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Thu Mar 22, 2012, 11:39 AM

 

If Hitler hadn't attacked the USSR, would the USSR have maintained its secret pact with the Nazis?

Of course, there's no way to know, but the attempt to answer the question can motivate research that can be enlightening. As they say, history repeats itself when people don't learn the lessons of history.

65 replies, 6236 views

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Reply If Hitler hadn't attacked the USSR, would the USSR have maintained its secret pact with the Nazis? (Original post)
Boojatta Mar 2012 OP
hifiguy Mar 2012 #1
OPOS Mar 2012 #14
hifiguy Mar 2012 #15
mackattack Mar 2012 #19
The Magistrate Mar 2012 #21
The Magistrate Mar 2012 #2
cthulu2016 Mar 2012 #5
The Magistrate Mar 2012 #7
cthulu2016 Mar 2012 #54
The Magistrate Mar 2012 #55
cthulu2016 Mar 2012 #57
ieoeja Mar 2012 #60
The Magistrate Mar 2012 #65
RZM Mar 2012 #23
The Magistrate Mar 2012 #26
RZM Mar 2012 #30
The Magistrate Mar 2012 #32
cthulu2016 Mar 2012 #44
cthulu2016 Mar 2012 #33
The Magistrate Mar 2012 #39
cthulu2016 Mar 2012 #46
The Magistrate Mar 2012 #47
cthulu2016 Mar 2012 #50
The Magistrate Mar 2012 #53
cthulu2016 Mar 2012 #56
The Magistrate Mar 2012 #58
cthulu2016 Mar 2012 #59
The Magistrate Mar 2012 #64
Son of Gob Mar 2012 #16
cthulu2016 Mar 2012 #3
The Magistrate Mar 2012 #8
RZM Mar 2012 #40
The Magistrate Mar 2012 #41
RZM Mar 2012 #43
The Magistrate Mar 2012 #45
cthulu2016 Mar 2012 #52
cthulu2016 Mar 2012 #51
razorman Mar 2012 #4
DisgustipatedinCA Mar 2012 #6
hifiguy Mar 2012 #9
RZM Mar 2012 #17
The Magistrate Mar 2012 #20
cthulu2016 Mar 2012 #48
RZM Mar 2012 #49
FarCenter Mar 2012 #10
WinkyDink Mar 2012 #11
hifiguy Mar 2012 #18
RZM Mar 2012 #12
brentspeak Mar 2012 #22
RZM Mar 2012 #25
brentspeak Mar 2012 #29
RZM Mar 2012 #35
brentspeak Mar 2012 #38
RZM Mar 2012 #42
The Magistrate Mar 2012 #34
Cleita Mar 2012 #13
Octafish Mar 2012 #24
The Magistrate Mar 2012 #27
RZM Mar 2012 #28
FarCenter Mar 2012 #31
RZM Mar 2012 #37
FarCenter Mar 2012 #61
RZM Mar 2012 #63
Solly Mack Mar 2012 #36
MrScorpio Mar 2012 #62

Response to Boojatta (Original post)

Thu Mar 22, 2012, 11:43 AM

1. Definitely, at least in the medium-term.

One of the reasons German armies were so successful in the early stages of the war against the USSR was that Stalin and Beria had purged the Soviet military so thoroughly that there was very little competent leadership left. Stalin was, by most accounts, shocked that the Germans invaded when they did, which shows that he wasn't the sharpest knife in the Kremlin, only the most ruthless.

How a commander of Georgi Zhukov's stature managed to survive the 1930s is amazing.

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Response to hifiguy (Reply #1)

Thu Mar 22, 2012, 12:33 PM

14. Zhuov was far off in the east.

 

His Army Group was barely touched by the purges being so far from moscow and fighting the Japanese. Stalin through the Richard Sorge spy ring knew the details of Barbarossa but for some reason did not believe it until the barrage started.

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Response to OPOS (Reply #14)

Thu Mar 22, 2012, 12:36 PM

15. Ah, that explains a few things.

I've read a ton of WWII history but none mentioned where Zhukov was prior to Barbarossa.

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Response to hifiguy (Reply #15)

Thu Mar 22, 2012, 12:40 PM

19. Kiev

 

to my recollection. he was head of the military district in the ukrain. before that, he was concerned with the soivet-japanese border war.

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Response to hifiguy (Reply #15)

Thu Mar 22, 2012, 12:45 PM

21. He was In Charge At Nomonhan, Sir

Cut up the Japanese there something awful.

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Response to Boojatta (Original post)

Thu Mar 22, 2012, 11:45 AM

2. Stalin Planned To Break It Late In '42, Sir

Both meant to cheat the other, Hitler proved a hair better at it....

"Sometimes you bite the bear, sometimes the bear bites you."

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Response to The Magistrate (Reply #2)

Thu Mar 22, 2012, 12:01 PM

5. Hitler was terribly naive and

was duped by everyone he ever did business with. He agreed to a joint invasion of Poland with Russia and then Russia stood aside and let the whole polish army go fight Germany in the west while the USSR cried about German agression. After Germany did all the work Russia eventually took over astern poland to the pre-arranged demarcation line.

Hitle said that if the US declared war on Japan that Germany would declare war on the USA in exchange for Japan declaring war on Russia. The Japanese somehow didn't get around to declaring war on Russia.

Hitler's chief European ally surrendered before the Allies even reached the Italian mainland.

Hitler was played by everyone.

So though the 1940 invasion of Russia was a forced move (because in every scenario it was better than Russia inevitably attacking at a time of her chosing and Russian industrial production was ramping up... it wasn't goig to get any easier)

Anyway, I'm not sure that Hitler was better at cheating than Russia was. As willing to? Of course.

(My historical understanding of the nature of the German-Russian war is influenced by Norman Davies' NO SIMPLE VICTORY, informed by major changes in our understanding that folowed the 1990s collapse of the USSR. The history of the war I grew up with is quite different from our current understanding.)

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Response to cthulu2016 (Reply #5)

Thu Mar 22, 2012, 12:16 PM

7. Try Messers. Reed And Fisher's 'The Deadly Embrace: Hitler, Stalin, And The Nazi-Soviet Pact'

It may suffice to clear up what seem to be a few misconceptions here.

