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Did the Russians Save The World in WWII?

Discussion in 'Historical Debates' started by Ellen Brown, Aug 25, 2019.

  1. Ellen Brown

    Ellen Brown Well-Known Member
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    I was doing some casual reading and found that in WWII, 26 million Russians died. What would it have been like for the West if the Russians had not been keeping him busy? What if they had just been neutral like Switzerland, and Sweden?

    We hear so much about the 6 million Jews who died in WWII. I read an estimate that 75-80 million people worldwide died.

    I know there have been books written about Germany winning WWII. What a chilling thought.
     
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  2. exchemist

    exchemist Well-Known Member

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    "Saving the world" is a rather hysterical way of putting it, but there is no doubt that Hitler's decision to invade the USSR probably cost him the war. The Russian effort (and sacrifice) to defeat him was enormous.

    Mind you, the same could perhaps be said about Hitler's decision to declare war on the USA, after Pearl Harbour.
     
    #2 exchemist, Aug 25, 2019
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  3. Estro Felino

    Estro Felino Believer in free will
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    Indeed...I don't understand why the Germans had the brilliant idea to involve Japan...
    Btw happy birthday;)
     
  4. Ellen Brown

    Ellen Brown Well-Known Member
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    Some of what I find out while reading can cause me to feel a little hysterical. :)
     
  5. Kangaroo Feathers

    Kangaroo Feathers Hardline moderate

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    The idea that any 1 country "saved the world" in the Second World War is wronheadedly reductionist. It's wrong when Americans do it, it's wrong when the Russians do it. The Russians certainly did a lot more fighting and dying than is popularly thought by Westerners, but the victory over the AXIS powers was inherently collaborative. It may be argued that certain members contributions were greater, others lesser, but no one member single handedly "saved the World". 26 million dead speaks of a huge contribution, but a great deal of Russian fighting was done with Western supplied materiel and doctrine, against Germans fighting at the end of stretched supply lines being constantly disrupted by Western allies actions.
     
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  6. sayak83

    sayak83 Well-Known Member
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    Yes.
     
  7. Augustus

    Augustus the Unreasonable

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    They were neutral until Hitler terminated the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact by invading Russia. The war would have been over before they joined had Britain been forced to sue for peace in 1940.

    This is why saying "Country X saved the world in WW2" is a bit silly. It would have been over in 1940 had it not been for Britain. Without USSR and America, Britain couldn't have won though. Also giving the lion's share of the credit to any one nation is disrespectful to the dozens of nations that also contributed in important ways.

    The war was won by a coalition, best leave it at that.
     
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  8. SomeRandom

    SomeRandom Still learning to be wise

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    WWII is more like a collaboration. Hitler made some very poor strategic decisions, after a "winning streak."
    He was ultimately an arrogant man, desperate to see the Mother Land return to the former glory he thought it deserved. His theories were baseless and he still clung to them despite evidence presented to him (the '36 Olympics, for example.)
    He's a fascinating, if repugnant, figure.

    As to books about Germany winning WWII, I always find them rather fascinating reads. But I quite enjoy a bit of Dystopian/Sci Fi/Speculative fiction myself.
     
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  9. lewisnotmiller

    lewisnotmiller Grand Hat
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    The Fatherland.
    Sorry, couldn't help myself. Russians spoke of Mother Russia, but to the Germans it was the land of their fathers they fought for.
     
  10. lewisnotmiller

    lewisnotmiller Grand Hat
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    Agreed. My only counterpoint would be that both Russia and Germany saw conflict as inevitable. Hitler was arrogant enough to think smashing the Russian frontlines would break them, which is probably as much leftover hubris and a misreading of the Russian political situation in WW1 as anything.
     
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  11. Rise

    Rise Active Member

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    The number of Russians who died doesn't mean much by itself.

    One of the errors people make in analyzing the impact of a given country on a war is to look at death counts and assume that every death had the same level of impact on ending the war. That is absolutely not true.

    15-20 million Chinese died in WW2, with 3-4 million being military deaths (compared with 400,000 military deaths for the USA) - but China had a negligible impact on the outcome of the war in favor of the allies. Whereas the USA had a decisive impact on the war.

    Sometimes a high death count just means your side was horribly outmatched and got slaughtered.



