Monday, June 9, 2014

Obama Snubs Putin In Paris? Really?

As it happened, the G-7 Meeting (formerly the G-8) in Paris coincided with the 70th anniversary of the D-Day invasion on June 6, 1944. That event marked the key turning point of the worst war ever seen - after which one participant noted: "The next major war will be the end of everything."  Anyway, this isn't about the next major war but a war of pique and adolescent style behavior unbecoming of world leaders.
My gripe is that given the historical background (and I believe the commemoration of the Normandy invasion trumps the Neoliberal,  G-7  self-congratulation pretensions),  it was appalling to learn that Obama reportedly refused to dine with Vladimir Putin, who was being hosted by France’s president Francois Hollande as part of the D-Day commemoration. Why? What's the big deal? After all , there was no way you were going to avoid him anyway at Normandy. (Media snippets showed the two in conversation for about 15 minutes - and the neoliberal media take explained that Obama was "lecturing" Putin on getting out of Crimea and behaving in the Ukraine. Give me a break! What is Putin, a toddler?)

So poor Francois Hollande, who is on a  stringent diet after being called a “little fat man” - by former Neoliberal president Nicholas Sarkozy (the same scum ball who once accused Barbados of being a haven for tax evaders via offshore accounts)- had to gorge himself while being  forced to host two back-to-back dinners, the first for Obama and the second, delicately described in French as a “souper,” or smaller supper, for Vladimir Putin, who's not a gourmandizer anyway. Never mind, Hollande still had to ingest an extra 2,000 calories just to appease Obama's pique.

Blogger Eric Margolis' take on this was perhaps most perspicacious:

"How remarkably childish and silly all this was. Obama and America’s European allies are cold-shouldering Putin for re-absorbing Crimea into Russia, to which it had belonged for 300 years, and for stirring the pot in eastern Ukraine. Meanwhile, US military forces are in action or based in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Djibouti, the Philippines, Yemen, Somalia, Uganda, Central African Republic, Colombia, Kenya, Europe, South Korea, Japan – in fact, around the globe.

In Paris, the leading European NATO members met separately with President Putin while Washington continued its big snub. The EU’s economy is too involved with Russia to indulge in political theatrics.

Canada, run by a far-right evangelical government, played to its large ethnic Ukrainian population by huffing and puffing at Russia. Ukraine must be free, thundered the lackeys  What makes this schoolyard tiff in Paris even more churlish, D-Day, hailed by westerners as the decisive battle that defeated National Socialist Germany, would never have succeeded were it not for Stalin’s Soviet Red Army."

Margolis is spot-on correct, and the Neoliberal Western allies still owe the Russkies big time for taking most of Hitler's heat for them. Had not Stalin's armies fought to the last man literally (12  million dead) we'd likely be living the alternate history described by Philip K. Dick in his science fiction masterpiece, The Man in the High Castle - which portrays a world in which the Nazis and Japanese prevailed in WWII.
Having just watched again a documentary on the Battle of Stalingrad, there's no doubt in my mind, none whatsoever, that Normandy invasion or not, the Allies (without the Russians having already decimated the Wehrmacht) would not have succeeded with 'Operation Overlord'  as they did.  For reference, some 75% of the once mighty German Wehrmacht and Luftwaffe were destroyed by the Soviet Union on the Eastern Front: 607 German and Axis divisions, 48,000 German tanks, 77,000 German warplanes.
Former Wehrmacht soldier Hans Borchers, who I met in 1985 while in Dissen, Germany, laid it out straight: The diminished Wehrmacht that faced  the Allies at Normandy was reduced to 40% of effective strength because of  the Russians'  merciless war of attrition - responding to Operation Barbarossa.  This reduction was further exacerbated by virtue of being immobilized by lack of fuel.  Because of the Luftwaffe losses, there was little or no air cover to protect them from 24-hour Allied carpet bombing and strafing.
As Hans put it: "Schrecklich!"
Hans mused that it was  nothing short of amazing that the Germans could fight at all, or so hard. Had the Allied landing met the Germans of 1940, they would have been pushed into the Channel. Had Hitler not mounted Operation Barbarossa, squandering most of the Reich's military strength, it would have been much the same outcome - because all those forces demolished fighting at Stalingrad or other places would have been there to meet them - as well as thousands of Luftwaffe planes.

The point of this recollection? Only that major thanks are still owed to the Russians/Soviets who, however brutal and murderous, really won the war in Europe and went on to destroy 450,000 Japanese troops. At least 12 million Soviet soldiers died and 8 million Russian civilians, thereby  likely sparing the lives of millions of Allied soldiers .
Obama's snub of Putin, especially coinciding with D-Day commemorations, was therefore undignified and uncalled for. It showed not only poor statesmanship but poor recollection of history and how that history affected the U.S.
To quote Eric Margolis:

"Intelligent grownups talk to their rivals and enemies. For example, if the US and Britain had agreed to talk peace terms with the German generals in 1944, or at least backed their coup again Hitler, the war might well have ended a year earlier."
Maybe the next occasion for a Putin meeting will not be dismissed with such disdain, given what might well be at stake, in Iran or Syria.


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