Military Review

In the spring of 1940, England and France were preparing for war against the USSR.

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In the spring of 1940, England and France were preparing for war against the USSR.70 years ago, the Allied Expeditionary Force was ready to land in the Russian North. Had the Western powers fulfilled their plans, World War II would have taken a different turn.

The only thing that prevented the Anglo-French invasion of the Soviet Arctic was that Finland, under the pretext of helping which this action was started, had already been defeated by the Soviet troops. Fortunately for us, either the Red Army broke the Finnish troops too quickly, or the Western “democracies” swayed too slowly with their military preparations. Most likely, both together. And also the fact that at the conclusion of a peace treaty with Finland 12 in March 1940, the Soviet Union was very moderate in its demands. Finland lost only a small area. And the reasons for this moderation among the Soviet leadership were more than weighty - the threat of a full-scale war with Britain and France. And in the future, perhaps, with the whole bloc of participants in the Munich Agreement, that is, with the Western powers, which were in alliance with Nazi Germany.


"Kill two birds with one stone"


Back in September, Churchill recommended that the Cabinet of Ministers mine the Norwegian territorial waters, through which the routes of German transports passed. Now he directly raised the question of occupation: “We can certainly occupy and retain any islands or any points on the Norwegian coast ... We can, for example, occupy Narvik and Bergen, use them for our trade and at the same time completely close them to Germany ... Establishing English control over the Norwegian coast is a strategic task of paramount importance ". True, these measures were proposed only as retaliatory measures in the event of the inevitable, according to Churchill, German attacks on Norway and, possibly, Sweden. But the last quoted phrase makes it clear that this reservation was made purely for rhetorical purposes.


"No formal violation of international law, - Churchill frankly developed his proposal, - if we do not commit inhuman acts at the same time, it cannot deprive us of the sympathy of neutral countries. On behalf of the League of Nations, we have the right, and it is even our duty, to temporarily invalidate those laws that we want to emphasize and respect which we want to ensure. Small nations should not tie our hands if we fight for their rights and freedom. ” Commenting on this passage, the German historian of World War II, General C. Tippelskirch, wrote: "Not for the first time, England, in the name of mankind, violated the sacred principles of international law that prevented it from waging war."


Of course, such a reproach on the part of the former Hitler general involuntarily evokes the Russian proverb: “Whose cow would mumble ...”. But in fact, one imperialistic predator - the United Kingdom - was not much different from another predator - Germany. Several times during the war, England proved it. And the preparation of a preventive occupation of Norway, and an attack (without declaring war) on the French fleet and the French colonies after France signed an armistice with Germany. And, of course, repeatedly hatched plans for an attack on the USSR.


In the same document, Churchill raised the question of the possibility of opening hostilities against the USSR: "The transport of iron ore from Luleå (in the Baltic Sea) has already stopped because of the ice, and we must not allow the Soviet icebreaker to break it if he tries to do it" .


Already 19 December 1939, the Allied Supreme Military Council ordered the beginning of the development of operational plans for military operations against the USSR. For comparison: Hitler gave a similar indication only 31 July 1940 year - more than seven months later.


The formal reason for the aggressive preparations of the Western powers was that after the foreign policy turn of August-September 1939, the Soviet Union became the main supplier of important types of strategic raw materials, primarily oil, to Germany. But these preparations had another, more weighty geostrategic reason, which we will talk about at the end of the article.


Plans for preventive occupation of Norway (and, possibly, the north of Sweden) began to be organically linked with the military assistance of Finland against the Soviet Union. 27 January 1940 of the Year The Allied Supreme Military Council approved a plan for sending an expeditionary corps to northern Europe consisting of two British divisions and a French force, the number of which was to be determined later. The corps was to land in the area of ​​Kirkenes (Norway) - Petsamo (Finland; now Pechenga, Murmansk region of the Russian Federation) and extend its area of ​​activity both to the Soviet Arctic and to the north of Norway and Sweden. Churchill applied to this case a well-known comparison - “kill two birds with one stone”. 2 March 1940, French Prime Minister Daladier determined the number of troops sent to Finland to 50 thousands of troops. Together with two British divisions, this would have been a noticeable force in such a theater of operations. In addition, the Western powers expected to incline the active participation of the armed forces of Norway and Sweden in the anti-Soviet intervention.


