Speculative What-if fight: Poland v. Soviet Union 1937

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ArmchairSamurai
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Speculative What-if fight: Poland v. Soviet Union 1937

Post by ArmchairSamurai » 11 Nov 2019 22:32

Hello all. This is a bit of a poll. I am penning an alternate history series that begins in the Crimean War and centers around the World Wars. The question I am asking of you is this: Between Poland and the Soviet Union in 1937, which is most likely to win? Will the war be long or short? Let me provide context first, that way this is not so much a one-word answer. Explaining this timeline at length would take me ages, and that is *not* what I am here to do, so if you are curious about the timeline as a whole and all its deviations, PM me. Okay, onto the context. My version of the Soviet Union finds itself under Leon Trotsky's leadership due to Fanny Kaplan's assassination attempt going completely awry, rather than Lenin taking two bullets. Lenin goes on to lead Russia into the late 20s, retires, Stalin is absent due to his death in the Polish-Soviet War, leaving Trotsky to take up the mantle as premier. Fast forward to 1937, and he is planning to reinitiate the World Revolution, yet is against a stronger opponent at his Western border than before. Instead of newly independent Poland, Trotsky faces a smaller Intermarium, with only Poland, Finland, and the Baltic nations as members. (the other nations never signed thanks to a Third Balkan War following Yugoslavia's collapse, but that is not as relevant to this post). Now, I imagine removing the weakest link, i.e. the Baltic nations, out of the equation, would be Soviets top priority, and would mean fighting a two-front war, Finland on their north flank and Poland in the south. The two allies cannot exactly support each other except via the Baltic Sea--with neither having so much a strong naval presence (as far as I know). Considering our timeline reveals exactly how a war between Finland and the Soviet Union would go, ala the Winter War, what about Poland? She did not have a chance to show her true strength against an opponent on even ground. This is where my question comes into play. The Soviet Union, under Trotsky, is invading Poland simultaneously to Finland; can Poland hold the line? Or will she fall to the Red Army? Remember, it's 1937.

I appreciate your opinions on the matter. If you have any other questions relating to this, as in context, I can provide more.
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HistoryGeek2019
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Re: Speculative What-if fight: Poland v. Soviet Union 1937

Post by HistoryGeek2019 » 12 Nov 2019 01:30

Poland would win, rather easily. The Soviet Union had no offensive capabilities. Their strength was in drawing invading armies into the Russian interior where they would wither and die. The Poles would simply defeat the Russians every time the Red Army stepped foot in Poland until the Russians eventually gave up.

Plus Poland could count on virtually unlimited foreign aid, even from Germany probably, while the Russians would quickly find themselves under an economic embargo from the rest of the world.

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RE: Speculative What-if fight: Poland v. Soviet Union 1937

