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View Full Version : The Soviet Invasion of Poland (Start of WW 2)


Cicero
07-26-2011, 06:50 AM
This has probably been asked in the past, but I can't think of specific enough search terms that will not produce a lot of results.

At what was the start of WW 2 Germany invades Poland. By agreement so do the Soviets.

France and England declare war on Germany on September 3rd 1939.

Why was there no similar declaration of war on the USSR?

blue infinity
07-26-2011, 07:12 AM
For one, because the Soviets didn't invade until September 17th. (With the pretext that they were protecting ethnic Belorussian/Ukrainian people within Polish territory.)

As for the rest:

From Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soviet_invasion_of_Poland#Allied_reaction)

Under the terms of the Polish-British Common Defence Pact of 25 August 1939, the British had promised assistance if a European power attacked Poland. A secret protocol of the pact, however, specified that the European power referred to Germany. When Polish Ambassador Edward Raczyński reminded Foreign Secretary Edward Frederick Lindley Wood of the pact, he was bluntly told that it was Britain's business whether to declare war on the Soviet Union. British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain considered making a public commitment to restore the Polish state but in the end issued only general condemnations. This stance represented Britain's attempt at balance: its security interests included trade with the Soviets that would support its war effort and the possibility of a future Anglo-Soviet alliance against Germany.

kombatminipig
07-26-2011, 07:13 AM
The reason is simple, and that is that there was no way France and England could envision themselves taking on the USSR as well as Germany. The pact to defend Poland was not about guaranteeing sovereignity of other European countries (as the had readily sold out Czechoslovakia), but of using Poland as a watershed against German agression. Germany was a direct threat to France, while the USSR was far less so.

Cicero
07-26-2011, 07:16 AM
Thanks guys. I did a search on German invasion of Poland expecting a link which I didn't find.

medicated
07-26-2011, 07:20 AM
What would be the point? Doubling up on the number of enemy nations to no real gain wouldn't have made any strategic sense. Had they done that, French communists would have made even more trouble, and I don't doubt that the French government considered this. In the case of Britain, it would have meant risking the empire itself, as a war with the USSR would have presented a serious threat to their position in India.

I would also imagine that the leaders of both countries held out hope that the pact between Germany and the Soviet Union would break down eventually. After all, both were ruled by dictators who had made a lot of hay out of hating each other right up until that very summer. Why drive them closer together?

Finally, any declaration by the UK/France on the Soviets would have been an empty gesture. There's nothing they could have done to prosecute such a war. Maybe a few submarines off Murmansk or Vladivostok, or a small air raid somewhere. That's about it.

Cicero
07-26-2011, 07:33 AM
I didn't suggest they could do anything about it. They did virtually nothing about Germany invading either except drop a few leaflets.

Also, however, the Ribbontrop - Molotov Pact was secret at the time.

medicated
07-26-2011, 01:41 PM
Only part of the pact was secret, the part that divided eastern Europe into spheres. The non aggression pact was made public at the time, and the subsequent invasion of eastern Poland made the rest of it pretty much an open secret.

Anyhow, the main issue was probably that they'd gain nothing by declaring war, but stood to potentially lose a great deal.

septimus
07-26-2011, 02:24 PM
That Hitler regarded the Soviets as his long-term enemy was no secret. Soviet participation in the rape of Poland was pragmatic on all sides. Hitler was not ready for war with Russia. Stalin and his future allies thought it far better that Soviet Armies occupy part of Poland rather than start farther East.

Churchill's account of that period implies that Stalin had sought (with Roosevelt's support) alliance with the West, but had been rebuffed. Rebuffed in part because the countries seeking protection (Czechoslavakia and Poland) feared Stalin as much as they feared Hitler.

Little Nemo
07-26-2011, 02:43 PM
From a diplomatic standpoint, the Soviets declared that they were not invading Poland. They said that the Polish government had collapsed due to the German invasion and the Polish nation no longer existed. So what they were doing was occupying territory that had formerly been under Polish control. And besides, the territory had been illegally taken by a Polish invasion so the Soviets were just taking back what was theirs anyway.

Diplomatic flummery but it was enough to provide the Soviets cover and give Britain and France an excuse to avoid declaring a second war.

handsomeharry
07-27-2011, 12:32 AM
From a diplomatic standpoint, the Soviets declared that they were not invading Poland. They said that the Polish government had collapsed due to the German invasion and the Polish nation no longer existed. So what they were doing was occupying territory that had formerly been under Polish control. And besides, the territory had been illegally taken by a Polish invasion so the Soviets were just taking back what was theirs anyway.


As a matter of fact, this is almost exactly what Hitler said as his excuse to invade. (Excepting the part about the govt. collapsing due to the German invasion!)
But, since nobody called them on it...

Best wishes,
hh

Little Nemo
07-27-2011, 12:41 AM
As a matter of fact, this is almost exactly what Hitler said as his excuse to invade. (Excepting the part about the govt. collapsing due to the German invasion!)So Germany claimed it was invading Poland because its government had collapsed except for the part about its government collapsing?

kombatminipig
07-27-2011, 04:15 AM
As a matter of fact, this is almost exactly what Hitler said as his excuse to invade. (Excepting the part about the govt. collapsing due to the German invasion!)
But, since nobody called them on it...

Best wishes,
hh

Well, actually Germany's casus belli was that Polish forces were making incursions across the border. These incursions were of course entirely faked by German troops in Polish uniforms, but it was enough to cause confusion for the five minutes it took to invade.

FRDE
07-27-2011, 05:09 AM
Well, actually Germany's casus belli was that Polish forces were making incursions across the border. These incursions were of course entirely faked by German troops in Polish uniforms, but it was enough to cause confusion for the five minutes it took to invade.

Also dead troops in Polish uniform - to dress the scene.

Realistically Britain was very unlikely to turn on Russia in 1939
- Animal Farm had not yet been written
- we had little knowledge of Stalin's atrocities
- Looking at UK troops who fought in Spain, there could have been a loyalty problem attacking the USSR
- The Cold War was yet to come - 1939-45 the USSR were vital allies to the UK

Cicero
07-27-2011, 06:28 AM
I agree entirely with all the posts about Britain being unwilling/ unable to do anything about the Soviets .

I waswondering how they dealt with what seems like hypocrisy.

Thanks for the answers.

MarcusF
07-27-2011, 07:25 AM
Also dead troops in Polish uniform - to dress the scene.

Realistically Britain was very unlikely to turn on Russia in 1939
- Animal Farm had not yet been written
- we had little knowledge of Stalin's atrocities
- Looking at UK troops who fought in Spain, there could have been a loyalty problem attacking the USSR
- The Cold War was yet to come - 1939-45 the USSR were vital allies to the UKThese aren't right. In 1939 there was absolutely no misunderstanding about the nature of the USSR amongst the British government. Full details may not have been known but information about collectivisation and famine, purges and repression had come out. It wasn't accepted amongst some on the left but it was believed by individual members of the Conservative government as it fitted well with their underlying views about communism. "UK troops" did not fight in Spain. Although possibly up to 4000 individuals did join the International Brigades their loyalty was not an issue in the age of million strong armies. The USSR did not become "vital allies" until 1941 when Hitler turned east. In fact, by early 1940 Britain and France did nearly go to war with the Soviet Union when they actually agreed plans to send troops to Finland to support them in their fight agains the Soviets.

Not declaring war on the Soviet Union in September 1939 was just pragmatism. Britain and France just did not need another enemy at that time plus there was always the long term hope that they might fall out and turn on each other.