July 5, 2017

1943. The Allies Must Trust One Another to Defeat Nazi Germany

The Struggle Must Be One
American and Soviet pilots at Poltava Air Base in Ukraine write messages on bombs during Operation Frantic in 1944 (source)
This article by the analyst known as "Liberator" was published in The Observer in August 1943. At this time the leaders of Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States were meeting in Quebec to discuss grand strategy and formulate plans for the invasion of Nazi-occupied France. While Joseph Stalin declined to attend, he had long called on the Western Allies to divert Axis forces from Eastern Europe by reopening the Western Front.

While in Russia, Bill Downs, who the article describes as "a man friendly to Moscow," was often asked when the Western Allies would open up a second front. Downs had previously referred to "Liberator" while he was still in London in 1942, saying:
"Now the Sunday Observer's strategist who writes under the name 'Liberator' said the time has come to appoint a Supreme Command including the United States, Russia, China, and Great Britain to 'agree on joint grand strategy for global war.'

". . . In a discussion I had yesterday with high Russian officials over this same question of grand strategy, they agreed that there was a need for closer cooperation between the high commands of the United Nations—particularly Russia.

"'Everybody knows that,' the Russians said. 'But the question of a supreme commander and global warfare and all the rest of those high sounding phrases does not interest Russia. The only thing we are interested in is a second front while there is still time for it to do some good. We don't care who directs it. The important thing is to get it started—and now.'"
"Liberator" stressed the urgent need for greater cooperation among the Allies, and said that mutual suspicions of ulterior motives about the future of Europe must be set aside to win the war. The writer dismissed British and American fears of "Russian dominion over a large part of Europe" and Soviet fears of "an Eastern European bloc under Anglo-American influence" as unfounded and detrimental to the war effort.

From The Observer, August 22, 1943:

"No settlement of Central Europe in the last 150 years has lasted for long unless Russia has either taken part in it or been benevolently neutral towards it when it was made." This is Professor Webster's considered and recently expressed opinion. It deserves to be quoted here, because it also is so pertinent to the problems confronting the Anglo-American Conference at Quebec.

Let us turn from the history of the old to the words of new report. Bill Downs, one of America's foremost correspondents, a man friendly to Moscow, has broadcast a description of the atmosphere on the eve of the Quebec conversations.


Russian reaction to the completed conquest of Sicily, he says, is reserved. The Soviet Press has not commented upon it. News about it has received no special display either in the Press or on the air. "Red Star," the paper of the Red Army, discusses the general situation with unmistakable coolness. The Red Army, it says, "fixed" the Germans in Russia while the Allies realised a well-prepared landing operation in Sicily. This did not draw a single division or a single aircraft from the Russian front, and the opportunity created by the Red Army's offensive has not yet been utilised.

"Red Star" then reiterates Stalin's previously stated notion of a satisfactory Second Front: the length of the war can be reduced only if the Western Allies succeed in diverting 50-60 Divisions from the Eastern Front.

To this Downs adds that in the coming weeks the Soviet Union will watch with the utmost attention the political and military developments which will follow the victory in Sicily.


This demand for the diversion of 60 German Divsions from the Soviet front has taken first place in every prominent public pronouncement during the past week, and it cannot be denied that to the average Russian, undergoing the third year of savage total war against some 200 German Divisions, the account of an Allied victory against only three German Divisions is not impressive compared with the colossal scope of the Russian efforts.

But then there never has been a war in which it has been possible for allies to agree about what constitutes equality of sacrifice; nor is it generally possible to adjust strategy to proportional justice for every partner of a coalition. Some have fought for four years, some for two; some have fought on sea, others on land; some have had to bear terrible sacrifices, others less terrible. But nothing ill can come to the Allied cause if our strategy is to be designed to appease susceptibilities rather than to hurl our maximum effort against the enemy where it hurts him most, and will bring about his speedy defeat.

