The first plan of war against the USSR: attack in the North
In the beginning of the 1940, Great Britain and France, being at war with Germany, were preparing an intervention into the USSR. Whole number of circumstances prevented their plans to come true. Though it is interesting to imagine how would be the run of the WWII in case Anglo-French alliance have actually managed to carry out their intention to attack the USSR.
Back in September of 1938 Winston Churchill, then the British First Lord of Admiralty (naval minister), proposed to mine the Norwegian coastal waters in order to bar Germany from exporting the iron ore via the port of Narwik. In December of 1939 Churchill clearly supported the idea of preventive occupation of Norway. The USSR was holding a war against Finland at the time and the the English presence in the North of Europe would have an anti-Soviet smell. In the same report dated December 16, 1939 Churchill pointed out the probability to start the warfare against the Soviet Union: “Transfer of the iron ore from Luleo (Baltic Sea) has already stopped because of the ice and we can’t let the Soviet icebreakers to crush it in case if they try”.
Soviet-Finnish war was dragging on — which was unexpected not only for the Soviet leadership but for the Western powers as well. In December of 1939 leaders of the latter ones started to discuss the opportunity to render the military aid to the Finns and seize the moment to start the extensive warfare against the Soviet Union. The situation, according to Churchill’s words, allowed the Western powers “to kill two birds with one stone”: to interrupt the German supply of the iron ore from Scandinavia and start the intervention into Russia. On January 15, 1940 French Commander in Chief Gamelin reported to the Prime-Minister Daladier about the plan of landing the allied contingent at the north of Finland and Norway, at the Petsamo area (today’s Pechengsky District of Murmansk Oblast, Russia) — in Kirkenes. Gamelin plotted not only rendering the military aid to the Finns. He also planned the military occupation of the neutral Norwegian and Swedish territories.
On January 27, 1940 Allied Supreme Military Council in Paris made a decision to send two British divisions and French unit — which strength was to be defined later — to the Polar Region. As Churchill witnessed, “Council decided that it was very important to rescue Finland, that without the reinforcement of 30 to 40 thousand of trained soldiers it wouldn’t be able to last longer than until spring, that the current stream of diverse volunteers was not enough and that Finland’s fall would be a serious defeat for the Allies”. Along with that, despite the desire to forcefully occupy part of the Norwegian and Swedish territories, Western leaders considered the opportunity to involve the armed forces of these countries to the anti-Soviet intervention to be possible — they were, thus, to allegedly “show their gratitude” to England and France for “saving” from the threat of German and Soviet invasions.
Simultaneously with the plans to invade the USSR from the North, leaders of the Great Britain and France were making up a plot to attack USSR from the South. They have considered this direction even more promising than the northern. On January 19, 1940 French government charged Gamelin to prepare the plan of “direct invasion to Caucasus” (Balkan direction was also taken into consideration). Having reported about the “Southern Plan” — as it was officially dubbed at the French General Staff — General Gamelin has marked out its pros: “General theater of war would expand dramatically. Yugoslavia, Romania, Greece and Turkey would give us a reinforcement of 100 divisions. At the same time Sweden and Norway would hardly be able to give more than 10 divisions”.
Thus, an extensive anti-Soviet coalition of the regional states headed by England and France was about to be formed for the massive military strike against Soviet Union from the Caucasian and Balkan directions. Notably, the great Western powers were going to shed just the blood of their satellites (100 divisions!) that were to play the part of the cannon fodder. England and France conceived their participation in the war mostly as the air forces operations.
On March 2, 1940 French Prime Minister Daladier made a decision to expand the scale of the French military aid to Finns. 50 thousand of French servicemen and 100 bombers were designed to be sent to Finland. And all of that was happening at the time when the Wehrmacht was finishing its preparations for the strike against the West — documents of the supreme German command seized by the Allies on January 10, 1940 gave unequivocal evidences of that. Churchill has reservedly described the new French plans of the military aid to Finns in the following way: “that was much more than the common sense would have allowed — taking the documents that were seized from the German major in Belgium and the ceaseless intelligence reports of the constant reinforcements of German forces at the Western front into consideration.” But the French government, being blinded by the anti-Soviet fury, was unwilling to see the sword of Damocles threatening it from the Rein river.
