The Cold War and Its Origins, 1917-1960 - Vol. 1

By D. F. Fleming | Go to book overview

CHAPTER V
THE "PHONY" WAR

IN justification of the crucifixion of Czechoslovakia at Munich it was said that Russia could not be trusted and that her assistance would not be worth much in any case. On these points there could be honest difference of opinion, but not about the diplomatic record. Certainly the Czech Government did not doubt Russia's sincerity. At a session of the Harris Institute at the University of Chicago in August 1939 I asked President Benes whether Russia would have supported him had he decided to fight in September 1938. He replied, without an instant's hesitation: "There was never any doubt in my mind that Russia would aid us by all the ways open to her, but I did not dare to fight with Russian aid alone, because I knew that the British and French Governments would make out of my country another Spain."

Benes had had every reason for that judgment. The extreme pressure put upon him had left no doubt that if he still fought for his liberty the British and French Governments would make every effort within their power to draw another blanket of Non-Intervention over the tragedy and hold the zing while Hitler worked his will on the offending Czechs. A deep revulsion in their own peoples might have ousted Chamberlain and Bonnet, insisting that their policy be reversed, but Benes could not depend on that. The forces in France and Britain which were determined to work with the fascist powers were too strong to be easily unhorsed. It later required sledge-hammer blows from Hitler's armies to unseat them.

Did the Munichards Plan a Nazi-Soviet War? There remains the question whether the appeasement governments deliberately planned to turn Hitler toward the East and into a war with Russia.

There was no question that the Nazis had done their best to convince the world that they were out to smash Bolshevism and conquer the Soviet Union. Hitler's speech saying that if he had the Urals all Germans would be swimming in plenty was only an outstanding example of this propaganda. Nor was there any reluctance among the elites in the Western world to believe him. The great landowners, aristocrats, industrialists, bankers, high churchmen, army leaders-magnates of every kind in Western Europe, together with many middle-class elements -- had never lost their fear that their own workers and peasants might demand a social revolution, perhaps one spearheaded and organized by communists. Their support of fascism as a force, albeit a gangster one, which would defeat communism and at the same time leave the vested

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1
A term used by Senator William E. Borah to describe the lack of fighting in the West during the winter of 1939-40.

-84-

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