Hitler got excellent value from Stalin over the course of the pact.

Relations between Imperial Japan and the Soviet Union would take us very far afield, and well 'into the weeds'. Imperial Japan and Nazi Germany were only in an extremely loose sense 'allies', and there was never much of an attempt to seriously co-ordinate actions between them.

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Response to The Magistrate (Reply #7)

Thu Mar 22, 2012, 03:02 PM

54. The point is that "Deadly Embrace" is

from 1988. No Simple Victory is from 2007.

Since Norman Davies took great advantage of Russian historical resources that were entirely unavailable in the west until the 1990s I find his acount of Soviet intentions more authoritative than earlier works.

On points of disagreement about thinking within Russian leadership one would, all things being equal, prefer the later work.

This is no fault of the author's involved. It just happens that we know far more about what the USSR was up to than we used to.

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Response to cthulu2016 (Reply #54)

Thu Mar 22, 2012, 03:12 PM

55. So What, Sir?

Much of the 'modern scholarship' consists of hyperventilating over trifles, exaggerations of purported novelties, and attempts at creating sensation for its own sake. There is actually very little new that has been provided about the broad shape of affairs.

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Response to The Magistrate (Reply #55)

Thu Mar 22, 2012, 03:30 PM

57. Whatever "much of" modern scholarship is,

the speciffic work referenced is hardly a lightweight or widely dismissed work, and is certainly the work of a serious and respected historian.

As anyone with an atypical perspective will be, he might be tendentious at times, but I don't know that anyone questions his diplomatic history of the war on its specifics or broad conclusions.

It's a swell book. Check it out. You'd like it.

And even if you don't care for that, you would surely be delighted by Davies' "Europe: A History"... quirky in some ways but thrilling as history.

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Response to The Magistrate (Reply #55)

Thu Mar 22, 2012, 03:53 PM

60. Does the earlier book still parrot the belief that winter saved Moscow?


Because after the fall of the Soviet Union we discovered that to be false.

The German offense had been advancing backwards for two weeks prior to the onset of winter in what the Germans, whose records we relied upon until the fall of the Soviet Union, thought was a Battle of the Bulge type of encounter against the last, desparate troops in Moscow.

In reality, they were facing the first 10 of over 100 divisions en route on the Trans-Siberian railroad. The Germans had no idea what was about to hit them even after the hitting started.

The biggest flaw with Blitzkrieg is that it had no backup plan. They threw everything they had ready at the Soviets expecting a knockout blow. The winter gave Germany time to regroup for the longer haul. Had those Soviet divisions kept pouring off the railroad....

It is kind of fun to speculate on what would have happened had Barbarosa not been delayed. We weren't in the war yet for one thing. Would we have seen the Soviets invading Europe as worse than Hitler? The American Right certainly would have.

Can't see Churchill siding with Hitler after the Battle of Britain. But didn't Hitler see Communism as the bigger evil? Could he have become convinced that he had punished France enough to withdraw? Would Churchill have agreed to a ceasefire under those circumstances so the Brits could concentrate on Japan while Germany and the Soviets beat each other to death?

Lots of what ifs.

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Response to ieoeja (Reply #60)

Thu Mar 22, 2012, 04:16 PM

65. No, Sir, It Is Hardly A Reprise Of Carroll's 'Hitler Strikes East'

It is quite acute on the interplay between Soviet/Japanese relations.

Actually, Mr. Erikson had, and from Soviet contacts, the outline of events you are presenting, well before the fall of the Soviet Union. Though it is not so much winter itself that gave the Germans the opportunity to regroup for the long haul. Soviet offensive operations continued through winter to the best of their ability, but that ability was a bit less than believed by the men directing Soviet operations. Soviet over-reach and over-extension is what gave the Germans space for solidifying, and mounting counter-attacks.

The Yugoslav delay is somewhat over-rated: it was a very wet spring, and the ground would not have been suitable for armor much before early June in any case.

It is far from clear Mr. Churchill would have remained head of government in England had German won a victory in the Battle of Britain; certainly the fall of his government would have been required for a peace settlement....

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Response to cthulu2016 (Reply #5)

Thu Mar 22, 2012, 12:48 PM

23. That's not a correct assessment of the Polish campaign

 

There was not a joint battle plan and it wasn't really a joint invasion. What was agreed in the secret protocols of the pact was that each country would have certain areas of influence 'in the event of the collapse of the Polish state' (wink, wink). The Germans did request the Soviets get moving in early September, but I don't think it was anything like a demand or even represented a serious concern. The Soviet invasion began 16 days after the German, but you have to bear in mind the Soviets did need time to mobilize, especially as they were dealing with the Japanese in the East (there was a large 'border clash' there around the same time, which the Soviets won handily).

The Poles had judged the Germans the greater threat, so the Polish defense posture was primarily pointed West even before the war. When the Soviets did invade, the faced only a light Polish force, comprised primarily of what amounted to a border defense corps. These troops were initially confused as to what was going on and some had orders not to engage the Red Army. Some Red Army troops were confused as well and believed that they were being sent to face the Germans. There really wasn't a whole lot of fighting in the short Soviet campaign in Poland. The Soviet press didn't even describe it as a war, but an intervention to ensure the safety of their Ukrainian and Belorussian 'blood brothers' in Poland whom the Poles had 'utterly abandoned to their fate.'

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Response to RZM (Reply #23)

Thu Mar 22, 2012, 01:02 PM

26. It Also Wholly Ignores The Economic Factors, Sir

German need for raw materials, and a way around English blockade, were the leading benefits sought by Hitler in the pact, along with seeing to it the war remained a 'one front' rather than a 'two front' affair.

Fighting on the ground at Nomonhan was over by the start of September, though there were still some clashes in the air, if recollection serves.

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Response to The Magistrate (Reply #26)

Thu Mar 22, 2012, 01:12 PM

30. I believe the campaign was formally over by Sept. 15

 

Two days before the Soviets intervened. I wonder if they wanted a definitive end to the matter there before moving on Poland.

And raw materials were critical to the pact. The Soviets continued to scrupulously provide these materials and adhere to the agreements right up until Barbarossa.

