Why the Allies considered Bombing the Soviet Union 1940

In 1939 and 1940 the French and British considered attacks on Soviet oilfields in the Caucasus region But let’s back this up with a reliable source namely a quote from the Cambridge History of the Second World War: “Study plans or projects were worked up to assemble a Franco-British air force in Lebanon and Syria, to bomb Soviet oil wells in the Caucasus that were, from autumn of 1939, helping Reich war industries to circumvent the Allied blockade.” Now the question is: why did they consider it? This is a very interesting topic for several reasons Because it not only gives insight into the strategy of the Anglo-French alliance but also how they and most of the rest of the world perceived the Soviet Union in the early stages of World War 2 So let’s get started Now in World War 2, to put it simply, The Allies followed a long-war strategy And the Axis a short-war strategy this was also due to the lack of resources on the Axis side they couldn’t sustain a long war Probably the most drastic for Japan who in December 1940 started to ration sugar a few months later other products followed so rationing started one year before Pearl Harbor and although there was a strong ideological component to the Axis agression there was also an economic motivation both the British and the French had large colonial possessions additionally they had large navies and thus could transport those resources This meant that they could build up a force over time, something Germany and Italy were not able to do “Thus the Anglo-French strategy was to be adapted to a long war implying, i) a defensive strategy at the outset, at least on the Continent while executing the great possible measure of economic pressure, ii) the building up of our military strength to a point at which we can adopt an offensive strategy.” Yet since the Soviet Union provided a large amount of resources to Germany the Allied blockade had a limited effect and since Britain and France put a strong emphasis on economic warfare this not only meant sanctions against Germany but also two main offensives which: “Neither was in fact directed against Germany itself, but against supplies of raw material from neutrals: Swedish iron ore and Soviet oil. This meant attacking the iron ore mines of Lapland via Norway and the oilfields and refineries of Baku via airbases in Syria.” In both cases there was a risk of conflict with the Soviet Union In general it seems the French were less concerned about a war with the Soviet Union which was also probably due to the fact that they had less crucial possessions near the Soviets Of course another important aspect is that we know now that Germany and the Soviet Union fought an extremely bitter war from 1941 to 1945 but in 1939 and 1940 were, at least from the outside perspective, quite friendly to each other additionally both of them started wars in 1939 “The phoney war had witnessed a rising tide of anti-communist sentiment in France and Britain, egged on by the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, Moscow’s diplomatic and economic aid to the Germans, and the Red Army’s unprovoked attack on Finland. For some observers, Soviet belligerence promised to reconfigure the emerging ideological bases of the war. Instead of an effort to defeat Nazism, the conflict would become an anti-communist crusade.” Yet there is another crucial point we need to consider We all know the Soviet Union as a super power but back then this was not the case although Russia and later the Soviet Union were major powers the super power status was the result of the Second World War in other words the Soviet Union was underestimated by nearly everyone back then Several people like to note how utterly stupid it was for Germany to attack the Soviet Union One might be a great hindsight warrior because not only the ideological based German leadership disregarded the Red Army but also the Allies “Der Kampfwert der Roten Armee werde allerdings von beiden [Franzosen und Briten] nicht sehr hoch veranschlagt.” “The combat value of the Red army wasn’t considered particularly high by both the French and British And since somebody will probably note that the Soviet economic resources were quite obvious well I have a quote for you: “The performance of the Soviet war economy was one of the true surprises of the Second World War. In the First World War poverty and underdevelopment had undermined the tsarist war effort and brought Russia to collapse by 1917.” After all, knowing how a war ended doesn’t imply an understanding of the war itself Now let’s get back to the topic because one question remains Was it just one of many plans that collected dust in a drawer Or was a serious effort put into it? Well the plan clearly wasn’t just theory Allies actually conducted recon flights and some of those happened in April 1940 thus just shortly before the Battle of France yet a very recent article notes: “Historians remain undecided about how serious the likelihood was of bombing Baku – and estimating the consequences, if they had, would entail speculation bordering on guesswork.” Whereas another author notes in the same publication about the bombing attack “… the likely result of which would havebeen to provoke the Soviet Union’s entry into the war on the side of Nazi Germany.” So, to conclude Since the Allies were following a long-war strategy with a strong focus on offensive economic warfare they considered attacking a major source of German supplies and since the Soviet Union was a key supplier of oil to Germany it was a likely target. Additionally due to the underestimation of Soviet capabilities of Soviet aggression such an attack for contemporaries wasn’t as crazy as it may sound to us nowadays especially since they didn’t know what would happen less than one and a half years later (text on screen: They didn’t know about Barbarossa) As always all sources are in the description If you want to know more about strategic bombing check out this video by Bismarck Or if you want to know more about the invasion of Japan that luckily never happened See this video Anyway, thank you for watching and see you next time (music: Ethan Meixsell – Demilitarized Zone)


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