Thursday 23rd of September 2021

the end of exceptionalism ...

the end of exceptionalism ...

At the conclusion of the Second World War the United States was the overwhelmingly dominant military and economic power. The other major colonial powers, in particular France and the United Kingdom, had been financially exhausted by the war. Germany was shattered, its industry in ruins. The United States has a monopoly on nuclear weapons and there were serious plans to use those weapons on the Soviet Union (Operation Unthinkable) (1).

The Soviet Union had borne the vast brunt of the fighting against the Germans, losing at least 28 million soldiers and civilians, a sacrifice of people and treasure that has never received the acknowledgement in the west that it is due. Generations of Australians and New Zealanders among others were raised on the mythology of “plucky Britain” standing alone against the Nazi hoards.

In fact, as many Russians died during the siege of Leningrad (September 1941- January 1944) as total US and UK casualties combined for the whole war. Nearly half a million Russians were killed in the battle of Stalingrad (July 1942 to February 1943), which is more than total US losses for the whole war.

Had Churchill’s plan for a surprise nuclear attack of the Soviet Union after the defeat of the Germans in May 1945 eventuated, additional casualties would have been incalculable. It is the memory of those horrendous losses during the war, and the treachery of the British and the Americans after the defeat of Germany that is essential to an understanding of the reaction of Soviet, then Russian, leaders ever since to the actions of the western powers.

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