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> 9. The Road to War
Posted: December 18, 2003 08:12 pm
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by Mihai Retegan

The smiling faces looking at the world from the front page of the late August 1939 newspapers could not long conceal the tough competition for supremacy in Europe (at least), that was to engaged the two totalitarian systems: communist and national-socialist.

The first "move": Moscow's attempt at occupying the Aland Island, a first class strategical position in the Baltic Sea. The second: occupation of northern Bukovine from where, through the Prut and Siret valleys, the Balkans could have been reached. The third: Hitler (concerned until late June 1940 with settling his accounts with the West) ordered the Wehrmacht's campaign plan against the Soviet Union (July 1940). The fourth: the Soviet General Headquarters initiated (September 1940) operational plans for an offensive carried out on both a main (Warsaw-Berlin) and a secondary (Romania-the Balkans) strategical direction.

In early 1940 autumn, the two countries were irremediably approaching an armed confrontation. Hitler's yearning for supremacy marched Stalin's. Nothing would hinder the destiny of these two great superpowers. Not even the talks held at various decision-making echelons. Virtually, both sides were committed to conducting the talks in a manner that... preceded any sort of agreement. Illustrative are the successive meetings in Berlin between V.M.Molotov and German officials (November 12th-13th) and the Soviet Government's Memorandum on its claims (it would be forwarded on November 20th).

Molotov was offered a place in the Tripartite Pact and the opportunity of expansion towards the Persian Gulf and the Indian Ocean. Presently, the Soviet foreign affairs commissar set forth his claims: all German influences be removed from Finland and Romania, Soviet bases be established in Bulgaria, real guarantees (ground and naval bases) be provided for the Soviet influence in the Straits; Moscow's influence be ensured in the Baltic Sea area. Therefore, the German tendency of channeling the Soviet terntorial claims towards Asia, was opposed by Moscow's interest in Europe. And it did not refrain from them even out in Berlin.

The November 20th Memorandum resumed Molotov's claims asserted the preceding week and completed them with claims of expansion towards other geographical areas (the Far East), irrespective of a probable ally in the possible Quadripartite Pact (Japan). Another moment that affected the German-Soviet relationships was the German troops' entering Bulgaria and the latter's joining the Tripartite Pact; these actions were regarded as interference in the Soviet sphere of influence. But at that time, the road to war was clearly marked. Still unknown was the result.

Romania was to be attracted in the forthcoming conflict, having justified reasons for its behaviour. Virtually, all countries situated between Germany and the Soviet Union would take part in the war, all of them (initially) joining Germany. The causes were mainly of a geo-political nature. Ever since the end of WWI it became obvious that the fate of smaller or medium-sized countries from Central or eastern Europe depended on either Germany or Russia/Soviet Union on the power ratio between them and they would eventually enter the sphere of influence of one of either. In the strategical context of that time, the decision-making authorities of the respective countries thought they would enter Germany's sphere of influence rather than the Soviet one which might have endangered their national being in itself (the fact that three yars later they made a voltface was due to their belief that the Western powers would not surrender them to Moscow).
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