Post by Robert Rojas » 20 Nov 2019 06:45

Greetings to both citizen "Armchair Samurai" and the community as a whole. Howdy A.S.! Well sir, in reference to your introductory posting of Monday - November 11, 2019 - 1:32pm, old yours truly is of the school of thought that no matter how you approach this hypothetical topic, you are quite likely to royally piss off many folks amongst the Finnish, the Polish and the Russian constituencies of the forum. Now, the colorful musings of "History Geek 2019" notwithstanding, I, for one, with certain adjustments of course, would assert that the Red Army of year 1937 would be more than capable of simultaneously invading, defeating, and subjugating both Finland and Poland after the projected D-Day of November 29, 1937. Now, after the "fortuitous" ascension of Lev Davidovich Bronshtein as BOTH the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union AND chief-of-state as Premier of the now Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the transformation of the Soviet Military Establishment will progress with a minimum of interference from the apparatchiks of the Communist bureaucracy. As the former Commissar for both Foreign Policy and War, Lev Davidovich Bronshtein would clearly see the value of such forward thinking military theoreticians such as Mikhail Frunze, Vladimir Triandafillov and Marshal of the Soviet Union Mikhail Tukhachvesky. The ideas of mechanized combined arms formations and the concept of DEEP BATTLE would be allowed to flourish and evolve under the watchful patronage of Premier Lev Davidovich Bronshtein. With the advent of heavy industrialization in the Soviet Union in year 1929, there will be no shortage of armaments and ammunition for the continuation of the Socialist World Revolution as it bursts into Eastern Europe on or about November 29, 1937. Now, in terms of certain adjustments anyway, I would certainly not commit mechanized formations to the projected operation in Finland. I would reallocate those mechanized formations to the year 1937 Soviet-Polish frontier. I would replace those units withdrawn from the Finnish Operation with units drawn from the Soviet Far East. The well acclimatized infantry units from the Soviet Far East would be much better suited for the hellish conditions on the Finnish Front. Now, in terms of Poland anyway, the cavalry centric Polish Army will fare no better against the Red Army than it did historically against the Wehrmacht in year 1939. Cavalry does not seem to cut it very well against armored fighting vehicles and close air support. Despite the Red Army's encroachment upon East Prussia and the Free City of Danzig, I do not foresee National Socialist Germany being drawn into the neighboring Russo-Polish War during the winter of year 1937. Adolf Hitler has bigger fish to fry in terms of both Austria and Czechoslovakia. After all, Adolf Hitler is not going to give a damn if Polish Slavs and Russian Slavs slaughter each other. Undoubtedly, both Heinz Guderian and John Frederick Charles Fuller will watch developments in Poland with more than just passing interest. Well, that's my initial two Yankee cents worth on this purely speculative topic of interest - for now anyway. In any case, I would like to bid you an especially copacetic day over in your corner of ever bucolic Scandinavia.

Best Regards,
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Re: Speculative What-if fight: Poland v. Soviet Union 1937

Post by Sid Guttridge » 20 Nov 2019 14:35

Hi Armchar Samurai,

As Robert Rojas points out, a lot would depend on whether Tukhachevsky was still alive and had been allowed to carry through his Red Army reforms.

It seems unlikely that Poland could prevail if he had.

Cheers,

Sid.

P.S. From memory, in the real world Stalin had Tukhachevsky killed in mid 1937 and the Red Army officer purges of the late 1930s undermined much of his modernising work.

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Re: Speculative What-if fight: Poland v. Soviet Union 1937

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 26 Dec 2019 18:36

I'm a bit more pessimistic for the Polish team. If you are thinking in terms of blitzkrieg as presented in the glossy history magazines then no, the Red Army wont do anything like that. Even with Tugachevsys doctrines. The Red Army organization and training of 1937 looks to me to be suitable for a more methodical attritional series of battles or campaigns. This does not imply static trench warfare across the board

The Polish Army of 1937 was of far inferior strength to the Red Army. At best it looks like 30 odd trained & equipped infantry divisions, and another dozen division groups of conscripts and reservists unequipped and untrained. Clearly this is not enough to think about defending the eastern frontier. Even if a large area is not defended thirty infantry divisions is too thin a spread for a linear defense. that suggests the Poles would concentrate armies around the key points on the transportation lines, the railways, and screen the regions between with cavalry.

If I am reading Merekovs description of the Red Army of the 1930s correctly it would have been practical to mobilize 50+ infantry divisions, a dozen cavalry, and a half dozen mobile or mechanized divisions for a early campaign. This could have been more than enough to first occupy the undefended region, then attack and break one or more of the LoC defense positions. While follow up to breaking such a defense might be problematic it does lose the Poles a lot of population & some eastern cities.

If the USSR is committed to a long term strategy Merekovs account indicates a potential of 180 infantry divisions and over sixty cavalry, motorized, mountain, armored, and training divisions at a years mobilization time. A year of mobilization and preparatory campaigning may be enough time for a unpurged officer corps to figure out what parts of these 'Tugachev' doctrines actually work. At that point we might see breakouts and mechanized exploitation closer to what was done in WWII.

So, I see two courses: 1. A hasty Red Army campaign from about 30 days after mobilization to 180 days, which secures the easter third of Poland. Then peace negotiations. 2. Would include the early campaign, and a ongoing mobilization, leading to a second larger campaign starting 240 to 300 days after mobilization. This campaign would have the object of destroying the Polish army & allowing the installation of a Soviet controlled government.

