Seventy years ago Japan signed the Instrument of Surrender, thus closing the final chapter in the history of the Second World War, which had actually lasted almost 14 years, beginning with the Japanese invasion of Manchuria in 1931.
Sixty-one nations, home to 80% of the earth’s population, were drawn into this bloodbath. One hundred ten million soldiers found themselves conscripted into the armies of the warring countries. Military hostilities were conducted on every ocean, in Eurasia, Africa, and Oceania. WWII claimed over 60 million victims.
What sort of future would have awaited humanity if the Nazis had won?
At the heart of their plans to reshape the world laid the idea of the privileged position of the «Nordic race», especially the Germans. All others were destined for enslavement, brutal exploitation, or physical extermination. This applied, first and foremost, to the people of the Soviet Union. Their fate was determined by Generalplan Ost, which was developed at the order of Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler and had been approved for implementation by the fall of 1941. At least 70% of the population of the European areas of the USSR was to be either relocated or killed. The Red Army’s victories outside of Moscow and then Stalingrad rendered that plan unfeasible, but in reality, attempts to establish Hitler’s «New Order» continued and resulted in the deaths of over 13.6 million Soviet citizens while under German occupation.
Of course an idyll hardly awaited the peoples of Western Europe either, although the Nazis recognized some of them as distant cousins on the German family tree. In accordance with an order from the commander-in-chief of the German Wehrmacht, Field Marshal Walther von Brauchitsch, dated Sept. 9 1940, after the conquest of the British Isles the entire male population was to be deported across the English Channel (for details read Comer Clarke’s book, England Under Hitler, 1961). Lists were drawn up in advance of individuals who were to be killed: members of parliament, prominent figures in science and culture, and clergymen. Concentration camps were to be built near major cities.
After looking at these facts, one is struck by the similarities between fascism and the plague. No work of fiction could possibly convey a realistic image of our world under the yoke of Nazism. The struggle to save the earth from that threat was without question the biggest military and political event of the twentieth century.
Humanity can draw at least two lessons from all that happened 70 years ago.
First, aggressive force can only be stopped by an even greater force. Blandishments and concessions only embolden an aggressor. No doubt there would have been time to snuff out the flash points of that future world war had it not been for the policy of appeasement adopted in the 1930s in Europe. Western democracies, nudging Hitler’s aggression eastward by providing economic fuel for his regime, took a dismissive view of his territorial conquests and succored a dangerous predator who eventually began to pose a threat to them as well. Bringing him later to heel required many years of hardship and privation from war, tens of millions of victims, and material losses in the trillions of dollars.
The fact that the West has not grasped this lesson can be seen in its support for the current regime in Ukraine. Furnishing Kiev with loans, various forms of military aid, and a blind eye toward Kiev’s noncompliance with the Minsk Protocol that was intended to end the war in Donbass – this all reminds of the similar behavior in Europe in the 1930s. We all remember the consequences.
Second, it was only possible to wipe out German Nazism and Japanese militarism thanks to the joint battle waged by the countries that made up the anti-Hitler coalition. Russia, in the guise of the Soviet Union, played a special and very important role in that victory: absorbing the brunt of the enemy’s attack, it withstood the terrible onslaught, and then gathered its strength and dealt a decisive defeat to the aggressors. Its contribution to that victory cannot be overstated.
World War II and the ensuing decades demonstrated that without the assistance of the Soviet Union the international community was unable to resolve any problems of global significance. Today as well, any attempt by advocates for a unipolar world to isolate Russia on the international arena is doomed to failure. This holds true when it comes to controlling the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, resolving the Iranian «nuclear issue», fighting international terrorism, or ending the civil war in Ukraine.
Without Russia it is not possible to establish strong international partnerships in the world of the 21st century.