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First Strike-Germany or Russia?

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  • First Strike-Germany or Russia?

    I have found an interesting book by Albert Weeks (the author of the excellent work on Lend-Lease to Russia/Soviet Union in War II) entitled Stalin’s Other War: Soviet Grand Strategy, 1939-1941. It was published ten years ago (2002) and consulted not only Russian archival material newly available, but Russian historians on War II.

    The Preface begins: ‘The animus to write a book about such a controversial issue as Stalin’s war plans 1939-1941 arose as Russian archival information on the problem has become increasingly available since the middle and late 1990s. Historians, like me, are learning more than earlier about Stalin’s and the Red Army’s actions on the eve of the German attack against the USSR on June 22, 1941. The disclosures in some cases throw into question the conclusions drawn in the past by former-Soviet as well as foreign historians. These interpretations formed a historiographic consensus that now must be reexamined in the light of new evidence.’

    I brought the subject up briefly in the Stalin threads, which drew vehement condemnation from the local membership of the Stalin Society, so when I found this very interesting volume, I thought that bringing up the topic once again with some of the evidence from the book, it might be interesting to discuss. I also highly recommend the two books by Weeks, who is an acknowledged ‘Soviet expert.’

    Here are some of the excerpts from the book:

    ‘The historians’ research conducted in the early 1990s constituted the first step in reviewing the official views of the events on the eve of the war. [Since the mid-1990s] researchers now have access to documents that were once kept secret [that] now demand new conceptions about the participation of the Soviet Union in the events of 1939-1941, a more objective depiction of our country’s history during the period of World War II. [Using the new documents] it is necessary to analyze the diplomatic activity of the Soviet leadership in the 1920s and from 1939-1941, to canvas its views toward the advent of the European war [in September 1939], the military preparations undertaken by the USSR as well as the contents of Soviet propaganda.’-Russian historian MikhailI. Mel’tyukhov (viii)
    ‘Stalin was informed by agents in Tokyo of plans for the Japanese Pearl Harbor attack of December 7, 1941, but kept this information from the Americans, despite British and American Lend-Lease aid that had already begun to be shipped to the Soviets almost immediately after the German attack of June 22, 1941. Stalin still thought and spoke openly in this way at the end of World War II and up to the time he died in 1953.’ (9).

    ‘Present day Soviet leaders have determined upon a program pointed towards imposing Communism on those countries under their control and, elsewhere, creating conditions favorable to the triumph of Communism in a war against Capitalism which they consider to be inevitable…The growth of Moscow-controlled Communist parties throughout the world gives ample evidence that the international objectives has never been neglected. World War II has resulted in long strides along the path that the Soviet leadership has chosen.’-General John R. Deane (12).

    ‘Stalin needed the Second World War no less than Hitler. Stalin not only helped Hitler initiate it [in Poland], he entertained the same goal as did Hitler: seizure of power in Europe as well as the immediate aim of destroying Poland. Stalin calculated that the war, started by Germany, would lead to the downfall of the European order. Meantime, he would remain out of the [war] for a time entering the war at the most opportune moment. [Stalin’s plans] were not only to conquer eastern Europe but to help bring about a communist revolution in France by going at very least as far as the English Channel.’-VL Doroshenko, taken from Stalin’s remarks in a secret meeting of the Politburo, 19 August 1939 (the text of the remarks is in appendix three of Week’s book)

    ‘Whoever occupies a territory also imposes on it his own social system. Everyone imposes his own system as far as his army has power to do so. It cannot be otherwise.’-Josef Stalin (27).

    According to a staff study of the US Senate in 1959, the USSR ‘had broken its word to virtually every country to which it ever gave a signed promise. It signed treaties of nonaggression with neighboring countries then absorbed those states. It signed promises to refrain from revolutionary activities inside the countries with which it sought ‘friendship.’ [One may] seriously doubt whether during the whole history of civilization any great nation has ever made as perfidious a record as this in so short a time.’(36).

    ‘The Molotov-Ribbentrop pact set up a vicious partnership between Stalin and Hitler. It gave the two dictators a free hand in determining the destinies of other peoples, allowing them to occupy other countries’ territories…The Soviet mass media in those days not only persuaded our people that the occupation of foreign territories by the Soviet Union was necessary and just, but excused the combat actions of Hitler’s Germany against democratic nations, depicting [these actions] as defending the German people against aggression. Thus is the nature of propaganda. At the same time, the USSR was supplying Germany with many things necessary for aggression against her neighbors…Hypocritically smiling at each other and keeping up false pretenses, each had diabolical ideas relative to each other. Hitler was preparing for ‘Operation Barbarossa,’ the invasion of the Soviet Union, and Stalin was preparing a preventive strike at Germany.’-General Oleg Sarin and Colonel Lev Dvoretsky, two former senior Red Army officers (91).