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Response to RZM (Reply #30)

Thu Mar 22, 2012, 01:20 PM

32. Thank You, Sir: I Am Away From My Books At Present, and Cruising On Memory

The climactic Soviet counter-offensive was launched in mid-August, and overwhelmed the Japanese division in a bit more than a week.

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Response to The Magistrate (Reply #26)

Thu Mar 22, 2012, 02:20 PM

44. It doesn't ignore them

The perecieved self interst of both parties is what it is, independent of the under-lying forces shaoing those motives.

The bottom line is, that for a thousand different reasons, including economics, Germany and Russia both preferred to not go to war with each other in 1938.

Since Germany wanted to invade Poland the only way to have that not result in German-USSR war in 1938 was by pre-arrangement with Russia, to to not got the the Soviet border.

Between 1938 and the invasion of Russia both sides greatly increased war production and neutralized all the toehr players on the field -- Germany neutrllizing western europe as a threat to her rear, and Russia reconstituting the traditional Russian Empire, largely lost after the revolution. (During those years Russia conquered as many nations and as much territory as Germany)

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Response to RZM (Reply #23)

Thu Mar 22, 2012, 01:26 PM

33. Oddly, we are not disagreeing much

More reading past each other.

For instance, yes, Poland was primarily defended aginst the west. And also yes, even more military force was diverted from the east to the west during the key two weeks. The two are not mutully exclusive, and the fact on the ground is that Russia managed things in such a way that she was able to eventually walk in against token resistance.

Yes, the USSR did not every formally invade Poland. That's the point. After Germany had done the dirty work and attracted world aprobrium, and England and France had declared war on Germany Stalin filled a USSR border faciliy with Russian prisoners in unifiorm and shot them, then moved into Poland under the pretense of 1. a defensive action, and 2. as a bulwark against German incursion.

One of the saddest ironies of the whole war is that when Russia did invade, or whatever one calls it, that some jews from eastern poland fled west seeking protection against Russia anti-semitism from the German army.

Given the facts on the ground, were France and England treaty-bound to declare war on Russia? Yes. So it was in everyone's interest (except Germany's) to not look too closely. And Russia really pulled something off there.

But both Germany and Russia knew the inevitable result of their pre-arangment, which was that Poland would be temporarily partitioned before they got the real war on over who would end up with her. And that's what happened.

So the terms used are not all that relevant... invasion, defense, partition, annexation, agression... the facts on the ground were that Germany and the USSR ended up partioning Poland by pre-arrangement, that Germany did most of the fighting and that Russia got off diplomatically scot free while Germany ended up in a declarred war with England and France.

(Any arrangement where both parties understand the outcome is a prearrangement of that outcome, no matter what the language on a piece of paper is.)

Terminology aside, Germany and Russia decided on a secret division of Poland because both sides thought, at the time, that delay in their inevitable war was in their mutual interest. And Russia managed things in duplicitous and clever fashion, to Hitler's detriment, by using the secrecy of the pact itself against German interest.

Russia wasn't on an industrial war footing and had major shake-ups in the military. Germany needed to neutralize France and Germany at her rear before invading Russia.

That Hitler invaded Russia before the complete neutralization of the west was a surprise, and a master-stroke... by the suicidal standards of the Third Reich. (Not likely to succed, but likelier to succed than any alternative.)

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Response to cthulu2016 (Reply #33)

Thu Mar 22, 2012, 01:46 PM

39. England And France Did Regard Soviet Russia as An Enemy Power Prior To Barbarossa, Sir

A good deal of planning in early 1940 was put in for an air strike against the oil field facilities at Baku, for example. Arms were provided Finland when it was invaded, and subsequently, in good quantity.

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Response to The Magistrate (Reply #39)

Thu Mar 22, 2012, 02:22 PM

46. Yes, but they were not at war

One can debate the significance of that distinction during the sitz-kreig, but it is not a trivial distinction.

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Response to cthulu2016 (Reply #46)

Thu Mar 22, 2012, 02:32 PM

47. There Were Serious Plans A-Foot To Attack Soviet Territory, Sir

That narrows the distinction considerably.

The fact is that England under Chamberlain would have much preferred fighting the Soviet Union to fighting Nazi Germany, and the French government of the day was of similar mind.

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Response to The Magistrate (Reply #47)

Thu Mar 22, 2012, 02:42 PM

50. Of course, sir, but would not have preferred to fight both

Had France and England declared war on Russia and Germany jointly then Russia and Germany would have been temporary allies of convenience against the west, which wasn't desirable to anybody.

As for what peoiple planned... Sea Lion was planned. It was policy at one time because France had been so easy.

But it does not follow from that that Germany had the real geopolitical objective of conquering England. She did not. It was an almost impossible task and had Germany actually mounted it, Russia would have moved against Germany at her most over-stretched.

I have no doubt that Japanese had intricate plans for things involving the continental United States and that they would have loved to own America... but they never really intended to invade America.

Truth be told, I am not sure what point we are even arguing. I am not suggesting that the west did not hate and fear Russia. I am saying that Russia's handling of the defacto partition of Poland was duplicitous, and to Russia's relative diplomatic and tactical benefit.

I suspect we agree on that point.

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Response to cthulu2016 (Reply #50)

Thu Mar 22, 2012, 03:02 PM

53. Indeed, Sir, Not So Much Arguing as Providing Complementary Views And Supplementary Facts

Motives behind the intended strike on Baku were mixed.

In one line of thought, it was intended as a strike against Germany, as Russia was supplying its oil; something analogous to the Athenian invasion of Sicily, intended to cut off the Spartan's grain supplies.

In another, it would serve as a sort of invitation to Germany to reconsider, and re-align in a hostile coalition against the Soviet Union, the many frictions between Hitler and Stalin, from Scandanavia to the Balkans, being no secret from England and France.

It is true enough that Hitler sought a negotiated settlement with England, and likely that a 'peace offensive' would have been the initial result of a decisive German victory in the air over the Royal Air Force. Absent English air power, however, in the autumn of 1940, invasion of England would certainly have been feasible, and likely successful. Rather than invading Germany in such a circumstance, a much more likely move by Stalin would have been in the footsteps of the Czars, south into Persia ( where Stalin had himself been active during the Civil War ), with an eye towards forcing an accommodation over the Straits on Turkey, and also towards the Mosul oil fields. Great profit, long tradition, and no one in a position to do a damned thing about it....

