Selective War Declarations?

Discussion in 'WW2 General' started by silence, Nov 5, 2013.

  1. silence

    silence Active Member

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    Something I've wondered about for a long time is:

    Although the UK and France declared war on Germany for invading Poland, they did not do so when the USSR attacked a couple weeks later.

    Why not? This seems almost a double standard.
     
  2. FLYBOYJ

    FLYBOYJ "THE GREAT GAZOO"
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    #2 FLYBOYJ, Nov 5, 2013
    Last edited: Nov 5, 2013
    This explains a lot of it...

    Soviet invasion of Poland - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    "The Soviet government announced it was acting to protect the Ukrainians and Belarusians who lived in the eastern part of Poland, because the Polish state had collapsed in the face of the Nazi German attack and could no longer guarantee the security of its own citizens."

    "Allied reaction[edit]The reaction of France and Britain to the Soviet invasion and annexation of Eastern Poland was muted, since neither country wanted a confrontation with the Soviet Union at that time.[82][83] Under the terms of the Polish-British Common Defence Pact of 25 August 1939, the British had promised assistance if a European power attacked Poland.[Note 8] A secret protocol of the pact, however, specified that the European power referred to Germany.[85] When Polish Ambassador Edward Raczyński reminded Foreign Secretary Edward Frederick Lindley Wood of the pact, he was bluntly told that it was Britain's business whether to declare war on the Soviet Union.[82] British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain considered making a public commitment to restore the Polish state but in the end issued only general condemnations.[82] This stance represented Britain's attempt at balance: its security interests included trade with the Soviets that would support its war effort and the possibility of a future Anglo-Soviet alliance against Germany.[85] Public opinion in Britain was divided between expressions of outrage at the invasion and a perception that Soviet claims to the region were reasonable.[85]

    While the French had made promises to Poland, including the provision of air support, these were not honoured. A Franco-Polish Military Alliance was signed in 1921 and amended thereafter. The agreements were not strongly supported by the French military leadership, though; the relationship deteriorated during the 1920s and 1930s.[86] In the French view, the German-Soviet alliance was fragile and overt denunciation of, or action against, the Soviets would not serve either France's or Poland's best interests.[83] Once the Soviets moved into Poland, the French and the British decided there was nothing they could do for Poland in the short term and began planning for a long-term victory instead. The French had advanced tentatively into the Saar region in early September, but after the Polish defeat they retreated behind the Maginot Line on 4 October.[87] On 1 October 1939, Winston Churchill—via the radio—stated:

    ... That the Russian armies should stand on this line was clearly necessary for the safety of Russia against the Nazi menace. At any rate, the line is there, and an Eastern front has been created which Nazi Germany does not dare assail. When Herr von Ribbentrop was summoned to Moscow last week it was to learn the fact, and to accept the fact, that the Nazi designs upon the Baltic States and upon the Ukraine must come to a dead stop.[88]
    "
     
  3. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    Propaganda aside I think the answer is obvious.

    Britain and France cared nothing for Poland or anyone else in Eastern Europe. The German invasion to settle a local border dispute was simply a convenient casus belli for Britain and France to attack Germany. After achieving their declaration of war Britain and France wrote the entire region off. An attitude mirrored by the American Government.
     
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  4. pattle

    pattle Member

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    I couldn't disagree more as neither Britain or France wanted war with Germany, Britain and France were clearly not in position to be at war with both Germany and or the USSR. The British and French allied themselves to one another as they were both capitalist democracies, the interests of both Britain and France was to maintain the balance of power in Europe by not allowing either Germany or the USSR to become dominant. To suggest that Britain and France were looking for an excuse to go to war with Germany is at best a conspiracy theory and at worst sympathetic towards to Nazis.
     
  5. swampyankee

    swampyankee Active Member

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    Germany had shown itself to be an existential threat to Belgium and France a few years earlier. The USSR hadn't.
     
  6. DerAdlerIstGelandet

    DerAdlerIstGelandet Der Crew Chief
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    Do you actually believe that Germany attacked Poland over a border dispute? You believe that propoganda?
     
  7. GrauGeist

    GrauGeist Well-Known Member

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    wow...really?

    Please tell me this is only your opinion and not something you're trying to present as fact.
     
  8. redcoat

    redcoat Active Member

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    #8 redcoat, Nov 6, 2013
    Last edited: Nov 6, 2013
    Harsh, but there is some truth to it.
    The British government issued the guarantees to Poland and Romania to prevent further German expansion by threats and acts of aggression, mostly because of their fear that further expansion would make Germany more powerful, and that Germany would then turn on them.


