Britain's "drive Germany east" policy and WWII

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Britain's "drive Germany east" policy and WWII

Post by Rumsfeld » 07 Jul 2006 11:44

The history of German aggression from 1938-1939 under Hitler's Third Reich is well known to students of european history of that period. The annexation of Austria in March 1938, the Munich agreement and the annexation of the Sudetenland, the occupation of Czechoslovakia in March 1939, the taking of Memel and the invasion of Poland on 1 Sep 1939 are all topics widely discussed.

What is less well known, is the attitude of the British Chamberlain government towards these German aggressions and territorial expansions.

In mainstream western historiography, "Appeasement" is the generally accepted term to describe the Western powers’ response to Nazi Germany in the years leading up to the Second World War. It is of course most clearly associated with Neville Chamberlain and his period as British Prime Minister from 1937-39. Chamberlain and the other Western statesmen, so the argument goes, were so horrified by the possibility of war, the slaughter of the First World War being still fresh in everyone’s minds, that they went to their utmost in placating Hitler in order to resolve any differences in a peaceful manner. Chamberlain is usually depicted as a naive statesman, blind to the greedy and scheming Hitler.

This is at least how the mainstream version of events are told.

Carroll Quigley, an american professor and Bill Clinton's mentor at Georgetown University wrote in 1949, a study of British foreign policy during the interwar era. He details the fact that in 1936, certain groups in the UK controlling foreign policy had arrived at a plan of instigating a German-Soviet war in eastern europe. The idea was to allow and encourage Hitler to annex countries and territories in the east with the hope that the final outcome of this German aggression would be a war with the Soviet Union.

Quigley writes in Chapter 12 of his The Anglo-American Establishment:

This event of March 1936, by which Hitler remilitarized the Rhineland, was the most crucial event in the whole history of appeasement. So long as the territory west of the Rhine and a strip fifty kilometers wide on the east bank of the river were demilitarized, as provided in the Treaty of Versailles and the Locarno Pacts, Hitler would never have dared to move against Austria, Czechoslovakia, and Poland. He would not have dared because, with western Germany unfortified and denuded of German soldiers, France could have easily driven into the Ruhr industrial area and crippled Germany so that it would be impossible to go eastward. And by this date, certain members of the Milner Group and of the British Conservative government had reached the fantastic idea that they could kill two birds with one stone by setting Germany and Russia against one another in Eastern Europe. In this way they felt that the two enemies would stalemate one another, or that Germany would become satisfied with the oil of Rumania and the wheat of the Ukraine. It never occurred to anyone in a responsible position that Germany and Russia might make common cause, even temporarily, against the West. Even less did it occur to them that Russia might beat Germany and thus open all Central Europe to Bolshevism.

Quigley then goes on to great detail on how the British government secretly encouraged and supported Hitler's eastern aggression:

In order to carry out this plan of allowing Germany to drive eastward against Russia, it was necessary to do three things: (1) to liquidate all the countries standing between Germany and Russia; (2) to prevent France from honoring her alliances with these countries; and (3) to hoodwink the English people into accepting this as a necessary, indeed, the only solution to the international problem. The Chamberlain group were so successful in all three of these things that they came within an ace of succeeding, and failed only because of the obstinacy of the Poles, the unseemly haste of Hitler, and the fact that at the eleventh hour the Milner Group realized the implications of their policy and tried to reverse it.
...

As a result, Halifax had a long conversation with Hitler on 19 November 1937 in which, whatever may have been Halifax’s intention, Hitler’s government became convinced of three things: (a) that Britain regarded Germany as the chief bulwark against communism in Europe; (b) that Britain was prepared to join a Four Power agreement of France, Germany, Italy, and herself; and (c) that Britain was prepared to allow Germany to liquidate Austria, Czechoslovakia, and Poland if this could be done without provoking a war into which the British Government, however unwillingly, would be dragged in opposition to Germany. The German Foreign Ministry memorandum on this conversation makes it perfectly clear that the Germans did not misunderstand Halifax except, possibly, on the last point.


The British plan was very simlple, they would help Hitler in his quest for territorial gain on the east. This was the so-called policy of "appeasement". The real motive was to drive Hitler's armies east so as to bring about a German-Soviet war of mutual annihilation, to let the Nazis and the Bolsheviks finish each other off, with Britain unscathed.

