THE RUSSIAN GLORY When Hitler launched his legions against the unknown might of the Soviet Union on 22 June 1941 several political events that had mystified the world during the two preceding years at once became clear. The Russo-German pact of 23 August 1939 for example could now be viewed in its proper perspective Russia's occupation of Polish territory after the German attack on that country was explained as were also the incorporation of the Baltic States within the Soviet Union and Russias demand for and occupation of the Rumanian territories of Bessarabia and Bukovina. The reasons for the drastic purges in the Russian Army and for the attack upon Finland too became plain in the light of the German attack on Russia and fitted within the other events to complete the jigsaw. Hitler had been playing the game he had played so often before. With treaties of friendship and pacts of non-aggression he had tried to lull the suspicions of his powerful eastern neighbour until, having completed his conquests in the west he could switch the whole of his armed might eastwards and remove the last barrier that stood between him and his dream of European domination. But in Stalin the Soviet dictator Hitler had met a man who could match cunning with cunning —a man who in this great game of political poker, was his equal at least if not his master. When Germany offered to sign a pact of nonaggression with the Soviet Union in 1939 therefore Stalin readily accepted. He knew that Europe was on the brink of war but he knew loo that Germany did not want to be involved in a war on two fronts at the same time and that he could expect a years or perhaps two years respite during which he could buildup his forces and reinforce his frontiers against the clash which he recognized as inevitable. So when Germany marched into Poland from the west Stalin marched in from the east and by the subsequent division of that unhappy country on 29 September 1939, he forged the first link in the chain of buffer states that was to protect his western frontier from the Baltic to the Black Sea. Tanks leaving a British port on the first stage of their journey to the Russian front. 3
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