    That is the case to a large extent with Russian death statistics.
    Over half of the total 10 million Russian military deaths happened before or during Stalingrad, and those could be said to be the deaths that cost the Russians the most but gained the least militarily.
    The majority of those pre-Stalingrad deaths were not very productive deaths in terms of combat effectiveness. A lot of them involved simply being slaughtered in the German's opening blitzkrieg as they were surrounded and annihilated. Other large quantities of deaths were the result of desperate attacks across a broad front designed to find whatever weak point they could in the German lines and then start pouring into those gaps. This only happened after the German advance stalled in the winter combined with overstretched Germany logistical lines that couldn't sustain further advance at the pace they had been. These Russian offensives helped regain some ground by forcing the Germans to pull back to more defensible positions, but at a high cost because the Germans were playing a very effective defensive strategy that minimized their losses while holding onto key logistical networks. The Russians were not able to effect a breakthrough on the German line as the Germans had done to them earlier, and their gains were arguably of not much consequence beyond solidifying what was already a stalling German advance.

    In contrast, total German military deaths on the eastern front were only 1.1 million, out of a total of 2 million military deaths (Captured and injured are not factored into either side for the sake of simplicity in explanation). They were not operating at the same efficiency level as the Germans were. You cannot compare military deaths with a 1 to 1 parity and assume that just because they died that they had an equal impact on the outcome of the war. The Germans achieved far more impact with less manpower expended to achieve it. You could argue that each German death had a much greater impact on influencing the war than a given Russian death.



    There are also many other factors that go into contributing to military victory that can't be expressed in pure death statistics.
    For instance:
    1. Regardless of numerical superiority on the ground, the side with air superiority always wins. This has been true of war ever since WW2, and arguably was still true even in WW1.
    It was the USA that destroyed the Luftwaffe and diverted massive German resources to defending Germany airspace. They forced the Germans to surrender tactical air superiority to the Russians on the eastern front, all but ensuring the Germans were destined to retreat.
    2. The USA destroyed German oil supplies, effectively ending the war on that basis alone. German planes sat on the runway without fuel, and German tanks attacking through the Ardennes ground to a halt despite major success because they simply ran out of fuel and couldn't capture the America stockpiles they were hoping to find. German sources say the USA bombing campaign against their oil had effectively stabbed them in the heart. It was, oil, afterall, that was the main strategic objective for hitler in launching his attack against Russia, because at the start of the war Germany had only a few months of oil available for combat operations.

    You could argue that each American air force death had more impact on ending the war than most other types of deaths.

    3. Economic industry. Russia didn't have the industrial capability to wage war on the scale they did. They would not have been able to field an army as large as they did without massive American economic and military aid. It was American trains, transported to Russia from the USA and given to them for free, that powered the arteries of Russian industry and kept their troops supplied. It has to be remembered that logistics is the real concern of an army, moreso than fighting (As Napolean said, an army marches on it's stomach. And, as Patton said, amateurs talk tactics, experts talk logistics). To say nothing of the raw resources and weapons the USA also sent. The full of extent of the aid Russia received from the USA was so staggering that Soviet archives kept the truth hidden until communism fell, because they wanted to perpetuate the myth that they alone had defeated Germany by their own power. Without that aid perhaps they would have collapsed before Stalingrad. They certainly would not have been able to counter-attack and sustain an advance the way they did after Stalingrad without US resources being poured into their country.
    They wouldn't have been able to bounce back as easily, if at all, and any attack they launched would have stalled out earlier. Especially since they had to re-arm themselves after the catastrophic defeats of the first year when the bulk of the soviet army was wiped out and they had to mobilize a new army out of fresh recruits with new gear.






    People make these same mistakes when talking about WW1. They fail to realize that you can't always measure a side's contribution to ending the war purely by death counts. Europeans try to discount the impact the USA had on ending the war in the favor of the Entente by citing only death statistics, failing to recognize that war is not a simplistic game of Risk but has many complex indirect factors that determine victory beyond death counts. The fact that the USA was holding about 1/3 of the line by the end of the war is one clue that reveals why the Germans had no choice but to surrender (and the Americans weren't at full strength yet either. Maybe more like half of their potential strength by that point if I recall. They were still in the process of building up! It took time to train and ship over the troops, given the limited transports available). The Americans didn't need to die in the quantity that the French and British had in order to act as a decisive tipping force that gave the Germans no option but to surrender, because what they brought to the table was so overwhelming by that point that the Germans knew resistance was futile. Without the American entry into the war, France and Britain didn't necessary have the wherewithal to go on the offensive and drive Germany out of France. They were too battered and beaten, their morale too low, and Germany had just defeated Russia, already defeated Romania, and almost knocked Italy out of the war too. Troops were going to pour into the west from the east, and Germany was going to start relieving it's food crisis by robbing from Russian territory under their control. Germany wasn't in a good position to outright knock France/Britain out of the war either - But all Germany needed to do to win was stalemate things to the point where France and Britain would be open to a negotiated peace whereby Germany got to keep most of their territory gains. Germany held all the cards as long as they could prevent themselves from being starved out by the British blockade using captured eastern resources. It was the American entry to the war that forced the hand of the Germans, forced them to mount a suicidal last ditch 1918 spring offensive that ended in defeat, and with the rising numbers of American divisions every month the Germans were not in a position to stalemate the front in defensive warfare as they could if they had continued to only face the British and French. Germany no longer held all the cards when America entered the war. America put an entirely new set of cards into play that trumped what was in Germany's hand. Germany knew they couldn't play for very long before they would be forced to fold.