Quigley continues with the British position towards Hitler's Polish demands:

If, by means of another Munich, he could have obtained a German-Polish settlement that would satisfy Germany and avoid war, he would have taken it. It was the hope of such an agreement that prevented him from making any real agreement with Russia, for it was, apparently, the expectation of the British government that if the Germans could get the Polish Corridor by negotiation, they could then drive into Russia across the Baltic States. For this reason, in the negotiations with Russia, Halifax refused any multilateral pact against aggression, any guarantee of the Baltic States, or any tripartite guarantee of Poland.


The British plan however broke down due to british public opinion refusing to stomach anymore German aggression and Britain was forced to declare war on Germany on 3 Sep 1939:

Only after the German Soviet Non-aggression Pact of 21 August 1939 did Halifax implement the unilateral guarantee to Poland with a more formal mutual assistance pact between Britain and Poland. This was done to warn Hitler that an attack on Poland would bring Britain into the war under pressure of British public opinion. Hitler, as usual, paid no attention to Britain. Even after the German attack on Poland, the British government was reluctant to fulfill this pact and spent almost three days asking the Germans to return to negotiation. Even after the British were forced to declare war on Germany, they made no effort to fight, contenting themselves with dropping leaflets on Germany.


The whole interesting chapter is available here:
http://yamaguchy.netfirms.com/cikkek/anglo_12b.html
http://yamaguchy.netfirms.com/cikkek/anglo_12.html

See also: http://yamaguchy.netfirms.com/cikkek/anglo_01.html

William Engdahl, a German historian, tells the story of how Britain carried out the plan to incite war between Germany and Russia after the outbreak of war:
http://www.engdahl.oilgeopolitics.net/H ... inder.html

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Post by Steve » 10 Jul 2006 02:31

For a good conspiracy theory you need a grain of truth and this theory has that grain. It is true that the British seem to have been prepared to give Hitler a free hand in Central Europe for example the US Ambassador Kennedy reported Halifax as saying "to let Hitler go ahead and do what he likes in Central and South Eastern Europe". Halifax also wrote to the British Ambassador in Paris that German predominance in central Europe was inevitable. Chamberlain said "he did not give a hoot" whether the Sudeten Germans were in Czechoslovakia or in Germany.

Was the security of the British Empire threatened by German predominance in eastern Europe and were any British interests threatened? Given the size of Germany in relation to these countries surely German predominance was inevitable. Communism was seen as a bigger threat than the Nazis in the thirties and if German militarism could be chanelled into a war with Communism this would be good for the democracies and would give them longer to prepare for another war. However there is no convincing evidence of this.

Chamberlain and Halifax both thought that Hitlers aim was to bring all Germans within the Reich though Halifax was more suspicous then Chamberlain of Hitlers motives. By the end of 1938 Halifax certainly thought Hitler could not be trusted and in January 1939 he was saying "the financial and economic condition of Germany... was compelling the mad Dictator... to insane adventures". In February 1939 he told the cabinet he "would rather be bankrupt in peace than be beaten in a war against Germany". Between 1936 and 1939 British military expenditure nearly quadrupled clearly Britain was preparing for a possible war against Germany. After Hitler broke the Munich agreement and humiliated the British they decided that they had misjudged Hitlers motives which were not based on race and he could not be trusted. The British regarded the situation of Danzig as a legitimate German grievance but after the take over of the rump of the Czech state they could not have another Munich but they hoped the Poles would be reasonable.

No agreement with the Soviets was possible to protect the small states against Germany because non of the east European states trusted the Soviets. How could you have a treaty with Poland for Soviet help in case of a German attack if the Poles would not allow Soviet troops on their territory. Poland was not prepared to enter into any agreement that could be viewed as anti German and they tried to reassure the Germans over the British guarantee.

British public opinion may have turned against Hitler after March 1939 but its unlikely it had anything to do with giving Poland a guarantee, most Britains even today could probably not find Danzig (Gdansk) on a map. There was opposition to Chamberlains appeasment policy from within his party as it clearly was not working. If Chamberlain meant what he said in a speech on March 17 1939 "that Britain would not be passive if one power tried to dominate Europe" then British policy from then on is easy to understand.

