Most adversaries have goals that include overlapping areas of common interest with those with whom they’re in conflict, and many or most are willing to negotiate to reach an optimum solution for all parties; not all adversaries are adamant aggressors. But some are.
Adamant aggression is obsession / fanaticism with power. An adamant aggressor has simply-defined, inflexible goals, the achievement of which justifies to him / her / it any means deemed feasible. Anything less than complete achievement is unsatisfactory, though all manner of partial satisfactions may be accepted as steps toward full achievement. Agreements, truces, cease-fires, appeasements, compromises, or other accommodations short of the goal will be accepted and observed only long enough for the adamant aggressor to consolidate gains and initiate the next move toward the ultimate goals. Any agreement that grants only part of an adamant aggressor’s ultimate goal ensures that the agreement will be broken not if, but when, the adamant aggressor feels restrictive conditions will not be successfully enforced.
History provides many examples of adamant aggressors—conquerors on a grand scale and leaders with more limited objectives. History shows many ways of dealing with such aggressors—accommodation, capitulation, confrontation, negotiations of all kinds. History also shows that responses to such aggressors were, more often than not, based on incomplete understanding, emotions, misjudgments, and shortsightedness . . . and that some responses were more effective than most.
Examining historical adamant aggressors can help us identify today’s adamant aggressors, which isn’t always easy. And by studying how others reacted to adamant aggression, we can devise more effective strategies for confronting today’s adamant aggressors.
Dealing effectively with an adversary requires a clear understanding of the adversary . . . most especially whether the adversary is an adamant aggressor. This distinction can be resolved by answering a few questions (though determining the correct answers may be far from easy).
If thoughtful consideration of these questions followed by systematic investigation yields affirmative answers to all three question categories, the adversary is an adamant aggressor.
Understanding that an adversary is an adamant aggressor does not lead automatically to clear countering strategies. But some guidelines are axiomatic.
Historical accounts indicate an almost uniform pattern of armed attack on the part of ancient conquerors and armed confrontation or fortified defense (or capitulation) on the part of their victims. But we can only infer underlying motivations and beliefs in those times. So we look at five cases drawn from more recent history that provide more insight and which demonstrate that at least some modern peoples have learned something about dealing with adamant aggressors.
Caution: Examine each case with absolute dispassion. Resist the urge to make moral judgments, however justified; applying moral values will tend to cloud lessons to be learned.
The Cold War between the USSR and the Western Allies led by the United States ended nearly four decades after the death of Joseph Stalin. On December 25, 1991, the massive Marxist experiment came to an end. Never declared, the Cold War started during World War II or immediately after, when the USSR installed a puppet Communist regime in Poland in violation of the Potsdam agreement.
Very early in his writings, the “father” of international Communism, V. I. Lenin, presented Communism as an international movement that would ultimately include all countries. Stalin was, in many ways, his protégé before becoming his successor.
Stalin began building his personal power base well before Lenin’s death. Sometime in the late 1920s or early 1930s, he evolved from a power-seeking opportunist to an aggressive ideologue seeking world domination. His views dominated Soviet leadership and behavior well into the mid-1980s. Stalin displayed his adamant aggressor colors in 1939 when he entered an alliance with Adolph Hitler’s Germany. Ostensibly a pact to divide the territorial spoils of their joint Polish conquest less than a month later, the pact also provided for a secure eastern flank for Hitler’s aggression in Western Europe. In rapid succession after signing the pact, Stalin forced Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Romania into the Soviet empire, USSR, as agreed to with Hitler. (Finland was the only Soviet-designated country in the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact that avoided annexation by the USSR.)
Germany’s invasion of the USSR in June 1941 forced Stalin to join the Allies, but he didn’t set aside his aggressive ambitions. He gained hegemony over Eastern and Central Europe in negotiations with the Allies. Even after refusing to aid in the war against Japan until its last month, Stalin also gained influence in Mongolia, China, Indo-China, and Korea as well as the territory of
While a formal concept of adamant aggressor had not been articulated in the mid-twentieth century, and guidelines for dealing with such had not been summarized, the failure / danger of prewar appeasement and isolationism was much on the minds of many postwar Western leaders, especially in the United States. So they embarked upon not-always-consistent responses to contain Soviet aggression and related Communist expansion throughout the world.
Stalin was not recognized by many Western leaders (except perhaps Winston Churchill) as aggressively seeking world domination until after the conclusion of World War II. However, Truman perceived the Soviet threat even before becoming president following Roosevelt’s death in 1945, and soon after, the United States overtly engaged the Soviet Union in the Cold War.
Joseph Stalin died March 5, 1953. He was an adamant aggressor; his successors were not. But it took almost forty years of Cold War for Soviet and Western leaders to work past fears and distrust that had been institutionalized by Stalin’s aggressions and U.S. reactions to it.
This study looks chronologically at Stalin and his morphing from criminal opportunist into adamant aggressor, continuing through residual policies followed by Stalin’s successors until Mikhail Gorbachev changed course with a different vision for the Soviet Union. It suggests that Stalin was, in effect, identified as an adamant aggressor. And it examines responses by leaders of the United States and its close allies that ultimately prevailed against the USSR without triggering World War III.1