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Quasi-War Between Japan and The U.S.S.R., 1937-1939 Author(s): Clark W. Tinch Source: World Politics, Vol. 3, No. 2 (Jan., 1951), pp. 174-199 Published by: Cambridge University Press Stable URL: . Accessed: 28/01/2011 02:03
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By CLARK W. TINCH such as Americans have, before 1950, associated only could fail to dewith full-fledged war. How such a conflict They velop intoWorld War III theyonly dimlyunderstand. centurywar, or at least had assumed that in the twentieth wars involvinggreatpowers,had to be total. in is thatthisassumption incorporated the exTo theextent of pectations therulingelite of eitherof two or morecontending powers,it is likely to be true; to the extentthat war is is divorcedfromthe politimade an end in itself, conceptually cal ends it in factseeks to achieve, the organized violence of warringgreat powersmustbe not only totallyorganized,but go totallyapplied, while theconsequences hang. The weapons and techniquesof the last war when handled non-politically have beenanticipated, conditions as produced, therefore, might to singularlyunpropitious the realization of what were professed have beentheaims forwhichthewar was fought. to In his recent, widely quoted article in the Reader's Digest, George F. Kennan of the State Departmentatpolicy-planner tacked the idea thatwar with Russia is inevitable and portrayedthe road to peace as a twilightregionpocked with unand edged with danger.' While subject to criticism certainty Mr. Kennan'sargument in reflects or skepticism itsparticulars, War is theextension truths: of his realizationof twoimportant politicsby othermeans; and war need notbe total. with its soberingprospects,it is almost For the moment, enoughthattheAmericanpublic be persuadedonlythatthere in thatmakesunavoidablethephysiis no logic inherent things cal obliterationof the opponent, and hence increases the The question of whether chances of one's own obliteration. total war is desirable may and under what circumstances
1 "Is War with Russia Inevitable?" Reader's Digest, LVI, No. 335 (March 1950), 1-9.


HE scaleandintensity thefighting Koreahavebeen in of


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JAPAN AND THE U.S.S.R., 1937-1939


be dealt withonlywhenthe premiseof choicelessness been has conshattered. Leaving the questionof desirability others, to sequently,Mr. Kennan rummagedthroughmodern history forevidencethateven a violentconflict interests-whether of nationalor ideological or both-does notmean thattheremust inevitably followa twentieth-century saturnaliaof extermination. What he came up with was a brief (and insufficient) reof a storyas absorbingas it is pertinent the conminder to scene and its greatunresolvedproblems-the story temporary of the undeclared "pocket war" between Soviet Russia and of Imperial Japan. The natureand background theirmilitary bordersof Manchuria are prestrugglealong the far-flung sented and analyzed in this article for the meaningful,if harsh,lightcast upon the distraught world of todayin which Soviet Russia bulksso large.

In Septemberof 1931 the Japanese invaded Manchuria. aware that the invasion would beThe Soviet government, come a lastingoccupation, about acceptingthe factas philset Almostalone amongthe greatpowers, osophicallyas possible. the U.S.S.R. voiced no formaldenunciationof the Japanese but transgression, maintained a discreet diplomatic silence of whichwhollyfrustrated efforts the LyttonCommission, the the representing League of Nations, to ascertainthe Soviet when joint action by the inAt attitude. thispivotal juncture, withprofound con terested powersmighthave seta precedent sequencesforthefuture peace of theworld,the Soviet leaders rejectedboth in practice and in word the concept of collecin relations.(Ironically, thesesame tivesecurity international to were subsequently be hailed in the League and leaders of defenders thisconcept.) The Soelsewhereas the foremost missionto perform, viet press,with a different emptied the on vials of itsvitriolalmostimpartially Japan and theWestern and instigators whichwere denouncedas collaborators powers, in the alleged Japaneseschemeto invade the Soviet Far East Manchuria.2 from
2 For a work typical of the Soviet reaction, see C. Tul'skii and M. Fedorov, Man-



Fortunately thesafety bothSiberia and the Maritime for of Province,thenervous polemicsof theSovietpresswerebacked The emergent industrialeconup withmilitary preparations. the omyof Russia was setthetaskof converting Far EasternreThis policy reflected governthe gions into a veritablefort.3 ment'srealization that "the situationwith which the Soviet Union is faced in the Far East requires that it strengthen itsdefenses, protect borderfromoutsideattack,in particuits of lar throughthe strengthening the military garrison on of theFar Easternborders theU.S.S.R."4 in The deterioration Japanese-Soviet the relations following Manchurian invasion advertiseditselfmost spectacularlyin numberand violence of armed border clashes. the mounting These providedboth partieswith ample materialfor mutual recrimination and vituperation.Usually termed"incidents," theyrangedfromthe seriousto the absurd.On one occasion a party, inexplicablyequipped large Japaneseborderinspection crossed with machine guns instead of surveying instruments, and wiped out. On another, intoSovietterritory was promptly ratherplaintively that a Soviet steamthe Japaneseprotested of hooksfromthedangboat had stolena large number fishing ling poles of theirJapaneseowners.Citing similarconflictsreal and imagined, sanguinary and ludicrous-Japanese could declare in 1938 that2,400 separateincidents spokesmen The armed clashes invariablymoved the Japhad occurred.5 of aneseto deplorethe"ambiguousdemarcation" the frontiers
chzhuriia: platsdarm dlia napadeniia na S.S.S.R. (Manchuria: Base for Attack on the U.S.S.R.), Moscow, 1934. A much more comprehensivestudy on this period and its background is V. Avarin, Imperializm v Manchzhurii (Imperialism in Manchuria), 2 vols., Moscow, 1934. A brief retrospectiveview may be found in V. Masslenikov, "The War Front and the Peace Front in the Far East," Tikhii Okean (Pacific Ocean), March-April 1938.
3 For a review of the electrifying effectof the Japanese invasion upon the Soviet Far East, see G. Voiminskii, "Japanese Military Aggression in the Far East," in Okupatsiia Manchzhurii i bor'ba kitaiskogo naroda (The Occupation of Manchuria and the Struggle of the Chinese People), ed. by Voiminskii,Moscow, 1937. 4 From an editorial in Izvestiya, March 4, 1932.
5 For the most comprehensive coverage of these incidents through the battle of Changkufeng (Khasan), see Noburu Hidaka, (ed.), Manchoukuo-Soviet Border Issues, 1938; also, "An Outline of the Soviet-Manchoukuo Border Controversy," ConManchuria, July1937. temporary

