The whole truth about Lend-Lease: why did Stalin admit that he would have lost to Hitler without American help?

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The whole truth about Lend-Lease: why did Stalin admit that he would have lost to Hitler without American help?
The whole truth about Lend-Lease: why did Stalin admit that he would have lost to Hitler without American help?

Many believe that without Western aid the USSR could not have defeated Germany. Like, if in July 1941 Roosevelt had not imposed an oil embargo against Japan, she would have attacked the USSR in the fall of 1941. If British tanks had not appeared near Moscow, and the Second Front stew had not been eaten in the Soviet trenches, it would not have been possible to keep the capital. And all these cargoes were transported from Murmansk to the front by American steam locomotives. They say that even Stalin admitted at the Tehran conference: without allied help, he would have lost the war. Is it all so? What would have happened to the USSR without Western aid in the war? And, more importantly, what would have happened to the West without Soviet aid? Let's try to figure it out.

Sherman and T-34 in Austria

The question of whether the USSR defeated Germany in the main on its own or could not have done it without Western help traditionally receives two opposite answers. The Land of the Soviets argued that allied deliveries did not exceed 4% of the Soviet military effort. True, this was not entirely informative: what if it was precisely without these 4% that we would not have been able to win the war, because it seemed to be fought with full effort? Outside the USSR - at the suggestion of Stalin himself - they said something fundamentally different: without Lend-Lease, without Western aid, our country would have lost the war. So which of these points of view is actually correct?

"Without Roosevelt's oil embargo, Moscow would not have resisted" - only this embargo was not behind Roosevelt, but Moscow

A common idea is that without US pressure from the summer of 1941, Japan would have attacked the USSR that same year. Would the Red Army have endured both the battle for Moscow and the war in the Far East?

Well, in 1941, the States actually declared Japan a de facto oil embargo. Without oil, the island empire would have lost the ability to defend itself: its fleet demanded oil products. Therefore, in reality, such an embargo was a declaration of war, although the Americans themselves did not understand this.


Unable to understand Japanese culture, they believed that the embargo was an effective means of forcing Japan to do whatever the United States decided in foreign policy. From this they introduced him with a calm mind. By the fall of 1941, Japan's oil reserves had dropped to levels that prompted Tokyo to order an attack on the American fleet at Pearl Harbor.

Today it is impossible to say for certain whether Japan would have attacked the USSR in the fall of 1941 without the oil embargo or not. The fact is that in 1939 the Japanese Armed Forces near Khalkhin Gol were surrounded and destroyed by the Red Army, and at that time it was the most difficult defeat for Imperial Japan in its entire history. Perhaps this lesson would have stopped Tokyo from attacking even without the US embargo.

However, there is something more important: the embargo itself, like the involvement of the United States in the war with Japan, is highly likely the fruit of a Soviet intelligence operation.

The thing is that already in 1940, Soviet intelligence officers Vitaly Pavlov and Iskhak Akhmerov thought: a war with Germany was imminent, how to make it so that Japan no longer poses a threat to the USSR? The most logical thing would be to create a tension between the Japanese and the Americans that would consume all the forces of Tokyo.

The head of Soviet foreign intelligence Pavel Fitin brought their idea to Beria, and Beria reacted quickly: “Now prepare everything you need and keep everything connected with the operation in complete secrecy. After the operation, you [Pavlov], Akhmerov, and Pavel Mikhailovich [Fitin] must forget everything forever. There shouldn't be any traces of her in any business. " As is often the case, traces of Operation Snow still remain.

Its essence was simple: through Harry White, an employee of the US Treasury Department (exposed as a Soviet agent after the war), the idea was thrown to the American leadership that Japan was critically vulnerable in imported oil, and this could become a lever of pressure on it. Allegedly, with the help of the oil embargo, Tokyo can be forced to withdraw its troops from China and Indochina.

Even then, there were no normal specialists in non-Western civilizations in the American leadership. Therefore, no one there grasped the main idea that the Soviet developers of Sneg put into the action: the Japanese at that time simply could not yield under pressure, because this would mean a loss of face for their country. Therefore, they preferred to fight, even if the prospects for winning the war are very vague for them.