How large a Polish army might be raised and equipped I cant say precisely. But, and very pessimistic 60 effective divisions could be fielded at 300 days, even with large scale foreign assistance. Including 'volunteers', equipment, ammunition & other supplies...

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Re: Speculative What-if fight: Poland v. Soviet Union 1937

Post by James A Pratt III » 28 Dec 2019 04:02

I would like to add it would not be only Poland vs the USSR. Other countries will join in:
Germany; Hitler wanted a war with the USSR and he's got it only the German military is a long way from combat ready in terms of equipment ,training ect.
Rumania: is an ally of Poland and will join. with the corrupt King Carol I as a national leader the army will be slightly larger note this is the pre-1940 Greater Rumania but it will be poorly equipped and ineptly commanded

Italy: L'Duce will see this as his hour of glory saving European civilization from the Communists. He will be able to put a much larger and somewhat better equipped force in the field than the 8th Italian Army

Hungary will also join its army will be smaller pre-1939 Hungary

Austria: will most likely get annexed in 1938 by the Germans and join in

I would have the other countries of Europe stay neutral.

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Re: Speculative What-if fight: Poland v. Soviet Union 1937

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 28 Dec 2019 05:26

James A Pratt III wrote:
28 Dec 2019 04:02
I would like to add it would not be only Poland vs the USSR. Other countries will join in: ...
I gamed this out a couple times. It included a assumption the nazis never came to power. When the USSR attacks Poland France organizes a coalition to assist the Poles. In both iterations Warsaw fell, the the Red Army could not mobilize enough in twelve months to hold off the New Entente. So, a bloody war for some changes in the Polish/Soviet border.

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Re: Speculative What-if fight: Poland v. Soviet Union 1937

Post by OldBill » 28 Dec 2019 07:20

Ya know Carl, if you posted AAR's from this it would be some fine reading. I know it'd be some work but man, what a pleasure to see it!

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Re: Speculative What-if fight: Poland v. Soviet Union 1937

Post by KACKO » 04 Jan 2020 15:19

James A Pratt III wrote:
28 Dec 2019 04:02
Hungary will also join its army will be smaller pre-1939 Hungary

I would have the other countries of Europe stay neutral.
Hungary doesn’t even share border with Poland or USSR at the time. So as far as Soviet do not attack Czechoslovakia- with which OTL they were more or less allied only option for Hungarians to join is on Soviet side - attack Romania in order to gain territories lost after 1918.

Which would be interesting because it would trigger Little Entente response towards Hungary.
Now It would be interesting if Soviet ally Czechoslovakia is fighting undeclared Soviet ally Hungary. ;)

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Re: Speculative What-if fight: Poland v. Soviet Union 1937

Post by John T » 04 Jan 2020 15:54

I would say that the Leauge of Nations in 1937 against the aggressive Soviet Union would have a much better chance to be constructive than against Germany a year later.

And at least if Germany keeps passive, both Poland and Finland would get significant support from the rest of Europe.

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Re: Speculative What-if fight: Poland v. Soviet Union 1937

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 04 Jan 2020 17:36

OldBill wrote:
28 Dec 2019 07:20
Ya know Carl, if you posted AAR's from this it would be some fine reading. I know it'd be some work but man, what a pleasure to see it!
What I posted is about the best I can do. I seldom keep detailed notes & don't trust my memory for most details.

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Re: Speculative What-if fight: Poland v. Soviet Union 1937

Post by ArmchairSamurai » 04 Jan 2020 20:16

Hello Carl Schwamberger, James A Pratt III, Sid Guttridge, and others. I appreciate you lot for sticking around on this post and much obliged for the information.

I have tweaked my initial thought-experiment a bit since then based on what I learned here. Really, for Poland to have a better-fighting chance, I get the impression this needs to be pushed to 1940 if not 1939. Granted that may not do much for the divisional manpower on Poland's end, but from what I can gather, the force they will field will be more modernized and perhaps more efficient (though I cannot guarantee the latter); although I do recognize that this idea may be moot since the Soviet Union's force will become stronger too in such an interlude. What to do with the Soviet Union in said interlude is still a mystery to me, as any keen military power would not sit idly by while opportunity expires.