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Response to The Magistrate (Reply #53)

Thu Mar 22, 2012, 03:15 PM

56. All one has to do with England is neutralize the navy

Even Napoleon didn't really think he could invade, though he surely pondered it at length, but there's no need to. Absent the naval dominance of the Atlntic and Mediterranean it's not such a hot piece of real-estate.

Had Germany been able to use air power to eliminate the British shipping industry, and keep it eliminated (which they could have if they'd been able to defeat England in the air) I think that attention would have returned to Russia at that point.

Occupation of Britain would be so reasource-intensive it's hard to imagine. And the example of the division of France suggests that Germany's overall doctrine in western europe was (as long as Russia loomed) neutralization, rather than annexation.

Let me put it this way... do we have reason to think the German invasion of England would have been so much easier than what we expected in invading Japan? At the time Japan had no industrial capacity left, few capital vessels, no effective air power...

It's all about the population. I assume British resistance would have been unlike what was faced anywhere else. (I guess island nations are like that... retreat is a limited option.)

If the British had indeed "fought them on the beaches, etc." it would have been as difficult a military task as any. (Assuming that the US would prevent an effective blockade of England.)

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Response to cthulu2016 (Reply #56)

Thu Mar 22, 2012, 03:32 PM

58. Air Forces, Circa 1940s, Sir, Trump Navies, and Decisively

Had the Luftwaffe managed to destroy the fighter arm of the RAF, which was at least theoretically possible were the matter correctly handled, the RN would have been powerless in the Channel against German aerial bombardment, just as the bombers of the RAF would have been against German fighters. The English had very little in the way of serious army equipment in the home islands at this point, and prospects would have been very poor against German forces gotten ashore. The degree of political will to maintain a long struggle is a variable, and you seem to be assuming it would have been strong and deep, but it does not seem to me there is a great deal of warrant for that view. Large portions of the business and political classes, and of the nobility, were quite sympathetic to Germany, and there is a strong possibility of a collaborationist government coming fairly quickly to terms with the Germans. Favorable terms including guarantees of some Imperial possessions under German protection would have been powerful inducements in the circumstances.

The great fear regarding an invasion of Japan was the certainty of fanatic resistance by a largely intact army, and the likelihood, demonstarted already on some outlying islands, of fanatic attitudes being widespread among the citizenry.

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Response to The Magistrate (Reply #58)

Thu Mar 22, 2012, 03:46 PM

59. I would have hated to mount the invasion of Sicily with air power

I agree about air power in war. I may have been misunderstood.

I was not talking about how naval power affected the tactical prospects for invading England. I was saying that if Germany had naval control of the Atlantic and Mediterranean that England would be neutralized, geopolitically.

The foce of the geobraphy is the same as in Napoleon's time. England is capable of essentially blockading Europe, preventing large-scale movement of goods.

Take that away by an method and Germany need not have worried much about England insofar as she affected German propsects versus Russia.

Since that could be accomplished without an occupation if Britain could not defend her skies I doubt an occupation would have looked attractive if Germany had won air dominance over England.

By the time England was eventually subdued (if possible) Russia would have been producing 300 planes/day and almost as many tanks, and would have further consolidated the old Russian empire, including further consolidating control of energy supplies.

That why I cannot imagine Germany having invaded England before warring with Russia, except insofar as Germany was capable of suicidal military actions. So I should say, have "sensibly" invaded England.

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Response to cthulu2016 (Reply #59)

Thu Mar 22, 2012, 04:05 PM

64. This Sort Of Thing Cannot Be Settled, Sir, Obviously, But Here Are a Few Further Thoughts

Naval control of the Atlantic and Mediterranean was beyond German power. Aerial dominance of the Mediterranean was possible for them ( and in fair part was achieved at least for periods ), but this could not be done in the Atlantic. Submarines operating against merchant shipping could not manage it, and, as in the previous Great War, such operations were a leading irritant enticing the United States into the conflict.

Two possible methods were available to existing German power. One was amputation of key Imperial possessions, focusing on the Middle East, Suez in particular. The 'Afrika Corps' was a ludicrously half-hearted gesture towards this, and even so strained England greatly. The other was direct assault of the Home Islands, at a time when their powers of resistance on the ground were crippled. Either course would have had, as its real goal, a negotiated settlement with a collaborationist government, using military developments as leverage, serving for the stick, and offers to leave some portion of the Empire intact as the carrot. Either would have been feasible, at least theoretically, and the end would have been quite desirable as a step towards invading the Soviet Union. Not only would such an invasion have been and remained a 'single front' war, effective control of the British Empire would have opened the Soviet Union to invasion from the south as well as the west, in behind the flank of any defense or offensive strike in the west, and much closer to resource targets, centers of oil and minerals.

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Response to The Magistrate (Reply #2)

Thu Mar 22, 2012, 12:36 PM

16. Is that some kind of Eastern thing?

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Response to Boojatta (Original post)

Thu Mar 22, 2012, 11:50 AM

3. Part of the reason Germany advanced so far so fast

when they invaded Russia was that Russia was in an offensive posture. Stalin was so affected by being sneak attacked before his own sneak attack was ready that he went into an almost catatonic depression for the first week.

Germany and Russia were going to war in the early 1940s and most likely nothing could have stopped it.

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Response to cthulu2016 (Reply #3)

Thu Mar 22, 2012, 12:17 PM

8. Soviet Russia, Sir, Was In Nothing Remotely Resembling An Offensive Posture In The Summer Of '41

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Response to The Magistrate (Reply #8)

Thu Mar 22, 2012, 02:00 PM

40. But it is true that Soviet military doctrine was offensive in nature

 

That's definitely in the David Murphy book mentioned elsewhere in this thread. Soviet battle plans called for an invasion to be halted at the borders and the war to be carried beyond Soviet territory immediately. An organized 'space for time' plan of retreat would have served them well, but they didn't really have one. One amazing thing about the Soviet war effort in WWII was that the massive movement of industrial equipment away from the Germans as they advanced in 1941 had not been planned for at all. They did it all completely on the fly.

There were even Soviet commanders who argued that the Red Army should strike preemptively as the Germans were building up their forces in the East.

