Should Britain and France have tried harder to create an alliance with the USSR in 1939?

Should Britain and France have tried harder to create an alliance with the USSR in 1939?

  • Yes

  • No


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redcoat

Ad Honorem
Nov 2010
7,534
Stockport Cheshire UK
#41
Interesting that Chamberlain was happy to accept the Polish and Romanian view that allowing Soviet troops through their countries ran the high risk of them staying.
Are you claiming they wouldn't.
Let's not forget, the Poles and Russians had fought a war in 1920 during which Stalin had been a Soviet Army commander, it ended in a Polish victory in which they captured significant territories off the Soviets and humiliated Stalin. The idea that he would somehow forget this and not seek redress for this defeat in exchange for any 'help' is wishful thinking at its finest.
 

sparky

Ad Honorem
Jan 2017
3,384
Sydney
#42
actually for the Georgian Dugashvily to be snubbed as "a dirty Russian" by a waiter in a Polish train station
came as a enlightening experience of polish delusion ,
since he was neither Russian or at the time quite a nappy dresser
a man with an excellent memory , he never forgot the slight

he was going to Vienna to a bolshevik conference
during witch days he possibly might have crossed path in the Hofburg garden
with a poor bohemian artist down on his luck called Hitler


As for polish politicians ,
their grab of territory post 1920 , had everything to do with egomania and little with Poland homeland
as Pilzusky warned them in the debate about a "greater" or a "little" Poland


Molotov as "pro German" that's Soooo wrong
his underground name the "Mallet" ...molotov , fitted him to a tee
Molotov was first and foremost one of the oldest friend of Stalin from back in the underground days
unlike Litvinov , he held that the choice between Nazis and capitalists was totally unimportant
more like various taste of the same Coca brand ,
both would murder the "workers paradise" if they could ,
any conflict between them was to be used to their ultimate discomfiture
 
Dec 2011
1,298
Belgium
#43
Churchill and Eden (from Feb 38) were mere backbenchers in the House Of Commons, and as such they had no authority or responsibility for British foreign policy in this period.
redcoat,

yes you are right. I set only my first steps into all those names. I heard en plus about a certain Stanley pro Alliance.? Also Leslie Hore-Belisha and Hoare
National Government (1937–1939) - Wikipedia
Read once about the question:
The political career of Sir Samuel Hoare during the national government 1931-40
https://lra.le.ac.uk/bitstream/2381/10078/1/2011couttsmphd.pdf
From page 237 on
Read about the COS pro Russian Alliance, which was in my opinion not political but based on rather military observations.
redcoat, I will further elaborate my comments to motorbike as for instance the difficult question of the dominions in the decision making. I am not sure if Chamberlain could have acted otherwise than he acted because of his background, but perhaps it was not wise to have given the Polish guarantee with a knowlegde to not yet be prepared for war in the case of further invasions of Hitler? And as the army said purely military, even with a French ally, Britain couldn't do it without the Soviets. And if I recall it well Gamelin said also that the French army was not prepared for a war? Du puy de mazeldan?
 

sparky

Ad Honorem
Jan 2017
3,384
Sydney
#44
In both Britain and France there were strong opinion that confronting Germany was a bad choice
the countries were still reeling from the Great War , which had bled their men and bankrupted their treasuries
there was absolutely no support for an aggressive posture among the electorate at large
their politicians were not very popular for the perceived mishandling of the great depression

Hitler had strong social credential , was a populist in his stance and claimed to be an answers to Communism

interestingly both of the most "defeatist" top politician , chamberlain and George Bonnet were economists
for them re-armament was an horrendous cost which their countries could not afford
the same argument had been presented to Hitler but he dismissed it .

He partly wanted to go to war in the summer of 38 to avoid national bankruptcy
 
Dec 2011
1,298
Belgium
#45
Thanks PaulRyckier, interesting reading of the Diplomatic process at that time. A few points come out that we should keep in mind whenever we consider this period.

