- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 21, 2004

There will never be a last word written about the Spanish Civil War, but Stanley G. Payne’s encyclopedic volume The Spanish Civil War, The Soviet Union, and Communism (Yale University Press, $35, 400 pages) comes about as near to the last word as possible. It deserves space on a shelf which contains other famous “last words” on the subject: Ronald Radosh and Mary Hobeck’s “Spain Betrayed: The Soviet Union in the Spanish Civil War” and the compendious “The Spanish Civil War: Revolution and Counterrevolution” by Burnett Balloten.

It has become a truism to say that the Spanish Civil War, which broke out in 1936, was the curtain-raiser to World War II three years later. Yet it was more than that. As Soviet archives are opened and their evidence studied, it becomes clearer and clearer that Spain was not only the arena of a confrontation between the two totalitarian powers, the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany, but that the war in Spain also opened the road to the August 1939 Hitler-Stalin “non-aggression pact.”

The Spanish Civil War has also been an inspiration to leftists and liberal intellectuals in the major democracies, who described it as a war against fascism — which it most certainly was not. Joseph Stalin did everything he could to prevent a victory by Spanish democratic socialists. As far as Stalin was concerned, better Francisco Franco than a democratic Spain, which he feared above all would have Trotskyite overtones.

Mr. Payne has debunked the still-prevalent idea that Stalin supported “an idealistic struggle against fascism.”

• • •

From 1946 to 1949, the Greek Communists, averaging fewer than 20,000 men, engaged the Greek National Army in a successful guerrilla campaign. Only when they committed to conventional battle tactics did they suffer complete defeat. It was the first battle of the Cold War, and one which Stalin almost won.

The Greek Communist Party (a.k.a. KKE) controlled ELAS, the left-wing resistance army, “which came close to enabling the Greek Communists to take over Greece after liberation,” says Andre Gerolymatos in Red Acropolis, Black Terror: The Greek Civil War and the Origins of Soviet-American Rivalry (Basic Books, $27.50, 306 pages). This book deals with the now-forgotten Greek Civil War, in which 208,000 men on opposing sides lost their lives.

Some 700,000, or 10 percent of the population, fled their homes or were forcibly relocated by Greek authorities. About 50,000 Greeks were condemned to exile. Almost 28,000 children were abducted or forced to flee Greece with the Communist forces to the Balkan Communist states. Only 10,344 children were ever repatriated.

It is hard to believe, seeing Greece today in its Olympiad epiphany, that this country was once a Cold War battleground, which, thanks to the 1947 Truman Doctrine, was saved from Stalinist thralldom.

• • •

The India-China Relationship: What the United States Needs to Know, edited by Francine R. Frankel and Harry Harding (Columbia University Press, $22.50, 352 pages) is an important (and bargain-priced) book, since it deals with the tangled relationship — border disputes, nuclear rivalry, economic competition — between the two most populous nations on the globe.

The distinguished contributors to this volume ask three common questions: What are the similarities and differences between the two countries’ strategic cultures, domestic circumstances, and international environments?

What are the broader international contexts for their bilateral relations?

What parallels and tensions exist between their national interests?

Although these questions are phrased in a strange patois known as “political science gobbledygook,” they actually are important because India-China relations in the immediate future will strongly affect the American economy and America’s claim to world leadership.

Mr. Harding’s concluding essay, on the implications for the United States of the emergence of the two Asian giants as influential participants in the world economy, should be read by policy-makers.

• • •

At the D-Day ceremonies in Caen last June, Russian President Vladimir Putin described American lend-lease to the then-Soviet Union as the first stage of a “second front.” In Russia’s Life-Saver: Lend-Lease Aid to the U.S.S.R. in World War II (Lexington Books, $70, 186 pages), Albert L. Weeks points out that this was a remarkable admission. During and even after the end of World War II, Russians from Stalin down pooh-poohed lend-lease as of no importance in the Russian triumph over the Nazi invasion that began on June 22, 1941.

Stalin’s spokesmen disparaged U.S. lend-lease as a minor factor in the Soviet victory. Total lend-lease to Russia totaled some $12.5 billion, which was a lot of money in the 1940s. It’s also important to realize that we agreed to lend-lease and started shipping this equipment before Pearl Harbor as well as after, when military equipment was at a premium.

The title of this fascinating study by Mr. Weeks, a noted Sovietologist, is taken from the title of an article by a Russian historian, “Lifesaver Lend-Lease: It is not necessary to minimize its importance in our victory in the Great Patriotic War.”

Marshal Georgi Zhukov was not allowed to say publicly what he said privately — that without American lend-lease, Russia’s triumph over the Wehrmacht would have been impossible.

Based on evidence from previously closed Soviet archives and new research by Russian scholars, “Russia’s Life-Saver” documents in great and fruitful detail President Putin’s judgment at Caen.

Arnold Beichman, a Hoover Institution research fellow, is a columnist for The Washington Times. An updated edition of his biography “Herman Wouk, the Novelist as Social Historian,” will be published next month.


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