chapter  7
10 Pages

The Winter War: The First Month

While the League of Nations had been meeting to determine what punishment was most appropriate to inflict upon the Soviet Union for its aggressive act, Finland was having to contend with less academic problems. It was engaged in a state of war, no less real for its being undeclared, and its armed forces were fighting for the nation’s survival. The British authorities had to decide what was the most meaningful assistance which they could afford to send to Finland. The expulsion of the Soviet Union from the League of Nations had done nothing to improve Finland’s military position, nor to persuade the Red Army’s commanders to call off their offensive and head back to base. In considering the situation, British officials had to deliberate on what aid they could supply, and how they could avoid permanently antagonising the Soviet Government. They also had to ponder the implications of the Finno-Soviet Winter War for the Allied conflict with Germany. The possibility that Finland’s predicament might provide an opportunity that could be turned to Allied advantage could not be overlooked. At the same time, it was not generally believed that the Finns had much of a chance against the Soviet forces. This chapter considers the British response to Finnish requests for assistance, from the Soviet invasion until the close of 1939, and the part that the Northern Department played in formulating policy.