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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

The USSR’s failed attempts to ally with the West

The writer discusses the Soviet Union's unsuccessful attempts pre-war to join forces with the West in an alliance against Nazi Germany. The Soviets were keen on signing a new triple entente with Britain and France, which mirrored the agreement in place prior to World War One.

Despite Franco-British declarations of war on Germany on 3 September 1939, the British and French governments hoped that their armies would not actually have to engage in combat against German forces. The writing was on the wall early on, as neither Britain nor France did anything meaningful to come to the aid of their nominal ally, Poland.

This was not altogether surprising, for the year before, the Western powers participated in the carving up of Czechoslovakia, described by British prime minister Neville Chamberlain as “a faraway country” not worth fighting over.

Chamberlain had similar feelings regarding Poland, which after all shared a southern frontier with Czechoslovakia.

Read more: With WWII scars still raw, Poland tries to ‘balance’ its history

Attempting once more to placate the insatiable Hitler, the Anglo-French governments did their best to squeeze concessions out of Poland, as they had previously done with the Czechs.

When Warsaw refused, only then did Britain and France reluctantly declare their willingness to fight on 25 August 1939, which in any case was a ceremonial gesture, as Poland would soon discover.

The outspoken Conservative MP Robert Boothby said in an interview, “We’d gone to war for the defence of Poland. In the event, we did nothing to help Poland at all. We never lifted a finger”.

Stalin’s attempt to create an alliance against Hitler

For historical reasons it may be important to recognize that the Soviet autocrat, Joseph Stalin, made firm overtures to Britain and France in the 18 months prior to the start of World War II.

Less than a week after Hitler’s forcible annexation of Austria, which disturbed the Kremlin but had the acquiescence of the West, on 18 March 1938 Stalin proposed that Britain and France join the USSR in a conference to enforce collective security.

Read more: Stalin’s Great Grandson on the Significance of the Communist Revolution Centenary.

This offer, a potential forerunner to a Franco-British-Russo alliance aimed at Hitler, was rejected. Chamberlain wanted to push on with his appeasement strategy, while France was lurching from one political crisis to another.

Six months later on 30 September 1938, the Russians were notably scorned when they received no invitation to attend the Munich Conference; through which the Anglo-French governments collaborated with the fascist dictatorships, of Germany and Italy, in betraying Czechoslovakia.

The Czechs lost 11,000 square miles of territory, including the country’s well-fortified districts along its western boundaries. Nor had Czech diplomats been invited to the Munich Conference, as Hitler was granted everything that he wished.

Read more: The day Hitler lost the Second World War

A few weeks after the Wehrmacht’s March 1939 occupation of all Czechoslovakia, and despite increasing doubts about Western intentions, Stalin again approached the Franco-British powers.

On 16 April 1939, he submitted a formal proposition: a three-power military pact with the obvious goal of deterring Nazi aggression.

Stalin’s diplomatic proposal mirrored the agreement in place prior to the First World War, in which Britain, France and Russia were bound together in an alliance directed against the German and Austro-Hungarian empires.

Britain’s rejection of the alliance

Had Stalin’s approach been accepted, it can only have changed the course of history – as such a union would have ensured, right from the beginning in the event of a conflict, that Hitler faced a nightmare war on two fronts.

This final Soviet offer of alliance with the West was snubbed, however, with the British in particular treating Moscow with disregard. Strong anti-Bolshevik feelings were widespread amongst the conservatives in the British government, and with Chamberlain himself.

Three weeks before Stalin’s proposition, Chamberlain wrote to his sister Ida on 26 March 1939, stating that: “I must confess to the most profound distrust of Russia. I have no belief whatever in her ability to maintain an effective offensive, even if she wanted to. And I distrust her motives, which seem to me to have little connection with our ideas of liberty, and to be concerned only with getting everyone else by the ears”.

Russian suspicions looked to be confirmed – the western democracies would be glad to see the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany at war with each other.

Chamberlain assented to dispatching a diplomatic mission to the Kremlin, on 27 May 1939, to negotiate a modest mutual assistance treaty with Russia.

Instead of having the British mission headed by a figure of authority, like Lord Halifax or Anthony Eden, Chamberlain chose an unknown Foreign Office official named William Strang. Strang was, moreover, a fervent anti-Bolshevik and a secret member of the pro-Nazi Anglo-German Fellowship.

The Soviets took Strang’s arrival as a calculated insult, which was intended. The British did agree to enter into military conversations with Moscow on 20 July 1939, but it proved a light-hearted gesture that went nowhere.

Rather than flying directly from London to the Russian capital, which would have taken a few hours, the British mission travelled on a slow cargo boat which eventually arrived after six days.