1. The takeover of Czechoslovakia shook the British from their appeasement mode, but that did not put them on a war mode. Rather, the thinking was to take action that would discourage the Germans from considerations of further expansion. At this stage it was to work with countries at risk - so the offers to Poland, Romania, Greece and Turkey, with only Poland accepting a full guarantee.

Interesting that Chamberlain was happy to accept the Polish and Romanian view that allowing Soviet troops through their countries ran the high risk of them staying.

2. Emerging information that the Germans were serious about invading Poland (end of March) pushed the British to sharing their information with the Soviets and considering their proposal for an alliance - that was rejected mainly because it was too strong an act for the "Peace Front" to discourage Hitler the British favoured at that time.

3. The change of Soviet Foreign Minister from Litvinov (generally pro-West) to Molotov (generally pro-German) raised the possibility of a Soviet German pact and increasing the likelihood of war, encouraged the British to consider a tripartite alliance with the Soviets favourably, to restrain Germany and prevent a pact between them (latter part of May).

From these points its clear that the British continued to hope for a no war scenario as they were forced to respond to events that did eventuate in war.

By the time the British accepted they needed to explore the possibility of an alliance with the Soviets, it was too late.

The Soviets became suspicious of the West's motives after being excluded from the Munich talks and the readiness the West capitulated to Hitler over Sudetenland - Czechoslovakia being an ally of the Soviet Union at the time. The takeover of Czechoslovakia led the West to a response that excluded the Soviet Union and their interests. When the soviets did offer the West something concrete in April 1939, for which the British were not ready to consider seriously, the rejection could easily be interpreted by Stalin as another factor pointing to the West ultimately favouring German interests over Soviet concerns.

So it is hard to answer the the question should the West have done more to develop an alliance with the Soviet Union. The last chance they had was to accept the tripartite alliance proposed by Mayskiy the Soviet Ambassador to London. By May 1939 Stalin had probably lost all confidence and trust in the West doing something constructive about the rising German threat.

The real problem in 1939 was misreading Hitler's intentions - and that was not just a problem in 1939. Its more a case of the West in wanting to avoid a war regardless of the unfolding reality , resulted in a clouding of its judgement of events and poor responses that eventually antagonised a party that may have helped to contain Germany. But the Soviet Union was an unknown quantity, and as Churchill quipped years later, it was a "riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma". How do yo deal with that?
motorbike,

"1. The takeover of Czechoslovakia shook the British from their appeasement mode, but that did not put them on a war mode. Rather, the thinking was to take action that would discourage the Germans from considerations of further expansion. At this stage it was to work with countries at risk - so the offers to Poland, Romania, Greece and Turkey, with only Poland accepting a full guarantee.
Interesting that Chamberlain was happy to accept the Polish and Romanian view that allowing Soviet troops through their countries ran the high risk of them staying.
2. Emerging information that the Germans were serious about invading Poland (end of March) pushed the British to sharing their information with the Soviets and considering their proposal for an alliance - that was rejected mainly because it was too strong an act for the "Peace Front" to discourage Hitler the British favoured at that time."

Yes, at that time, Chamberlain and Hallifax seemed still to be in a kind of appeasement mode, they still wanted a peace settlement and only to deter Hitler, they gave, in from what I read, a "non-binding"? guarantee. To hold all options open, thinking they had still time, not thinking yet immediately at war? But in March they had no time anymore and the consequence would be war. And if they wanted real chances on a preliminary peace with Hitler, they had better made an alliance with the Soviets, whatever the Soviets stood for? As the visionary Churchill saw it?

And yes under the thread of the Soviet-German negociations they started at the end the negociations with the Soviets, but as you have perhaps read also in the
diplomatic process, Chamberlain gave it then to the full slow discussion of the parliament, instead of his trial for a quick decision making of the Polish guarantee? Yes of course that is the prerogative of dictators as a Stalin and a Hitler and that goes quite otherwise than in democracies...

