The Conflict That Never Was    
    John Tyndall welcomes a mainstream journalist's controversial view of the ‘Cold War’    

Back in the 1950s I was a young national serviceman stationed in Germany not very many miles from the East/West border. Often in the frequent idle moments that were our lot, I asked myself the question which many a soldier across history must have asked about his posting: "What am I doing here?"

The official line was that British forces were in Germany - eight years after the end of World War II - to guard ‘The West’ against a threatened attack by the armies of Soviet Russia, which were stationed just an hour away from us. I remember being rather baffled by this theory. If the Soviets were our enemies, what had we and the Americans been doing not so very long ago as their ‘allies’, helping them destroy Germany and sending them vast quantities of military aid to that purpose (remember the Arctic convoys and all that)?

The fellows in our artillery regiment had what in barrack-room language might have been called a ‘cushy number’, but it appeared at one time that, for me, this might come to an abrupt end because I was tipped off through the grapevine that I was on the short list for posting to Korea, where a ghastly war was then raging. It never happened, but I did spend a bit of time pondering on the prospect of such a posting, and I can't say that I warmed to it with great enthusiasm.

As a soldier, I expected that I might be called on at any time to fight for my country as well as serve it in peacetime, and risking one's life for Britain was something to be accepted in the line of duty - had not millions done it before?

But my simple mind could not quite get around the question of how I would be serving Britain - or even the Empire that we then still had - by dying on a Korean mountainside very far from any British possession and in a quarrel that appeared to have more to do with political ideology than any clash of national interests, least of all our interests.

These thoughts are recalled to mind as the early beginnings of a quest for political truth that was to occupy me in the years ahead as I tried to make some sense of the so-called ‘Cold War’ that dominated our country's foreign policy and defence planning in the next three or four decades. We had to protect ‘The West’ - that is to say ‘The Democracies’ - against a threatened Soviet invasion of Western Europe - and maybe even America as well! So the Russians wanted to march westwards and conquer us for Communism. From this, another question immediately formed: to what purpose?


It was curious that to raise this question, while acceptable on the left, was heresy on the right. Disputing the world-conquering aims of the Soviet Union was almost tantamount to being a Communist sympathiser, but while yielding to no-one in my hatred of Communism I could never see the logic of ‘Cold War’ politics which rested on this supposition - a supposition which defied all the laws of geopolitics, military strategy and plain common sense.

It is highly significant that, at long last, one or two mainstream writers are catching up with this obvious truth. One of them is Daily Mail columnist Andrew Alexander, in whose name appeared an article in The Spectator of the 20th April headed ‘The Soviet threat was bogus&146; and sub-headed, ‘The Cold war was fraudulent - and jeopardised our security.’

The Cold War, said Alexander, "was one of the most unnecessary conflicts of all time, and certainly the most perilous." And he continued:-

‘It was a Manichean doctrine, seductive in its simplicity. But the supposed military threat was wholly implausible. Had the Russians, though themselves devastated by the war, invaded the West, they would have had a desperate battle to reach and occupy the Channel Coast against the Allies, utilising among other things a hastily re-armed Wehrmacht. But in any case, what then? With a negligible Russian navy (true at that time. JT), the means of invading Britain would somehow have had to be created. Meanwhile Britain would have been supplied with an endless stream of men and material from the United States, making invasion virtually hopeless.

‘And even if the Soviets, ignoring the A-bomb, had conquered Europe from Norway to Spain against all odds, they would have been left facing an implacable United States across more than 2,000 miles of ocean - the ultimate unwinnable war. In short, there was no Soviet military danger. Stalin was not insane.’

‘Socialism in one country’

So much for the military theory of a Soviet threat. What of the political dimension? Of Stalin, Alexander continued:-

‘Nor was he a devout ideologue dedicated to world communism. He was far more like a cruel oriental tyrant. He was committed, above all else, to retaining power, murdering every rival, and ruling Russia by mass terror on a breathtaking scale. Stalin had long been opposed to the idea that Russia should pursue world revolution. He had broken with Trotsky, and proclaimed the ideal of "socialism in one country".’

As if anticipating that the reader might then ask: "What about the Communist parties in other countries? Why did Stalin and his successors sponsor them?" Alexander said:-

‘Of course he (Stalin) was content to have Communist parties abroad... but for all practical purposes foreign Communist parties were instruments of Russian policy, encouraged to become significant enough to influence or interfere with their own nations' actions where it helped Soviet purposes. But it was never Stalin's idea - far from it - that they should establish potentially rival Communist governments whose existence and independence would be liable, indeed certain, to diminish the role of Russia as the dominant global power on the left, and Stalin's personal position. Yugoslavia and China were to demonstrate the peril of rival Communist powers.’

Of course, to western democrats and liberals such realities are incomprehensible; such people live in a world so hypnotised by ideals of globalism and ‘brotherhood’ that there is nothing extraordinary or exceptional about a leader encouraging in rival nations the very institutions he believed, whether rightly or not, contributed so much to the strength of his own.

In the contrary world of realpolitik, which has governed the thinking of all powerful nations across history - and which most certainly governed Stalin's Russia - the first rule of foreign policy is to foster those very things in rival nations that serve to weaken and disarm them while rigorously excluding them within the home borders. Stalin's policy of promoting Communist and other left-wing activities in countries outside Soviet Russia was carried out precisely according to this formula. I recall my own awakening to this truth when, as a young man, I could not square the pacifism, anti-militarism and anti-patriotism of the British left with their polar opposites that were visible in Russia - as witnessed through the media and then confirmed at first hand when I visited that country in 1957.

