Thanks for posting this thought-provoking article. I agree that this is one of the many intriguing what-if’s of WWII, although I am not sure on some of the arguments here (or at least the background to them):
But what if Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union had been allies instead of enemies?
By late 1939, Britain and France were convinced that Germany and Russia were already friends.
They were ‘allies’ thanks to the signing of the M-R Pact. What exactly the term allies / friends etc (call it what you will) actually meant depended upon from whose view you are looking at, and what the war situation was at the time. E.g. upon signing the pact Stalin was not massively interested in fulfilling his end of the bargain, but when the Germans started defeating all before them, a certain urgency gripped the Soviet leader…. Timely supplies to Germany tended to be made after each German victory and became less reliable in between times. The pact was a means to an end for both leaders – not the end in itself. I am not sure what the British and French had to be unsure or need to be convinced about in 1939/40.
What if America, Britain, and their allies had faced a massive Red Army backed by the military prowess and technological sophistication of the Luftwaffe, Nazi panzers and U-boats?
This is a big assumption and, I think, rather ignores what Hitler was all about; his raison d’etre…. Lebensraum in the east. So while, as said above, the two were ‘friends of convenience’ to make the leap and see the Germans and Soviets as true allies in the proper sense of the word, – marching side by side and conducting military operations together - does not seem feasible to me. Drang nach Osten was never far from Hitler’s thoughts… The Slavs were untermensch who had no place on this planet – unless it was to act as slaves the German master race.
The outcome would probably have helped Hitler win the war.
In any event, fortune, or rather misfortune, saved the world.
These comments make an even bigger assumption. I think ‘could and could have’ is the strongest I would insert here.
That apocalyptic vision of a new Dark Ages almost happened. In the early days of World War II, Britain and France planned to bomb Russian oil fields. The goal was to impede Hitler.
Perhaps there was also the frustration of the sitzkrieg, as Allied armies sat impotently behind the Maginot Line while the Germans overran Poland and Scandinavia. Bombing Russia must have seemed easier than confronting the German army on the battlefield.
Well strictly speaking this was one of Gamelin’s ideas to keep the war away from French soil. Remember the French did not want the Rhine mined. Why? Because of the fear that the Germans may have retaliated…. By the way, there is no point scoring here - neither the British nor the French leadership emerge with any credit for the period September 1939-June 1940. Having declared war on Germany for the right reasons, the way in which the leaders (and many of their professional military advisors) of both countries conducted themselves in that period can frankly be summarised as nothing more than ‘General Goofy goes to War’. The Allies sat impotently behind the Maginot Line out of choice. What would have been the result of an offensive in September, before Poland was defeated and the bulk of German forces were in the east?
BTW, the Norwegian Campaign was another such fiasco (for which the British take the bulk of the blame this time) – and that too could have seen the British and French at war with the USSR plus Norway, and Sweden for good measure…..!
Stalin had tried hard to form an anti-Nazi coalition before the war, only to meet such resistance and hesitation that he became convinced that the capitalists were plotting to embroil Germany and Russia in a mutually exhausting war while the West stayed on the sidelines.
While London and Paris dithered over whether to ally with the Communists, Berlin had no such hesitation: on August 23, 1939, Germany and Russia signed the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact.
This I think is too simplistic. Yes, the Western Allies could have gone about things in better fashion (a recurring theme sadly….) but at the end of the day, Chamberlain and Daladier simply could not give Stalin what he wanted (and the Poles sadly, were not entirely blameless (albeit for understandable reasons) in this either) – as a fellow psychopathic dictator, and with no qualms about the rights of Finns, Lithuanians, Poles et al, Hitler with the stroke of a pen, could.
Russia gained Eastern Poland and the Baltic states, a prospective breathing space to build up its military strength, and the prospect that Germany and the Western powers would exhaust themselves while Russia bided its strength.
