Toward a New Era of Nation-States, Part VIII: How Europe Lost its Commanding Position in the WorldAlgis Avižienis
The Superpowers Eclipse the European Nation-States
Despite the intense political rivalry among the European Great Powers, Europe in the nineteenth century managed to avoid the widespread destruction of the twentieth century’s two World Wars. The nineteenth century after the end of the Napoleonic Wars was a time of relative peace compared to the twentieth century. As Henry Kissinger noted in his “A World Restored: Metternich, Castlereagh and the Problems of Peace, 1812-22,” European armed clashes of that century tended to be of local significance and short duration. The outcomes did not represent total defeat for the losing side.
It was only later when rivalry among European states was subsumed into global competition involving continental powers, such as Russia and the US, that military conflicts assumed a total aspect. Although recurring tension and periodic clashes characterized the period after the Congress of Vienna, the major European nations never seriously contemplated the total elimination of their strongest rivals. It was tacitly accepted that competition should remain at the margins, observed Kissinger.
The former US Secretary of State did not expand on this intriguing observation, beyond stating that the major players of that time were interested in maintaining stability. We might elaborate on this idea. It could very well be that the European Powers restrained themselves in their pursuit of power because they felt a common responsibility for the continuation of European culture and civilization.
By contrast, during World War II, the Soviet Union and the US were not as inhibited in their aspirations, possibly because their ties to European culture were more tenuous. Indeed, their goals were of a universal stamp, and they regarded the Western European theatre of war as only one of several. World War II represented a fight to the death between opposing ideologies and civilizations. Moreover, this war was incredibly devastating because the new continental powers could employ previously unimagined quantities of human and economic resources for war-making. At the end of World War II, wide swathes of Europe, with its bombed-out cities, resembled the surface of the moon.
The essential difference between World War II and earlier European armed conflicts was that two non-European powers (the US and the USSR) emerged as the victors. Beginning in 1945, these two enormously powerful continental states proceeded to entrench their influence in the political, economic, and cultural spheres of European life. The US and the USSR, both organized on the basis of universal principles, aimed to extend their sway not only over Europe but also over the rest of the world. Europe had become just one of a number of geographic regions into which the superpowers projected their power and competed for influence. Europe was no longer the center radiating power and influence over the four corners of the earth. Instead, its status declined to being a playground (a very important one, to be sure) in which the US and USSR vied for influence.
The Superpowers Entrench Internationalism in Europe.
Although during the Cold War the US and USSR appeared to be implacable enemies, these two global powers nevertheless had one thing in common – both sought the re-education of Europeans in the spirit of internationalism. Universal doctrines are essential ideological weapons for powers harboring global ambitions. In striving for global dominance, the superpowers projected worldviews tailored for everyone, without regard to affiliations of race, nationality, or religion.
The Soviets labored indefatigably in Eastern Europe, using a combination of murder, terror, mass deportations, comprehensive indoctrination, and material inducements. In the West the Americans threw their colossal economic weight behind the project for a united Europe, drawing Western European economies into the global trading system that later gave rise to a standardized consumer culture.
Caught in the vise of these two continental giants, European political elites in essence ceased their earlier efforts to integrate the individual in national communities. Urged on by their superpower overseer, West European elites turned their attention to the propagation of internationalist and individualistic values, the development of a consumer society, and the competition for foreign markets.
The US nuclear umbrella and military presence in Europe relieved the West Europeans of much of the economic burden of protecting themselves against the threat in the East. This released huge reserves of national wealth for the post-war prosperity boom. As a result, the individual was free to indulge himself, pursuing wealth, comfort, status, variety, and amusements on a grand scale. One gets the impression that in liberating Western Europe from a great part of the responsibility for self-defense, the US also unburdened Western Europeans of a sense of seriousness regarding the fate of their national communities.
Generally speaking, national ideals were jettisoned in the 76-year period since the end of the War. The individual’s atomization with regard to family and community — which had been effectively slowed down during the ascendancy of nineteenth-century nationalism — resumed its course. For quite some time Western European demographic problems such as declining birthrates appeared distant threats and insignificant to pleasure-loving sophisticates. The dissolution of the power of national states did not unduly upset the ordinary European – until the 2008-2009 financial crisis exposed the fragility of postwar prosperity.
European statesmen inadequately assess global power shifts
The Europeans’ loss of sovereignty in 1945, was a direct outcome of the asymmetry of power between the individual European states and the enormous resources mobilized by the US and USSR. Although Great Britain and France seemingly could draw on the wealth of their enormous colonial holdings overseas, the populations of their colonies nevertheless suffered from low levels of literacy, technical skills, and organizational abilities. This, in addition to the colonials’ diverse loyalties as well as heterogeneous ethnic and linguistic characteristics, greatly reduced the value of the colonies as sources of military strength.
Thus, despite their control over tens of millions of square km of African and Asian territories, as well as hundreds of millions of African and Asian subjects, the major European colonial powers were no match individually for the US or USSR. The growing imbalance in strength — between the US and the USSR on the one side and European states on the other — should have been obvious to the political leadership of both France and Great Britain in the run-up to World War II.
To be sure, London and Paris were aware of this fact at an elementary level and sought to harness the Soviets’ growing military power. Already in 1935, France had begun military cooperation with Moscow against Nazi Germany. In 1939, the British military followed in the footsteps of the French and held consultations with their Soviet counterparts on a common military front against Germany.
There were earlier signs that these two European Great Powers were conscious of the enormous, tectonic shifts underway in the global structure of power. Midway into World War I, London realized it was stuck in a ghastly stalemate and could not hope to defeat Wilhelmine Germany without drawing the US into the war. Intense British diplomatic activity was undertaken to gain American support for the Allied cause. Two million US soldiers dispatched to the West European battlefields tipped the scales in favor of the Allied cause.
Well before World War I, major French banks had begun massive investments in Tsarist Russia in the late 1880s. Financial involvement in the Russian economy gradually dovetailed with the diplomatic efforts of the Third Republic to cement a military alliance with St. Petersburg against Berlin. The French military command placed great hopes in the “Russian steamroller” as they planned revanche for their defeat at the hands of Prussia in 1870.
Britain and France clearly understood that the US, Tsarist Russia, and later the USSR, were in possession of gigantic economic resources, and thus potential military power. But until the outbreak of World War II, it appears that officials in London and Paris mistakenly considered these continental giants as instruments for their own ends, rather than as budding superpowers poised to displace their standing as Great Powers. Perhaps it was the status of Britain and France as colonial empires that led their statesmen to overestimate their power. French and British officials apparently thought that, whatever the outcome of the world wars, France and Britain would remain Great Powers and compete more or less as equals with the US, Tsarist Russia, and later, the USSR.
Throughout the period from the signing of the Entente Cordiale in 1904, to World War II, Britain and France focused their combined diplomatic, economic, and political power on blocking Germany’s bid to become the dominant power on the European Continent. London and Paris believed that the key to preserving their sovereign Great Power status was to be found in the European theatre of diplomatic and military competition. And it was the rising economic and military power of the German Reich that was perceived as the greatest threat to their standing as powerful, independent players. Unfortunately, the end result of colossal French and British sacrifices in two European wars was the achievement of satellite status with regard to the US.
Should we consider this outcome as a spectacular diplomatic failure? Should France and Great Britain then not have supported Germany with its more limited ambitions for European hegemony rather than the USSR, which openly preached word revolution?
Before passing judgment on the perceived myopia of British and French statesmen, we should pose yet another question, thereby extending the scope of our inquiry. Why is it that the three Great Powers of today, the US, China, and Russia, were elevated to their commanding status in significant part through massive financing by European capital?
International Finance Displaces National Interests, Becoming a Great Power in its Own Right
Heavy Western investments into the People’s Republic of China helped transform that country into an economic colossus, which is already posing military challenges to the West. Tsarist Russia may well have remained a predominantly rural country, were it not for the massive financial assistance it received from French lenders from the 1880s to the start of World War I. By the outbreak of World War I, Russia had already overtaken a number of European countries in important industrial sectors. In 1913, Russia was already the fifth largest industrial nation, just behind France. The Soviet Union could thus build on the industrial foundation it inherited from the Tsarist regime to become a superpower under Stalin.
During the period 1870-1914, the United States was the world’s largest recipient of foreign investment. In this regard, as a magnet for foreign investment, America’s position was analogous to that of China in the period from 1980 to 2021, when its economy climbed to stellar heights. In the US case, British capital accounted for the lion’s share of foreign lending. Most of America’s railroad construction, for example, was financed by British banks, although other European countries’ financial institutions also participated.
Should we then regard Britain’s heavy involvement in the industrialization of the US as a colossal blunder, particularly in light of the two wars that the British Empire fought against its erstwhile colony? Viewed from the vantage point of Great Britain’s global power position as a state and its sovereignty, the answer would have to be yes. Obviously, the US succeeded in dethroning the UK as one of the most powerful actors on the world stage.
But it would be more provocative to ask if the decision to build up America’s industrial capacity was really made by British statesmen, i.e., the leaders who should have been concerned about protecting the global predominance of the British Empire over the long term. If we study the rise of the British Empire — which is occasionally called the ramshackle empire — we will be struck by the seemingly haphazard way it grew to encompass such a heterogeneous collection of tribes, nations, and civilizations spread over six continents.
Acquisition of new colonial territories was quite often prompted by commercial considerations. In reality, British expansion was driven by the merchant, industrial, and financial elites who moved in on new openings for trade, lending, and investment as the opportunities presented themselves. There was never any long-range strategy of imperial expansion that British statesmen might have developed. The political leadership allowed the initiative to pass into the hands of the mercantile elites. It was the merchants and bankers who created the geostrategic realities for Great Britain. The flag followed trade, as the saying goes.
Taking into account that so much British investment was intermingled with American finance and industrial capital, the British reaction to the loss of power vis-à-vis America was relatively mild. Those who had invested heavily in US stocks, bonds, and real estate did not experience any expropriation of wealth. Instead, the profits of British investors increased substantially together with the growth of the US economy after both world wars.
Hence we can observe an instance of a historically significant divergence of interests between the financial and industrial elites of the European nation-states on the one hand and the long-term national interests of those states on the other hand. If it is now recognized that a major impetus of World War I was British fear of German competition in foreign trade, then it must be admitted that British commercial interests probably had a hand in arousing suspicions of German expansion in official London circles.
As we previously noted, the ideological opponents of nationalism like to place the blame on provoking wars squarely on so-called national egoism. This accusation has served the globalists well in discrediting the ideas of national interests and national sovereignty, but it is not supported by historical experience.
One can argue just as well that it was the egoism of international finance that caused and prolonged World War I. The financial oligarchs of Great Britain and France — and to a lesser extent those of the German Reich and other European states — fuelled what is sometimes referred to as the first surge of globalization between 1870 and 1914. The frantic expansion of worldwide trade, investment, and acquisition of overseas colonies created international tension and spurred a fateful arms race between the navies of Great Britain and Wilhelmine Germany.
In their pursuit of overseas economic expansion, the major financial, trading, and industrial interests gradually detached themselves from national considerations and acquired an international outlook on life. Increasingly the major banks and corporations began regarding the world market as their true home rather than Great Britain, France, and, perhaps to a lesser degree, the German Reich of Kaiser Wilhelm II. Britain continued to lavish resources on its colonial investments, the navy, and colonial administration, while its investments in social welfare programs lagged behind those of Germany. The British working classes became ever more radicalized by the enormous gulf between its living standards and those of the financial and mercantile elites profiting from economic exploitation of the colonies.
A very telling example of this momentous shift in power relationships is provided by the biography of Cecil Rhodes, the diamond magnate who spurred the British colonization of Southern Africa. Rhodes settled in South Africa as a youth and within 15 years had become one of the chief producers of rough diamonds in Britain’s Cape Colony.
His diamond venture received a strong impetus from Baron Nathaniel Rothschild, who made major investments in diamond extraction and helped Rhodes found the renowned De Beers enterprise. Rhodes became a parliamentary deputy of Cape Colony and by 1890 was its Prime Minister. He combined his political and private financial power to expand personal control over a considerable part of southern Africa. The diamond oligarch engaged a private army to conquer about 1 million square kilometers of territory in what is now Zimbabwe and Zambia. He even named a part of this land after himself, i.e., Rhodesia, which is what Zimbabwe was called before it achieved independence.
Rhodes, his financial backers, and political associates took an increasing interest in the territories controlled by the Dutch-speaking Afrikaners after major gold deposits were discovered near Witwatersrand. Cooperating closely with Alfred Milner, the Governor of Cape Colony, Rhodes did everything possible to destabilize the independent Afrikaner states of the Republic of Transvaal and the Orange Free State. Rhodes even personally organized and equipped the notorious Jameson raid, an armed incursion of mercenaries, which was part of a broader miscarried putsch.
