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U.S. Lend Lease Policy

Дата публикации: 04 сентября 2007
Публикатор: Александр Павлович Шиманский
Рубрика: RUSSIA (TOPICS) - Soviet Russia (1917-53) →
Источник: (c) http://russia.by
Номер публикации: №1188913604 / Жалобы? Ошибка? Выделите проблемный текст и нажмите CTRL+ENTER!

Was Western economic aid essential for the Soviet war effort?

Viewpoint: Yes, Western economic aid to the Soviet Union ultimately shortened World War II by a year or more and helped the Russians turn the momentum of the war in 1943.

Viewpoint: No, Western economic aid was important but not decisive in determining the outcome of the war on the Eastern Front.


Great Britain and the United States first committed aid to the Soviet Union in October 1941. Not until 1942, however, did matériel begin reaching the U.S.S.R. in quantity. Just how much was sent, and what role it played in the Russian war effort, was a point of controversy during the Cold War. Soviet authorities insisted that Lend Lease amounted to no more than 4 percent of Russia's own production. Even that trickle of aid, it was asserted, was doled out grudgingly, so that the U.S.S.R. nearly bled itself white meeting the German onslaught.
In fact, a strong case can be made that the Western Allies were the Red Army's quartermasters. Russia received almost as much aluminum as it made itself, and three-fourths of its domestic production of copper wire. Coal and other raw materials compensated for resources lost to the Nazi German invasion. The Allies shipped 34 million uniforms, nearly 15 million pairs of boots, and millions of tons of food--including U.S. Army rations, far more popular in Russia than among their originally intended consumers.
Western tanks and aircraft were less successful in the conditions of the Eastern Front--to the point where some Soviet spokesmen complained that they were being given second-rate hardware. Yet, if the Sherman tank was not on the level with the Soviet T-34, its mechanical reliability and communications systems made it a useful complement to Soviet vehicles in the hands of commanders who knew how to use these qualities. While the P-39 Airacobra, and its successor the Kingcobra, were no match for German fighters in air-to-air combat, they nevertheless had strong advocates among the ground-attack pilots of the Red Air Force. American trucks and jeeps gave the Red Army the logistical and operational mobility to sustain the great offensives of 1944-1945. Without them, the Soviet road to Berlin would have been longer and far bloodier.

Viewpoint: Yes, Western economic aid to the Soviet Union ultimately shortened World War II by a year or more and helped the Russians turn the momentum of the war in 1943.

The numbers speak for themselves. Through the Lend Lease Act approved by Congress on 11 March 1941, the United States alone gave the Soviet Union more than $10 billion in aid. This assistance included trucks, weapons, food, clothing, raw materials and more. Despite tensions between the Western Allies and the Soviet Union, the United States approved a twenty-nine-page list of Soviet needs in 1941 and continued to supply the Red Army until the end of the war. Lend Lease accomplished several important goals. First and most obviously, it provided the Soviets with much needed matériel to defeat the Wermacht (German army). Second, American aid allowed the Soviets to specialize in key industrial areas such as tank production. Third, and no less important, Western (mostly American) aid created a vital moral and symbolic link that tied the Russians to their mistrustful and mistrusted allies in the West.

Anglo-American support for the Soviet Union did not come automatically. The British were especially wary of the Soviets after the signing of the Nazi-Soviet pact in 1939 and subsequent Russian invasions of Poland, Finland, and the Baltic states. Many Western leaders feared that the Soviets and the Nazis were working together; any aid to the Russians, therefore, might help the German cause. Even after the German invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941, many Americans argued against extending Lend-Lease provisions to Russia. The Chicago Tribune called aid to Joseph "Bloody Joe" Stalin and the Soviet Union "ridiculous."

Despite American misgivings, President Franklin D. Roosevelt quickly extended aid to the Russians. The first agreement between the United States and Russia came in October 1941, while the United States was still neutral. Roosevelt agreed with British Prime Minister Winston Churchill that Russia had to be supplied and had to remain in the war as a counterweight against Adolf Hitler. Consequently, Roosevelt sent his most trusted advisor, Harry Hopkins, to Moscow to oversee Russian aid. Nevertheless, old suspicions remained; Congress took four months to officially approve the aid program.

Suspicions notwithstanding, American aid eventually provided a critical margin of difference. The Americans provided 34,000,000 sets of uniforms; 15,000,000 pairs of boots; 350,000 tons of explosives; 3,000,000 tons of gasoline; untold tons of food (including that most important of war supplies, Spam); 12,000 railroad cars; 375,000 trucks; and 50,000 jeeps. The Russians frequently complained about the quality of some of these supplies, especially the weapons and the food (one Russian historian claimed that "the allies bought German defeat with Russian blood and paid in Spam"), but the quantity had an important quality of its own.

