Intelligence and Stalin’s Two Crucial Decisions in the Winter War, 1939—40

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

    Abstract

    In 1939–40, the fierce Winter War was waged between the Soviet Union and Finland. This article analyses Stalin's two main decisions, to attack and to make peace, and the intelligence behind those decisions. Already at the outbreak, it was obvious that the attack was based on a serious misjudgement. The Soviets did not foresee that the action would become a real war, very different from the occupation of eastern Poland in September. It will be shown that this was due more to Stalin's miscalculation of consequences than to any major failure of intelligence collection. As to why Stalin made peace at the very moment when the Red Army finally began winning, and with the Finnish government he had declared non-existent, this seems to be connected with defective assessment of intelligence from London and Paris. Even the Cambridge Five were discarded. Both real and perceived threats of Allied intervention weighed heavily in Stalin's decisions, in particular the southern threat against Baku and the Caucasus. The analysis will contribute to scholarly discussion on Stalin's foreign policy and the role of intelligence in Soviet decision-making. New evidence is mainly provided by intelligence and security documents released by the Central Archives of the Russian Federal Security Service.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalThe International History Review
    Volume35
    Issue number5
    Pages (from-to)1089-1112
    Number of pages24
    ISSN0707-5332
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 2013
    MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

    Fields of Science

    • 5201 Political History

    Cite this

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    abstract = "In 1939–40, the fierce Winter War was waged between the Soviet Union and Finland. This article analyses Stalin's two main decisions, to attack and to make peace, and the intelligence behind those decisions. Already at the outbreak, it was obvious that the attack was based on a serious misjudgement. The Soviets did not foresee that the action would become a real war, very different from the occupation of eastern Poland in September. It will be shown that this was due more to Stalin's miscalculation of consequences than to any major failure of intelligence collection. As to why Stalin made peace at the very moment when the Red Army finally began winning, and with the Finnish government he had declared non-existent, this seems to be connected with defective assessment of intelligence from London and Paris. Even the Cambridge Five were discarded. Both real and perceived threats of Allied intervention weighed heavily in Stalin's decisions, in particular the southern threat against Baku and the Caucasus. The analysis will contribute to scholarly discussion on Stalin's foreign policy and the role of intelligence in Soviet decision-making. New evidence is mainly provided by intelligence and security documents released by the Central Archives of the Russian Federal Security Service.",
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    Intelligence and Stalin’s Two Crucial Decisions in the Winter War, 1939—40. / Rentola, Kimmo Kaleva.

    In: The International History Review, Vol. 35, No. 5, 2013, p. 1089-1112.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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