In fact, after a series of clashes with the Soviet Union in the 1930s, Tokyo did not want to transform the already tense relations with Moscow into an open military conflict. Despite the fact that the USSR was a natural rival of Japan in the struggle for influence in China, on the Korean Peninsula, in Mongolia, clashes with the Soviet Union in Tokyo clearly did not want. This is evidenced by a number of facts. Japan never entered the war against the Soviet Union in June 1941, although it was linked to Germany and Italy by allied relations. For example, the same Italians who had no real reasons for war with our country fought against the Soviet Union, the Spanish division, the Croatian units fought on the eastern front, but Japan, which had numerous territorial claims against the USSR, refused to enter the war.
13 on April 1941, a couple of months before Hitler’s Germany attacked the Soviet Union, a very interesting event happened in Moscow - Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Japanese Empire Yosuke Matsuoka and People’s Commissar of Foreign Affairs of the USSR Vyacheslav Mikhailovich Molotov signed a Pact on neutrality between USSR and Japan. It was already clear to everyone that the matter was headed for a war between Germany and the Soviet Union, and Japanese politicians were no exception. But why did the Japanese need to sign a non-aggression pact with the Soviet Union at such a difficult moment? There is a version that Tokyo was very unhappy about the non-aggression pact signed by Hitler Germany at the time of the Soviet-Japanese conflict on the Khalkhin Gol River. They say that the vindictive Eastern people decided to take revenge on Berlin by signing the Neutrality Pact on the eve of the Soviet-German war. However, in a big politics, offenses of this kind can hardly play a decisive role. Tokyo was guided by completely different considerations.
Unlike the Fuhrer of the Third Reich and its fanatical environment, the Japanese leadership reasoned much more sensibly. Japan soberly assessed the enormous potential of the Soviet Union, due to its vast territories and population, and perfectly understood that Hitler Germany would not win the war against the USSR. Therefore, the Japanese leadership did not want to get involved in Hitler's adventure. The advantages of Japan in the Pacific were largely due to the actions of the imperial fleethowever, in the event of a war with the Soviet Union, they would quickly come to naught - Japanese troops would have to fight in the vast expanses of Eastern Siberia and the Far East, where the samurai would certainly be bogged down even more than the Nazis in the west of the Soviet country. Tokyo understood this and did not want to risk it.
Secondly, for Japan, events in East and Southeast Asia were of much greater interest. The Land of the Rising Sun saw itself as the hegemon of the Asia-Pacific region and hoped to free Indochina, the Malay Archipelago, the Philippines, and the islands of Oceania from European domination, at the same time subjecting China to its influence. But in China, Japan was bogged down in the 1930s for a long time. Despite the cardinal superiority in armaments, in the training of troops, in technology, the population of China and its large spaces still played a role.
Against this background, the beginning of the war against the Soviet Union, which joined China from the north and west, would be a suicidal step for Japan. In China, Japan quickly realized what it means to wage war in large spaces and against a country that surpasses Japan in size by many times. Very quickly, the Japanese command felt a shortage of personnel in order to simultaneously conduct military operations in various directions and control the occupied territories. In addition, there were major problems with the provision of Japanese troops with fuel, ammunition, and food. The Japanese forces were unable to block all the routes by which Soviet, American and British military aid was delivered to China.
In addition to China, Japan was interested in very important economically and strategically territories of Southeast and South Asia. In Tokyo, they were well aware that the multi-million population of Indochina, Indonesia and Malaya, the Philippines, and India was extremely dissatisfied with the domination of the European colonialists. Therefore, back in 1930-s. Japan began to build relations with the anti-colonial movements of British India, French Indochina, the Netherlands East Indies (Indonesia), and also with the authorities of Thailand - the only sovereign state of the region at that time.
But if the resistance of the Dutch and French colonial troops could be suppressed very easily, the British looked like a much more serious opponent, especially considering the assistance from the United States. In fact, by 1941, it was the United States that remained the force that could hinder the implementation of Japanese plans to establish dominance in the Asia-Pacific region. Therefore, Japan and decided to attack the US naval base. Strictly speaking, this was also a suicidal step, since, as in the case of the USSR, the forces of Japan and the United States were also incomparable, considering that Great Britain and the numerous British dominions and colonies fought on the side of the United States in the Pacific. Thus, Japan itself dug its own grave, entering the war against a deliberately stronger opponent.
The war against the Americans and the British, unleashed by the Japanese imperialists in the Pacific, was advantageous to the Soviet Union. Now the Japanese troops were guaranteed to be engaged, bogged down in the fighting on the Pacific Islands and in Indochina. With the help of the Kwantung Army alone, Japan could not commit aggression against the USSR. Meanwhile, in Nazi Germany, they continued to hope that the Eastern Axis ally would still support Berlin and Rome and attack the Soviet Far East. It is possible that these considerations guided Hitler, declaring war on the United States. But Japan did not attack the Soviet Union, and there was not even a formal declaration of war. Of course, Moscow was forced to hold significant military forces in the Far East and Siberia, but the loyalty of Tokyo to the Neutrality Pact greatly helped the USSR.