It makes sense in the context of Russian history. One the ironies is that plenty of people (not saying you here) somehow believe the world's largest country is a perennial victim and target of invasion. In fact Russia has been one of the most successfully expansionist powers in all of human history. Up until the Crimean War in the 1850s, Russia was riding high on about 200 years of near constant military success.

Even the notion that that the Russians tricked Napoleon by allowing him to advance too far into Russia isn't entirely correct. They actually wanted a big battle early, but had trouble coordinating everything and getting enough troops in the right spot at the right time. That's one reason it took until September for Borodino to happen. I'm not saying the Russians haven't used space to their advantage, but it generally hasn't been 'Plan A.'

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Response to RZM (Reply #40)

Thu Mar 22, 2012, 02:07 PM

41. Everyone's was, Sir, and Just About Always has Been

Military thinkers generally favor offense over defense, and when admitting defense is necessary, try to convert it into offense as quickly as possible. They do this even in periods where the defense has an obvious tactical ascendancy.

The actual dispositions of the Red Army at the time in question, however, were not such that an offensive could have been launched on short notice, or even several weeks notice.

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Response to The Magistrate (Reply #41)

Thu Mar 22, 2012, 02:14 PM

43. Of course 'posture' and 'doctrine' aren't the same thing

 

It is true that offensive doctrines are common, because everyone wants and expects to win the war.

Offensives can rarely be launched on short notice. I believe that was one reason why Rumsfeld argued (unsuccessfully) for a 'leaner, meaner' military in the wake of 9/11. From what I have read he was angry it took so long to even get special forces into Afghanistan right after the attacks.

It's hard enough to do that now, it was even harder to do so in the 1940s. Besides, Stalin was very worried about being seen as provoking Hitler, so he never would have considered ordering preparations for an offensive maneuver, doctrine be damned. Soviet forces didn't even go on full alert until less than 24 hours before the invasion. He basically got the worst of both worlds - a large number of troops and equipment sitting near the border, but unable to prevent the massive battles of encirclement that followed.

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Response to RZM (Reply #43)

Thu Mar 22, 2012, 02:20 PM

45. Von Moeltke The Elder, Sir, Was One Of the Few To Riddle the Matter Properly In the Modern Era

His formulae that the wisest course was to take up positions of such offensive potential that the enemy was obliged to attack them was the wisest means of properly exploiting the equipment available up to the present day.

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Response to RZM (Reply #40)

Thu Mar 22, 2012, 02:56 PM

52. I have read...

That Russian forces were very forward/border leaning at a time when militray doctrine suggested (accurately, as it turned out) that that was senseless for a nation digging in against the eventual German invasion. Had Russia had no intention of striking Germany first they would have a much better defensive position.

After breaking through (and hopping over) the border-bunched forces Germany had a free run for some time.

One can say that the poor disposition of Russian resources for defense was due to their being in a posture better suited to invasion than defense, or was poor because the Russians were terrible at these things.

Either is entirely possible, though I think it was a mix rather than one or the other.

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Response to The Magistrate (Reply #8)

Thu Mar 22, 2012, 02:46 PM

51. As you wish

I cannot claim any first hand knowledge so we are talking about thing's we have read.

The most recent respected tactical and diplomatic history of the war in Europe I've read suggests otherwise.

As with all information, it is only as good as it is.

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Response to Boojatta (Original post)

Thu Mar 22, 2012, 11:54 AM

4. Probably, at least until the Soviets saw an advantage in stabbing Hitler in the back.

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Response to Boojatta (Original post)

Thu Mar 22, 2012, 12:10 PM

6. probably not, based on what I've read

I think the Russians were very surprised by the double-cross at the bridge, but their pact seems to have been a marriage of convenience.

Here's another question: would Hitler have won the war in Europe had he not attacked the Soviet Union? I don't know, but it's a real possibility.

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Response to DisgustipatedinCA (Reply #6)

Thu Mar 22, 2012, 12:18 PM

9. Nazi Germany would have won the war and conquered Europe

rather handily if two things had happened:

1. The German General Staff and field commanders had been in control of strategy and tactics; and

2. The immense manpower used to implement the Holocaust had been available to the regular German armed forces.

Hitler being Hitler foreclosed either possibility. But as far as the regular German armed forces (in which I do not include the SS) are concerned, they were probably the greatest and most formidable army since the heyday of the Roman legions.

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Response to DisgustipatedinCA (Reply #6)

Thu Mar 22, 2012, 12:37 PM

17. Stalin wasn't surprised that Hitler invaded, he was surprised that he did so in 1941

 

With Britain still at his back. Stalin knew that an invasion was a real possibility, but he didn't believe Hitler would be so foolish to do it in 1941.

This is because Stalin didn't grasp how different he and Hitler were. Stalin was not a gambler. He was actually pretty careful. This is why he didn't take strong action during the months where the Germans were building up their forces in the East for the invasion of the USSR. He head great intelligence, including sources in the German military who said that an invasion was coming. Plus the British were feeding him similar information. But he didn't want to take the chance of getting involved - so German recon flights weren't always shot at. There was even a rule that no bullets fired by Soviet soldiers could land over the border, for fear of being viewed as a provocation. That and he was suspicious of the intelligence, fearing it was disinformation and bluffing from the Germans or a British plot to get him to come in when he didn't have to. There was also the belief that the buildup might be a means of the Germans trying to intimidate the Soviets into concessions.

But Hitler was a gambler. He was willing to risk it all on one shot. And Stalin failed to understand that until it was too late.

As for the second question, it's really kind of a moot point. The invasion of the USSR was the whole point of the war. The war in the West was basically an annoying distraction for Hitler. It's purpose was to secure their flanks for the main campaign in the East. Yes, the Nazis would have probably survived had they not invaded the USSR, but taking the invasion of the USSR out of the equation basically renders the rest of the war pointless, since it was all a buildup to the war in the East.

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Response to RZM (Reply #17)

Thu Mar 22, 2012, 12:43 PM

20. Well Put, Sir

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Response to RZM (Reply #17)

Thu Mar 22, 2012, 02:32 PM

48. Yes

I doubt the Russian invasion westward was more than a few months off when Hitler jumped the gun, which was the right tactical move, though in a losing game.