Southern Plan


In parallel with the plan to invade Russia from the north, the British and French headquarters were actively developing a plan to attack our country from the south, using Turkey, the Black Sea, and the Balkan countries. In the French General Staff, he was named the "Southern Plan". The French commander-in-chief, General Gamelin, reporting to the government on the advantages of the “Southern Plan”, stated: “The general theater of operations will expand enormously. Yugoslavia, Romania, Greece and Turkey will give us reinforcements in the size of 100 divisions. Sweden and Norway can give no more than 10 divisions. ”


Thus, the Western powers planned to create a representative anti-Soviet coalition of small and medium-sized countries, which was to become the main supplier of cannon fodder for the proposed intervention. The composition of the coalition indicates that the invasion of the USSR in the south was to take place from two directions: 1) in the Transcaucasus, from the territory of Turkey, 2) to Ukraine, from the territory of Romania. Accordingly, the Anglo-French fleet, with the assistance of Turkey, was supposed, as in the Crimean War, to enter the Black Sea. By the way, the Soviet Black Sea Fleet was preparing for such a war all 30 years. England and France themselves intended to take part in the implementation of the Southern Plan, mainly by forces aviationcarrying out bombing of the oil region of Baku, oil refineries and the port of Batumi, as well as the port of Poti from bases in Syria and Turkey.


The upcoming operation was conceived not only as a purely military, but also as a military-political one. General Gamelin pointed out in the report to the French government the importance of causing unrest among the peoples of the Soviet Caucasus.


To this end, the French army special services began training among the emigrants of Caucasian nationalities, mainly Georgians, of sabotage groups for entering the Soviet rear. Subsequently, all these groups already in finished form "inherited" passed from the capitulation of France to the Nazis, who created from them various Caucasian divisions of the Brandenburg-800 regiment, famous for its provocative and terrorist acts.


Preparation for the attack was close to completion


Meanwhile, events in northern Europe were nearing their denouement. The preparation of the landing by the Western powers proceeded "democratically" slowly. And Hitler decided to beat the opponents. He was worried that the Western powers would carry out their intention to establish themselves with a military force in Norway. Curiously, Churchill does not deny the main motive of the German invasion of Norway: British preparations. He cites the testimony of the German General Falkenhorst, commander of the Weser Jubung operation to occupy Denmark and Norway, at the Nuremberg process. According to him, the 20 Hitler of February 1940 of the year said to him: “I was informed that the British are going to land there [in Norway], I want to get ahead of them ... The occupation of Norway by the British would be a strategic detour that would lead the British ... Our successes in the East, as well as the successes we are going to achieve in the West, would have been eliminated. ”


In the midst of the preparation of both sides, the reason for the landing of the Anglo-French landing force to help the Finns was no longer there. 12 March 1940 Finland entered into a peace treaty with the USSR. But the goal of the occupation of Norway remained unchanged. The question was whether the Germans or the British would be in time earlier. 5 April 1940, the Allied forces were supposed to start loading onto ships. On the same day, the British planned to start mining the Norwegian territorial waters. However, the required number of transports by the target date could not be delivered. As a result, the beginning of both operations was postponed to April 8. On this day, the ships with the Anglo-French landing force left the harbors and on the same day the production of English minefields off the coast of Norway began. However, ships with German troops, accompanied by ships of the German Navy, at this time were approaching the shores of Norway!


If the Soviet-Finnish war were still going on, and the Western powers were more efficient, then in April 1940, exactly 70 years ago, the Anglo-French operation under Murmansk could begin.