Conclusion: maybe we don't know if Japan would have attacked the USSR in the fall of 1941 without the American oil embargo. But we know for sure, thanks to whom there is no point in us even thinking about this question. The Japanese, in response to the oil blackmail, attacked the United States according to the plan of the Soviet authorities. After that, Germany declared war on the United States. And thus, the transformation of Washington into an ally of Moscow happened not so much by itself as through the efforts of Moscow itself.

Yes, one cannot, following the American descriptions of this story, say: "White gave us Pearl Harbor." The United States could have made the same foreign policy mistakes without Soviet help. But the fact that this help itself was - is absolutely certain.

On this question "could the USSR hold out in 1941 without American pressure on Japan" can be closed.

Post-Soviet revision of the significance of Lend-Lease

Well, maybe Moscow could not have waged a war without Lend-Lease?

In 1994, the candidate of historical sciences B.V. Sokolov published an article in the Journal of the Slavic Military Studies in which he offered a fundamentally new picture of the role of Western aid to the Soviet Union. Its essence is in one phrase: "without the assistance of Britain and the United States, the USSR could not have waged a war against Germany."

How did he come to this unexpected conclusion? Sokolov took the Lend-Lease figures for the entire period of the Great Patriotic War and compared them with the output of Soviet industry for the same period. As a result, he came up with a number of original theses, which should be disassembled point by point below.

Their importance goes far beyond the scope of the 1994 article: Sokolov's views on Lend-Lease have spread very widely over the years, and it is on them that even the Lend-Lease article in the Russian Wikipedia is based. For all the obvious unreliability of the network open source encyclopedia as a source, it has a huge impact on the views of the masses - after all, there are no other encyclopedias of such a scale and availability, and the majority have nothing to focus on. That is why a critical analysis of Sokolov's theses is still relevant in 2021.

How significant were the allied deliveries of tanks and aircraft?

~ 17 thousand combat aircraft and 12, 2 thousand tanks and self-propelled guns were delivered under Lend-Lease (some - after May 1945). These figures seem to be very large, which is why the opinion is naturally formed about the inevitably large role of these supplies in the war.


However, this opinion is based on insufficient knowledge of the real situation with aviation and tank equipment in the USSR. The fact is that in an acute form, the shortage of tanks could be felt by the USSR only in the fall of 1941 - during the evacuation of many factories. However, by the end of 1941, only 466 Lend-Lease tanks (mostly light) had arrived in our country.Did they affect the situation, considering that the first 20 of them arrived at the front not earlier than November 1941? If you look at the table below, the question becomes rhetorical.


By the time of the Stalingrad and even the end of the Moscow battle, the Red Army had no problems with the number of tanks. For example, on January 1, 1943, Moscow had 20.6 thousand battle tanks. By this time, the USSR had received four thousand tanks under Lend-Lease. What would have happened if they had not been? It is true that the reserves would have amounted not to 12, but to eight thousand of these machines. That is, they would still be equal to the number of tanks at the front, in the active units of the Red Army. Is it all the same whether 12 or eight thousand tanks are "sour" in your deep rear?

The situation was the same with aviation: as of January 1, 1943, the Kremlin had 21,900 combat aircraft, and only 12,300 of them were at the front. Even if we subtract all the aircraft received at that time under Lend-Lease, then their number in the rear, in reserves, would still remain significant.

Why is that? The answer is very simple: it is not tanks and airplanes that are fighting, but the people sitting in them. There may be a lot of material resources in the country, but without people capable of driving them, tanks are just scrap metal. A pilot who cannot fly will simply crash upon landing - but will not be able to shoot down an enemy. Of course, there were also reverse situations, when a tank from the assembly line went straight to the front. But only where there are live trained tankers nearby, who have lost their tanks, and who do not want to wait for a long time for the arrival of new ones from the distant rear.


By the fall of 1941, Soviet troops suffered deafening losses, mostly depriving them of the personnel available at the beginning of the war. That is why there were so many more tanks and aircraft in the rear than at the front. It was necessary first to teach new cadres to exploit them - and only then to release equipment to the front.

