On June 22, 1941 Nazi Germany launched the largest invasion in history
Today is the 67th anniversary of the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union. While Russians this year celebrated Victory Day and unprecedented peace and prosperity in Russia, the country remains deeply scarred by World War II. Some Western demographers believe that Russia's difficulty in maintaining its population is partially the result of the loss of nearly 20 million people in the Great Patriotic War. And a few older Russian military analysts fret that Russia may not have the manpower to maintain its borders in the 21st century.
The proposed installation of U.S. missile defense systems in Poland and Lithuania, combined with the possibility of NATO membership for Georgia, is rubbing salt in old Russian wounds. These "expand NATO eastward on autopilot" policies stand in stark contrast to the deliberate peacemaking President Reagan accomplished in the late 1980s, when he acknowledged the tremendous insecurities the Soviets felt as a result of their trauma from World War II. By offering to share missile defense technology, Reagan helped to convince Gorbachev and other Soviet leaders that the USSR could feel safe enough to end the Cold War. By promising no NATO military installations east of the Oder (a promise his successors did not keep), the George H.W. Bush Administration gave Boris Yeltsin even more confidence to break up the Soviet Empire. Interestingly enough, Russian President Dimitri Medvedev in his recent public speeches has revived the use of Gorbachev's phrase "from Vancouver to Vladivostok" to describe East-West relations after the Cold War.
Today the main threats to Russia come from within, rather than from without. Instead of Stalin's purges leaving the Red Army leaderless, the main problem today is cynical officers and NCOs all-too-often turning a blind eye to abuse and exploitation of the hapless conscripts under their command. Russia can and must do better. Russia should create an all-volunteer corps backed by reservists that can secure its borders against the main threats of the 21st century - terrorism, trafficking in people, narcotics and weapons, and natural disasters.
Click on the extended post to watch the PBS miniseries "Battlefield: The Battle for Russia" and for links to other Russia Blog posts about Russia's role in World War II.
Victory Day parade in Moscow, 2007 (Photo by: Russian Kafe)
Hitler and Stalin's Blunders and the Most Brutal Conflict in Human History:
Part 1 of the PBS series "Battlefield" - The Shocking Hitler-Stalin Pact
Part 2 of the PBS series "Battlefield" - Stalin's Purges of the Red Army
Part 3 of the PBS series "Battlefield" - Nazi Plans for the Invasion of Russia
Part 4 of the PBS series "Battlefield" - German Order of Battle
Part 5 of PBS series "Battlefield" - Soviet Order of Battle
Part 6 of PBS series "Battlefield" - Nazi Balkan Campaign Delays Barbarossa
Part 7 of PBS series "Battlefield" - Barbarossa Begins
Part 8 of PBS series "Battlefield" - The Fall of Minsk
Part 9 of PBS series "Battlefield" - Encirclement at Smolensk
Part 10 of PBS series "Battlefield" - The Battle of Moscow
Part 11 of PBS series "Battlefield" - Nazis Halted at Moscow, U.S. Enters the War
Click on these links to previous Russia Blog posts about the Great Patriotic War: