March 16, 2014
Many Americans have trouble understanding modern Russia or leader Vladimir Putin. That’s in good part because they have little or no understanding of Russia’s history or geopolitics.
“The Soviets Union will return” I wrote in 1991 after the collapse of the USSR deprived the Russian imperium of a third of its territory, almost half its people and much of its world power.
A similar disaster for Russia occurred in 1918 at the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk. Defeated by the German-Austrian-Bulgarian-Turkish Central Powers in World War I and racked by revolution, Lenin’s new Bolshevik regime bowed to German demands to hand over the Baltic states and allow Ukraine to become independent.
As soon as Josef Stalin consolidated power, he began undoing the Brest-Litovsk surrender. The Baltic states, Ukraine, the southern Caucasus and parts of “Greater Romania” were reoccupied. Half of Poland again fell under Russian control. Stalin restored his nation to its pre-war 1914 borders, killing millions in the process.
In the 1930’s, Adolf Hitler was tearing down the equally cruel Versailles Treaty that left millions of ethnic Germans stranded in hostile nations and deprived Germany of its historic eastern regions. Hitler claimed his invasion of Russia was motivated by Germany’s strategic imperative to acquire farm lands so it could attain food security.