|A Finnish ski patrol, lying in the snow on the outskirts of a wood in Northern Finland, on the alert for Russian troops, 12 January 1940.|
Vladimir Putin, dictator of the mafia state called Russia, has again showed his true colors. In a speech to the Russian Military Historical Society at Novo-Ogaryovo, the former second rate KGB agent defended his idol Joseph Stalin's aggression in 1939 against a small neighboring country, Finland:
Russian President Vladimir Putin says that the Soviet Union launched the Winter War with Finland in order to “correct mistakes” that had been made when Finland gained its independence in 1917.
“The border was just 20 kilometres from St Petersburg and that was a significantly major threat to a city of five million”
"Historian" Putin gets it wrong on all counts. The Finnish border was not 20 km from Leningrad (now St. Petersburg), but almost 40 km away. Of course Finland was no threat neither to Leningrad nor the Soviet Union. And the population of Leningrad was about 3,5 million at most, not five million.
Putin's argument about the "correction" of the "mistakes" of 1917, when Finland gained its independence, is also revealing. Apparently Putin sees Finland's independence as a "mistake", which Stalin rightly tried to "correct".
Russian historians, as opposed to Putin, are nowadays more familiar with the reality of the Winter War:
It was a war one of the sides involved would rather forget, while the other fights to keep the memory alive. Finns are commemorating the 70th anniversary of the start of the Winter War against the Soviet Union.
After months of ultimatums, on November 30, 1939, the Soviet Union invaded Finland.
With a sizeable advantage in manpower, tanks and aircraft, the Red Army command expected victory within weeks.
“We could not understand why. The Soviet Union was so big, so why would they take something from us?”says Lars Loflund, Finnish war veteran.
Just months earlier, the Soviet Union and Germany had signed a non-aggression pact, which contained a secret protocol dividing North and East Europe into spheres of influence. Finland fell under the USSR's.
That fitted in with Stalin's plan to expand the Soviet border from its second city of Leningrad. However, the Soviet Union had underestimated the Finns.
The Finnish Commander, General Mannerheim, had ordered the construction of a powerful line of fortifications. Although poorly equipped, the defenders knew the rugged terrain, and were better prepared for the plunging temperatures.
“In the conflict zone there were no roads, no settlements – just forests and lakes. Nothing to get your bearings from”, says Viktor Lavskiy, Russian War Veteran, adding, “The soldiers and the equipment were not ready, and the reconnaissance was insufficient.”
As losses mounted, the Soviets pumped more and more troops into the theater of conflict to finally break through the Finnish fortifications. Despite making inroads, the cost of the war was proving too high for the USSR.
On March 12, 1940, it accepted the offer of a ceasefire less than six months after the first shots were fired. While Finland ceded around a tenth of its territory, it retained its independence.
It had been a short but bloody war. Twenty-five thousand Finns were lost, but the number of Soviet casualties was up to five times that amount.
“During Soviet times, people were reluctant to even mention this war. It was difficult, not particularly successful, and however you try to spin it, the Soviet Union was the aggressor,” says Aleksandr Golubev, Historian from the Russian Academy of Sciences.
Even if Putin is wasting enormous sums of oil and gas money (which should be used for "correcting" the backwardness of the Russian society) on rebuilding the Russian army, he will fortunately not be in a position to "correct" the "mistakes" with regard to Finland. But it is important for Russia's neighbors - particularly the Baltic countries - to understand what kind of a person is in charge in Russia today.
The wars in Chechnia and Georgia are of course more recent examples of the policy of "correcting mistakes", favored by Putin.