Therefore, the number of military vehicles produced by the industry, neither in our country, nor in the United States, has never been equal to the number of the same combat vehicles at the front. Training always takes much more time than the production of technology. On January 1, 1944 - again in the midst of a huge winter offensive - the USSR had only 5, 8 thousand tanks at the front - and another 18, 6 thousand in the rear. There were 13, 4 planes in the active army - and 19, 1 thousand more in the rear. As we can see, the shortage of tanks and aircraft has not been on the agenda for a long time.


By the end of the war with Germany, 27, 1 thousand tanks and self-propelled guns remained in the rear - and only 8, 1 thousand were at the front. 25 thousand combat aircraft were in the rear and 22, 3 thousand - at the front. Moscow both fought and ended the war, constantly having truly huge reserves of equipment of all kinds.

If all Lend-Lease deliveries were subtracted from the Soviet reserves of tanks and aircraft on any date of the war, these reserves would still remain significant. For example, if not a single allied aircraft had been delivered to the USSR at all, then by the end of the war it had not 25 thousand combat aircraft in reserve, but about 8 thousand. If the tanks had not been supplied, then the USSR had 20 thousand vehicles in reserve. Undoubtedly, these reserves were enough to end the war on foreign territory and without the airborne Lend-Lease.

The question arises: why then did we order this equipment from the allies? We think the answer to it will become clear to the reader a little later.

For now, let's add: the reason why Moscow so wanted to get more Western tanks and aircraft is not related to their higher quality, which is sometimes written about in popular literature.


First, it is not entirely clear whether this quality was objectively higher. According to the data of the General Staff of the Red Army, the survivability of the most massive Lend-Lease fighter, the "Aircobra", was lower than that of the I-16 and even the I-153, which were released before the war. And it is very similar to the survivability of new types of Soviet fighters (and it is difficult to recognize it as satisfactory).

Secondly, a significant part of the Allied aircraft that arrived during the war did not get to any front of the war with Germany at all.The P-63 Kingcobra - the most advanced Western-made fighter that came to the USSR in noticeable quantities - began arriving in our country in the first half of 1944, just not to the troops. They were sent to … air defense units of large cities. Needless to say, German bombing strikes did not threaten Soviet cities in the last months of the war. It turns out that 2, 4 thousand of the best Lend-Lease fighters were needed by Moscow not at all for the war with Germany.

The Americans gave the USSR gunpowder and explosives?

Sokolov quotes Marshal Zhukov as saying in post-war conversations with Simonov: "We would be in a difficult situation without American gunpowder, we would not be able to release as much ammunition as we needed."

In principle, it sounds logical: toluene was then obtained by coking coal, and with the loss of Ukraine, Moscow was deprived of the main source of not only coal, but also toluene, without which TNT could not be made. With all the weight of the evidence, it is clear that during the war years Zhukov was not involved in the military industry, he knew about it by hearsay, which is why his words need to be verified.


Sokolov and tries to test them. He estimates the production of explosives and gunpowder in the USSR for 1941-1945 at 600 thousand tons, and supplies from abroad at about 300 thousand tons. (The real figures were higher: if we take into account the raw materials for explosives, about 0.45 million tons arrived under the Lend-Lease, 0.9 million tons were produced in the USSR). It turns out that a third of the explosives and gunpowder from the Red Army were imported.

Could a country have won the war without them? The question seems rhetorical (you can't fight without explosives and gunpowder) … but only until we get accustomed to the details.

The fact is that the Soviet military-industrial complex during the war years gave the army 775.6 million shells and artillery mines. As well as 21.4 billion rounds of ammunition and 1.15 million tons of aerial bombs. However, the army was able to use up only 427 million shells and artillery shells, 17 billion rounds of ammunition - and only 0.7 million tons of bombs. The rest were corny at the warehouse.

Do not forget that at the beginning of the war, the Red Army had 7, 6 billion rounds of ammunition and 88 million shells and artillery shells. In other words, the actual stocks at the end of the war were even more than it appears after subtracting the consumption of ammunition from the total supplies during the war.

