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Another Look At The WW II Spat Involving Russia, Poland And Israel – OpEd

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Russia has more Jews actively participating in various aspects of their society when compared to Poland. In turn, Israel has more of a Russian ear than the Polish variant. Israel’s stance on the Russo-Polish row isn’t so in line with neocon and neolib leaning Jews, among some others.

Not all former USSR Jews spin like Julia Ioffe and Masha Gessen, who get a good amount of unchallenged Western mass media attention, which has led to some inaccurate impressions. This is somewhat like the situation with PC Ukrainians getting preference over those Ukrainians having a pro-Russian outlook.

Knowing Polish sensitivities, the Polish President Andrzej Duda should’ve been allowed to speak at the recent Yad Vashem event, commemorating the liberation of the Nazi run Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland. Notwithstanding, Duda was petulant with his: if Putin speaks then he (Duda) should approach. Britain’s Prince Charles and the French President Emmanuel Macron, were also invited speakers. Russian President Vladimir Putin has no less of a basis for consideration.  

Putin’s Yad Vashem address was diplomatically respectful. Contrary to what the BBC’s Barbara Plett Usher emphasized in her live on air comments, Czechoslovakia incurred Nazi aggression before Poland. The USSR sought an anti-Nazi alliance in support of Czechoslovakia. The West refused that desire. Shortly after that Nazi move, Poland and Hungary took portions of Czechoslovakia. 

Hence, it’s historically incomplete to proclaim that the USSR was partly responsible for the outbreak of WW II, while omitting the consequences of the Western inaction on Czechoslovakia.   

While being ethically problematical, the Nazi-Soviet non-aggression pact had a reasoned basis from the standpoint of those in the USSR. The West rebuffed the USSR on opposing the Nazi move against Czechoslovakia. Some in the West were openly hoping for a Nazi-Soviet war with the West left out. At the time of the Nazi-Soviet non-aggression pact, the Soviets had a good idea that they weren’t yet ready to successfully oppose Nazi Germany. 

The West didn’t help Czechoslovakia and initially engaged in a phony war when the Nazis attacked Poland. That attitude dramatically changed when the Nazis directly struck France and the UK. With all this in mind, there was a reasoned basis to be suspicious of the Western powers. BTW, note that the West didn’t declare war on the USSR when it entered into Poland’s then eastern territory, inhabited largely with non-Poles. 

*Michael Averko is a New York based independent foreign policy analyst and media critic.



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Michael Averko

Michael Averko

Michael Averko is a New York based independent foreign policy analyst and media critic. He has appeared as a guest commentator on the BBC and WABC talk radio, in addition to having been a panelist at the World Russia Forum, Russia Forum New York and US-Russia.org Experts' Panel. Besides Averko's Eurasia Review column - Academia.edu, Counterpunch, Foreign Policy Journal, Global Research, History News Network, InoSMI.Ru, Johnson's Russia List, Journal of Turkish Weekly, Kyiv Post, Oriental Review, Penza News, Pravda.Ru, Pravoslavie.Ru, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Russia Insider, Sputnik News, Strategic Culture Foundation, The Huffington Post, Valdai Discussion Club and WikiLeaks, are among the numerous venues where his commentary have either appeared or been referenced. The American Institute in Ukraine and the Lord Byron Foundation for Balkan Studies, have referenced some of his commentary, along with academic white papers prepared for NATO Watch, Ohio State University, Problems of Post-Communism and the Royal College of Defence Studies. He is source referenced in Richard Sakwa's book "Frontline Ukraine". Averko's Eurasia Review article on Pavlo Skoropadsky, provides the first full online transcript of Skoropadsky's edict calling for an "All-Russian Federation", inclusive of Russia and Ukraine. Among other issues, that article explains the relationships among the major combatants in the Russian Civil War. He can be reached via [email protected]

16 thoughts on “Another Look At The WW II Spat Involving Russia, Poland And Israel – OpEd

  • Avatar
    January 24, 2020 at 11:06 pm
    Permalink

    The difference between Poland and Czechoslovakia is that Poland fought back against Germany while the Czech rolled over. Moreover, the inhabitants of the disputed territory (Zaolzie) was majority Polish and grabbed by the Czechs in 1919. Poland took advantage of the Czech’s weakness in 1938 and took it back.