To be sure, the Russians wanted a second front in France more than the uniforms and jeeps, but the supplies permitted the Red Army to develop their strengths and compensate for their weaknesses. The surprise German invasion devastated Russian industry. Soviet authorities ordered that entire factories be dismantled and reassembled east of the Ural Mountains and, therefore, out of the Germans' reach. In a tremendous feat of human will, the Soviets moved more than 2,593 factories. That figure represents more than 80 percent of Soviet industry. The forced relocations kept the factories out of German hands, but seriously disrupted industrial production. American aid eased the transition period. For example, British and American aluminum, manganese, and coal replaced most of the Soviet supplies of those materials that the Germans seized early in the war.

On the battlefield, American aid allowed the Red Army to become mobile. The Soviets had few trucks and were significantly backward in motorized transportation. American gasoline and trucks transformed the Red Army from a walking army to a motorized one. By war's end, two-thirds of Soviet trucks were foreign-built. Motorization allowed the Soviets to develop a "deep offensive" doctrine in 1943. Based on the German Blitzkrieg model, the deep offensive allowed Russian units to go as far as 200 kilometers (approximately 120 miles) behind enemy lines without resupply. Motorization provided the speed that made the doctrine work. The Russians used it with great success to reduce the Kursk salient in an important 1943 campaign.

Western aid also allowed the Russians to focus their industry toward the production of a key weapons system. For the most part, the Russians welcomed transport equipment more than weapons systems. American Sherman tanks, for example, had difficulty handling the thick Russian mud. As a result, the Soviets wanted to continue production of their own marvelous tank, the T-34. Because the United States and Britain provided the necessary raw materials, they were able to do so. The Soviet automotive industry could also focus production on tanks because of the steady supply of trucks and jeeps coming from the United States. They could also concentrate industrial production into another Soviet strength, artillery.

As a result, the Soviets were well equipped for their 1943 offensives. By April of that year, the Russians had 6,300 tanks and 20,000 artillery pieces versus the Germans' 1,300 tanks and 6,000 artillery pieces. With this numerical superiority, the Russians were able to seize the offensive outside Kursk and maintain it until the end of the war. Most of the weapons systems were Soviet-built, but American and British aid provided the raw materials and allowed for an important concentration of Soviet energy into weapons production.

The Western nations also provided the Soviets with tanks and airplanes, though, as noted above, the Soviets found British and American weapons lacking in important ways. The British sent the Russians 7,000 tanks and 5,000 airplanes while the United States delivered 7,000 tanks and 15,000 airplanes. In early August 1941, when the Russian situation looked particularly dim, Roosevelt ordered one hundred American fighters sent to the Red Air Force, even if it meant that they had to be taken from the active stocks of the Army Air Corps.

Many Western designs proved unsuited to Russian needs. American aircraft were predominately long-range interceptors and heavy bombers. The Russians wanted close air support aircraft and low-altitude fighters. As a result, not all Western weapons systems worked well in the Russian military, though many did. The American P-39 Airacobra performed especially well in the hands of Russian aces A. I. Pokryshkin and G. A. Rechalov. The "superb" American A-20 light bomber also "performed well in the Soviet inventory" according to David M. Glantz and Jonathan House, two renowned historians of the Russian front. The Russians also received 2,400 P-63 Kingcobras, an updated version of the P-39 built exclusively for the purpose of Lend Lease. These aircraft also fit well into the Red Air Force.

More subtly, but no less importantly, Western aid helped to build a bridge on which the Grand Alliance could be built. According to David Kennedy in Freedom from Fear: The American People in Depression and War, 1929-1945 (1999), "wary suspicion and cynical calculation" characterized the Grand Alliance throughout the war. Much of the mistrust dated to the Russian Revolution of 1917; mistrust continued throughout the 1930s as Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia grew closer. The mutual suspicions never went away; only the existence of a powerful common enemy kept the alliance together.

In such an environment, American and British aid helped to underscore the idea that all three nations were fighting the same war. For the Americans, it meant much more. Roosevelt and his closest advisers wanted to use Lend Lease to open the Soviet system to American ideas. They hoped that American production and assistance would convince the Soviet leadership that capitalism and liberal democracy were effective and safe systems.

