I hope to address this in greater detail in a subsequent post. And I’m glad to see it is already garnering a slowly-rising chorus of criticism. But let me just start with a brief comment on President Bush’s historically ignorant and morally hideous claim that “the agreement at Yalta followed in the unjust tradition of Munich and the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact.”
To compare the results of the Yalta Conference to the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, the key element of which was a secret agreement by which the 20th century’s two great dictators agreed to carve up the defenseless neighbour between them, is truly unconscionable. And to compare it to Munich is little less so.
In making this argument the president joins a rich tradition of maniacs who believe that at the end of World War II we should have joined with the defeated remainder of the German army and fought our way through Eastern Europe to the border of Russia and, in all likelihood, on to Moscow to overthrow the Soviet Union itself — certainly not a difficult proposition considering what an insubstantial land Army the Soviet Union had at the time.
If that seems like an over-dramatic alternative scenario, then you just aren’t familiar with the history of the period.
Roosevelt didn’t hand the Baltics, Poland and the rest of what became the Warsaw Pact countries over to Soviet rule. The Red Army was there in force already. The question was whether we were able and willing to remove them by force.
The president also makes common cause, though whether he’s familiar with the history he’s wading into I don’t know, with those who argued before the war and after that the US and the UK made their fundamental error in the war itself, by allying with the Soviets against Nazism rather than with Nazism against the Soviets.
Now, no one can expect that Latvians or Poles are going to have warm or cordial feelings about the Great Power agreements at the end of the war. The plain fact is that the outcome of the war led to the imposition of Communist dictatorships across Eastern Europe that lasted for more than forty years. But one cannot assess the morality or political insight of American and British decision-making in the late stages of the war without standing them up against the real alternatives they faced. Anything else is just cheap posturing or folly. In the president’s case, perhaps both.