Of course, Japan had the opportunity to start a war against the Soviet Union. In the autumn of 1941, when the Red Army defended Moscow with the greatest exertion of forces, Japan could attack the Far East, instantly putting the Soviet Union in a very difficult position. But they didn’t dare to make such a risky adventure in Tokyo. After all, if Japan attacked the USSR in the autumn of 1941 or at the beginning of 1942, it would have found itself in a war situation on three fronts - against the Anglo-Americans in the Pacific, against China and against the Soviet Union. It turns out that the position of Tokyo would have become more complicated than even that of Nazi Germany. The Japanese leadership could not go for it.
But if the attack did happen, Japan would still not have a chance to stand against the Soviet Union. The main forces of the Japanese army and navy since the winter of 1941 have been engaged in combat operations in the Pacific. Japan fought in Indochina, Indonesia, the Philippines, the Solomon Islands, Micronesia — and everywhere, not only strike units, but also garrisons were needed to protect the occupied territories. In addition, huge Japanese troops continued to fight in China, where the guerrilla movement was activated.
Directly against the USSR, Tokyo could have been abandoned only by the famous Kwantung Army, stationed in Manchuria. The 1941 — 1943 in Manchuria and Korea deployed 15 Japanese divisions with a total strength of approximately 700 thousand troops. In addition, the armed forces of the puppet states of Manchukuo and Menjiang were under the operational control of the Japanese command, but they would hardly be worth considering as serious opponents.
Since at first the Kwantung Army was recruited and supplied according to the residual principle, very serious problems for it were the poor level of training of personnel and outdated weapons. At least half of the Kwantung Army personnel were either unexplained recruits without combat experience, or civilians of senior age groups called up for military service. The Kwantung Army was not considered a prestigious duty station for the officer corps either.
The Soviet Union could oppose the Kwantung Army from 32 in June, 1941 to 49 in July, 1942, in the calculated divisions. The seriousness of the USSR’s intentions was confirmed by the creation of the 1 July 1940 of the Far Eastern Front and the 15 of September 1941 of the Trans-Baikal Front. By 1941, the number of troops on the Far Eastern Front reached 500 thousand, and about 600 thousand more were in the Trans-Baikal Front units and formations. The Pacific Fleet and the Red Banner Amur Flotilla were under the operational control of the Far Eastern Front. In the event of the outbreak of hostilities, the Far Eastern Front was to act on the coast of the Pacific Ocean, the Trans-Baikal Front — on the Mongolian and Manchurian directions.
In addition, the Mongolian People’s Republic would inevitably side with the USSR. The units and formations of the People’s Revolutionary Army of Mongolia were under the operational control of the command of the Trans-Baikal Front. The Soviet-Japanese war of 1945 of the year showed that the Mongolian troops, despite their relative small size, were nevertheless well prepared and able to adequately fight against the Japanese. If Japan attacked the USSR, in the Far East and Eastern Siberia, the guerrilla movement would inevitably develop, and the landscape of the area and the greater extent of the territories would allow the partisans to develop even more extensively than in the west of the country.
Finally, the beginning of the war with Japan would finally untie the hands of the Soviet Union in terms of supporting the Chinese armies who fought 1937 of the year against the Japanese aggressors. As for the training of personnel and the provision of armaments, the Soviet Union made a very big leap over even the period of the conflict at Khalkhin Gol. In Tokyo, this was also well understood, given that Japanese intelligence always worked well and regularly supplied the command with information about improving the army and navy of a potential enemy.
Interestingly, plans to start a war against the USSR in Tokyo were still discussed. Strange as it may seem, one of the supporters of the attack on the Soviet Union was the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the empire Yosuke Matsuoka, who signed the Neutrality Pact in 1941. He believed that Japan does not necessarily adhere to agreements, but it is worth making decisions based on specific situations. The Japanese command during the Second World War even doubled the number of the Kwantung Army, mobilizing reservists, but the attack on the USSR did not happen.
Joseph Stalin at the Yalta Conference promised the Western allies to start a war against Japan two to three months after the end of the war against Hitler Germany. By this time, it was already clear that Berlin could hold out no more than a few months, after which it would be the turn of Japan. This was well understood in Tokyo, so Japanese diplomats tried to start negotiations with the USSR so that Moscow would act as a mediator between Tokyo and the Western powers. But the Soviet Union was adamant in its position. 26 July, 1945, the United States, Britain and China demanded unconditional surrender from Japan. This requirement was not satisfied, after which the USSR declared war on Japan. The Soviet-Japanese war was, as you know, short-lived and lasted less than a month - from August 9 to September 2 1945. The Kwantung Army was completely crushed, and the political situation in East and Southeast Asia as a result of the defeat of Japan changed dramatically.