Originally published in July 2009:
The reunification of Germany in 1990 did not signify a centripetal trend in Europe but instead was an anomaly. The following year the Soviet Union was broken up into its fifteen constituent federal republics and the same process began in Yugoslavia, with Germany leading the charge in hastening on and recognizing the secession of Croatia and Slovenia from the nation that grew out of the destruction of World War I and again of World War II.
Two years later Czechoslovakia, like the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia a multiethnic state created after the First World War, split apart.
With the absorption of the former German Democratic Republic into the Federal Republic, which since 1949 had already claimed an exclusive mandate to govern all of Germany, the entire nation was now subsumed under a common military structure and brought into the NATO bloc.
Wasting no time in reasserting itself as a continental power, united Germany inaugurated its new claim as a geopolitical – and military – power by turning its attention to a part of Europe that it had previously visited in the two World Wars: The Balkans.
With military deployments and interventions in Croatia, Bosnia, Kosovo and Macedonia from at least as early as 1995-2001 onward, the German Bundeswehr had crossed a barrier, violated a taboo and established a new precedent that paralleled the remilitarization of the Rhineland in 1936, the latter in flagrant contravention of the 1919 Treaty of Versailles. Hitler’s sending the Wehrmacht into the Rhineland in that year has been observed by historians to have marked a decisive turning point in plans by the Third Reich towards territorial expansion and war. In fact, the standard argument runs, the provocation in 1936 made possible the next year’s bombing assault on the Spanish town of Guernica, the Munich betrayal of Czechoslovakia and the Anschluss takeover of Austria in 1938, the attack on Poland in 1939 and with it the beginning in earnest of a second European conflagration which wouldn’t end before some fifty million people had been killed.
The comparison between German military deployments in the Rhineland in 1936 and later ones in the Balkans in the 1990s will only appear extreme if the history of the years immediately following World War II are forgotten.
In the last of three meetings of the leaders of the major anti-Axis powers in the Second World War – Britain, the Soviet Union and the United States – in Potsdam, Germany after the defeat of the Third Reich, Winston Churchill [later replaced by his replacement as prime minister Clement Attlee], Joseph Stalin and Harry Truman met and discussed precise plans for Europe in general and Germany in particular for the post-war period.
The Potsdam Conference issued a Protocol which stipulated that there was to be “a complete disarmament and demilitarization of Germany” and all aspects of German industry that could be employed for military purposes were to be dismantled. Additionally, all German military and paramilitary forces were to be eliminated and the production of all arms in the nation was prohibited.
It is now evident in retrospect that two nations whose heads of state were present either had no plans at the time to adhere to the Potsdam Agreement or if so quickly abandoned them.
A British document from the months preceding the surrender of Nazi Germany in May of 1945 and the subsequent Potsdam Conference of July 17-August 2 called “Operation Unthinkable: ‘Russia: Threat to Western Civilization'” was declassified and made public in 1998. A photocopy of the Joint Planning Staff of the British War Cabinet report identified by the dates May 22, June 8, and July 11, 1945 is available for viewing on the website of Northeastern University in Boston at: http://www.history.neu.edu/PRO2/pages/002.htm
“The overall political objective is to impose upon Russia the will of the United States and the British Empire.
“A quick success might induce the Russians to submit to our will….That is for the Russians to decide. If they want total war, they are in a position to have it.”
A few years ago a Russian appraisal of the document would state “This was the groundwork for the notorious Operation Unthinkable, under which World War II was to develop immediately, without interim stages, into a third world war, with the goal of ensuring the total defeat of the Soviet Union and its destruction as a multinational community.”  The total defeat of the Soviet Union and its disappearance as a multinational community in fact occurred in 1991.
The British wartime document consistently refers to the then Soviet Union as Russia, incidentally, and as such suggests plans not only for war but for a change of political system and a vivisection of the sort seen later in a post-war – that is, post-World War III – Russia.
When revelations concerning Operation Unthinkable became public in the late 1990s the strongest response to them came, not surprisingly, from post-Soviet Russia.
In March of 2005 Russian historian Valentin Falin was interviewed by the Russian Information Agency Novosti website in a feature called “Russia Would Have Faced World War III Had It Not Stormed Berlin” and spelled out the details of Churchill’s plans:
“The new war was scheduled to start on July 1, 1945. American, Canadian, and British contingents in Europe, the Polish Expeditionary Corps and 10-12 German divisions (the ones that had not been disbanded and kept in Schleswig-Holstein and Southern Denmark) were supposed to participate in the operation.” 
In further observations that provided the article its title, Falin added, “Behind the determination of the Soviet leadership to capture Berlin and reach the demarcation lines established during the 1945 Yalta conference attended by Stalin, Roosevelt and Churchill was a task of great importance – to make all possible efforts to foil a political gamble envisioned by the British leader with the support of influential US circles, and to prevent the transformation of World War II into World War III, where our former allies would have turned into enemies.” 
