How the world changed eight decades ago


Dr Moonis Ahmar July 02, 2024
The writer is Meritorious Professor International Relations and former Dean Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Karachi. Email: amoonis@hotmail.com

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History was made on June 6, 1944 when Allied forces landed in Normandy, near the coast of France, and began the process of Nazi Germany’s defeat in the Second World War. On the 80th anniversary of the Normandy landings, US President Joe Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron attended the commemorative ceremony and vowed to strengthen the transatlantic alliance. Pledging support to Ukraine in its war with Russia, Macron and Biden warned Moscow against escalating the conflict with Kyiv.

Certainly, the world changed drastically in the last 80 years, particularly with the impetus given to the process of decolonisation. The split in the wartime alliance due to the Soviet occupation of Eastern Europe and Berlin led to the outbreak of the Cold War in 1946, which eventually culminated in the collapse of the Warsaw Pact and the dismantling of the USSR in 1991. The reunification of Germany following the fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989 transformed the landscape of Europe. Now, 80 years after the Allied landing in Normandy and the subsequent defeat of Nazi Germany, it is time to analyse why NATO is still intact and has expanded to almost the whole of Europe, and how Russia is being encircled by the US-led transatlantic alliance, culminating in the war in Ukraine.

According to an article published in Voice of America, under the heading Remembering D-Day, “D-Day was codenamed ‘Overlord’ and is regarded as the largest amphibious invasion in military history. The meaning behind the official name of the operation is more elusive. The US Army said that it was simply alliteration, while the French say that the ‘D’ stands for ‘disembarkation.’ US General Dwight Eisenhower said that the name stands for ‘departed date,’ a term used in amphibious operations. By entering Normandy, Allied forces hoped to break through and push the Germans east, gradually liberating France, which they accomplished. While more than 130,000 Allied troops reached shore that day 80 years ago, an additional nearly 200,000 sailors operated 7,000 ships and landing craft. During the landing, casualties surpassed 10,000”.

US President Joe Biden, in a statement on June 6, 2024, declared the 80th anniversary of D-Day as a National Day of Remembrance and urged: “I call upon all Americans to observe this day with programs, ceremonies, and activities that honor those who fought and died so that men and women they had never met might know what it is to be free.”

Had the US military not landed in Normandy and liberated France and other parts of Europe from Nazi occupation, the continent’s geopolitical landscape might have been drastically different due to a diminished American role. One wonders how NATO survived and expanded, encircling the Russian Federation, despite the disintegration of the Warsaw Pact and the collapse of the USSR. There was a time when anti-American sentiment within NATO was strong enough that, in the 1960s, France nearly left the alliance. However, in recent decades, NATO’s expansion, including former Warsaw Pact members, has deepened US influence in Europe. Today, except for Switzerland and Austria, all European countries are NATO members. The recent inclusion of Sweden and Finland exemplifies this expansion, giving Russia a reason to resist encirclement by opposing Ukraine’s NATO membership.

The wartime alliance between the US, USSR and Britain was crucial in defeating the Nazis. However, with the common enemy gone, the alliance fractured, leading to the Cold War in Europe and Asia. A series of events caused this split, resulting in the formation of NATO on April 4, 1949, followed by the Warsaw Treaty Organization (WTO) in 1955. The US role in Europe became paramount, first with the Marshall Plan in 1948 to rebuild war-devastated Western Europe, and then with the formation of NATO, which remains crucial for the continent’s security.

The landing on Normandy 80 years ago and its subsequent implications need to be analyzed from three different aspects. First, the US is considered a ‘buffer’ in Europe, with thousands of American forces still stationed in Germany, seen as a sign of stability. Similarly, in Japan, thousands of American forces have been deployed since the end of the Second World War, serving as a ‘buffer’ in Asia.

The US’s role as ‘buffer’ in Europe is however devoid of any logic because it tends to prove the failure of European countries to salvage their own security predicament. The war in Ukraine, which began in February 2022, was also the result of Russian opposition to Kiev’s possible joining of NATO. It is also in the interest of Europe to mend fences with Russia and to revive the idea of the then Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev of “Common European Home” and “Europe from Atlantic to Urals.” Instead of confronting with Russia, which is still a major power with colossal nuclear arsenal and having a permanent seat in the UN Security Council, Europe needs to enter into a process of dialogue with Moscow. By mending fences with Russia, Europe can certainly hope to de-escalate tension and prevent the expansion of war in Ukraine in its neighbourhood. It is time for European countries to revisit their entrenched roles.

President Biden may be committed to safeguard European security under the umbrella of NATO but one also needs to be mindful of how critical the former American president Donald Trump was about NATO, particularly with regard to meeting financial obligations. If Trump returns to power following the November 2024 presidential elections, he may not follow anti-Russian rhetoric on Ukraine. Ultimately, the security of Europe should be the domain of the countries of that continent. Russia’s role in Europe cannot be undermined because of its geographical presence in that continent, and since most of its urban centers are located in its European part.

It seems that both the US and major European NATO members will have to grapple with issues that relate to Russia, Ukraine and the continent’s security predicament in the years to come. For that matter, Europe needs to consider ground realities, particularly the threat which Russia faces from US-led NATO policy of encirclement and rendering military support to Ukraine.

COMMENTS (3)

Haroon | 3 weeks ago | Reply Its very thought provoking.
Mao | 3 weeks ago | Reply Heavily tilted towards the West
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