These and dangerous and uncertain times we are living in.
It’s hard to believe Czar Vlad the Terrible’s (AKA Russian President Vladimir Putin) invasion of Ukraine is about to enter its second year.
Putin had been hoping for a quick victory that would re-establish Russia as a major world power. Instead, he got a lengthy war that has cost Russia much in terms of manpower and treasure. They’ve had to resort to ill-trained conscripts to continue the fighting. They’ve lost many tanks, trucks, military vehicles and weapons. The Russian economy has taken a major hit.
Russia is now largely isolated in the world, and the West has become more unified. Far from being seen as a major world power, the Russians now look more like a deadly version of the Keystone Kops. They’re more of a danger to themselves than to anyone else.
One really can’t say one side is winning or losing. Perhaps it’s become a bloody stalemate, which is how Walter Cronkite described the Vietnam War in 1968. The only way out may be a negotiated settlement.
Of course, that idea might not sit well with Putin. We know he has his pride, and will likely feel a need to “save face.” He also has to be thinking that a negotiated settlement would amount to a Ukrainian victory.
Putin’s career background is the KGB, the former Soviet intelligence service. Russian culture is paranoid, and being paranoid was almost a job qualification for joining the KGB. This raises the question of what a paranoid man like Putin will do if he feels cornered and desperate.
Let’s not forget he had nuclear weapons at his disposal. That thought should terrify everyone.
Putin could be in a similar position to what another crazy dictator, Adolf Hitler, was in during June 1942. Hitler was realizing his invasion of the Soviet Union had bitten off more than Germany could chew. He could also see there was growing probability the invasion might not end well for Germany.
The Germans needed a quick victory when they invaded on June 22, 1941, because they doubted they could win a sustained war of attrition with the Soviets. That hope ended in November 1941, when their drive on Moscow was pushed back by the Red Army.
By early June 1942, it had been almost a year since the invasion and the end was nowhere in sight. German troops were spread too thin over a front that was too wide. German supply and communications lines were severely over-extended, and they didn’t have the transportation capacity to keep such a large army supplied over the distances of Soviet Russia.
It was against this backdrop that Hitler flew to his ally, Finland, on June 4, 1942 to meet with Finnish military leader, Marshall Gustav Mannerheim. He wanted to persuade the Finns to join Germany in a wider war against the Soviets.
Finland became a Germany ally by circumstance. The Soviets attacked Finland in the Winter War of 1939-40. When Germany invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941, the Finns found themselves reluctant allies of Germany and Fascist Italy.
Hitler and Mannerheim met in the latter’s private train. For reasons that aren’t clear, and unknown to Hitler, the Finns recorded 11 minutes of their conversation. It was mostly a monologue of Hitler making his case to Mannerheim.
Mannerheim thought Hitler sounded desperate, so he decided to test him by lighting a cigar. Hitler despised smoking, and would not let anyone smoke in his presence. When Hitler didn’t say a word about the cigar, and didn’t even seem to notice it, Mannerheim knew he was desperate.
The Finns turned down Hitler’s request, as they wanted no part of a wider war. They would settle their differences with the Soviets in a cease-fire in 1944, and the conflict would be ended with a treaty signed in 1947 in Paris.
The winter of 1942-43 saw the massive Soviet victory at Stalingrad. The Germans and their allies lost over 800,000 men and the equivalent of six months of war production. They never recovered, and were driven all the way back to Berlin, which surrendered on May 2, 1945. Germany surrendered unconditionally on May 6-8, 1945.
One can only wonder what Hitler would’ve done if he had nuclear weapons at his disposal. Unfortunately. Putin has them. There’s no way of knowing what he will do if he becomes really desperate.
These are dangerous and uncertain times we are living in.
In case you’re interested, the Hitler-Mannerheim recording can be found on YouTube. It’s believed to be the only recording made of Hitler speaking when he didn’t know he was being recorded. It you’ve only heard his loud, bombastic “Fuehrer” voice, it may be a little surprising to hear him speak as he would have in everyday conversation.
It reminds me of the scene in “The Wizard of Oz” where Toto pulled back the curtain and revealed the great and powerful Oz was just a man.
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