For twenty years the Soviet Union had been preparing for war, ever demanding of its people a state of vigilance and preparedness which might thwart the long-awaited capitalist intervention. In the name of

socialism and its suggested grandeurs, giant national sacrifices were demanded for a massive military programme. The influence of the military itself, however, had been sharply curtailed. As a potential rival it had been cut down and kept down. Stalin followed a course which indicated his willingness to accept every single condition which would guarantee the survival of his dictatorship, a rule applied to internal and external policy alike. The pact with Germany had removed one great nightmare, that the Soviet Union might find itself embroiled in war with Hitler's state while the Western maritime powers remained neutral. Great advantages fell to Stalin from an arrangement compounded of mutual perfidies. Party circles watched this apparent triumph as 'pupils proud of the virtuosity of their master'.1 But now a disturbing paradox impinged itself upon the scene; the farther west that the Soviet frontiers were pushed, the more did that much desired 'security' appear to diminish. Through a combination of miscalculation and incompetence, military as well as political, the Soviet Union had already lumbered into a dangerous situation with Finland. Hitler's insistence that he desired no further war in the Baltic robbed the Russians of the opportunity to put Finland even more at their calculating mercy. Although the frontier had been advanced in the south-west, the German Army was rapidly investing Rumania. After the display of Soviet disquiet and German evasiveness during Molotov's November visit to Berlin, it was no longer possible to pretend that Soviet and German interests were not rampantly divergent in the Balkans. As late as the autumn of 1940 Stalin might have argued that national, military and Party interests coincided generally in his particular arrangements with Germany. The contrived neutralist position meant that the regime would not be subjected to the strain of a general war. The pact had permitted the Soviet Union to recover the old strategic frontiers enjoyed by Imperial Russia, and these victories - with the exception of Finland - could well be counted almost bloodless ones. German assistance was at hand to carry out the complicated tasks

involved in building up a powerful navy. The armaments industry benefited from the acquisition of German machinery. But gun-turrets for battleships and shell-producing machinery were no compensation for the passivity which was being forced on Stalin's policy. The Soviet press greeted with official joy the conclusion of a further Soviet-German Trade Agreement, signed on lOth January, 1941, and dealing with reciprocal deliveries. Ten days later Molotov informed Schulenburg that' ... it would now be in order to tum to purely political issues again'. Turning to the concentration of German troops 'in great numbers' in Rumania, and their readiness to march into Bulgaria, to occupy that country together with Greece and the Straits (a move which the British would try to forestall), Molotov found it necessary to point out that the appearance of any foreign troops in Bulgaria or at the Straits would be 'a violation of the security interests of the USSR'.2