JAPAN AND THE U.S.S.R., 1937-1939


and theRussiansto suggest, without not sarcasm, thattheJapanese could avoid such difficulties returning Japan.6 by to However, the present-day samuraiof Japan had designeda New Order in Asia thatincludedno plans forwithdrawal from Manchuria. As 1936 drew to a close it had become clear that Japaneseexpansionism restlessly soughtnew outlets.The military rode the saddle of government home and honed its at in spursforadventure China. TensionwithSoviet Russia grew apace. On November 25 Japan joined Germanyin the AntiCominternPact; on December 9 Soviet Russia retaliatedby refusingto ratifya new eight-year fisheries treaty, vital to Most observers between Japan'stauteconomy. expectedtrouble the two nations, but no one anticipatedwhat was to follow. In earlyJulyof 1937 open warfareflaredalong the Amur River, the great streamwhich formsmost of the northern border of Manchuria. The dispute centered about several strategicislands of questionableownershipjust south of the importantSoviet river city and defensebastion,Blagoveshto chensk.A pretextsufficed precipitatean engagementin of and whichtroops, artillery, rivergunboats bothnationspartravelledbeticipated.Once again chargesand countercharges tweenMoscow and Tokyo.The publishedSoviet and Japanese what versionsof the affairare of little aid in determining actuallyhappened or why.' The mostsatisfactory explanation
6 A relatively complete account of border incidents and their causes as viewed by the Soviet press is provided by Harriet L. Moore, Soviet Far Eastern Policy, 1931-1945, Princeton,Princeton UniversityPress, 1945. 7 See the editorial "Provocations of Japan in China and on the Far Eastern Borders of the Soviet Union," Mirovoe Khoziaistvo i Mirovaia Politika (World Economics and World Politics), August 1937, p. 138. The editorial states that "after the Soviet Union on July4 offeredpeacefully to settle the dispute and recommendedthat evacuation of troops of both countries from the islands be carried out, the Japanese renewed their attacks." Hidaka (op. cit., pp. 88-94), on the other hand, records the above agreement as having occurred on July 2, and mentions neither the withdrawal of Japanese troops nor the subsequent attacks. The Japan-Manchoukuo Year Book (Tokyo, 1937, p. 687) confuses the matter yet furtherby stating that Litvinov informed Japanese Ambassador Shigemitsuof his agreement to withdraw Soviet troops; that he did not do so precipitatedthe gunboat incident.Finally, according to the Year Book report,the Japanese secured a withdrawal agreement and withdrew their troops, leaving unsolved the problem of possession of the islands. Ambassador Joseph E. Davies in Mission to Moscow (New York, Simon & Schuster,1941, pp. 164-66) gives yet another unverified story in which, among other things, Japanese-Manchurian cutters, not Soviet, were sunk. Davies became so alarmed over what he believed to be the dangervisit to Shigemitsuin the hopes of averting war. ous tensionthat he paid an unofficial The Ambassador plainly was in unfamiliar surroundings.The world press, in gen-




to is thatoffered informally AmbassadorJosephE. Davies in Moscow by a "high Japanese official," who stated that the Amurfighting beentouchedoff testSovietresolution had to and preparedness. The Japanese commanders, appeared, were it bothsurprised and impressed.8 While theirdiplomatsin Moscow were in the midstof the Amur cease-firing the negotiations, Japanese began their asmoreprolongedand diffisaulton China.The ensuing struggle, cult than foreseenin Tokyo, largely precluded a unilateral Japanesewar on Russia. A year later,as Soviet Foreign MinisterLitvinovconfided AmbassadorDavies, such a war had to becomevirtually impossible.9 This was not,it should be noted, the attitudeexpressedby the Soviet press,which continued a to anticipatealmostmomentarily Japanese attackon Russia becauseof "reversals"in China. The elite of the Japanese military,the Kwantung Army, in meanwhilewas rusticating Manchuria as the war in China pickedup momentum. could noteven join in thesportof exIt terminatingManchuria's numerous "bandits" (resistance and plain criminals), in whom forces, disgruntled peasantry, and boththeChineseNationalistgovernment the Russiansdisplayed a more than paternal interest;"Otherewas a separate to and formidableinternalsecurityestablishment deal with this problem.Apparentlyto heightenits fighting esprit and relieve the tedium,the KwantungArmybegan to enlarge on its policy of needlingthe Russians.It was not long beforethe of Japanesewenttoo far.In thesummer 1938 casual clashesin of strategicPoset Bay at Changkufenggot out the vicinity mechanized warof hand and developed into unmistakable, to If fare.11 it had notbeen forcertainpeculiar arrangements
eral, displayed no less naivete. Perhaps due to its obfuscationby propaganda, the incias dent was completelymisinterpreted a threat to peace, a matter for international concern, etc. The above accounts have been reviewed at such length simply to illusof trate the difficulty gettingat the facts when in totalitarian hands facts are weapons. 8 Davies, op. cit., p. 166. 9 Ibid., p. 299. 10 For a descriptionof guerrilla activities,see N. Glebov, "The Japanese Aggressors and the Manchurian Rear," Miro'voe Khoziaistvo i Mirovaia Politika, July-August 1938. 11 It is still not clear whether the Changkufeng battle was set off purposefullyby the Kwantung Army or whether it simply grew out of increasingly severe fighting.

JAPAN AND THE U.S.S.R., 1937-1939


vital portof Vladivostokmight be describedbelow,thenearby have beenendangered. Gregori Stern,the As describedby the Soviet Commander, battle began July 29 and continueduntil August 11. Two Soviet rifledivisions finallyparticipated,opposed by a nuhowmericallygreaterforceofJapanesewho were supported, air smallerand less effective and tank ever,by a considerably force. Catching the Soviet borderguardsunaware, Stern reports,the Japanese managed to drive the Russians fromthe volcanic heights of Zaozernaia and Bezymiannaia, which thenseesawedinconclusively the dominated area. The struggle while bothsides rushedup men and equipment.By August 6 had enoughSoviet reinforcements arrivedto permita counterday. An especiallyinteresting attackto be setforthefollowing The was consideration to enterintothisplan forcounterattack. enemy occupied the commandingheights in a position, as Sternsaid, "to counteveryone of our guns,everytank,almost everyman"; yet, although other approaches were tactically on possible,theattackwould have to be carriedstraight to the heights throughJapanese barricades and a witheringfire. Flanking operationswere out of the question,it seems-but not for militaryreasons.Stern'sexplanationof this is worth of quoting:"There was no chancewhatsoever hidingthelocale to was of and direction our attack.The fighting restricted the of district Lake Khasan, the volcanoesZaozernaia and Bezymiannaia,and theheightsbelongingto thoseplaces only."12 Since Stern commentedon this "restricted"aspect of the withouteven casual elaboration,it can only be infighting appeared so natural ferredthat these unusual arrangements eitherto Stern,the editorsof Pravda, or the reading public that no qualificationsor explanationsseemed necessary.It were possibleonly mustalso be concludedthatsuch restrictions between the Soviet and throughat least a tacit agreement Japanese high commands. Nothing could illustrate more the graphically calculatingnatureof thispocketwar thanthese They could be paid for only in dispassionatearrangements. Russian blood.
Inasmuch as the Russians were not prepared for the engagement and the Japanese lost it, the clashes, from any standpoint,"got out of hand." 12 Gregori M. Stern, "The Sixth of August," Pravda, Aug. 6, 1939. Author's italics.