Of course, Western aid did not achieve that end. Stalin remained wary of his Western allies throughout the war. Western assistance did, however, help to create an alliance within which two diametrically opposed systems could function together, at least until a common enemy had been defeated. American aid therefore had an important impact on Soviet morale as well as on Soviet strategy and doctrine. Millions of tons of American wheat came in packages stamped with an American eagle, making a symbolic link between the American people who raised the food and the Russian people who consumed it.

Western efforts to supply the Soviet Union also created many tensions. The Russians, for example, once asked for eight tons of uranium oxide, a critical component to a fledgling nuclear weapons program. The United States, of course, rejected the request. Furthermore, the Russians complained that much Allied aid consisted of junk and poor quality leftovers. Most fundamentally, no amount of aid could compensate the Soviet high command for Anglo-American reluctance to invade France in 1942 or 1943. Attempts to sell Lend Lease as an industrial second front fell on deaf Muscovite ears.

Still, Western aid made a visible and critical difference to Russian war efforts. According to Glantz and House in When Titans Clashed: How the Red Army Stopped Hitler (1995), Lend Lease shortened the war in Russia by twelve to eighteen months. Without Western aid, "every Soviet offensive would have stalled at an earlier stage, outrunning its logistical trail in a matter of days." Instead, American trucks and gasoline kept the Red Army moving and helped the Russians to turn the momentum of the war during 1943. American grain and canned meats also helped Russian civilians survive the horrific sieges at Stalingrad and elsewhere. To this day, terms such as jeep, Studebaker, and Spam remain familiar to older Russians. Perhaps that familiarity is the greatest testimony of the importance of Western aid to Russian war efforts.

-- Michael S. Neiberg, U.S. Air Force Academy, Colorado

Viewpoint: No, Western economic aid was important but not decisive in determining the outcome of the war on the Eastern Front.

While it is perfectly reasonable to argue that Western economic aid to the Soviet Union during World War II influenced the course of the war on the Eastern Front, it is an exaggeration to judge that contribution to have been essential. To be sure, such an assessment hinges in part on the way in which one employs the word essential. Most often, however, in historical discussion of this question, debate focuses on whether or not Western economic aid was indispensable to Soviet survival and victory. In other words, to argue that such contributions were essential is to maintain that the Soviet Union would have been defeated without them.

Few scholars of the war, including even Soviet scholars writing before the close of the Cold War, dismissed American and British economic aid as irrelevant to the outcome. In fact, if we take into consideration Western material aid in all its form:--weapons, raw materials, food, clothing, and equipment--the impact was considerable. In the first place, such contributions were enormously valuable psychologically and politically. They not only bolstered the Soviet strategic position materially but gave vital reassurance that they were not alone. This hope was doubly significant due to the relatively tiny direct commitment of U.S. and British forces to combat against the Wehrmacht (German Army) in 1942 and much of 1943. By the same token, Adolf Hitler could take no comfort from this impressive evidence that his enemies were forging a united effort to defeat him. Still, in the end one can only judge the impact of Western support by the course of the war effort itself.

A logical beginning is to examine the extent of Western material aid. American contributions arrived under the auspices of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's Lend Lease program, of which Britain was the largest beneficiary. Although, as the name implies, this program in theory represented contributions that would be returned or for which the United States would be reimbursed, reality was otherwise. Adopted to make U.S. aid more politically palatable to the domestic electorate at a time when many Americans felt that all resources should be pumped into their own war effort, Lend Lease really constituted a program of donations. Lend Lease did not reflect unqualified generosity on the part of the Roosevelt administration. The president well understood that Anglo-American success depended heavily on the ability of the Soviet Union to hold out and defeat Germany in the East.

In any case, the most notable allied donations addressed needs that Stalin believed the Soviets would have the greatest difficulty meeting on their own. Although published figures vary slightly, they are sufficiently similar in magnitude so as to facilitate analysis of their importance. Moreover, the variety alone is impressive. Supplies arriving from the United States Britain during the war included approximately 400,000 trucks and other motor vehicles, and more than 12,000 armored vehicles, 325,000 tons of explosives, 13,000 locomotives and railroad cars, 6,000,000 tons of food, 15,000 aircraft, and 5,000,000 pairs of boots, as well as appreciable quantities of aluminum, zinc, steel, nickel, rubber, tin, high grade petroleum, and lead. In addition, the United States and Britain provided the shipping to deliver these goods over long and perilous sea lanes.

