What would have been the consequences of a Soviet conquest of Poland in 1920?

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Re: What would have been the consequences of a Soviet conquest of Poland in 1920?

Post by Futurist » 29 Apr 2020 23:43

To elaborate on my point here, I think that Germany would prefer to border the Soviet Union if it means restoring its 1914 borders in the East as opposed to having an independent Poland be re-formed if this means losing territories such as Danzig, the Polish Corridor, and Upper Silesia. (Posen was probably perceived as being more Polish and thus somewhat less important, though Germany would obviously also want Posen for security reasons in the event that it were to directly border the Soviet Union as opposed to border a free and independent Poland.)

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Re: What would have been the consequences of a Soviet conquest of Poland in 1920?

Post by gebhk » 08 May 2020 10:49

Futurist, with respect, I think you are basing at least some of your predictions on the faulty assumption that the 'Freikorps' were a state army and capable of fighting a conventional war. They were nothing of the sort. They were militias with dubious allegiances - there were communist freikorps as well as proto-Nazi ones with every political shade in-between. Which side they would fight on would have been anybody's guess in many cases. Almost in their entirety they lacked the organisation, heavy equipment, logistics and discipline to fight a modern campaign.

German's only real armed land forces was the tiny Reichswehr, of 100K men by 1920, deliberately stripped of its most important assets such as a general staff and heavy artillery and prohibited from acquiring the most modern equipment such as armoured vehicles and aircraft. backed up by police with rifles and machineguns. I have little doubt that left to her own devices, Germany would have been overrun by the Soviet flood in a matter of months if not weeks. Of course I don't see the French and British allowing this to happen, if for no their reason that the Soviet Union given access to German industrial capacity could become very powerful very quickly. I doubt that the Americans would have looked on with equanimity on such an outcome either - plus there would have been an enormous commercial opportunity to supply the Allies with domestic and military exports.

In all likelihood, the Red Army would have been thrown back. The question is how far?

I do not see the Allies satisfying themselves with just pushing the Soviets out of Germany. That would just leave the problem on the border for a later date - but we have enough historical examples of precisely that being done, to not discard it as an option. In which case Poland becomes the Polish SSR and gets the Ukrainian treatment. Germany would, in this scenario, probably get much of its former territories back (after all we don't want the Soviets to have Silesia) but may lose East Prussia.

Or there is the half-way house where peace is made with the USSR with the Curzon line agreed as the eastern boundary of Poland, with the various parts probably being absorbed by the Ukrainian SSR and Belarusian SSR with all that meant for the unfortunate inhabitants. How much Poland got in the west would have depended on who got their way: the French, the British or the Americans (and I have little or no idea what Warren G Harding's views were on the matter, if the proceedings were to extend beyond March 1921, which they almost certainly would have).

Finally the Soviet Union is crushed/collapses entirely and the Allies carve up Europe, with not only Poland, Finland, Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia but also Russia, Ukraine and Belarus becoming independent states. Who got what, again would have been a lottery with the outcome depending on what the British, French and Americans had for breakfast and the border dispute squabbles would have continued for decades - or at least until the next war. What Germany would have wanted would have been of not much more concern than what Poland, Ukraine or any of the other 'little countries' did.

Alternatively the Martians might have landed and the World been demolished to make way for the new supergalactic highway to Centauri Prime. Just sayin.....

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Re: What would have been the consequences of a Soviet conquest of Poland in 1920?

Post by Futurist » 21 Jun 2020 07:52

gebhk wrote:
08 May 2020 10:49
Futurist, with respect, I think you are basing at least some of your predictions on the faulty assumption that the 'Freikorps' were a state army and capable of fighting a conventional war. They were nothing of the sort. They were militias with dubious allegiances - there were communist freikorps as well as proto-Nazi ones with every political shade in-between. Which side they would fight on would have been anybody's guess in many cases. Almost in their entirety they lacked the organisation, heavy equipment, logistics and discipline to fight a modern campaign.
I thought that most of the Freikorps were right-wing ones (albeit pro-Weimar Republic since they viewed it as the lesser evil in comparison to Communism). Am I wrong about this?

Also, I'm well-aware that the Freikorps were a paramilitary force rather than an official army (which Germany didn't have much of after 1919 and before the 1930s). However, even paramilitary forces can occasionally fight pretty well or at least relatively well. For instance, take a look at the performance of Iraqi Shiite militias/paramilitaries in Iraq's recent war against ISIS. I believe that these militias played an important role in the liberation of some Iraqi cities from ISIS rule, such as Tikrit. One could view the ISIS Caliphate that these militias were fighting as a proto-state--albeit as one that was extremely brutal (like Bolshevik Russia, for that matter!) and one without any international recognition.