But on March 12, 1940 Finland admitted its defeat and strived to sign the peace treaty with the USSR — under comparatively honorable conditions. Pretext for anti-Soviet intervention in the North vanished. Though, the rotating flywheel of the aggressive preparations has already become unstoppable. Troops that were intended to help Finns were sent for the preventive occupation of Norway in the beginning of April. By a mere coincidence German invasion into Norway passed ahead the invasion of the Western powers there by a single day!
The second plan of war against the USSR: strike at the oil fields
In the meanwhile, leaders of England and France have paid special attention to the preparation of the attack against the USSR in the South. On March 22, 1940 General Gamelin has sent a special note to the new Prime Minister Reynaud (Daladier cabinet resigned due to the Finnish defeat) where he stressed on the fact that the optimum way out of the arisen situation would be the air bombing of Baku in order to blow the local oil fields, where — according to the document — 75% of the Soviet oil was produced. “Baku bombing would put the Soviets into the critical situation, as long as Moscow requires every single drop of oil that is produced today in order to provide the fuel for the Soviet motorized units and the agricultural equipment”, — denoted French Commander in Chief. In the end of the document he emphasized the opportunity to add the political rather than just a military sense to this operation, having caused the riots among the Caucasian nations.
On the 4th-5th of April, 1940 at a meeting of English and French military command representatives committee that was created in order to coordinate plans to invade the USSR it was recognized that it would be desirable to bomb not only the Baku oil fields but also the oil refining plants in Batumi and Poti seaport (Georgia), which was used for the oil export. Shared command of the allied expeditionary troops at the Southern theater of war was entrusted to General Weygand who headed the French troops in Syria — “mandated territory” of France. General Mitchell, head of the British Air Forces at the Middle East, received the directions from London, ascribing him to prepare the bombings of Baku and Batumi. During the conversation with the French ambassador, Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs assured him that government and President of Turkey would hardly put any obstacles on the way of using both air space of Turkey and the airfields at the Turkish territory in order to conduct the air strikes at the cities of the Soviet Transcaucasia.
On April 17, 1940 General Weygand reported to French government and Commander in Chief: “Preparation for the bombings of Caucasian oil fields made such progress that we may calculate the precise time required to conduct this operation”. Weygand offered to set the date for carrying out the air strikes against the USSR for the end of June-beginning of July, 1940. French general command agreed to Weygand’s reasoning and approved the carrying out of the Soviet cities’ bombings plan for the end of June, 1940. In reality, by that time Weygand was withdrawn from the Middle East to allegedly save France from the invasion of the Hitler’s troops, though it turned out that he was just called to sign the capitulation act to Germany on behalf of France.
The third plan of the war against the USSR: ten days before 22nd of June
But even after the surrender of France, part of the British ruling class still continued to mature the plans of the attack against the USSR. In May-June, 1941 England managed to consolidate its positions at the Middle East. During the warfare against France — its former ally — Englishmen consolidated their grip over Syria and Lebanon. As a result of intervention, Iraqi government — that attempted to behave itself independently from England — was overthrown and the military bases of British air forces were reestablished at the north of Iraq once again. English historian J. Butler wrote that “in the end of May, 1941 a specific opinion emerged in London — the one expressing the idea that having created the threat to the Caucasian oil, it would be possible to exert the pressure against Russia in the most suitable way…On the 12th of June Heads of Staff Committee decided to assume the measures that would allow to conduct the strikes against the oil refining plants in Baku using the average bombers from Mosul in Iraqi Kurdistan without any delays”. It was just 10 days before Hitler’s offensive against the USSR…
OR has edited an article by Yaroslav BUTAKOV published at the win.ru on April 7, 2010.