One of the trickier things for Americans to understand (not you, of course, I am saying this for general readers) is that World War II was the war between Germany and Russia and another war between the US and Japan, and that everything in Europe was a facet or the real war... that Hitler conquered France and neutralized Britain primarily to make the invasion of Russia possible.

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Response to cthulu2016 (Reply #48)

Thu Mar 22, 2012, 02:42 PM

49. I remember reading once

 

That Franco considered the war to be two separate wars. A war for control of the Pacific between the US and Japan, and a war of Western culture against Bolshevism. He didn't care much about the first and if he had to pick a side, would probably lean toward the US. But on the second, only one side was acceptable, hence the Spanish 'Blue Division' of volunteers who fought in the USSR.

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Response to Boojatta (Original post)

Thu Mar 22, 2012, 12:20 PM

10. The great battle was always going to be between Facism and Communism

That had been the case in Germany during the '20s and early '30s.

Hitler had essentially won the war in the Western Europe -- only the UK was still in action and they were isolated by the English Channel and had been extensively bombed.

So the timing of the invasion of the USSR was probably about as good as it was going to get. If Hitler had waited much longer, he would have faced a more prepared Stalin.

As it was, it almost suceeded. The conflict between Germany and Russia was the main event in WW II, with Stalingrad, the Kursk slient, and other battles on that front constituting the turning points of the war. North Africa and Italy were strictly side shows.

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Response to Boojatta (Original post)

Thu Mar 22, 2012, 12:24 PM

11. If there had been no Soviet Union, would the U.S. have saved & imported so many Nazi war criminals?

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Response to WinkyDink (Reply #11)

Thu Mar 22, 2012, 12:38 PM

18. Never. The OSS scooped up so many top Nazis

and imported them to the US that it beggars the imagination. Which explains a lot of things that happened from about 1949 on regarding US foreign policy.

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Response to Boojatta (Original post)

Thu Mar 22, 2012, 12:27 PM

12. Stalin knew that the pact wouldn't last forever

 

He didn't trust Hitler one bit. He believed that sooner or later the USSR would be drawn into the war.

But in the summer of 1939, from Stalin's perspective, the pact was the best option. The Western powers weren't really offering a very good deal. They refused to promise Stalin any territory - all they were offering was getting involved in a capitalist war on the ground floor. Not too appealing.

The Nazis, OTOH, were offering a chance to stay out of the war while the capitalists beat up on each other (few in 1939 expected France would be out of the war by mid-1940). Plus they were offering territory too - the Baltics and eastern Poland, most of which had been part of the Russian Empire before WWI.

Would Stalin have broken the pact? Probably, especially if the Allies had sufficiently weakened the Nazis to the point where a Soviet intervention stood a chance of success with relatively little effort and losses. But he wouldn't have done so against a strong Germany that had the upper hand during the war. He knew full well that the USSR was Hitler's ultimate goal, but the pact also offered advantages in that respect too, because it gave the Soviets time to prepare for the showdown with Hitler while Hitler had his hands full int he West (again, the quick fall of France in 1940 wasn't part of his initial calculations).

In Georgi Dmitrov's diary, he records Stalin in Sept. 1939 arguing that the Soviets should support one side until they had the upper hand and then turn around and support the other. I believe his ideal situation was for the two sides to weaken each other to the point where the Soviets could take advantage of the situation as they saw fit.



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Response to RZM (Reply #12)

Thu Mar 22, 2012, 12:47 PM

22. Stalin did indeed trust Hitler

Bizarrely, while Stalin executed everyone around him who actually was loyal to him, the one person in the world he trusted turned out to be Adolf Hitler. Stalin was so stunned by Hitler's backstab that he secluded himself for at least a month, before emerging from his hole to organize a Soviet defense.

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Response to brentspeak (Reply #22)

Thu Mar 22, 2012, 12:56 PM

25. That is completely false

 

Stalin was well aware of Hitler's intentions. The goal to destroy the USSR and take its best territory had NEVER been secret. Hitler said just that in 'Mein Kampf' back in the 1920s. This was why the Soviets radically shifted course after he came to power and in 1934 and tried to promote the idea of 'Collective Security' with the West to contain Hitler. Before that, they didn't really distinguish much between the capitalists and even judged Britain and France to be the worst and most dangerous powers, since they were the much stronger than Germany. During the 1920s Britain was basically public enemy number one. They had done the most intervening during the Russian Civil War, plus they had the largest empire and London was a center of world finance. They were the definition of an evil capitalist power. The Soviets even secretly cooperated with Weimar Germany, circumventing Versailles by allowing the Germans to test forbidden weapons on Soviet territory.

When collective security turned out to be a bust, Stalin began re-examining his options. If the West wasn't serious about cooperating with him, he would make his own deal with Hitler and turn him into their problem. Hitler was willing to go along with this because he knew he had to deal with the West before he could concentrate on the East, which was the main purpose of the war. But Stalin knew all along that Hitler still wanted to invade and probably would eventually. What the pact did was give him some breathing room to prepare for the final showdown while the capitalists weakened themselves dealing with Hitler.

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Response to RZM (Reply #25)

Thu Mar 22, 2012, 01:09 PM

29. With all due respect, I think you are mistaken

It doesn't matter what Hitler made clear years ahead of time concerning his intentions re. the Soviet Union; all that matters is what Stalin believed at the time of Hitler:



https://www.cia.gov/library/center-for-the-study-of-intelligence/csi-publications/csi-studies/studies/vol50no1/9_BK_What_Stalin_Knew.htm

What Stalin Knew: The Enigma of Barbarossa
Intelligence in Recent Public Literature

By David E. Murphy. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2005. 310 pages.

Reviewed by Donald P. Steury

(snip)

Stalin’s corresponding blindness to all this is more problematic. Hitler’s foreign policy aims were well known, and it is difficult to comprehend how any national leader could do so little to anticipate the onslaught that everyone knew must come. Stalin’s thinking in this regard has been the subject of a longstanding historical debate, not yet resolved—and perhaps not capable of resolution, for the fundamental issue is not what Stalin did or said, but what he believed.