I suppose that an interesting question would be how the Iraqi Shiite militias/paramilitaries would have fared against ISIS in a one-to-one fight without the Iraqi military actually helping these militias, though. AFAIK, these militias might have been rather important--perhaps even crucial--in preventing Baghdad from falling to ISIS in the summer of 2014 considering that the Iraqi military was a total wreck back then (having just lost Mosul and several other large Sunni Arab Iraqi cities to ISIS after shamefully and ingloriously retreating in spite of their superior numbers and equipment).
German's only real armed land forces was the tiny Reichswehr, of 100K men by 1920, deliberately stripped of its most important assets such as a general staff and heavy artillery and prohibited from acquiring the most modern equipment such as armoured vehicles and aircraft. backed up by police with rifles and machineguns. I have little doubt that left to her own devices, Germany would have been overrun by the Soviet flood in a matter of months if not weeks. Of course I don't see the French and British allowing this to happen, if for no their reason that the Soviet Union given access to German industrial capacity could become very powerful very quickly. I doubt that the Americans would have looked on with equanimity on such an outcome either - plus there would have been an enormous commercial opportunity to supply the Allies with domestic and military exports.
Oh, absolutely! I don't know just how well the Freikorps would have been able to fight against the Soviet Union (though I wouldn't necessarily be as dismissive of them as you are), but Yeah, if the Freikorps can't hold Germany by themselves, the Anglo-French--and even very possibly the Americans--might have to militarily intervene in Germany in order to prevent Germany from falling to the Reds. This could subsequently result in the creation of a proto-NATO alliance almost 30 years earlier than in real life if this results in the US refraining from returning to semi-isolationism in the post-WWI era.
In all likelihood, the Red Army would have been thrown back. The question is how far?

I do not see the Allies satisfying themselves with just pushing the Soviets out of Germany. That would just leave the problem on the border for a later date - but we have enough historical examples of precisely that being done, to not discard it as an option. In which case Poland becomes the Polish SSR and gets the Ukrainian treatment.
I think that it's an open question as to whether Poland becomes the Polish SSR or becomes a separate nominally independent Polish Communist state (similar to after 1945 in real life). In practice, there won't be much of a real difference, but nominal independence could at least be important to nationalistic-minded Polish workers.

If Poland becomes a nominally independent Communist state, of course, then Polish Jews--unlike Ukrainian and Belarusian Jews--are probably not going to be able to move to the Soviet interior--at least not in huge numbers.
Germany would, in this scenario, probably get much of its former territories back (after all we don't want the Soviets to have Silesia) but may lose East Prussia.
I think that there would be large German pressure on the Western Allies to also liberate East Prussia from the Soviets, but if they are going to do that, might it not be prudent to also liberate Poland from the Soviets? After all, East Prussia bordering a Soviet Poland would be a huge German salient deep inside Soviet territory!
Or there is the half-way house where peace is made with the USSR with the Curzon line agreed as the eastern boundary of Poland, with the various parts probably being absorbed by the Ukrainian SSR and Belarusian SSR with all that meant for the unfortunate inhabitants.
Yeah, the Western Allies might prefer to call it a day after liberating the ethnically Polish territories from the Soviet Union--along with the ethnically German territories along the way, of course.
How much Poland got in the west would have depended on who got their way: the French, the British or the Americans (and I have little or no idea what Warren G Harding's views were on the matter, if the proceedings were to extend beyond March 1921, which they almost certainly would have).
So, the post-WWI settlement in the German-Polish borderlands might actually look extremely similar to what it looked like in real life. Or--might the Western Allies decide that a strong Germany is a necessity to combat the Soviet Union and thus decide to allow Germany to reclaim Danzig and the Polish Corridor?
Finally the Soviet Union is crushed/collapses entirely and the Allies carve up Europe, with not only Poland, Finland, Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia but also Russia, Ukraine and Belarus becoming independent states. Who got what, again would have been a lottery with the outcome depending on what the British, French and Americans had for breakfast and the border dispute squabbles would have continued for decades - or at least until the next war. What Germany would have wanted would have been of not much more concern than what Poland, Ukraine or any of the other 'little countries' did.
Frankly, I suspect that an independent non-Bolshevik Russian government would have laid claims on Ukraine, Belarus, and possibly the Baltic countries as well.
Alternatively the Martians might have landed and the World been demolished to make way for the new supergalactic highway to Centauri Prime. Just sayin.....
That's the spirit! :D

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Re: What would have been the consequences of a Soviet conquest of Poland in 1920?

