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11-08-2015, 18:58

The Russian Front

The political structure of the Soviet Union did not change during the war. The communist party retained powrer and continued to control the principal posts in government. A special committee, called the State Defence Committee, was created, similar to the Committee of Public Safety. It was without administrative departments and took direct decisions on any matter it chose. It sent out delegates who were empowered to execute the committee's decisions. Stavka, the military headquarters, were responsible for military operations. But Stalin's presence was felt everywhere. He was head of the party, head of the government, and as commander of the army he assumed the title of marshal. With the possible exception of the first days of the German invasion, Stalin responded to events with a bold front and stern realism. He disregarded all but the needs of the government and the country. In each of the Great Allies, a single man, ironically a civilian, became the figurehead of the war effort. The three men needed to meet face to face, especially as they were suspicious of each other. Soviet Russia wras practically alone in bearing the full brunt oi the Wehrmacht. Stalin complained bitterly and repeatedly insisted that a second front be opened. He under-estimated obstacles which stood in the way ofa second front, but the Americans agreed to land in North Africa in partial satisfaction of his demands. Another difficulty was the delivery of war materials granted Soviet Russia under the Lend-Lease programme. The shortest route lay across the glacial arctic ocean to Murmansk, but it was the most dangerous route. Heavv losses sometimes forced the British to suspend shipments. In order to open a new route, the Allies jointly occupied Iran, but this proved circuitous, railway and road transport were inadequate, and the delays were excessive. Churchill's only concessions to Stalin consisted of promises and an oiler of an alliance for twenty years. Stalin was dissatisfied. While the Germans were within range of Moscow, however, he aggravated mutual suspicion by telling Anthony Eden of his intention to keep whatever territories he had gained under the Russo-German Pact. Poland would be the loser. This was only a matter of words for the present. The Americans and the British had more to fear from the defeat of the Red Army or from a new pact between Russia and Germany. Churchill and Roosevelt did not wish to disrupt their 'strange alliance' with Soviet Russia, as it was dubbed by an American diplomat.