The guarantee was given because not to support Poland after what had happened to Czechoslovakia would have sent an unmistakable message to the small countries of Europe. There was a worry Poland would cave in to German pressure and enter the German camp without a guarantee of help. It was hoped that with the guarantee Germany would moderate its demands and would not risk war over Danzig and the corridor. The British thought the Poles were still negotiating with Germany and the guarantee would strengthen their position, they did not know that negotiations had broken down.

There was very little the British could do to help Poland militarily but they had decided before September 1939 that anything they could do would not prevent the fall of Poland and would therefore be a waste. Economic warfare commenced at once. The three day delay was because of attempts to find a diplomatic way out. The Italians had made a proposal for a conference which had to be explored, the French did not want to rush into a declaration of war. Chamberlain it seems was still hoping for some kind of peacefull resolution but he made the demand that Hitler would have to withdraw his army from Poland before negotiations could take place hardly the action of a man who wanted Hitler to overrun Poland or part of it.

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british intention 1939

Post by dcmatkins » 22 Jul 2006 06:39

I guess in hindsight Britain could have done more earlier or pre 1939 to stop Germany. Hitler wrote about living space way before 1939. He reckoned no other nation would want to repeat the suffering in the first world war. Only Churchill had the forsight to see the coming problems.

What people tend to forget is that the UKs strength was economic and maritime not army power. In a war in Europe in what more could the BEF have achieved.
Britain put its empires security a higher priority than events in europe. It did not want nationalism in India or the Far East. What percentage of the British Army was abroad trying to control the Empire in the 30s.

Politics always has been a dirty business and will always be.

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Post by glenn239 » 22 Jul 2006 16:50

For a good conspiracy theory you need a grain of truth and this theory has that grain. It is true that the British seem to have been prepared to give Hitler a free hand in Central Europe for example the US Ambassador Kennedy reported Halifax as saying "to let Hitler go ahead and do what he likes in Central and South Eastern Europe". Halifax also wrote to the British Ambassador in Paris that German predominance in central Europe was inevitable. Chamberlain said "he did not give a hoot" whether the Sudeten Germans were in Czechoslovakia or in Germany.


Actually, my understanding is that Chamberlain wanted to take away the German free hand in Europe (ie, get Hitler to bind himself to a treaty or a code of behaviour) in exchange for an expanded German overseas empire (ie, a gift that could be taken back by the Royal Navy if and when necessary). If so, this was in keeping with British and European interests insofar as it was important to prevent the Germans from circumventing a potential blockade, as well as preventing Hitler from re-forging a Triple Alliance.

I guess in hindsight Britain could have done more earlier or pre 1939 to stop Germany.


Yes, them and everyone else. But with the French unwilling to fight, the Poles on the German side and the Russians untrustworthy, Chamberlain really didn’t have one heck of a lot of options.


Hitler wrote about living space way before 1939. He reckoned no other nation would want to repeat the suffering in the first world war. Only Churchill had the forsight to see the coming problems.


I think Churchill underestimated the consequences to the British Empire of another confrontation. Chamberlain did not.

Hitler may have written about living space, but Hitler was also a pathological liar. IMO, Hitler’s foreign policy agenda at the time of Mien Kampf was to secure allies for full German rearmament. It was not intended as an honest declaration of German policy. Hence the fact that it’s was a British statesmen’s wet dream and almost no mention of France (Hitler’s target) at all.

What people tend to forget is that the UKs strength was economic and maritime not army power.


Also don’t forget that the added complication of the Soviet Union being a hostile power. Given British weakness, American aloofness, Hitler’s intentions, Stalin’s realpolitik, and France’s decline, Chamberlain had a series of almost insurmountable problems.

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Post by Steve » 25 Jul 2006 13:32

Joseph Kennedy may have exaggerated what Halifax said to him or Halifax may have exaggerated. According to Halifax he said to Hitler on the question of Austria, Czochoslovakia and Danzig " fell into the catagory of possible alterations in the European order which might be destined to come about with the passage of time" and in his diary "on all these matters we were not necessarily concerned to stand for the status quo as of today, but we were concerned to avoid such treatment of them as would be likely to cause trouble". From Ian Kershaw - Hitler.

