In return for a promise of Soviet neutrality Stalin was given a sphere of influence in Eastern Europe, including territory in Poland. In accordance with this agreement the Soviets invaded Eastern Poland on 17 September and occupied the territory allocated to them by the pact.
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From the Soviet point of view, the invasion was justified by the fact that this territory had been forcibly occupied by the Poles in the wake of the Russo-Polish war of — Britain went to war with Germany in defence of Poland, but the Soviet occupation of Eastern Poland was actually welcomed by Winston Churchill in a radio broadcast on 1 October We could have wished that the Russian armies should be standing on their present line as the friends and allies of Poland instead of as invaders.
But that the Russian armies should stand on this line was clearly necessary for the safety of Russia against the Nazi menace. I cannot forecast to you the action of Russia.
It is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma; but perhaps there is a key. That key is Russian national interest. It cannot be in accordance with the interests or the safety of Russia that Germany should plant itself upon the shores of the Black Sea, or that it should overrun the Balkan states and subjugate the Slavonic peoples of south-eastern Europe. That would be contrary to the historic life-interests of Russia.
Faced with the escalation of their local war into a major conflict in Scandinavia, Stalin and the Finns agreed a peace treaty in March Finland was forced to make various territorial concessions to the Soviets but the country retained its independence. But in —40 Stalin was intent on cooperating as much as he could with Hitler, and the Nazi—Soviet pact was followed by a period of close political, economic and military cooperation between the two states.
Stalin saw war with Hitler as possible, even likely, but not inevitable.
Stalin was represented by his foreign minister, Vyacheslav Molotov, who was instructed to secure a new Nazi—Soviet pact that would guarantee the Soviet Union against German attack and extend Soviet—German spheres of influence arrangements to the Balkans. Hitler ignored this proposal and on 18 December issued the order for Operation Barbarossa.
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From January it was clear that a German—Soviet war was coming. Diplomatic relations between the two countries continued to deteriorate; there was a massive build-up of German military might along Soviet borders, and multiple sources of intelligence information indicated that the Germans were preparing an invasion.
Stalin believed that to avoid a two-front war Hitler would not invade before he had defeated Britain. Above all, Stalin was confident that Soviet defences would hold when the Germans did attack and that there would be time to counter-mobilise his forces. For this reason he resisted pressure from his generals for full-scale mobilisation prior to a German attack—an action that he thought might provoke an invasion by Hitler.
Stalin was disastrously wrong.
Hitler invaded Russia while still at war with Britain and the invasion came a lot sooner than the Soviet dictator expected. The Germans launched the full force of their military power—a 3. Soviet defences were smashed to smithereens and there was no time for the Red Army to mobilise for counteraction. Operation Barbarossa.
David King Collection. The German invasion plan envisaged a quick and easy war in Russia that would see the Red Army destroyed within a few weeks and the country occupied along a line running from Archangel in the north to Astrakhan in the south. Even so, Hitler was strong enough to attempt victory again in , this time in a southern campaign that took his armies to Stalingrad. After his death Stalin came under attack in the Soviet Union for allowing himself to be so surprised by Hitler. Leading the assault was Nikita Khrushchev, his successor as Soviet leader. According to Khrushchev, it was clear that the Germans were going to invade and that the invasion would have disastrous consequences for the Soviet Union if the country was not adequately prepared and mobilised.
When war broke out, claimed Khrushchev, Stalin went into a state of shock and did not come to his senses until other party leaders went to him and insisted that he continue to lead the country. Stalin recovered his nerve but his amateurish military leadership proved to be disastrous, argued Khrushchev. According to the personality cult, Stalin was a military genius who could do no wrong. The German advance in the south, summer But when Khrushchev fell from power in a different view of Stalin as warlord began to emerge. According to Zhukov,. His prestige was exceedingly high, and his appointment as supreme commander was wholeheartedly acclaimed by the people and the troops.
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To err is human, and, of course, the supreme commander did make mistakes early in the war. But he took them close to heart, gave them deep thought, and sought to draw due lessons from them so as never to repeat them again. Stalin was certainly shocked by the extent of the early German successes, but he remained in control and maintained the coherence of his military and political command structure in the face of devastating defeats.
Even when the Germans were approaching Moscow Stalin did not waver and took some key decisions that helped to save the city. Zhukov was given command of Soviet defences and Stalin resisted the temptation to throw all his reserves into the defensive battle, saving some for a planned counter-offensive.
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His decision to remain in Moscow helped to steady a panic that was developing in the city, and he gave some stirring patriotic speeches to troops on their way to the front. When the Germans attacked in June he ordered a series of massive counter-offensives that made little headway but further disorganised Soviet defences. Against the advice of his generals, he refused to withdraw his forces from Kiev, the Ukrainian capital. The result was that four Soviet armies—more than 40 divisions—were encircled by the Germans and , Soviet soldiers were killed, captured or went missing in action.
This first great winter offensive of the Red Army secured some initial gains but ran out of steam by early and the scene was set for a German comeback later that summer. Ruins of the factory district in besieged Stalingrad. One of the keys to success was maintaining a Red Army bridgehead in Stalingrad itself that would keep the Germans locked into a gruelling war of attrition for the city. They, like him, were on a steep learning curve, and it took time and experience for them to develop better judgement—and the better they got at their job the more willing was Stalin to take their advice.
