What if: Anglo-Franco-Soviet Alliance in 1939

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lordroel
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What if: Anglo-Franco-Soviet Alliance in 1939

Post by lordroel » 24 Aug 2017 21:13

What if: Anglo-Franco-Soviet Alliance in 1939

How would the world look today if the French and Brits responded positively to a offer made by Stalin on August 15th 1939, papers which were kept secret for almost 70 years show that the Soviet Union two weeks before war broke out in 1939 proposed sending a powerful military force in an effort to entice Britain and France into an anti-Nazi alliance. But the British and French delegation that had a meeting on August 15th 1939 at the Kremlin with a senior Soviet military delegation made up of the chief of the general staff, Boris Shaposhnikov, Defense Commissar Kliment Voroshilov and the naval minister, Admiral Nikolai Kusnezov who offered to dispatch 120 infantry divisions (each with some 19,000 troops), 16 cavalry divisions, 5,000 heavy artillery pieces, 9,500 tanks and up to 5,500 fighter aircraft and bombers on Germany's borders in the event of war in the west if Polish objections to the Soviet Army crossing its territory could first be overcome. But Admiral Sir Reginald Drax, who was leading the British delegation briefed by their governments to talk, but not authorized to commit to binding deals - did not respond to the Soviet offer. Instead, Stalin turned to Germany, signing the notorious non-aggression treaty named the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact after the foreign secretaries of the two countries barely a week later.

But what if the British and French had taken this offer seriously then together the British, French and Soviet armies could have put some 300 or more divisions into the field on two fronts against Germany - double the number Hitler had at the time, this might have forced Hitler to backed off, lest he trigger a two-front war. Hitler believed that he could defeat Poland well before the western powers could intervene, but could scarcely have entertained the same hope with regard to the Soviet Union. In his manifesto, Mein Kampf, the Nazi leader warned against the danger of fighting on two fronts. And, if anything, his generals feared that prospect more than he did. A secret resistance to Hitler among the men of the German High Command already existed. An alliance between the British, French and Soviets might have made Hitler’s foreign policy course seem so reckless as to spur that resistance into action.

But Hitler might have invaded Poland anyway. It was well known throughout Europe that Stalin’s military purges of the late 1930s had enormously damaged the Soviet armed forces. Hitler had contempt not only for the Soviet military but for its political leadership, and, countervailing alliance or no countervailing alliance, may well have pressed ahead with an attack on Poland, gambling that he could eliminate Poland before the Red Army could lumber into action and intervene effectively.

An Anglo-Franco-Soviet Alliance might have achieved the desired effect of deterring Hitler from invading Poland. But an alliance also might merely have postponed that invasion while Hitler engaged in more of the diplomatic maneuvering that had characterized his foreign policy for years. Or a Soviet alliance with the Western Allies could have had scant effect, with Germany invading Poland on September 1st 1939, as occurred historically.

What then would have been the impact of an alliance between the Soviet Union, Great Britain and the French Republic? In many respects the Soviet Union would have annexed the Baltic states and Eastern European would fall under its sphere of influence. But although it is unlikely that it would have helped the Poles fend off the Germans, the Soviet Union could have wound up holding onto an eastern strip of Polish territory.

The main difference—and this is vital—is that instead of a second front breaking open with the surprise attack of Operation Barbarossa in June 1941, war would have broken out between Germany and the Soviet Union in Sept ember 1939. The French army would have stood undefeated, Britain’s forces on the continent would have remained formidable, and, whatever their military shortcomings, the Soviets would have threatened Germany in a way that Hitler could not have ignored. In short, an Anglo-French-Soviet alliance might not have achieved its objective of deterring war. But the alliance would have forced Germany into a two-front conflict that would have played out very differently— to Germany’s disadvantage.

In the end no such alliance was formed, Poland whose territory the vast Soviet army would have had to cross to confront Germany, was firmly against such an alliance as they had good reasons to mistrust the Soviet Union and Britain was doubtful about the efficacy of any Soviet forces because only the previous year, Stalin had purged thousands of top Red Army commanders.

A desperate attempt by the French on August 21st to revive the talks was rebuffed, as secret Soviet-Nazi talks were already well advanced, it was only two years later, following Hitler's Blitzkreig attack on Russia in June 1941, that the alliance with the West which Stalin had sought finally came about - by which time France, Poland and much of the rest of Europe were already under German occupation.

