The halt of the Russian forces at the doors of Warsaw as the Poles rose in revolt under General Tadeusz 'Bor' Komorowski is universally condemned as the most cynical decision of the Second World War, where Satlin let the Nazis kill of any potential threat to his power in Poland.
The Russians maintain, at least under communist rule, that they had asked the Poles not to revolt because they (the Russians) were too exhausted and stretched to attack Warsaw. Hence, the decision not to come in aid of the rising had, from their point of view, more to do with saving Russian lives than taking Polish ones. Obviously, this logic cannot matter to Western historians.
The other day, I was watching A Tale of Three Cities: How the U.S. Won World War II, a lecture by David Kennedy. In the Q&A session following his talk, someone asked if Roosevelt’s decision to postpone the second front in Europe in spite of Stalin repeatedly asking for it was not a cynical decision, by which he saved American lives at the cost of many Russian dead. Had UK and USA attacked France in 1943 instead of waiting till 1944, they may have taken many divisions off the eastern front. Kennedy replied that while Roosevelt may had wanted to save American lives, that’s what he was voted into office to do. Hence, he can’t say that Roosevelt was cynical. He was doing his duty as USA’s president.
Well, that logic cannot apply to Stalin, because the Red dictator had no value for Russian lives. Didn’t he send troops to the front without guns or ammunition? Didn’t he gamble with underequipped armies? Did he not kill millions in gulags and by execution? He did. But can’t the Warsaw decision be militarily and morally correct in spite of all this?
Also, what were Stalin’s choices during the second world war? The Nazis had already shown that they were out to kill Russians, not conquer them. In fact, they killed and enslaved many who welcomed them as liberators from communist dictatorship. So, it is very unlikely that Stalin would have saved lives by letting his forces surrender.
Prof Kennedy made another interesting point during the Q&A. He said that by his estimates, USA supplied around 20% of the martial the Russians used. Now, western historians make it seem as if all the Russians’ material came courtesy Uncle Sam. While that 20% may have been decisive, it wouldn’t have mattered hadn’t the Russians been able to come up with the balance 80%.
It’s not my intention to be an apologist for Stalin and his gang. However, if we want to learn from history, we have to be objective. More importantly, historians must remember that they are not propagandists.