This post is based on information given by Viktor Suvorov, a Soviet Army Cold War-era Soviet military intelligence officer who defected to the United Kingdom. The information is from a video here on youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Clv-c6QdBs, as well as one of his recent books, entitled The Chief Culprit. http://www.amazon.com/The-Chief-Culprit-Stalins-Design/dp/1591148065
I haven’t read Surovov’s book but I’ve read quite a few comments on his theories. The following are a sum of those comments plus my own ideas.
First of all, look at the official coat of arms of the Soviet Union during this time:
Notice there are no borders shown of the Soviet Union - the hammer and sickle are imposed over the entire globe. Imagine if any other country had such a logo - it would be very offensive, wouldn’t it? But this was the goal Stalin and communism - to eventually rule the entire world. Ronald Reagan called the Soviet Union an “evil empire”, and he was right.
Well, since Marxist theory was developed by Lenin and the Bolsheviks the idea was to spread the revolution to the rest of the world after it was consolidated in Russia. During the 1920s and 30s there was even an dedicated organization (Coninform, later Cominertn) to spread the revolution to the capitalist countries and coordinate the communist parties everywhere. But in how to achieve this there was a lot of discussion inside the Soviet Union, since some considered that it was required to develop the worker class before it was possible to achieve a revolution (and that communist was the ‘natural’ result of the development of human societies after capitalist), while others took a more revolutionary approach.
So yes, communist ideology typically saw the dissemination of regimes and the implementation of world socialism as its goal. But in real life, the Soviet leaders usually took a more pragmatic approach and rather waited to see if the opportunity presented itself, rather than trying to implement communist regimes everywhere.
The Soviet Union showed its aggressive nature by dividing Poland with Germany in 1939. The Soviets then attacked Finland in November 1939. They completely trounced the Japanese in the Battles of Khalkhyn Gol in 1939, resulting in a neutrality pact with Japan. Afterwards they forcibly occupied the Baltic States of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania in June of 1940. This all happened a year before Germany attacked the Soviet Union.
Historians often paint the Soviet Union as an innocent victim of German aggression. Some say that Stalin was afraid of Hitler and wanted peace with him at all costs.
One of the main causes which led to the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact was the Munich Pact signed between Hitler and the western leaders and the later occupation of Chechoslovakia by the Nazis. The USSR had a alliance with Chechoslovakia like France had but once the western leaders caved in to Hitler’s demands (and completely ignoring the USSR during the Munich talks), Stalin started tp realize that he couldn’t count on the UK/France to contain Hitler.
The Munich Pact also had another effect, which was to greatly influence German influence in Eastern Europe, which Stalin was eager to contain. The UK, France, Romania, Poland and the USSR tried to make a treaty to contain Germany in August 1939 but once it failed (no one really trusted one another) then Stalin turned and signed a Pact with Hitler, since he also suspected (suspicion of everyone being his trademark) that the capitalists had left him hung to dry against Hitler.
Since he didn’t want to get the short stick, the division of Poland and the Soviet occupation of the Baltic republics were part of a deal for Stalin to gain time since he knew that the Red Army was in no condition to engage in a major war due to the purges and its outdated equipment and it was not until 1942 that the Red Army was considered fit for offensive operations. That’s also another reason why Hitler had to attack the Soviet Union in 1941 - Hitler was afraid that by 1942 the Soviet Union would likely be prepared to deal with a German invasion.
In 1939 there was a natural barrier between Germany and Russia - Poland. As long as Poland was there, Germany could not attack Russia. Wasn’t Stalin safer from big bad Hitler with an intact Poland between them? But on August 23rd, the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact was signed, dividing Poland between Hitler and Stalin. This was signed in MOSCOW, not Berlin. Hitler was not there. Stalin was there. Stalin signed it. In this pact the two nations agreed to attack Poland on Sept. 1st, the next week. In doing this, Stalin was removing his safe buffer zone between Russia and Germany. This proves he was not afraid of Germany at all.
Proves he was not afraid? He knew that Germany would trounce over Poland since the western powers were too far away to do anything (and they had already done nothing when Germany raped Chechoslovakia) why wouldn’t he sign a pact to get a buffer zone between Russia and Germany? Your logic makes no sense.
