On August 23, 1939, the notorious Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact was concluded between Germany and the Soviet Union. Less than a year later, on April 13, 1941, another agreement was signed in Moscow, now about neutrality between the USSR and Japan. The purpose of concluding this pact was the same as when concluding a treaty with Germany: at least temporarily delay the involvement of the Soviet Union in World War II, both in the West and in the East.
At that time, it was also important for the Japanese not to allow the beginning of the war with the USSR until the point that they (the Japanese) would find favorable for themselves. This is the essence of the so-called strategy of "ripe persimmon." That is, the Japanese have always wanted to attack the Soviet Union, but they were afraid. They needed a situation where the USSR would be involved in a war in the West, weaken, withdraw its main forces in order to save the situation in the European part of the country. And this will allow the Japanese a little blood, as they said, to grab off everything that they were aiming for in 1918, when they made the intervention.
Japanese logic actually worked: Germany attacked the Soviet Union, a clash occurred, but the Japanese did not carry out their aggressive plans. Why?
On July 2, 1941 an imperial meeting was held at which the question was decided: what to do next in the conditions of the outbreak of the war between Germany and the Soviet Union? To hit the North, to help Germany and to have time to capture what was planned, that is, the Far East and Eastern Siberia? Or go to the South, for the Americans, as you know, declared an embargo, and the Japanese were facing the prospect of an oil famine?
Japanese marines on the march during the attack on Hong Kong, December 1941
The fleet was in favor of going south, because without oil it would be extremely difficult for Japan to continue the war. The army, traditionally aimed at the Soviet Union, insisted on one of the thousand chances, as it called it, to use the Soviet-German war in order to achieve its goals in relation to the USSR.
Why could not? Everything has already been prepared. The Kwantung Army, which was located on the border with the Soviet Union, was strengthened, brought to 750 thousand. A schedule of warfare was drawn up, the date was determined - August 29, 1941, when Japan had to slander the USSR in the back.
But as they say, did not happen. The Japanese themselves admit it. Two factors prevented ...
Yes! Why was August 29 defined as the deadline? Because then autumn, muddy. Japan had experience of conducting combat operations in the winter, which ended extremely unfavorably for it.
So the first is that Hitler did not fulfill his promise to implement a blitzkrieg and capture Moscow in 2 to 3 months as planned. That is, "persimmon is not ripe." And second, the main thing is that Stalin nevertheless showed restraint and did not reduce the number of troops in the Far East and Siberia as much as the Japanese wanted. (The Japanese planned to reduce the Soviet leader by 2/3, but he reduced it by about half. And this did not allow the Japanese who remembered the lessons of Hassan and Khalkhin Gol to strike the Soviet Union in the back from the East).
The Big Three leaders of the anti-Hitler coalition at the Potsdam Conference: British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, US President Harry Truman, Chairman of the Council of People's Commissars of the USSR and Chairman of the State Defense Committee of the USSR, Joseph Stalin, July-August 1945
Note that from the Allies, that is, from the Third Reich, pressure was exerted on Japan. When Matsuoko, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Japan, visited Berlin in April 1941, Hitler believed that he would easily cope with the Soviet Union and would not need the help of the Japanese. He sent the Japanese to the south, to Singapore, to Malaya. For what? In order to tie down the forces of the Americans and the British so that they do not use them in Europe.
And yet, in February 1945, during the Yalta Conference, Stalin violated the Soviet-Japanese neutrality pact: the USSR entered the war with militarist Japan at the urgent request of its allies.
Interesting fact. The day after Pearl Harbor, Roosevelt appealed to Stalin to help in the war with Japan, to open a second front in the Far East. Naturally, Stalin could not do it then. He very politely explained that Germany was the main enemy for the USSR at that time, he made it clear that let us first break the Reich and then return to this question. And, indeed, returned. In 1943, in Tehran, Stalin promised to go to war with Japan after defeating Germany. And it is very inspired by the Americans. By the way, they stopped planning serious land operations, expecting that this role would be fulfilled by the Soviet Union.
But here the situation began to change when the Americans felt that an atomic bomb was about to appear. If Roosevelt was completely “for” the second front and repeatedly asked Stalin about it, then Truman, having come to power, was anti-Soviet. After all, the phrase he said after Hitler’s attack on the Soviet Union belongs to him: “Let them kill each other as much as possible ...”.
But Truman, becoming president, was in a very serious position. On the one hand, the entry of the Soviet Union into the war with Japan for political reasons was extremely disadvantageous to him, since it gave Stalin the right to vote in settling matters in East Asia. And this is not only Japan. This is a huge China, the countries of Southeast Asia. On the other hand, the military, although they were counting on the effect of the atomic bomb, were not sure that the Japanese would surrender. So it happened.
Soldiers of the Imperial Japanese Army surrender. Iwo Jima, April 5, 1945
It is worth noting that the date of the nuclear strike on Hiroshima, Stalin did not know. In Potsdam, Truman, outside, say, the framework of the conference, somewhere during the coffee break, in agreement with Churchill, approached Stalin and said that the United States had created a bomb of enormous power. Stalin, to the surprise of the American president, did not react at all. Truman and Churchill even thought that he did not understand what was going on. But Stalin understood perfectly.
But the Americans knew about the date of the entry of the Soviet army in the war against Japan. In mid-May 1945, Truman specifically sent his assistant Hopkins to the USSR, instructed Ambassador Harriman to clarify this issue. And Stalin openly said: "By August 8, we will be ready to begin operations in Manchuria."
A few words about the Kwantung Army. Often, politicians, historians use the term "million-Kwantung army." Was it really so? The fact is that the word "millionth" means, in fact, the Kwantung Army, plus 250,000 troops of the puppet regime of Manchuku, established in occupied Manchuria, plus a few tens of thousands of troops of the Mongolian Prince De Wan, plus a fairly strong grouping in Korea troops on Sakhalin and the Kuril Islands. Now, if we combine all this, we will get a million-strong army.
This raises the question: “Why did the Japanese lose? They are not the worst warriors, are they? ”I must say that the USSR’s victory over Japan was the highest manifestation of operational art and strategies that the Soviet Union had accumulated during the years of the war with Hitler Germany. Here we must pay tribute to the Soviet command, Marshal Vasilevsky, who brilliantly carried out this operation. The Japanese simply did not have time to do anything. Everything was lightning fast. It was a real Soviet blitzkrieg.