By 1945, the USSR had in stock almost as many shells as it had spent in its course - as if it was preparing to lead another World War II. The bombs in the warehouses were two-thirds of what had already been used up for the war - for two years of another Great Patriotic War. The production of cartridges also exceeded their consumption by several billion - and the "surplus" was enough for another year of the world war. Stalin's ammunition stocks at the end of the war were enormous by any measure.

A decrease in the amount of available gunpowder and explosives by a third would mean - if we exclude the adaptation measures of the Soviet side - the same decrease in the release of ammunition. But even in this case, they would have been enough to end the war. It’s just that the stocks at the end would have been smaller, for months, not years of hostilities.

Let us explain separately what we mean by "adaptation measures". The fact is that the USSR, in terms of ammunition, fought the war as a very rich country. From the point of view of the military economy, rockets of the time were a luxury. They require a lot of top quality gunpowders, and therefore their cost is many times higher than that of conventional shells of that era. In addition, their accuracy was then much less than today, which is why the practical usefulness of such ammunition was not always high. Meanwhile, the Red Army received them in large numbers. In conditions of a shortage of explosives and gunpowder, no one would simply release rockets.

Another example of the “sweepingness” of the Red Army and the military economy that provided it is the aerial bomb. The bulk of Soviet aerial bombs were high-explosive (100 and 250 kilograms). At least one third of the mass of such a bomb is explosive. During the explosion, it crushed the body of the bomb so hard that metal dust remained from it - and almost no fragments.In frontal conditions, fragmentation bombs are much more practical. Typical bombs of this kind, by weight, consist of only 10% of explosives - the remaining 90% are metal.


Absolutely all participants in the Great Patriotic War and the wars preceding it note: fragmentation bombs were much more effective than FAB. Even after the war in Spain, pilots noted: “The impression of 100 and 50 kg [high-explosive] bombs is not very good. We threw a lot, but in vain. The funnels are deep, but everything is in place … Four [fragmentation] bombs (10 kg) did more work than all the other [high-explosive] bombs."

In 1942, aviation specialists even suggested removing the FAB-100 from service due to the small radius of destruction by them - because of the low fragmentation. But in the heat of hostilities, they never got around to that. Obviously, had there been a long-term shortage of explosives in the USSR, the production of FAB-100 would not have been there. The replacement of high-explosive bombs with fragmentation bombs alone could save the USSR significantly more than 100 thousand tons of explosives. That is, adaptation measures could solve the crisis with explosives, even if the Soviet leadership still wanted to leave abnormally large reserves by the end of the war.


The question arises: why should a war-torn country produce such a huge amount of unclaimed ammunition? And why then did Moscow import so much explosives and gunpowder from Western countries?

The answer to this question is simple and unpleasant: since 1940, the USSR knew about the plans of Britain and France (and, at the end of the war, the United States) to strike at the USSR. In the spring of 1945, the Western Allies developed a plan to attack Soviet troops in Europe. Moreover, this plan provided for the involvement of German troops on the side of the British and Americans (we wrote about this in more detail here).

It is easy to understand why Stalin preferred to have the largest possible stocks of shells and bombs. Of course, in such a situation, it is more logical to order in these countries as much explosives and gunpowder as possible, simplifying a possible future conflict.

Fortunately, Western planners in the spring of 1945 came to the conclusion that a military victory over the USSR in Europe looked dubious, so all this foresight was not needed.

And made the existence of the Soviet aircraft industry possible?

A similar story is repeated by the historian Sokolov with airplanes. He states: "The amount of aluminum supplied for the needs of the Soviet economy [during the war] - about 591 thousand tons makes the official data on the production of aircraft in the USSR completely unrealistic … The Soviet Union allegedly produced … 112, 1 thousand combat aircraft." Sokolov points out that Germany received 1.7 million tons of aluminum, but made less than 85 thousand aircraft.