    ‘The tragic start of the war [on June 22, 1941] for the Red Army is one of the most ‘encrypted pages in our history.’-Pavel N. Bobylev (149).

    ‘The [Red Army] term ‘active defense…need not cause any confusion. It signifies a combination of both defensive and offensive operations…Since [in archive documents] it is clear the Red Army would be the initiator of military actions, this term, above all, conceals the fact of the Red Army’s plans to conduct offensive operations aimed at pinning down the enemy.’-MI Mel’tyukhov (149).

    ‘In order to prevent this from happening while destroying the German army, I consider it necessary that in no way should we yield the initiative to the German command. We should preempt the enemy by deploying and attacking the German Army at the very moment when it has reached the stage of deploying but has not yet organized itself into a front or concentrated all units of its armed forces along the front…An extract from the 15 May 1941 Memorandum from the Chief of the General Staff of the Red Army to Stalin (169).

    Sincerely,
    M
    We are not now that strength which in old days
    Moved earth and heaven; that which we are we are; One equal temper of heroic hearts
    Made weak by time and fate but strong in will
    To strive to seek to find and not to yield.

  • #2
    There are dozens of reasons that this does happen Stalin is not striking in 41 I wikl e,plain why later but im on my phone

    Comment


    • #3
      The point of the exercise is that it is now believed that he planned on attacking Hitler first, and that Hitler beat him to it.

      Sincerely,
      M
      We are not now that strength which in old days
      Moved earth and heaven; that which we are we are; One equal temper of heroic hearts
      Made weak by time and fate but strong in will
      To strive to seek to find and not to yield.

      Comment


      • #4
        The theory of a German preemptive strike on Russia has been shot down repeatedly by most scholars, regardless of what "evidence" crops up.

        I personally don't think that Stalin was as far-sighted as some make him out to be, or Hitler, for that matter.

        Comment


        • #5
          My wish

          I just wish Comrade Stalin should have attack across the plains of Poland in May 1940; this would have given them the entire continent in one fell swoop.

          EVERY German tank was on the Western Front, with barely any real defense in depth established in the newly conquered territory of Poland.
          Kevin Kenneally
          Masters from a school of "hard knocks"
          Member of a Ph.D. Society (Post hole. Digger)

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by Kevin Kenneally View Post
            I just wish Comrade Stalin should have attack across the plains of Poland in May 1940; this would have given them the entire continent in one fell swoop.

            EVERY German tank was on the Western Front, with barely any real defense in depth established in the newly conquered territory of Poland.
            I don't think that the Red Army was in ANY condition to do any attacking in 1940, especially considering their performance in Finland.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by Massena View Post
              The point of the exercise is that it is now believed that he planned on attacking Hitler first, and that Hitler beat him to it.

              Sincerely,
              M
              I believe John Mosier in Deathride: Hitler vs Stalin makes the claim that Hitler decided to attack the USSR after Stalin ordered the occupation of northern Bukovina, which was not part of the territory included within the sphere of influence agreed upon in the Ribbentrop-Molotov pact.

              This decision by Hitler (according to Mossier) was due to the fear of Soviet expansion into Romania which was Germany's main supplier of crude oil. Looking at it from this viewpoint it's plausible to believe that Stalin had placed Germany in a very vulnerable position from where it could extort whatever was needed from Germany. This view is supported by Heinz Magenheimer in Hitler's War. I should say Mosier supports Magenheimer.

              Anyway, the argument that Stalin was preparing to invade eastern Poland (see Chukov's Plan) sometime in July, 1941 as I believe Suvorov alledges, may have been possible if there is some supporting evidence shows Stalin contemplating such a plan. Without such evidence we can only go on the assumption that maybe Soviet military dispositions were such that an offensive in the summer was possible.
              "I think I understand what military fame is; to be killed on the field of battle and have your name misspelled in the newspapers." William Tecumseh Sherman

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Jack Torrance View Post
                I believe John Mosier in Deathride: Hitler vs Stalin makes the claim that Hitler decided to attack the USSR after Stalin ordered the occupation of northern Bukovina, which was not part of the territory included within the sphere of influence agreed upon in the Ribbentrop-Molotov pact.

