RUSSIA'S QUARREL WITH JAPAN
She needs an ice-free port, security for Siberia, and she has an old score to settle— so says this correspondent
Maclean's presses were rolling with this prediction that Russia would fight Japan, and why, when the Kremlin's declaration of war underlined the author’s prophetic insight.—The Editors.
ASI travelled through Siberia in 1935,I asked one of the Russians why they were so feverishly industrializing and arming. “We have to be ready for an attack from the Japs,” was the answer. “They invaded our country in 1918-19 and would do it again if they dared.”
That shows how Russians felt 10 years ago. Today, their hatred for the Japanese is second only to that against the Nazis, and it grows in intensity the nearer one gets to China and the Pacific.
All the time while in the Soviet Union I suspected that Russia would sooner or later fight Japan. By the time I left I was sure of it. What are the reasons that made me certain of this war?
First, all the evidence I saw was convincing. At the November anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution, Stalin gave his famous denunciation of Japan as an aggressor nation. Before that the Soviet censors had
removed from my dispatches any unfavorable references to Japan. Suddenly they leaned over backward letting me send out cables to the world that “Japan had been branded as an aggressor nation by the head of the Soviet State.” To understand the significance of this, we must remember that Stalin stated in the same speech that the new world organization must curb aggressor nations by force.
Following this clear statement by Stalin, antiJapanese lectures and articles attacking Japan became frequent in Moscow. A novel, “Port Arthur,” recounting the sneak attack made by the Japanese in the war of 1904, has become oneof the best sellers in theSoviet Union. In this book Port Arthur is called a “Russian port.” Another, a children’s book, “Timur and His Gang,” about the undeclared war with Japan in 1938, is circulating widely. In Russia such phenomena rarely occur accidentally.
Stalin, in conversations with Allied diplomats, has always expressed his complete satisfaction in their plans for the destruction pf Japan as a military power.
It is well known that Russia has double-tracked the trans-Siberian railway. An additional transSiberian road runs farther to the north and then there is the railway line from Turkestan to Siberia. Altogether Russia’s communication system is adequately prepared for the coming war.
While in the Soviet Union 1 travelled widely. Toward the end of 1943 Russian officers, for the first time, began to make toasts at our banquets to the success of the Chinese Army against Japan. Some would express to me privately their conviction that, following the war with Hitler, they would become involved in the conflict with Japan. They all felt certain that Japan would have attacked Russia had Hitler been successful in taking Moscow and Stalingrad. In Siberia the officers talk almost openly about the coming war with Japan.
The world now knows that the neutrality pact with Japan which Russia signed in 1941 was terminated in April by the Soviet Union. This treaty has a one-yearnotice clause so that theoretically Russia cannot strike
until April, 1946. From my inside conversations with Russians, however, I believe that Russia will strike this year. The Soviet Union feels that Japan has already broken the treaty in supporting Hitler in his attack against Russia.
I found a further indication that war against Japan is certain in my conversations with Russian delegates to the San Francisco Conference. While each one would only express his private opinion, those I talked with were unanimous that war with Japan was inevitable.
Feverish activity today is characteristic everywhere in the Far East. New air bases are being built, railroad lines increased, and industry is increasing by leaps and bounds. Supplies for the Red Army on the border of Manchuria are constantly piling up. Much of the United States supplies sent across the Pacific has been stored in Siberia and not sent to the West. Today the whole Baikal region is a buzzing beehive of industrial activity. In fact the maritime province bounded by Vladivostok, Komsomolsk, Khabarovsk and Nikolayevsk has become an industrial centre. Komsomolsk is now one of the greatest industrial cities in Siberia. Anti-aircraft guns guard these cities as effectively as they do Moscow, and the Moscow defenses equalled any in the world. Furthermore, the Russians have developed mammoth underground bases in the Far East. Here vast supplies of munitions and gasoline can be stored.
Japan Is an Old Enemy
BESIDES all this there are historic reasons for an inevitable conflict. Japan has always been the traditional enemy of Russia. In the Russo-Japanese war of 1904 Russia received a smashing defeat which she has never forgotten. Today Russia glorifies the heroes of this war in novel, history book and lecture. Russia has not forgotten either that in the early days of the Revolution, when the Soviet State was struggling for its very existence, she was ruthlessly attacked by Japan. Vast quantities of her resources were stolen by the Japs at that time.