For Sokolov, it is obvious: since the Germans made one plane for 20 tons of aluminum, then the Russians, of course, could not make one plane for only five tons of aluminum. He writes: "It remains completely mysterious how the Soviet industry, having almost three times less aluminum resources, was able to produce 1, 3 times more combat aircraft than Germany."

This is an example of a serious misunderstanding of real military technology. Even the so-called "all-metal" aircraft are not only made of aluminum: there is a lot of steel in their engines, transmissions, landing gear and spars. And in the conditions of World War II, many of their parts are also made of plywood or canvas. In the case of the IL-2, the cockpit skin is also made of armor steel. Five tons of aluminum was required only for a twin-engine bomber of the Pe-2 or Tu-2 type - and the vast majority of Soviet combat aircraft were single-engine and not all-metal (from Il-2 to La-5/7).


If Sokolov paid attention to the real technical appearance of the aircraft of the Second World War, he would easily understand this himself. By the way, he also missed the moment that during the war Germany used a huge amount of aluminum not at all for the production of combat aircraft.The actual amount of aluminum in the total mass of combat aircraft produced in the USSR during the war was about a quarter of a million tons - or as much as, according to Sokolov himself, and produced in the USSR without taking into account Lend-Lease supplies.

It was in the first year of the war that aluminum was really scarce in our country. And, at first glance, it is even difficult to understand why Moscow ordered it from the Allies in such quantities after 1943. But if we recall the very real threat of war with the United States and Great Britain (with the remnants of the Wehrmacht on their side) in 1945, then the question “why would Stalin have so much aluminum” may sound much less mysterious.

Because of the "aluminum puzzle" Sokolov decided that "Soviet aircraft production during the war years was at least twice as high" and, thus, it was no more than 56 thousand. Proceeding from this, the historian claims, "the share of Western supplies for combat aircraft [17 thousand received under Lend-Lease] will not be 15%, as was traditionally believed, but about 30%."

If the historian had paid attention to the fact that the average Soviet aircraft did not require five tons of aluminum at all, then, perhaps, he did not need to adjust reality so much to fit his ideas.

The Red Army could not have fought without Lend-Lease gasoline?

So, with explosives, gunpowder and aluminum, we figured it out. But Sokolov has the following thesis at the ready: half of the Red Army's aviation fuel came from abroad.

How does he come to this unusual conclusion? Sokolov agrees that the USSR in 1941-1945 produced 5.5 million tons of aviation gasoline. But, he claims, the supply of aviation gasoline and light gasoline fractions of oil from the United States amounted to 2.6 million tons. And, allegedly, "imported aviation gasoline and light gasoline fractions were used almost exclusively for mixing with Soviet aviation gasoline …"


That is, from the Soviet 5, 5 million tons, in his opinion, it is necessary to subtract 2, 6 Lend-Lease. Why is it wrong? Mainly because Sokolov forgot: the USSR received 18 thousand aircraft from the allies, a large number of which were twin-engine. And Western-made engines on Soviet gasoline could not work normally, because its octane number was lower.

In other words, only less than a third of aviation gasoline available to the USSR actually originated either directly from Lend-Lease gasoline or from Lend-Lease light gasoline fractions.

Separately, we note: if at the beginning of the war in the USSR there really was a shortage of aviation gasoline (although then import supplies were minimal), then in the second half of the war it was not. This is vividly confirmed by the huge number of patrolling air sorties in the second half of the war, when the enemy very rarely appeared in the air - and the presence of radars made patrolling not very necessary.

The figures for the consumption of aviation gasoline by the Soviet Air Force testify to the same: for the entire period of the war, they did not even reach two million tons.

It is interesting that Sokolov's "gasoline" thesis, like some others, was uncritically perceived by many and is still abundantly quoted. Russian Wikipedia, referring to the BBC, even reports: "The United States supplied 2 million 13 thousand tons of aviation gasoline (together with its allies - 2 million 586 thousand tons) - almost 2/3 of the fuel used during the war by Soviet aviation."

As we showed above, this is a gross mistake. Less than a third of Soviet aviation gasoline was Lend-Lease. And a very significant part of it went to imported aircraft, for which it would be very difficult in the USSR to produce the gasoline required by their engines.