deBeforethe counterattack launched,Soviet artillery was of briefbombardment the enemyposilivered a surprisingly has tions.Since theRussianArmytraditionally relied strongly it with great skill and energy,Stern and used on its artillery to had attempted explain why the counterattack not been preceded by the usual heavy artilleryassault. Observing that the "prolonged preparations"of the Imperialist War (i.e., wasteof valuable artillery World War I) caused an enormous Sternpointedout the contrast:The shells on a narrowfront, bomRed Armywould attackafterno more than a two-hour His reasoningseemedto be thatwithoutcapitalist bardment. Soviet troopswould be to munitions-makers urge prodigality, artillery preparations! and unnecessary exorbitant freefrom can This remarkable statement perhapsbe relatedto another thatSternmade elsewhere.An attackwas imperativethe moarrived on August 5, he explained, bementreinforcements demandedthatthe aggrescause "the people and government evicted." If government pressuredid in sors be immediately bomforeshortened artillery factcoincidewith an admittedly a bardment, decidedlyunpleasantpicturecan be painted: Althoughthe militarysituationcould have permitteda fairly the operations, Red Armyattacked, delayin offensive indefinite despite a shortagein artilleryshells, simplybecause of political considerations-attacked,it should be remembered, Japanese resistance!If this reconalong the line of greatest of struction eventsis valid, thenthe Red Armyagain deserves a hero's name. Actually,theremay have been an additional althoughplans originallycalled threehoursof bombardment, only for a total of two. Rain preventedthe air cover from postponed. off getting on scheduleand theattackwas therefore did Stern unfortunately not indicate whether the artillery was therefore bombardment prolongedor also postponed.If therewas a shortageof shells, as would seem the case, the was unquestionably delayed and hence lasted bombardment but two hours. In spite of these unfortuitous according to circumstances, the General Stern, Soviet forcespushed the invadersfromthe thoughdesperheights.SubsequentJapanese counter-thrusts, ate and powerful,were beaten off.This proved to be the

JAPAN AND THE U.S.S.R., 1937-1939


resultedfrom hingeof theentirebattle.Sternfeltthatvictory the high morale of the troops,the professionalcompetence the of and loyalty the officers, excellenceof Red Armyequipcivilian populament,the active supportof the neighboring tion,but above all fromthefactthat"in theholocaustof battle feltnear them and commanders, politicalworkers thesoldiers, of thepresence comradeStalin.""3 which was writtenon the 1939 anniversary Stern'sreport, of the battle,filled a notable hiatus in Soviet releases on the Khasan affair.On August 15, 1938, shortlyafter fighting stopped,an editorial in the partyjournal Bol'shevik had redisputeand thebattle,but failed to menviewed theboundary tion the "Great Attack of the Sixth.""4Instead, the editorial insistedthateach timethe Japanesecrossedinto Soviet terrirepulsed.Moreover,Izvestiya cartorytheywere summarily ried no banner headline about the victoryof August 6 but announcedon August9 that"The Great Soviet People merely Supportthe Firm Policy of the Soviet GovernUnanimously ment." aspect of the publicity accorded the Another interesting upon was Khasan fighting the heavy stressplaced throughout role played by "bolshevikagitation"and "polthe significant itical work,"upon thejoy withwhich the soldiersrushedinto battlewithcriesof "For Stalin! For Party! For Motherland!" with which to It is pertinent recall the internaldifficulties at and Stalinwere confronted thetime.It the theArmy, party, at could suggestthe possibilitythat the difficulties Khasan of function no small value. serveda nationalunifying Far Eastern the All cavil aside,however, SovietAutonomous Army,in spite of the purgeswhich had decimatedit and the did conscious leadership, win erected itspolitically obstacles by The Japanese coma convincingvictoryat Lake Khasan. mandertacitlyadmitteddefeat-and doubtlessexaggeratedsupup whenhe praisedhis armyfor"standing againstattacks tanksand 100 aeroplanes."15 Emperor Hirohito portedby 200 that of toldtheArmyChiefof Staff his gratification theArmy,
13 Ibid. All the facts and interpretations attributedto Stern are drawn from this same article in Pravda. 14 "The Soviet Repulse of the Japanese War Instigators,"Bol'shevik, Aug. 15, 1938. 15 Hidaka, op. cit., p. 215.



situationand despite their small strength, "under a difficult their duties."16 acted with prudence and patience, fulfilling the The new de factosituation, resultof Soviet armedstrength, to producedon August11 a new agreement cease fire. The severefighting Khasan and the defeat administered at for diminish long theJapanese bytheSovietsdid not,however, Spoand experimentation opportunism. appetiteformilitary to radic gunplaycontinued troublethe Manchurian frontiers. in The basic differences nationalpolicies remainedunresolved of and theboundlessdetermination both armiesremaineduncorrupted. Moreover, the elite Kwantung Army had lost prestigein the mire of Changkufeng.Its leaders would not be long in seekingrevenge. No Russian with a normal memoryof eventsand a slight thereof understanding theJapanesecould have beensurprised, herbeganto circulatethroughout whenalarmingreports fore, metic Russia in the springof 1939. Soviet troops,it was rumored,had gone into action along the Outer Mongolian border; a diplomaticcrisisin Japanese relationswas developing along with the borderwar; great air battleswere occurring daily; thousandsof men,hundredsof tanksand cannonwere Had the the turning Mongolian Steppe intoa vast battlefield. war come at last? While war had come again, thewar had not,as eventswere dito make plain. The Soviet people did not receivethisfirst on rectreport renewedborderwarfarewiththeJapaneseuntil after had brokenout.On June27 Tass reit morethana month over Outer Mongolia between viewed a two-hour engagement Soviet-Mongolianaircraft.TwentysixtyJapanese and fifty planes were reporteddefiveof the enemyand threefriendly The next day Tass reportedeight Japanese pursuit stroyed. bombersin action over the border; losses: planes and thirty seven Japanese, six Soviet-Mongolian. On June 29 Tass fire.Then claimed two enemyplanes downed by antiaircraft news curtaindropped again forover two weeks,and they the quiet weeksto the average Soviet musthave seemedominously citizen. On July 14 Izvestiya at last broke the silence to review
16 Ibid., p. 220.

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thesituation. Matter-of-factlyannounced it thatin heavyfighting near the river Khalka (where northwestern Manchuria borderson Outer Mongolia), during July 6-12, over 2,000 Japanese-Manchurian troops had been killed, another3,500 of wounded,and 254 takenprisoner. Large stores enemy equipment-including cannon,armoredcars, and machine gunshad been captured.The hostileforceswere described,but the Soviet-Mongolianwere not; nor were the Soviet-Mongolian Air engagements battle casualties mentioned. since May 28, Izvestiya continued, had cost the enemy199 planes as against a loss of 52 Soviet-Mongolian. There was in thisreporta statement releasedby the Soviet command:"In theopinionof theSoviet-Mongolian command, the Japanese infantry does not fight badly, althoughit could muchbetter sincebothJapanesedivisions, 23rdas well the fight as the7th,are ratedthebestones." It is difficult findan acto in But it may curateequivalentof thisobservation its context. notbe too farwrongto suggestthatit is as though,following the Japanese attackon Pearl Harbor, therehad appeared in all American newspapersonly a box wire dispatchreporting and the thelossesoftheattacking forces including briefmilitary commentthat Japanese bombingproved fairly accurate, alTo thoughit could have beenbetter. theAmericanpublic such an approach would, of course, have been incomprehensible, had it been possible. A nationwhich rose in wrath over the sinkingof the Maine and demandedvengeancefor the Lusihow the tania could not normallybe expected to understand a could treatwhat was in effect small war Soviet Government chess. But the Soviet governas thoughit were tournament and loss, could and with its business-like senseof profit ment, did. Its reasonswere excellent.There were at hand other,more desperateissues,on which the destiniesof the Soviet Union clearlyturned.On April 17, 1939 the Russian Ambassadorin Berlin, Merekalov, had visited Baron von Weizsacker, State in to Secretary the German Foreign Office, suggestthe possirelations.On May 3, Litbilityof improvedSoviet-German witha policyfavoring Western the identified vinov,commonly democraciesat the expense of Nazi Germany,was abruptly




