Russia could have beaten Germany without the Western Allies

Let’s get historical.

I was discussing World War II with a chum, who holds the opinion that the Soviet Union would have been able to beat Germany without the aid of the Western Allies–except, instead of being a six-year war, it would have been a very long war of attrition.

I’m not sure where I stand. I see his point, but I also think the Western Allies’ efforts were vital as well.

What say you?

How strict are we taking without the aid of? Because the US sent 16,368,000 tons of goods and materiel through Lend Lease (according to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lend-Lease#US_deliveries_to_USSR ).

Yes. The Germans reached the end of their advance in the winter of 42-43. They failed to end the war and were forced into a long agonizing retreat. Normandy was the summer of 44. By then the Germans had been on the retreat already for a year and a half.

It was a long war of attrition as it was, it’d have been a longer war of attrition. It is very likely that the Soviets could have won the war on their own, and it is extremely unlikely that Germany could have defeated the Soviet Union even if the USSR was on its own. That doesn’t, however, mean that the efforts of the Western Allies weren’t vital as well. The greater part of the German bloodletting by far occurred on the Eastern Front, and the great majority of the German military was deployed on the Eastern Front from Barbarossa to the fall of Berlin. Allied lend-lease to the USSR was certainly of great value, but was not essential in preventing a Soviet defeat or ensuring a victory; it amounted to ~7-9% of Soviet war production. US lend-lease to the USSR only began in November 1941 and was only a trickle compared to the amount that began to be sent by around late 42/early/mid 43. It was a non-factor in stopping Barbarossa from succeeding and by the time it reached high gear German hopes for any kind of victory in the East had been dashed. While the summer 1941 campaign was launched along the entire length of the front and had the lofty goal of completely defeating the USSR, the 1942 summer campaign was only launched on the southern third of the front with the goal of securing the oil in the Caucasus. The 1943 summer campaign at Kursk consisted entirely of attempting to clear out a salient.

I don’t think the invasion of Italy and France were necessary for victory, but Lend Lease, and tying down forces in Western Europe who were expecting an invasion were. Without those two, Germany may still have won (and likely would have, if Japan saw how weak the USSR was becoming and so stabbed her in the back.)

I’ve never understood this claim.

The Western allies did a huge amount of damage to Germany, and tied down dozens of divisions; at the time of the Normandy invasion there were 54 divisions in France plus more in the Low Countries and Norway, and more were transferred in after the invasion, plus a dozen or more divisions wasted in Germany, plus tropps wasted in Africa; Germany lost 150,000 troops killed or captured in North Africa, which is what, 13 full strength divisions? That was a relatively SMALL theatre. Western bombing significantly hindered German production, especially of oil, and disrupted the economy. Lend-Lease sent the Soviets a staggering amount of aid, including a pretty fair percentage of the food they ate, and most of the trucks their army drove.

Given the fact that the Eastern Front was a pretty near thing, I find it baffling anyone would just up and assume the USSR would have won even without all that aid, even with Germany’s western front free and clear and 50-75 extra divisions available to fight, even with 25% of all German ammunition devoted to unsuccessfully trying to stop the bombing offensive, even without the disruption to the German economy. The Russians are not invincible. The Germans beat them in World War I. They could have done it again.

Pretty sure it’s just an over-reaction to the stereotypical Ugly American “If it weren’t for us you’d all be speaking German blah blah blah” crap. Since the Soviets actually did do the vast majority of the heavy lifting in the ETO of WWII*, those reacting to such tripe go overboard in the other direction.
*This is in no way making light of the sacrifice of those who fought and died in North Africa, Italy, the air war, the Battle of the Atlantic, or any other non-eastern front actions. But do the math.

The Russians during World War I were from an unindustrialized country while by World War II, the USSR had engaged in massive industrialization programs. That said, I don’t expect a complete victory for the Russians but rather a negotiated settlement or armistice.

No…not a chance.

