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Old 24 Feb 12, 22:53
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RKKA capability in 1941

This was originally written in rebuttal to Suvorov's thesis, that the USSR was poised to attack Germany in 1941. The OP is content to embrace conspiracy theory and is either unwilling or unable to offer any challenge. I post this, put this out to explain my own interpretation of events, and to invite comment from other knowledgeable people. I would like to solicit different opinions to test my interpretation, peer review and all that...

The original thread is here: http://www.armchairgeneral.com/forum....php?p=2181434.

My rebuttal is here: http://www.armchairgeneral.com/forum...&postcount=131.

I would invite more knowledgeable members to tear to tear my arguments apart and attack my rebuttal, which follows... There is nothing good about a can of worms before it is kicked over. Before that, it is simply glorified fish food.

-------------------------------------------

The Red Army of 1941 was a decrepit shell of the Red Army that had led the world in 1936 with the development of airborne and air-landed forces, strategic bombing, mechanized warfare and chemical weapons. The vast bulk of the tanks and aircraft were old, conceptually dated by 1939 and quite worn out by 1941. There is a note from one commander to Fedorenko referred to in the book above that drawn attention to the fact that 20% of the tanks listed as serviceable should not be considered so since the tracks were worn out and there were no spares. Half of the amphibious tanks leaked and had been taken out of service. Fully 20% of the tank park was in the shop across the board.

The T-28 is a case in point. A contemporary of the Neubaufahrzeuge, it was large, slow, with riveted construction fabricated from 20mm plate. It was armed with a low-velocity 76mm gun of similar performance to early PzKpfw IVs and rifle-caliber machineguns in three cramped turrets. It was powered by the M-17M engine, which also powered the BT and T-35 and several different aircraft. The engine was no longer in production in 1941 and lack of spares was a systemic problem with Soviet machinery. The T-28 was seriously underpowered so the engine always ran very hot, enough that the rubber-tired roadwheels adjacent to the engine compartment were replaced with steel wheels because the rubber disintegrated. The tank overheated often, and when pressed into use, most broke down and were abandoned before the Germans arrived. Those that saw combat were quickly dispatched by any of the Wehrmacht anti-tank weaponry, including the lowly PzBüsche 39. This was the fate of thousands of T-26 and T-28 and T-35 and BT tanks in the summer of 1941. By winter virtually the entire prewar tank park had been destroyed.

This state affairs came about from two central events. The Red Army of 1936 was very capable, led by Tukhachevsky, a visionary who advocated all these progressive concepts. In May 1937 he was arrested, the start of the Yezhovshchina, the decapitation of the Red Army, where he and most of his "progessive' colleagues were summarily arrested and executed. While this was happening, Guderian was publishing Achtung - Panzer!, which sparked a lively debate about armoured warfare among Wehrmacht circles. In the Soviet Union, you could hear a pin drop.

The status quo prevailed until early 1939, which was a busy year for It was assumed by all that somehow France and Britain would treat with the USSR to form a new Triple Entente to contain Hitler, who was then trying to induce Italy and Japan to join with him in an alliance against the French and British to offset their naval power. Then two things happened: in March, Hitler invaded Bohemia and flipped Chamberlain the bird, an act that alarmed everyone. In May, the Kwantung Army invaded Mongolia, launching a nasty little war between Japan and the Soviet Union.

The assumptions and aspirations of alliance all went sideways after that. Mussolini said that Italy wouldn't be ready before 1943. The Japanese were at war with the Chinese and had aspirations to the south, not north. Stalin ordered full-scale rearmament of the Red Army (and VVS) with immediate effect, perhaps belatedly realizing that the threat was now Germany and not Poland.

Stalin's position seems clear. The last thing he wanted was a two-front war with Germany and Japan. Hitler was greatly overstepping himself, France and Britain were moving to war, and his own army was obsolete, with ideas and equipment that were out of date. If France and Britain were going to war with Germany, this was not a bad thing, especially as it bought the time needed to bring the Red Army's equipment up to date.

One thing led to another. Through back channels it was determined that Stalin was amenable to talk if Hitler was and discussions of a trade agreement began. For both of them it caused a scandal, trading with the devil to radicals on the right and left, but it was good business. Hitler was desperate. Germany was broke, unable to import strategic materials to continue rearmament let alone wage a war, economically and now diplomatically isolated. Hitler was also determined to reassemble the Grossdeutsches Reich, which included Poland, and settle any business with the French and British before they had a chance to rearm. His horoscope said the moon was full, better to act sooner than later.

