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Sometimes the best wars are the ones you do not fight

©Final Sword Productions LLC 2010

 

 

The Russo-Finnish War of 1939-40 is a legendary struggle. Plucky little Finland led by the gallant Marshal Mannerheim knocked the big bad Soviet bear back on its heels before being steamrollered by overwhelming Soviet numbers. While reality is as usual a tad more complex it is a decent outline of what happened.

What is less well known is that Mannerheim opposed going to war. Given the disparity of forces he wanted a diplomatic solution and pushed the recalcitrant civilian government to the point where they had fired him when war broke out and then had to quickly recall him to office. Mannerheim was at heart a rightist and anti-democratic. The Finnish government, especially the President, Kallio, and the Foreign Minister, Erkko, were the sort of mushy legalist bourgeois centrists likely to most annoy him. Mannerheim had previously refused suggestions that he stage a coup. Regardless of his personal politics he was not ambitious in that sense and was also quite conscious of his age. A Napoleon should take grab the throne at 72.

Here we will presume Mannerheim goes public with his objections and the result is a type of flower revolution Ė mass public demonstrations in his favor plus a soft coup by mid-level army officers who surround the parliament with troops to force a vote granting Mannerheim emergency powers to conclude a deal with Moscow which he immediately does essentially on Moscowís terms. The war does not happen. Finland loses a chunk of territory [although quite less than they actually lost in two failed wars] but is spared the dead, the mammoth war expense and wartime destruction. Finland like Sweden sits out WW2.

Mannerheim is the big winner, the more so as he resigns his emergency powers once the readjustment of borders is past. A wartime boom [Finland sells to both sides in the manner of Sweden] allows the Finns to absorb the refugees from the Karelian isthmus and the other lost territories.

The paradox is that the big loser is Stalin. The early disastrous months of the Finnish War were one of the factors forcing Stalin to begin to upgrade the Red Army from the depths of the chaos of the purges. Here that signal is lacking and ĎThe Bossí goes merrily onwards with his purges and reorganizations. The Red Army of Barbarossa will be an order of magnitude more inept.

The other negative for Stalin is that in OTL Hitler took the Winter War as proof the Red Army was a paper tiger. Adolph always had problems with patience and limits. Here he had a hook to hang his treatment of the great military campaign of WW2 as a place to exercise intuitive leadership. So in this ATL without the Winter War Adolph is more cautious. The campaign does not envision a one year victory. The panzer generals are firmly sat on [Guderian is probably sacked for insubordination when he ignores orders to turn in and races past Minsk to Smolensk]. Hitler this time keeps his generals under control. The 1941 campaign consists of tight pockets and careful liquidation of them instead of mad dashes ever further east and ever further out of supply. This in turn means the German army probably doubles the booty harvest of the first year of the war. The price is they never get further east than a rough line from Leningrad to the Vladi Hills to Bryansk to Kursk to the Mius River. Moscow is never threatened and Rostov is never occupied.

The flip side of this is that there are no out of supply spearheads for Stalin to smash in December and January. Overall the Germans lose many fewer men and Stalin many more. Germany will be in a much better position come the spring of 1942 than it was in OTL.

However the largest potential change was a ripple effect. Pearl Harbor happened in OTL roughly on top of the news reaching Hitlerís HQ of the repulse before Moscow. The emotional crash from almost capturing Moscow to being in danger of losing the largest army group in Russia [with visions of Napoleonís retreat and catastrophe in the minds of all the senior people per the various memoirs and diaries] meant that Hitlerís response to the Pearl Harbor news was an offhand agreement with the Navyís wish for a declaration of war. Here the Soviet offensive is hitting a prepared, entrenched, supplied German army. It is thus possible that Hitler does not Solve Rooseveltís problem by declaring war on him. And that would have led WW2 into truly strange terrain.

 

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