    Another example of how people misinterpret simple data points and miss the full picture: Territorial gains in 1918. They look at how much territory Britain and France gained offensively in terms of kilometers squared and scoff at the relatively minor gains made by the American's in the same time. However, they fail to recognize that the Germans purposely conducted an orderly withdrawl in the northern sectors so they could throw more forces into defending against the American offensive in the middle/south sectors. The reason? The Americans were a short distance away from cutting off the main railway arteries from Germany into Belgium and France. If the Germans lost that link then their positions in the north would be untennable anyway because all major rail lines to the northern sectors had to first pass through the area the Americans were trying to capture. The American plan, after severing the rail lines out of Germany, was to stab at the heart of the German industrial ruhr just across the border with France. That would have effectively knocked Germany out of the war if captured. Germany understood all this, which is why they ceded ground in the more northern sectors to defend against the American offensive at all costs. It was actually a brilliant strategic decision by Pershing. In hindsight it seems so obvious it makes you wonder why the French and British never tried it.

    The biggest problem with typical European perspectives on WW1 is that they hold to the mistaken belief that they didn't actually need the USA to defeat Germany. Death counts and yardage gained in 1918 are incomplete and out of context statistics that are used to bolster that myth. However, the truth is the could not have expected to defeat Germany without US intervention. A stalemate resulting in armistice favorable to Germany was likely to be the result.
     
    #11 Rise, Aug 25, 2019
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  12. SomeRandom

    SomeRandom Still learning to be wise

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    Ooops, you're right. My bad. I think the memes about soviet Russia have indoctrinated me too much lol.
     
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  13. j1i

    j1i Smiling is charity without giving money

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    Russia's geographic position and attrition of German troops and the time of winter have contributed to Russia's victory with few military tricks.
    Russia is forced to enter a war to defend itself
    But its victory was a victory for humanity for peace
    Russia's geographic position and attrition of German troops and the time of winter have contributed to Russia's victory with few military tricks.
    Russia is forced to enter a war to defend itself
    But its victory was a victory for humanity for peace

    America also sacrificed a lot to help Europe
    It was the cause of the end of the war in japan
     
  14. Rise

    Rise Active Member

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    It's also important to point out that being neutral wasn't an option for Russia.

    Germany saw Russia as their enemy and planned to eventually war with them at some point.

    There were strategic reasons why.
    Germany wanted to gain massive amounts of territory in the east.
    It is actually a strategic goal of Germany that pre-dates WW1, and part of the reason why Russia had to give up territory to Germany in exchange for a peace treaty after the communist revolution of 1917 knocked them out of the war. The only reason Germany didn't get to keep the territory was because America.

    Economics and strategic independence were factors.
    Russia and Germany had a temporary pact of non-aggression to divide up Poland, and Russia traded resources to Germany that they needed to conduct their war in the west.
    Russia then stopped trading with Germany.
    Germany was going to be starved of oil and food necessary to conduct a war in a short period of time.
    Russia had both of those resources.
    They attacked Russia to seize those resources.
    Without which they could not fight Britain, and could not hope to win against Russia in the long run.


    There were also ideological reasons why.
    National Socialism (Nazism), saw themselves as the "true" socialism, in contrast to the "corrupted" socialism of the USSR. A corruption hitler blamed on the jews.

    You could argue that Russia and Germany were destined to clash in war by their conflicting ideologies. Fundamentally they both believed in dominating the world, they just disagreed about who should be in charge. The communists claimed an international body representing the interests of everyone would be in charge (I say claimed, because they always manage to mass murder everyone who doesn't agree with them). The nazis wanted their own racial group to be in charge, at the expense of everyone else, so they mass murdered other races. The two ideologies are really just different sides of the same coin.

