Saturday, February 28, 2009

DBTL 16: Of Course You Know This Means War

Excerpt from a TASS communiqué of 7 October 1944:

In response to this morning's invasion of Lithuania by forces of the reactionary bourgeois Beck regime, the Soviet Union has chosen to honor the terms of its mutual assistance pact with Premier Paleckis of the Lithuanian Socialist Peoples Front. A general advance has been initiated into the so-called autonomous regions of Central Lithuania, Byelorussia and Galicia. The heroic regiments of the valiant Red Army are honorably fulfilling their duty. The whole Soviet people welcomes the wise policy of the Soviet government.

Warsaw, Polish Commonwealth
8 October 1944

"It's an odd-looking invasion force," said Kastus Baranouski, President of the Belarus Duma and Secretary of State for Belarus in the Polish Cabinet. "Tanks in the front, and horse-drawn supply wagons in the rear."

"What sort of reception are they getting?" asked War Minister Stanisław Skwarczyński.

"A cold one, as you might imagine," said Baranouski. "A lot of the people have relatives in the BSSR, or know someone who escaped across the border. They have no wish to become collectivized like the easterners."

"It's the same in the south," said Vasili Rozhenko, Baranouski's Galician counterpart. "The Bolsheviks don't like kulaks, and as far as they're concerned, every peasant in Galicia is a kulak. I've also learned that all the Red Army troops who've entered Galicia are Russians, which was wise of Stalin. If he'd sent in Ukrainians, his units would all be facing east by now."

"I'm afraid things aren't as clearcut in Central Lithuania," said Antanas Vardys. "Even with autonomy, a lot of people want reunion with the Republic. They would prefer an independent Lithuania, but if not then it's all the same to them whether they're ruled from Moscow or Warsaw."

"And how are our own forces dealing with the odd-looking Red invaders?" President Jósef Beck asked Skwarczyński.

Skwarczyński shrugged. "About as we expected. The Soviets' tanks are turning out to be tougher than we anticipated, which is the reason they've been able to advance as far as they have. On the other hand, our own forces are falling back in good order. It helps that a lot of them are veterans of the German War. They've been through this sort of thing before. Had the attack been a total surprise, doubtless our situation would be a dire one. Fortunately, our intelligence section was able to give us enough warning of the Bolshevik buildup to allow us to mobilize."

Skwarczyński continued, "As far as the air war is concerned, General Karpinski reports that Dr. von Braun's anti-aircraft rockets are proving to be quite effective in bringing down enemy planes. We've had at least twenty confirmed kills so far. This is fortunate, since the Bolsheviks have been putting twice as many planes into the air as we have. Göring's jets are also proving effective for their numbers, but of course since the Garden has only produced a dozen aircraft so far, their impact has been relatively minor."

"In summary," said Skwarczyński, "the situation is serious, but not desperate. Barring any unwelcome surprises from the Bolsheviks, we should be able to contain the invasion within the next week or two, after which we can put General Guderian's plans for a counterattack into operation."

"Thank you, Marshal," said Beck. "Count Raczyński, how are our allies reacting to the invasion?"

Count Edward Raczyński, the Foreign Minister, said, "I'm afraid the Pact isn't working out quite as well as we had expected." Beck himself had spent the previous five years building a military alliance called the Warsaw Pact among the various nations that bordered on the Soviet Union. "Our embassy in Bucharest reports that the Romanians show no interest in entering the war against the Bolsheviks. General Antonescu says he fears that if Romania goes to war with the Soviet Union, the Hungarians will take advantage of their preoccupation to invade Transylvania." Raczyński sighed. "To do the General justice, Admiral Horthy might well do just that. But it also gives Antonescu the excuse he needs to wait on the sidelines until it becomes clear who will win.

"The Finns, on the other hand, have just issued an ultimatum to the Soviet government demanding their withdrawal from Poland by noon tomorrow."

"I think I detect the work of Marshal Mannerheim," commented Skwarczyński.

"I wouldn't be the least bit surprised," said Raczyński. "He at least is well aware that a Soviet Union which triumphs over Poland will be going after Finland next. If Finland declares war on the Bolsheviks, I think there's an even chance that Estonia will as well. And if Estonia does, there is a chance that Latvia will also."

"And what of Japan?" asked Beck.

"As for Japan," said Raczyński, "we have received no word yet from Ambassador Lipski. A Japanese attack on the Bolsheviks would be very helpful, but as the Japanese are deeply mired in China, I do not foresee such an attack in the immediate future. Thus, out of our five Warsaw Pact allies, we have one probable cobelligerent, two possibles, and two unlikelies."

"What of the British and French?" asked Skwarczyński.

"Prime Minister Attlee and Premier Weygand have both condemned the Soviet attack, but that is likely to be their only contribution to the situation. The British are preoccupied with India and Palestine, the French with Algeria and Indochina."

Nobody bothered to ask what the American reaction might be. Under President Taft, the United States had become thoroughly isolationist. The recent grant of independence to the Philippines seemed to mark a final retreat by the Americans from the world outside their hemisphere.

There was a few seconds of silence while the Cabinet members absorbed the information they had been presented. At last President Beck spoke. "The Marshal," by which of course he meant Marshal Piłsudski, "always believed that we would eventually find ourselves at war again with the Bolsheviks. He devoted his life to preparing for that war, and we who follow in his footsteps have continued his work. The coming weeks and months will determine whether our preparations have been sufficient.

"I do not need to remind any of you of the stakes we play for. The very existence of our Commonwealth is at risk. If we fail, the whole of the Commonwealth from Belarus to Brandenburg will be at the mercy of the Bolsheviks, and the Hanoverians and Bavarians will find themselves with some unpleasant new neighbors.

"But we faced these people twenty-four years ago, and under the Marshal's wise guidance we prevailed. I believe that the Marshal's spirit watches over us still, and that under his watchful eye, and with the help of God, we can prevail again."

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