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Self-Determination and Stalin

Reader comment on item: [Appeasement Explains] Why Europe Balks

Submitted by George (United Kingdom), Mar 11, 2004 at 14:04

There are two very important reason why the allies appeased Hitler that had not been mentioned here:

1) Up until Munich, Hitler had made no territorial demands regarding territory not inhabited by Germans (ie territory which did not _want_ to be ruled by Hitler). This made it very difficult politically for the Western Allies to oppose his demands. Note how Hitler's annexation of Prague in March 1939 was an important turning point.

2) After the Communist revolution Russia had become a 'rogue state' making a 1914-style Triple Alliance against Germany impossible. Chamberlain et al were terrified of going to war against Hitler because the two evil empires of Europe were held in check only by _each other_. Hitler's evil divided the capitalist world, so it was not in Stalin's interest that he be overthrown (unless of course he was replaced by a Soviet puppet). If the Allies went to war against Hitler in 1938 and won, Stalin would occupy Poland and Eastern Germany.

This kind of democratic/communist split in Europe was bad enough for 1945, but in 1938 it would have been horrendous. The atomic bomb had not yet been developed and in America the isolationists were at the height of their power. Stalin would have probably decided to push on the Atlantic, and Britain and France, weakened by their war against Germany (given superb German tactics, talk of an _easy_ victory against Germany is fantasy), would be powerless to stop him.

For this reason the British and French decided they had to play the two totalitarians against each other and avoid war at all costs, and this is exactly what they did until the Nazi-Soviet Pact made it impossible. As it was, the European democracies survived, but not because of anything happening in Europe. They were saved by Pearl Harbor.
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