It seems Chamberlain was pleased wth these soundings and thought Hitler wanted to dominate eastern Europe but would be prepared to accept something less than annexation of Austria and the Sudetenland. They thought that a colonial settlement could be possible in return for Hitler being "a good European". Chamberlain and Halifax were intent on preserving Britains place in the world and the British Empire, German domination of east/central Europe was probably inevitable and if Germany behaved in a reasonable manner Britain would not go to war over it. Britain did not go to war in the first world war over what was happening in eastern Europe but because Germany struck in the west. If Hitler had behaved in a manner closer to what the British wanted it is highly likely that when he arrived at solving the problem of Danzig, over which the British believed he had a strong case, the UK would not have given a guarantee to Poland and would not have gone to war over it and without the UK France would not fight.

Hitler maybe could if he had showed restraint have avoided the clash in the west and after overcoming Poland been in a position to have launched the assault on the USSR. Would Chamberlain and Halifax have patted themselves on the back if this had happened?

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Post by Rumsfeld » 09 Sep 2006 06:24

Britain did not go to war in the first world war over what was happening in eastern Europe but because Germany struck in the west.


See the last posting here:
http://www.simaqianstudio.com/forum/ind ... topic=1275

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Post by Steve » 11 Sep 2006 12:44

Britain had an understanding with Russia prior to WW1 not a military alliance. It was the German invasion of Belgum and the need to support France that brought Britain into the 1st world war. What took place in the balkans and east central europe was not of any great concern unless it affected the balance of power. Britain entered WW2 for similar reasons to WW1 to prevent German domination of europe especialy western europe, a war between Germany and Russia in 1914 would have been unlikely to have brought about British intervention.

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Post by szopen » 11 Sep 2006 15:36

Steve wrote:without the UK France would not fight.



Hmm... what were the conditions of polish-French military treaty? I mean, I thought France fought because of this treaty, which was signed before British guarantees. Or maybe are you trying to say that without guarantee, France would not honour its obligations?

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Post by tonyh » 12 Sep 2006 12:17

szopen wrote:
Steve wrote:without the UK France would not fight.



Hmm... what were the conditions of polish-French military treaty? I mean, I thought France fought because of this treaty, which was signed before British guarantees. Or maybe are you trying to say that without guarantee, France would not honour its obligations?


Neither Britain or France declared war for obligation.

It is my understanding that France eventually went along with the British declaration of war, because she knew she was going to be stuck in the middle of Britain and Germany and in the course of time be dragged into a war on her soil. After much discussion on the 3rd, the French government hoped, as did the British, that the combined strength of the two Nations would force Hitlers hand. Unfortunately Hitler called their bluff, chancing that they would actually do nothing. He was correct.

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Post by glenn239 » 14 Sep 2006 18:22

Britain had an understanding with Russia prior to WW1 not a military alliance. It was the German invasion of Belgum and the need to support France that brought Britain into the 1st world war.


Grey’s policy, made clear only on August 1st 1914, was that Britain would not declare neutrality on the basis of Belgium. Were it to be the case that Belgium was the key issue in British policy, then Grey would have informed the Germans to that effect. He did not, therefore, it was not.

Note that an decisive attack on France by Germany was impossible except by way of Belgium.

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Post by glenn239 » 20 Sep 2006 17:38

In order to instigate a German-Soviet war, Germany must first have a common frontier with the Soviet Union, so that Hitler's army can drive into Russia. This required territorial expansion. Austria, Czechoslovakia and Poland were the countries targeted by the British.


Neither Austria nor Czecholslovakia were required for Germany to achieve a territorial boundy with the Soviet Union.

The invasion of Poland by Germany was necessary to achieve such an end, but if Germany invading Poland was a core British aim, then Chamberlain would not have allied with Poland to deter this adventure.

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Post by tonyh » 20 Sep 2006 17:50

The plebicite in Austria simply united German speaking peoples and the majority of both Nations wished it so. Eliminating Czechoslovakia from the Eastern offensive, effectively took out a potential thorn in the side of an advancing flank. So, in that sense, it actually was important to a future move on Russia.

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Post by glenn239 » 21 Sep 2006 20:01

The plebiscite in Austria simply united German speaking peoples and the majority of both Nations wished it so. Eliminating Czechoslovakia from the Eastern offensive effectively took out a potential thorn in the side of an advancing flank. So, in that sense, it actually was important to a future move on Russia.