The end of the Soviet-Finnish war and the defeat of the Anglo-French troops from the Germans in Norway did not stop the preparation by the Western powers of an attack on the USSR. On the contrary, after that the British and French military leaders paid even closer attention to the southern direction. True, it was impossible to put together a coalition directed against the USSR from the states of the “second order”. But Turkey made it clear that it would not impede the use by Britain and France of its airspace for raids into the territory of the Soviet Union. Preparations for the operation have gone far enough, so that, according to General Weygun, the commander of the French army in the "mandated" Syria and Lebanon, it was possible to calculate the time it began. The French General Command, which was clearly more interested in this matter than England, despite the danger already hanging from the Rhine, set the end of June 1940 for the USSR as a preliminary date for the start of air strikes on the USSR.


What happened by this time is known. Instead of triumphant raids on Baku and other cities of the Soviet Transcaucasia, General Weygan had to "save France." True, Weygun didn’t bother himself, right after he was appointed by the commander-in-chief instead of Gamelen (23 in May 1940), declaring himself a supporter of an early conclusion of an armistice with Nazi Germany. Perhaps he still did not give up hope to lead the victorious campaign against the Soviet Union. And, perhaps, even with the German troops.


At the end of 1939 - the first half of 1940, however, and not only at this time, the United Kingdom and France viewed as the main enemy not Germany, with whom they were at war, but the Soviet Union.


“Strange War”: before and after May 1940


The “strange war” is traditionally called the Second World War on the Western Front from September 1939 of the year to the beginning of the German offensive in May of 1940. But this well-established scheme, taking into account many data, should be reconsidered a long time ago. After all, from the Western powers, the “strange war” did not end at all in May 1940! If Germany at that time had set itself the decisive goal of defeating France and forcing England to peace on German conditions, then the allies did not at all think of abandoning the strategy (if it can be called a strategy) of “appeasing Hitler”! This is proved by the whole course of the transient campaign on the Western Front in May-June 1940.


With an equal balance of forces with the German troops, the British and French preferred to retreat, not getting involved in fights with the Wehrmacht.


The principal decision on the evacuation through Dunkirk, the British command has already taken 17 May. French troops quickly dispersed under the blows of the Germans, opening the way for them to the sea, and then to Paris, declared "open city". The new commander-in-chief, Weygand, who was summoned from Syria instead of Gamelen, at the end of May raised the question of the need for surrender to Germany. In the days that preceded the capitulation, there were such strange arguments in her favor in her favor: “It’s better to become a Nazi province than a British dominion!”


Even earlier, during the “lull before the storm”, the Anglo-French troops, having an overwhelming superiority in forces over Germany, refrained from active operations. At the same time, having easily allowed the Wehrmacht to crush Poland, the allies did not give up hopes to convince Hitler that his true goals lay in the East. Instead of bombs, the Anglo-French aircraft dropped leaflets on cities in Germany, in which Hitler was portrayed as “a scared knight-crusader who refused a crusade,” a man who “capitulated to Moscow’s demands”. Speaking in October 4 in the House of Commons, British Foreign Secretary Halifax openly lamented that Hitler, having entered into a non-aggression pact with Stalin, acted contrary to all his previous policies.


"Strange" this war was not only from the Western powers. Hitler, having given 23 of May 1940 of the year a “stop order” to ban the defeat of the British Expeditionary Corps pressed to the sea, hoped thereby to demonstrate that he had no intention of ending England. These calculations, as we know, were not justified. But not because of Churchill’s supposedly principled line on the destruction of Nazism. And not because the British took Hitler's demonstrative love of peace for weakness. Just because Britain and Germany could not agree on the conditions of peace.


British intelligence, unlike ours, is in no hurry to reveal its secrets, even if it was 70 years ago.


Therefore, what the secret negotiations between the second man who flew to the UK in Reich Rudolf Hess and the representatives of the British elite were conducted, we present only by indirect information. Hess took this secret to the grave, dying in prison, where he was serving a life sentence. According to the official version, he committed suicide - this is at the age of 93 years! The most interesting thing is that the “suicide” of Hess followed soon after the information appeared that the leadership of the USSR intended to seek pardon for Hess and release him.