Satellite states

But if Russians intention was not to invade the West, what of her ring of satellite states on her western borders? If her policy was national and not global, why did she not then retire back to the borders of the Soviet Union itself and allow her neighbours their freedom? Alexander answers this question with an argument that is ruthlessly practical if not satisfyingly moral:-

‘The invasion of 1941 had led to the deaths of as many as 20 million Russians. Any post-war Russian government - Communist, tsarist or social democratic - would have insisted on effective control, at least of Poland if not larger areas of Eastern Europe, notably Romania, as a buffer zone against future attacks. To Russia, it seemed a simple question of minimum security to prevent another disaster.’

Of course, this minimum security could be attained at minimum cost. None of the satellite nations - the nations of the ‘Warsaw Pact’ - was a great power. In total population they added up to not much more than a third of the population of the Soviet Union itself. Soviet thinking at that time and for many years to come was that the cost of occupying these countries was a worthwhile investment for the supposed security thus achieved. Of course, a similar yardstick could not possibly be applied to countries like West Germany, France, Italy, Britain, Spain and the host of smaller (but industrially advanced) states this side of the ‘Iron Curtain’. In the end, it proved inapplicable even to Russia's border states too - as the huge cost of maintaining the Soviet military machine eventually crippled the Soviet economy and led to the country's collapse.

None of this is to accept the ethics of Russia's occupation and domination of her satellite states; but in the kind of global political warfare being waged between 1945 and the final Soviet debacle in 1989 ethics simply did not come into the equation. We are examining here whether Soviet Russia had any reason connected with practical power-politics to expand her conquest beyond her established ‘Iron Curtain’, not whether the conquests up to that point were morally right or not.

But did the need to protect this Eastern European buffer zone justify the massive expansion of Soviet military power to the point of stockpiling inter-continental ballistic missiles, the tremendous growth of the Soviet air force and navy and the deployment of much of this weaponry in such a way as to make it appear as if was intended to be used against the West, including the United States? Surely this huge arms build-up could only point to a policy of intended global conquest!

Aggressive US postures

Alexander dealt with this question by reference to the extremely aggressive postures of the West, and the USA in particular, towards Russia. Harry Truman, the US President in the early post-war period...

‘...had little understanding of foreign affairs. The existing White House, including the belligerent Admiral Leahy, quickly convinced him that he must make an aggressive start.’

And what prompted this? Well, for one thing Russia's refusal to withdraw from Poland and allow free elections there. Enter Winston Churchill, not the world's most renowned pacifist. Said Alexander:-

‘In May (1945) Churchill told Anthony Eden, the foreign secretary, not only that the Polish deadlock had to be resolved but also that the Americans ought not to withdraw to the lines previously agreed in September. There had, he said, to be a "showdown" over Poland and the Russian occupation of East Germany while the Allies were still strong militarily. Otherwise there was "very little prospect" of preventing a third world war.’

Which all shows that the British obsession with fighting other nations' battles is nothing new. But, as with other aggressive postures over matters where no perceived danger to British (or American) national interests could be seen, it had its come-back. Said Alexander:-

‘It was seen by the Russians as a threat. Referring to the new "tyrannies", Churchill said: "It is not our duty at this time when difficulties are so numerous to interfere forcibly in the internal affairs of countries." The inevitable implication was that there would be such a time when difficulties were not so numerous.’

Alexander went on to relate numerous gestures of American-British foreign policy that gave the Soviet leaders every reason to believe that intentions towards them were implacably hostile. Not unnaturally, they felt the need to continue the tradition inherited from the tsars of regarding Russia as the target of a world mobilised in enmity against her and thus bound, for her own survival, to maintain massive military strength on a more or less permanent footing. Neither is it any rebuttal to this to point to Soviet forces deployed for offensive action; very often when political and military confrontation occur a tactically offensive posture is used in pursuit of a strategically defensive one. It is called ‘deterrent’, and the concept was not just adopted by one side.

Globalist imperative?

So why were western leaders - and American and British ones particularly - disposed to do everything they could to create an atmosphere of international unrest justifying heavy armaments when they must have known very well, if only from their own intelligence feedback combined with simple common sense, that the prospect of a Soviet attack on the West was no more than Dr. Strangelove fantasy? Perhaps for the very same reason that today, when such a prospect is no longer remotely credible, they postulate the alternative scenario of a world menaced by terrorist like Osama Bin Laden: it furthers the aims of the globalist elite; it keeps up the pressures making for a climate of internationalism and interdependence; not least, it serves to dragoon nations into the Pax Americana - which, in view of where power and control lie in the United States, might more aptly be referred to as the Pax Judaica.

One suspects that Alexander knows much more than he lets on concerning the subterranean currents underlying the ‘Cold War’ hysteria of 1945-89. Towards the end of his article he said:-

‘Could it be that the heavy burden of post-war rearmament was unnecessary, that the transatlantic alliance actually imperilled rather than saved us...’

The latter question really hits the nail on the head. The ruling orthodoxy of British foreign policy after 1945 was based on the supposition of an East/West confrontation in which Britain, in order to survive, had to make herself the satellite of America. Gone was the traditional doctrine that Britain was a nation, at the head of an empire, with her own particular national interests to advance and protect - interests which may or may not coincide with the interests of foreign powers, and then only temporarily. In its place was the theory of an unquestioned commonality of interests with the United States - a theory which events over the past half-century have done a great deal to demolish: pressure to abandon imperial trade preferences, to get out of Suez and into Europe; these were just a few ‘benefits’ of the Special Relationship.

But back to Alexander again:-

‘One can, of course, understand why few anywhere in the West want the orthodox view of the Cold War overturned. If that were to happen, the whole edifice of post-war politics would begin to crumble.’

That is perhaps the understatement of the millennium!

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