Imagine it's 1980, and the Soviets launched a surprise attack against NATO, and are rolling in all fronts.
Would you order your troops to march to the front and stand and die, so the population can evacuate and reinforcements can build a 2nd line of defense, or would you pull back your troops, face the media (that will call you a coward) and leave the civillians to their fate?
I would stay in the front, for a matter of ethos: it's very difficult to run away and leave the enemy run rampant in your country - even if staying means a high chance of defeat. That's a fundamental dilemma that, I believe, many professional soldiers would struggle with in real life.
Meanwhile players are not troubled with (or punished for) trading territory for time in the game. The lack of attachment to the little dots in the map is, for me, the biggest difference between a player playing WITE and a real general playing the war. The former will choose "X" with mathematical precision because he will get whatever maximum probability, while the later will choose "Y", even if that's not the best mathematical choice, but is the one he can live with in real life.
A fair number of those little dots along the frontier are actually Polish or Bessarabian or Lithuanian, Latvian or Estonian...i.e. the political stigma associated with Russian Field Marshals abandoning Polish\Bessaribian\Lithuanian (etc.) wasn’t quit on par with your above example. In fact, there was actually great deal of debate amongst the Red Army General Staff prior to the commencement of Barbarossa as to the best strategy to employ if the Germans attacked the Soviet Union. The two possible options being either to fight the German Army on the Frontier -- or as Zhukov argued -- retreat into the hinterland and trade space for time. It therefore wasn’t a particularly inconceivable strategy for the Red Army to retreat into Russia rather than nailing itself to Lvov, Bialystok, Kaunus and etc. And of course there is also historical precedent for the Russian Army employing Fabian strategy – ala. Kutuzov’s 1812 Campaign.
I can't judge the above, but I would like to point out that the imperatives of dictators and general staffs are quite different. General staff concentrate first and foremost on military considerations, not politics. However politics is what's the driver of a dictators decisions, since his survival is dependant upon them. It's irrelevant whether the general staff thought it's a good idea or not, it's down to whether Stalin would have thought he could safely give it up without diminishing his authority, and more importantly, if he would be willing to take even an outside chance on it in order to save a few 10'000 soldiers.
I would argue no. A few 10'000 soldiers vs. even slight possibility of diminished authority= soldiers lose every time.