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Re: What if: Anglo-Franco-Soviet Alliance in 1939

Post by thaddeus_c » 26 Aug 2017 18:36

not probable that it would but it is the only scenario that could bring Poland to German side, assuming that the machinations to sign such a pact are kept secret from them (Poland) as they almost certainly would have been.

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Re: What if: Anglo-Franco-Soviet Alliance in 1939

Post by wm » 26 Aug 2017 23:25

Actually it was the Stalin's demand to be given the right to a direct military intervention in all Eastern European countries which derailed the talks. The demand was rejected not only by Poland, but by the Baltic States and Romania.
Romania plainly stated that if they had to choose between an active Soviet intervention on their territory and even a heavy compromise with Germany they would choose the latter.

Haggling about this question took weeks (from the beginning of June 1939) before the "real" question of Poland was raised, Stalin made his decision at the same time - he didn't even bother to wait for an answer.
Stalin negotiated in bad faith, he knew his price was too high, and that only Hitler was willing to pay it.

August 14 - the question of Poland is raised by Voroshilov for the first time,
August 15 - Molotov speaks with Germany's Moscow ambassador about the possibility of signing a Soviet-German non-aggression pact,
August 19 - Molotov shows the German ambassador a draft of the pact, it includes partition of Poland and annexation of the Baltic States,
August 19 - the ambassadors of France and Britain in Warsaw relay Voroshilov's demand,
August 20 - Germany and the Soviet Union sign a commercial agreement,
August 21 - Stalin agrees to sign the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact,
August 22 - the French negotiator Doumenc agrees to Voroshilov's demand (without consulting anybody), Voroshilov demands a written declaration from the British, Poles and Romanians.
August 23 - Poland agrees to discuss the conditions of cooperation between the USSR and Poland,
August 24 - Ribbentrop arrives in Moscow and signs the pact.

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Re: What if: Anglo-Franco-Soviet Alliance in 1939

Post by thaddeus_c » 27 Aug 2017 16:53

wm wrote:Actually it was the Stalin's demand to be given the right to a direct military intervention in all Eastern European countries which derailed the talks. The demand was rejected not only by Poland, but by the Baltic States and Romania.
Romania plainly stated that if they had to choose between an active Soviet intervention on their territory and even a heavy compromise with Germany they would choose the latter.

Haggling about this question took weeks (from the beginning of June 1939) before the "real" question of Poland was raised, Stalin made his decision at the same time - he didn't even bother to wait for an answer.
Stalin negotiated in bad faith, he knew his price was too high, and that only Hitler was willing to pay it.
thanks for posting that chronology! I knew that Poland suspected negotiations for Soviet alliance were taking place (during several time periods) but did not know the actual details had been revealed to them on the last series of talks (before invasion.)

Marshall Pilsudski is quoted as saying Poland had one foot on one stool and one foot on another stool (or to that effect) and would have to decide.

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Re: What if: Anglo-Franco-Soviet Alliance in 1939

Post by rkka_arvgk » 01 Jul 2020 17:48

wm wrote:
26 Aug 2017 23:25
Actually it was the Stalin's demand to be given the right to a direct military intervention in all Eastern European countries which derailed the talks.
And not only Stalin.

the Deputy Chiefs of Staff of the British armed forces saw Soviet military intervention in the event of German attack on either Poland or Romania as the only way those countries could possibly avoid prompt & total conquest by Nazi Germany.

On 16 August 1939, the Deputy Chiefs of Staff met to consider the military implications of the difficulties the Moscow military staff talks had run into.

The day after that Soviet question, the Deputy Chiefs of Staff of the British armed forces wrote that accepting the Soviet position was Poland’s only hope of resisting a German attack for more than a brief period of time. Unfortunately, the Polish gvt disagreed, and refused their only hope of successfully resisting a German attack. And in paragraph 12 the DCoS predicted the M-R Pact as the most likely Soviet response to that Polish refusal.

Begin quote:
DCOS 179
Committee of Imperial Defence
Deputy Chiefs of Staff Sub-Committee of the Chiefs of Staff Committee
Russian conversations: Use of Polish and Roumanian territory by Russian forces

At our meeting on 16th August 1939 we gave consideration to the military aspects of the action proposed in connection with Mission Telegram #3 from the Russian mission in Moscow and Telegram # 197 from H.M Ambassador Moscow.

2. We understand that action has already been taken by the French government on the lines suggested in the above mentioned telegram.

3. From the military point of view, we welcome the action which has been taken. We feel that this is no time for half-measures and that every effort should be made to persuade Poland and Roumania to agree to the use of their territory by Russian forces.

