Tag Archives: Soviet Union

Russia’s War / No Retreat! The Russian Front (Book & Game, #1)

Welcome to a new (irregular) series on Clio’s Board Games! As you know, I love playing history in board games, and as you also know, I also love reading about history. So, we’re pairing the two! (Think of it like a sommelier recommending a wine & cheese pairing.) Here’s a book and a board game that match each other for gaming/reading that is as enjoyable as it is educational. We begin with the Eastern Front of World War II: I recommend Russia’s War (Richard Overy) and No Retreat! The Russian Front (Carl Paradis, GMT Games).

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Specific and Universal Responses to Crises: The Truman Doctrine

These days, we experience one of the most violent foreign policy developments of the last decades: Russia has invaded Ukraine. It is the culmination of a crisis that has been in the making for years – at least since the Euromaidan protests of 2013/2014 ousted Ukraine’s pro-Russian government and Russia subsequently annexed Crimea. During the entire crisis, the posture of western governments (most notably that of the United States) has been of great interest: Ukraine has sought a closer alignment with the West to gain economic and military assistance. At the same time, Russian president Vladimir Putin has been committed to rolling back western influence and to prevent further countries bordering Russia from joining the western alliances.

US posture has been not uniform over these eight years: The annexation of Crimea presented the Obama administration America with a fait accompli, and Obama reacted with lukewarm sanctions. Obama’s successor Donald Trump was proud of his alleged good personal relationship with Putin, watered down the sanctions, and even attempted to extort Ukrainian president Volodymyr Selenskyy by tying an aid package for Ukraine to Selenskyy’s announcement of investigating Hunter Biden’s business activities in Ukraine. Current president Joe Biden has taken a tougher line on Russia again, but the exact response to the ongoing crisis is still in flux.

That brings us to today’s article: How does the United States react to local crises in faraway countries? After all, most Americans (including many elected officials and bureaucrats) know little of the place in question. Still, America’s global role resting on its political, military, and economic leadership demands that these crises are addressed. This challenge was by no means smaller when America was just about to transition into the role of a global power in the 1940s. One event stood out among the developments back then: Rooted in two specific local crises, president Harry S. Truman’s speech on March 12, 1947, asking Congress to approve of a support package for Greece and Turkey would have far-reaching implications for US foreign policyuntil very recently.

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Mining, Decolonization, and the Cold War: The Congo Crisis

60 years ago, the Republic of the Congo – one of the largest newly independent countries in Africa – was embroiled in a bitter struggle. Four domestic factions claimed either their right to rule the country or to secede from it. The struggle was completed by the international agents ensnared it ranging from the old colonial power Belgium over the superpowers to the United Nations who wanted to preserve their business interests, score points in the Cold War, or redefine their international role. We need to look at the Congo’s colonial past before we can understand the Congo Crisis and, following this, its bloody legacy. As always, board games will guide our way.

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Glasnost and Perestroika

35 years ago, the Communist Party of the Soviet Union was about to commence its XXVIIth party congress. Party congresses were rare events, held regularly only every five years. They thus marked an important occasion for the Soviet leadership to talk about past successes and lay out future plans. The XXVIIth party congress was the first one headed by the new general secretary of the Communist Party, Mikhail Gorbachev. He set out an ambitious reform agenda. For the next years, the Soviet Union – and the world – would talk about glasnost (openness) and perestroika (restructuring). This post is going to cover three questions: What did those terms mean? Which consequences did the policies that Gorbachev set in motion have? And, a question that is especially important to board gamers, who are used to assess events and policies by their strategic value: Were those policies beneficial?

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Unconditional Surrender! (USEAAR, #31)

This post is part of an after-action report of Unconditional Surrender! (Salvatore Vasta, GMT Games) . However, the document is not fictitious – this was the Act of Military Surrender signed by the German High Command at the end of the war. All I changed is the date and the some of the names of the Allied generals present and witnessing (to better reflect the developments on the fronts in this after-action report).

ACT OF MILITARY SURRENDER

  1. We the undersigned, acting by authority of the German High Command, hereby surrender unconditionally to the Supreme Commander, Allied Expeditionary Force and simultaneously to the Supreme High Command of the Red Army all forces on land, sea, and in the air who are at this date under German control.
  2. The German High Command will at once issue orders to all German military, naval and air authorities and to all forces under German control to cease active operations at 2301 hours Central European time on 12th July 1943, to remain in the positions occupied at that time and to disarm completely, handing over their weapons and equipment to the local allied commanders or officers designated by Representatives of the Allied Supreme Commands. No ship, vessel, or aircraft is to be scuttled, or any damage done to their hull, machinery or equipment, and also to machines of all kinds, armament, apparatus, and all the technical means of prosecution of war in general.
  3. The German High Command will at once issue to the appropriate commanders, and ensure the carrying out of any further orders issued by the Supreme Commander, Allied Expeditionary Force and by the Supreme High Command of the Red Army.
  4. This act of military surrender is without prejudice to, and will be superseded by any general instrument of surrender imposed by, or on behalf of the United Nations and applicable to GERMANY and the German armed forces as a whole.
  5. In the event of the German High Command or any of the forces under their control failing to act in accordance with this Act of Surrender, the Supreme Commander, Allied Expeditionary Force and the Supreme High Command of the Red Army will take such punitive or other action as they deem appropriate.
  6. This act is drawn up in the English, Russian and German languages. The English and Russian are the only authentic texts.