The treaty left the Third Reich free to gobble up Poland and Western Europe without fear of a second front in the East. Just as important, the Soviets agreed to supply vital raw materials – especially oil – to the Third Reich, keeping the German war economy running and breaching the Allied naval blockade that had proved so decisive in World War I.
Yet the real winner was the Fuhrer.
They both felt they were winners at the time – understandably so. History showed who ultimately benefitted the most…
Thus was born Operation Pike. Flying from Allied bases in Iran and Syria, as well as neutral but anti-Soviet Turkey, more than a hundred British and French bombers would continuously attack Soviet oil fields in the Caucuses in a night strategic bombing campaign. This was more than idle planning. Unmarked British reconnaissance planes flying from Iraqi airfields actually photographed oil installations at Baku and Batumi in March 1940.
Allied air planners were confident this would be a mighty blow. We know now that it would have been a joke. British night bombing efforts in 1940-41 was so inaccurate – only a handful bombs landed within miles of their target – that the Germans hardly noticed them. Even in 1944, thousand-bomber Royal Air Force night raids, supported by the most sophisticated radar and navigation technology of the time, drop their loans on entire German cities because they could not destroy pinpoint targets.
As the Germans proved, bomb-damaged facilities could be restored with remarkable speed. A 1944 Lancaster bomber carried 7 tons of bombs; a 1940 Blenheim only half a ton. Only the deepest hubris – which indeed afflicted strategic bombing enthusiasts throughout World War II – could make anyone believe that a hundred primitive early-war bombers could devastate the Soviet oil industry.
Ironically, as Osborn notes, instead of harming Germany, the bombing would have weakened the Soviet regime that was the bulwark of the coalition fighting the Nazis. "Someone would have had to have filled the power vacuum if Stalin's government collapsed; that in all likelihood would have been Hitler."
The argument seems a little contradictory here. Either the bombing effort would be inconsequential (which I naturally agree with) OR it would have dealt a blow to the Soviet economy – which you say would have helped Hitler. Both arguments are made at the same time I think?
However, the real what-if would have come in the summer of 1940. If Operation Pike had been launched prior to the surrender of France, then the British government would have faced the prospect of fighting a Nazi-Soviet alliance, with no French ally and the United States still withdrawn behind its walls of isolationism.
Some British leaders, such as Lord Halifax, had favored making some kind of peace deal with Hitler. If Britain had also been at war with the Soviet Union, perhaps not even diehard Winston Churchill would have had the stomach to continue fighting what would have seemed like a hopeless war.
Well the war looked pretty hopeless in real life in July 1940!
But back to the subject in hand, again, I’m not sure how this automatically follows. For one thing, we do not know how Stalin reacts? Stalin was a canny operator. As you said in your article, he wanted Hitler and the Western Allies to slug it out and for them to weaken each other. If the air strikes prove as desultory as you expect (and I agree with you) the positives for retaliation, in favour of sitting back as per plan A, are less advantageous. But if military action was his decision, where does Stalin retaliate? If he decides to send forces into Syria how do they get there? Would Turkey, having seen the respective performances – Soviets in Finland, and the Germans in Poland – be itching to join forces with the Soviets? Unlikely I would have thought. A Soviet attack on Turkey? That’s another interesting what-if? Would Hitler feel free to attack France with the Soviets interfering in Turkey (having already claimed Bessarabia)?
If France has fallen and if Stalin did take leave of his senses and ordered the Soviets to move into the Middle East in numbers, while the Germans were free to amass on the Polish frontier then yes, under those circumstances, Hitler may have been able to launch a successful Barbarossa against a weakened enemy – but…..
Of course, even if Allied bombing had brought Hitler and Stalin together, the romance would have been doomed. Two predators greedily devouring other prey would inevitably have turned on each other.
Well I think we will have to agree to disagree on the idea of how exactly they are brought together, but I agree with the final sentence 100%!
Nonetheless, Operation Pike might have changed the history of the world.
Yes - Might.
This is a very interesting alternate history to explore. Thanks for raising.
< Message edited by warspite1 -- 11/21/2015 9:09:37 PM >
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