"3. The change of Soviet Foreign Minister from Litvinov (generally pro-West) to Molotov (generally pro-German) raised the possibility of a Soviet German pact and increasing the likelihood of war, encouraged the British to consider a tripartite alliance with the Soviets favourably, to restrain Germany and prevent a pact between them (latter part of May)."

There seems to be controversy even there....
https://www.jstor.org/stable/260946?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents
We will never know what played in the mind of Stalin, but I don't think in March Stalin had not yet decided to negociate with Hitler, after all the Alliance with France and Britain was the best military option I think. And even it can also be that the change Litvinov-Molotov can be as some member on this thread said a change for a more tough negociator versus the Litivinov, who was too soft against the British?

"So it is hard to answer the the question should the West have done more to develop an alliance with the Soviet Union. The last chance they had was to accept the tripartite alliance proposed by Mayskiy the Soviet Ambassador to London. By May 1939 Stalin had probably lost all confidence and trust in the West doing something constructive about the rising German threat.

The real problem in 1939 was misreading Hitler's intentions - and that was not just a problem in 1939. Its more a case of the West in wanting to avoid a war regardless of the unfolding reality , resulted in a clouding of its judgement of events and poor responses that eventually antagonised a party that may have helped to contain Germany. But the Soviet Union was an unknown quantity, and as Churchill quipped years later, it was a "riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma". How do yo deal with that?"

Yes Motorbike, you are completely right, and they had besides that also to reckon in alll their decisons with their dominions? And in the meantime they had also the Irish "difficulties"? But France was also not that quite peaceful in the time, not that much better than Britain?
But then they had only to look to the "personality" of dictator Stalin,and not to the, in some eyes, abhorrent Communist ideology?
In any case the pragmatic Hitler had no difficulty with it?

Further the fourth thesis, where the event and the question is discussed:
Attitudes of the British Political Elite towards the Soviet-Union August 1937-August 1939
https://kclpure.kcl.ac.uk/portal/files/2925631/248037.pdf

I will try to compare the four (and make first a list of them) about this particular question...

Kind regards, Paul.
 
Dec 2011
1,298
Belgium
#46
Thanks PaulRyckier, interesting reading of the Diplomatic process at that time. A few points come out that we should keep in mind whenever we consider this period.

1. The takeover of Czechoslovakia shook the British from their appeasement mode, but that did not put them on a war mode. Rather, the thinking was to take action that would discourage the Germans from considerations of further expansion. At this stage it was to work with countries at risk - so the offers to Poland, Romania, Greece and Turkey, with only Poland accepting a full guarantee.

Interesting that Chamberlain was happy to accept the Polish and Romanian view that allowing Soviet troops through their countries ran the high risk of them staying.

2. Emerging information that the Germans were serious about invading Poland (end of March) pushed the British to sharing their information with the Soviets and considering their proposal for an alliance - that was rejected mainly because it was too strong an act for the "Peace Front" to discourage Hitler the British favoured at that time.

3. The change of Soviet Foreign Minister from Litvinov (generally pro-West) to Molotov (generally pro-German) raised the possibility of a Soviet German pact and increasing the likelihood of war, encouraged the British to consider a tripartite alliance with the Soviets favourably, to restrain Germany and prevent a pact between them (latter part of May).

From these points its clear that the British continued to hope for a no war scenario as they were forced to respond to events that did eventuate in war.

By the time the British accepted they needed to explore the possibility of an alliance with the Soviets, it was too late.

The Soviets became suspicious of the West's motives after being excluded from the Munich talks and the readiness the West capitulated to Hitler over Sudetenland - Czechoslovakia being an ally of the Soviet Union at the time. The takeover of Czechoslovakia led the West to a response that excluded the Soviet Union and their interests. When the soviets did offer the West something concrete in April 1939, for which the British were not ready to consider seriously, the rejection could easily be interpreted by Stalin as another factor pointing to the West ultimately favouring German interests over Soviet concerns.

So it is hard to answer the the question should the West have done more to develop an alliance with the Soviet Union. The last chance they had was to accept the tripartite alliance proposed by Mayskiy the Soviet Ambassador to London. By May 1939 Stalin had probably lost all confidence and trust in the West doing something constructive about the rising German threat.

