The clash of great power interests in China, and the Far East in general, caused Tokyo to consider war with the Soviet Union. Of course, that wasn’t a step to be taken lightly, for the USSR was a land power that stretched from the Pacific to Eastern Europe. The Red Army, while a largely unquantified factor to the Japanese during the 1930s, was nonetheless known to be able to deploy large numbers of tanks, artillery and aircraft. With much of the Imperial Japanese Army (IJA) increasingly tied down in China, there was the question of concentrating sufficient force in Manchukuo in the event of war with the USSR.
As it was, experience from prior wars, against both czarist and Bolshevik Russians, had demonstrated the IJA could beat them. While the Red Army was large, its performance during the Russian Civil War, whenever it had engaged against regulars, didn’t impress the Japanese. The Japanese also believed the communist system had, since the end of the Russian Civil War, only worked to further debilitate Soviet military capabilities—an assumption that seemed to be further borne out by Stalin’s purges
The faction within the Japanese military who advocated war against the Soviets became known as the “Strike North” group. Their objective was to secure Japan’s mastery of East Asia as well as removing the threat of communism. That view was in turn linked to a more general belief in Japan’s destiny as an imperial power that would bring the rule of their divine emperor to the other peoples of the world.
TYRONE “Ty” BOMBA
The editor of World at War magazine and Senior Editor for Strategy & Tactics Press. He has more than 30 years professional experience in historical research, writing and editing. From 1976 to 1980, and again from 1984 to 1988, he served in US military intelligence. He has written over 100 published articles and reports on military history and over 100 published wargames, most on World War II topics.