“WE’RE NOT READY”
When Germany began its attack on Sept 1st as agreed, Stalin said “We’re not ready” and did not attack from the other side. This made Germany look like the total bad guy in the rest of the world’s eyes. This is exactly what Stalin wanted. Britain and France declared war on Germany three days later. Stalin left all the heavy lifting to Germany - he let the Germans destroy the Polish armies. It wasn’t until the 17th of September, after the battle was won, that Stalin said “OK we’re ready now” and moved into Poland from the East.
Again, it was Stalin’s suspicious nature. He wasn’t required to attack Poland when Germany did, but since he didn’t trust Hitler would keep his part of the bargain, he moved to take the portion of Poland that was earmarked for Russia once it seemed that Poland would fall.
RUSSIANS SUPPLIED HITLER’S WAR MACHINE
After this, Stalin was an enthusiastic supporter of Hitler, supplying him with huge amounts of oil and raw materials. The triumphs of blitzkrieg, the luftwaffe, and the u-boats were due largely to the steady supply of Russian oil and other vital war materials during this time.
Stalin was buying time. Above all, he didn’t want a war with Germany until the Red Army was ready and he believed that the oil and raw materials would dissuade Hitler from attacking. He also tried in 1941 to get the Soviet Union to join the Axis but Germany wasn’t interested since Hitler was already preparing to attack Russia.
The reason for this support was that Stalin wanted to use the Germans as his hammer to destroy Europe’s armies. Then, when much of the German war machine was across the channel occupied with Sealion, Stalin would proceed to “liberate” Europe from the “evil” Germans. Of course any “liberated” country would end up a communist puppet like the Baltic States.
This implies a lot of wrong assumptions: a) that the Soviets were ready to attack Germany while Sea Lion was taking place during 1940 (which it wasn’t and Stalin knew it); b) that the Germans would use most of their army for Sea Lion (which it wouldn’t, according to the plans).
RUSSIA WAS PREPARED FOR ATTACK, NOT DEFENSE
There is much evidence provided in Suvorov’s book which I can’t list here - I recommend you get the book. But here are a few facts:
- The Soviets produced over 1,500 amphibious tanks in the thirties. Amphibious tanks are for offense - crossing rivers where bridges have been blown. In defense, you would cross your own bridges and blow them behind you.
- Much Soviet armor and guns were of huge caliber and would not be of much use but for bombarding fortresses, which would be done on offense.
- Over 2,700 BT-7 tanks were built from 1935-1940. These tanks could drop their tracks in order to run up to 70 MPH on paved highways. Germany had the paved highways, not Russia.
- Thousands of Russian planes were setup on airfields within 800 meters of Germany. This was ideal for an attack, as the planes could be in range to support invading ground units. But it was bad for defense. This resulted in 3,922 Soviet aircraft destroyed in the first three days of the German attack.
- Over six million Russian/German phrase books were published in Russia for the Soviet Army in May of 1941, a month before the German attack.
- In 1941 the Soviet Union had more than 1 million trained paratroopers. Paratroopers can only be used effectively in attack.
This can all be explained by Soviet doctrine: in case of an imminent attack it was considered that the best defense would be to contain at the border and the engage and destroy the aggressor on it own territory. This doctrine was also the reason why the Germany was so successful during the early stages of Barbarossa: the Soviet armies were close to the border due to it, but they had no defensive preparations (since the border had moved due to Stalin taking half of Poland) and Stalin didn’t believe that Hitler would attack in 1941.
HITLER’S ONLY CHOICE
Hitler eventually caught on to Stalin’s plan and, rather than wait for Stalin’s unstoppable attack, did a pre-emptive strike. Stalin totally did not expect this. In 1939, the Soviets had 21,100 battle ready tanks. Even more by 1941. Many of these were lost or abandoned in the early blitzkrieg because they were packed together at the borders in preparation for an attack on Germany.
The Germans eventually lost the war to the much larger Soviets, but if they would have waited for a Soviet attack, all of Europe would have ended up under Communist rule.
Ok, so you’re ignoring that Hitler had defended since the 1920s to take territory in Eastern Europe/Russia that he considered vital for Germany’s survival, and that he expected that, after the Battle of France, the UK would join Germany in a war against communism. Plus, even in 1942, the Red Army would not be in a condition of attacking Germany and facing the German Army, which had a lot of experience gained from conquering Poland, Norway, France, etc. Hitler himself considered the Red Army a joke, specially after the debacle in Finland in 1939.
Hitler did attack because he realized that the longer he waited, the better prepared the Soviet Union would be for the war (which was exactly the same logic he followed in invading Poland/France against the opinion of the German High Command).