What then does the Russian request mean in terms of world strategy? It can mean one of two things. Either the Russians are, in effect, suggesting that, if the Allies divert 60 German Divisions, they themselves will be able to defeat the German Army in the East, while the Allies engage the remainder in the West or South. Or it is an expression of Russian dissatisfaction with the central political and military conduct of the war.

In fact, because of the absence of agreement about the future of Europe, the relations between Britain, Russia, and America are now liable to suspicions which threaten to affect even the sound military conduct of war. So long as there is no complete agreement between the Allies, so long as the political and social reordering of certain parts of Europe may depend on which conquering army gets there first, none of the three great Powers may feel inclined to endure the most severe burden of attack, while another occupies (and so may effectively control in the future according to its own ideas) regions whose settlement is a highly complex problem.


Consequently it is feared by some in Britain and America that, if the Western Allies launch an attack on the Continent from Cape North to the Bay of Biscay, it may be a holding matter rather than a triumphant sweep which would hurl the German defenders all the way from the coast to Berlin. The results, they imagine, would be enormous (and also perplexing) if the Russians, relieved of one-third of the German forces now involved in the desperate Eastern grapple, marched into the Eastern marches, the Balkans, and possibly even Germany and presented the Anglo-Saxon democracies with the fait accompli of Russian dominion over a large part of Europe. This fear, let it be said at once, is without justification, but it is actively present in the minds of many.

Similarly Russian suspicions—always near the surface as a result of Moscow's experience during the last twenty years—have been aroused once more by the seeming delay in taking military action for the relief of the Russian front. These suspicions have been further strengthened by proceedings in London and Washington. The diplomatic touch has been so fumbling. Darlan, AMGOT, Mihailović, the Poles and Italy have all been handled in a manner designed to intensify this Russian concern about our policy—or lack of it.

To the Russians the prospect of an Eastern European bloc under Anglo-American influence is as frightening as is a Communist Europe to most Conservatives. Russia sees in so many European discussions from which she is excluded—often according to her own choice—the evidence of a policy which seeks to keep her out of Europe. In the same way she envisages in the strife which has again broken out between Marshal Chiang Kai-shek and the Chinese Communists an attempt of American imperialism to gain foot in the Far East.

Silence and secrecy are fatal. We must destroy the fear and suspicion which the confused policy and ill-defined war aims of various Allies create. I will quote one more of Professor Webster's conclusions, based on his study of the Peacemaking in Vienna in 1815 and Paris in 1919.


"It is during great wars," he writes, "not after them, that peace treaties are made. Agreements between victorious States, declarations of their leaders, actions taken for immediate purposes of war have already made many decisions inevitable. Unless peace is planned while war goes on, many of these decisions will be bitterly regretted. Important ends are sometimes unnecessarily sacrificed to immediate advantages." How true to-day!

The military decisions taken in Quebec must be based upon the joint strength and joint strategy of the three great Powers now engaged in Europe in overcoming Nazi Germany. Without this unity the end may be unnecessarily postponed, because military calculations and advantages will be offset by political fears. These doubts and apprehensions must be removed now by an understanding with the Soviet Union about the future of Germany, the frontiers and status of Poland, and of the other border countries. Only so will it be possible to develop a single strategy for a single war which will launch the united strength of the United Nations against Europe's Nazi fortress. As it is at present, the conduct of Allied strategy makes it only too obvious that two wars are being fought in Europe instead of one.


This, then, must be the supreme purpose of the Quebec Conference, to establish understanding with the East of Europe as well as to agree on tactics for victory in the West. Anything less will fall short of the urgent needs of Allied strategy and Europe's future. With this settled, the Allies will be able to turn to the greatest task they have yet faced. Time and opportunity move fast: Germany's divisions grimly maintain their grip in the East. We now face the moment which, in Mr. Churchill's words, will have to see the Allies "engage the largest possible number of German forces on land, in the air, and at sea." We must face it as one.