The Barbarossa Question

I tend to agree with the historical revisionists concerning the planned Soviet invasion of Germany, but I disagree that the burden of proof is on them any more than it is on the traditionalists. The fact that one is the first to reach a conclusion does not indicate that the conclusion is the most accurate one.

In the years 1939-1941, Stalin ruled the Soviet Union with the idea that war would be inevitable. Stalin had been preparing for that inevitability both before and during those years: This is evidenced from many developments, from the economy, to propaganda, to Red Army deployments at the border. With his poker game conception, the only question that remained is who would become Stalin’s main adversary? After the fall of France – which happened so swiftly that it baffled and enraged Stalin – it became more and more obvious that the main adversary would be Hitler. Rather than picking up the scraps of two foes who had battled each-other to exhaustion, he would now have to face Hitler alone on the European continent

There were good reasons for Stalin to fear encirclement, but even the Soviet defensive strategy contained fundamentally offensive operations which included defeating and conquering the enemy on his own territory. The neglect of defensive lines, the offensive posture of Soviet divisions, Stalin lambasting the Maginot defense strategy of the French, the brutal imposition of the Stalinist system on the conquered territories in the years 1939-1940 all point to Stalin not being afraid of the Germans. Instead it points that he was confident enough to fend them off and counter-strike in case of an attack.

There have been many Soviet war plans, many of which can be regarded to be contingency plans in case of an attack. Germans had these too even before Operation Barbarossa was decided upon. The May war plan was the plan that contained proposals for the Soviets to strike first. To date, the revisionists, especially Ewan Mawdsley, have mostly compared the May war plan with other Soviet war plans, while I attempted to compare the May war plan with the mobilization plan of 1941 and saw many similarities. MP-41 predates German deployments to the Soviet border. The completion of MP-41 would have enabled the Soviets to carry out the May war plan. The biggest issue as I have already highlighted was the date at which the Soviets would launch their preemptive strike.

Stalin’s rhetoric and behavior in the months February-May cannot possibly be construed as him waging a campaign of appeasement against the Germans. Soviet deployments, along with aggressive propaganda campaigns that intended to fuel hatred against Germans, interrogation reports of captured soviet soldiers saying that they were expected to attack soon and the stepping-up of military production all point to Stalin intending to strike against Hitler. Stalin may have become concerned in June when Germans completed their deployments, probably a lot faster than he expected. But at that point, it was too late to shift all his armies from an offensive to a defensive posture. Alternatively, Stalin may have remained confident for his armies abilities to hold off the Germans at the border in order to launch a counter-attack. Zhukov’s and Timoshenko’s directives on 25 June to counter-strike and capture Poland and East-Prussia certainly points in that direction.

So did Stalin intend to invade Germany? Yes I think that he did. But it needs to be stated that both traditionalists as well as revisionists operate on circumstantial evidence alone, granted the burden of proof is on the revisionists. I hope to have convinced the reader that the evidence points into the direction of Stalin preparing to invade Germany.

Frankly, I think the author gives too much credence to the “see no logic” traditional crowd. Anyone who pays any serious attention to history knows that the Soviets were determined to avoid the situation they faced in 1917; the Bolsheviks were – and remain – experts in the strategy of “let’s you and him fight”.

The obvious reason that Stalin wasn’t ready, and therefore the reason Hitler was able to strike first, was because Germany defeated France at least one year sooner than anyone had any reason to believe possible. And the scale of the Soviet preparations, which were considerably larger than those of Operation Barbarossa, was both why it took Stalin longer and why he didn’t expect the Germans to consider themselves ready to attack him when they did.