bombings. The Islamic terrorists could gain nothing from such direct
attacks on the Russian people. But the Kremlin, says Kasparov, benefits
greatly from the bombings. “The terrorist attacks and North Caucasus
conflict provided a perfect diversion,” says Kasparov.
However bad the Bank of New York scandal may be for the Kremlin, the
extent of the war preparations and military mobilizations in Russia
suggest a more strategic purpose than that alluded to by Kasparov. The
leaders of the Kremlin have often pretended to be our friends. Stalin
made this pretense, Brezhnev made this pretense, and so have Gorbachev
and Yeltsin. But the reality of Russia’s hostile intentions is revealed
in Russia’s hostile actions. Russia continues to ready its forces for a
destructive war against America.
Col. Stanislav Lunev, the highest ranking defector from the Main
Intelligence Directorate of the Russian General Staff, once told me that
he’d spent his military career preparing for a future world war against
America. That was the mission of the Russian and Soviet military.
America is a status quo power bent on defending the “global order.”
Russia and China are poor countries who do not like this “global order.”
The leaders of those countries are not interested in creating shopping
mall societies. They are interested in global dominion, even as they
accuse us of
seeking the same thing. If the United States was actually serious about
dominating the globe we would never have given so many billions of
dollars to so many countries that hate us, and we would not have been so
eager to negotiate our own disarmament.
After World War II we disarmed, and after the Cold War we disarmed.
Today our nuclear forces, Army and Air Force have been reduced by two
thirds. Our fleet strength has been reduced by more than one third.
The history of the Cold War gives us the context for understanding
the mobilizations and maneuvers of the present day. It has been said in
many places, by many observers, that the present oligarchy in Russia is
made up of the same people who ruled the Soviet Union. That being the
case, one should not be surprised to find that the character of the
Russian state has not changed. Their purpose is the same today as it was
It is time for us to understand the present in light of the past. It
is time to wake up and get serious about defending this country.