Japanese Foreign Minister Matsuoka signing the pact.

Soviet Intervention in the War with Japan

The role of the Soviet Union in the struggle against Japan has received considerable attention from politicians and publicists as well as scholars, and the subject continues to hold great interest for a wider audience than is ordinarily available to the academician. The reasons for this interest are not hard to find. They stern, in part, from the controversies aroused by the Yalta Agreement and the decision to use the atomic bomb in 1945. But more fundamentally they reflect a concern over the mounting tensions of the cold war and an effort to find in our wartime relations with the Soviet Union some explanation for the failure to achieve a just settlement and a lasting peace after the greatest war in history.

This emphasis on the controversial political aspects of Soviet involvement in the Far Eastern war has blurred somewhat the military and strategic necessities. At the time, whether rightly or not, these were the most important considerations in the minds of the Allied leaders, and perhaps in the long run they may prove to have been the most decisive. At any rate, it is these, the military factors that governed American relations with the Soviet Union, that I wish to examine here.

Russian interest in the Far East long antedated World War II, but in the period following the Revolution the Bolsheviks had been forced to adopt a passive policy in the region while the Japanese took over Manchuria and much of North China and probed Russian defenses along the Siberian border. After 1939, the Japanese shifted their interests to the south, where the crumbling empires of the British, French and Dutch offered tempting opportunities.

The Russo-Japanese Neutrality Pact of April 1941 proved a boon for both countries. It encouraged Japan in its plans for southern expansion by assuring Soviet neutrality in case of war with the United States, and it gave Russia similar assurances in the event of a German attack. As George Kennan remarked, the two countries "-one being confronted with

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