Friday book # 31: Icebreaker

This week’s book is Victor Suvorov’s controversial Icebreaker, published in 1990. In this Suvorov claimed that Stalin was planning to attack Germany in 1941, and thus that the German attack on the Soviet Union could be seen not as an act of aggression but rather as a pre-emptive strike.

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A few years later, there were several revelations from the Soviet archives which at first glance appeared to lend some credence to Suvorov’s thesis. I have clipped several newspaper articles about these in my copy of the book, including the 1995 piece from the Moscow Times below. Subsequent studies by historians such as Gabriel Gorodetsky, however, have thoroughly debunked Suvorov’s thesis, and I don’t know of any serious historian who still supports it.

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5 thoughts on “Friday book # 31: Icebreaker”

  1. Paul,

    As to ‘Icebreaker’, it is of critical importance what is involved is not simply an attempt to rehabilitate Nazi propaganda claims that Hitler only pre-empted a Soviet attack. Equally important is the attempt by Viktor Suvorov’ – aka Vladimir Rezun – to pin a, if not the, major share of responsibility for the outbreak of the Second World War on Stalin.

    It seems appropriate to repeat some remarks I made in the discussion following your post on the ‘Spetsnaz’ study by ‘Suvorov’/Rezun back in March, in response to comments by ‘rkka’, with whom I had discussed some of the matters involved in exchanges on Colonel Lang’s ‘Sic Semper Tyrannis’ blog last year.

    My comments on that thread went into a whole range of issues involved both in ‘Icebreaker’ and its author’s other activities, and I think should be of interest to anyone interested in the wider issues raised by the ‘Icebreaker’ study.

    (For the discussion, see https://irrussianality.wordpress.com/2016/03/18/friday-book-11-spetsnaz/ .)

    My opening comment read:

    “rkka.

    “As regards ‘Icebreaker’, an equally interesting feature is that it is a restatement of the view of Stalin’s foreign policy common among the supporters of ‘appeasement’.

    “Essentially, this was that the ‘overt’ strategy of seeking collaboration with the Western powers against the common threat from Germany pursued by Stalin following Hitler’s consolidation of power concealed a ‘covert’ strategy whose central objective was to finesse the capitalist powers into destroying each other in a disastrous internecine war.

    “As you may recall, I dealt with the arguments of ‘Suvorov’, and also the more sophisticated version of the same case made by Robert C. Tucker, in comments on two threads on the ‘Sic Semper Tyrannis’ site in August last year.

    “(See http://turcopolier.typepad.com/sic_semper_tyrannis/2015/08/httpobservercom201508can-the-united-states-stop-a-war-with-russia.html ; http://turcopolier.typepad.com/sic_semper_tyrannis/2015/08/lest-we-forget.html .)

    “A key point I was concerned to make in these comments was that the famous ‘Long Telegram’ sent by George Kennan from Moscow on 22 February 1946 was underpinned by a restatement of the view of Stalin’s diplomacy held by the ‘appeasers’.

    “The study by Tucker – who was a subordinate of Kennan’s in the Moscow Embassy at the time and later – is actually an attempt to defend the revised version of the analysis of the ‘Long Telegram’ to which his erstwhile superior came in the months following the sending of that document.

    “If you read the ‘Long Telegram’ carefully, it is clear that it was underpinned by the notion that Stalin’s ‘real’ strategy had been the ‘overt’ strategy pursued by the German Communists in the late Weimar period, which had – disastrously – focused on destroying the Social Democrats, rather than attempting to collaborate with them against the National Socialists.

    “People who had held this view had, not surprisingly, expected that, in the wake of the internecine war, Stalin would drop the façades of the ‘Popular Front’ and ‘collective security’.

    “If you read Kennan’s later writings carefully, it becomes clear that when this failed to happen – Stalin’s strategy at the end of the war was to retain the ‘Popular Front’ – his response was to ask himself whether rather than an unsuccessful attempt to communise Germany, Stalin in the late Weimar period had been deliberately encouraging, or at least tolerating, Hitler’s victory.

    “In this new version – restated by ‘Suvorov’ and Tucker – Stalin’s concern had right at the outset been to ensure the victory of those political forces most likely to get into a conflict with the Western democracies.

    “The whole notion that Stalin was attempting to finesse Germany and the Western powers into war has, in my view, been definitively refuted by the demolition of ‘Suvorov’ and Tucker by the Israeli historian Gabriel Gorodetsky. Like Paul Robinson, Gorodetsky is an alumnus of St. Antony’s College, Oxford – and as such, is in the fortunate position of not only being familiar alike with British and Russian archives, but having a ‘feel’ for the politics of both countries.

    “Against this background, it comes as no surprise to find that ‘Suvorov’ – aka Vladimir Rezun – has been a central figure in the attempts of the late Alexander Litvinenko and his associates in the circle around the – now equally late – Boris Berezovsky to suggest that Putin’s ‘overt’ strategy of seeking alliance with the West against jihadist terrorism conceals a ‘covert’ strategy of encouraging such terrorism.

    “The role of ‘Suvorov’ in these efforts was touched on in some comments of mine on Sir Robert Owen’s report into the death of Litvinenko, which Colonel Lang put up as a post on SST back in January.