The real problem in 1939 was misreading Hitler's intentions - and that was not just a problem in 1939. Its more a case of the West in wanting to avoid a war regardless of the unfolding reality , resulted in a clouding of its judgement of events and poor responses that eventually antagonised a party that may have helped to contain Germany. But the Soviet Union was an unknown quantity, and as Churchill quipped years later, it was a "riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma". How do yo deal with that?
motorbike,

"1. The takeover of Czechoslovakia shook the British from their appeasement mode, but that did not put them on a war mode. Rather, the thinking was to take action that would discourage the Germans from considerations of further expansion. At this stage it was to work with countries at risk - so the offers to Poland, Romania, Greece and Turkey, with only Poland accepting a full guarantee.
Interesting that Chamberlain was happy to accept the Polish and Romanian view that allowing Soviet troops through their countries ran the high risk of them staying.
2. Emerging information that the Germans were serious about invading Poland (end of March) pushed the British to sharing their information with the Soviets and considering their proposal for an alliance - that was rejected mainly because it was too strong an act for the "Peace Front" to discourage Hitler the British favoured at that time."

Yes, at that time, Chamberlain and Hallifax seemed still to be in a kind of appeasement mode, they still wanted a peace settlement and only to deter Hitler, they gave, in from what I read, a "non-binding"? guarantee. To hold all options open, thinking they had still time, not thinking yet immediately at war? But in March they had no time anymore and the consequence would be war. And if they wanted real chances on a preliminary peace with Hitler, they had better made an alliance with the Soviets, whatever the Soviets stood for? As the visionary Churchill saw it?

And yes under the thread of the Soviet-German negociations they started at the end the negociations with the Soviets, but as you have perhaps read also in the
diplomatic process, Chamberlain gave it then to the full slow discussion of the parliament, instead of his trial for a quick decision making of the Polish guarantee? Yes of course that is the prerogative of dictators as a Stalin and a Hitler and that goes quite otherwise than in democracies...

"3. The change of Soviet Foreign Minister from Litvinov (generally pro-West) to Molotov (generally pro-German) raised the possibility of a Soviet German pact and increasing the likelihood of war, encouraged the British to consider a tripartite alliance with the Soviets favourably, to restrain Germany and prevent a pact between them (latter part of May)."

There seems to be controversy even there....
https://www.jstor.org/stable/260946?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents
We will never know what played in the mind of Stalin, but I don't think in March Stalin had not yet decided to negociate with Hitler, after all the Alliance with France and Britain was the best military option I think. And even it can also be that the change Litvinov-Molotov can be as some member on this thread said a change for a more tough negociator versus the Litivinov, who was too soft against the British?

"So it is hard to answer the the question should the West have done more to develop an alliance with the Soviet Union. The last chance they had was to accept the tripartite alliance proposed by Mayskiy the Soviet Ambassador to London. By May 1939 Stalin had probably lost all confidence and trust in the West doing something constructive about the rising German threat.

The real problem in 1939 was misreading Hitler's intentions - and that was not just a problem in 1939. Its more a case of the West in wanting to avoid a war regardless of the unfolding reality , resulted in a clouding of its judgement of events and poor responses that eventually antagonised a party that may have helped to contain Germany. But the Soviet Union was an unknown quantity, and as Churchill quipped years later, it was a "riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma". How do yo deal with that?"

Yes Motorbike, you are completely right, and they had besides that also to reckon in alll their decisons with their dominions? And in the meantime they had also the Irish "difficulties"? But France was also not that quite peaceful in the time, not that much better than Britain?
But then they had only to look to the "personality" of dictator Stalin,and not to the, in some eyes, abhorrent Communist ideology?
In any case the pragmatic Hitler had no difficulty with it?

Further the fourth thesis, where the event and the question is discussed:
Attitudes of the British Political Elite towards the Soviet-Union August 1937-August 1939
https://kclpure.kcl.ac.uk/portal/files/2925631/248037.pdf

I will try to compare the four (and make first a list of them) about this particular question...

