In the Bush vs. Putin debate on World War II, Putin had far the more difficult assignment. Defending Russia's record in the "Great Patriotic War," the Russian president declared, "Our people not only defended their homeland, they liberated 11 European countries."
Those countries are, presumably: Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Poland, East Germany, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia and Finland.
To ascertain whether Moscow truly liberated those lands, we might survey the sons and daughters of the generation that survived liberation by a Red Army that pillaged, raped and murdered its way westward across Europe. As at Katyn Forest, that army eradicated the real heroes who fought to retain the national and Christian character of their countries.
To Bush, these nations were not liberated. "As we mark a victory of six decades ago, we are mindful of a paradox," he said:
For much of Eastern and Central Europe, victory brought the iron rule of another empire. V-E day marked the end of fascism, but it did not end the oppression. The agreement in Yalta followed in the unjust tradition of Munich and the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. Once again, when powerful governments negotiated, the freedom of small nations was somehow expendable. ... The captivity of millions in Central and Eastern Europe will be remembered as one of the greatest wrongs in history.
Bush told the awful truth about what really triumphed in World War II east of the Elbe. And it was not freedom. It was Stalin, the most odious tyrant of the century. Where Hitler killed his millions, Stalin, Mao, Ho Chi Minh, Pol Pot and Castro murdered their tens of millions.
Leninism was the Black Death of the 20th Century.
The truths bravely declared by Bush at Riga, Latvia, raise questions that too long remained hidden, buried or ignored.
If Yalta was a betrayal of small nations as immoral as the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, why do we venerate Churchill and FDR? At Yalta, this pair secretly ceded those small nations to Stalin, co-signing a cynical "Declaration on Liberated Europe" that was a monstrous lie.
As FDR and Churchill consigned these peoples to a Stalinist hell run by a monster they alternately and affectionately called "Uncle Joe" and "Old Bear," why are they not in the history books alongside Neville Chamberlain, who sold out the Czechs at Munich by handing the Sudetenland over to Germany? At least the Sudeten Germans wanted to be with Germany. No Christian peoples of Europe ever embraced their Soviet captors or Stalinist quislings.
Other questions arise. If Britain endured six years of war and hundreds of thousands of dead in a war she declared to defend Polish freedom, and Polish freedom was lost to communism, how can we say Britain won the war?
If the West went to war to stop Hitler from dominating Eastern and Central Europe, and Eastern and Central Europe ended up under a tyranny even more odious, as Bush implies, did Western Civilization win the war?
In 1938, Churchill wanted Britain to fight for Czechoslovakia. Chamberlain refused. In 1939, Churchill wanted Britain to fight for Poland. Chamberlain agreed. At the end of the war Churchill wanted and got, Czechoslovakia and Poland were in Stalin's empire.
How, then, can men proclaim Churchill "Man of the Century"?
True, U.S. and British troops liberated France, Holland and Belgium from Nazi occupation. But before Britain declared war on Germany, France, Holland and Belgium did not need to be liberated. They were free. They were only invaded and occupied after Britain and France declared war on Germany – on behalf of Poland.
When one considers the losses suffered by Britain and France – hundreds of thousands dead, destitution, bankruptcy, the end of the empires – was World War II worth it, considering that Poland and all the other nations east of the Elbe were lost anyway?
If the objective of the West was the destruction of Nazi Germany, it was a "smashing" success. But why destroy Hitler? If to liberate Germans, it was not worth it. After all, the Germans voted Hitler in.
If it was to keep Hitler out of Western Europe, why declare war on him and draw him into Western Europe? If it was to keep Hitler out of Central and Eastern Europe, then, inevitably, Stalin would inherit Central and Eastern Europe.
Was that worth fighting a world war – with 50 million dead?
The war Britain and France declared to defend Polish freedom ended up making Poland and all of Eastern and Central Europe safe for Stalinism. And at the festivities in Moscow, Americans and Russians were front and center, smiling – not British and French. Understandably.