As it was, it was a narrow thing. The Soviets losses going through the Eastern Europe and Germany were massive. And they were only possible because of two factors…the fact that the Germans were fighting on multiple fronts AND the truly staggering amount of supplies, especially logistics transport (jeeps, trucks, etc) that the US and Western Allies were sending to Russia that allowed them to concentrate their own production on offensive armaments. I think that if the Soviets were all alone fighting a completely unengaged Germany then the war would either have been over pretty much right off the bat, or Germany (having consolidated it’s grip on Western Europe and presumably at peace with the UK and the US) would eventually have worn them down. At BEST, IMHO, you’d get some sort of stalemate, with the borders being somewhere in Western Russia (where ever the Germans finally either ran out of gas or consolidated into defensive positions). I seriously doubt that the Soviet economy could have kept pace either without injections of material from the allies, so, long term I think it means curtains for the USSR…decades before they actually ran out of gas in the real world and collapsed.

I think it is interesting to look at some raw numbers.


	Troops (in millions)
	European Axis		Soviet
	Total	In theater	Total	In theater
6/41	3.767	2.867		5.500	2.680
6/42	3.720	2.976		5.313	4.613
6/43	3.933	2.478		6.724	6.024
6/44	3.370	2.089		6.425	5.725
1/45	2.330	1.398		6.532	5.832

	Casualties (in millions)
	 Dead	Prisoners
E. Axis	 5.178	5.450
Soviet	10.651	5.280
	Raw Material Production '41-'45 (in million tonnes)
	Coal	Steel	Aluminium Oil	
E. Axis	2027.7	 127.0	 992.9	  49.7
Soviet	 590.8	  57.7	 283.0	 110.6

	Weapons Production '41-'45
	Tanks	Aircraft
E. Axis	64,283	109,544
Soviet	99,488	136,314

So the Soviets generally outnumbered the European Axis in both men and equipment for all but the first year of war. They lost a disproportionate amount of both… especially in the first year. And the Western Allies were clearly pulling off some of the Axis troops and reducing production. But some of that was going to happen even without the Western Allies. Dozens of divisions were still going to be needed for garrison, occupation, and to watch the allies. Just like the Soviets kept roughly 700,000 troops in the Far East throughout the war.

By '44 the Soviets almost had a 2 to 1 advantage over the whole of the European Axis, and a 3 to 1 advantage over the troops on the Eastern front. It would have been bloody. But they did start pushing the Axis back in '42, well before the Western Allies were really doing much against the Axis.

I’m not sure if the Soviets could have done it… but it isn’t completely ridiculous to make the argument.

We had a thread about this not long ago.

To recap my argument in that thread:

The USSR, during the battle of Stalingrad, was sending in just enough troops to keep the Germans occupied, while the rest of the Red Army mobilized and gathered near the river for an encircling attack. After that, they had enough momentum to win a string of big victories (Kursk, Crimean offensive, Lvov-Sandomierz, Baltic offensive, Balkan offensives, etc). How big of an impact lend-lease really had is almost opinion, since we don’t have any simple way of looking and seeing exactly how much of it was put to use on the front lines, as opposed to garrison duty in reconquered territories, for example.

So the question becomes, could the USSR have faced the full force of the Wehrmacht during Barbarossa? And when, in this hypothetical, do the other allies withdraw from the war?

Given that the West gave the Russians some 450,000 vehicles during the war and vast amounts of other materiel they’d have been hard pressed to come up with on their own, I have to say that “Germany vs USSR (everyone else stays home and watches)” would have been a very different war.

I don’t mean any offense, but I’m surprised you’d say this. Disagreeing wouldn’t surprise me, but not understanding it does. How close run of an affair was the Eastern Front really after the winter of 41/42? There was no contemplation of a front wide offensive or defeating the Soviets in the 1942 summer campaign; bringing the formations of Army Group South up to strength for the coming offensive meant leaving AGs Center and North deeply under strength as well as relying heavily on not terribly reliable fresh Romanian, Hungarian and Italian units to come up with enough warm bodies for AG South. For all of the attention Kursk draws, it was an extremely limited offensive with very modest goals; there was no thought of using it as a springboard for another large scale general push against the USSR.

