Thursday, November 09, 2006

The Soviet Union DID NOT win WW2

On one of those "Your View" comment pages that some newspaper web sites have, someone has posted a comment that "Russia won World War 2". This post modern myth is one of the things that is guaranteed to infuriate yours truly.

The evidence this person uses to back up their claim is the number of war dead suffered by The Soviet Union during the war. I'd like to try and lay this myth to rest.

The first point to make is this - the Soviet Union did not win WW2. The Allies did.

The Soviet Union was not an ally at first. In fact it was an ally of Germany initially - through the notorious Molotov/Von Ribbentrop Pact which allowed Germany free reign to invade Poland (as did The Soviet Union). It is unlikely, without this pact, that Germany would have risked attacking Poland - so you could say that The Soviet Union shared responsibility with the Nazis for starting WW2.

Furthermore, The Soviet Union went on to invade Finland - which Britain supported. I've always felt a bit sorry for Finland's history in WW2. They start out on the right side, then end up on the wrong side - just because of the treachery between Germany and The Soviet Union.

So - The Soviet Union helped start the war. Did they win it?

First of all, I doubt whether any of the Allies on their own could have defeated Germany - but let's take the main Allies in the European Theatre one by one and examine the likely outcome had they fought Germany alone.

Let's start with Britain as that is probably the most clear cut. For sometime after the fall of France, Britain stood alone against Nazi Germany and we have historical fact to draw on. We know that Hitler was actually an admirer of Britain, did not have any real desire to destroy Britain and wasn't totally convinced about the idea of invading her. The Battle Of Britain put paid to any ambitions he may have had - at least for the foreseeable future - so the most likely outcome of Britain alone against Germany was an eventual peace treaty. Europe would have remained under Nazi control, we would probably have become an eventual satellite of this "European Union". We would probably have surrendered a considerable portion of our sovereignty to them and we'd still be buying BMW's and VW's today. On the other hand, the costs of the war to our nation would have been greatly reduced and we would have probably retained much of our Empire and remained one of the world's secondary superpowers.

Next, let's consider what would have happened to the USA on it's own. Nothing, probably. The USA was never likely to invade Europe and Germany was never really likely to invade the USA - despite there being plans to do so. Invasion by either side was almost certainly doomed to failure so, eventually there would have been a peace treaty and the USA would still be buying BMW's and Mercedes Benz. The USA would not be the dominant superpower they are today, but would have shared that position with Nazi Germany and, to a lesser extent, the secondary superpowers of Britain and Japan.

Finally, let's look at The Soviet Union on it's own. Again, we have a certain amount of historical record to draw upon. We know that Germany made significant gains across Soviet territory for the first couple of years. These gains were made despite the fact that Germany was fighting British and, eventually, US forces across other fronts. The Soviet Union only ever fought on the one front - so could commit all their resources to defending that front. Had Germany been able to commit more effort to it's eastern front, it is unlikely that The Soviet Union would ever have been able hold them back for long - let alone retake lost ground. The very best outcome for the Soviet Union would have been a stalemate with German and Soviet forces slugging it out for some years deep inside The Soviet Union.

Furthermore, there would have been no Allied bombing of German arms factories or supply lines - allowing German production to far exceed what it actually achieved. There would have been no British or American supplies to The Soviet Union through Murmansk and Archangel. The Kriegsmarine - freed from patrolling the Atlantic and the threat from the RN - could control the Arctic waters of Russia. There would have been no embargoes on supplies to Germany, giving them all they need to feed their war machine.

We also know that German technological advances were such that they would have kept well ahead of the Soviet Union in that respect. Eventually, Germany would have "the bomb" and they would have the system to deliver it deep into Soviet territory at will. They would have all of this long before The Soviet Union did - and they would not have hesitated to use it against them.

So the eventual outcome would be a German victory. The Soviet Union would have ceased to exist.

Next, let us consider the number of Soviet war dead. First of all, the number of dead incurred by a side in war is no indicator of victory. If it were, then Japan could justifiably claim to have beaten the USA. The question is, why were so many Russians killed during WW2?

Well, the fact that the Soviet leaders refused to allow civilian populations to evacuate may have something to do with it. They believed their soldiers would fight better when they see their women and children dying beside them. Questionable tactics, morally and militarily, but it may go someway to explain why so many Russians died. Another reason was the weather. Russian winters were hard enough to endure when you had plenty of food and sufficient fuel to heat your home. When you have no food and no fuel - and not much of a home - it tends to kill people. So that's another factor to take into account. The final thing to consider was the sheer profligacy of the Soviet commanders with their soldiers lives. The Soviet Union had a huge population. There were always shortages of food, fuel, guns, ammunition and other supplies - but there was never a shortage of raw young men to throw in front of German guns. Soldiers were expendable and they were used by the Soviet commanders with utter disregard for the slaughter that would ensue.

