The new gangster pact
As voices in the West rightly condemn Russian president Vladimir Putin for the invasion of Ukraine, it is worth remembering how the United States and England responded to Stalin's invasion of Finland in 1940, and his invasions of Poland and the Baltic Republics pursuant to the secret provisions of the Nazi-Soviet Pact of August 1939.
World War II was started by Stalin and Hitler, and both the U.S. and England condemned Stalin's aggression in Finland and the Baltic countries, but the exigencies of the moment and the perception that Hitler posed the greater threat to the world led the United States and England to ally with Soviet Russia after Hitler invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941. It is time to start considering what would have happened had the Nazi-Soviet Pact endured. Because the West appears to confront a similar "pact" that exists today between Russia and China.
In the 1920s and 1930s, German geopolitical scholars, led by Karl Haushofer, envisioned a German understanding with Soviet Russia that would have divided Eurasia-Africa between the two continental giants, with the Far East and Western Pacific allotted to Japan's empire. Haushofer's "map" had Germany in command of "Eurafrica" (including the Middle East); Soviet Russia in control of a "Pan-Russian" region that encompassed Russia, Persia (Iran), and India; and Japan in command of the "Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere" consisting of Russia's Far East, China, and the Western Pacific (including Australia). The United States in Haushofer's map would be confined to the Western Hemisphere.
An enduring Nazi-Soviet Pact that reached a strategic understanding with imperial Japan would have presented the sea powers of England and the United States with an "unbeatable combination" (at least in this scenario) in control of the Eurasian-African landmass, creating Sir Halford Mackinder's geopolitical nightmare scenario. Fortunately for the world, Hitler breached the Nazi-Soviet Pact and never coordinated actions with Imperial Japan. The Nazi-Soviet split, which resulted in an alliance among Stalin's Soviet Union, the United States, and England, led to Germany's defeat and restored the geopolitical pluralism of Eurasia.
Winston Churchill at one point suggested that Britain come to the aid of Finland after the Soviet invasion. Stalin's regime was considered — as Putin's is today — an aggressive pariah state. But in the end, realism won out among the Western powers. Faced with two egregious, aggressive totalitarian Eurasian powers, the United States and England sided with the one considered less dangerous to Western interests at the time. Stalin the terrible became "Uncle Joe." The rapacious Soviet army became our "gallant" wartime allies. The enemy of the Anglo-American enemy became their friend.
Today, the United States is faced with two aggressive autocratic Eurasian powers: Putin's Russia and President Xi's China. China is clearly the greater threat even after Russia's invasion of Ukraine, just as Hitler was at the time the greater threat even after Stalin's invasion of eastern Poland, Finland, and the Baltic states. The greatest threat to America's security interests — as in 1940 — is the "pact" between the two Eurasian giants. It should be the primary purpose of U.S. diplomacy to seek to undermine that pact — to foster a Sino-Russian split and then exploit it as we exploited the Nazi-Soviet split in 1941, and later the Sino-Soviet split in the early 1970s.
Image: Giedrius Reimeris.