Stalin and Hitler both hated and distrusted each other. From what I read, the Stalin-Hitler Non-Aggression pact was seen (by Stalin) as a way to buy time-Stalin needed 2-3 years to rebuilt the Red Army officer corps, equip his army with T-34 tanks, and modernize his air force. As a devout communist, Stalin knew that Hitler represented the last stage of (reactionary) capitalism; therefore he was certain time was on his side. Suppose that Stalin had taken the numerous warnings (from Churchill, Sorge, etc.) to heart, and launched a pre-emptive attack upon Germany-would he have prevailed? I can imagine the German panic, and Red Army tanks invaded East Prussia. Or would the Germans have bested them?
The most important part of this is “When”? When would this hypothetical attack be taking place?
The Soviet had a hard time beating tiny Finland. Germany would have crushed them.
Yeah, need a time line. If it’s supposed to have happened in 1945, with Germany basically leaving Russia alone while they consolidate Western Europe after defeating France (and possibly getting the UK to either agree to terms for some sort of armistice) then I suppose you have a plausible scenario. If it’s supposed to be that Russia attacks Germany before Germany invades Russia, then I’d say it’s pretty much impossible.
Taking the former, I’d guess that the Russians would have been crushed like a beer can, regardless of what preparations Stalin and his military made, and regardless of whether the T-34 was superior to what the Germans would have by then. The Russian military was fundamentally flawed before the war, and I see no indications that it would have learned the hard lessons that they DID learn during the German invasion by having a few extra years of peace to prepare, had Hitler given them the chance. You don’t just learn logistics, tactical doctrine and strategy by osmosis, especially when you think you already have all that stuff down…which the Russians DID think. Before they got their asses handed to them repeatedly in the early stages of the war. Trading space for time (and millions of lives) worked for them because they were mainly on the defensive (there were lots of local counter attacks of course). If they were actually invading Germany and Western Europe, however, they could have had the cream of their armies wiped out and been in complete disarray trying to get back to Russia.
Besides, giving the Germans a few more years to develop weapons and consolidate Western Europe under their rule would have been a very bad thing. The Germans had stopped tank development before their invasion of Russia because they calculated that the tanks they had were sufficient and they wanted to emphasize other research. But eventually they would have gotten back to it, and at a guess whatever they DID come up with would have been better than the Panther, which had a lot of early problems due to being rushed in development and production. Plus, they would have almost surly had jet fighters that the Russians wouldn’t have been able to compete with. Plus, they would have Western Europe firmly under their boot, and presumably the UK out of the way (some sort of peace).
Stalin didn’t believe in Communism at all. For that matter, the old Soviet Union was never a Communist state. “Communism” was just the newest shiny label for the governmental system known as, “We own it all and if you open your mouth, we’ll kill you.”
To the question, what if Stalin had attacked Hitler, my answer would be, “With what?” Stalin had executed something like 2/3 of his own officer corps. He had a pitifully small and obsolete air force and almost no tanks. He couldn’t even beat Finland (and that fiasco encouraged Hitler to plan Barbarossa).
Your post is nearly 100% incorrect.
Stalin’s army in 1941 was almost 3 times the size of Hitler’s-the Red Army had over 22,000 tanks. The Red Airforce (while not as good as the German Luftwaffe), had over 5000 aircraft. The pushover that the Nazis experienced was the result of:
-Stalin’s complete inability to accept that Hitler had outsmarted him
-the Russian forces were deployed across the 1800 mile border-they lacked the local strength to oppose the Germans
-as was mentioned, Stalin’s top commander had been recently promoted from the ranks of majors, lt. colonels-all of the top officers (colonels, generals) had been murdered or sent to Siberia. These officers lacked the experience to deal with the German invasion.
Stalin had a supreme commander (Marshal Budyenny) who was as close to incompetent as one can be. Budyenny ordered all available forces to the “front”-where they wound up getting captured.
To be fair, the principle of “we’ll kill you” was a feature in Stalin’s governmental system.
I think the biggest counter-argument against this possibility was Stalin himself. He ran the Soviet Union and nothing was going to happen without his approval so his personality was a key factor. And Stalin was essentially a coward. He was afraid of taking risks. This was reflecting in his paranoia - he would kill anyone who might pose a threat to him because he was afraid to risk leaving them alive. And his foreign policy also reflects this fear - there were numerous times when the Soviet Union could have taken some initiative but Stalin was too worried about the possibility of a defeat to take the risk.
And attacking Germany would have been a huge risk. It might have ended up working but Stalin would never have taken the chance. He would have done whatever he could have to avoid the risk of war and the peace would have continued indefinitely unless Germany took the initiative and attacked the Soviet Union.