Eventually, Rhodes and Milner succeeded in provoking a bloody war with the Afrikaners, known as the Boer War of 1899-1902. This colonial war involved the transporting of as many as 500,000 British troops to the southern African battlefields and led to the loss of independence of the Boer republics. At an international level, the British intervention against the Afrikaners severely strained relations with Wilhelmine Germany, not least because the German Reich had established its own colony nearby in what is now known as Namibia. The interventions of Rhodes and his associate Milner in effect precluded German hopes of expanding their colonial holdings in southern Africa. The Boer War thus contributed significantly to the deterioration of British-German relations in the run-up to World War I.
Rhodes’ early death prevented him from realizing even more audacious enterprises, including his famed Cape to Cairo Railway, which would have necessitated major British territorial acquisitions across Africa from Egypt to Cape Colony. Beyond Africa, Cecil Rhodes contemplated world domination by the Anglo-Saxon races. This would have required a reform of the Empire into a federated state, involving tighter control of its far-flung colonies — and an eventual readmission of the United States into the British Empire.
When he died in 1902, Rhodes’ wealth was estimated to be nearly one billion USD (measured in present-day dollars). Nathaniel Rothschild and Alfred Milner were named trustees of this estate. Milner, who had a following of his own of young colonial officials, known as Milner’s Kindergarten, continued to work on Rhodes’ vision of a more tightly administered British Commonwealth and closer ties with the US. He and the influential members of the Milner Kindergarten founded the Round Table movement, which promoted these two grand concepts. Milner himself later became a highly influential British official, later serving as Colonial Secretary and War Secretary during World War I.
Among the significant spin-offs of the Round Table was the nearly simultaneous establishment of two authoritative think tanks, the Royal Institute of Foreign Affairs in Great Britain and the US Council on Foreign Relations, which have promoted closer trans-Atlantic ties for a hundred years. Philip Kerr, a member of Milner’s Kindergarten, later served as the British Ambassador to Washington, D.C. at a critical time from 1939-40. He played a key role in convincing the Roosevelt administration to offer Lend-Lease assistance (equivalent to 124 billion USD today) to his country, which had suffered a series of calamitous losses at the hands of the German armed forces. US-British relations remained strong enough to win the war, but the victorious outcome for the Allies did not save the British Empire.
The German philosopher Oswald Spengler, writing in his book Man and Technics, underlined what he considered to be the myopic view of the West regarding the economic relations developing between the Great Powers and their colonies. Spengler grasped the idea that the West was pursuing economic policies that were harmful to national interests, but he seemed to attribute this to objective historical tendencies, rather than to long-term planning by powerful elites.
What Spengler referred to as the disastrous “dissemination of industry” at the close of the nineteenth century, we have already identified as the first surge of globalization. This period also coincided with the consolidation of financial and industrial power in the hands of a relatively small group of international financiers. Unlike Spengler, who is best known for his majestic Decline of the West, these financial interests were not overly disturbed by the sagging prospects of European states with regard to their colonies.
Already during the first swell of globalization, the financial circles of London and Paris were building the foundation for a world trading zone and thinking of global hegemony. The British and the French empires administered or at least exercised some form of political control over, more than 50 million sq. km. of the earth. As massive financial flows from London and Paris penetrated the US and Tsarist Russia, the financial oligarchs could very well contemplate an endgame phase of their move towards control of the world’s economy.
The idea that America and Russia could slip out of the financial orbits of London and Paris probably seemed a distant prospect, given that dependence on foreign financing generally was understood as a prelude to political dependency. Any move by the recipient country that could harm the interests of the financial capitals could theoretically be countered by turning off the money spigot.
The process of building financial, trading, and industrial interconnections created a new comprador class at the receiving end of the financial largesse. Some of the new partners that British and French capital found in the developing economies over time grew to become major international players in their own right. The close links between the London and Paris branches of the Rothschilds with the American House of Morgan and the Rockefeller interests are a good example of this important historical trend. Out of this close financial collaboration between the Rothschilds, Rockefellers, and Morgans developed an intermingling of international capital, whose aspirations transcended national interests and were global in scope. The American capitalists bolstered the French-British financial ruling classes by adding to their spheres of influence the enormous wealth of the United States.
