The Chief Culprit: Stalin’s Grand Design to Start World War II, by Viktor Suvorov
The standard, accepted story of World War II, especially for those in the west, goes as follows: Hitler wanted to take over the world; Japan committed an unprovoked and despicable act by bombing the US at Pearl Harbor. The United States, minding its own business until the day that will live in infamy, was forced into war against all efforts of Roosevelt to the contrary. The United States then saved the world from Nazi and Japanese tyranny, and then altruistically aided in the rebuilding efforts of former enemies.
It is a fantasy that lies behind the emotion shed at sporting event during the singing of the national anthem and the flyover of military jets; it undergirds countless July 4, veterans day, and memorial day parades. It was the good war.
Over the years, I have worked to shed myself of this dream. Much of that work is buried in dozens of posts in this blog. One of the more complete, summary examples is here. Most of my effort has been focused on the perspective of the west generally – the culpability of Britain, France, and the United States in the century of war. Of course, there is much culpability to share amongst actors employed by these three states.
There are, of course, other viewpoints. Perhaps the first one I looked into was one from Germany, through a book by Gerd Schultze-Rhonhof, “1939 – The War That Had Many Fathers.” I have written several posts on this topic; for those unfamiliar with this work and interested in the perspective, I offer my introductory post to this work.
So, now on to Suvorov. His perspective is from the view of the Soviets and Stalin. I will likely write several posts on this book and this topic; I will also use details from this book to update my running “Timeline to War.” However, for now, I will offer the summary version of this book (in this summary, I will not go into detail from the book; I will develop this in subsequent posts).
Suvorov suggests that Stalin’s objective was conquest for the sake of expanding communism. In this, Stalin followed a very cohesive strategy; ultimately, he achieved partial success, but not to the extent desired.
Stalin Prepares for War
During the 1930s, the Soviet Union produced the most advanced weaponry and military in the world. This included heavy tanks and bombers – weapons scarcely (if at all) available in Germany at the time, for example. Much of the focus was in producing weaponry and strategies for offense – defense was not contemplated as Stalin’s plan was to mop-up all of Europe after the western powers pummeled each other for a time.
Stalin Baits Hitler
Stalin required that governments in the west fight each other as prelude to his conquest. He felt his best avenue was through instigating the Germans and Hitler. Stalin took two paths: 1) he provided certain military technologies to the Germans during the time that such were prohibited due to the terms of Versailles, and 2) he urged Hitler to agree to the Molotov- Ribbentrob treaty regarding the division of Poland – thus ensuring that Britain and France would be drawn into war. This, of course, occurred shortly after Germany invaded Poland (Stalin ensuring that Hitler went first).
The Soviet Union Invades Finland
Many point to the difficulties of this Soviet invasion of Finland as evidence of the lack of capability of the Soviet military; on the contrary, given the winter conditions and the elaborate defenses established, it was one of the most impressive offensive showings of the war. Stalin demonstrated that he would pay any price to achieve his objectives.
Stalin Prepares for Attack
While still under treaty with Germany and after the partition of Poland and various other regions between Germany and Russia, Stalin positions the bulk of his military hardware and forces on the new borders in the west. This positioning is offensive, not defensive – Stalin is preparing to attack after Britain and Germany have been in active combat for an extended period.
Hitler Fears for Romanian Oil
Due to various advancements of the Soviet military and other political actions, Stalin has control over certain regions of Romania. Hitler is concerned regarding continued access to Romanian oil – a major source for the German military. Hitler concludes that he must attack Russia in an attempt to protect access.
Stalin Caught by Surprise
As mentioned, Stalin by this time was preparing his own attack – the Germans, French, and British have softened each other up substantially. Stalin knew that Hitler knew that a successful attack by the Germans against the Russians was impossible; Stalin therefore believed that Hitler would not attempt such folly. Stalin did not adequately consider Hitler’s desperation regarding oil.
Hitler attacked while Stalin, not quite ready for his own surprise attack, was still bringing weaponry and troops to the border. The offensive firepower was overwhelming: there was no Soviet preparation for defense; there were no secondary lines. It wasn’t due to poor Soviet defenses, but the fact that there were purposely no Soviet defenses.
For these reasons, the Germans went quickly through the Soviet lines. By the thousands, tanks, airplanes and ammunition were destroyed in place; and military personnel killed and wounded. Further countless tons of weaponry, ammunition, and personnel were captured by the Germans, providing for additional capability in the coming weeks.
Stalin’s Objectives Thwarted
Certainly, the only state to gain substantial territory as a result of the Second World War was the Soviet Union – and more broadly, the communists (when considering Asia as well). In this regard, Stalin was the sole “victor” of any of the combatants.
However, on the day of the German attack, Stalin knew his objective of conquering all of Europe and eventually bringing the entire world into war as required for global revolution was no longer in reach – too much of his military capability was destroyed or taken by the Germans, and no longer could a surprise attack be possible.
As mentioned, I intend to provide a more thorough review through several posts – perhaps following the outline above. I also will consider this narrative in the context of actions taken by Churchill and Roosevelt – that they (especially Roosevelt) sided with Stalin in this conflict (as opposed to Hitler, or preferably neither side) was already a curious decision; in light of the evidence presented in this book – the substance of which could not have been totally lost to US and British intelligence at the time – the choice is even more astonishing.
Stalin’s objectives were to spread communism. When it came to military might at the start of the war, the Soviets were far more capable of projecting power over distance than were the Germans. When it came to murderous regimes, again Stalin had Hitler beat at the start of the war by perhaps 1000 to 1.
The pact to divide Poland was between the Germans and the Soviets, yet Britain and France declared war on only the Germans. No action was taken against the Soviets even for the invasion of Finland.
Communists were present throughout the Roosevelt administration. This fact was apparent to outsiders at the time – it could not have been lost on Roosevelt.
Did Britain (and ultimately the United States) choose Stalin so as to prevent the Soviets attacking the west once done with Germany? Or did they look to increase the spread of communism for whatever reasons?
Toward the stated objective, to combat tyranny, certainly Russia was a greater global threat than were the Germans – so the answer doesn’t lie here.
I have no further conclusions at the moment beyond what I have previously written on these speculations. This is one reason I am developing the above-mentioned timeline. Perhaps through it, there will someday come more clues.