The great turning-point for Stalin and his generals came during the battle of Stalingrad. As in summer , the Germans advanced very rapidly and Hitler was encouraged to think that his armies could simultaneously reach Baku and occupy Stalingrad. Another problem was that some ill-conceived and badly prepared offensive operations in April—May had resulted in such severe losses that Soviet defences were in a badly weakened state when the Germans launched their southern campaign.
This was the importance of the prolonged defensive battle of Stalingrad that the Soviets waged from August to November Victorious Soviet soldiers marching through the ruins of Stalingrad. The alliance between the Western Allies and the Soviet Union began to deteriorate even before the war was over,  when Stalin , Roosevelt, and Churchill exchanged a heated correspondence over whether the Polish government-in-exile , backed by Roosevelt and Churchill, or the Provisional Government , backed by Stalin, should be recognised.
Stalin won. A number of allied leaders felt that war between the United States and the Soviet Union was likely. Stalin responded by charging that co-existence between communist countries and the West was impossible. Due to the rising tension in Europe and concerns over further Soviet expansion, American planners came up with a contingency plan code-named Operation Dropshot in It considered possible nuclear and conventional war with the Soviet Union and its allies in order to counter a Soviet takeover of Western Europe, the Near East and parts of Eastern Asia that they anticipated would begin around In response, the US would saturate the Soviet Union with atomic and high-explosive bombs, and then invade and occupy the country.
The approach entailed a major buildup of US nuclear forces and a corresponding reduction in America's non-nuclear ground and naval strength. In Greece , civil war broke out in between Anglo-American-supported royalist forces and communist-led forces , with the royalist forces emerging as the victors. On 12 March , to gain Congressional support for the aid, President Truman described the aid as promoting democracy in defence of the " free world ", a principle that became known as the Truman Doctrine.
The US sought to promote an economically strong and politically united Western Europe to counter the threat posed by the Soviet Union. This was done openly using tools such as the European Recovery Program , which encouraged European economic integration. The International Authority for the Ruhr , designed to keep German industry down and controlled, evolved into the European Coal and Steel Community , a founding pillar of the European Union.
The United States also worked covertly to promote European integration, for example using the American Committee on United Europe to funnel funds to European federalist movements. However, without the manpower and industrial output of West Germany no conventional defence of Western Europe had any hope of succeeding. The attempt was dashed when the French Parliament rejected it. In Asia, the surrender of Japanese forces was complicated by the split between East and West as well as by the movement toward national self-determination in European colonial territories.
As agreed at the Yalta Conference , the Soviet Union went to war against Japan three months after the defeat of Germany. The Soviet forces invaded Manchuria. This was the end of the Manchukuo puppet state and all Japanese settlers were forced to leave China. The Soviet Union dismantled the industrial base in Manchuria built up by the Japanese in the preceding years.
Manchuria also became a base for the Communist Chinese forces because of the Soviet presence. After the war, the Kuomintang KMT party led by generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek and the Communist Chinese forces resumed their civil war , which had been temporarily suspended when they fought together against Japan.
The fight against the Japanese occupiers had strengthened popular support among the Chinese for the Communist guerrilla forces while it weakened the KMT, who depleted their strength fighting a conventional war. Full-scale war between the opposing forces broke out in June Despite U. The KMT forces retreated to the island of Taiwan in Hostilities had largely ceased in Intermittent military clashes occurred between the PRC and Taiwan from Taiwan unilaterally declared the civil war over in , but no formal peace treaty or truce exists and the PRC officially sees Taiwan as a breakaway province that rightfully belongs to it and has expressed its opposition to Taiwanese independence.
Even so, tensions between the two states has decreased over time for example with the Chen-Chiang summits From this point, the relations between them have improved over time although some tension and rivalry remain even with the end of the Cold War and the PRC's distancing from the Communist ideology.
At the Yalta Conference , the Allies agreed that an undivided post-war Korea would be placed under four-power multinational trusteeship. After Japan's surrender, this agreement was modified to a joint Soviet-American occupation of Korea. Korea, formerly under Japanese rule , and which had been partially occupied by the Red Army following the Soviet Union's entry into the war against Japan, was divided at the 38th parallel on the orders of the US War Department. John R.
Hodge , enlisted many former Japanese administrative officials to serve in this government. Simultaneously, the Soviets enabled a build-up of heavy armaments to pro-communist forces in the north. It culminated in the north invading the south, start of the Korean War two years later. Labour and civil unrest broke out in the British colony of Malaya in A state of emergency was declared by the colonial authorities in with the outbreak of acts of terrorism.
In , communist leader Chin Peng reopened hostilities, culminating in a second emergency that lasted until The communist-controlled common front Viet Minh supported by the Allies was formed among the Vietnamese in the colony in to fight for the independence of Vietnam, against both the Japanese and prewar French powers. After the Vietnamese Famine of support for the Viet Minh was bolstered as the front launched a rebellion, sacking rice warehouses and urging the Vietnamese to refuse to pay taxes. Because the French colonial authorities started to hold secret talks with the Free French, the Japanese interned them 9 March When Japan surrendered in August, this created a power vacuum, and the Viet Minh took power in the August Revolution , declaring the independent Democratic Republic of Vietnam.
However, the Allies including the Soviet Union all agreed that the area belonged to the French.