4. In our opinion it is only logical that the Russians be given every facility for rendering assistance and putting their maximum weight into the scale on the side of the anti-aggression powers. We consider it so important to meet the Russians in this matter that, if necessary, the strongest pressure should be exerted on Poland and Roumania to persuade them to adopt a helpful attitude.

5. In view of the speed with which events are moving, it is possible that this report will be to a large extent out-of-date before there is time to circulate it, but we feel that it may be of advantage to put on record certain general observations on the broad question of the use of Polish and Roumanian territory by the Russian forces.

6. We are in entire agreement with the Ambassador and Admiral Drax that the problem now raised by the Russians is fundamental and we consider that even if the Russians are willing to continue conversations without agreement on this point, the results to be expected from the ensuing conversations would be of very little value.

7. It is perfectly clear that without early and effective Russian assistance, the Poles cannot hope to stand up to a German attack on land or in the air for more than a limited time. The same applies to Roumania except that the time would be still more limited. The supply of arms and war material is not enough. If the Russians are to collaborate in resisting German aggression against Poland or Roumania they can only do so effectively on Polish or Roumanian soil; and, as the Ambassador points out, if permission for this is withheld till war breaks out, it would then be too late. The most the Allies could then hope for would be to avenge Poland and Roumania and perhaps restore their independence as a result of the defeat of Germany in a long war.

8. Without immediate and effective Russian assistance, not only in the air, but on land, the longer that war would be, and the less chance there would be of Poland or Roumania emerging at the end of it as independent States in anything like their original form.

9. If war does come the Poles and Roumanians will find themselves with their backs to the wall and they will inevitably be only too glad to seek support from any source. Unless the Poles and Roumanians have faced this fact beforehand, the assistance they will receive will be much less than if preparations and plans have been made in advance.

10. We suggest that it is now necessary to present this unpalatable truth to both the Poles and the Roumanians. To the Poles especially it ought to be pointed out that they have obligations to us as well as we to them; and that it is unreasonable for them to expect us blindly to implement our guarantee to them if, at the same time they will not cooperate in measures designed for a common purpose.

11. The conclusion of a treaty with Russia appears to us to be the best way of preventing a war. The satisfactory conclusion of this treaty will undoubtably be endangered if the present Russian proposals for cooperation with Poland and Roumania were turned down by these countries.

12. At the worst if the negotiations with Russia break down, a Russo-German rapprochement may take place of which the probable consequence will be Russia and Germany decide to share the spoils and concert in a new partition of the Eastern European States. Alternatively, Russia might stand out as a neutral in the war and, unexhausted at its conclusion, take advantage of the subsequent chaos to take what she will from her neighbors.
Presumably, both the above alternatives must be equally repugnant to the Poles and the Roumanians.

Conclusion
In conclusion, we wish to emphasize once more our view that, if necessary, the strongest pressure should be brought on Poland and Roumania to agree in advance to the use of their territory by Russian forces, in the event of attack by Germany.
T.S.V. Phillips
H.R. Pownall (for D.C.I.G.S)
J.C. Slessor (for D.C.A.S)
16th August 1939
Cab 545 11 pgs 217-220
End quote.

So, are Tom Phillips, Henry Pownall, and John Slessor now thought to be cogs in some vast Communist machination?

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Re: What if: Anglo-Franco-Soviet Alliance in 1939

Post by TheMarcksPlan » 01 Jul 2020 21:29

rkka_arvgk wrote:
01 Jul 2020 17:48

12. At the worst if the negotiations with Russia break down, a Russo-German rapprochement may take place of which the probable consequence will be Russia and Germany decide to share the spoils and concert in a new partition of the Eastern European States. Alternatively, Russia might stand out as a neutral in the war and, unexhausted at its conclusion, take advantage of the subsequent chaos to take what she will from her neighbors.
Presumably, both the above alternatives must be equally repugnant to the Poles and the Roumanians.
Wow, thank you. Good to know there were intelligent Brits looking at things rationally at this point.

When war did come, Poland was expecting British/French intervention along the Rhine, along with other help. It seems the British especially (perhaps less so the French) were deceiving Poland tacitly or explicitly, refusing to be honest with their ally about the true situation and forcing it to immolate itself so that Britain could remove the stain of Munich without any real plan to win the war against Germany and without having to engage the odious Communists. At bottom the stakes weren't really that great for Britain - they'd send a few divisions to the continent but others would do most of the fighting. This has always seemed the deepest shame of the war.