By the time World War I began, the close relationship between American and British financial interests soon manifested itself in President Woodrow Wilson’s decision to bring the US into the war on the side of France and Great Britain.
Two key advisors to Wilson on questions of war and peace were Edward Mandell House, a cosmopolitan financial operator, and Bernard M. Baruch a Wall Street banker. House was an exceptionally close, informal aide to Wilson. He maintained strong ties with British-American financial circles and was instrumental in founding the previously-cited Council on Foreign Relations.
Baruch had important levers of influence over the US President since he played an essential role in organizing and financing Wilson’s presidential bid in 1912. Baruch was appointed by Wilson to head the War Industries Board, which organized the economic mobilization for the war effort. After the war, Baruch accompanied Wilson to the Paris Peace Conference, where he continued advising the President on the emerging post-war order.
Wall Street financial circles agitated for US military support for the Allies, since many American financiers had on their own initiative already lent billions in USD to Britain and France, even before the US became a belligerent. To a significant extent, America’s declaration of war against Germany could be explained as a move to save the investments of US bankers in the Allied cause. Without US military intervention, the Allies probably would not have defeated Germany. And this outcome could very well have impacted disastrously on the US financial establishment.
In the period between the two world wars, Baruch forged close personal and political ties to Winston Churchill, whose mother, it should be recalled, was the daughter of an American financier. Baruch helped Churchill escape from the clutches of financial ruin in consequence of the future Premier’s unsuccessful ventures in financial speculation. During World War II, Baruch again was active in advocating US support for the Allies. He was an important advisor to President Roosevelt, who appointed the financier as a special advisor to the Director of the Office of War Mobilization.
The victory of France, Britain, and the US in World War I allowed the globalists of that time to take the first step towards the creation of an embryonic political organization of the world by establishing the League of Nations. Nevertheless, this first attempt was ultimately rejected by the US Senate, and the globalists had to wait for the end of World War II, at which time conditions had ripened for the creation of the United Nations.
One can assume that the French investors were expecting that an important part of Tsarist Russia’s ruling class might also be drawn into their orbit in the same way that American capital linked up with British finance. Unfortunately, the Bolshevik Revolution upset their grandiose plans. For the revolutionaries proceeded to a mass appropriation of virtually all private property, including foreign investments.
A highly relevant question today is whether Western capital will succeed in absorbing Chinese elites and convincing them to become part of the ruling globalist club. Although the PRC officially subscribes to Communism — which is the antithesis of capitalism — about one hundred of the country’s roughly 5,000 parliamentary deputies are billionaires (denominated in USD), with several hundred more owning assets in excess of 100 million USD. On the face of it, an increasing number of Chinese decision-makers are finding that their personal fortunes are intimately connected to the global system of trade and finance. Theoretically this should make them sensitive to any deterioration in relations with the US and the West generally.
Yet a growing body of evidence suggests that President Xi Jinping wants China to achieve a position of global pre-eminence without deferring to Western elites. At the same time, wealthy Chinese are among the most active globally in exporting their wealth abroad. The total amount of private Chinese assets stashed in so-called offshore tax havens probably runs to trillions of USD. Assets are being moved abroad presumably to protect them from the PRC, should the latter revert to egalitarian, Communist policies. A key question now is whether President Xi is another Stalin preparing the PRC for a tightening of central control and a decisive thrust against Western hegemony.
The preceding paragraphs have hopefully highlighted the principal shortcoming of European leadership during the period 1870-1939, i.e., the surrender of national, political power to a financial oligarchy intent on global domination. Could European leaders have acted otherwise to prevent the erosion of national sovereignty and the decline in the vitality of European societies of our time? Should European statesmen have pursued the nationalization of major industrial enterprises, banks, and foreign trade during this crucial period of global power displacement?
One could find good arguments in favor of greater state intervention in the economies of European nations during the years 1870-1939. More attentive monitoring or stricter regulation of what the Marxists call the commanding heights of an economy could possibly have steered European economies toward greater alignment with national or European regional interests rather than with those of international finance. The enormous wealth that was exported abroad to build the globalists’ financial empire could have been channeled to improve domestic infrastructure or to reduce poverty among the working classes of France and Britain.
