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George Stern

On the War Fronts

Hitler Forced to Open New Front

Balkan Campaign May Cost Hitler Dearly;
Stalin Will Not Fight for Jugoslav Ally

(12 April 1941)

From The Militant, Vol. V No. 15, 12 April 1941, p. 1.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Hitler last week unloosed his military might on two more European nations.

Yugoslavia’s resistance to Hitler was determined in part by the lessons of Hungary, Rumania, and Bulgaria. These countries capitulated without a struggle to the Nazis in order to keep out of the war. All they accomplished was to be occupied by the Nazi army and to become in effect provinces of the Nazi Reich.

The lively nationalist traditions of the Serbian officer caste and middle class and the warrior traditions of the Montenegran peasantry proved fertile soil for British encouragement. The decision, was taken to resist.

If Hitler can complete the Balkan campaign in a matter of weeks with a minimum of cost to his military machine and a minimum of disruption in the Balkans generally, he may still be in a position to complete his postponed schedule for an assault on the British Isles.

Danger to Hitler

Should the campaign stretch out over a longer period, however, it can mean his ultimate defeat in the war. Concentration of Nazi power in the Balkans until the fall or winter can conceivably give Britain the respite it needs to allow time for the American war machine to gear into action.

In any case, however, the Balkan campaign may cost him dearly. The Balkans are still the principal granary for the Reich. That is why Hitler tried by every means to assure his conquest of the Southeastern nations without resort to military force.

There is, further, the plight of Italy. Mussolini has some 300,000 men bottled up in Albania. Unless Hitler, can complete the conquest of Greece and Yugoslavia with unimaginable speed and decisively defeat the British expeditionary force already on Greek soil, these Italian forces are doomed to another debacle.

So long, however, as Hitler can feel assured of eventual Balkan victory, fresh defeats for his Italian ally are not overly serious for him.

The other principal elements in the new Balkan war are Turkey and the USSR. Turkey is still sitting tight. It has become apparent in the successive stages of the war that Turkey does not have enough confidence in its military strength to venture an offensive policy. But a policy of waiting means eventual envelopment by Hitler.

Stalin’s Role Clear

In the new Balkan situation, the USSR has taken a further step along the line already suggested by its recent moves. When Bulgaria was occupied, Moscow sent a feeble note of protest to Sofia. Two weeks ago the USSR and Turkey issued a new declaration of friendship and understanding which was interpreted as a Soviet pledge to extend friendly help to Turkey in case it is attacked. Now, a few hours before the Nazi invasion of Yugoslavia, a pact of friendship and non-aggression between the USSR and Yugoslavia was signed.

These moves do not indicate any breach in Nazi-Soviet relations but they definitely do represent further worsening of those relations. Stalin has felt compelled at each stage of Nazi Balkan penetration to make some move which would impede Nazi advances without, however, embroiling the Soviet Union in the war.

Stalin’s policy will not, if he can help it, expose him to the feared Nazi attack. He will continue, however, to do everything he dares to impede and make more costly Hitler’s steady advance toward complete domination of Europe and toward eventual invasion of the Soviet Union. Once more those who hope Stalin will take up arms against Hitler are doomed to disappointment. Stalin’s policy remains one of fearful defense. He seeks ways of warding off blows, not of dealing them.

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Last updated: 20 February 2020