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A. Roland

The Russian Phase of the Pacific War

(4 April 1942)

From The Militant, Vol. 6 No. 14, 4 April 1942, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Japanese Strategy in the Pacific

Military strategy at its best pursues long-term aims and wide objectives. The immediate tactics in a campaign are. most useful when they fit into and further the main aims of the high command. Japanese success in the drive southwards has focussed most attention on the southwest Pacific. The American navy is busily engaged in protecting the far-flung island bases leading to Australia. It is following a plan that envisages the building-up of large forces on the Australian mainland, later to be used for an offensive against the Japanese from that far-off corner of the world. Once such plans are set in motion, they require prolonged effort and the maintenance of fairly strict schedules for keeping open the routes and for supplying the growing armies.

The Japanese could have wished nothing better than this. It should be noted that American strategy has been a forced strategy, not based, so to speak, on its own volition, but on that of the enemy. The Japanese pursue a vast plan, a plan that was worked out in its essentials years ago in the Tanaka memorial to the Japanese Emperor. The exact steps as first outlined in the Tanaka document had to be modified somewhat in the light of later developments. One of the first campaigns outlined by this general, was to be directed against the Soviet Union in order to enable Japanese imperialism to seize the Maritime Provinces of Siberia and as much more of the Soviet Far East as could be swallowed up. The few brushes between Japanese troops and the Red Army, intended as feelers to test the strength and fighting qualities of that army, convinced the Japanese militarists that they had a tougher nut to crack than they had bargained for. They were forced to pursue a waiting game, waiting for the inevitable war in Europe which would weaken the opponent. Meantime the Japanese went to the next imperialist order of business, expansion southwards.

Japanese Await Best Moment

But the Japanese merely postponed the part of their agenda dealing with the Russian question. They will seize on what they consider the best moment to launch their long-planned all-out attack against the Soviet Union. And that is why the Japanese must be greatly pleased by the present alignment of forces in the Pacific. If the United States can be deeply involved away off ‘at the antipodes, in an effort from which it cannot easily extricate itself if it desires later to do so, then the Japanese will have succeeded in keeping their two major opponents separated the whole width of the earth. It can then fight a defensive struggle against the United States in the south, holding on to what it has already grabbed, and turn its major attention to Vladivostok and Siberia. The opportunity for such a blow will hardly present itself in quite the same way again, and the Japanese have been clever enough to miss no opportunity.

There are certainly signs that the Japanese may launch an overwhelming attack in the direction of Siberia to be timed with Hitler’s drive against the Soviet Union this spring. The main Japanese fleet has hardly been involved in the Pacific war thus far. It is held close to its bases at home. This is not merely for purposes of defense, but it fits also into the anti-Soviet strategy. It cuts off, too, the possibility for Vladivostok to secure aid from the United States. The armies in Manchuria, built up over a period of years precisely for the move to the north, have not been weakened by many withdrawals for the southward expansion. Some seasoned troops were withdrawn from China, but if anything the Manchurian garrisons have been strengthened by new forces. The Chinese, who have the best means for getting information, report the presence in Manchuria of thirty-three divisions, or well over half a million men,

Then there is the air force. The United Nations now claim air superiority in the fight to the south. The Japanese do not seem to be pressing forward towards Australia with anything like the strength of their attacks on Malaya and the Dutch East Indies. Evidently the air strength is being held in reserve for the task that is more important immediately. Here again the Chinese report insistently that the Japanese air force is being concentrated up north, and there is no reason to doubt their word at all.

Dangerous Period for the USSR

The recent attacks in China, particularly in Shansi and Suiyuan, are very much like similar attacks made just before the Nipponese made their move southwards. These attacks were then intended to destroy Chinese concentrations and bases of resistance, so that it would take a long time for the Chinese to rebuild and regroup their forces. The Japanese then proceeded to withdraw a large section of their army from China. The present scale of attacks have a similar purpose, to weaken the Chinese sufficiently, destroying as much of their material as possible, in order to withdraw Japanese troops for another campaign.

Most significantly of all, the press reports an article on the possibility of the co-ordinated attack by Germany and Japan, in the Goering newspaper, the Essen National Zeitung. The paper quotes the Mikado’s premier as saying: “The Red shadow of the Soviet Union looms threateningly over our frontier. It must be forced back.” The similarity of the change in ambassador to the USSR with the sending of Kurusu to the United States before the attack on Pearl Harbor has been widely commented on in the world press – and with justice.

The Soviet Union will thus be faced with the most trying and dangerous period of the war. The attack on two fronts which threatened for so long and was so much dreaded, is becoming rapidly inevitable. No doubt Goering mentions it in his paper to encourage the German soldiers with the idea that now not only their own might will be pitted against the Soviet Union but also that of the Japanese who have shown such phenomenal success in the Pacific.

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