The trade talks led to the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact in August, important for more than just the agreement that divided up Eastern Europe. It gave Germany a free hand to pick a fight over Poland and attack the French and British with a secure flank, as well as supplying the strategic materials that Germany was lacking. Stalin bought time to finish reequipping the Red Army. It is an infamous bargain, scandalous even today.

In any case, from the Kremlin, a war between capitalists was a good thing. I like the comment: where Germany and France would tally their losses in opposite columns, Stalin could tally them all in the same column. No one expected France would collapse so quickly or that the reckoning would come in 1941 and not 1943, when it was anticipated that the Red Army would be ready.

Despite the fact that the Wehrmacht came early, the compact achieved its purpose. Enough had been done before Barbarossa to introduce the new tanks and aircraft that became the mainstay of the Red Army after they recovered from the wreckage of 1941. As it was, the battle for Moscow was a close thing, bitterly fought with a dearth of equipment of any description. T-34 production basically started from scratch in October 1941, with one green tank factory and zero diesel factories. By December there were two new factories, there were shortages of everything but the means were at hand to build more T-34s, enough to hold the line before Moscow and eventually overwhelm the Germans. That design was laid down and introduced into production during that brief hiatus between September 1939 and June 1941, as was the KV-1 that became the IS-2, the first Lavochkin and Yakovlev fighters and the Il-2 Sturmovik, among others. In that sense, the twenty-one months the infamous Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact bought was critical to Hitler's ultimate defeat.

The aftermath of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact is also worthy of comment. There is a thread, very long now, where I complained that Western histories are still too full of polemics, relics of the Cold War, that would politicize and condemn Stalin's quest for security as some evil commie plot to conquer the world. I disbelieve this, despite the assertions, particularly with respect to the Soviet occupation of Galicia and the Baltic states.

Stalin was many things, but he was not messianic like Hitler or even Lenin. The record says otherwise, most recently the destruction of the Comintern and execution of the 'Trotskyists'. His obsession was Stalin, his own position and security, and by extension that of the Soviet Union, which had always been besieged by enemies in his lifetime.

It was clear there would be war and Poland was on the table. A glance of the map shows the obvious. It was impossible for Stalin to stand by and allow Hitler to occupy eastern Poland, putting German troops deep into Byelorussia and the western Ukraine. It was also known that these same Baltic states had only nominal armed forces and could not be expected to impede the Germans any more than they did the Red Army, so allowing Germany free access essentially put the Wehrmacht at the gates of Leningrad. That was equally impossible. Militarily, it is impossible to argue that Stalin could justify sitting on his hands, thereby lengthening his frontier with Germany and leaving Leningrad so vulnerable. That's a different view of the map, but it speaks directly to Stalin's primary need for security above and beyond any vision of spreading communism. The only vision Stalin had was in the mirror.

In any case, Suvorov's thesis belongs in the fireplace, lest it spread. If you follow the link to Skoblin's post, he cites the document Suvorov (and Pleshakov) feed from. If you read Tooze, he presents a convincing case that for Germany, war was accepted as eventual by 1936 and by 1938 had become inevitable. Suvorov's ramblings about Stalin's intentions are irrelevant, even if they are correct.

War was going to happen, but it was always Hitler's initiative. He saw it as inevitable, the logical outcome of his Aryan fantasies. Stalin saw it as something to be avoided, at least until he was ready, expected to be 1943. Coincidentally, in 1939 Hitler was planning his war with the USSR for 1943. The easy victories of 1940 allowed him to advance his timetable so he attacked in 1941, two years ahead of schedule. If Stalin had plans in 1941 to launch a war against Germany, it is impossible to consider them as realistic before 1943.

This is a bit longer than I expected, but it could be worse. I once wrote a dissertation on how the VVS got to be as decrepit as it was in 1941 that ran many pages. These days I write about tanks. This is a short description of how the tank park got that way.

I await comments.

Regards
Scott Fraser

Last edited by Scott Fraser; 25 Feb 12 at 12:22..
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  #2  
Old 24 Feb 12, 23:06
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I don't feel sufficiently informed to contribute Scott, but I hope others do. Lots to be learned here.
  #3  
Old 25 Feb 12, 01:50
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Scott Fraser View Post
War was going to happen, but it was always Hitler's initiative. He saw it as inevitable, the logical outcome of his Aryan fantasies. Stalin saw it as something to be avoided, at least until he was ready, expected to be 1943. Coincidentally, in 1939 Hitler was planning his war with the USSR for 1943. The easy victories of 1940 allowed him to advance his timetable so he attacked in 1941, two years ahead of schedule. If Stalin had plans in 1941 to launch a war against Germany, it is impossible to consider them as realistic before 1943.