The Russian scholar, author of the book The Second Front, argued further that the taking of Berlin, which cost the lives of 120,000 Soviet soldiers, preempted Western plans for what may well have triggered a continuation of the Second World War into a third one.
“The battle for Berlin sobered up quite a few warmongers and, therefore, fulfilled its political, psychological and military purpose. Believe me, there were many political and military figures in the West who were stupefied by easy victories in Europe by the spring of 1945.
“One of them was US General George Patton. He demanded hysterically to continue the advance of American troops from the Elbe, through Poland and Ukraine, to Stalingrad in order to finish the war at the place where Hitler had been defeated.
“Patton called the Russians ‘the descendants of Genghis Khan.’ Churchill, in his turn, was not overly scrupulous about the choice of words in his description of Soviet people. He called the Bolsheviks ‘barbarians’ and ‘ferocious baboons.’ In short, the “theory of subhuman races” was obviously not a German monopoly. 
In a subsequent interview with the same source, Falin provided more information:
“U.S. Under-Secretary of State Joseph Clark Grew wrote in his diary in May 1945 that as a result of the war the dictatorship and domination of Germany and Japan passed over to the Soviet Union, which would present as much threat to Americans in the future as the Axis powers. He added that a war against the Soviet Union was as imminent as anything in this world can be. Grew was supposed to be a friend of the late President Roosevelt.” 
Recalling the dimensions of the proposed Operation Unthinkable – the combined attack (and invasion) force was to consist of 112-113 divisions including 10-12 Wehrmacht divisions – the Russian historian added that “The file on Operation Unthinkable declassified in 1998 says nothing about the propaganda chimeras about Moscow’s alleged plans of occupying ‘defenseless Europe’ and pushing to the Atlantic coast, as the Chiefs of Staff worked on practical operations directives.” 
Falin wrote an article a year later titled “Cold War an offspring of ‘hot war'” in which he says that the British “MI5 head, Sir Stewart Menzies, held a series of secret meetings with his German counterpart, Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, in the unoccupied part of France to discuss making Germany a friend and the Soviet Union an enemy.” 
Sixty five years after the defeat of Nazi Germany there is more rather than less examination of the accusation that American and British government and military figures conspired with the Nazis before World War II and with German Defense Ministry and Wehrmacht officials in the waning days of the war.
In commenting on the rising tide of WWII revisionism in the West, reaching its nadir – to date – on this July 3rd with the passage of a resolution called Reunification of Divided Europe by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) which in effect makes the former Soviet Union (and by implication current Russia) co-responsible for provoking WWII, veteran Russian journalist Valentin Zorin reminded his readers of several events usually swept under the carpet by leading Western circles and their compliant media and scholars:
“The infamously failed Munich conspiracy of the western politicians and the Nazi Fuehrer sought to make the German Army march against the Soviet Union. In those days Moscow was pressing for forming an anti-Hitler coalition and invited a British and French delegation to that end. The talks proved long and fruitless. London and Paris actually sabotaged the talks while urging the Fuehrer to attack the USSR.
“Even after the war had broken out, top-echelon leaders in London and Paris would not give up their attempts to make Hitler’s divisions turn about and attack the Soviet Union. A several-month-long period of strange developments came to be known as a Phoney War. While deliberately inactive at the front, the British and French rulers engaged themselves in secret bargaining with Hitler.
“The secrecy of the bargaining was buried for a good half century later, on the 17th of August 1987, when Hitler’s Deputy in the Nazi Party Rudolph Hess, tried at Nuremberg and sentenced to life in prison, died at Berlin’s Spandau Prison in unexplained circumstances. 10 days before Germany attacked the Soviet Union Hess flew solo to Scotland to start secret talks with the circles close to the British government. It later transpired that the talks focused on ending fighting between the UK and Germany and agreeing on joint action against the Soviet Union….” 
It’s important to point out that neither the academician Falin nor the journalist Zorin is invested in invoking the events of 1939-1945 in defense of the former USSR and its leadership at the time or in settling scores regarding conflicts of past decades. Instead they and others, including Russia’s current political leadership, are far more concerned – more alarmed – about matters of the present and the impending future.
With the NATO Alliance, which in recent years has come to refer to itself routinely as Global and 21st Century NATO, encroaching upon contemporary Russia from most all directions and with increasingly brazen historical revisionism growing out of Western post-Cold War triumphalism reaching the point that Nazis and their collaborators are being exonerated while modern Russia is being tainted ex post facto as a villain in the Second World War, the prospect of a “transformation of World War II into World War III” mentioned above is not so far-fetched.
As Valentin Zorin’s article also says, “Some quarters would like to redraw the post-war boundaries in Europe and the Far East, question the validity of the UN Charter and bury the Nuremberg Tribunal rulings in oblivion. It is these modern-day revenge-seekers that channel and obviously fund the large-scale propaganda campaign of falsifying the history of the Second World War.” 