Stalin didn’t trust anyone he couldn’t have killed. however, Hitler had allowed Stalin to invade Poland two weeks after the Nazi’s did. Hitler was Stalin’s best-buddy at that point in time. For what that was worth.
The Russian military was in complete chaos. The Nazi’s had just steamrolled several nation’s armies and were looking for more. If Stalin had concentrated his forces and ordered his military to advance towards Germany, the much better organized and lead Nazi’s would have destroyed the Russians in short order and there would have been few forces left to defend Stalingrad or anywhere else.
That’s why I said it was ‘nearly 100% incorrect’. The rest was either No True Scotsman hair splitting or basically just wrong (Certainly he DID have most of his officer corps whacked or purged, but the Soviet Union had a vast number of air craft and tanks before the war…they just didn’t have a large experienced senior officer pool at the time of the war).
Yes, reading that the Soviets had “almost no tanks” was a chuckle.
They had very few tanks worthy of the name. The tanks they did have were ever cruder than the French light tanks that formed the basis of the French “armor” in 1940 (and got slaughtered). They may have had some armor-plated vehicles with guns, but until they mass-produced the T-34, they had nothing that could stand up to even the first-generation Nazi tanks.
Stalin’s air force was likewise obsolete and ineffective.
So instead of “almost no tanks,” I suppose I should have said, “almost no useful tanks.” I didn’t think I needed to make that distinction, since the point was whether a preemptive strike against Germany was feasible.
What do you think the Germans were using at that time? They were still relying on Panzer I’s as their main battle tank in 1939 and 1940 and they had less than 1500 of them. They were just converting over to Panzer II’s (they had a few hundred built by the end of 1940).
The Soviets during this same time were still using the T-26 as the main tank. It was a lightweight by later standards but it was a solid tank for its time period. It was certainly at least the equal of a Panzer I anyway (T-26’s knocked out Panzer I’s in Spain). And the Soviets had over 10,000 T-26’s already in the field by 1939. And while the Germans were converting over to Panzer II’s in this time period, the Soviets were converting to T-34’s (which were in production in 1940). And I don’t think anyone is going to dispute that the T-34 was a much better tank than the Panzer II.
French armor in 1940 was generally superior to German armor, it just wasn’t used as effectively. For example the Somua S35 was superior to the Pz-IIIs of 1940, and the Germans had nothing at all like the Char B1 heavy tank.
Sheesh man…you are just wrong. The Soviets had the T-26 during that period…verse the Panzer II. And the Soviets had 10’s of thousands of the things, verse a few thousand that the Germans had. The only real qualitative difference was pretty key, but hardly rendered them worthless or obsolete…and that was the fact that the Germans put radios on their tanks, and the Soviets (and most other nations) didn’t.
That could be said of the Germans. The Panzers I and II were noted for their rather distinct lack of quality in the war against POLAND, much less anyone else. They weren’t any better than the T-26, which the Soviets had in abundance in the 1930s.
The quality of German tanks was never at any point as good as the Soviets. Even after the Panther and Tiger rolled out they were unreliable to the point of being as much trouble as they were worth, and even after the bugs were ironed out they weren’t sufficiently numerous, and anyway the T-34/85 and Is series were matches. The average German tanker was in a shittier tank than his Soviet counterpart every single day of the war and, frankly, for a few years before.
The Soviets did poorly in 1941 because of crap leadership from Stalin on down. There was nothing technologically inferior about them, all in all, but you can have all the T-34s you want and if you don’t know how to use your army you’ll still lose.
Had Stalin attacked forst, I am inclined to wonder if the result would not have been much the same, just with fewer Soviet civilians murdered. In terms of battle, the likely result would have been, initially, disastrous for the ineptly run Red Army. They would have gotten their asses kicked, then learned lessons the hard way, and eventually prevailed. It just would have happened in Poland and Eastern Europe.
In 1939 and 1940, the best tanks the German army had were probably the Panzer 35t and the Panzer 38t - which were actually captured Czech tanks (the t stood for Tschechisch, the German word for Czech).
Agreed. I’ve always thought it is interesting to note that despite the reputation as a “tank” army. The Heer actually spent the first half of the war behind on tank design. Mostly Panzer IIs and a few Panzer IIIs vs the Soumua S35 and Char B1. Then mostly upgraded Panzer IIIs and a few Panzer IVs vs the T-34. Even the M4 Sherman was a match for the German tanks when it was first deployed. And it wasn’t until the Panthers and Tigers started to come online and the IVs were upgraded to the 75mm gun that the Germans had tanks that could reliably take on any opponents’ tanks one on one.
The German advantage in '39-'42 wasn’t in the quality of the tanks, it was in the quality of the tactical doctrine.
By the time the Panthers and Tigers were out, German tankers must have found the idea of fighting “one on one” to be a bitter joke.