by replacedas ForeignCommissar Molotov. The new Foreign the metwithSchulenburg, GermanAmbassadorin Commissar Moscow, on May 20 and June28, and discusseddelicatelythe The Kremlin,in tensions. of prospects easing Soviet-German tact, patience, and no short,was maneuveringwith infinite littleskill to removethe German threatby joining it. A war with Hitler's ally,Japan, at thistime-that is, a formal,proclaimedwar could onlybringruinto Soviet plans. If, on the with Germanycould be nursed otherhand, the negotiations intobloom,thenthe Japanesequestionwould take care of itwith Germanywould be self.To gain a basic understanding to staggerand perhapsimmobilizeJapan's designson Russia. The Soviet press,as ever sensitiveto high affairsof state, of dropped the entirematter invasionand conunobtrusively vitalweekspassed.On August6 East whilethree in flict theFar and that Pravda casuallymentioned continuing severeJapanese had beenconsistently repulsedand thatair combatconattacks tinued.In thatsame issuewas celebratedthe"Great Victoryof August 6" at Lake Khasan a year before. Red Army men who had shared in the victorydescribed their experiences; partyworkersexalted the role of the political commissars; poetssangof Red Armyvalor againstthehated foe. But of the fact disturbing thatthissame valorousRed Armystoodlocked in combatwiththe same hated foe therewas slightmentionterseand colorless. a communique, threeweekssilenceshroudedthe battleat Then foranother Nomonhan. Negotiationswith the Germanswere moving to climax. On August23, 1939 Molotov and theirworld-shaking the Ribbentrop, Reich Foreign Minister,signedthe notorious withits SecretProtocol. Four days Treatyof Non-Aggression on a laterPravda permitted briefglance at developments the border. Thirty-oneJapanese aircraft had been Mongolian had downedsinceAugust 6. Seven Soviet-Mongolianaircraft failed to return. Anotherprolongedsilence by the Soviet press slipped between the world and Nomonhan. Finally, on September 1, theday thatthe GermanArmyinvaded Poland, Izvestiya unbroughtits readersup to date. On August 17 the emotionally which had momentarily Japanese had launched an offensive

JAPAN AND THE U.S.S.R., 1937-1939


to threatened break through;rallying,the Soviet-Mongolian thenstalled the onslaught.On the twenforceshad stemmed, againstthe tieththeRussianshurleda full-scalecounterattack line to theeast of the riverKhalkha. Pinningthe entireenemy Japanese between two convergingwings, the Red Army crushed them on the night of August 28. The Soviet-Monthendug in alongtheborderofOuterMongolia.17 golian forces fame, received Marshal Zhukov, later to gain international thecovetedaward "Hero of the Soviet Union" for commanding this brilliantoffensive. Back in Moscow, Soviet Foreign Minister Molotov and Togo, bothofwhomhad been JapaneseAmbassadorShigemori closely followingthe course of the battle,negotiateda new on agreement September15. Fightingwas to end cease-firing the followingday, troopswere to remain along the frontier were to be exchangedat once."8 line theyheld, and prisoners to brought an end on September Hostilitieswere consequently 16, the day beforeSoviet troopsin the West invaded crumbling Poland. at Japaneseaccountsof thisstruggle Nomonhan in which men and machineswere sucked into grindingwarfare from May 4 untilSeptember16-differedradicallyfromthe Soviet versionon almosteverycount.One thing,however,could not defeat.Japanese a be obscured: Japan had suffered stunning admitting18,000 casualties from Foreign Officespokesmen, Sovietbitterbattle."19 termedit "a disastrous, the fighting,
17 Mirovoe Khoziaistvo i Mirovaia Politika, Sept. 1939, pp. 247 f. The reports on Nomonhan, like those on other border clashes, are open to question. If the Japanese were "beaten back" and "ejected from Soviet soil" almost before they set foot upon it (as the Soviet press invariably insisted), how then was it possible to mount a prolonged and successful counterattackof the kind just described without at the same time crossing over into enemy territory(which act the Soviet press invariably denied) ? 18 Ibid. 19 New York Times, Sept. 4, 1939. Three books in Japanese are available at the phase of the engagement. For the Library of Congress, each describing a different non-user of Japanese, the works are nevertheless valuable for their collections of photographs,battle orders, maps, etc. The most comprehensiveof these is Kwantung Army Headquarters, Nomonhan Bidauroku (A Record of the Nomonhan Incident), 1941. Valuable for its report on tank warfare is Sakae Kusaba, Noro Kochi (Hill Noro), Tokyo, 1941. For a personal narrative, see Eiji Tanaka, Nomonhan Senki: Tokon (Nomonhan Battle Report: The Spirit of Battle), Tokyo, 1941. The foregoing documentswere reviewed and highlightedfor the author by Dr. Ardath Burks.




since the Soviet press Mongolian lossescannotbe enumerated, only to aircraftlosses and published no figureson referred casualties.Regardlessof Soviet losses,however,and personnel were high, a small-scale war had been theyunquestionably in fought whichtheJapanesehad receivedthemostpunishing militarydefeat of their modern history.But an even more of paralyzingshock had run throughthe structure Japanese a power: Hitler and Stalin had become virtual partners, war was on in Europe, and Japan stoodisolatedin the Orient.

and inThe border warfare just described both reflected fluencedthe course of other developmentsin Soviet and it Japanese foreignand domesticpolicy. Unfortunately is at the with finality evolutionof impossibleto determine present aspectsof the struggle. eitherthe warfareor the non-military tradiThe SovietUnion and Japan,each in itsown totalitarian factsthroughthe living membrane the filtered pertinent tion, and diploForeign correspondents of political opportunism. gatheredtheirinmatsof the othergreatpowersof necessity only in Moscow and Tokyo, where it was subject formation to the same basic laws of double thinkas the mosteruditeof althoughconsiderableobfuscationrejournals. Nevertheless, thingsseem fairlyclear about mains,a numberof important and a fairlyaccurate fronts on behindthe fighting what went is reconstruction possible.The disputedissuesand the interactbe ing forcesmay forconvenience categorizedinto fourmain and fisheries concessions, thoseof borders, strategy, problems: and politics. withManchu The casual natureofTsaristRussia's relations in of China had produceda number verycasual treaties, which receivedequally casual treatment." thebordersof Manchuria if As a result, no one knew preciselywhere the borderswere, at least no one cared. But when the meticulousJapanese-as
20 For excerpts from these treaties where they relate to the border question the Japanese position,see "An Outline of the and a discussion of them as they affected Manchoukuo-Soviet Border Controversy," Contemporary Manchuria, July 1937. A large map is included to show the disputed borders; also, a table of border-markers, their historyand condition.