So, apparently, the British fox, pretending to be a lion, simply did not accept the format of the peace proposals brought by Hess. Apparently, guaranteeing the preservation of all its colonies and dependent territories for England, Hess insisted on the preservation by Germany, one way or another, of a uniquely dominant position on the European continent. England, following the traditions of its centuries-old “balance of power” doctrine, could not accept this. But it is obvious that the negotiations did not immediately reach an impasse.


A sign of this is that shortly after Hess arrived in May 1941 on Foggy Albion, the British leadership again returned to a year ago with plans to attack the USSR from the south. Now without the help of France. At this time, Britain was alone with Germany. It would seem that she should have thought exclusively about her own defense! And no. Despite the regular attacks of the Luftwaffe on British cities, it was planned to increase the British Air Force stationed in the Middle East, even to the detriment of the defense of Crete (before the British had surrendered Greece practically without a fight, as usual, evacuated by sea).


Obviously, an operation of this kind could be planned only on the basis of a truce, and most likely even for a military-political alliance with Germany. Moreover, Hitler's intention to launch a war against Russia in May-June 1941 was not a secret to British leaders.


The British historian J. Butler in his book “Big Strategy” (L., 1957; Russian transl. M., 1959) shows that at the end of May 1941, “in London there was an opinion that by creating a threat to Caucasian oil, it would be possible to put pressure on Russia. " 12 June, just ten days before Hitler Germany attacked our country, the British Chiefs of Staff "decided to take measures that would have made it possible for middle-sized bombers to launch an air strike from Mosul [northern Iraq] to Baku’s oil refineries."


The new "Munich" at the expense of the USSR almost became a reality


Had the UK (in alliance with or without France) in 1940-1941. opened hostilities against the USSR, it would only benefit Hitler. Its main strategic goal, as you know, was the conquest of living space in the East. And any operations in the West were subordinated to the goal of reliably protecting themselves from the rear for the upcoming war with the USSR. Hitler was not going to destroy the British Empire - there are numerous evidences about this. He not without reason believed that Germany would not be able to take advantage of the “British heritage” - the British colonial empire, in case of its collapse, will be divided between the USA, Japan and the USSR. Therefore, all his actions before and during the war were aimed at reaching a peace agreement with England (of course, on German terms). With Russia, a merciless struggle for life and death. But in order to achieve the great goal, temporary tactical agreements with Russia were also possible.


A state of war between Britain and the USSR against 22 June 1941 of the year would have made it very difficult to create the anti-Hitler coalition of these two countries, if it had not simply made it impossible. The same circumstance would induce England to be more amenable to the German peace proposals. And then the mission of Hess would be more likely to succeed.


After Hitler attacked the USSR, there were tens of thousands of volunteers in defeated France who were ready to go with the Nazis to the “barbarian East” from anti-Sovietism or Russophobia. There is reason to believe that there would have been many such people in Great Britain, she concluded peace with Hitler in 1941 year.


The "new Munich" alliance of the Western powers with Germany, aimed at the division of the USSR, could well become a reality.


Hit England on Russia in 1940, Hitler could even conclude a military-political alliance with Stalin. But all the same, it would not hurt him to attack the USSR, when he thought conditions were favorable. Especially if there were prospects for reconciliation with Great Britain. No wonder Stalin told 18 on November 1940 of the year at an extended meeting of the Politburo: "Hitler constantly repeats his peacefulness, but the main principle of his policy is treachery." The leader of the USSR correctly understood the essence of Hitler’s line of conduct in foreign policy.