In something of a surprise, Murphy reprints two secret letters from Hitler to Stalin that he found in the published Russian sources, hitherto unknown in the West. In these, the Führer seeks to reassure the Soviet dictator about the scarcely concealable German military buildup in eastern Europe. Hitler confides to Stalin that troops were being moved east to protect them from British bombing and to conceal the preparations for the invasion of the British Isles. He concludes with an assurance “on my honor as a head of state” that Germany would not attack the Soviet Union. Some may question the authenticity of these letters, but they are difficult to dismiss out of hand. Assuming they are genuine, they add to what is perhaps the most bewildering paradox of the Soviet-German war: Stalin, the man who trusted no one, trusted Hitler....

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Response to brentspeak (Reply #29)

Thu Mar 22, 2012, 01:27 PM

35. Actually

 

I've read that book and have met Murphy.

The book is mostly a detailing of what Stalin knew and when he knew it (hence the title). I don't remember Murphy actually saying what this reviewer said, though I haven't read it since it came out.

Stalin was certainly open to the possibility that the German buildup wasn't necessarily intended to be used to invade the USSR in 1941. As I said elsewhere on the thread, he thought it could have been a bluffing maneuver. One piece of disinformation the Germans sent out (I think it's in the Murphy book) was that Hitler wasn't fully in control of the German armed forces and that it was actually his generals that were itching to invade the USSR and Hitler might not be able to stop them.

But it's pretty hard to argue that Stalin believed a man who had openly stated over and over that he wanted to destroy the Soviet Union wasn't eventually going to try to do so. Stalin knew that the USSR would eventually be in the war, it was just a question of when. That was one of the main reasons for the 'Winter War' with Finland. Stalin had browbeaten the Baltic states into allowing Soviet bases and he believed that he could do the same with Finland. The goal was to enhance Soviet defense capabilities in the event of the USSR being drawn into the war. Despite high losses, the Soviets did defeat the Finns. But instead of conquering the whole country, they were content to take the territory they wanted for defense purposes and cut the Finns loose.

Stalin definitely did not trust Hitler. What he believed was that he could trust Hitler not to invade in 1941. That was a fairly reasonable assumption, since the Germans would be at a disadvantage fighting the Brits and the Soviets at the same time. He didnt' think Hitler would hold off out of friendship or loyalty to the pact, he thought he would hold off because it would be a mistake to invade the Soviet Union that year. What he failed to grasp was that he didn't understand Hitler nearly as well as he thought he did. That's not the same thing as trusting him.

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Response to RZM (Reply #35)

Thu Mar 22, 2012, 01:45 PM

38. Are we so sure that Stalin expected to be fighting Nazi Germany?

Stalin was as much a Tsarist as he was Communist; he viewed conquering Finland and a portion of Poland and annexing other parts of Eastern Europe as simply reacquiring old Tsarist territory under the cover of a world war.

As far as Stalin and Hitler: Even after Hitler moved swiftly to publicly improve ties with Finland following the conclusion of the Winter War in 1940, Stalin still refused to accept as legitimate his own intelligence agents' remarkably accurate information concerning a pending 1941 German invasion of the Soviet Union. It's not inconceivable that Stalin had permanent blinders on regarding Hitler's true intentions.

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Response to brentspeak (Reply #38)

Thu Mar 22, 2012, 02:07 PM

42. He did envision a possible confrontation with the West

 

Most Soviet war scenarios drawn up in the 1920s of course anticipated this type of conflict (but that was before Hitler).

Even after Barbarossa the Soviets maintained a large force of crack troops in the south, which presumably had been there for possible use against the British had they gotten too close in the Middle East. These troops were eventually used in the joint Anglo-Soviet invasion of Iran in August 1941, at the same time that whole Soviet army groups were being cut to ribbons in the western portions of the USSR.

'Blinders' makes sense, but again, that's not exactly trust. He was blind to Hitler making a foolish gamble, precisely because Stalin would never have done such a thing. It's a common mistake in intelligence. It's not about what you would do, it's about what the other guy would do, because in the end, it's not about you.

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Response to brentspeak (Reply #22)

Thu Mar 22, 2012, 01:26 PM

34. Trust Is Not Quite The Right Word, Sir, Certainly Not In the Sense Of having Faith In His Word

By Stalin's judgement of the whole situation, it was very much in Hitler's own interest to keep the Pact intact in the summer of '41. It could be said, therefore, that Stalin 'trusted' Hitler to calculate his own advantage correctly, and look to it, but hardly that he 'trusted' Hitler in any personal sense.

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Response to Boojatta (Original post)

Thu Mar 22, 2012, 12:30 PM

13. Probably. However, was the alliance really secret?

Both nations were on a path to conquering nations and creating empires. As long as Hitler was on the same page as Stalin, Stalin would have pushed his agenda on with Hitler as an ally. However, Stalin, as evil as he was, was pragmatic and Hitler was a crazy person and it seems a drug addict. We are witnessing elements of the Fourth Reich rising today in America. It makes me sad because I lived through much of those times and am looking at an America I don't even recognize as my country anymore at times. All the principles that were the foundation of this country have been marginalized and pushed into corners and underground and made fun of or derided by the people running things today.

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Response to Boojatta (Original post)

Thu Mar 22, 2012, 12:48 PM

24. Michael Parenti said USSR was forced into the non-aggression pact with Germany...

Alone among the nations that would later be allies, the USSR had asked the Western powers for help in opposing the rapidly re-arming Germany in the 1930s. It appears now that the pact was Soviet Russia's way of ensuring peace with Hitler.



THE COLD WAR IS AN OLD WAR

by Michael Parenti
from Contrary Notions (2007)

EXCERPT...

Repeated overtures by Moscow to conclude collective-security pacts with the Western democracies in order to contain Axis aggression were rebuffed, including Soviet attempts to render armed assistance to Czechoslovakia. Frustrated in its attempts to form an anti-Nazi alliance, and believing (correctly) that it was being set up as a target for Nazi aggression, the USSR signed an eleventh-hour nonaggression treaty with Hitler in 1939 to divert any immediate attack by German forces.

