Sunday, March 8, 2009

The USSR's invasion of Finland, 1939-40

On page 79 of No Simple Victory, Norman Davies writes, “The Soviet Union’s invasion of Finland clearly provided an instance of Goliath attacking David. Just like Hitler’s dealing with Poland, Stalin had demanded a number of unacceptable concessions, played for a few weeks with fruitless negotiations, then ordered his army to march.

“Soviet apologists justified the aggression by claiming that the USSR was merely ‘strengthening the defenses of Leningrad’. In reality the action was designed to remove a problem that had existed ever since Peter the Great had built his capital city on captured foreign land over two centuries before. Historic Finnish settlements reached still right up to the suburbs of Leningrad, and Stalin was aiming to deport the entire Finish population of the area. Finland, proudly independent, was to be tamed.

“Yet the disproportion in military forces was less than is often described. By calling on all reservists, the Finns put around 140,000 well-trained men into the field, leaving the Soviet 7th Army with a numerical superiority of only 3:2. The real discrepancy lay in armour. The Soviets fielded 3,000 tanks. The Finns had none. But they made up with skill and daring for what they lacked in heavy metal. When the Soviet columns moved ponderously forward on 30 November, they were picked off by fast-moving Finish ski troops and snipers operating amid the snow forests and ice-bound marches in front of the defensive Mannerheim Line. Soviet casualties were ten times higher than those of the defenders. Tens of thousands of Soviet soldiers surrendered. And hundreds of tanks were ambushed before firing a shot. Despite the bombing of Helsinki, the Finns were not inclined to submit. From the Soviet point of view this ‘December Miracle’ represented a humiliating catastrophe.

“Finland’s gallant stand provided a string of reactions. The USSR was expelled from the League of Nations, condemned as a manifest aggressor state. . . .”

“The fighting in January and February 1940 saw no spectacular Soviet recovery. But Finnish resources were gradually stretched to breaking point. The Red Army had limitless reserves of cannon fodder, and was moving into Finnish territory by land and by sea on a dozen fronts. . . . So they sued for peace, while they were still capable of avoiding total defeat. The campaign ended on 16 March. The Anglo-French expeditionary force never sailed. War between the western Allies and the Soviet Union was averted at ‘one minute to midnight’.”


I am reminded of Michael’s statements about the Red Army. Michael wrote on 3/6/09 “The Russian soldier is the best in the world. We are made of different stuff than that of our potential adversaries. By my calculations we can gather an army of 30 million Russian MEN. Not women, of course! It is sheer misogyny to send women overseas to kill and be killed!”

It sounds as though Michael served in the Red Army. I served in the US Marine Corps and received all their training and listened to all the heroic legends; which I believed and still believe. The U.S. Marines distinguished themselves as one of the premier fighting forces in the world in several wars. Of course we have never had the numbers of the Red Army, “preferring quality to quantity”. The peace-time limit of the Marine Corps is something like 150,000. And during wars I don’t think it ever got much above 300,000, but I will say this, I don’t think any army can match the Marines ability as an amphibious fighting force. No one invades from the sea better than the Marines.

As to the Red Army, I think it will eventually win in cases where Russia is invaded. But if you take it out of Russia and fight it elsewhere, the matter is more in doubt. We read above of what the Finns did to the Red Army. Also, the Red Army didn’t do terribly well in Afghanistan in the period 1979-1989. Al Quada and Osama bin Laden made names for themselves by defeating the Red Army.


Anonymous said...

Norman Davis writes: "Soviet casualties were ten times higher than those of the defenders. Tens of thousands of Soviet soldiers surrendered."

Ha-ha! Why not say "hundred times", it would sound even more "impressive."
But false.

The Soviet Union's winter war with Finland, prior to World War II, left the West, and particularly Hitler, with an inaccurate impression of Moscow's military power.

Hitler, reportedly in reference to Operation Barbarossa, said that all one had to do was "Kick the door in and the whole house will fall down."

He was dead wrong.

In fact, if you would consider the real conditions (just remember the frost being -40 Centigrade, etc) you should come to a conclusion that NO OTHER army in the world could advance and fight there and then, and eventually win in 105 days, but only the Red Army.

The West russophobes are trying to denigrate us and to present our victory as our defeat.
Ridiculous! But very dangerous.

Yes, Lawrence, your observation is absolutely correct.

Unlike the US Marines whose mission is being always to attack other countries overseas, we Russians used to defend our Motherland.
You are absolutely right!

Afghanistan was an unpopular war, without any understandable aim.

Although, it was not our defeat.

Nothing in comparison with the American defeat in Vietnam.
We did not escape by helicopters in panic like the US in Saigon.

Our troops withdrawal was implemented according to the Gorbachev's order.
Our military columns were leaving Afghanistan with the red banners flying high over the tanks.

It was not a defeat but a political decision of the then USSR leadership.

Lawrence, do you really think we Russians cannot fight successfully beyond our own borders?

By the way, don't you remember who defeated one-million-strong Japanese army in August 1945 in Manchuria and China?

Anonymous said...


Unfortunately, a thermonuclear war seems to be even nearer that I thought before.

See this:
US Continues Military Encirclement Of Russia
By Rick Rozoff


So, a real chance looms very large that in the nearest future we shall be able to learn for sure whose soldiers are the best: American or Russian.

Well, we are always ready.