It’s been seen above that the leaders of Britain, the United States and Soviet Russia agreed in the summer of 1945 at the Potsdam Conference to the total demilitarization of Germany. All indications were that once that systemic disarming of the nation was completed Germany would never militarize again.
Instead in 1950, while fighting a war in Korea which included troops from most of its new NATO allies and which escalated into armed conflict with China, the United States started the process of forcing the rearming of West Germany and its eventual incorporation into NATO. Members of the US-led military bloc pushed for the creation of a European Defence Community (EDC) with an integrated army, navy and air force, composed of the armed forces of all its member states.
A European Defence Community treaty was signed in May of 1952 but defeated by Gaullists and Communists alike in France. With that nation in opposition, the EDC was dead but the US and Britain found other subterfuges to remilitarize the Federal Republic.
With the creation of the Western European Union in 1954 West Germany was permitted – for which read encouraged – to rearm and was given control over its own armed forces, the Bundeswehr.
The following year the Federal Republic of Germany was inducted into NATO. The Soviet Union and its allies responded by establishing the Warsaw Pact later in 1955.
Two of the fundamental purposes in launching the North Atlantic Treaty Alliance in 1949 were to base nuclear weapons, which the US had a monopoly on at the time of the bloc’s founding, in Europe and to rearm Germany as a military bulwark on the continent and for use abroad.
Anyone still in thrall to the notion that NATO was planned as a defensive alliance against a Soviet military threat in Europe would do well to recall that:
The Warsaw Pact was formed six years after and in response to NATO, especially to NATO’s advance into Germany.
The Warsaw pact, already long moribund, officially dissolved itself in 1991. Eighteen years later NATO still exists without any pretense of a Soviet or any other credible threat.
In the past decade alone it has expanded from 16 to 28 member states, all of the twelve new ones in Eastern Europe and four of those bordering Russian territory.
During the same ten year period it waged its first air war, against Yugoslavia, outside the bloc’s own defined area of responsibility and its first ground war, in Afghanistan, a continent removed from Europe, half a world away from North America and nowhere near the North Atlantic Ocean.
That NATO officially expanded into the former Warsaw Pact by admitting the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland at its fiftieth anniversary summit in 1999 while in the midst of its first war, the 78-day bombing onslaught against Yugoslavia – ten years after the end of the Cold War – is an irrefutable retroactive indictment of its true nature and purpose since inception.
The bloc continues to maintain nuclear warheads in Europe, including on air bases in Germany, with long-range bombers and missiles able to deliver them. NATO recently renewed the commitment to its nuclear doctrine, which continues to include the first use of nuclear weapons.
The world’s largest and only surviving military bloc, one which now takes in a third of the planet’s nations through full membership or various partnerships, was born out of the last days of World War II in Europe. It’s fundamental purpose was to unite the military potential of the countries of the continent’s west, north and south into a cohesive and expanding phalanx for use at home and abroad. Victors and vanquished of the most mass-scale and murderous conflict in history – Britain, the US and France and Germany and Italy – were gathered together under a joint military command.
If the transition from WW II to a far deadlier, because nuclear, WW III was averted, an argument nevertheless exists that the Second World War never ended but shifted focus. As an illustrative biographical case study of the seamless adaptation, the New York Times ran a reverential obituary three years ago from which the following is an excerpt:
“Gen. Johann-Adolf Count von Kielmansegg, a German Panzer division officer during World War II who became commander in chief of NATO forces in Central Europe during the height of the cold war, died on May 26 in Bonn. He was 99….By the start of World War II, he was commander of a Panzer, or armored, division. In 1940, he took part in the German invasion of France, sweeping around the Maginot line’s obsolete fortifications in eastern France and rushing to the English Channel. After fighting on the Russian front, he joined the General Staff in Berlin. Restored to tank duty, he fought the American Army in western Germany….” 
It would be intriguing to learn what Count von Kielmansegg thought at the end of his nearly century-long life about the return of his homeland to the ranks of nations sending troops to and waging war against others both near and far.
It would prove equally edifying to hear whether he thought that his career as a military commander ever truly changed course or rather pursued a logical if not inevitable path from the Wehrmacht to NATO.
Lastly, it doesn’t seem unjustified to believe that the Count might at the end of his days have been proud of a Germany that had become the third largest exporter of weapons in the world, one which has arms agreements with 126 nations – over two-thirds of all countries – and that had troops deployed to war and post-conflict occupation zones in at least eleven countries at the same time and would soon, at this year’s NATO summit, use its army at home again.
Consult Part I of this article: New NATO: Germany Returns To World Military Stage
1) Russian Information Agency Novosti, June 30, 2005
2) Russian Information Agency Novosti, March 28, 2005
5) Russian Information Agency Novosti, June 30, 2005
7) Russian Information Agency Novosti, March 3, 2006
8) Voice of Russia, July 3, 2009
9) Voice of Russia, July 3, 2009
10) New York Times, June 4, 2006