Accept one of Stalin’s offers for an armistice.
After Germany invaded the Soviet Union, they quickly discovered the Soviets had thousands more tanks and a couple hundred more divisions than the Germans had realized before the war. Hitler himself is reported to have remarked that if he had realized how many tanks the Soviets had before the war, he would never have invaded the Soviet Union. However, after the invasion began, he should have realized that the best hope for Germany had they failed to capture Moscow in 1941 or 1942 and achieving his objectives of reaching the Archangel-Volga-Astrakhan line was no longer achievable, was to have concluded a negotiated peace with Stalin ending the war with limited German gains. In actual history, Stalin made a series of peace offers from 1941–1944. The first in July 1941 offered to cede the Baltics, Ukraine (presumably including the Crimean peninsula which was not then part of Ukraine) to Germany. The second in May 1942 added Belarus to sweeten the pot. Stalin’s third peace offer in May 1943 was a proposed ceasefire along the Soviet Union’s 1938 borders which would have effectively reversed the Hitler-Stalin Pact, while leaving the Germans in control of the Baltic states, eastern Finland, the eastern half of Poland and northeastern Romania all of which had been annexed by the Soviets from 1939–1940. This is the only peace offer that Stalin might have been willing to honor long-term. Had Hitler conquered the Caucasus region or more plausibly captured Moscow and ceded it back to Stalin in exchange for the oil rich Caucasus, the Turks would have likely joined the Axis given his promises to turn over the Soviet Caucasus republics (which had briefly won their independence following the signing of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk in March 1918) to Turkish control following his planned victory over the Soviet Union.
The apparent rationales behind Stalin’s armistice proposals was to wait until the Western Allies had opened up a Second Front or until Hitler had demobilized and/or redeployed his forces from the Eastern front (as the historical record indicates he planned to) as well as to buy time for the Red Army to rebuild its forces before reinitiating hostilities. At the very least, Hitler’s acceptance of one of Stalin’s peace offers might have served to substantially delay the defeat of Nazi Germany or else potentially enable the Western Allies to occupy all of Germany before the Soviets did, preventing it from being divided into West and East Germany as in actual history.
The reason that Hitler failed to avail himself of this opportunity to end the war with the Soviet Union on favorable terms to Germany is that he deluded himself into believing the German Army could successfully conquer Soviet territories far beyond the German gains of World War One instead of accepting more realistic and achievable gains and objectives. Even in June 1943 when Hitler had given up any plans for further offensives, had ordered the construction of a defensive line in the east and sent his foreign minister to meet with his Soviet counterpart to try to negotiate a peace agreement with the Soviets, he still refused the Soviet peace offer. In retrospect, the wisest thing Germany could have done would have been to complete their encirclements of Soviet forces and/or capture Moscow first and then negotiate a Second Treaty of Brest-Litovsk with Stalin beginning in early October 1941 after they succeeded in capturing or destroying the vast majority or the Red Army’s tanks and combat aircraft. Then the Germans could have constructed a fortified defense line to protect their hard-won gains.
The next and final installment of this series will focus on the reasons why Adolf Hitler himself was the biggest reason that Germany lost World War Two and how taking him out of the equation might have helped secure a German victory.
David T. Pyne, Esq. is a former U.S. Army combat arms and H.Q. staff officer with an MA in National Security Studies from Georgetown University. He currently serves as a Vice President of the Association of the United States Army’s Utah Chapter and as Utah Director of the EMP Caucus on National and Homeland Security. He can be reached at [email protected].