By contrast, the Russian Bolsheviks understood very well the relationship between economic and political power. That is why these totalitarians did not long delay in nationalizing practically the entire economy of Russia after overthrowing the Tsar. The Bolsheviks’ comprehension of the political ramifications of economic power helped them to gain victory in the struggle for power. Unhappily (for the Bolsheviks), excessive governmental control over the economy of their multinational empire ultimately proved to be the Achilles’ heel of the Communist system.
One problem that politically conscious European patriots faced in the past, therefore, was their inadequate appreciation of how economic power flowed into the domain of national policy formation. Rising economic indicators, which often reflected increased foreign trade and investment, were generally seen as positive signs of growing national strength. The nationalists were slow in understanding how the growing wealth of their countries’ banks and mercantile interests would give the latter a dominant influence over national policies. As we have seen, the interests of the oligarchic elites and the policies that they advocated eventually had tragic consequences for the European nation-states.
Could Nazi Germany Have Transformed Europe Into a Superpower?
What concerns us here is the transformation of Adolf Hitler, the German nationalist, into a declared defender of European civilization. Enormous German losses on the Eastern front, the failure to knock out the USSR in 1941-42 — before the US mobilized its overwhelming economic might — convinced the German National Socialists that their country’s demographic and economic power was inadequate to the task of opposing continental powers.
German propaganda and official statements tellingly shifted the emphasis away from justifying the war as a defense of German interests. After the failure of German forces to take Moscow and Leningrad in the winter of 1941, Nazi propaganda increasingly referred to the titanic clash as a desperate struggle for the preservation of European culture against Bolshevik barbarism and Western plutocracy. Some European states had become allies of Germany; the Nazi leadership was hoping to expand its base of support on the continent by exploiting fears of a Soviet victory. But the change in emphasis came too late to have a decisive effect.
Some of the more insightful historians of World War II have argued that the conflict was preordained from the start. Germany, as a mid-sized country about the size of the US state of Montana, could not by itself take on its continental-sized rivals.
Oswald Spengler initially welcomed the ascension to power of Hitler, presumably because he saw in the rise of a strong Germany the chance to prevent the collapse of Western civilization. Spengler had a lengthy private conversation with Hitler in 1933, but he came away from the meeting unimpressed. After this encounter, Spengler criticized the Führer for “building castles in the sky” and overlooking the overwhelmingly powerful international forces that would mobilize against Hitler’s expansive plans. Spengler was opposed to Nazi racial rhetoric and the regime’s fixation on narrow German interests, which he believed would inhibit the formation of a broad coalition in defense of occidental interests.
In fact, during his career, Hitler made frequent public references to Germany’s acute shortage of land and overpopulation. He bewailed the “injustice” of Britain owning 40 million sq. km of territory, while Germany had to make do with slightly less than 500,000 sq km. The German Chancellor made speeches in which he condemned the post-World War I proliferation of small states in Central and Eastern Europe which “ruthlessly” severed long-established pre-war commercial links existing within the Austrian-Hungarian Empire and the German Reich. Such statements could not have been warmly received by Lithuanians, Poles, Czechs, and other Eastern Europeans who had waged determined struggles for independence from imperial rule before 1918.
It is fascinating to read the Lithuanian news accounts of Hitler’s appointment as Reich Chancellor in early 1933. These reports were nearly uniformly negative and dwelt on the Nazi regime’s interest in territorial revision in Europe, and in particular the port city of Klaipėda (Memel). In fact, German-Lithuanian economic and political relations plummeted following Hitler’s rise to power. Eventually, in March 1939, Hitler confirmed the Lithuanians’ worst fears at the time and moved in to triumphantly seize the 2,600 sq. km of Klaipeda’s territory.
Just one month later, when the Germans realized that a military clash with Poland was becoming increasingly likely, they began a belated charm offensive aimed at drawing Lithuania into joint military intervention against the Poles. Lithuania had a drawn-out territorial dispute with Warsaw over the Polish seizure of its capital, Vilnius, and Germany hoped to exploit this conflict for its own ends. The Lithuanians might easily have been persuaded to take back their historical capital by force during the German invasion of Poland, were it not for the ill will generated by the Klaipėda issue. In the end, Lithuania chose to remain neutral.
