Grand Strategy, Part V (1940-1941, Europe and Africa)

Germany … has the capability of preempting us in deploying and mounting a surprise attack. In order to prevent this from happening while destroying the German Army, I consider it necessary that in no way should we yield the initiative to the German command. We should preempt the enemy by deploying and attacking the German Army at the very moment when it has reached the stage of deploying but has not yet organized itself into a front….”

S. Timoshenko, Commissar of Defense
G. Zhukov, Chief of the General Staff
15 May 1941

Hitler broke the Molotov-Ribbentrop Non-aggression Pact on 22 June 1941 with an all-out assault on the Soviet Union. The Red Army was not able to launch the preemptive strike on the Germans called for in Timoshenko and Zhukov’s 15 May Memorandum. Because the Russian government is still holding back documents, we do not know exactly why the Red Army failed to carry out its preferred plan. We only know that the Red Army was badly defeated on the frontier, and the Soviet Air Force was massacred.

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