What about the trucks?

Traditionally, great importance in the literature is given to the supply of vehicles under Lend-Lease. They are really noticeable: 427 thousand cars. Therefore, on May 1, 1945, 32.8% of all cars in the Red Army were Lend-Lease, 58.1% were domestic and 9.1% were captured.


But it is worth recalling: the overwhelming majority of these machines were delivered in 1943-1945, after the Soviet troops had convincingly shown the ability for active maneuvering operations against the Wehrmacht.As British historian Richard Overy aptly notes:

"By the time of Stalingrad, only 5% of the Soviet vehicle fleet was imported by origin"

More than half of all Lend-Lease vehicles entered our country in the last year of the war. Therefore, it is highly doubtful the idea that without this transport, she could not have won the war.

The functioning of the Soviet railway transport would have been impossible without the Lend-Lease

This quote from Sokolov has also been frequently repeated for the last quarter of a century and is no more substantiated than his other theses analyzed above. To come to this conclusion, he takes the number of rails (622 thousand tons) and locomotives (1977) supplied to the USSR from the USA and compares them with the production in the USSR during the war years. It turns out that almost half of the new rails then were imported, and among the steam locomotives in general, most came under Lend-Lease.


Alas, for all the accuracy of these figures, they do not in any way prove Sokolov's thesis "the functioning of Soviet railway transport would have been impossible without Lend-Lease." The thing is that during the war, the production of steam locomotives and rails is not particularly needed: the total volume of traffic is sharply reduced, due to the collapse of the peaceful sectors of the economy. During the war years, rails were collected from many of the unclaimed railways and used to repair damaged tracks in the zone of active battles.

Strictly speaking, the supply of Lend-Lease rails for the needs of the war with Germany itself was excessive. It is well known that “during the war, the railway troops built 9,845 km of new broad-gauge railways. At the same time, the procurement and mobilization of local resources [that is, the removal of rails and sleepers from local roads unused in wartime - N.S.] reached 60-85% of the total amount of materials consumed. Of… 25,710 km of rails, 21,682 km (84.4%) were found by the troops on the spot”.

A meter of rail at that time weighed 50 kilograms, and they are placed on the railway in two rows. 622 thousand tons of Lend-Lease rails, thus, would be enough for 6222 kilometers of new railways in single-track (standard) terms. In practice, less newly laid rails were spent than imported. And yet another 0.7 million tons of rails were produced by Soviet industry during the war years.

It turns out that the USSR had about half a million tons of relatively new rails in reserve. They managed to use them to the end already strongly after the war. For what? We think the reader has already understood why Moscow could need such reserves.

Moreover, the USSR approached the war with a certain surplus of rolling stock. The fact is that in 1939-1940, during the annexation of the Baltic States, the occupation of Western Ukraine and Belarus, he captured 7, 8 thousand captured steam locomotives - that is, four times more than he received under the Lend-Lease. Therefore, in total there were more than 27, 9 thousand steam locomotives before the war - or 14 times more than supplied under Lend-Lease.

The losses of steam locomotives in the war were very moderate: damaged - 1990 domestic and 1318 captured (many of them were already captured damaged). However, all but 251 units were restored after repairs - that is, as a result of the war, it was the locomotive fleet that even increased.

It is more than obvious that the Soviet railways would have completely survived without the Lend-Lease.

At the same time, it cannot be denied that the accumulation of the stock of steam locomotives towards the end of the war markedly increased the strategic stability of the USSR in the event of a war with its allies. In this sense, ordering steam locomotives under Lend-Lease was a completely justified step: in dealing with Western states, Stalin managed to feel in his own skin that yesterday's ally could turn out to be today's enemy in the blink of an eye.

Stew and other food: what the USSR could not survive without?

It is widely known that a lot of food was supplied under Lend-Lease, which greatly helped our country in wartime. But the question is: how much and when exactly did it arrive?

