Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Letter: Stalin's Invasion of Finland Contextualized

Note: In connection with my research on WWII, specifically, Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain collusion with Hitler, I had occasion to quibble with an excellent review article in the New York Review of Books (perhaps the most important intellectual periodical in the United States) by veteran journalist and historian, Norman Davies, on  “Poland: Malice, Death, Survival,”  NYRB, Jan 10, 2013. 

January 2013
The New York Review of Books, 
To the Editors:

Readers may wonder if Norman Davies’s expressed annoyance at the burden of reviewing three new books on “a few small corners of Polish history,” is in some way connected to his omission of crucial context relating to the beginning of WWII. Davies might have  mentioned that Stalin's decision to ally with Hitler allowing the German invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939, was largely a reaction to Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain's refusal to negotiate in good faith a common allied  front against Hitler's aggression. 

Similarly Davies’s  reference to Stalin's invasion of Finland,  was based, as William Manchester records (The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill, Alone 1932-1940: [1988], p. 598), on the  need to guard his Baltic flank from a future Nazi attack, especially to protect the entrance to Leningrad.   Russia was so vulnerable that before the November 30, 1939 Red Army invasion of Finland, Moscow signed pacts with Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Stalin then attempted to negotiate with Finland, offering  2,134 sq miles in exchange for 1,066 Finnish sq miles.
Manchester concludes:  “In retrospect ... Russia's need to defend Leningrad is clear. The city came perilously close to conquest by the Germans later, and would certainly have fallen to the Nazis without the strip taken from the Finns.”

Ronald Bleier

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