To this day, the Hitler-Stalin pact is paraded as proof of the USSR's diabolic affinity for Nazism and its willingness to cooper­ate with Hitler in the dismemberment of Poland. Conservative news columnist George Will was only one of many when he mis­takenly described the Soviet Union as a regime that was "once allied with Hitler."44 The Soviets were never allied with Hitler. The pact was a treaty, not an alliance. It no more denoted an alliance with Nazism than would a nonaggression treaty between the United States and the Soviets have denoted an alliance between the two. On this point, British historian A. J. P. Taylor is worth quoting:

It was no doubt disgraceful that Soviet Russia should make any agreement with the leading Fascist state; but this reproach came ill from the statesmen who went to Munich .... (The Hitler-Stalin) pact contained none of the fulsome expressions of friendship which Chamberlain had put into the Anglo-German declaration on the day after the Munich conference. Indeed Stalin rejected any such expressions: "the Soviet Government could not sud­denly present to the public German-Soviet assurances of friendship after (we) had been covered with buckets of filth by the Nazi Government for six years.

The pact was neither an alliance nor an agreement for the partition of Poland. Munich had been a true alliance for partition: the British and French dictated partition to the Czechs. The Soviet government undertook no such action against the Poles. They merely promised to remain neutral, which is what the Poles had always asked them to do and which Western policy implied also. More than this, the agreement was in the last resort anti-German: it limited the German advance eastwards in case of war. . . . (With the pact, the Soviets hoped to ward) off what they had most dreaded—a united capitalist attack on Soviet Russia. ... It is difficult to see what other course Soviet Russia could have followed.45


CONTINUED...

http://www.skeptic.ca/Parenti_Cold_War.htm



Gee. What class of individual'd want to make money off of war?

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Response to Octafish (Reply #24)

Thu Mar 22, 2012, 01:07 PM

27. Just A Friendly Note, Sir

While there is something to the line Mr. Parenti presses here, he pushes it a bit too far, and Mr. Taylor, while certainly an important historian is something of an imp in his writings on the strategy and diplomacy of the period. His characterizations are often deliberate attempts at shocking his fellows and readers.

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Response to Octafish (Reply #24)

Thu Mar 22, 2012, 01:09 PM

28. Stalin offered to join the Axis in November 1940

 

The terms mostly centered around economic claims and interests, as well as permitting Soviet bases in Bulgaria (essentially giving the Soviets entree into the Balkans, which the Germans weren't interested in). I kind of doubt Stalin thought the Germans would accept it and in fact they never issued a formal reply. But the offer was made.

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Response to Boojatta (Original post)

Thu Mar 22, 2012, 01:17 PM

31. What if Britain and France had not declared war on Germany after the invasion of Poland?

There was not much action during the Phony War period until May 1940. Then Germany became preoccupied by invading France and the Battle of Britain, as well as other countries and colonial wars.

Had Britain and France not declared war, Hitler may have chosen to invade the USSR in the late spring of 1940 instead of waiting until June 22, 1941.

At that time Germany may have been able to quickly knock the USSR out of the war, which is what happened in WW I.

Subsequently, if the Anglo French buildup in France had continued, the UK and France may have been able to beat Germany in 1942 in the west.

This would have removed both the Facist and Communist threats early in the 20th century and led to a very different world probably still dominated by the British Empire.

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Response to FarCenter (Reply #31)

Thu Mar 22, 2012, 01:42 PM

37. It was Hitler's annexation of Bohemia and Moravia in 1939

 

That finally turned the West fully against him. The Sudetenland deal was supposed to be the end of it, but by taking the rest of the Czech lands (and transforming Slovakia into a puppet 'protectorate') the West could no longer deny that Hitler was dangerous and entirely untrustworthy. That was the point where the said 'no mas.'

Though the way the British went about guaranteeing Poland was really a colossal blunder. They fully guaranteed Poland (and Romania) against German aggression after the Germans took Czechoslovakia and the French went along with this. What they failed to consider was that this guarantee was essentially a guarantee of Soviet security as well. Since you have to go through Poland to get to the USSR, a Western guarantee of Poland meant that Hitler would face automatic war against both Britain and France if he even thought about moving towards the USSR. Thus Stalin got a de facto security guarantee from the West without having to give a single thing in return. This helped set the stage for the Nazi-Soviet pact. In the run up to the pact, all the West was really offering was getting in on the war, but what's the point of that when they are going to fight Hitler anyway without the USSR? It was far better to see what he could get from Hitler instead.

And the Germans did not knock out the Russian quickly in WWI - it took years. They made large gains in 1915, but the Russians kept fighting. In fact, the Russians nearly broke the back of the Austrian army in the Brusilov Offense in the summer of 1916. The Germans were forced to move troops that were badly needed in the West to shore up the Austrian position. And it wasn't even the Russian army that first cracked in 1917, it was actually the Russian rear. The war in the East wasn't fully concluded until March 1918, only 8 months before the war in the West ended.

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Response to RZM (Reply #37)

Thu Mar 22, 2012, 03:54 PM

61. The Tsar abdicated in March 1917, so the Eastern Front was pretty much over by then

There was widespread fignting in Eastern Europe after that into the early '20s, but it was more a combination of civil war and ethnic conflicts.

So World War 1 in the east really lasted from August 1914 to late fall 1916 in terms of organized Great Power combat.

Had Germany overrun Poland in '39 and attacked Russia with full force in 1940, it would likely have forced Russia out of the war early.

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Response to FarCenter (Reply #61)

Thu Mar 22, 2012, 04:05 PM

63. Russian troops were still fighting when the February Revolution happened

 

Though after that the army did start to disintegrate. Kerensky ordered an offense in the summer of 1917 and it went nowhere. After that, the Russian army basically ceased to be a real fighting force.

But that didn't meant the Germans could just pull all of their troops out then and there. They still had a large force there into 1918, partly as a means of ensuring they got the peace deal they wanted. When the Bolsheviks initially waffled over the harsh terms of Brest-Litovsk, the Germans resumed their advance and met very little resistance. it was only after the peace deal was signed that they could declare the front closed for good.

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Response to Boojatta (Original post)

Thu Mar 22, 2012, 01:40 PM

36. I've truly enjoyed reading this thread. Thank you!!

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Response to Boojatta (Original post)

Thu Mar 22, 2012, 03:59 PM

62. Hitler needed the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact to stab Stalin in the back

If Stalin had read "Mein Kauf", he would have known the he was sitting on top of Hitler's "lebensraum".

World War II started as a war of Germany attacking its east.

It's funny that we forget that the war was already in place when our actual involvement of troops began.

Everything isn't always about us.

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