Japan seized Manchuria in 1932. Ever since, Russia has been waiting for a showdown. Almost up to the very outbreak of the war with Germany there were frequent clashes on the Soviet border with Japanese forces. In 1938 the Japanese Kwantung Army tried to invade Mongolia without a declaration of war. The Red Army gave them a beating which they have never forgotten. The Japanese were sent reeling back with the loss of over one third of their invading forces. Recently 1 asked Continued on page 23
Why Russia Will Fight Japan
Continued from page 12
one of the Russian officers who took part in the operation how many Japs he thought had been killed at that time. He said it was at least 60,000. It is certain that Japan signed the neutrality pact with Russia in 1941 just because she was convinced of the power and effectiveness of the Red Army.
Assuming that Russia will fight Japan, what are her objectives? She wants to get back the Kurile Islands, all of Sakhalin Island, and have an icefree port on the Pacific Ocean. Russia considers that all these possessions should be hers as a matter of historic right.
Glance at the map, notice the Kurile Islands. At the beginning of the 18th century Russians began to push their way into these islands in search of fur-bearing animals, very abundant in these lands. In 1875 the Russians agreed to withdraw from the islands in favor of the Japanese but they have never ceased to cast longing eyes in their direction.
Japan also controls the southern half of Sakhalin Island which covers nearly 14,000 square miles. The area has gold, many other minerals and oil. Japan is now getting over 200,000 barrels of oil annually from these wells. Russia owns the northern half of the island but would like to control the entire area. If Russia entered the war against Japan she would achieve this objective.
Above all, Russia would like to have a good port which is free of ice the year around. Port Arthur fills the bill. It was built with Russian labor and with Russian gold. It used to belong to her. Russia considers it hers.
The Allies cannot object vigorously to Russia’s ambitions, for in the Cairo agreement it is expressly written, “Japan will also be expelled from all other territories which she has taken by violence and greed.”
When and how will Russia act? The longest possible delay for Russia’s entry into war against Japan would be next April when she would have given a year’s formal notice as required by the Treaty. The shortest possible time would be approximately six months from the time Hitler collapsed. Earlier than this Russia would hardly have had time to transfer her military supplies and personnel to the Far East. Therefore, it would seem likely that Russia will not attack Japan until November or December. Russia would also want a co-ordinated attack on the part of the United States forces landing in China, while she hits the Kwantung Army in Manchuria.
What military strength does Russia now have in the Far East? Her Navy, of course, is extremely small but she does have an excellent submarine fleet capable of doing terrific damage to Japan’s shipments of military supplies and reinforcements. Russia has thousands of airplanes in Siberia. These are not capable of making bomb attacks on the Japanese home islands but are adequate to protect Russian soil from attack. In a war against the Japs in continental Asia they would be used to bomb and strafe the enemy before and during infantry attacks.
The Russian Army in Siberia is reported to consist of 70 divisions of around 20,000 men each. There are about as many trained reserves who could be sent into the fight if necessary. Since the collapse of Germany, an unknown number of additional men have been poured into the Siberian rear.
The Russian Army is in some ways better adapted and trained for condi-
tions in China than are American or Canadian soldiers. They have been trained under actual battle conditions and have been hardened in a country which has temperatures running down to 60 and 70 below zero. A Russian officer told me that the infantry has been accustomed to forced marches of 35 to 40 miles a day carrying full equipment. They are equipped with some of the best artillery in the world and have excellent motorized units as well. Prior to the war, Russia had 12 armored divisions in Siberia and a large number of tanks. Since the Hitler collapse many tanks have been shifted back from the West to the East.
War Next Winter
Marshal Klementiy Voroshilov, one can assume, is now in command of all the Independent Red Banner Armies in Siberia which are getting ready to strike. Under him are other outstanding generals such as Apanasenko, an authority on mobile warfare, and General Stern who commands the First Independent Red Banner Army. Stern’s headquarters are in Vladivostok.