I’m sympathetic to the viewpoint that British policy in the pre-WW2 period was more complicated and subtle than is traditionally supposed. It was. But for Britain to follow a strategy, then the strategy has to make sense for England, not Germany. “Potential thorns” are not the same thing as territorial jump-off points. Therefore it seems unlikely that any British statesmen worth his salt would be suckered into giving up territory to a potential hegemon simply because said Nazi weasel is whining that he needs to remove “thorns” before setting Europe to blazes with a Russian-German war.

Where do the “potential thorns” stop and the Nazi-Soviet War begins? Once Czechoslovakia is swallowed, then is not Yugoslavia the new “potential thorn”? And if Yugoslavia is eliminated, how can it really be said that France and her big army isn’t a potential danger if Czechoslovakia was? And if so, then who’s the last “thorn” for Germany in the West, if not Great Britain herself?

The logical fallacy behind the supposition that a desire for a German-Russian war drove Chamberlain is that it could be imagined in Britain that allowing Germany to drive south and achieve hegemony in Eastern Europe would somehow translate into a German-Russian conflict. South is not east, nor could the Russians be imagined to become more truculent towards Hitler as Germany’s raw political and military power increased with every conquest. On the contrary, it can be supposed that the opposite was likely; the more the west tried the “buy” a Russian-German war, the more the Russians would endeavor to return the favor. Thus, any concession to Germany in the form of the conquest of minor neutrals would be dangerous to the security of Great Britain.

The more obvious explanation for Chamberlain’s policy was that he was trying to freeze the status quo and prevent anyone’s revisionist territorial ambitions from going forward. If pressed, he’d have preferred a Russian-German war to an Anglo-German war, but the priority was definitely the status quo. This is proven by the fact that the British entered into an alliance with Poland in 1939. It is improbable in the extreme that they would have done so to promote a German-Polish conflict!

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Post by tonyh » 21 Sep 2006 22:54

Hmmm....I wasn't trying to suggest that the German/Czechoslovakian situation was elaborately engineered by England. I think that's going a bit too far. However, England simply didn't give a toss who controlled the Country, the Czechs or the Germans. But if Germany was encouaged to continue East, by an England who was reluctant to get involved in Hitler's Ostplan, then it served England well enough, or so it would seem.

The removal of the "thorn" of Czechoslovakia serves Germany, as it broadens the front and goes some way to securing the flank from a counter attack. It was probably used also as a move to see how far Britain could be pushed by such an action. But you're correct, there are always potential thorns that a foreign army can use to attack, such is war. But frankly, the straighter the front, the more stable it can be. Yugoslavia may have been a problem, but the Belgrade government wasn't aggressive to Germany at that time and would be likely to defend her territory against an army, any army, trying to gain transit through. Hitler didn't have that kind of security from the Czechs, so in his mind, if they weren't "on side", they had to go.

how can it really be said that France and her big army isn’t a potential danger if Czechoslovakia was?


You're making the mistake that the Czechoslvakian army is the threat in Czechoslovakia. It's not. But a foreign army, ie a Russian one, is. You're also assuming that war in the West is a go-ahead. Hitler hoped and convinced himself it wouldn't be, so Frankly, France is not on Hitler's mind at that point in the war. Hitler didn't want a war in the West and his actions were designed to illustrate this and he never really believed that the Western powers would be too bothered if he had a go at Russia.

The British political outlook changed somewhere between the "Czech crisis" to the reckless decision to "defend" Poland. Changed from one of potential re-direction of aggresion/territorial ambition to outright neutralsation of aggression by trying to force, by threat of aggression, Hitler's return to the negotiation table.

Both policies were outright failures.

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Post by Rumsfeld » 22 Sep 2006 04:00

The invasion of Poland by Germany was necessary to achieve such an end, but if Germany invading Poland was a core British aim, then Chamberlain would not have allied with Poland to deter this adventure.


Chamberlain's initial response to Hitler's liquidation of Czechoslovakia in March 1939:

At this point, the whole world waited to see how Prime Minister Chamberlain would react to the incredible happenings in Czechoslovakia, all of which were gross violations of the Munich Agreement.

Chamberlain responded to Hitler's aggression by claiming the British were not bound to protect Czechoslovakia since the country in effect no longer existed after Slovakia had voted for independence on March 14. And Hitler's actions had occurred the next day, March 15.

