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Old September 5th, 2016, 09:50 AM   #1

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Operation Barbarossa - A Preemptive Attack or an Unexpected Invasion?


Let me begin by stating that I have only recently began studying WW2 beyond a cursory level, so please do excuse me if my ignorance in these matters is apparent.

I've always read the traditional story about Operation Barbarossa, that it was a treacherous and unexpected invasion by the German which broke the non-aggression pact of 1939 (which they had only considered to be a temporary measure), and that Stalin was utterly astonished when it occurred. According to this account, the Germans' decision to invade Russia was both arrogant and foolish.

However, I've recently read elsewhere that, in the long run, Stalin also had no intention to abide to the non-aggression pact, and that he intended to attack Germany. The Germans were aware of this, and Operation Barbarossa was therefore a preemptive attack which took advantage of their highly successful Blitzkrieg tactic.

Is there much evidence to support this latter version of events? If it is accurate, then surely both sides were well aware in 1939 (and were similarly well aware that the other side was also well aware) that the pact would only last a few years. And if that was the case, was Stalin really so surprised when the Germans invaded?

Thanks in advance for all the helpful answers.
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Old September 5th, 2016, 10:05 AM   #2

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There is no evidence worthy of the name that Stalin was preparing to invade Germany in the near future during 1941. The attack on the Soviet Union was an invasion of conquest, not a preemptive attack.
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Old September 5th, 2016, 10:10 AM   #3

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That Stalin might eventually have attacked Germany is hypothetical, Hitler did not launch his attack against the Soviet Union because he thought that Germany was in any short-term danger of such an attack. Will anyone try to make an opposing case? It would be interesting to see.
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Old September 5th, 2016, 10:48 AM   #4
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No doubt the SU was wary of Germany - who wasn't? - but that is a long way from saying it was preparing to attack Germany. It wasn't. If it were, the Soviet Army would have been better prepared. Instead, it's officer corps had been decimated by Stalin's paranoia, and the disposition of its troops along the border was little more than a speed bump for the invading Wehrmacht. No rational leader is prepared to lose millions of its soldiers in a first strike, which makes about as much sense as those who claim that FDR invited the Japanese to attack us at Pearl Harbor.
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Old September 5th, 2016, 10:54 AM   #5

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Quote:
Originally Posted by royal744 View Post
No doubt the SU was wary of Germany - who wasn't? - but that is a long way from saying it was preparing to attack Germany. It wasn't. If it were, the Soviet Army would have been better prepared. Instead, it's officer corps had been decimated by Stalin's paranoia, and the disposition of its troops along the border was little more than a speed bump for the invading Wehrmacht. No rational leader is prepared to lose millions of its soldiers in a first strike, which makes about as much sense as those who claim that FDR invited the Japanese to attack us at Pearl Harbor.
I admit I'm not that knowledgeable, but I heard/red opinions that one of the reasons of SU defeats in the early stage were because it was reforming, changing from a defensive to an offensive role, and it was right in between.

Besides that, to me Barbarosa was simply agression. Hitler wanted the steppe for his millennial Reich.
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Old September 5th, 2016, 11:20 AM   #6

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Quote:
Originally Posted by redcoat View Post
There is no evidence worthy of the name that Stalin was preparing to invade Germany in the near future during 1941. The attack on the Soviet Union was an invasion of conquest, not a preemptive attack.
Of course. Khruschev later wrote that Hitler left Stalin almost paralyzed with fear--"like a rabbit in front of a boa constrictor." Stalin was indeed initially paralyzed at the start of the attack.
Had Stalin wanted to attack Germany his big chance was in May 1940, when all but token German forces were in the West. Shirer wrote he could've gotten as far as Berlin before effective resistance was organized.
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Old September 5th, 2016, 01:37 PM   #7
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Hitler did see Stalin as a threat. Whether Stalin actually intended to attack Germany or not - who knows?

At the time of Munich in Sept 1938, Stalin was prepared to fight Hitler over Czechoslovak independence. 1) Stalin was not invited to Munich. 2) The Western Allies gave in over Czechoslovakia without a fight. This convinced Stalin that the Western Allies were undependable and that he should find another way to deal with Hitler. This eventually led to the Nazi-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact. Hitler probably had some understanding that the Non-Aggression Pact was not Stalin's preferred policy.

Under the terms of the Non-Aggression Pact, Hitler allowed Stalin to annex the Baltic States. Within a few months Stalin also invaded Finland and annexed part of Rumania. Hitler had agreed to neither of these moves, and he specifically saw the Rumania move as a threat to the Ploesti oil fields.

The partition of Poland had not been permanently settled. There was a temporary boundary established in eastern Poland between the German and Soviet zones of occupation to be settled more permanently through subsequent negotiations. Between Sept '39 and Jun '41, Hitler was growing increasingly annoyed at Soviet intransigence in these negotiations.

There is an argument that Stalin never went beyond the borders of the old Russian Empire and that he was disinterested in anything beyond Russia's historic territories. Nevertheless Hitler was wary and annoyed by Soviet aggression.

I absolutely agree with the above posters that in 1941 the Soviet Army was in no condition to attack Germany, although I would question whether Stalin knew just how badly he had damaged the Soviet Army with his purges. He certainly thought in the fall of '38 that the Soviet Army, in conjuction with the Western Allies, could defeat Hitler. Regardless of how damaged the Soviet Army was in '41, it was slowly healing and if left alone to improve that army may have been ready to attack Germany perhaps by 1942 or '43.

Was Hitler correct in claiming an eventual attack by the Soviet Union? There was no evidence at the time. Did Hitler have a basis to justify his invasion by claiming the Soviets would eventually attack Germany if he did not attack first? Probably. Remember that a justification only has to satisfy popular perception. It doesn't have to be real. Whether Hitler's justification did or did not satisfy popular perception, I can't say. History probably does not accept Hitler's justification - but that's for you to decide.
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Old September 5th, 2016, 01:45 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Thaladan View Post
...I've recently read elsewhere that, in the long run, Stalin also had no intention to abide to the non-aggression pact, and that he intended to attack Germany...

Would that be "Inside the Soviet Army" by Victor Suvorov ?


To the best of my knowledge that is the only author who has claimed Stalin was planning an invasion of Nazi Germany


A lot of what Suvorov has written is fantasy and has been discredited.
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Old September 5th, 2016, 03:18 PM   #9

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The entire Suvorov thesis is based upon the premise that Zhukov's plan to attack on 6 July 1941 was accepted by Stalin, submitted to STAVKA and prepared to be executed.
Only problem is that there's no evidence whatsoever that it was accepted nor there is any clue that Russia was ready to invade.
Besides these premises, there is no logical reason why Stalin would attack Hitler while he was at the peak of his strength (no other fronts, Balkans occupied, the UK busy in North Africa etc): to what end?
Stalin was not stupid and he is renowned for his cautiousness: why on Earth should have he attacked Hitler with many restless people within the Soviet new borders?
He would attack Germany by 1943, not before.
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Old September 5th, 2016, 10:22 PM   #10

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Preemptive attack.

Absolutely no doubt about it.

The Soviet Union and Germany could never coexist and both sides knew this. Hitler knew that the longer he waited, the more powerful the Soviet Union would become: so he struck first.

Claiming Operation Barbarossa was an invasion based on nothing but greed is just naive. Just the sort of garbage we've been fed by parties which meant to paint a singular and irrational image of Nazi Germany. I cannot understand how any historian or strategist buys the "because Hitler felt like it" argument.
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