Of course, that is to say, if this weakened Intermarium even survives that long to begin with is anyone's guess. I have speculated on whether or not the existence of a United Baltic Duchy may affect the Intermarium's own existence in any meaningful way, in addition to the coming conflict with the Soviet Union, as that involves even more butterflies. At this point, my scenario is so dreadfully convoluted already. One day I will post the whole timeline; all 50 pages so far. Thank you all again.
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Re: Speculative What-if fight: Poland v. Soviet Union 1937

Post by Futurist » 05 Jan 2020 00:32

Carl Schwamberger wrote:
28 Dec 2019 05:26
James A Pratt III wrote:
28 Dec 2019 04:02
I would like to add it would not be only Poland vs the USSR. Other countries will join in: ...
I gamed this out a couple times. It included a assumption the nazis never came to power. When the USSR attacks Poland France organizes a coalition to assist the Poles. In both iterations Warsaw fell, the the Red Army could not mobilize enough in twelve months to hold off the New Entente. So, a bloody war for some changes in the Polish/Soviet border.
In your war games, were the Allies subsequently able to completely expel the USSR from all parts of Poland? If so, were they willing and able to go deeper inside of the USSR as well--and if so, just how much deeper?

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Re: Speculative What-if fight: Poland v. Soviet Union 1937

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 06 Jan 2020 13:07

Futurist wrote:
05 Jan 2020 00:32
...
In your war games, were the Allies subsequently able to completely expel the USSR from all parts of Poland?
Eventually. The heavy dependance of the European armies of the time, on undertrained reservists and the assorted logistics questions dragged things out two years.
If so, were they willing and able to go deeper inside of the USSR as well--and if so, just how much deeper?
I could see no political incentive to do so. The left would be adamantly opposed war with the USSR anyway. I spent some time pondering the effect of large scale casualties on the will of the French, or others. Ditto on the other side. The ability of the Red Army of 193x to carry out a aggressive war of liberation' with heavy losses, and other misery is a consideration. Labor strikes, riots & suppression by facists or right wing groups, revolts, mutinies. There was also the problem of reviving a German military to add weight to the anti Soviet alliance.

At one point I took a look at left & right wing revolts across Europe, drawing on the political events of the mid 1930s. That led to a Spanish civil war type event occurring in every other nation across Europe. Dropped that & pondered how quickly a new Soviet Polish frontier might be negotiated.

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Re: Speculative What-if fight: Poland v. Soviet Union 1937

Post by James A Pratt III » 24 Feb 2020 01:50

I decided to write an account of how the 1937 war might have happened. Note I am not finished with it so here is some of it.

In the Spring of 1937 trouble in brewing between the USSR and Poland . Do to the Purges a number of RKKA officers have fled to Poland along with a number of other Soviet citizens living in the border areas. Stalin is enraged when the Poles reject his demands to return them. There are clashes between Polish troops and NKVD forces along the border. Stalin orders a mobilization. The British and French leaders being a bunch of spineless appeasers tell the poles to "be reasonable". The Poles refuse. They do agree not to mobilize their armed forces. Meanwhile the Soviet build up their forces on the border. Finally the Poles fed up with their so called Allies weakness give the order to mobilize because it looks like the Soviets will attack them soon. Stalin reguards this as an act of war and decides to attack. he has to delay it a few weeks since the RKKA is not ready and his on going purges are not helping things.
In the Summer of 1937 what is to be called WW II begins. The Soviets invade Poland. Things don't work out as the Soviets planned. Poor roads, Swamps, forests, inept generals, and the chaos of the Purges mean the Soviets don't get very far before they have to call a halt to reorganize. meanwhile the British and french try to negotiate a cease fire telling other countries to stay out. The Soviets in the north get a fairly well planed offensive going a Tank corps breaks through and a cavalry corps exploites the breakthrough reaching the Lithuanian border. This cuts off one Polish Infantry division and other troops that are interned in Lithuania. The Soviets also capture thousands of prisoners. In the South another Soviet offensive takes Tarnpol.

(to be continued)

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