The Prime Minister's willy-nilly statement caused an uproar in the British press and in the House of Commons. Chamberlain was lambasted over his lack of moral outrage concerning Hitler's gangster diplomacy. Angry members of the House of Commons vowed that England would never again appease Hitler.

Interestingly, while traveling on a train from London to Birmingham on Friday, March 17, Chamberlain underwent a complete change of heart. He had in his hand a prepared speech discussing routine domestic matters that he was supposed to give in Birmingham. But upon deep reflection, he decided to junk the speech and outlined a brand new one concerning Hitler.


In the new speech, which was broadcast throughout England on radio, Chamberlain first apologized for his lukewarm reaction to Hitler's recent actions in Czechoslovakia. Then he recited a list of broken promises made by Hitler dating back to the Munich Agreement.


http://www.historyplace.com/worldwar2/t ... -czech.htm

Carroll Quigley explains on this sudden change in policy:

The events of 1939 do not require our extended attention here, although they have never yet been narrated in any adequate fashion. The German seizure of Bohemia and Moravia was not much of a surprise to either the Milner or Chamberlain groups; both accepted it, but the former tried to use it as a propaganda device to help get conscription, while the latter soon discovered that, whatever their real thoughts, they must publicly condemn it in order to satisfy the outraged moral feelings of the British electorate. It is this which explains the change in tone between Chamberlain’s speech of 15 March in Commons and his speech of 17 March in Birmingham. The former was what he thought; the latter was what he thought the voters wanted.


The unilateral guarantee to Poland given by Chamberlain on 31 March 1939 was also a reflection of what he believed the voters wanted. He had no intention of ever fulfilling the guarantee if it could possibly be evaded and, for this reason, refused the Polish requests for a small rearmament loan and to open immediate staff discussions to implement the guarantee. The Milner Group, less susceptible to public opinion, did not want the guarantee to Poland at all. As a result, the guarantee was worded to cover Polish “independence” and not her “territorial integrity.” This was interpreted by the leading article of The Times for 1 April to leave the way open to territorial revision without revoking the guarantee. This interpretation was accepted by Chamberlain in Commons on 3 April. Apparently the government believed that it was making no real commitment because, if war broke out in eastern Europe, British public opinion would force the government to declare war on Germany, no matter what the government itself wanted, and regardless whether the guarantee existed or not. On the other hand, a guarantee to Poland might deter Hitler from precipitating a war and give the government time to persuade the Polish government to yield the Corridor to Germany. If the Poles could not be persuaded, or if Germany marched, the fat was in the fire anyway; if the Poles could be persuaded to yield, the guarantee was so worded that Britain could not act under it to prevent such yielding. This was to block any possibility that British public opinion might refuse to accept a Polish Munich.

...The difference rested on the fact that the Chamberlain group hoped to permit Britain to escape from the necessity of fighting Germany by getting Russia to fight Germany. The Chamberlain group did not share the Milner Group’s naive belief in the possibility of three great power blocs standing side by side in peace. Lacking that belief, they preferred a German-Russian war to a British-German war. And, having that preference, they differed from the Milner Group in their willingness to accept the partition of Poland by Germany. The Milner Group would have yielded parts of Poland to Germany if done by fair negotiation. The Chamberlain group was quite prepared to liquidate Poland entirely, if it could be presented to the British people in terms which they would accept without demanding war....


It was not that Britain did not see the danger of Germany under Hitler.

It was that they wanted the Russians to fight Hitler, in the hope that the Germans and the Russians can destroy each other. Britain did not want to destroy German power in Europe. If Hitler's Germany was destroyed, Bolshevism would seize the power vacuum and spread across Europe. Hitler's Germany was the main force blocking Soviet Influence.

Britain chose instead to push Germany eastwards against Russia, by letting Hitler take Austria, Czechoslovakia and Poland in the hope that the next target on Hitler's mind would be the Soviet Union:

If, by means of another Munich, he could have obtained a German-Polish settlement that would satisfy Germany and avoid war, he would have taken it. It was the hope of such an agreement that prevented him from making any real agreement with Russia, for it was, apparently, the expectation of the British government that if the Germans could get the Polish Corridor by negotiation, they could then drive into Russia across the Baltic States.


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