Post by gebhk » 21 Jun 2020 11:50

I thought that most of the Freikorps were right-wing ones (albeit pro-Weimar Republic since they viewed it as the lesser evil in comparison to Communism). Am I wrong about this?
It's probably best to avoid meaningless lables like 'right wing'. One can have endless discussions, as lengthy as they are pointless, to which artificial pigeon hole a particular movement should belong. The reality of each movement is different, its aims and objectives its own and, in any event, nearly always change over time. Likewise, the whole Freikorps situation in Germany was an ever shifting kaleidoscope of politics of every colour and shade, personal ambition and aspirations. The kaleidoscope shifted on a weekly basis as organisations came into being and then disappeared, merged, split and re-united. Broadly I would agree with what I presume you mean by the majority being 'right wing', though 'nationalist' may be a more useful lable here.
even paramilitary forces can occasionally fight pretty well or at least relatively well.
Indeed they can, provided they are fighting people with the same level of discipline and artillery support - as your example shows nicely. However, they stand little chance of success against a 'proper' army with big guns without some powerful levelling factors. Given the less than stellar performance against Polish militias in Silesia, I find little to suggest the German Freikorps were in any way exceptional.
I think that it's an open question as to whether Poland becomes the Polish SSR or becomes a separate nominally independent Polish Communist state (similar to after 1945 in real life). In practice, there won't be much of a real difference, but nominal independence could at least be important to nationalistic-minded Polish workers.
Don't see it. I find no appetite in the Soviet Union for setting up vassal states pre-1945. Direct integration into the workers paradise was the norm.
So, the post-WWI settlement in the German-Polish borderlands might actually look extremely similar to what it looked like in real life. Or--might the Western Allies decide that a strong Germany is a necessity to combat the Soviet Union and thus decide to allow Germany to reclaim Danzig and the Polish Corridor?

On balance, I think the latter is unlikely. If the decision-making process were to remain the same, even if Lloyd-George would have gained influence as a result of the exit and then death of Woodrow Wilson, just as when he was in a minority of one on the Danzig question in 1919/20, because there had to be unanimous agreement. There would have been enough intransigence on the other side of the argument in a fictitious post WW1.2 debate, to ensure a similar compromise on Danzig that satisfied no-one.
Frankly, I suspect that an independent non-Bolshevik Russian government would have laid claims on Ukraine, Belarus, and possibly the Baltic countries as well.

They could claim what they liked, in this scenario they would not have had any say in the matter. Naturally, they would dream their dreams and quite likely, over time, would begin to start working towards reclaiming what they considered to be theirs. After all, to White Russians. Poland, Finland and all the other countries you mention, were but provinces of Holy Mother Russia. Hence my comment about endless border squabbles.

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Re: What would have been the consequences of a Soviet conquest of Poland in 1920?

Post by Futurist » 21 Jun 2020 19:06

gebhk wrote:
21 Jun 2020 11:50
I thought that most of the Freikorps were right-wing ones (albeit pro-Weimar Republic since they viewed it as the lesser evil in comparison to Communism). Am I wrong about this?
It's probably best to avoid meaningless lables like 'right wing'. One can have endless discussions, as lengthy as they are pointless, to which artificial pigeon hole a particular movement should belong. The reality of each movement is different, its aims and objectives its own and, in any event, nearly always change over time. Likewise, the whole Freikorps situation in Germany was an ever shifting kaleidoscope of politics of every colour and shade, personal ambition and aspirations. The kaleidoscope shifted on a weekly basis as organisations came into being and then disappeared, merged, split and re-united. Broadly I would agree with what I presume you mean by the majority being 'right wing', though 'nationalist' may be a more useful lable here.
What's the difference between right-wing and nationalist?
even paramilitary forces can occasionally fight pretty well or at least relatively well.
Indeed they can, provided they are fighting people with the same level of discipline and artillery support - as your example shows nicely. However, they stand little chance of success against a 'proper' army with big guns without some powerful levelling factors. Given the less than stellar performance against Polish militias in Silesia, I find little to suggest the German Freikorps were in any way exceptional.
Makes sense.
I think that it's an open question as to whether Poland becomes the Polish SSR or becomes a separate nominally independent Polish Communist state (similar to after 1945 in real life). In practice, there won't be much of a real difference, but nominal independence could at least be important to nationalistic-minded Polish workers.
Don't see it. I find no appetite in the Soviet Union for setting up vassal states pre-1945. Direct integration into the workers paradise was the norm.
Mongolia and Tuva.
So, the post-WWI settlement in the German-Polish borderlands might actually look extremely similar to what it looked like in real life. Or--might the Western Allies decide that a strong Germany is a necessity to combat the Soviet Union and thus decide to allow Germany to reclaim Danzig and the Polish Corridor?