U.S.S.R., 1937-1939


theyso conscientiously it-assumed China's international put obligationsin Manchuria, the situationchanged drastically." Japan based itsborderclaims on the Sino-Russiantreaties until and includingthe Treaty of Peking in 1860. The Russians retorted thatthesetreaties had been supplemented the later by and secretTreaty of Hunchun in 1866. Professingto know of the nothing such a secrettreaty, Japaneserefusedto be affectedby it. (As a matterof fact,none of thesetreaties, published or secret,could provide more than an informed guess as to theactual locationof theborders).22 Since theRussiansappeared content withthisstateof affairs and the Japanese did not,the onus of aggressionmustbe asto signed the Japanese for attempting persistently revise the The Soviets cannotescape blame, howbordersunilaterally. with wholly ever, because of their unwarrantedsatisfaction On questionableboundaries.23 the other hand, they may at least be creditedwith the clear realization thatJapanese demands reallyhad littleto do with "ambiguousborders."The Japanesewere insteadseekingto findand exploitSovietweaknesses. If the Russians were on the defensivein regard to the border question,theymost assuredlywere not in the matter and concessions. of fisheries ecoAmong the many contested none seemed nomic issues snarlingJapanese-Soviet relations, so crucial to Nippon as did the questionof Japanese fishing As in rights Sovietwaters.24 viewed from Tokyo,thewatersof to and Kamchatkabelonged historically the natural Okhotsk Japanese sphere of influence. Further,the Japanese felt that and for theirindustriousness skill had been responsible whatever success the Russians had achieved in exploiting these
21 Ibid., p. 26. 22 For example, see Izvestiya, Aug. 6, 1939, for the Hunchun Treaty Map. This map was reproduced by the Soviet press to support Soviet claims in relation to the battle at Changkufeng (Lake Khasan) the previous year. For the map applied to the see Izvestiya, July 14, 1939. This map is a cartographical quesNomonhan conflict, and there are no co-ordinateswhatsoever. tion mark. The scale is 1-2,500,000 23 The Soviet governmentinsistently maintained that the borders had been properly demarcated and made it clear that all attemptsto revise the existing borders would continueto meet armed resistance. 24 For a detailed discussion, see Shintaro Shindo, "Fishing in Soviet Waters," Japan, Sept. 1938. Contemporary




equipment, waters-that Japan had developed the techniques, profitable. made Russianoperations which and basic know-how that they should receive a larger They concluded therefore than the Russians,to whom the fishing share in the industry importance. was industry notof virtuallife-and-death thattheAnti-Comintern Pact marked Statingitsconviction the predicted, Soviet thetrue"crisisof capitalism"so regularly convenfisheries refusedto renewthe eight-year government tion which expired in 1936. Nor did the Russians look with of favor upon the renewedJapanese efforts 1937 to achieve particularlysince the Japanese governanotherconvention, conmenthad just welcomed Italy into the Anti-Comintern extensions were granteduntil Instead,onlyone-year stellation. 1941 in spite of the repeatedJapanese complaintthat it was to "the consistent policyof the Soviet government exterminate in all Japanese economic rightsand interests these northern regions."25 The Soviets meanwhile went on accusing Japanese milito of opinionoverthefishtarists attempting arouseanti-Soviet and of agreements, of coneriesquestion, breakingthe fishing (These claims, the fishing fleets.26 ductingespionagethrough possesseda substanlikeJapanesecountercharges, undoubtedly the of tial residuum truth.)In view of thisattitude, statesmen of Japan, whatevertheir words, were hardly so lacking in
25 Ibid., p. 246. Shindo, like his government,pretended to believe that the Soviet government had refused to renegotiate the 1928 treaty "for no good reason." Japanese authorities at this point had become highly sensitive to legal and verbal niceties. Since Moscow, equally concerned with form to the exclusion of content,had repeatedly insisted that the Comintern and the Soviet Union were connected by no more than the gossamer of mutual sympathy,the Japanese blandly maintained that Pact could in no way be construed as an anti-Soviet instrument. the Anti-Comintern They concluded thereforethat Soviet-Japanese relations should be in no way affected by the Axis alliance. Both powers appear to have been somewhat entranced by the resonance of their own sounding boards. 26 The Soviet attitude on fisheries during the latter thirties was expressed officiallyin the sharp reply of the Narkomindel to the Japanese request of early 1939. See Pravda, July24, 1939, for text; also applicable portionsof Iu. Davydov: "Economic Relations of Japan and the U.S.S.R.," Mirovoe Khoziaistvo i Mirovaia Politika, Sept. 1938. Useful in describing Soviet views on the fisheriesdispute in its wider context is E. Zhukov: "The New Japanese Governmentand the Foreign Policy of Japan," Tikhii Okean, Oct. 1939. Japan's case is available in the statement of the Foreign Office spokesman concerning the fisheriesnegotiations (March 15, 1939) and the statement of the Foreign OfficeInformationBureau concerning fisheriesnegotiations (April 4, Manchuria, May 1939, pp. 436-37. 1939), in Contemporary

JAPAN AND THE U.S.S.R., 1937-1939


sophisticationas to be surprisedthat the fisheriescontract in offered the Soviet Union was determined, the finalanalby ysis,by theexisting over-allpolitical situation.27 on The questionofmineralconcessions the Soviet-controlled northern half of the island of Sakhalin proved to be no less capable of generatingfriction.Once again the controversy centeredon critical resources: oil and coal, but especially oil Soviet-Japanese upon the former. And like the fisheries, and coal operationswere underpinnedwith mutual distrust and hostileintent, the dissipationof which the Anti-Comto Their Japanesepartners-inintern Pact in no way contributed. had practiced"unenterprise, Sovietsbluntlyannounced, the Japanese the treaties. paralleleddeceit"in breaking concessions operators were accused of wilfullyand maliciouslyviolating Soviet labor legislationand in generalof "takingthe law into denied categoriThe Soviet government theirown hands."28 or cally thatit had been coercingJapaneseoperators otherwise with theirfreedomto extractcoal and oil within interfering thestipulations thetreaty of arrangements.29 of are the Whateverthefacts thecase,and they debatable, confor like thefisheries, become a matter politicians had cessions, Productionfromthe con-not foroil men or coal operators. as existingat any cessionsvaried directly the stateof relations Once again theSoviet the giventimebetween twogovernments. its had implicitly reaffirmed belief that while government peace may not be indivisible,foreignpolicy,if it is to avoid mustbe. Nor were the Japand frustration perhaps disaster, anese less alert to the power factorthan the Russians. When relationsbecame severelystrainedduringthe Russo-Japanese of bitterdays at Nomonhan in mid-July 1939,Japanesewarwatersto head off ships were reportedassembledin northern the Japanese oil concessionson a Soviet threatto confiscate
27 Before the Third Session of the Supreme Soviet, May 31, 1939, Molotov remarked characteristicallythat the new extension (for one year) had "the greatest political significance." 28 See Davydov, loc. cit., pp. 60-62, for a full discussion of the concessions and alleged Japanese anti-Soviet conduct. For the text of the governing treaty of 1925 and attached Protocol (B), see Harriet Moore, op. cit., pp. 179-81. 29 Izvestiya declared emphaticallythat all fishery, oil, and coal concessionaires and workerscontinuedto enjoy the full rightto engage in theirbusiness withoutinterference so long as they abided by the Soviet regulations and did not violate the concessions agreement.Davydov reiteratedthis claim (op. cit.,p. 61).