What, then, is the student of history to make of all this? The first consideration should be when, how, and where these resources were applied. In point of fact, precious little of this aid reached the Soviet Union when its survival was in greatest peril. When Soviet armies were holding on grimly in front of Moscow in the fall of 1941, evidence of Allied support in any form was scarce. Thus, in the crucial first phase of the war the Red Army was virtually on its own. Allied aid began to appear in meaningful amounts in the middle of 1942, just in time to support in at least a modest way the Soviet triumph at Stalingrad. The flow increased dramatically, however, in 1943-1944. In sum, the greatest impact of Western economic aid came at that time when the Soviet Union was already winning the war on the Eastern Front. At the same time, Germany was running out of manpower and simply lacked the robust fighting formations to stem Red Army advances.

A second consideration in assessing the impact of Western aid is to establish just what percentage of Soviet equipment and raw materials it actually represented. After the war, the Soviet economist N. Voznesensky calculated that the Anglo-American contribution amounted to about 4 percent of the total production of the Soviet Union from 1941 to 1943. Of course, as Alexander Werth, who spent the war years in the Soviet Union as a British correspondent, wrote in Russia at War 1941-1945 (1984), that this figure is not a particularly good indicator of the Allied contribution for the war as a whole. Indeed, it is almost certainly deceptive. Such a figure depends first of all on what one counts as war production. Furthermore, even small additions to critically short categories can assume disproportionate meaning. Voznesensky's figure is, however, most important in the context of the discussion at hand. In short, it confirms that Western aid could hardly have been of decisive importance during the first half of the war--the time when the outcome hung in the balance.

To clarify the problem still further, it is also useful to consider the proportions represented by specific types of Western assistance. For example, according to Soviet figures, Allied donations of tanks, combat aircraft, and artillery pieces constituted about 7 percent, 13 percent, and 2 percent of the respective totals available to the Red Army. Trucks began arriving in significant numbers in 1943 when they represented 5.4 percent of the total but rose sharply to 19 percent in 1944. Shipment of grain and flour for the war constituted less than 3 percent of the total consumed. Overall, these supplements were most valuable and welcome. There is no basis, however, to conclude that they were decisive in influencing the outcome of the war.

A third and final measure of the allied contribution must be qualitative. This criterion applies principally to tanks, aircraft, and trucks. The United States and Britain sent the Soviet Union nearly 5,000 tanks through 1942 and about 10,000 tanks in total through April 1944. In this regard, the Soviet Armed Forces Administration complained in 1943 that the preponderance of tanks received were too light for combat against the Germans. For instance, David M. Glantz and Jon House observe in When Titans Clashed: How the Red Army Stopped Hitler (1995) that British Valentine and Matilda tanks possessed turrets too small to accommodate a gun exceeding 40 millimeters and were thus significantly inferior to their German counterparts. Meanwhile, the best American tank of the war, the Sherman, was more powerful and durable than British models but unavailable early in the war. In addition, because it was designed to travel on board ships to Europe, its base was narrow. Although this fact was of little consequence on roads or on dry ground, it presented a considerable disadvantage during operations in mud or snow that prevailed for much of the year across Russia's expanses.

Similarly, Soviet satisfaction with aircraft provided by their allies was low. In contrast to their Anglo-American allies, Soviet air power doctrine focused on the role of close support of ground forces. The desired aircraft for such a mission were low-altitude fighters. Because British and American designers had concentrated on the development of long-range, high-altitude strategic bomber fleets, at the start of the war they lacked state of the art aircraft for close support. Consequently, the Soviets had to get along with relatively low performance models such as the P-39 Airacobra and early versions of the British Hurricane. Still, as Luftwaffe strength eroded and Soviet pilots grew more familiar with Lend Lease aircraft, this contribution proved to be of notable worth.

Yet, as nearly all observers recognized late in the war, Allied-built trucks and jeeps ultimately constituted the most valuable form of aid. As Werth witnessed firsthand, American trucks were not yet a conspicuous presence at Stalingrad but were widely in evidence by the spring of 1943. By 1944, they played a significant role in the transformation of the Red Army. Late in the war, as a result of the maturation of its commanders and practical refinements in doctrine, the Soviet conduct of combat operations reached a qualitatively new stage. From their victory at Kursk in July 1943, Soviet forces enjoyed the unchallenged initiative on the Eastern Front for the remainder of the war. Employing the concept of deep operations, which placed a premium on rapid deep maneuver in the enemy rear, Soviet forces effected a complete reversal of the fortunes of war. The large-scale infusion of allied trucks played a vital role in lubricating the Soviet transportation net both in the rear area and at the front. The logistical support so necessary to deep operations as well as the speed required to trap German divisions by means of deep encirclements would not have been available in so generous a measure without the bounty provided by the American industrial machine. In a characteristic instance, as noted by John Erickson in The Road to Berlin (1983), forces under the command of Marshal I. S. Konev employed 15,000 U.S.-built trucks during the crossing of the Neisse River in 1945. Thus, Glantz and House are not at all unreasonable to suggest that war in the East might have dragged on for an additional twelve to eighteen months had the Soviets been forced to rely exclusively on domestic production.

