Origins of the Iron Curtain
Here I want to relate the two previous research notes to post-war Europe. For the Iron Curtain, behind which much of Central Europe found itself after the war, was largely the result of British policy under Chamberlain which meant the Wehrmacht could defeat France and then attack Poland and the Soviet Union without interference. The allies – USA, UK, USSR – had between them overwhelming superiority of numbers and resources, but because the Soviet Union fought most of the war without an Allied Western Front it also gave Stalin the advantage of being able to liberate all of Nazi occupied Central Europe and to capture Berlin.
So the Iron Curtain that Churchill deplored at the end of the war was make possible by a combination of the Chamberlain guarantee of Polish independence in 1939, British Army conservative tank doctrines that failed to stop the Ardennes offensive in 1940, enabling Hitler to avoid the two-front war, and the delay in opening the second front until 1944.
The Cold War Legacy of the Iron Curtain (1945-90)
In the countries of Central Europe liberated by the Red Army that became client states of the USSR after the war (apart from those hiding or fearful of persecution, or part of the underground resistance, or members of the anti-Nazi guerrillas, such as the partizans), understandably felt betrayed by the West. In Poland, especially, the sense of betrayal was keenly felt, both the initial betrayal by Chamberlain and Daladier in 1939 and the Yalta Conference of February 1945 between Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin , by which time the USSR was in an unassailable military and diplomatic position.
The EU’s Ostmark (after 1990)
The expansion of the EU eastwards filled the power vacuum left by the collapse of the USSR in 1991, leaving St. Petersburg little more than 100 km from the northeastern frontier of the EU (Estonia).
This is the classic east-west power balance that has plagued Europe since time immemorial. When the east is dominant the frontiers move west (as happened after 1945). When the west is dominant the frontiers move east (as happened after 1990). When forces are roughly balanced there is often one or more partitions – Germany and Austria being the obvious, albeit short-lived, examples from the aftermath of the Second World War (see also the partitions of Poland). This is not a new phenomena, it has been a fact of European international power for at least the last 400 years.
The expansion of the EU eastward after 1990 left the Baltic coast Kaliningrad enclave (or more accurately exclave) of Russian territory – an oblast of over 200 square kilometres and a population of nearly half a million – deep in EU territory between Poland and Lithuania. Kaliningrad was the Teutonic Knights’ fortress city of Königsberg in Prussia. The geo-political anomaly of the Kaliningrad exclave echoes the status of Danzig and its Polish Corridor that was the final trigger of the Second World War and that, renamed Gdansk after the war, now faces the Kaliningrad exclave on the east side of Danzig Bay. EU expansion east still continues with nine countries southeast of the EU designated as either “candidate countries” or “potential candidate countries”. Turkey (the USA’s most important military ally), as well as Croatia and Macedonia are candidates. The remaining 5 successor states of former Yugoslavia still not in the EU – Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro and Serbia – are designated as potential candidates) (1)Nor is this all. As recently as this year, the European Commission wrote “The EU is seeking an increasingly close relationship with Ukraine, going beyond co-operation, to gradual economic integration and a deepening of political co-operation”. A similar wording can be found in the European Commission statement on relations with Georgia albeit somewhat more cautiously phrased in view of strong Russian resistance to further EU expansion east, referring to “…a closer relationship with Georgia involving a significant degree of integration and deepening the political co-operation.”
I have one final point to make in this context. When in 2008 Bush II decided to place missiles on Czech and Polish soil (with the respective countries’ welcoming agreement) this evoked a reaction from Russia to place missiles in Kaliningrad, a decision that was only withdrawn after Obama cancelled the Bush II decision – a cancellation that, it is worth noting, was deplored by the Czech and Polish prime ministers.
It is clear that there are a number of tension-points between the EU and Russia, for example over energy as well as over EU’s policy of eastward expansion. There is a tragic irony in the fact that a key reason for founding the European Community lay in uniting France and Germany so that rivalry would not again lead to war, but that the eastward expansion of its successor the EU creates new tensions that can all too easily lead to an even greater disaster.
The EU’s Drang nach Osten repeats the mistakes of earlier generations of taking advantage of Russian weakness.
We seem to be slipping back into the Cold War era with the EU as the USA’s Frontline client state just at the time when, after a mere 20 years, US global hegemony is beginning to wane (2), while China grows in strength and Russia with its vast natural resources once again rises from the ashes.
(1) Iceland is the tenth. Cyprus is a member state of the EU but the island is divided, its northeastern part is under Turkish military occupation, after the Greek Cypriots there were expelled (note the careful wording in the second paragraph of the EU Commission statement, avoiding all mention of expulsions, occupation or even Turkish rule so as not to offend Turkey). Mass deportations also took place on a large scale in the expulsions of Germans from a number of countries after the war – deportations that had been agreed by the Allies at Potsdam.
(2) The increase in US public debts resulting from the mortgage finance crisis has already resulted in plans announced by Obama to make savings that will weaken US global power.
Each Post is a freestanding short paper that has not been peer-reviewed before publishing. Notes may combine into the equivalent of a working paper for seminar purposes.