According to official data, just a little less than 4.5 million tons of food fell into the USSR - or about six kilograms per inhabitant in 1941-1945. At least 10% of this food - as well as Lend-Lease in general - came to us after the end of the Great Patriotic War. Therefore, these deliveries could not influence its course and outcome.


In total, during the Second World War, Western food supplies to the USSR amounted to approximately 18.6 grams per person per day. Contrary to conventional wisdom, the bulk of the food Lend-Lease was not stewed meat: only 664.6 thousand tons, or about 2.75 grams per day per Soviet citizen during the war, were used for canned meat. For the period of the Great Patriotic War, this figure is lower: after all, more than 10% of Lend-Lease came after its end.

Yes, a significant part of this food went to the army, and not to the citizens in general. Therefore, there the mass of the same stew per capita was higher than 2.75 grams per day. But we must understand that the tough planned economy of the USSR without Western supplies could well redistribute food resources in favor of the army. Therefore, a comparison of food imports with average food consumption figures for the country speaks about the role of the "second front" more than any other comparison.


One can argue about how much food was received by the inhabitants of our country during the war years. Fortunately, there is, of course, no complete statistics of this kind (neither personal subsidiary plots nor collective farm markets can be correctly taken into account). But it is obvious that Soviet citizens received from local food sources much more than 18.6 grams per day. The very same Sokolov fully admits that during the war years, meat in the USSR was produced many times more than came under the Lend-Lease.

But what about the fact that Stalin himself admitted: “without Lend-Lease, we would have lost”?

On November 30, 1943, at the Tehran Conference, British General Alan Brook made a toast at Churchill's birthday party. In it, he stated, “that the British suffered the most, that their losses [in the war] exceed those of any other people, that England fought longer and more, fought others and did more for victory. There was an awkward silence in the hall."

It is easy to understand that Stalin hardly agreed with such statements. In defiance of the British, he said: this war is a war of machines, and the United States supplies them in huge quantities. Further, according to American records, he said: "Without the use of these machines through Lend-Lease, we would have lost the war."

Many people tend to see this as Stalin's confirmation of the ideas described above: without Lend-Lease, the USSR was doomed. For people who rely on facts, the statement of the Soviet leader looks strange. It is well known that the USSR received the bulk of the Lend-Lease after November 30, 1943. And from the general figures of Lend-Lease, it is clear that the Soviet side could well have brought the war to an end even without Western supplies.

And then: the USSR could lose only in 1941-1942, which accounted for less than 2.8 million tons of allied supplies. Another 13 million tons fell on 1943-1945, when the prospect of losing the war in front of Moscow simply did not stand. Stalin could not but know this - why is he misinforming the allies?


Let's try to answer this question based on known facts. First, Machiavelli, as well as a number of other skillful manipulators of the past, were among the authors of his huge personal library read (and commented on) by Stalin. Second, from the context - General Brook's absurd speech - we see that he could have angered Stalin. Thirdly, we know that the Soviet leader was aware of the British military's ideas about strikes against the USSR back in 1940.

Finally, it is clear from today's declassified digital data that Stalin was building up stocks of strategic materials during the second half of the war. The reserves, the scale of which is too large to be fully utilized during the Great Patriotic War.

In such a situation, it is logical to assume that the master of the Kremlin was trying, on the one hand, to drive a wedge between the American and British allies. And on the other hand, to show the United States that the USSR still desperately needs their help, despite the fact that it clearly turned the tide of the war in the east.

If this is what he wanted, then his strategy partially worked. Until November 30, 1943, when he made his loud statement, 6.95 million tons of cargo were sent from the Western Hemisphere to the USSR under Lend-Lease - in two years and five months. After - in just a year and six months - already 10, 55 million tons.

Complete confidence in diplomatic flattery - and toasts to foreign leaders rarely go without it - is a sign of some naivety. Especially if this flattery is uttered by a person like Stalin or some other lover of Machiavelli.

How can you assess the overall role of Lend-Lease in World War II?

Under the USSR, the role of Lend-Lease in the material support of the Great Patriotic War was estimated at 4%. After the USSR - as decisive. What was she really like?

