740.0011 European War 1939/19548: Telegram

The Chargé in the Soviet Union (Thurston) to the Secretary of State

142. Soviet military communiqués for the past 2 weeks have asserted that the Red Army is continuing the advance begun early in December, although meeting more effective resistance, but have omitted the customary listings of the places recaptured. This is [Page 414] interpreted by some observers too denote important gains which will only be revealed February 23, the anniversary of the creation of the Red Army.

The military operations now in progress may be described as an interlude between the unsuccessful German campaign of 1941 and Hitler’s contemplated final campaign of 1942, the objective of the Red Army being to press its present offensive to the point where it shall have at least seriously dislocated the German plans for the launching of this campaign in the spring.

The ability of the Red Army to withstand the impending struggle will be affected by factors difficult to evaluate such [as:] (a) The reserves of manpower (believed to be fully adequate). (b) The capacity of established and transplanted war industries in the East (alleged to be capable of providing a large part but not enough of the planes, tanks and other equipment needed. The correspondent of the United Press28 who recently visited Sverdlovsk professed to be astonished by the magnitude of the industrial plant in that area now in progress). (c) Food supplies. (There are many reports that a serious food shortage already exists and that there is even fear of famine. I must say, however, that such reports have been persistently recurrent during my stay in the Soviet Union); (d) the extent of American and British aid (this may be affected by raiding operations against convoys on the northern route and through the Indian Ocean resulting from the escape of the Gneisenau, Prince Eugen, and Scharnhorst,29 and from the fall of Singapore); (e) Japan (it is not likely that the Soviet Union could increase deliveries to China sufficiently to meet the situation that would result from the closing of the Burma Road, and the collapse of Chinese resistance would presumably imperil the general Soviet position in the Far East and even the flow of supplies through Vladivostok. It would appear probable, therefore, that developments of this character as well as those suggested in (d) may govern the major policy of the Soviet Government in the immediate future. If we are prepared to place effective bomber forces in the Soviet Maritime Province at once that policy might incline toward war with Japan—although I see [say] this of course without any knowledge of the Soviet attitude).

Thurston
  1. Henry Shapiro.
  2. These German warships made good their escape from Brest, proceeded up the English Channel, and reached home in spite of British attacks, February 11–13, 1942.