I’ve no desire or intention to downplay the role of lend-lease, but Barbarossa was stopped far short of its goals without the benefit of lend-lease. Not having lend-lease would certainly have slowed the Soviets down, but it would not have stopped them. By the time the Western Allies were tying down 50-75 divisions the German situation in the East was beyond recovery.

As Qin Shi Huangdi noted, this isn’t a very useful comparison. In WW1 Tsarist Russia was teetering on the verge of revolution and so badly off industrially that it couldn’t supply enough rifles for its troops. By comparison Stalin had, through the most horrific of methods, industrialized the USSR so much that it was the #2 producer of war materials in WW2 only being behind the USA. Since it didn’t have to devote much to naval production and didn’t devote as much to aircraft production as the US, the USSR was the #1 producer of all categories of land warfare armaments, from tanks to mortars to submachine guns.

Your assumption seems to be that the war would have gone exactly the same until the Soviets got rolling. I’m not seeing it, to be honest. The US started sending stuff to Russia (paid in gold) prior to Lend/Lease. Then we ramped things up. We sent them food (much of their agricultural heartland was contested ground especially in the early years), we sent them supplies (uniforms, equipment, boots, etc), we sent them vehicles (ranging from jeeps and trucks to tanks, artillery and planes), and other material (radios, medical supplies, ammunition, etc). All of that not only gave them crucial supplies that they lacked, but it allowed them to focus their limited industrial capacity (in the early years) into very narrow production of stuff like tanks and planes. The Brits also shared with them technology btw, that allowed them access to more advanced designs.

Without all of this I don’t see the Soviets being in the position they were in late '42 or '43-'44…and I see their losses being much, MUCH higher. The food and material alone that they wouldn’t have been getting would have crippled them when they needed it the most (hell, even WITH that stuff the Soviets had logistics and supply issues). It’s incredible to me that anyone seriously thinks the Soviets could have done it all on their own, especially on the same time table that happened in the real world, as if they had all that extra industrial capacity just laying around unused in the early days (when they were frantically moving whole factories out of the way of the advancing Germans), and that Lend/Lease was really unnecessary and just a bonus to them…and that the Soviet economy was strong enough to just go it alone, and their access to men, and resources pretty much unlimited.

Maybe I’m misunderhearing you, but you do seem to be downplaying the role of Lend/Lease, which started in October of '41…but prior to that, the US started shipping all sorts of stuff to the Soviets in JUNE. And we continued to ship massive quantities of war material to the Soviets until, IIRC, late '45 (October? November?).

From this article;

The USSR was highly dependent on rail transportation, but the war practically shut down rail equipment production: only about 92 locomotives were produced. 2,000 locomotives and 11,000 railcars were supplied under Lend-Lease. Likewise, the Soviet air force received 18,700 aircraft, which amounted to about 14% of Soviet aircraft production (19% for military aircraft).[16]

Although most Red Army tank units were equipped with Soviet-built tanks, their logistical support was provided by hundreds of thousands of U.S.-made trucks. Indeed by 1945 nearly two-thirds of the truck strength of the Red Army was U.S.-built. Trucks such as the Dodge 3/4 ton and Studebaker 2½ ton, were easily the best trucks available in their class on either side on the Eastern Front. American shipments of telephone cable, aluminium, canned rations, and clothing were also critical.[17]
So, let’s imagine the USSR’s logistical nightmare without the trains and trucks provided by the USA…

