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Book Review: Icebreaker

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Icebreaker: Who Started the Second World War?
by Viktor Suvorov (London: Harnish Hamilton, 1990); 364 pages; $22.95.

In the early hours of September 1, 1939, the military might of Nazi Germany was set loose on Poland. As Panzer divisions crossed the Polish-German border, the German air force began its devastating rain of death on Warsaw and other Polish cities. On September 3, Britain and France declared war on Germany.

On September 17, the Soviet Red Army invaded Poland from the east and met up with the German forces at the city of Brest-Litovsk. Poland ceased to exist as an independent nation, divided between the two great totalitarian states of the European continent. World War II had begun.But did World War II, in fact, begin in September on the plains of Poland? And was it in fact, Nazi Germany that began the Second World War?

What made it possible for Hitler to feel secure in invading Poland to the east, and not to worry about a two-front war if Britain and France initiated hostilities in the west, was the Nazi-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact of August 23, 1939. In a secret protocol to the pact, Hitler and Stalin had agreed to divide up Eastern Europe. In the event of war, Poland would be split down the middle between Germany and the U.S.S.R., with Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and the Romanian province of Bessarabia assigned to the Soviet sphere of influence.

Why did Stalin enter into this fiendish pact with Hitler? After all, throughout the 1930s, the Nazi and Soviet leaders had accused each other of being the greatest evil on the face of the earth. Most historians have argued that Stalin had come to the conclusion that the Western powers could not be relied upon in case of war. Rather than face the German army on his own, it was better to sign a non-aggression pact with the Nazi devil and have the extra time to defensively prepare the Soviet Union for the attack that Stalin knew would eventually come from Nazi Germany.

Viktor Suvorov, in his book Icebreaker: Who Started the Second World War?, challenges this thesis concerning the rationale behind Soviet policy toward Hitler. Mr. Suvorov, a former Soviet army officer who has written extensively on the Soviet military and intelligence network, argues that the Nazi-Soviet pact was not a defensive action on Stalin’s part. Instead, it was part of Stalin’s Marxist strategy for revolutionary victory in Europe.

Marx and Engels believed that clashes between the capitalist nations would create avenues for the establishment of socialism. Lenin shared this belief. He saw World War I as a way among capitalist-imperialist powers, fighting over the plunder of the world. The more brutal and destructive the war, the more the power bases of the capitalist classes would be weakened. And out of this destruction would come the opportunity to transform a capitalist war into a “class war,” resulting in the victory of communism.

World War I created the conditions for the Bolshevik Revolution and the triumph of socialism in Russia. Lenin believed that another world war would bring about the death of capitalism in other nations. Hence, anything that created the conditions for another world war was viewed as good from the revolutionary Marxist point of view.

Suvorov shows that Stalin shared this view. During the late 1920s and early 1930s, the Soviets assisted the Nazis in destroying the Weimar Republic in Germany. “Icebreaker,, was the Soviet code name for Hitler — the man who Would “break the ice “bring about another world war, and create the opportunity for the destruction of capitalism in Europe and the victory of socialism under Soviet leadership.

By signing the Nazi-Soviet pact in August 1939, Stalin deliberately produced the conditions for the world war that he wanted. Germany would fight the Other two main European powers — Britain and France — and then the Soviet Union would enter the war in its final stages to come out as the ultimate victor.

Suvorov also convincingly demonstrates that Stalin was not developing defensive forces along the new Soviet border with Germany, but rather as building up a vast and powerful offensive military force. Stalin was clearly Planning to enter the war by attacking Germany, and then bringing socialism to Central and Western Europe on the bayonets of the Red Army. Furthermore, all the evidence suggests — and Suvorov musters a vast amount of military and political evidence — that Stalin was planning his attack on Germany for the middle of July 1941.

Hitler preempted Lenin’s plan by attacking the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941. The staggering defeats suffered by the Soviet army in the early stages of the war was due to the fact that Stalin had tom down many of the Soviet defense positions and had not equipped his armies facing Germany with strategic-defense plans. All of their plans were for offensive operations.

The man who started World War II, therefore, was Stalin, who wanted to use Hitler as a tool for communist victory. And his plan partly succeeded. Out of the war’s death and destruction, the Soviet Union was left as master of half of Europe, with Stalin as its Red Czar in the Kremlin.

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    Richard M. Ebeling is a professor of economics at Northwood University. He was formerly president of The Foundation for Economic Education (2003–2008), was the Ludwig von Mises Professor of Economics at Hillsdale College (1988–2003) in Hillsdale, Michigan, and served as vice president of academic affairs for The Future of Freedom Foundation (1989–2003).