Sakhalin.30 The threat not,however, did materialize. In additiontotheforegoing problems, there was thatof trade relations. Throughoutthe period followingthe resumption of diplomaticrelations 1925untilthetradepact of 1941,Russoin Japanese commercial exchange coincided with the pattern alreadydescribed connection in withfisheries, concessions, and, of course,borderdisputes.3" The mostimportant single transactionoccurredon September21, 1934,when the Soviet government sold out its interest the Chinese Eastern Railway, in despitethe fact thatthe Chinese government vigorouslyprotestedthe illegalityof the sale as contradicting contract the underwhichtheSovietshad originally entered intojointoperationof the railwaywith the Chinese. Ignoring Chinese protests,the Soviets proceeded to complete the transaction a at relatively small part of the investment's worth.32 Politics was stilldictating policy,economicor otherwise;the Russianshad doubtless concluded that joint managementof the Chinese EasternRailway withJapan would providetheJapanesewith for endless pretexts more anti-Sovietagitation,which would in turnproducemorediplomaticwranglingand perhapsfighting. And in 1934,it will be recalled,the Soviet Far East was still relativelyundefended.Actually, however,relationsbemore tweenthe two powers could scarcelyhave deteriorated a had the railwaynotbeen sold. Far fromremoving sourceof in the friction, sale led to seriouscontroversy later yearswhen the Japanese refusedto meet their obligations.Shortlyafter in his appointment 1939, Foreign Minister Molotov angrily warned theJapanesethatthe Soviet Union would not permit made When payment was finally thisviolationof itsinterests.33 of in January1940,theefficacy Soviet power politicswas once again manifest. Desperately in need of a fisheries agreement
Union from 1931 throughthe firstquarter of 1938 illustratemost clearly the inevitable subordinationof economicconsiderationsto political ones. See Davydov, op. cit.,pp. 5355, for a summaryof trade relations between the two countries. 32 124,000,000yen, one-third of which was to be paid in cash and the remainder in goods. 33 A. Ziuzin, "The Situation in Manchuria," Mirovoe Khoziaistvo i Mirovaia Politika, No. 4-5, 1940, p. 171. Ziuzin's article presents perhaps the best and most Russian surveyof Manchuria as of early 1940. comprehensive
30Necw York Times, July 22, 1939. 31 The figures on total trade and trade turnover between Japan and the Soviet

JAPAN AND THE U.S.S.R., 1937-1939


the and bewildered by the German-Russianrapprochement, to Japanesecould findno alternative liquidatingthe debt. To sum up, economic relationsin general betweenRussia rather symptomatic the and Japanhad, from Sovietstandpoint, littleto do with and thancausativesignificance comparatively economics. They were linked inextricablywith the Manin the churianfighting, war in China, and thesituation Europe. But theydid reveal an attitudetoward foreignpolicy which was grounded in an empirical realism as tough as it was pliable. with the questionsof bordersand economicreInterwoven To lationswas still a third: thatof strategy. the Soviet Union, threat.From it, Manchuria poses a directand seriousmilitary Soviet Far East and the Maritime Province can be isothe lated or chopped up in a numberof ways. Armies can move throughOuter Mongolia to the Trans-Baikal region.Others fromBlagoveshHeiho to fanoutnorthward can proceedfrom chensk. Still others can head northeastwardthrough the Sungari Valley to Khabarovsk and thence up along the broad Amur basin to its delta at Nikolaevsk opposite Russian Sakhalin. The key port and naval base of Vladivostokis also vulnerableto attack fromManchuria. In regard to the Far East as a whole, Manchuria is perhaps even more crucially important.It provides a militarypivot which controlsthe the China. Historically, masof destinies northeastern strategic ter of Manchuria has also held sway over much of northern China. It was no accidentthatthe decisive battlesof the civil and Nationalistswere foughtin war betweenthe Communists the northeastern provinces-Manchuria. werenotloston theSovietgovernment, These considerations of which responded by undertakinga rapid strengthening of border defenses,the construction a Far Eastern military of the (includingdoubleforce, improvement communications the tracking Trans-SiberianRailway), and theencouragement of the Russian people to endurethe hardshipsentailed in the The Japanese, similarly proclaimingthemselves program.34
34 See Victor Kravchenko, I Chose Freedom, New York, Scribner, 1946, pp. 316-31 for a personal account of the developmentof heavy industryin Siberia and the part played by the Japanese threat in expediting the process. For a general discussion of




measures to hastened complete menacedbySovietpreparations, in war industry Manof theirown.They erecteda formidable of milesof railwaysand countless churia.They builtthousands to value. They strove bringunder havingonlystrategic airfields Manchuria, the theircontrol Mongolian racesof northwestern ethnicwedge deep into Soviethoping to drive a subversive controlledOuter Mongolia. Concerned over the securityof in and theirsouthwestern westernflanks Manchuria, the Japoccupied Jehol and Chahar and Inner Mongolia. In anese in theirposition Manchuria and to prepare ordertoconsolidate and cultivated theymobilized industry forfutureaggression, in thehomeislands. fanaticism Both Japan and Russia acted as thoughtheyexpectedwar. But onlyJapan acted as thoughshe soughtit.35 lay, however, The hard core of Japanese-Soviethostilities nor in the competition, not in disputedborders,commercial positionof Manchuria alone. It lay insteadin the instrategic political and economic anarchywhich in the Far ternational of and by-product the was at once a function East as elsewhere toward Soviet Union's search for securityand Japan's drive empire. the situation, of In the context the immediateinternational by the renascence was moulded Japanesepolicy of aggression by ofNationalistChina,unfettered theparalysisof theLeague of Nations, encouragedby the successesof revisionistItaly and Germany,canalized by the decline of Imperial Britain of and the isolationism the United States,excused by the disruptive activities of the Communist Internationaland its Soviet sponsor,and acceleratedby the returnto world-wide economictribalism. Following the emergenceof the Japanese menace on its flankand the German in theWest, the Soviet Union's eastern real or attempted, policywas markedby co-operation, foreign
the Soviet Far East and its turbulenthistory,see M. Gubel'man, "Our Heroic Far East," Tikhii Okean, March-April 1938. 35According to Ziuzin (loc. cit., p. 171), railroad mileage in Manchoukuo almost doubled during the Japanese occupation. Ziuzin emphasizes that this developmentwas directed against the Soviet Union and the Mongolian People's Republic as well as study,see A. Gal'nerin, against the areas of partisan resistance. For a complementary "The Military-EconomicPreparation of the Manchurian Base," Mirovoe Khoziaistvo i Mirovaia Politika, September1939.

