How Germany Was Partitioned. Lessons for Ukraine
by Yuriy Rubtsov
Western nations have explained their support for Kyiv’s new post-coup regime by claiming they are trying to prevent Russia from destroying Ukraine as a single, unified state. However, it is increasingly evident that it is in fact Washington, Brussels, Bonn, and now Warsaw that are setting the stage for Ukraine’s dismemberment.
Not long ago, the speaker of the Polish parliament, Radek Sikorski, began circulating a dubious tale about a 2008 conversation between Poland’s former prime minister, Donald Tusk, and Vladimir Putin, in which Putin proposed that Tusk give some thought to the breakup of Ukraine. After Tusk carefully began distancing himself from this disturbing information, Sikorski backpedaled, claiming he had been misunderstood. But the Poles needed this maneuver in order to get a feeling for how European political insiders wanted Warsaw to view Ukraine’s future.
It would be useful for Ukrainian patriots to keep in mind that the West has extensive experience dismembering one state after the Second World War - a state that was much more powerful and well established, although it had experienced a military defeat. That state was Germany. Since Germany is currently acting as cheerleader for the US stance on the Ukrainian question, it could be quite instructive to take a look at Berlin’s experiences during that period. Could Germany’s role in planning for the partition of Ukraine perhaps be revenge for the defeat of 1945, albeit on a smaller scale?
When the question of Germany’s future was first raised at the Tehran Conference in November-December 1943, Joseph Stalin, the head of the Soviet delegation, spoke in favor of preserving the integrity of the German state, even after the Nazi defeat.
As the leaders of the USSR, the US, and the UK hammered out Germany’s post-war charter at the Yalta Conference in February 1945, they recognized the need for the «complete disarmament, demilitarization and dismemberment of Germany as they [the Allies] deem requisite for future peace and security». However, even at the Potsdam Conference (July-August 1945), the final breakup of Germany was not yet a foregone conclusion. The Allies agreed on a system of quadripartite occupation for Germany, with the goal of demilitarization and democratization; it was also decided that «during the period of occupation Germany shall be treated as a single economic unit». It was planned that during the occupation, the heads of the armed forces of the USSR, USA, UK, and France would each exercise supreme authority in his own zone of occupation. And in matters affecting Germany as a whole, they would have to work together as members of the Control Council.
Let us focus on this last point: a Control Council was in place - a unified, supervisory body consisting of the Allied powers - and if its members worked together, that body could easily have maintained the political, economic, and territorial integrity of postwar Germany. The Control Council’s authority was essentially unlimited - within the occupied country the Council issued laws, orders, directives, and other legal instruments that governed the work of the administrative authorities in the Allies’ zones of occupation and regulated public life.
However, all this was possible only if each and every one of the Allies demonstrated true goodwill and a shared outlook in regard to the future of this country that had suffered a military defeat, but which held out hope of a promising future. The decision-making mechanism negotiated at Potsdam, which required the unanimous support of all four representatives of the occupying powers, was intended to help achieve this.
Several of the Control Council’s key decisions determining the trajectory of Germany’s post-war development had been finalized by the end of 1945. For example, laws had been enacted to ensure the denazification and democratization of both the legal process and the administration of justice, as well as to abolish the old Nazi laws. Legislation was also put into place in order to, among other things, demilitarize Germany and punish those individuals who had committed war crimes or crimes against peace and humanity. Although there were struggles, these decisions were successfully negotiated, which allowed some faith in the future of this joint-management system for Germany, but the work of the Control Council and other administrative, legal, and economic agencies seemed to be spinning out of control.
However, examples of common-sense agreement - much less total consensus of opinion - were becoming increasingly rare when it came to the big questions of how to arrange decent living conditions for the German public. One member of the Control Council from the USSR, the chief of the Soviet Military Administration, Marshal Georgy Zhukov recalled: «The American and British administrative staff of the Control Council, as if on cue, suddenly became less accommodating on all issues... It became increasingly difficult to find a way to settle disputes, especially when discussing major problems. These included: eradicating the military and economic potential of German militarism, disarming military units, and decisively uprooting fascism and eradicating every type of Nazi organization in the occupation zones controlled by England and the United States».
Marshal had put his finger on the biggest issue: the Soviet Union and the Western Allies held diametrically opposed positions. More than any other country, the Soviet Union - a country that had experienced first-hand the destructive might of the Third Reich - as part of the administration of its own zone was seeking to permanently alter the local environment in order to prevent the revival of militarism or Nazism, while creating the proper environment, through democratic transformation, for the German people to build a peaceful, economically stable state. The Western countries had entirely different objectives. First of all, they hoped that Germany’s military defeat might spell her end as a future economic competitor. Second, right from the start the United States saw this country as a giant market ripe for exploitation by big American capital.
Marshal Zhukov notes one detail in his memoirs: five million tons of molten steel were sufficient to meet Germany’s postwar needs, but the Allies insisted on doubling that quota. With some difficulty and after days of negotiations they settled on a cap of 8-9 million. «But for them the whole point of this had nothing to do with the needs of the German people, but with preserving the military and economic potential of Germany’s western regions,» writes Zhukov. This policy takes on particularly cynical overtones when one considers that unlike the Western part of the country where most of the steel was smelted, the eastern regions - the Soviet occupation zone - lay in ruins.
The same objectives - namely, pushing to expand the economic and military/economic potential of the Western occupation zones - could be seen in the attempts of the USSR’s former allies to keep industrial facilities off the books that were not needed in accordance with the Potsdam agreements in order to meet Germany’s peacetime needs at the level negotiated by the Allies, and which therefore should have been either destroyed or confiscated as reparations. By 1947 over 450 military plants had been kept off the books in the British and American zones.
With an eye toward a future confrontation with the USSR, the Western powers saw the recently defeated enemy as a political and military contingency force to be preserved. The Western Allies were not above planning to use the personnel and military equipment of several major Wehrmacht units in order to further their goals.
The indisputable historical fact remains that it was the West - not the Soviet Union - that spearheaded the breakup of Germany.
Anglo-American administrative bureaus had been set up by Sept. 1946 that were acting independently to manage the economy, food supplies/agriculture, transportation, finances, and communications. By the end of that year, the Western Allies moved first to merge the American and British occupation zones in Bizone, and then to annex the French zone, forming the Trizone. An Economic Council for this unified economy was created, as was the Bank Deutscher Länder, which in June 1948 began to issue the new Deutsche Mark that then circulated in the Western zones. In April 1949 the laws of the Allied Control Council were abolished that had banned industrial sectors and the end to the dismantling of military production.
The Berlin Crisis of 1948, which quickly heightened the confrontation between the former Allies, developed into a Cold War, which was the deathblow for any hope of preserving a unified German state. In May 1949, the establishment of the Federal Republic of Germany was announced.
So clearly the Western powers are well experienced in splitting up one state entity and creating another from the resulting fragments. It’s interesting - is Kyiv truly oblivious to the possibility that the West plans to use Ukraine’s resources to build new state entities there, or are they only turning a blind eye to these plans?