Is Brazil Helping China Train Carrier Pilots?

“Using BRIC to build at sea: The Brazil-China Aircraft Carrier Agreement and Shifting Naval Power”
Kai Thaler

IPRIS Viewpoints #9
IPRIS – Portuguese Institute of International Relations and Security

As the discussion fades over China’s first aircraft carrier, it is worth diving into exactly how China is building its carrier force. As much as China’s politicians and many of China’s people might want to think that the Navy’s renewal is an entirely homegrown project, in reality China is drawing from sources around the world to cobble together its naval aviation arm.

The Liaoning itself is, of course, the former Varyag, a Soviet-designed Admiral Kuznetzov class “aircraft-carrying heavy cruiser” around half the size of a U.S. Nimitz-class aircraft carrier. China purchased four carriers – the ex HMAS Melbourne from Australia, and the Varyag, Minsk, and Kiev from the republics of the former Soviet Union. As IPRIS expert Kai Thaler notes, the ships were purchased to introduce aircraft carrier construction and engineering to China’s navy and her shipyards as a part of China’s longstanding plans to build a carrier.

But Thaler’s revelations go further. More than just drawing from foreign sources for hardware, China had also signed an agreement with Brazil to have that country’s navy help train Chinese carrier aviators. The question is what this signals in terms of the Brazil-China relationship. While much attention has been focused on China’s relationships with pariah western hemisphere states like Cuba and Venezuela, the relationship between Brasilia and Beijing clearly deserves further attention as both countries gain in global influence.

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Who Started It, Hitler or Stalin?

Icebreaker: Who Started the Second World War?
Victor Suvorov
300pp.

Following our review of a small library about Russia’s fight against Germany in World War II,  a reader introduced to me Victor Suvorov’s provocativeIcebreaker: Who Started the Second World War? In this book, the author debunks the accepted idea that Hitler was the primary instigator of the war, suggesting instead that it was mostly Stalin’s fault.

The author sets himself against a mass of historical evidence and analysis in his work, and in so doing opens himself to accusations of being an apologist for Hitler. But Suvorov is not that kind of revisionist: his goal is not to exonerate the Austrian Corporal or the Nazis, but to prove that the accepted Soviet/Russian narrative about the war is wrong.

Much has been done to uncover the crimes of Nazism and find the butchers who perpetrated atrocities in its name. This work must be continued and stepped up. But while unmasking fascists, one must also expose the Soviet communists who encouraged the Nazis to commit their crimes, so that they could avail themselves of the results of these crimes.

The task would seem almost impossible given that Soviet historians had 44 years after the war to alter the historical record and eliminate any countervailing evidence. Suvorov manages to make an argument that is interesting to those of us who still puzzle over Stalin’s tactical idiocy in the opening days of Operation Barbarossa. Believing that the whole show was a Stalin set piece, even down to the sacrifice of tens of millions of Soviet lives, offers a rationale that seems to reconcile Stalin’s early bumbling with the Red Army‘s victories during the last 30 months of the war.

What is more, Suvorov is no longer alone in the effort to make Stalin a co-culprit in World War II. Timothy Snyder‘s excellent Bloodlands is a reminder that both Hitler and Stalin engaged in political killings and mass-murders of their own citizens and those of the lands they conquered.

Unfortunately, Suvorov’s book (and indeed much of his other work, including his Inside the Soviet Army) comes across rather less than an academic study and more as a political treatise against Soviet communism. When the book was written in the late 1980s, there was a receptive audience for such works. Today, Suvorov’s tone and approach seems rather quaint (although, I would argue, not as anachronistic as it may seem, given events in Russia.)

Stripping away that foible, though, Suvorov at least opens the door to further academic examination of his points. There seems a vast field for historians to sow in probing the degree to which initial Soviet defeats were calculated by Stalin to secure his own power and provide an opening for Soviet domination of Europe.