Regards
Scott Fraser

From eveything that I have read or documentaries that I have watched for many many years, this summary is spot on!!
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Old 25 Feb 12, 06:11
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A very good source is :
Operation Barbarossa :Soviet Fast Facts and German Fast Facts
the website of Nigel Askey about the opposing forces on 22 june 1941.
My definitive conclusion is that the Soviet forces in the western military districts were,because of a forced numerical increase and of a wrong armament course,that was putting the Red Army in an unbalanced situation,
1)totally incapable to start an offensive against Germany
2)also were incapable to defend itself,with the catastrophic results we know .
Off topic:I also must repeat that I doubt the official version that it all was the fault of Stalin
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Old 25 Feb 12, 13:57
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Hi Scott,

Quote:
The aftermath of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact is also worthy of comment. There is a thread, very long now, where I complained that Western histories are still too full of polemics, relics of the Cold War, that would politicize and condemn Stalin's quest for security as some evil commie plot to conquer the world. I disbelieve this, despite the assertions, particularly with respect to the Soviet occupation of Galicia and the Baltic states.
Even if one dont suscribe to an 'evil commie plot', it's hard to assume that Staline motive were only about USSR's security. Throwing away counter argument as Cold war relics is a thing, rebutting all argument against Staline as such is another. And I still dont see in what Staline was better than Hitler but on one point : he recognized his lack of skill in military matter and let Soviet military do its job.
  #6  
Old 25 Feb 12, 14:00
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ljadw View Post
A very good source is :
Operation Barbarossa :Soviet Fast Facts and German Fast Facts
the website of Nigel Askey about the opposing forces on 22 june 1941.
My definitive conclusion is that the Soviet forces in the western military districts were,because of a forced numerical increase and of a wrong armament course,that was putting the Red Army in an unbalanced situation,
1)totally incapable to start an offensive against Germany
2)also were incapable to defend itself,with the catastrophic results we know .
Off topic:I also must repeat that I doubt the official version that it all was the fault of Stalin
By 1941, Soviet Army shown more than once that it was pretty capable to match the Germans. Like French Army in 1940, most of disasters came from high command.
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Old 25 Feb 12, 19:00
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Scott Fraser View Post
The aftermath of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact is also worthy of comment. There is a thread, very long now, where I complained that Western histories are still too full of polemics, relics of the Cold War, that would politicize and condemn Stalin's quest for security as some evil commie plot to conquer the world. I disbelieve this, despite the assertions, particularly with respect to the Soviet occupation of Galicia and the Baltic states.

Stalin was many things, but he was not messianic like Hitler or even Lenin. The record says otherwise, most recently the destruction of the Comintern and execution of the 'Trotskyists'. His obsession was Stalin, his own position and security, and by extension that of the Soviet Union, which had always been besieged by enemies in his lifetime.
For Stalin the USSR was the base of world revolution, the place from which a new world order was to emerge through subversive propaganda, revolutions/insurgencies and armed might.
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Old 25 Feb 12, 23:05
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Good post, but LONG.
I'll take one quick bite.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Scott Fraser View Post
It was clear there would be war and Poland was on the table. A glance of the map shows the obvious. It was impossible for Stalin to stand by and allow Hitler to occupy eastern Poland,
I disagree, it is always possible to do something else.
And in this case, it would have been better NOT to move forward, uproot those Divisions from familiar ground with good defenses into a place where they were so vulnerable on the northern flank to the Panzers coming out of East Prussia.

And don't wish Suvarov's stuff into the fireplace. That might go over well with the Soviet fans, but come on... we don't burn books in the US and I'm sure you don't in Canada either.
It lead to a good discussion , even taught me a few things that I didn't know before.