AND THE U.S.S.R.,1937-1939 JAPAN


withtheWesterndemocracies.But even thenthe Soviet press and thenon-totalibetweenthetotalitarian did notdistinguish out the dangersof "capitarian"capitaliststates"in pointing The Soviet leaders dedicated themselves talistencirclement." whatseemed from taskof securingSovietsafety to theprimary to themthe mountingthreatof aggression.These were also years freightedwith significantinternal developmentsin and the purgesSoviet Russia-especially industrialization and whichreactedupon externalpolicywithpersistence force. combinedto World eventsand a pervasivesenseof insecurity of forceRussia intothemainstream world politics.Collective universal disarmament, and co-operationwith the security, and West were the unimplemented oftenhypocridemocratic tical Soviet themesuntil Russia at last turnedto her "natural thatproved illusoryand the for ally," Germany, the security thatprovedshort-lived. friendship Reflectingupon these years of diplomatic march and of the it counter-march, is easyto condemn statesmen theWest, whose lack of perspicacityat timesseemed matchedonly by their ineptness;it is equally simple to maintainthat among the prospectivevictims of Hitler the Soviet Union alone this apfor grasped the necessity concertedaction in stifling menace to civilization. But to do so is to overlookor palling ignorethe natureof the Soviet stateand its policies as interpretedbytheWest,to be blind to thedilemmaof thesmall and betweenthe upper helplessstatescaughtinexorably relatively to and nethermillstonesof Soviet and Nazi totalitarianism, and growingalarm with disregardthe numbinguncertainty of which theWesternpowersreactedto the confluence Soviet Whateveritsintent, withideologicaldynamism. might military in whateverits sincerity seekingcollectiveaction againstAxis the Soviet Union remainedone of the principal aggression, in of forces disruption a world sadlyin need of stability. The conclusionof the Soviet-Nazi Pact in late August of a 1939 seemedto manyobservers negationof thoseprinciples whichtheSovietUnion ostensibly stood; and thesuccessful for with the Japanese threeweeks of completion the negotiations at later to end the fighting Nomonhan deepened the riddle. historicaland the Actually,however, complexof conditioning




whichenabled Sovietleadersto adjustto the ideological forces war withJapan (and the peril of Germany) made not-so-cold it virtuallycertainthat theywould adjust to it. Threatened was the Soviet government willing to carryon an elsewhere, thatscale whichwould precisely withJapanon armedstruggle repulseinvasionand discourageJapanese aggression.It exerthis strugglefromdecised extremevigilance in preventing mightrethan practical considerations any further veloping permit.These consideraconsiderations quire and theoretical of in expression terms politics tionscoalescedand foundunified prestige. of onlyby the necessity retaining and were modified grasped these subtletiesas well as their Japanese militarists Safe in the knowledgethattheirenemyunderramifications. stoodand practicedthe realitiesof power,the Japanesecould withoutfearinga greaterinvolvement to continue experiment The Sovietgovernment, werepreparedto undertake. thanthey on theotherhand,could and did balance thepowerequationby to withJapanaccording the relations its manipulating economic dictatesof pure expediency.To the Japanese,these relations bit wereevery as vital as werethe"sacred Sovietborders"to the Russians. In assessing the currentsignificanceof the Manchurian border warfare in its broader implications,particular note First,Japanand theSovietUnion things. be must made ofthree natural enemiesin almost every political, sowere inherent, cial, economic,and historicrespect.Second, theirgeographic especially in an age when distanceand terrainare positions, presentedeach power with essentially demolishedby flight, Finally, until insolubleyet inescapable problemsof strategy. August of 1939 they were nominallyor openly aligned in world political and militarycoalitionsthat were destinedto war fortheworld. and antagonisms, Yet inspiteofthesefundamental ubiquitous jointly achieved a near miracle. They the two governments all happenedupon a modusvivendiwhichtranscended motivasave thatof Machiavationssave thoseof power,all morality conthat velli. Significantly, modusvivendi,attainedthrough one was nevertheless of peace. flict hard-headed and diplomacy, Japan and Russia did not go to war. Their cities were not

JAPAN AND THE U.S.S.R., 1937-1939


reduced to rubble nor theirpeoples annihilated.The war in of Manchuria repaid the relativelysmall investments blood of with the incalculable dividendsof peace. With the firing correct thelastshell at Nomonhanthereensueda scrupulously approachingamitybetweenthe Soviet and Japrelationship which was to freeeach to pursueits thirdanese governments Sovietcold This first fearor hindrance. powerpolicieswithout of withthesigning termination to warwas brought itssuccessful Japan and the Soviet Union on between thePact of Neutrality April 13, 1941,a pact whichwas to endureuntilthe objective it whichhad brought intobeing-i.e., the equipoise conditions of power in the Far East-had been decisivelyalteredby the to defeatsadministered Japan by the armed forcesof crushing by theUnited Statesand to Germany theAllied powers.36

withtheimplicit analysishas notbeen offered The foregoing thattheUnited Statesusurptheprewarprovocative suggestion withSoviet Russia. That would be roleofJapan in itsrelations to as alien as it would be corrupting the Americanspiritand, probably fatal to system, in a two- insteadof a multi-power in of anysortof real stability theworld. theprospects indicatedtheneed has But thiscase study mostemphatically of for a thoroughoverhaul if not reconstruction the tradiin imbeddedfirmly constitutional tionalAmericanassumption, and practice,that a stateof war or peace effectively history and existsonlyby virtueof legislativeaffirmation is, in either As case, an exclusive phenomenonof inescapable totality.37 in demonstrated an exhaustiveexaminaT. A. Taracouzio has the on tionof Soviettheory thesubject, leadersof theU.S.S.R., thatwar and peace on theotherhand,adhereto theconviction exclusive," opposed and mutually fact"diametrically are notin
36 For the text of the Treaty, see Iz'vestiya, April 15, 1941, with the appendaged Frontier Declaration which guaranteed the "territorial integrityand inviolability of Manchoukuo, and .. . the Mongolian People's Republic." 37 As Nathaniel Weyl put it in Treason: The Story of Disloyalty and Betrayal in American History (Washington, Public AffairsPress, 1950, p. 474): "The Constitution was drafted in a comparatively simple era when nations, as a rule, either went to war or remained at peace." The institutionalmeans at the disposal of the governill-designed ment remain, despite the many ad hoc decisions of recent administrations, to cope with the unique demands of quasi-war.