Read more: Op-ed: How British, US links increased with Nazi Germany during Hitler’s power

EU blames the Soviets for WWII

The above evidence, which is clear and has previously been documented by Western historians, shows that Stalin preferred to align with Britain and France, rather than Nazi Germany.

Having been brushed aside, he was compelled to turn decisively towards Hitler, and on 23 August 1939, the German-Soviet Nonaggression Pact was concluded.

Eighty years after the start of hostilities, the EU in September 2019 passed a resolution in the European Parliament – through which they placed all of the culpability on the Soviets and Nazis for having “paved the way for the outbreak of the Second World War” and ironically refers to “distortion of historical facts”.

There is not a mention in the EU resolution of Stalin’s repeated attempts to form a new triple entente with the West, and which would have encircled Hitler.

Read more: Russia takes on Europe in war of ideas about World War 2

Were Western powers responsible for the prolonged nazi dictatorship?

The Western powers, in reality, should share substantial blame for the outbreak of war. In addition, the Nazi dictatorship could have been destroyed at any time by France and Britain between 1933 to 1938, when Hitler was vulnerable and his military forces meagre.

As late as September 1938, the German General Staff bluntly told Hitler that the Wehrmacht was still not strong enough to fight a European war, yet the West did not particularly want to topple Hitler, with Britain having deep-seated financial ties to the Nazi regime, as by the late 1930s the Third Reich was London’s principal trading client.

The British and French were largely responsible for the “Phoney War” that ensued from September 1939; during which the over-riding desire remained the same: that with Poland’s defeat, Hitler’s next move would again be to the east with an attack on the USSR, leaving western Europe untouched.

Conservative MP Boothby recalled in the months after the German invasion of Poland, “We confined our war efforts to dropping leaflets on the German people, telling them that it was a bad idea to go to war and a pity that they’d done it. And perhaps that we might make peace”.

In the Phoney War period US business executives like James D. Mooney – in charge of General Motors’ overseas operations including in Nazi Germany – had attempted to persuade the British and Germans to resolve their conflict, in the hope of pushing Hitler towards invading Soviet Russia.

Read more: How Nazi Germany benefitted America’s corporations

Mooney, who had met senior Nazis in the past and received a decoration from Hitler, saw the dictator again in March 1940.

Mooney made a plea with him to preserve the peace in western Europe. He further informed Hitler that, “Americans had understanding for Germany’s standpoint with respect to the question of living space”. It meant that Washington had no problem should Germany decide to expand to the east.

Joseph Kennedy, the US Ambassador to Britain and father of John F. Kennedy, likewise tried hard to persuade Berlin and London to resolve their differences. These attempts failed, as the Germans attacked westwards in the early summer of 1940, securing a series of routine military victories.

America against the Axis States

As America entered the war in December 1941 in opposition to the Axis states, mixed feelings were prevalent in Washington. There was little indecision at fighting the hated Japanese, but there was discomfort in the US capital at their union with the USSR, an ideological foe.

This unease grew as the war dragged on. The Allied leadership would also be disconcerted at the power gained across much of the world by the anti-fascist Resistance, which often contained labour friendly and radical democratic attitudes.

US-led efforts to dismantle the Resistance and other leftist factions, while reinstituting the capitalist business hierarchy, would become a global operation, picking up in intensity from the mid-1940s.

Already in late 1942 – as the Allies captured their first chunk of territory from German control in north Africa – the Franklin Roosevelt administration, with Churchill’s backing, appointed a prominent fascist collaborator, Admiral Francois Darlan, to take over command of that expansive region. This decision enraged both the French Resistance and General Charles de Gaulle, who denounced Darlan by saying “You can buy traitors, but not the honour of France”.

From July 1943, with Allied forces landing in the far south of Italy, the US State Department and Secretary of War, Henry Stimson, sought to bring to power Dino Grandi, the far-right Italian politician. Grandi, a former high official in the Mussolini dictatorship, was described as a “moderate” by the State Department, someone who had been pushed towards fascism “by the excesses of the communists”.

Churchill wrote to President Roosevelt on 31 July 1943 that the main consideration when liberating Italy was to prevent “chaos, Bolshevisation or civil war”. Churchill warned that nothing stood in the way “between the King and the patriots who have rallied around him” and that of “rampant Bolshevism”. The Allies supported the Italian king, who had collaborated fully with Mussolini during his rule.

Read more: Book Review: Churchill and the Islamic World By Warren Dockter

Shane Quinn has contributed on a regular basis to Global Research for almost two years and has had articles published with American news outlets People’s World and MintPress News, Morning Star in Britain, and Venezuela’s Orinoco Tribune. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.