Exactly. War, especially modern war, is all about logistics. If they couldn’t massively supply their armies in the field with everything from gas and ammo to boots and beans, then there would BE no large counter offensives, sweeping the Germans back from their interior and into Eastern Europe and ultimately to Germany itself. They had a limited amount of production capacity and materials, and by not allowing them to focus it on narrow vectors like tanks, planes, artillery, etc, but instead on all the OTHER (vital) stuff they needed, that would both mean that they would have less of those tanks and such AND they would never have been able to produce all the other materials they were supplied anyway. At best I see the Soviet Union able to dig in and stop the Germans somewhere in central Russia, with, perhaps, a stable defensive line and maybe leading to an eventual cease fire if they were enough of a pain in the ass to the Germans to not be worth continuing the war. At worst I see a slow erosion of the USSR (or maybe a quick collapse, since there were a LOT of dissatisfied Russians, especially in the early days…and with the shortages of food and material it’s possible that moral would have collapsed, especially in the early days before the Russians really got stubborn and committed), with them losing bite by bite as their industries and economy were stretched beyond their limits.

… But everything you’re saying happened with a war going on against the Western Allies. Even before Normandy that was a very substantial effort.

Right. Yes, perhaps without the “second front” that Stalin wanted so bad, the Soviets might have been able to wear down the Nazis anyway. But not without the American flow of supplies and equiptment.

For a variety of reasons (equipment, philosophy of warmaking, fear of Stalin) the Soviet forces remained vulnerable to fluid, mobile warfare, even after they perfected the set-piece offensive (at which they became very good indeed).

Perceiving this, Manstein and other German commanders believed the way to fight the Soviet army was to never remain in place and bear the brunt of a Soviet attack, but to always disengage and maneuver. Sooner or later, during maneuver warfare, Soviet logistics might fail, the forward elements might lose contact with the higher authorities who made the real decisions (and thus become paralyzed), the battleground would move away from pre-planned artillery fire zones, and so on. Then German forces could turn on the strung-out Sov columns and hit weak spots.

This method worked pretty well the few times they were able to get Hitler to approve disengagement (which he thought of as retreat), or employ it without Hitler realizing. One of the key reasons the Germans collapsed when they did is that Hitler usually forced them to fight in ways that played to Soviet strengths, not German strengths.

As it was, the Soviets relied heavily on American aid for transportation, fuel, clothing (5 million pairs of boots alone), and food (the US sent enough food to feed everyone in the Soviet military for every day of the war) just to conduct their set-piece offensives. Nikita Kruschev famously said something like “Imagine the advance to Berlin without American trucks!”

IF we postulate that the German generals could have somehow been freed to conduct mobile warfare, it would have been MUCH more effective against a Soviet army without American logistical support and transportation – a substantially less mobile army.

So I guess my take is, without the Western Allies, the Soviets would have been surprisingly vulnerable (despite their massive military) to a technique the German generals wanted to use, but did not get much chance to use. If we assume Hitler let them use that technique, or choked on a potato in 1942, it becomes possible to imagine a German victory, or a partial victory.

We know Stalin was fearful of defeat early in the war, and it must have been a psychological comfort to have received promises of support from the West. Without those promises, without those supplies, with his immobile army slashed up by fast-moving, elusive German forces…might a hypothetically-cowed Stalin have agreed to quit while he still held the eastern half of the country, leaving Germany holding the western half?

The Soviet troops did the heavy lifting in the fighting, fielding 300 plus divisions. Had the UK and the US not supplied material and somewhat divided the attention of the Nazi manpower and bombed the crap out of industrial Germany, the Nazi mistakes might not have been critical.

Now suppose that in addition to the Nazis being at peace with the UK (impossible unless you remove Churchill) and at peace with the US (unlikely with Roosevelt in charge of foreign policy) that the UK and US had other leaders that supplied the Nazis. Like Prescott Bush. Or perhaps Dewey or Wilkie. Suppose that had been going to the Nazis? The American Nazi movement was not thoroughly discredited until Hitler declared war on the US. Without Roosevelt lying, cheating and stealing for the Allies before the war started, things would have been very different. Suppose Hitler had not declared war on the US? Could Roosevelt have still managed to put most of the war effort in the European theater? Not likely.