Soviet expansion continued during 1940. On June 15 and 16 the Soviet Union demanded free passage of troops and the formation of pro-Soviet governments in Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia. Without waiting for acceptance of these demands, the Red Army moved in. Puppet governments were established and all resistance was extinguished. The USSR Supreme Soviet in early August annexed the three Baltic States as union republics.
The Soviet Union simultaneously extended its reach to the Balkans. It demanded that Romania surrender its regions of Bessarabia, which had merged with Romania in December 1918, and northern Bukovina. Romania complied and Soviet troops entered the regions on June 28. The central portion of Bessarabia was joined with a section of southeastern Ukraine to form the union republic of Moldavia, while the other territory acquisitions were merged into Ukraine. Germany concurred, but considered the whole affair an irritant and installed a client government in Bucharest. The Soviet Union, growing more wary of German intentions, renewed diplomatic contacts with Japan. On April 13, 1941, the two countries signed a five-year neutrality pact.
Hitler began planning an attack on the Soviet Union in mid-1940 and signed the directive for Operation Barbarossa in December. Stalin, refusing to believe the worst, disregarded copious messages from his intelligence services about an impending aggression. When Germany finally invaded, on June 22, 1941, it came as a tactical surprise and caught the Red Army, already weakened by Stalin’s purges, at a terrible disadvantage. The German assault changed the military and political alignment of the entire war, which now assumed global proportions.
Italy, Romania, Hungary, Finland, and other Axis countries declared war on the USSR. The United States extended lend-lease aid to the Soviet Union; it ultimately provided some $12 billion worth of equipment and food. After the United States entered World War II in December 1941, it, Britain, and the Soviet Union became military allies.
In January 1942, four months after it accepted the principles of the Atlantic Charter, the USSR and 25 other Allied countries signed the Declaration by United Nations, formally subscribing to the program and purposes of the Atlantic Charter and pledging their cooperation in the defeat of the Axis powers. In May 1943 the USSR dissolved CominternThe USSR’s war with Germany and its allies—the Great Patriotic War, as Stalin’s government called it—was a savage fight to the finish. The Axis assault was launched from the Arctic Ocean to the Black Sea, striking for Leningrad, Moscow, and Ukraine. As the Red Army reeled back in disarray, Stalin began frantic efforts to remove industrial plants and workers from the path of the invaders and relocated them in and behind the Ural Mountains.
Much of what could not be removed was intentionally laid waste. For a time the German blitzkrieg (offensive) appeared successful, as millions of Soviet soldiers were encircled and annihilated or captured. In the Baltic States, Belorussia, and Ukraine, the invaders met a friendly reception from those who had suffered most under the Stalinist yoke. German atrocities, however, stiffened Soviet resistance. The advance on Leningrad was checked in September 1941, although the city was besieged until January 1944; casualties there exceeded 1.25 million. The drive on Moscow was stopped in December 1941 with German tanks about 30 km (20 mi) from the city center. "USSR" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia.
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