At this point the Nazi regime lost interest in Lithuania as a potential ally and gave in to Stalin’s urgings that the country be removed from the German sphere of influence to the Soviet sphere. This was agreed upon during negotiations on revising the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact in late September 1939. Had Lithuania remained in the German sphere of interest, as was foreseen in the original Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, it would have served as a useful springboard for the German offensive against the USSR. The June 1941 invasion of the Soviet Union would have commenced from starting positions 200-300 km closer to Moscow.
When the German Wehrmacht launched Operation Barbarossa, Russian forces initially showed signs of reluctance to fight for Marxist ideals. Hundreds of thousands of Soviet troops surrendered to the invading Germans in the first weeks of fighting. But as news of the brutal treatment of Russian POWs and civilians in the occupied zones percolated through, Russian fighting resolve toughened. In occupied Lithuania and Ukraine, the German administrators maintained an ambiguous or hostile attitude concerning Lithuanian and Ukrainian aspirations for independence, thereby discouraging many from joining in a common struggle against the Soviet Union.
The Nazi regime’s attitude to Eastern Europeans was in some ways analogous to the attitude of West European imperialists towards their colonial subjects. At best, the Eastern Europeans and inhabitants of Western colonies were regarded as objects of exploitation. At worst, the lands that they populated were considered suitable locations for colonization, which would be attended by major population displacements, or ethnic cleansing.
This kind of thinking may have allowed imperialists to maintain control while their wards remained largely illiterate and thus politically passive. But with the spread of mass literacy throughout the world, there emerged local elites determined to acquire political independence from their imperial overlords. By the start of World War II, the small Eastern European countries between Germany and Russia had made impressive strides in eradicating illiteracy and had developed a strong sense of local nationalism. Thus, the Nazi regime’s frequent public references to the need for more German Lebensraum alienated millions who would have been happy to see an end to the menace of Stalinist terror. By 1941, National Socialist racial ideology and imperialist attitudes had fallen far behind the march of history.
By contrast, Germany’s strongest opponents, the US and the USSR, relied on concepts derived from universal values like freedom, justice, and equality. Great Britain, itself an empire, and materially supported by Australia and large parts of North America, Africa, and Asia, also made use of universal appeals that played on the civilizing role of British rule. The Germans as a people (or Volk) fought ferociously — naturally more fanatically than the African or Asian colonial subjects of France or Great Britain. But eventually, as in World War I, the superiority of numbers overwhelmed them.
World War II marked not only the defeat of Nazi Germany. Germany went down, but so did the rest of the nation-states of Europe. The continental-sized powers, shored up by their universal doctrines, triumphed over German nationalism. Now the only way that the European nations can avoid cultural assimilation through Western or Eurasian globalization is to form a common front against globalization.
We are not talking about the current European Union, which is merely an instrument of Western globalization. The EU elites are clearly intent on totally assimilating the European peoples through the promotion of a massive influx of tens of millions, if not eventually hundreds of millions, of poverty-stricken African and Asian migrants.
Our globalist enemies have seized the reins of power and now control enormous masses of people and the material resources of entire continents. Their mighty propaganda apparatus constantly reminds Europeans about the vast destruction of both world wars and the alleged role that European nation-state patriotism played in unleashing these disasters. This demoralizes European patriots and makes them more receptive to the appeals of universal doctrines like Marxism and neo-liberalism.
Too many well-intentioned Europeans are ready to condemn what they are told is “national egoism.” The frequent references to the tragic outcomes of the wars also make the subtle point that European nation-states are too weak to oppose the will of the empire builders.
If the European nation-states were to regain their sovereignty in the future, they should at all costs avoid any thought of territorial revisions. The renewal of territorial claims would greatly harm the interests of a Europe of national states situated in a world of giant superpowers. Continental-sized countries outside of Europe would certainly exploit tensions arising from territorial disputes to block effective collective security arrangements. Any political force advocating territorial revision in Europe would be pursuing short-term advantages that would be disastrous for all Europeans in the long term.
The Gdansk/Danzig issue of 1939 ought to serve as a clear warning about the potential of even small territorial disputes to draw into European affairs much stronger powers that are not necessarily interested in perpetuating European nation-states. In the twenty-first century, Europe is not strong enough to ignore this danger. European nation-states were already standing on the abyss in 1939, and the danger signals were apparent to Spengler in 1918.
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