General Stern had battles with the Japanese in 1938 and came out the victor on every occasion. If war begins he would probably smash down through Korea. Since General Stern participated in the Finnish War of 1940 and is completely familiar with the strategy of sending his army and supplies across the ice, he would undoubtedly use similar tactics against Korea. This would mean he could cross the ice into Korea and outflank the Japanese. Thus it is to be expected that Russia will declare war against Japan only during the winter and I would expect that Korea will fall within 90 days after the declaration.
Incidentally the Russians have long been making friends with the Koreans who have been smarting under the Japanese occupation. There are also many Korean Communists who are in constant touch with Moscow. The Russians promise Korea their freedom once the Japanese have been cleaned out. It will not be surprising if the government finally established there is quite friendly to Russia.
What will be the rest of the Russian military program when war with Japan is a fact?
Korea will not be the only object of attack. Russia will sweep the Japanese out of Sakhalin Island. The Second Independent Red Banner Army will advance down through Manchuria. Its objectives will be Harbin, Dairen and Port Arthur.
It is probable that when Russia begins her attack the Chinese Communists will also step up their military operations. It would not be strange if the Red Army and the Chinese Communists would ultimately meet somewhere in China. This raises the problem of whether Russia’s entry into the war would not increase the chances of civil war in China.
Russia thinks not. On the contrary, she believes that she might be able to effect a compromise in the troubled Chinese situation so that all groups in China would work together harmoniously. This is the crux of the recent meeting in Moscow of the Premier of the Chinese Government with Stalin. Indications point to a satisfactory working agreement. Final arrangements await the understanding which has probably been reached at the meeting of the big three at Potsdam.
There are those in the United States who fear that Russia is becoming too powerful. They would be just as well pleased if Russia did not enter the
Japanese war at all. It would be easier in that case to whittle down her demands at the peace table. It is rumored that some of the United States Navy officers share this view. All such sentiments are being kept strictly muzzled in public. The American people as a whole feel that if Russia comes into the war it will shorten the conflict and save American lives.
Still another small minority of the American public feels that the “unconditional surrender” formula in the fight against Japan is unnecessary. They believe that peace with Japan could be had now if something were given Japan to “save her face.” They point to unofficial offers which have been made in which it is claimed Japan is willing to evacuate all territory she has seized by force and retire to her main islands. Since all the Japanese home islands are smaller than the state of California and have no petroleum and little iron, it is claimed that Japan would be powerless if this were done. The opponents of “unconditional surrender” point out that the invasion of the Japanese Islands would have to be done by American soldiers and that the casualties would run up into the hundreds of thousands. They say that the United States would bear the brunt of the attack even if Russia were in the conflict.
There is no indication that either the United States Government or its Armed Command is wavering on the issue of unconditional surrender. Therefore it seems certain that the Japanese war will not be over before Russia has had time to enter the conflict. The Soviet Union, of course, is in hearty accord with the “unconditional surrender” terms.
It must be remembered that Russia has already suffered tremendous losses in the war against Hitler, running up to some 15,000,000 soldiers and civilians killed. The common people are not too eager to become involved in a war on foreign soil. This will not deter Russia from striking at Japan assuming that America and England keep up the present friendly relations.
When you dig down below the surface into the minds of Red Army officers you find they want to settle old scores with Japan. They have a feeling that the defeat of Nazi Germany is only half the battle. They remember the Anti-Comintern Pact which Japan signed with Hitler against Russia and all the verbal barrage that Japanese statesmen used to throw in their direction. They feel that the menace of Hitler was more powerful and dangerous, but that the threat of invasion will never be ended until the Japanese war lords have been utterly defeated. Then, and then only, will Russia feel safe from the menace of Germany on the West and from Japan on the East.
With the collapse of Japan, Russia believes that she will finally have the opportunity to rebuild her shattered cities, to restore her industries, to forge ahead with new five-year plans which will include consumer needs and cultural progress.
Look again at the map. Notice how vulnerable Vladivostok now is. Notice the strategic advantage to Russia of the Kurile Islands, Sakhalin and of Port Arthur. You can see for yourself why the Soviet Union will enter the war against Japan. Then consider that the Japanese Islands will have to withstand the combined military forces of all the rest of the world. Victory for the Allies is certain, the defeat of Japan is only a question of months from the time Russia enters the conflict.