Kind regards, Paul.
 

sparky

Ad Honorem
Jan 2017
3,384
Sydney
#47
@ motorbike
" Chamberlain and Halifax ....... gave, in from what I read, a "non-binding"? guarantee "
when queried in the house about the British government action following Hitler tearing of the Munich agreement
the answers given was that it had not yet been ratified by the house of Commons and as such was not biding
 
Nov 2015
1,520
Kyiv
#48
Are you claiming they wouldn't.
Let's not forget, the Poles and Russians had fought a war in 1920 during which Stalin had been a Soviet Army commander, it ended in a Polish victory in which they captured significant territories off the Soviets and humiliated Stalin. The idea that he would somehow forget this and not seek redress for this defeat in exchange for any 'help' is wishful thinking at its finest.
I have to say that the Soviets - I mean Soviet Russia who's name was RSFSR - before the Polish attack invaded the territories you mentioned. It was UNR - Ukraininan People's Republic, not Soviet at all.

The invasion was preceded by an ultimatum to the government of Soviet Russia - Sovnarkom - Council of People's Commissars - to the Ukrainian People’s Republic (December 1917)

In 1919, three forces — Red Russia, White Russia, and Poland, which regained sovereignty in 1918 — fought for the right to capture Ukraine. In this case, the Entente in 1920 supported the Polish army. The UNR army had few chances to resist such an onslaught from the outside.
 
Nov 2015
1,520
Kyiv
#49
I think that many here are not very well aware of why Poland and Czechoslovakia refused in 1938-1939 to allow Russian troops to enter their territory "for protection from the Germans." What happened where Russian troops came in 1939 is well remembered by residents of Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania and Western Ukraine.

My sister-in-law, in her first marriage, had a wedding in Nadvirna, in the Carpathian region. Her husband was from that place. This is the town where the last battle of UPA partisans - the Ukrainian Insurgent Army - with the KGB took place. It was in 1956. So, her mother-in-law, said that when she was in high school she and her classmates ran to meet Russian tanks with flowers in September 1939. Local Ukrainians were happy then that the Russians had come to save them from Polish oppression. The regime that Poland established in that region in the 1930s was anti-Ukrainian

And then what? Then, as she said, the Russians did dark things there. - Вони темно робили.

The pressure on the Ukrainians has become quite unbearable. And when the Russians returned to those regions in 1944, no one met them with flowers. Instead, everyone who could, went into the woods to the partisans of UPA though it was created in late 1942 to resist from German occupation. And from 1944 there was a big partisan war that began to subside only by the end of the 1940s. Ukrainian partisans had strong support from the local population. And only extraordinary punitive measures permitted to the Moscow authorities to extinguish resistance
 
Likes: Futurist
Nov 2015
1,520
Kyiv
#50
Those ones who did not know the realities of the Russian occupation of 1939-1941, it is difficult to imagine them now. It was a complete breakdown of the habitual foundations of the inhabitants of those countries and territories where Russia entered at that time. She liquidated the market. The state became virtually a monopoly employer. Citizens' deposits in banks were withdrawn. Russia required personal vehicles. The peasants became essentially state serfs and worked practically free of charge for the state in kolkhozes. Plus a massive class purge — tens of thousands of well-to-do families, former military officers, priests, and a significant part of the intelligentsia with their families went to deportation to Syberia. Local teachers were not taken to schools. The NKVD looked for "enemies of the people", "agents of imperialist intelligence services" and so on. No one in those regions felt safe. Even those who immediately went to cooperate with the Russians

These were much more stringent conditions than Russia provided the countries of Eastern Europe after World War II. Prior to that, she was not afraid of anyone and went to the most radical measures everywhere where the Red Army came. This was the reason why Czechoslovakia and Poland did not want to let the Red Army take over шт 1938-1939. There were good reasons for them to fear Russian Bolshevism more than German Nazism
 
Likes: Futurist

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