Just two weeks before the Second World War broke out, the erstwhile Soviet Union offered France and Britain a military force in a bid to deter German dictator Adolf Hitler’s aggression, it has emerged.
Seventy years on, declassified documents have revealed that Soviet leader Joseph Stalin was prepared to send nearly a million troops to the German border to stop Hitler if Britain and France agreed to an “anti-Nazi alliance” — an arrangement that could have changed the course of 20th century history.
In fact, the offer of a military force to help contain Hitler was made by a senior Soviet military delegation at a Kremlin meeting with senior British and French officers, a fortnight before the war broke out in 1939.
But the British and French side —briefed by their governments to talk, but not authorised to commit to binding deals — did not respond to the Soviet offer, made on August 15, 1939.
Instead, Stalin turned to Germany, signing the notorious non-aggression treaty with Hitler a week later.
The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, named after the foreign secretaries of the two countries, came on August 23 — just a week before Nazi Germany attacked Poland, thereby sparking the outbreak of the war. But it would never have happened if Stalin’s offer of a western alliance had been accepted, according to former Russian Foreign Intelligence Service officer Major General Lev Sotskov, who sorted the 700 pages of de-classified documents.
“This was the final chance to slay the wolf even after (British Conservative Prime Minister Neville) Chamberlain and the French had given up Czechoslovakia to German aggression the previous year in the Munich Agreement. “This was a chance to save the world or at least stop the wolf in its tracks,” Gen Sotskov, now 75, was quoted by the Sunday Telegraph as saying.