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Re: What if: Anglo-Franco-Soviet Alliance in 1939

Post by Futurist » 01 Jul 2020 21:45

It's worth noting that in 1939 Poles still had vivid memories of the attempted Communist takeover of their country back in 1920. That was just 19 years ago from the vantage point of 1939. So, why let the Soviet Union into Poland if they might not leave for an extremely long time, if ever? It seems like a couple of years of German occupation would be superior to this if the Holocaust wasn't reasonably foreseeable yet. After all, Poland managed to survive several years of German occupation in World War I, so the hope was presumably for a repeat of this during World War II--followed by an eventual Western Allied victory as in World War I, of course. After such a victory, I am presuming that the hope would be that Poland's independence would be restored without Poland actually having to fall under Communist rule. It was a great plan and it might have actually worked had it not been for France's fall the following year. That event more than anything else really screwed over the Poles for the next half a century! :(

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Re: What if: Anglo-Franco-Soviet Alliance in 1939

Post by TheMarcksPlan » 02 Jul 2020 01:34

Futurist wrote:It's worth noting that in 1939 Poles still had vivid memories of the attempted Communist takeover of their country back in 1920.
Poland's preferences weren't worth much more than noting. They were in this bind in part because they joined Hitler as another jackal on Czechia's corpse at Munich. The Second Polish Republic was nearly as anti-semitic as the Third Reich at that point and was suppressing its Ukrainian minorities as well.

Britain and France should have refused to guarantee Poland's borders except as part of a coalition with the SU and all that implied. If the Poles refuse then let them be swallowed by Hitler, which brings the anti-Hitler coalition to Germany's borders in the East and probably avoids WW2 outside Poland.

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Re: What if: Anglo-Franco-Soviet Alliance in 1939

Post by TheMarcksPlan » 02 Jul 2020 01:38

Futurist wrote:the hope was presumably for a repeat of this during World War II--followed by an eventual Western Allied victory as in World War I, of course.
If so that was a stupid hope. Germany was obviously going to crush Poland quickly and then was the clear favorite against France and 10 British divisions.

This isn't just hindsight. Lloyd George told Chamberlain they needed a second front to beat Germany. When Chamberlain responded that Poland was the second front, George laughed in his face. Others in the Foreign Office were of the same opinion. It was the rabid anti-leftism of Chamberlain and his government that prevented them from seeing the truth.

WW2 was perhaps only a chapter of the Cold War.

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Re: What if: Anglo-Franco-Soviet Alliance in 1939

Post by Futurist » 02 Jul 2020 02:26

TheMarcksPlan wrote:
02 Jul 2020 01:38
Futurist wrote:the hope was presumably for a repeat of this during World War II--followed by an eventual Western Allied victory as in World War I, of course.
If so that was a stupid hope. Germany was obviously going to crush Poland quickly and then was the clear favorite against France and 10 British divisions.

This isn't just hindsight. Lloyd George told Chamberlain they needed a second front to beat Germany. When Chamberlain responded that Poland was the second front, George laughed in his face. Others in the Foreign Office were of the same opinion. It was the rabid anti-leftism of Chamberlain and his government that prevented them from seeing the truth.

WW2 was perhaps only a chapter of the Cold War.
You can ask Carl S. (from this forum) about this and see if he agrees with you about Germany being the clear favorite against France and Britain in 1940.

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Re: What if: Anglo-Franco-Soviet Alliance in 1939

Post by Futurist » 02 Jul 2020 02:27

TheMarcksPlan wrote:
02 Jul 2020 01:34
Futurist wrote:It's worth noting that in 1939 Poles still had vivid memories of the attempted Communist takeover of their country back in 1920.
Poland's preferences weren't worth much more than noting. They were in this bind in part because they joined Hitler as another jackal on Czechia's corpse at Munich. The Second Polish Republic was nearly as anti-semitic as the Third Reich at that point and was suppressing its Ukrainian minorities as well.
Poland simply presumably felt that it was unfair for Germany to get dibs on Czechoslovakia but not for it. That said, though, unlike both Germany and Hungary, Poland limited its territorial gains in Czechoslovakia to the recovery of its ethnic brethren.
Britain and France should have refused to guarantee Poland's borders except as part of a coalition with the SU and all that implied. If the Poles refuse then let them be swallowed by Hitler, which brings the anti-Hitler coalition to Germany's borders in the East and probably avoids WW2 outside Poland.
That would have certainly been a smarter move for Britain and France, Yes.