And I am still looking forward to gaming this "reverse Barbarossa" out someday.
Its Politically Incorrect as hell, but I'm more interested in giving the fighting men their shot.
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  #9  
Old 26 Feb 12, 03:41
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Scott Fraser View Post
The Red Army of 1941 was a decrepit shell of the Red Army that had led the world in 1936 with the development of airborne and air-landed forces, strategic bombing, mechanized warfare and chemical weapons. Scott Fraser
AFAIK decrepit shell of Red Army in 1941 was 3 times bigger than in 1937. There is no military without economy; difference in state of affairs in USSR industry in 1937 and 1941 was big.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Scott Fraser View Post
This state affairs came about from two central events. The Red Army of 1936 was very capable, led by Tukhachevsky, a visionary who advocated all these progressive concepts. Scott Fraser
Red Army led by military genius Tukhachevsky failed miserably in Poland in 1920. He excelled himself mostly suppressing Russian peasants uprising. He promoted idea about tank army of 100 000 tanks, even Rezun characterize it as idiocy. Just imagine number of personnel and logistic problems.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Scott Fraser View Post
In May 1937 he was arrested, the start of the Yezhovshchina, the decapitation of the Red Army, where he and most of his "progessive' colleagues were summarily arrested and executed.
Scott Fraser
Shaposhnikov, Vaslievsky, Merezkov, Rokossovsky, Konev, Zhukov, many others, and Stalin at last - do you seriously think them were no match for Tukhachevsky who never was in any large scale action? All anti-Stalinists take for granted that all repressed in 1937 were innocent and military geniuses; they count even those demobilized because of age, health problems, incompetence or morale degradation (alcoholism) as poor innocent victims.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Scott Fraser View Post
Stalin's position seems clear. The last thing he wanted was a two-front war with Germany and Japan. Hitler was greatly overstepping himself, France and Britain were moving to war, and his own army was obsolete, with ideas and equipment that were out of date.
Scott Fraser
Out of date was all country, economically and culturally Russia in 1930 was 50-100 years behind of main European rivals. You must add here cold climate, unfavorable for agriculture, big distances with bad roads and swampy land making logistic problem.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Scott Fraser View Post
In any case, from the Kremlin, a war between capitalists was a good thing. Scott Fraser
There is saying that other’s sorrow is our joy. War between Germany and USSR was considered as good thing by Poland, France, Britain, Italy, Finland, Romania… So they denied alliance with USSR. Soviet propaganda often repeated words by USA vice-president Truman about war between Germany and USSR: let them kill each other as much as they can.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Scott Fraser View Post
Stalin was many things, but he was not messianic like Hitler or even Lenin. The record says otherwise, most recently the destruction of the Comintern and execution of the 'Trotskyists'. His obsession was Stalin, his own position and security, and by extension that of the Soviet Union, which had always been besieged by enemies in his lifetime.
Scott Fraser
Russia always was/is besieged with enemies. Tsar Alexander II told to his son that Russia has only two reliable allies - its Army and Navy.

Last edited by Fareasterner; 26 Feb 12 at 03:48..
  #10  
Old 26 Feb 12, 03:43
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Before the M-R pact,war between Germany and Poland was very unlikely
After the M-R pact,war between Germany and Poland was ineluctable
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Old 26 Feb 12, 03:52
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Metryll View Post
By 1941, Soviet Army shown more than once that it was pretty capable to match the Germans. Like French Army in 1940, most of disasters came from high command.
Every disaster/success comes from high command in big organisation.
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Old 26 Feb 12, 04:04
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Metryll View Post
Hi Scott,



Even if one dont suscribe to an 'evil commie plot', it's hard to assume that Staline motive were only about USSR's security. Throwing away counter argument as Cold war relics is a thing, rebutting all argument against Staline as such is another. And I still dont see in what Staline was better than Hitler but on one point : he recognized his lack of skill in military matter and let Soviet military do its job.
Stalin did recognize his lack of skill in many other subjects and let soviet engineers, scientists, agriculturists, medical workers, school and university teachers, musicians, ballets dancers, writers, workers to do their job.
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Old 26 Feb 12, 04:14
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The following points are from
"Excerpts from A.Isaev's rebuttals to the Suvurov thesis"(available on the web)
1)On 22 june,only 83 trains (on a total of 939 ) of the second military echelon had arrived to their destinations
2)The majority of the drivers of the KV and T 34 only had 3 to 5 hours of practical experience (report from the commander of the 8th MC)
3)For the howitzers:
152 mm: old types (1909-1930):2432 pieces
:recent types (1938) :1128
122 mm : (1910-1930):5578 pieces
:1937:778 pieces
  #14  
Old 26 Feb 12, 05:50
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fareasterner View Post
AFAIK decrepit shell of Red Army in 1941 was 3 times bigger than in 1937. There is no military without economy; difference in state of affairs in USSR industry in 1937 and 1941 was big.
That's not correct. It was larger, but "3 times" is more than a bit of a stretch.