    Firstly, Hitler didn't just want Danzig, he wanted the total destruction of the Polish state. Secondly the British and French were hopeful at the time they issued their guarantees that this would be enough to stop German territorial aggression without the need for bloodshed. The invasion of Poland even after they had warned Germany in the days leading up to it that they would declare war if he attacked Poland forced their hand.

    Both Britain and France believed that their forces would not be powerful enough in the short term to defeat Hitler and that Germany would probably defeat Poland. However the British and French intended to restore the Polish nation after the final defeat of Germany
     
  9. redcoat

    redcoat Active Member

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    #9 redcoat, Nov 6, 2013
    Last edited: Nov 6, 2013
    They were already in a major war they were fearful of the outcome of, so taking on another major power at the same time would have been an act of insanity.
     
  10. silence

    silence Active Member

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    So then let's throw the whole thing in reverse. The USSR attacks first - for whatever reason - and in mid-Sept. Nazi Germany moves in, maybe to enlarge the buffer zone between the USSR and Germany.

    How do France and the UK respond?
     
  11. silence

    silence Active Member

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    So in a nutshell its the choice of the perceived lesser of two evils.
     
  12. FLYBOYJ

    FLYBOYJ "THE GREAT GAZOO"
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    For the most part, yes.

    in reality the Soviet Union wanted back land it lost during WW1 and Germany was glad to have more naval access to the Baltic.
     
  13. pattle

    pattle Member

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    I think certainly Germany and very possibly the USSR's ambitions lay beyond the borders of Poland.
     
  14. redcoat

    redcoat Active Member

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    I suspect they would have a collective nervous breakdown.
     
  15. DerAdlerIstGelandet

    DerAdlerIstGelandet Der Crew Chief
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    Still waiting...
     
  16. silence

    silence Active Member

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    Based on the Winter War fiasco, I kinda wonder how the Poles would perform against the Soviets. The Germans might need a couple weeks to stop laughing before they move in themselves.

    I recall the Germans generally claiming that they'd rather face anyone else than the Poles, but I'm not sure if that applies only to Free Pole forces as opposed to the Polish Army itself. Anyone know?
     
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  17. pattle

    pattle Member

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    I would guess that it would be more the Free Poles as I don't think the Germans had a very high opinion of the Polish before the invasion, I think the Polish progressively built a strong reputation that started with a number of battles in 1939 where they held ground almost to the last man and conducted a number of bold and audacious attacks. Then as time moved on you have to think of things like the Battle of Britain, Monte Cassino and the Polish armoured division in Normandy.
     
  18. buffnut453

    buffnut453 Well-Known Member

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    I suspect the Soviet military was in no position to take unilateral offensive action prior to the German invasion of Poland. Stalin's Great Purge removed three of five marshals (then equivalent to five-star generals), 13 of 15 Army commanders (then equivalent to three- and four-star generals), eight of nine admirals (the purge fell heavily on the Navy, who were suspected of exploiting their opportunities for foreign contacts), 50 of 57 army corps commanders, and 154 out of 186 division commanders. That scale of change in just a few years, and the fear that it must have generated, must have impacted operational efficiency. To that end, Silence's observation about Soviet performance during the Winter War is absolutely relevant.

    As to British and French responses to the German invasion of Poland, frankly there wasn't much either country could do to prevent it. As has been observed, neither country wanted war. Their alliance and the promises made to Poland were a bluff and Hitler called them on it. Neither France nor Britain had the access or means to provide and sustain any military force of substance in a position to aid the Poles.

    The wider question of partial declarations of war is an interesting one. What would have happened, for example, had Japan attacked just Thailand, Malaya and the Dutch East Indies? Would Roosevelt bring America into the war on that basis? I suspect not. Of more immediate historical relevance, what would have happened if Hitler had not declared war on America - that always struck me as one of the daftest moves ever by a political leader.
     
  19. silence

    silence Active Member

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    Plus their airborne unit, naval units, and so forth.

    I know the Germans didn't think much of their archaic tactics, but I was wondering more about their sheer fighting ability.
     
  20. pbehn

    pbehn Well-Known Member

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    Apart from the impossibility of Britain waging war with Germany and Russia also bear in mind that members of Britains Labour party greatly admired the Russians for their revolution, of course they had no idea what Stalins Russia was actually like.
     
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