I hope that explains why I hate the way some people build up the Soviet Unions part in the Allies WW2 victory. The Russians did not win the war. Without them we may not have won, without us they would most certainly have lost.


The Old Nail said...

I totally agree with your post on this matter RS.
One other factor to include is the Berlin/Tokyo axis.

Even fighting a war on two fronts Germany would have defeated Russia had Japan invaded from the east which is perhaps what Hitler needed.

Instead they 'went the other way' and forced Germany into war against America also, much to Churchills relief.

Northwing said...

Nice one.

I had to smile when you said

" . we would probably have become an eventual satellite of this 'European Union'. We would probably have surrendered a considerable portion of our sovereignty to them and we'd still be buying BMW's and VW's today."

How things have changed. :(

Reading on the Bog said...

Stan said ...
"We know that Hitler was actually an admirer of Britain, did not have any real desire to destroy Britain ..."

So, what other traits didn't he have in common with NuLabour?

Izzy said...

"Had Germany been able to commit more effort to it's [sic] eastern front, it is unlikely that The Soviet Union would ever have been able hold them back for long - let alone retake lost ground."

Sorry, what?! In 1942, Hitler had 178 divisions in the east, and only 4 divisions confronting the British in northern Africa (Vinen's statistics). That's not to mention the surprise attack. The Eastern front was the decisive theatre of war in WWII. Sheer Russian bloodymindedness - the result of defending the Russian homeland - and the inexhaustible number of young men and women that could be thrown at the enemy definitely helped. Your opinion represents that of the old Western school of thinking on this topic, formed doubtless during the Cold War.

Stan said...

Hard to know where to start with your comments, Izzy. Let's start with your assertion that Hitler had just 4 divisions in North Africa. Total losses for the Axis powers numbered 620,000 for the North Africa Campaign - I don't know what Vinen considers a "division", but that is substantially more than 4 of them - in fact is is equivalent to 3 Army Groups.

There were some 270,000 prisoners of war who surrendered at the end of the campaign - equivalent to another Army Group - and a little more than "4 divisions".

Second, the German Army consisted of some 300 divisions in 1942 - roughly half of which were committed to the Eastern Front which, given the size of the front, was never going to be nowhere near enough. What do you think the rest of the German Army was doing? The number of German divisions on the Eastern Front in 1942 was not much more than the number who had invaded in 1941 (around 150 if memory serves) - and not much different from the number of divisions used in the 1940 campaign agaisnt France and the low countries - even though they faced a much larger opposition and a considerably wider front in the Soviet Union.

Third, what you call "sheer bloodymindedness" was actually sheer contempt for loss of life. The Soviet commanders cared nothing for casualties and were quite happy to use young (often unarmed) soldiers (and civilians) as cannon fodder - and if they retreated under fire they would often be shot by their own side too.

Fourth, had it not been for the US/British combined bombing campaign on Germany then its (happy now?) capacity to produce and fight would not have been so significantly impeded.

Finally, as I made clear in the post, the ALLIES won the war - not the Soviet Union, not the USA and not Britain - but the part played by the Soviet Union is overstated as you patently demonstrate. The Soviet Union was complicit in starting the war and after that did nothing other than defend itself until very late in the war.

Your opinion represents the post modern revisionist theory that wants to belittle the achievements of Britain and the USA and sympathises with one of the most brutal and despotic regimes of the 20th century. The Soviet Union killed far more of its people than the Nazis did. And no - without the support of Britain and America it would not have defeated Germany - Germany would have developed "the bomb" and would have used it against the Soviet Union and Britain would have become a semi-autonomous satellite of the German dominated "European Union".

Anonymous said...

I think that Germany could have won the war if they weren't so bone headed they should have let the soviet union in on the pact of steel. they should have used the USSR for they were good for and then when they had conquered it all then take out the Soviet Union. I am not saying that I would have liked to see the Allies lose but I'm just pointing out how Germany could have been victorious.

Vanessa K said...

Great explaination

however if what you are saying is true, then you mean Russia was just an aid to us and we to them. As u stated " we may have not won without them, and they definatly would have lost with out us". So technically you are implying that the U.S didnt really win either.