On balance, I think the latter is unlikely. If the decision-making process were to remain the same, even if Lloyd-George would have gained influence as a result of the exit and then death of Woodrow Wilson, just as when he was in a minority of one on the Danzig question in 1919/20, because there had to be unanimous agreement. There would have been enough intransigence on the other side of the argument in a fictitious post WW1.2 debate, to ensure a similar compromise on Danzig that satisfied no-one.
Woodrow Wilson didn't die until 1924, when he was already out of office. Other than that, though, what you wrote here does sound reasonable.
Frankly, I suspect that an independent non-Bolshevik Russian government would have laid claims on Ukraine, Belarus, and possibly the Baltic countries as well.

They could claim what they liked, in this scenario they would not have had any say in the matter. Naturally, they would dream their dreams and quite likely, over time, would begin to start working towards reclaiming what they considered to be theirs. After all, to White Russians. Poland, Finland and all the other countries you mention, were but provinces of Holy Mother Russia. Hence my comment about endless border squabbles.
Agreed. I'm just wondering if the Western Allies would have actually wanted to weaken Russia too much since this would make Russia a less effective counterweight to Germany.

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Re: What would have been the consequences of a Soviet conquest of Poland in 1920?

Post by Futurist » 14 Sep 2020 00:49

@gebhk: Do you think that Hitler still eventually comes to power in Germany in a scenario where the Soviet Union conquers Poland back in 1920?

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Re: What would have been the consequences of a Soviet conquest of Poland in 1920?

Post by gebhk » 14 Sep 2020 14:14

Too many moving parts to that one to be able to speculate usefully, in my opinion. One whatif too many for my blood, I'm afraid.

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Re: What would have been the consequences of a Soviet conquest of Poland in 1920?

Post by Futurist » 16 Sep 2020 21:53

Fair enough, I suppose.

Do you see the German monarchy getting restored in such a scenario? Hopefully I didn't already ask you this question.

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Re: What would have been the consequences of a Soviet conquest of Poland in 1920?

Post by gebhk » 17 Sep 2020 11:25

Clearly there was not much appetite for it following WW1. I don't see why that would have changed in the scenario we are looking at here. Unless perhaps the rose-tinted spectacles brigade got to decide (under the banner of 'this sort of thing didn't happen when the Kaiser was in charge!')

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Re: What would have been the consequences of a Soviet conquest of Poland in 1920?

Post by Futurist » 17 Sep 2020 21:13

Makes sense.

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Re: What would have been the consequences of a Soviet conquest of Poland in 1920?

Post by wm » 17 Sep 2020 21:31

Actually it's not clear the Bolsheviks wanted to conquer Poland, in the military sense.
In the peace talks with Poland (in Mińsk) shortly before the decisive battle of Warsaw, they demanded the Curzon line (and return of so-called German territories to Germany), plus disarmament of Poland, but Poland eventually was going to survive.

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Re: What would have been the consequences of a Soviet conquest of Poland in 1920?

Post by Thumpalumpacus » 17 Sep 2020 22:47

Futurist wrote:
14 Sep 2020 00:49
@gebhk: Do you think that Hitler still eventually comes to power in Germany in a scenario where the Soviet Union conquers Poland back in 1920?
Question wasn't asked of me, but I would bet that this could be one more grievance AH could use to raise his profile and followership. He was pretty clever about that kind of stuff.

Thank the heavens he didn't have Twitter!

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Re: What would have been the consequences of a Soviet conquest of Poland in 1920?

Post by Futurist » 17 Sep 2020 23:28

wm wrote:
17 Sep 2020 21:31
Actually it's not clear the Bolsheviks wanted to conquer Poland, in the military sense.
In the peace talks with Poland (in Mińsk) shortly before the decisive battle of Warsaw, they demanded the Curzon line (and return of so-called German territories to Germany), plus disarmament of Poland, but Poland eventually was going to survive.
Then why attack Warsaw as opposed to trying to make defensive positions along the Curzon Line? Also, why did the Bolsheviks care about Germany's eastern borders? Simply to weaken Poland further?

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Re: What would have been the consequences of a Soviet conquest of Poland in 1920?

Post by wm » 18 Sep 2020 08:36

It's a grave strategic mistake to pause war for any reason, and offer the enemy respite.
You should kick the enemy in the head as fast as you can till he surrenders.

The Soviets rejected the Treaty of Versailles, so they believed the territories were legally German.

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Re: What would have been the consequences of a Soviet conquest of Poland in 1920?

Post by Futurist » 19 Sep 2020 06:25

What happened to the Soviet Union's support of national self-determination? Or did that not apply to German imperialists ruling over Polish territories?

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