means,supplementing but are instead"two equally important advance towardtheirfinalreveach otherin the communists' have recognized,as The Soviets,in short, goals."38 olutionary have not,the validityof Aristotle's Americanstoo frequently peacebut that observation war is nothing a meansof securing though the Soviets have correctlyelaborated the dictum to mean a peace which servesone's political objectives. Conversely,of course, the Soviet approach bars as sentithe mentaland uselessor worse a war which does not further purposesof the State. Since survival is obviouslyessentialto war is of course a sine qua non in thosepurposesa defensive war mustwait the eventof attack.But the urge to offensive upon a carefulbalancingof anticipatedadvantageand disadstate,a highly vantage.This balancingis, withina totalitarian in itsaccuracy dependent processand therefore bureaucratized procedure, and wisdom upon the nature of institutionalized as bothformaland informal, well as upon theabilitiesand preof dispositions the individualswho have to do both with the It and of gathering information its interpretation. is difficult, apparatusin governmental to however, imagineanyimportant world which is incapable of understanding the contemporary assuregraveifnotmortalinthattheweaponsoftodayvirtually jurynotonlyto a nationsubjectedto eitheran all-outassaultor developbut counterassault also-and this is a revolutionary apparatus itself. in world history-to the governmental ment This last is so because the directionand executionof highly and centralization organizedwar demandsno less organization The on thepartof thewarringgovernment. resultis a complex Hence any policy of political nerve-center high vulnerability. of based on a rationalcalculus,even giventhesubjectivization excludethelaunchingoftotalwar againstan thatcalculus,must withoutchance of unless an overwhelming victory antagonist reprisalis almostcertain. smashing that states,like men, While it may be argued successfully act crucial or evenprosaicmoments withsingularirramayat evidence substantial thereis, as this studycontends, tionality, at thatthe Soviet government, least in regardto war, does not. This is in spiteof the factthatthereexistwithinthe U.S.S.R.
38 War and Peace in Soviet Diplomacy, New York, Macmillan, 1940, p. 295.

JAPAN AND THE U.S.S.R., 1937-1939


war obstaclesto thewagingof an aggressive fewif anyinternal for -as exemplified, instance,in the Soviet invasion of the Baltic States,Poland, and Finland. It should be equally clear, fromrecenthistoryas well as fromthe nature of the body thattheUnited Statesis and will in all likelihood politicitself, the to continue be incapableofinitiating kindof calculatedwar above. AssumingthattheAmericanabilityto retalidiscussed or ate drasticallyis not sapped by ineptness internalfission, it therefore, would seem that total war with the U.S.S.R. is attackby either not apt to breakout as a resultof an outright come about? could a full-scaleconflict power.How, then, thata war will resultwhen one power It has been remarked feels that its capacity to wage war is seriouslythreatened. applicable to mostgeneralWhile subjectto thequalifications underwhich izations,thisadequatelydescribesthe conditions to the United Statesand Russia are mostlikelyto resort war. mustbe directed. is at thisfocusthatattention Hence it afnecessarily in Marked innovations weapon development the weightof theinnovation, to in fect, proportion themilitary innovacapacitiesof nationstowage war. A significant relative to tionwill act as a casus belli, or a provocation prophylactic be onlyso longas itis assumedthatwar must total war,however, to will in factattempt use his own weapons and thattheenemy withoutregard to the consequences. first, of total destruction and of A Sovietmiscalculation Americandetermination ability seemshighlyimprobable.Thereforethe to retaliatemassively by development the U.S.S.R. of anyweapon which would not completely reduce to ashes America's retaliatorycapacity would appear mostunlikelyto encouragean attackupon the United States-so long,thatis, as the Politburodid notbelieve thatatomicbombsor theirequivalentwere about to explode over Moscow. difficult of relatively There are,of course,a number factors, upon a to calculate,which react decisivelybut unobtrusively the potentialand consequently balancing nation'swar-making of power-an increasedstandardof living, improvedpublic an health,the exploitationof untapped resources, increasein and so on. These factorscannotbe igindustrialproduction,




nored; theyare not,however,readilyassessedas threats sufficiently directand grave in themselves provokewar. to There is, however, one outletthrough which thereseemsto course the cumulativeexpressionof national and ideological and ambition-politico-economic strength and territorial expansion.Here lies thetruepointof concentration-andof combustion. Thus it is thatAmericanforeign policyhas come to be of directed to the "containment" Soviet territorialaggranof dizementand the castration movements which seek to extend the domain of Soviet influence. The Korean experience demonstrated unwisdomof pursuthe has,amongotherthings, ing an unlimitedpolicy of containment withoutthe means to implement that policy. But this experiencehas also brought intofocusonce again theflexible, of attitude the opportunistic Soviet government toward peripheral clashes of interest, no matter how severe. It is particularlysignificant that the Soviet press, despite world tensions vergingon overload and despitethe proclamain tionof a nationalemergency the United States,gives no indication of fear that the presentcrisis will debouch into a generalwar. Instead, Soviet analysts expressconcernthatthe refusesto recognize the practical implications United States of of itsKorean defeatand theemergence a drastically altered in powersituation theFar East.39In otherwords,the Russians seem to be tellingthe United States as pointedlyas theydid the Japanese that it is essential to deal with the reality of one likes it or not, power,the ultimaratioof politics,whether and thatany discussions which ignoreor obscure this reality are butone removefrom metaphysics. However one may evaluate such an attitude, can neverit theless be dealt with. There is in the Soviet mentalityno heroic urge to Gotterddmmerung,no chiliasticexirrational, is pectationthatall history about to pour througha breach in the the presentto transform future.When the vital interests of the Soviet State demandedit in the late 'thirties, Politthe buro proved eminently capable of co-operatingin a backhanded way to localize and subsequently resolvediplomatito
39 Harrison E. Salisbury, New York Times, International Edition Supplement,Dec. 17, 1950,p. 5.

JAPAN AND THE U.S.S.R., 1937-1939


Soviet cally even violent armed clashes on Soviet territory. proved equally adept at exacerbatleaders have subsequently of particularlywhen the formality ing peripheral conflicts, and possiblereprisaldecould be maintained non-intervention This fact,it must to flected the nominal agent of aggression. no be insisted,represents dramatic change in Soviet operabut or expectations aspirations, long-range tional procedures, simply the existenceof a new power situationfavorable to more energeticmanipulation. The successof thatmanipulationcan yet provokethe catado clysmif American statesmen not soon recall that internaIt business. is not tionalpoliticsis at besta shadyand imperfect applicationof principle,no matter susceptible theverbatim to how loftyor inspiring.One principle in particular,neither mustat once be laid to restif substantial loftynor inspiring, of portions mankindare notto be. It is thegreatand disastrous illusion thatwar and politicslead privatelives of theirown, thatto save our mortalsouls we mustnever be found simulin taneously the embraceof both,and thatwe mustemptythe and of full reservoir our strength of our passion on one to the to utterexclusionof the other.We can no longerafford act as immoraland what is thoughwhat is expedientis necessarily immoral must thereforebe expedient, or we may shortly of find civilized worldplungedintotheagonyand darkness the a new Volkerwanderung. If, on the otherhand, the United States can recapturethe absentfromits policies that flexibility has been so alarmingly and and and theirimplementation, iftheAmericangovernment to can avoid attributing the Russians a home-grown people thatwar and peace are and should be total condiconviction thenall is notlost.The provocationswithno bridgebetween, well be unending,the beat to quarters incessant. tions may Neverthelessthere can yet be in our time a peculiar but effective peace which will permitthe enflamedpassions and traumaticdogmas of the presentto be replaced gradually,if with infinite patience and vigilance, by the emergenceof a in world community which men can at last get on with the of business living.The plea is forcommonsense.

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