                This decision by Hitler (according to Mossier) was due to the fear of Soviet expansion into Romania which was Germany's main supplier of crude oil. Looking at it from this viewpoint it's plausible to believe that Stalin had placed Germany in a very vulnerable position from where it could extort whatever was needed from Germany. This view is supported by Heinz Magenheimer in Hitler's War. I should say Mosier supports Magenheimer.

                Anyway, the argument that Stalin was preparing to invade eastern Poland (see Chukov's Plan) sometime in July, 1941 as I believe Suvorov alledges, may have been possible if there is some supporting evidence shows Stalin contemplating such a plan. Without such evidence we can only go on the assumption that maybe Soviet military dispositions were such that an offensive in the summer was possible.
                I wouldn't put too much stock in anything Mosier writes, Jack.

                In any case, Geoffrey Roberts comprehensively destroys the Suvorov/Rezun theory in Stalin’s Wars: From World War to Cold War, 1939-1953. As one reviewer noted, “Roberts offers us unparalleled expertise and insight into the Russian sources. Roberts has clearly been a veritable ‘mole’ in the Russian archives over a number of years which enables him with some authority to marshal new evidence and offer new sources that strengthen his claims.” Some snippets:

                From p.7

                In truth, far from plotting war and revolution, there was nothing that Stalin feared more than a major military conflict. War offered opportunities – and Stalin certainly took them when they came along – but also posed great dangers. While the First World War had led to the Russian Revolution of 1917, it was followed by a civil war in which the communists’ enemies almost succeeded in strangling Bolshevism at birth. Included among the Bolsheviks’ opponents in the civil war were the great capitalist powers – Britain, France and the United States – who aided anti-communist forces in Russia and imposed an economic and political blockade – a cordon sanitaire – to contain the contagion of Bolshevism. The Bolsheviks were able to survive the Russian civil War and in the 1920s to break out of international isolation, but for the next two decades they feared the revival of a grand capitalist coalition dedicated to crushing the Soviet socialist system. By the early 1940s Soviet Russia was much stronger and Stalin was confident about the Red Army’s ability to defend the socialist motherland, but the nightmare scenario of involvement in a war against a united front of hostile capitalist states still persisted. Even as radical a realignment of states as an Anglo-German alliance against Russia was not ruled out by Stalin in 1940 and 1941. For this reason, while some of Stalin’s military commanders were urging the preparation of a pre-emptive strike against Germany, the Soviet dictator himself calculated that such an action could provoke a premature war and he decided to gamble everything on the possibility of maintaining peace with Hitler.
                From p.70-71

                To say that the Soviet Union was preparing to take offensive action against Germany is not to endorse the idea that Stalin was preparing a preventative war against Hitler and intended to launch a pre-emptive strike. Stalin’s political and diplomatic manoeuvres show that he was desperate for peace in the summer 1941. Had Stalin succeeded in delaying war until 1942 it is possible that he might have decided to take the initiative and strike first, but his inclination was always to postpone war for as long as possible. He was confident of the Red Army’s military prowess but he feared the consequences of Soviet involvement in a major war, which carried with it the danger that the USSR’s capitalist foes might unite against a common, communist enemy. At the same time Stalin’s gamble on maintaining peace with Hitler in summer 1941 required the covering contingency of adequate defence being in place if his calculations proved to be wrong. His generals, however, were focused not on defence but on their own plans for attack and counterattack. There was, in practical terms, a mismatch between Stalin’s diplomatic strategy and his generals’ military strategy. Arguably, this dangerous disconnection between political strategy and operational doctrine, plans and preparations was the most important factor in the calamity that befell the Red Army on 22 June 1941.

                The source of this disconnection was the offensive-oriented military doctrines of the Red Army dating back to the 1920s. The Soviet High Command intended to fight the next war by taking the battle to the enemy, by launching attacks and counterattacks and by the deep penetration and invasion of the opponent’s territory. This policy commitment to offensive action was reinforced by interwar developments in military technology – by the increase in the power, mobility and reliability of tanks, planes and artillery – which made feasible highly mobile attacks and rapid flanking movements and the breaching of even the best-prepared defences. In Red Army doctrine, defence was definitely second best to attack, a mere phase in the preparation of offensive action….
                Discussing the “key piece of evidence for the proponents of the pre-emptive strike hypothesis,” the May 1941 war plan handwritten by Vasilevskii, Roberts writes on page 76 that the document “was a less elaborate and less formally structured version of the earlier war plans” and “as Cynthia A. Roberts has suggested, ‘less a plan than a working document for one.’” Roberts goes on to write on page 77:

                The problem with the document is twofold. First, it was deeply ambiguous about the timing of a Soviet pre-emptive strike. If the aim was to destroy German armies, the best moment to do that would be when they were not quite fully mobilized, deployed, concentrated and co-ordinated. But who could judge accurately when that would be? Second, there was no possibility that Stalin would accept the new plan while he believed there was still a chance of peace, unless he could be persuaded that Soviet defences would crumble if the Germans were to attack first – and this is no evidence that such a view was articulated within the Soviet military. It was only after the event, after the disaster of 22 June 1941, after the war, and after Stalin’s death, that senior Soviet commanders began to say that more attention should have been paid to defence and parrying a potentially devastating sudden German blow.
                Then discussing the connection between the May 1941 plan and Stalin’s May 1941 speech to the graduates of the Red Army staff academies that some also attempt to use to demonstrate a purported intent to wage pre-emptive war, Roberts writes on page 78:

                The truth, as is usually the case, was more prosaic than any of the rumours. According to the text of Stalin’s speech, which came to light in 1995, his main theme was as Pravda reported – the reform, reorganisation and re-equipment of the Red Army. However, the speech contained a number of details about the reforms and about the Red Army’s strength – not the kind of information to make public on the eve of war. Stalin also spoke critically of the German army, denying that it was as invincible as it seemed and arguing that it would not be as successful in the future as it had been in the past if it fought under the banner of aggression and conquest. Again, remarks that it would not have been politic to publish when Stalin was trying to persuade Hitler of his peaceful intentions.
                Roberts discusses Stalin’s post speech statements in which he made such comments as “There is no defence without offence. The army must be trained in a spirit of offensive action … good defence means attack. The offensive is the best defence.” Roberts explains, on page 79:

                Was this statement a call to arms, a rallying of the troops for a pre-emptive strike, a signal to the General Staff to draw up the necessary plans? It is not credible that Stalin would have signaled any such intentions in such a public setting. Besides, the statement’s pro-offence content was not that different from Stalin’s private remarks a year earlier to the command conference on the experience of the Finnish war. More credible is that Stalin wanted to impress upon his young officers the need for an attacking spirit and probably saw his casual remarks as a boost to morale, a confidence-building fillip in face of the impending war with Germany. But that is a long way from planning and preparing to provoke such a war.
                Roberts then clarifies:

                After Stalin’s speech the pace of Soviet war preparations picked up but they were not of the scale and character necessary to make a pre-emptive strike in summer 1941. In this connection some scholars have made much of the fact that on 24 May 1941 Stalin held a three-hour conference in his Kremlin office with virtually all of his top military commanders. The suggestion is that this was the meeting that decided on a pre-emptive strike against Germany, a suspicion magnified by the absence of any subsequent information about what was discussed. However, according to his appointments diary, Stalin did not meet again with Timoshenko, his defence commissar, with Zhukov, his Chief of Staff, or with any of his generals for 10 days. This was hardly behavior consistent with implementing a momentous decision to launch an attack on Germany. It is more likely the conference on 24 May was simply part of the ongoing defensive preparations for war.
                If you do a search on the boards, you'll find many threads discussing the Suvorov/Rezun theory. You'll also find that they sometimes end up getting locked. I wouldn't hold out too much hope that this thread winds up differently.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Jack Torrance View Post
                  I believe John Mosier in Deathride: Hitler vs Stalin makes the claim that Hitler decided to attack the USSR after Stalin ordered the occupation of northern Bukovina, which was not part of the territory included within the sphere of influence agreed upon in the Ribbentrop-Molotov pact.

                  This decision by Hitler (according to Mossier) was due to the fear of Soviet expansion into Romania which was Germany's main supplier of crude oil. Looking at it from this viewpoint it's plausible to believe that Stalin had placed Germany in a very vulnerable position from where it could extort whatever was needed from Germany. This view is supported by Heinz Magenheimer in Hitler's War. I should say Mosier supports Magenheimer.

                  Anyway, the argument that Stalin was preparing to invade eastern Poland (see Chukov's Plan) sometime in July, 1941 as I believe Suvorov alledges, may have been possible if there is some supporting evidence shows Stalin contemplating such a plan. Without such evidence we can only go on the assumption that maybe Soviet military dispositions were such that an offensive in the summer was possible.
                  There is no such evidence whatsoever. If there were, it would have been published by the Rezunites sometime in the last twenty years in order to substantiate their wild claims. That has not happened. On the other hand, every year new documents come to light showing how patently absurd those claims are, yet this old fairy tale (ghost story?) refuses to die.