Quote:
Red Army led by military genius Tukhachevsky failed miserably in Poland in 1920. He excelled himself mostly suppressing Russian peasants uprising. He promoted idea about tank army of 100 000 tanks, even Rezun characterize it as idiocy. Just imagine number of personnel and logistic problems. Shaposhnikov, Vaslievsky, Merezkov, Rokossovsky, Konev, Zhukov, many others, and Stalin at last - do you seriously think them were no match for Tukhachevsky who never was in any large scale action? All anti-Stalinists take for granted that all repressed in 1937 were innocent and military geniuses; they count even those demobilized because of age, health problems, incompetence or morale degradation (alcoholism) as poor innocent victims.
Trotsky led the Red Army in 1920, not Tukhachevsky. In any case, by 1935 Tukhachevsky was promoted to Marshal and was second in command of the Red Army, after Voroshilov. He was the main Red Army theorist and a strong advocate of mechanization, armoured warfare, airborne troops and strategic bombing. He established and equipped these units in the Red Army and they were demonstrated with much fanfare during the Kiev Games. In early 1937 he was arrested along with Yakir, Uborevich, and five other very senior officers. Shaposhnikov was actually one of the judges at the secret 'courts martial' where sentence was passed, as were Budyonny and Alksnis. Tukhachevsky and his colleagues were shot on June 12, 1937.

The effect of the Purges on the Red Army over the next several years cannot be underestimated. It was a widespread culling of the top command echelons, ruthless and brutal. Discussion of tactics and equipment stagnated as conservative elements in the Red Army took over, stepping away from Tukhachevsky's tainted ideas and going back to what they knew.

Specifications were issued for the super-heavy SMK 'breakthrough tank' and for new biplane fighters, both outdated concepts by the time the new equipment arrived. The existing equipment went through various incremental changes, but the T-26 of 1940 was not significantly more combat-worthy than the T-26 of 1934. Neither was the BT-7M much better than the BT-5, or I-16 Typ 24 over the I-16 Typ 5.

It was not until 1939 that Soviet leadership belatedly recognized that their arsenal was out of date. It may also have been at this time that they realized that they would eventually have to confront Germany. Somehow Hitler was able to get away with what he did up to that time without arousing that realization in foreign capitals. Moscow was no exception. Now everyone started rearming in earnest, including the Red Army, which issued specifications for a new generation of weaponry, single-engined monoplanes and surprisingly capable tanks in the T-34 and KV series. Just in time.

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Out of date was all country, economically and culturally Russia in 1930 was 50-100 years behind of main European rivals. You must add here cold climate, unfavorable for agriculture, big distances with bad roads and swampy land making logistic problem.
Your point is taken. Many people don't appreciate that Russia was not an industrial society like Britain or the USA. Stalin, for all his faults, did succeed in bring electricity and heavy industry to the USSR, enough to create the industrial foundation needed to win the war. As for the weather, I live in Canada. We have the same weather and terrain here. If you know to not park facing into the wind, you can always start your car, even at -40°. The Germans didn't know.

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There is saying that other’s sorrow is our joy. War between Germany and USSR was considered as good thing by Poland, France, Britain, Italy, Finland, Romania… So they denied alliance with USSR.
In fact, in 1939 Britain and France made overtures to the USSR to secure a treaty against further German aggression. Molotov declined, and started the discussions with the Germans that led to the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact.

I still like the comment: Britain and Germany would tally their losses in opposing columns, while Stalin would lump them together.

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Scott Fraser
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Old 26 Feb 12, 07:32
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Originally Posted by Metryll View Post
Even if one doesn't subscribe to an 'evil commie plot', it's hard to assume that Stalin motive were only about USSR's security. Throwing away counter argument as Cold war relics is a thing, rebutting all argument against Stalin as such is another.
Stalin is one of the villains of the last century, but I don't believe the legends, either as supreme leader or arch-enemy of the western world. He is a very complex character, and I think it is an oversimplification to ascribe everything he did as some vague quest to spread communism or build an empire. I don't think it's true, either. 'Stalinism' contradicted many fundamental Marxist-Leninist tenets, including internationalism. Stalin's primary motive, IMHO, was the security of Josef Stalin and the USSR, in that order.

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By 1941, Soviet Army shown more than once that it was pretty capable to match the Germans. Like French Army in 1940, most of disasters came from high command.
I have some Russian books about different engagements in 1941. Men will fight bravely with the tools they have, but overall the Red Army collapsed for a host of reasons above the pay grade of the field commanders. They were able to trade space for time and rally by the end of 1941, which says something for the value of 'buffer states', eh?

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