    Reply
    • Misha
      January 25, 2020 at 1:49 am
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      The Soviets and some non-Soviet others could say the same about Poland’s then eastern territories which the Soviets took.

      Reply
      • Avatar
        January 25, 2020 at 9:34 am
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        But you were writing about Czechoslovakia and did not provide readers with all the facts.

        Reply
        • Misha
          January 25, 2020 at 10:08 pm
          Permalink

          On the subject of what led to WW II and it getting expanded, English language mass media (BBC included) en masse didn’t provide the facts about what led to the Nazi-Soviet nonaggression pact.

          Reply
      • Avatar
        January 25, 2020 at 9:47 am
        Permalink

        There’s no moral (or other) equivalence. Unlike Zaolzie the huge Soviet land grab extended far into territory which was majority Polish. Moreover, Poland did not arrest and deport millions of innocent civilians (like my mother and her parents) or execute thousands of POWs.

        Reply
      • Avatar
        January 25, 2020 at 12:09 pm
        Permalink

        Misha, a bit of historical rigorousness please. Comparing annexing Zaolzie with Ribbentrop-Molotov pact/Russian agression in 1939 is like comparing apples with oranges. Both are fruits but are fully different.
        1) in September 1939 Russia attacked a country with which it had a valid non-aggression pact until 1945 year. Poland did not have not have such agreement with Czechoslovakia in 1938, what is more the Zaolzie was in dispute between the 2 countries since 1919.
        2) Russian – Polish border has been agreed between Poland and USRR (Russia) through Riga Treaty in 1920. There was not any treaty qualifying Zaolzie as Checjoslovakian. The agreement was to perform plebiscite. Czechoslovakia used Polish-Russian war to occupy this territory. It has not been formalized in any treaty between Poland and Czechoslovakia.
        3) Russia invaded 52% of polish territory in September 1939 with 13.7 population (38% polish vs 0.9% Russian population). Zaolzie (200-230k population in function of sources) was having biggest polish population (around 25% Polish vs 20% Chechs).
        4) at the same time as Russia started occupy Poland, it started a systematic persecution of Polish population. It is estimated that between September 1939 and June 1941 around 1.000.000- 1.500.000 polish people were imapcted directly by the persecution. Out of them, in function of sources between 300.000 – 1.000.000 people were killed or disappeared. The differences in numbers are so high as Russia has still not declassify NKVD archives and is not collaborating in qualife Soviet war crimes. The best example is Katyn massacre where 35 out of 135 volume sof archive files are still considered as classified. In April 2012, the European Court of Human Rights condemned Russia for not providing sufficient information about the war crime investigation.
        On other hand, there was not any persecution of Chechs population in annexed Zaolzie, thus comparing the two situations can be easily qualified as
        an atempt to whitewash Russian history and 1939-41 war crimes.

        Reply
      • Avatar
        January 25, 2020 at 10:20 pm
        Permalink

        Comparing annexing Zaolzie with Ribbentrop-Molotov pact/Russian agression in 1939 is like comparing apples with oranges. Both are fruits but are fully different.
        1) in September 1939 Russia attacked a country with which it had a valid non-aggression pact until 1945 year. Poland did not have not have such agreement with Czechoslovakia in 1938, what is more the Zaolzie was in dispute between the 2 countries since 1919.
        2) Russian – Polish border has been agreed between Poland and USRR (Russia) through Riga Treaty in 1920. There was not any treaty qualifying Zaolzie as Checjoslovakian. The agreement was to perform plebiscite. Czechoslovakia used Polish-Russian war to occupy this territory. It has not been formalized in any treaty between Poland and Czechoslovakia.
        3) Russia invaded 52% of polish territory in September 1939 with 13.7 population (38% polish vs 0.9% Russian population). Zaolzie (200-230k population in function of sources) was having biggest polish population (around 25% Polish vs 20% Chechs).
        4) at the same time as Russia started occupy Poland, it started a systematic persecution of Polish population. It is estimated that between September 1939 and June 1941 around 1.000.000- 1.500.000 polish people were imapcted directly by the persecution. Out of them, in function of sources between 300.000 – 1.000.000 people were killed or disappeared. The differences in numbers are so high as Russia has still not declassify NKVD archives and is not collaborating in qualife Soviet war crimes. The best example is Katyn massacre where 35 out of 135 volume sof archive files are still considered as classified. In April 2012, the European Court of Human Rights condemned Russia for not providing sufficient information about the war crime investigation.
        On other hand, there was not any persecution of Chechs population in annexed Zaolzie, thus comparing the two situations can be easily qualified as
        an atempt to whitewash Russian history and 1939-41 war crimes.