In principle, this is already clear from the text above. In total, 17.5 million tons of cargo were sent to us under Lend-Lease, of which in May-September 1945 - 1.79 million tons. These 10.2% of Lend-Lease could no longer affect the course and outcome of the Great Patriotic War. The rest ~ 15, 7 million tons could be used during the war. But it is impossible to find a single industry where their absence would deprive the USSR of the opportunity to wage this war.


In order to understand in the most general form the limited scale of Lend-Lease, it is worth comparing it with the volume of cargo that ensured the work of the Soviet economy during the war years. For example, the country's railways in 1943-1944 alone transported 647 million tons of various cargo - more than forty times more than came under Lend-Lease for the entire war. The total volume of shipments (cargo, not passengers) on the railways alone during the war exceeded Lend-Lease deliveries by about a hundred times.

Of course, among those there were many complex products, the value of which is higher than that of coal or pig iron, which were loaded onto the railways of the USSR to be delivered to power plants and factories. But not only raw materials were transported on Soviet railways. Therefore, yes, the value of Lend-Lease, of course, is not equal to 1% of all material resources consumed by the Soviet economy during the war. But, definitely, it cannot be called decisive either. Moreover, the overwhelming majority of these goods arrived to us only in the second half of the war.


Most likely, the total contribution of Lend-Lease to the possibilities of the Soviet economy at that time was no more than 10%. But it may be as high as 4% - the Soviet estimate of lend-lease deliveries. Recall that these percentages were obtained by converting the dollar value of the Lend-Lease into rubles and comparing it with the general Soviet production of those years.

Another important point in the assessment of this aid: a significant part of it was not used during the Great Patriotic War and, apparently, was accumulated by the Soviet leadership in case of war with countries that supplied us with goods and raw materials under Lend-Lease.

Why is the myth “without Lend-Lease the USSR would not have won” so tenacious?

All of the above figures are readily available and have been available many years ago. Where does the abundance of assessments that repeat the theses of the historian Sokolov come from? And why do they not only not lose, but also increase in popularity over time? How can ideas be supported that clearly do not find any support in real numbers?

The most likely answer to this question is this: it's all about people transferring their perception of modernity to the past. Many of our contemporaries still think in the famous phrases of the characters of the classic of Russian literature of the nineties. From their point of view, the country led by Moscow could never be different from what it is today - that is, not quite full-fledged economically and technologically. And, of course, in terms of the mental potential of at least her leadership.

If someone thinks in such a paradigm, the idea that a state inhabited by Russians could, in principle, independently win a world war against the strongest land army of the Western world, will always seem wild to him.


Therefore, such people have a need to discover some kind of secret channel for "pumping" the power of the West - a part of the world that is obviously more complete, in all respects - into an obviously less full-fledged "scoop." Without such a transfer, the history of the Great Patriotic War is meaningless for them: it contradicts their established ideas about the world. The idea of ​​the USSR's independent victory in the war introduces such a person into a state of the strongest cognitive dissonance and lowers his level of psychological comfort. We live in an era when a person, choosing between his comfort and facts, most often chooses the former.

The military efforts of Western countries to play the role of such a secret channel for pumping the "power of the West" are simply not suitable. It is quite obvious that by the time the second front was opened in Europe, the USSR was confidently moving from one major success to another. He has already approached his pre-war borders and clearly would have crossed them at the same time and without any second front.

Lend-Lease, on the other hand, looks like a much more attractive option. The material power of the United States seems obvious to any of our contemporary. And it is no less obvious that the industry of the States could not but be stronger than the Soviet one.

Naturally, in fact, all these representations are shattered the moment we look at the numbers. But this is completely unimportant - as long as we are talking about the perception of Lend-Lease in the mass consciousness. People, normally, try at all costs to avoid the collapse of their ideas and ideals. And it will not be so easy for a certain part of society to preserve their ideas whole otherwise than recognizing the Soviet victory in the Great Patriotic War as the result of American efforts, Therefore, acceptance of Sokolov's ideas about the decisive contribution of Lend-Lease - however flimsy they may be in fact - is unlikely to ever decline.

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