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Re: What if: Anglo-Franco-Soviet Alliance in 1939

Post by Futurist » 02 Jul 2020 02:29

I wonder what Poland would have preferred--to make an accommodation with Hitler to prevent being invaded in the first place or to ally with the Soviet Union even though this put Poland at risk of being conquered by the Communists as in 1920.

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Re: What if: Anglo-Franco-Soviet Alliance in 1939

Post by TheMarcksPlan » 02 Jul 2020 03:14

Futurist wrote:
02 Jul 2020 02:26
TheMarcksPlan wrote:
02 Jul 2020 01:38
Futurist wrote:the hope was presumably for a repeat of this during World War II--followed by an eventual Western Allied victory as in World War I, of course.
If so that was a stupid hope. Germany was obviously going to crush Poland quickly and then was the clear favorite against France and 10 British divisions.

This isn't just hindsight. Lloyd George told Chamberlain they needed a second front to beat Germany. When Chamberlain responded that Poland was the second front, George laughed in his face. Others in the Foreign Office were of the same opinion. It was the rabid anti-leftism of Chamberlain and his government that prevented them from seeing the truth.

WW2 was perhaps only a chapter of the Cold War.
You can ask Carl S. (from this forum) about this and see if he agrees with you about Germany being the clear favorite against France and Britain in 1940.
What's your point? Obviously I disagree with lots of folks here, even those I respect like Carl. If you have an argument for why France - half Germanys population - would expect to beat Germany with the help of 10 British divisions you should make it.

Britian is the real culprit here (besides Hitler of course). It's unconscionable that they welcomed a war they weren't willing to fight with full (land) commitment.

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Re: What if: Anglo-Franco-Soviet Alliance in 1939

Post by TheMarcksPlan » 02 Jul 2020 04:54

wm wrote:August 14 - the question of Poland is raised by Voroshilov for the first time,
This is such a blatant misrepresentation. Are you simply unaware of the history?

When Anglo-French delegation set off for the August '39 meetings (by slow boat, btw - the British were purposely dragging their feet), its members had repeatedly asked their governments for clarification of the Polish question that all knew would be faced.

From "End of the 'Low, Dishonest Decade': Failure of the Anglo-Franco-Soviet Alliance in 1939" by Michael Carley in Europe-Asia Studies, Vol 45 no. 2 (1993):

With such fatuous, if not duplicitous instructions did Doumenc set off to
Moscow with his British counterpart, Drax. The Anglo-French delegations arrived
on 11 August. Doumenc advised Naggiar that Daladier had given him instructions
not to agree to any military accord stipulating Red Army passage across Poland.
Doumenc should indicate to the Soviet authorities that they were being asked only
to provide military supplies to Poland and other such aid as the Polish government
might eventually request...
Naggiar was appalled, telling Doumenc that their instructions would kill the
negotiations.155
As the ambassador noted in retrospect, 'I recommended a well defined
military agreement and they send from Paris and London two missions instructed
to agree to nothing in this regard. As improbable as this seems, it is nevertheless
true'. p.327
It's hard to believe you're trying to pretend the Anglo-French knew nothing of the need for the Red Army to pass the border.

At a broader level, the SU had been trying to conclude a triple alliance since at least 1935. Just Google "Litvinov" and "collective security."

Within the British Foreign Office, one of its own deputy secretaries (Vannistartt) speculated that Chamberlain was averse to a triple alliance because the grand appeaser wanted Hitler to attack Stalin and didn't want to be forced into a war if he did so.

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Re: What if: Anglo-Franco-Soviet Alliance in 1939

Post by TheMarcksPlan » 02 Jul 2020 05:03

wm wrote:August 22 - the French negotiator Doumenc agrees to Voroshilov's demand (without consulting anybody), Voroshilov demands a written declaration from the British, Poles and Romanians.
August 23 - Poland agrees to discuss the conditions of cooperation between the USSR and Poland,
Again this is blatant misrepresentation by omission.

Why do you think Voroshilov would request written declaration? Because he knew Doumenc had no authority to conclude a deal (he did not) and he knew the Poles had not agreed.

In fact the Polish ambassador in Paris had already announced his government's refusal on August 15. It was not until German-Soviet rapproachment suddenly appeared that Poland even considered acquiescence - by then far too late.

What if the British/French had pressured the Poles, raising the specter of German-Soviet friendship (as many had warned)? Maybe the Poles go along then. For all the tough talk it's different when 60 German divisions are about to overrun your country and nobody else is going to lift a finger.

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