    “(See http://turcopolier.typepad.com/sic_semper_tyrannis/2016/01/david-hakkuk-on-sir-robert-owens-inquiry.html .)

    “It was ‘Suvorov’/Rezun who is reported to have played a key role in introducing Litvinenko to his Italian associate Mario Scaramella.

    “Although a mass of relevant evidence about the ‘information operations’ in which the these and others collaborated was suppressed at Sir Robert Owen’s Inquiry, parts of a crucial letter written by Litvinenko were reproduced. In this, he claimed that the notorious Ukrainian mobster Semyon Mogilevich, while an agent of the FSB and under Putin’s personal ‘krysha’, had been attempting to obtain a ‘mini nuclear bomb’ for Al Qaeda.

    “(For the document, see https://www.litvinenkoinquiry.org/files/2015/03/INQ018922.pdf .)”

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  2. 1990? I thought I read well before that…
    Anyway, I could never understand why the allegation that Stalin might have planned an invasion of the Nazi empire should be somehow considered damning. Non-aggression pact is damning – and planning to attack is damning? You can’t win, can you?

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  3. Actually I don’t know ANY serious historian who ever supported this fiction.

    For anyone with even small knowledge of WWII this book is full of epic bullshit. “Highway tanks” my ass and all that jazz.

    That’s not to mention that most of the claims that Rezun used to support his theory are plain false. Like concentration of Red Army near border.

    On the other hand this is really potent fiction that works on two levels: “Commies are evil” for Westerners and surprisingly enough “We are great and strong just got caught wrong footed” for Russians. Hence lasting popularity of this book. It still sells well as far as I’m aware.

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  4. And to build upon David’s remark above, note that the US and Canadian governments have both legitimized the various Nazi collaborators from Eastern Europe, who themselves had solid reasons for trying to shift the blame for starting the war from Hitler to Stalin.

    What’s especially amusing is that in late 1939 Right-Thinking-Brit-Conservatives were vilifying Hitler for hooking up with Stalin:

    http://www.worldcat.org/title/british-case/oclc/11706236

    Then once the war was over these same Right-Thinking-Brit-Conservatives were vilifying Stalin for failing to allow the Nazis to conquer all of Poland, occupy the Baltic States, and launch Op. Barbarossa from the 1938 Soviet border.

    Of course, in that case, one or both of the Dark Lord Putin’s parents would have died in the razing of Leningrad, so if they though about it, Right-Thinking-Brit-Conservative types would have even more reason to hate Stalin for preventing tens of millions more deaths in Russia during the war.

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  5. Erkki Hautamäki’s Finland in the eye of the storm presents information about a secret pact between the USSR, Britain and France established shortly after the M/R pact where a shared ockupation of Scadinavia was agreed upon whereafter the partakers were to attack Germany from the North. Hitlers side “happened to” capture documents revealing that pact through a forced landing of a courier plane. Quotation marks since I suspect that, if this pact really happened, the British probably leaked them to Hitler in order to goad him to attack. The British made such a bungled attemt to take Norway that it was probably intended to fail. {It is a known fact that the British setup the Gallipoli campaign to fail. Its even in Churchills and Kitcheners own notes and overwealmingly clear from the way they (dis)organized it.}
    According to the purported plans France and Britain would take Norway and Sweden, while the Sovjets would take Finland.
    Until the M/R pact Britain had stalled and obstructed any serious agreement with the Sovjets. They sent admiral Sir Reginal Drax without authorization to sign anything, while the French did have authorization.
    So Britain wanted Stalin isolated up til then and thus bear the full responsibility for the M/R pact. Further if Hautamäki’s revelations based on Mannerheim’s secret dossier S-32, are correct, it appears quite probable that all three the USSR, Finland as well as the Nazi regime felt cornered. Since the USSR had previously desperately tried invain to seek an alliance with France and Britain they are not to blame. Knowing that Hitler’s plans about extension of lebensraum at the expence of the slavs was a thinkable scenario the Sovjets had no reason to trust Hitler.
    Moreover the British had prepared Germany over a long period of time urging them to forbid assimilation of the jews and suggesting that they exterminate them. Resulting in Goebbels praising the British agent of influence H S Chamberlain for being the pathbreaker and visionary of nazism. Later Neville Chamberlain rushed to save Hitler from being ousted by the Preussian generals before the intended invasion of Czechoslovakia. This was not appeasement in the sense most people interpret it, it was Britain saving their stooge in order to reach their longsought aim for a devastating war between their rivals.
    Realizing that reality everything points to Britain as the real cause for the eastern war. Hitler was certainly not innocent but at that particular turn he might have felt he had no choice.
    This would still be a possible interpretation even without the information from Hautamäki. The role of Rudolf Hess has suspicious traits, the British guarding him for his whole remaining life, never allowing him to tell the truth. Without Hautamäki’s info it would seem probable that Britain promised Hitler peace via Hess if Hitler ‘only’ went ahead and conquered the resources of the USSR for his foreign sponsors – of which Royal Dutch Shell is said to have contributed 20 million pounds.
    Why otherwise would the British need to silence Hess?

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