Signed at Berlin on the ⁠ 12th⁠ day of July, 1943

VON FRIEDEBURG              ⁠KEITEL ⁠           STUMPFF
On behalf of the German High Command

 

IN THE PRESENCE OF:

CARL SPAATZ
On behalf of the
⁠Supreme Commander
⁠Allied Expedtionary Force

KONSTANTIN ROKOSSOVSKY
On behalf of the
⁠Supreme High Command of the
⁠Red Army

⁠At the signing also were present as witnesses:

F. DE LATTRE-TASSIGNY
General Commanding in Chief
⁠First French Army

KENNETH ANDERSON
General Commanding in Chief
Eighth Army⁠, United Kingdom

You can see the current state of affairs in the game in the Twitter thread:

The Nuclear Bomb (End of World War II, #3)

World War II ended 75 years ago, and so does this miniseries on the matter. The two previous posts on the Great Power conferences and the meeting of Western and Soviet forces have focused on Europe. When the guns fell silent there, fighting still raged on in Asia and the Pacific, where the United States, China, and the British Commonwealth slowly retook the Japanese conquests. Before the Allies would attempt an invasion of the Japanese home islands, they brought their naval and aerial power to bear – including their newest weapon. After years of research and testing, the first nuclear bomb was ready to use. The Americans hoped it would shock the Japanese into accepting surrender. Since then, we live in a nuclear world – with all its implications on the ensuing Cold War, arms control, and board games until today. Continue reading

Letter from Pyotr Ilyich Stoyanov to his wife Anastasia Sergeyevna Stoyanova (USEAAR, #30)

This post is part of an after-action report of Unconditional Surrender! (Salvatore Vasta, GMT Games) and therefore entirely fictitious.

Berlin, June 22, 1943

Beloved Nastya!
You will have noticed from the top of this page – I am truly sending this letter from Berlin!
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Decolonization in the Cold War (Decolonization, #3)

Sixty years ago, a whopping 17 former African colonies became independent nations. In commemoration, I’m doing a miniseries on decolonization on this blog. So far, you can read an overview over decolonization and a closer look at decolonization processes within a colony. Today, we’ll deal with decolonization in the international context of the Cold War. All too often, it is assumed that the anticolonial movements and newly independent states were mere pawns in the games of the superpowers. However, they had quite some agency of their own. As you rightly expect, we’ll look at how different board games deal with the complex relationship between the Cold War and decolonization. Continue reading

Report of Evelyn Sandringham, Alpinist with the 52nd (Lowland) Infantry Division (USEAAR, #28)

This post is part of an after-action report of Unconditional Surrender! (Salvatore Vasta, GMT Games) and therefore entirely fictitious.

Verona, March 07, 1943

To the Chief of Staff

Sir,
my investigation of the avalanche which has buried the freight train with supplies for and cut the railway link to the 24th (Gibraltar) Mountain Corps has been completed with the following findings:

  • The avalanche has not been caused naturally, but rather through setting off an explosive. The remains of said explosive have been found on the eastern slope of mountains next to the Adige valley. That the avalanche coincided exactly with the time the supply train was passing through compounds these findings.
  • Inquiries after the activities of pro-Nazi partisans among the ethnic Germans in these parts of South Tyrol have been inconclusive. The intelligence officers of British Army in Italy are aware of such partisans, but deem it unlikely, yet not impossible, that they have the amount of explosives required to conduct such an operation. It is, however, conceivable that the attack has been carried out by other groups.

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Diary entry of Roza Shanina (USEAAR, #27)

This post is part of an after-action report of Unconditional Surrender! (Salvatore Vasta, GMT Games) and therefore entirely fictitious.

Kufstein, January 25, 1943

Haven’t seen any combat for some time. We just held our part of the line at the Austrian pocket in the end, and when it collapsed, we rushed through the mountains as fast as we could – after all, we wouldn’t want the forces in the north to get all the glory in defeating the fascists! And as they are on the outskirts of Berlin already, we need to hurry to do something that can hold up against it.
However, today we saw something much more exciting than combat: British soldiers! Continue reading