The calculations of Great Britain included that Germany and the USSR mutually weaken each other as much as possible. In London’s pushing Berlin toward expansion to the East, provocative motifs were clearly visible. England and France (before the defeat of the latter) wanted to be in the position of the “third rejoicing” during the Russian-German confrontation. It cannot be said that this line was completely crowned with collapse. After 22 June 1941, the Luftwaffe stopped raids on England, and she was able to breathe more freely. France capitulated in time, too, ultimately did not lose - it was formally among the winners, having lost (like England) many times fewer people than in the First World War. But it was important for Hitler that the West did not have a land bridgehead for stabbing Germany. For him, the true motives of the Western powers were not a secret. Therefore, he decided first of all to get rid of France and force England to peace. The first he succeeded, the second - no.


At the same time, Stalin’s plans would have been responsible for delaying the war in Western Europe. The inevitability of war with Nazi Germany was fully realized by Stalin. According to A.M. Kollontai, back in November 1939, in a conversation in a narrow circle in the Kremlin, Stalin declared: “We must practically prepare for resistance, for war with Hitler.” Last but not least, he did not put forward the difficult conditions of the world to Finland in March 1940. In addition to the desire to protect the USSR from the possible intervention of Britain and France in the conflict, he wanted the Western powers to concentrate as much as possible on their defense against Hitler. But since it was part of the calculations of the Soviet leadership, it did not correspond to the intentions of the anti-Soviet circles of the West. Hopes for a long-term resistance of England and France to the Wehrmacht were not justified. France preferred to quickly capitulate, and England did not want to distance itself from the battle for France.


Summarizing, we can say that the opening of England (especially in alliance with France) in the 1940-1941. military action against the USSR would not automatically lead to a long-lasting alliance between our country and Germany. It would not reduce, but rather even increase the likelihood of Hitler's collusion with the leaders of the Western powers on anti-Soviet soil. And, accordingly, it would seriously complicate the geostrategic position of the USSR in the inevitable war with Nazi Germany.

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  1. Alexey Gorshkov
    Alexey Gorshkov 3 November 2018 07: 26
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    In general - betrayal is some kind of "trick" of the Anglo-Saxons! Great Britain and the United States were forced to fight with Hitler - they raised him, and simply did not expect that he would be so frostbitten that he would throw himself at his masters! And in the course of the war, in my opinion, they did not completely abandon it. It seems to me that Hitler was still their "toy" - even the plan of his attack on the USSR is some kind of unfinished - well, he would have come out, as he wanted, to the Arkhangelsk-Astrakhan line - AND BEYOND WHAT ?! What is interesting - France itself is the SAME! Czechoslovakia, Poland, Finland, after all, she BETRAYED BY herself! And together with the same British, she was preparing to attack the USSR! But they betrayed her to YOURSELF! Having superiority in forces and MORE THAN SEMI-ANNUAL state of war with Germany, in 1940 she managed to lose to her practically "dry"! Whatever one may say, but the word "giveaway" constantly pops up in the brain! And then? If we take the ratio of the French who fought for the Reich, and - against, what will it be? We are always reproached for Vlasovism - and what about French collaboration? In 1945, when France was no longer under Germany, some of the defenders of Berlin were the French from the SS Charlemagne division! Along with de Gaulle's supporters, there were supporters of the pro-Hitler Vichy regime! It is known for sure that in 1941, near the historic village of Borodino, a French military unit attacked and was completely destroyed! As for the French - it seems to me that the German Field Marshal Keitel was right, who, signing the surrender, having seen the French at the ceremony, sarcastically asked: "What, and THESE won us?" It's just that Germany was eventually BETRAYED, just as Czechoslovakia, Poland, Finland, France had been betrayed before! But they did not succeed in betraying us, although there were attempts - from 1941 to 1944, they "fed" us "breakfasts" about the Second Front!
    Also, what I am becoming more convinced of: we underestimate the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact! We habitually consider it only a delay of two years of the outbreak of war and the acquisition of new territories - this is also true, but - a trifle in comparison with the fact that WE COULD DESTROY THE HAPPENING UNITED ANTI-SOVIET COALITION, forcing potential aggressors to fight among themselves!