    You could also argue that Russia didn't have the option of remaining neutral because they may have wanted to attack Germany almost as much as Germany wanted to attack them - so even if Germany didn't attack, it's likely Russia would have if the opportunity had presented itself and they thought they could win. I am unsure how much of that was out of fear that Germany would one day attack them or out of their own soviet desire to destroy their competition. Maybe a bit of both. I get the impression Stalin didn't intend to attack Germany anytime soon (economically Russia wasn't in shape for that anyway), but many in the military were trying to get him to do that. The main reason the Russians were unprepared for the German invasion was because Stalin was convinced his generals were trying to goad him into war with Germany by feeding him lies about an imminent attack. He therefore forbid them from making preparations for war that what might appear to be a provocation. I don't think it's because Stalin was such a good guy so much as it was he wasn't ready for a war with Germany and didn't see it as in their interest to start one prematurely. I personally think Stalin would have been far more open to stabbing Germany in the back if Germany had gotten bogged down in a prolonged war on the western front as had happened in WW1. But, with a quick western victory, it didn't really serve Russia to try to take on Germany by themselves - especially since Japan could have likely attacked Russia in response.

    Germany had been actively seeking allies to attack Russia. He tried to get Poland to join him in 1934 but they refused. He tried to make Britain believe Germany wasn't really their enemy by letting them evacuate at Dunkirk, hoping they would agree to peace and recognize their "real" enemy was the USSR. If not for Churchill taking a hard stance of intolerance towards nazism, Britain may very well have conceded to a peace treaty. Hitler also rallied many eastern european states into attacking Russia.

    The point is, the USSR was going to go to war with Germany as long as hitler had anything to say about it. That was in the cards long before WW2 started. So you can't say "what if Russia had remained neutral", because that was never an option for them. Not even by their choice, but by Germany's choice. The only real question is whether the USSR would have tried to go to war with Germany if they could get away with it - in which case we might be able to say they invited Germany's hostility upon them by their own hostility. But I am inclined to think Germany is more to blame for the hostility than the USSR. Although it's hard to put all the blame on Germany when the foundational premise behind communism is so inherently hostile to begin with that it automatically sets itself at war against the rest of the non-communist world. Both ideologies were equally hostile in the sense that they both set themselves up against the rest of the world as it's conquerors, just with different pretexts and stated goals, but effectively similar results in terms of attempts at world domination and mass slaughter of opposition. In that sense they were destined to clash without ideological reform.
     
    #14 Rise, Aug 25, 2019
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  15. Wandering Monk

    Wandering Monk Active Member

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    Poetic justice on the Russians if you ask me.

    The Russian supplied Hitler with natural resources while he was pounding away at Britain even up the the moment that Germany invaded Russia.
     
  16. leov

    leov Well-Known Member
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    Russia certainly born the lion’s portion of it. Victory was a combine effort, but , I think, Russians would have defeated Germany alone.
     
  17. ChristineM

    ChristineM "Be strong" I whispered to my coffee.
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    Russia was extremely instrumental in the downfall of Hittler as was several other countries and groups
     
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  18. leov

    leov Well-Known Member
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    Germany was defeated but not Nazis, they are alive and kicking.
     
  19. Stevicus

    Stevicus Well-Known Member
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    Well, there's a lot of "what if" involved in such questions, although it can be argued that if the British and French had not made the Munich Agreement in 1938, the Russians might have been on board with an anti-German coalition with France and Britain.

    It could also be argued that the entire reason for the Munich Agreement was because France and Britain were caught unprepared and unable to go to war with Germany at that time. They needed to buy time and delay hostilities until they could be better prepared.

    The Russians may have been hoping for Germany to get bogged down in a war with Britain and France, which would weaken the major powers of Europe and give the Russians a decisive advantage.

    But I don't think anyone expected France to go down so quickly.

    Some have argued that Britain and France should have struck immediately, in September 1939, while the bulk of German forces were still mopping up in Poland and the Siegfried Line was mostly an empty shell. By waiting and sitting on their hands all that time, they wasted their opportunity at an early quick victory.
     
  20. Stevicus

    Stevicus Well-Known Member
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    Estimates of how many died in WW2 seem to jump all over the map, depending on what is considered as part of dying as a result of the war. For example, pedestrians killed by automobiles whose drivers couldn't see them due to air raid blackouts might be counted among the war dead. And, due to disruptions of food shipments around the world, millions in the colonial world perished due to famine - and those could be considered part of the war dead.

    It's also not a matter of how many people died in one's own country, but also a matter of how many of the enemy they happen to kill. If I recall correctly, I believe 3 out of every 4 German casualties in the war were inflicted by the Russians, so not only did more Russians die, they also killed more Germans than the Western Allies did.
     
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