        Reply
        • Misha
          January 26, 2020 at 2:36 am
          Permalink

          This reply of yours doesn’t successfully refute why Molotov-Ribbentrop happened, for the reasons described in the above article related to this thread and my follow-up points. Poland (whether before WW I, between two world wars and during WW II) wasn’t squeaky clean, in addition to having some Communists as well.

          I don’t excuse what happened at Katyn. There’s also the matter of the horrid conditions that Soviet POWs received during the Polish-Soviet War. Thousands of these POWs perished.

          Reply
  • Avatar
    January 24, 2020 at 11:55 pm
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    Hmmm, calling today the Ribbentrop- Molotov pact just ethically problematic and reasoned based is just showing how respectful was Russia regarding any pacts. While having a valid non-aggression pact with Poland until 1945, it negotiated and agreed with Hitler not only agression and occupation of Poland, but also anexing Finnland, Estonia and Latvia….proudly organized common military parades like the one in Brest 22 of September 1939, Russian NKVD cooperated with Gestapo in 1939 and 1940 on polish resistance persecution technics organizing common seminars…Finally, in the occupied territories it introduced red terror, killing or deporting hundrets of thausends of polish people between September 1939 and June 1941…

    Reply
    • Misha
      January 25, 2020 at 1:47 am
      Permalink

      Which is why that pact was ethically problematical, while having a reasoned basis as described in the above piece.

      You omit mention of the Polish-Nazi nonaggression pact of 1934.

      Finland was offered a land exchange to avert war. The Soviets accurately figured that Finland would be a Nazi ally against the USSR. Hence, the land exchange offer to avert war. The Finns (as was and is their right) refused.

      You didn’t mention Lithuania.

      Reply
      • Avatar
        January 25, 2020 at 6:47 am
        Permalink

        The Soviet Union and Finnland (Winter War) began with a Soviet invasion of Finland on 30 November 1939, three months after the outbreak of World War II, and ended three and a half months later with the Moscow Peace Treaty on 13 March 1940. The League of Nations deemed the attack illegal and expelled the Soviet Union from the organisation. The manners were not really different from nowdays invasion of Rusia on Crimea.
        Regarding Poland’s non agression acts, yes Poland had Non agression act with both: with Stalin’s Russia (1932) as well as with Hitler’s Germany.Actually the non agression pact with Russia was extended until 1945 just few months after signing the pact with Germany.But in difference to Russia Poland has never broken them. Neither there were secret annexes to attack Rusia and neighbours countries in alliance with Germany like did Russia in 1939 with Hitler.
        Regarding Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia (the Baltic states ) themselves,the United States and its courts of law,the European Parliament,the European Court of Human Rightsand the United Nations Human Rights Council have all stated that these three countries were invaded, occupied and illegally incorporated into the Soviet Union under provisions of the 1939 Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact. There followed occupation by Nazi Germany from 1941 to 1944 and then again occupation by the Soviet Union from 1944 to 1991.

        Reply
      • Avatar
        January 25, 2020 at 9:39 am
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        Poland’s non-aggression treaty with Germany was exactly that as far as Poland was concerned: NON-aggression. The Germans broke it in 1939. In contrast to Molotov-Ribbentrop, it included no secret protocol to invade neighboring countries and divide Europe.

        Reply
        • Misha
          January 25, 2020 at 10:26 pm
          Permalink

          Along with the appeasement of others at Munich, Poland’s non-aggression treaty with Nazi Germany in 1934 and Poland’s move on Czechoslovak territory in 1938, led to the Nazi-Soviet non-aggression pact and what happened thereafter as a result of it.

          Reply

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