Mexborough & Swinton Times – Saturday 28 June 1941
Russia – Rash Rupture
It is perhaps too early yet to hope that the war has now entered upon a stage at which honest men may come into their own, but Hitler’s new gamble is bound to have a profound and far-reaching effect on the course of the war. Unless it succeeds completely he is finished.
To succeed completely he must destroy the Soviet Union and its vast military force in time to turn again to the West for a decisive campaign this year. Since Sunday morning, when Hitler once more placed the fate and the future of the Reich in the hands of the German Army, reports of operations in the new theatre have been confused and unreliable, bearing obvious marks of exaggeration and unchecked and unconfirmed from dependable neutral sources. Nevertheless it is sufficiently clear that the Germans have undertaken a campaign which cannot produce results by blitzkrieg methods comparable with those produced in the highly civilised countries of Belgium, Holland, Norway, and France, where stukas and panzers were able to disrupt enormous numbers of nerve-centres.
Russia may not be entirely invulnerable to bombing and harrying but it can ingest vast military movements without disorganisation or collapse. The spirit, morale, and intelligence of the Russian military power is said to have been vastly improved under the present regime, and we should like, in the circumstances, to believe this, in spite of the unimpressive evidence of the Finnish campaign. It is noticeable, however, that Russian A.R.P. was found rudimentary, which does not suggest any general state of preparedness.
We have had a great many shocks and surprises since the war began, and have been astonished at the feebleness of France, Belgium and Holland in the face of new weapons and methods of war. The farcical collapse of the Serbs was the greatest surprise of all; the sustained and skilled resistance of the Greeks was a glorious item on the other side of the ledger.
If Russia falls as quickly and as cheaply as the Germans pretend to expect, the Serbian record will have been equalled, but it seems scarcely possible that the Russian power, in spite of certain obvious defects and weaknesses, can be unequal to waging war at a speed, efficiency and intensity most damaging and dangerous to the German machine.
It seems impossible that Hitler can have brought this new and formidable enemy into the field on military advice, or that the German High Command can have accepted this new obligation without misgivings. Hitler’s foolish and confused proclamation is full of internal evidence that this new act of undisguised treachery is peculiarly his own. His pathological hatred of Communism has rushed in and overthrown all the Nazi schemes. Yet the regime spares him, and the dull stupid hordes of the Reich, military and civil, continue to march at the crazy commands of an almost self-proclaimed lunatic.
In launching this new war Hitler has strained the loyalty and defamed the intelligence of the German people to a fantastic degree. Even so, a disciplined nation of robots, sufficiently armed and trained, may overthrow a race of philosophers, and there can be no doubt of the gravity and urgency of the menace now directed against Russia and ultimately against Britain and America. If Hitler’s new campaign succeeds at the allowed cost in time and blood, we shall have been presented with a new and immensely difficult situation. But it is as yet far from succeeding, and only on the assumption that the Russian giant is not merely clay-footed but putty all through can it succeed.
In any case the new development has many important advantages for us and it is imperative that we should exploit them to the full by conducting swift and relentless offensive action against Germany with all the means at our disposal, to assist and relieve the Russian war effort and to extract the maximum effect from the bewilderment, confusion, and depression into which Germany and her allies have been thrown by this eccentric move of Hitler.
The diversion in the direction of Russia may be welcome in a sense, but it is intended to be used and not merely enjoyed. That it is being used is evident from the rapid intensification of our air attacks by day and night on Germany and northern France, and from the firmer grip we have taken of the situation in Syria and Egypt. Just as all our military misfortunes, strategic difficulties, and naval commitments since last June have sprung from the collapse of France, it may well be that the difficulties and disasters of Germany may date from Hitler’s rash rupture with Stalin. If we are no: astute and relentless in turning Germany’s embarrassment to account we shall have been unworthy of the first noticeable slice of luck presented to us since the war began.