In the end, it is possible to draw two important conclusions about Western economic aid to the Soviet Union during World War II. First, such aid was important but not decisive in determining the outcome on the Eastern Front. Second, Lend-Lease assistance proved to be an extraordinarily wise investment of resources on the part of Britain and the United States. From 22 June 1941, the date that Germany commenced Operation Barbarossa, to the end of the war, German might have concentrated primarily against the Soviet Union. As Russian historians are quick to point out, at no time in the war did the number of German divisions committed against the U.S.S.R. slip below 55 percent of the total directly engaged in combat. Before July 1943 and the Battle of Kursk, that total never dipped below 66 percent. Viewed another way, when during the combat at Stalingrad in November 1942 Germany maintained 268 active divisions on the Eastern Front, only four and one- half divisions fought Anglo-American forces in North Africa. Only in the aftermath of the Normandy invasion of June 1944 did the Western allies first confront as many as one-half the number of German divisions faced by the Soviet Union at the same time. In sum, it is reasonable to argue that although the Soviet Union would in all probability eventually have won the war against Germany on its own, it is doubtful that Anglo-American forces could have won the war in the absence of Soviet support. As acknowledged by Churchill himself, the Red Army bore by far the greater share of the burden, paying a toll in blood that can scarcely be comprehended in the West. Yet, drawing fully on its deep reserves of human and material strength, the Soviet Union prevailed.

-- Robert F. Baumann, Combat Studies Institute, U.S. Army Command and General Staff College

The Lend Lease Act, 11 March 1941

Be it enacted That this Act may be cited as "An Act to Promote the Defense of the United States."

Section 3.

(a) Notwithstanding the provisions of any other law, the President may, from time to time, when he deems it in the interest of national defense, authorize the Secretary of War, the Secretary of the Navy, or the head of any other department or agency of the Government--

(1) To manufacture in arsenals, factories, and shipyards under their jurisdiction, or otherwise procure, to the extent to which funds are made available therefor, or contracts are authorized from time to time by the Congress, or both, any defense article for the government of any country whose defense the President deems vital to the defense of the United States.

(2) To sell, transfer title to, exchange, lease, lend, or otherwise dispose of, to any such government any defense article, but no defense article not manufactured or procured under paragraph (1) shall in any way be disposed of under this paragraph, except after consultation with the Chief of Staff of the Army or the Chief of Naval Operations of the Navy, or both. The value of defense articles disposed of in any way under authority of this paragraph, and procured from funds heretofore appropriated, shall not exceed $1,300,000,000. . . .

(3) To test, inspect, prove, repair, outfit, recondition, or otherwise to place in good working order, to the extent to which funds are made available therefor, or contracts are authorized from time to time by the Congress, or both, any defense article for any such government, or to procure any or all such services by private contract.

(4) To communicate to any such government any defense information, pertaining to any defense article furnished to such government under paragraph (2) of this subsection.

(5) To release for export any defense article disposed of in any way under this subsection to any such government, . . .

Source: Henry Steele Commager, ed., Documents of American History, 2 vols. (New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1973), II: 449-450.



John Erickson, The Road to Berlin (Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 1983);

David M. Glantz and Jonathon House, When Titans Clashed: How the Red Army Stopped Hitler (Lawrence: University of Kansas, 1995);

George C. Herring, Aid to Russia, 1941-1946: Strategy, Diplomacy, and the Origins of the Cold War (New York: Columbia University Press, 1973);

John Keegan, The Second World War (New York: Viking, 1990);

David Kennedy, Freedom From Fear: The American People in Depression and War, 1929-1945 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999);

Nikita Khrushchev, Khrushchev Remembers: The Last Testament, translated and edited by Strobe Talbott (Boston: Little, Brown, 1974);

Richard Overy, Why the Allies Won (New York: Norton, 1996);

B. V. Sokolov, "The Role of Lend-Lease in Soviet Military Efforts, 1941-1945," Journal of Soviet Military Studies, 7 (September 1994): 567-586;

Edward Stettinius, Lend-Lease, Weapon for Victory (New York: Macmillan, 1944);

Alexander Werth, Russia at War 1941-1945 (New York: Carroll & Graf, 1984).

Опубликовано 04 сентября 2007 года

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