                  Moreover, the assumption that "maybe Soviet military dispositions were were such that an offensive in the summer was possible" is patently false, given the state of the Red Army in 1940-41. I refer you to the book Прелюдия к Барбароссы (Frontline Illustrated, 2001) which includes a detailed description of Red Army equipment and capabilities on the eve of the invasion, as well as descriptions of the mobilization and subsequent combat deployment of Soviet forces in the western border regions.

                  In both cases, there have been lengthy threads covering these topics within the last year where this has been discussed in detail. You may wish to review those.

                  Regards
                  Scott Fraser
                  Ignorance is not the lack of knowledge. It is the refusal to learn.

                  A contentedly cantankerous old fart

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Thanks for the fine post, Ibis. rest assure that I'm not a proponent of any Hitler pre=emptive strike theory as a matter of fact but I will also keep an open mind to other suggestions other than the usual one that Hitler decided on attacking the USSR because it was in his genes.

                    Mosier makes some very interesting arguments as does Magneheimer and both can't be discounted in total becuase some of their claims sound so far from the accepted theory. When it comes to official records from the Soviet era there appears to be much that one has to make educated assumptions because of the lack of hard, verifiable evidence. Assumptions can be drawn that can support sides diametrically opposed to each other so one is left with what one is prepared to accept as possibly, or likely, as historically plausible.

                    Another writer that I think is not only interesting but appears to me to be a scholar is the work of Chris Bellamy. His book Absolute War: Soviet Russia in the Second World War diverges from the accepted path in many instances and, at least in my case, gives an alternative approach to looking at the war in the east. It's a good book and I'll post some examples in the days to come as I have to dig in to the books.
                    "I think I understand what military fame is; to be killed on the field of battle and have your name misspelled in the newspapers." William Tecumseh Sherman

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Scott Fraser View Post
                      There is no such evidence whatsoever. If there were, it would have been published by the Rezunites sometime in the last twenty years in order to substantiate their wild claims. That has not happened. On the other hand, every year new documents come to light showing how patently absurd those claims are, yet this old fairy tale (ghost story?) refuses to die.

                      Moreover, the assumption that "maybe Soviet military dispositions were were such that an offensive in the summer was possible" is patently false, given the state of the Red Army in 1940-41. I refer you to the book Прелюдия к Барбароссы (Frontline Illustrated, 2001) which includes a detailed description of Red Army equipment and capabilities on the eve of the invasion, as well as descriptions of the mobilization and subsequent combat deployment of Soviet forces in the western border regions.

                      In both cases, there have been lengthy threads covering these topics within the last year where this has been discussed in detail. You may wish to review those.

                      Regards
                      Scott Fraser
                      Didn't David Glantz touch on the subject of Soviet readiness in Stumbling Colosus?
                      "I think I understand what military fame is; to be killed on the field of battle and have your name misspelled in the newspapers." William Tecumseh Sherman

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        IIRC in Ericksons 'Road to Stalingrad' Zhukov presented Stalin with a pretty detailed plan for a preemtive attack, but Stalin no doubt realized the Red Army wouldn't be up to scratch until sometime before the end of '42 so put it on the back burner.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Massena View Post
                          -VL Doroshenko, taken from Stalin’s remarks in a secret meeting of the Politburo, 19 August 1939 (the text of the remarks is in appendix three of Week’s book)
                          There was no secret meeting on 19 August 1939, so-called Stalin's theses from that "meeting" is a fake generated by Georgian political emigres. If Weeks' goal was to collect all urban legends of revisionist historiography then he definitely succeeded.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Aussie View Post
                            IIRC in Ericksons 'Road to Stalingrad' Zhukov presented Stalin with a pretty detailed plan for a preemtive attack, but Stalin no doubt realized the Red Army wouldn't be up to scratch until sometime before the end of '42 so put it on the back burner.
                            Again, refer to previous threads. "Zhukov's Plan" only survives as a pencilled draft that was retrieved from Vasilevsky's safe after his death. When Stalin was informed of its existence in May 1941, Zhukov was called on the carpet before Stalin and rebuked for proposing such a radical and provocative plan, which was counter to Stalin's own policy: to avoid war with Germany at all costs. See the atricle by Mark Slonin: Stalin's Three Plans, which is online in Russian and IIRC also in English. It is linked elsewhere here in one of the lengthy threads on this topic.

                            Regards
                            Scott Fraser
                            Ignorance is not the lack of knowledge. It is the refusal to learn.

                            A contentedly cantankerous old fart

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Massena View Post
                              The point of the exercise is that it is now believed that he planned on attacking Hitler first, and that Hitler beat him to it.
                              "Believed"? By whom? People who buy "Suvorov"'s theories?
                              Michele

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