/Russia to learn the hard way

Russia to learn the hard way

By Jim Poling Sr.
From Shaman’s Rock

“It’s like déjà vu all over again,” American baseball star Yogi Berra was famous for saying.

Yogi has been gone for a while now, but his words live on and have never rang truer than during the continuing Russian bombardment of Ukraine and slaughter and displacement of its people.

This week is the 82nd anniversary of another Russian attempt to invade and enslave a neighbour. That invasion, a mirror image of what Mad Vlad is attempting in Ukraine, became known as the Winter War.

The news media, certainly the sites that I follow, have not mentioned the Winter War and its similarities to what is happening now in Ukraine. However, John Ward, a journalism colleague with a sharp mind for history honed through 46 years at The Canadian Press, reminded some of us.

The Winter War began on Nov. 30, 1939 when Russia (then the Soviet Union) did some false flag shelling as a pretext for invading Finland. The Soviets said they needed some Finnish territory to secure their northern borders, but research has indicated the plan was to capture all Finland and install a Communist puppet government.

Often fought in minus 40 to minus 45 Celsius temperatures the war lasted only 105 days, ending March 13, 1940. The Soviets suffered heavy losses and worldwide disdain before withdrawing, while agreeing to a peace treaty that gave them nine per cent of Finnish territory.

The poor performance of the  Red Army  encouraged Adolf Hitler  to launch Operation Barbarossa, code name for an invasion of the Soviet Union. The invasion was not successful but the Soviets suffered more than two million casualties.

If you held a mirror to the Finland invasion, you would see Ukraine today – bombed residences, dead women and children and a cruel Russian leader lying through his teeth to justify the horror.

The Soviets sent 450,000 troops against Finland but Finnish guerrilla warfare held them back. Like in Ukraine, the Soviets had air superiority, dropping 12,000 bombs on one city alone. 

Helsinki, Finland’s capital, was bombed eight times during the Winter War. The Soviets dropped 350 bombs on the city, killing 97 people and wounding 260. Fifty-five buildings were destroyed.

The Soviets lied about the bombing. They said they bombed airfields only, just like today when the Russians say they bomb only military targets. We all have seen the television footage of the bombed apartment buildings and hospitals in Ukraine.

Vyacheslav Molotov, the Soviet propaganda minister back in 1940, said his airplanes were not dropping bombs; they were dropping bread baskets to feed hungry Finns.

The Finns returned the favour. They lured Soviet equipment into range where they hit them with petrol bombs – glass bottles filled with flammable liquids. 

It was the Finns who gave petrol bombs the name Molotov cocktail, which Ukrainians are making today in large quantities. One Ukraine brewery now has stopped producing beer and put its people to work turning out Molotov cocktails.

Another similarity between the Finland and Ukraine invasions is the large numbers of volunteers wanting to fight the invaders. An estimated 12,000 foreign volunteer fighters signed up to help the Finns repel the Soviets.

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said recently that more than 16,000 foreigners had volunteered to help his people this time. He did not say how many actually have arrived in the country.

Ukraine’s foreign ministry estimates that 20,000 people from 52 countries volunteered to fight in Ukraine during the first week of the Russian invasion.  

Numbers like that indicate that while the Russians may win the war, they’ll not win a peace to go with it.

It is doubtful that tens of thousands of volunteers can stop the Russians from taking Ukraine, or other countries that once were part of the Soviet bloc. Which raises the spectre of a wider war in Europe and the possibility of a Third World War. The second ended with nuclear bombs.

There also is the question about whether the 2.7 million displaced Ukrainians will ever return home. And, if they can’t, where will they live?

The future does not hold any really hopeful scenarios. As Yogi also said: 

“The future ain’t what it used to be.”