What if Japan and Russia Blundered into War in 1939?


Throughout the run-up to World War Two, the Japanese and Russians fought a series of border battles in Manchuria, culminating in the Battle of Khalkhyn Gol (Battle of Nomonhan).  During the final battle, the Japanese – already outmatched by their Russian enemies – suffered a string of unlucky events, such as bad weather than grounded their aerial reconnaissance forces just before the final battle.  The Russians effectively destroyed much of the Japanese army in the region and largely discouraged the Japanese from picking another fight with them.  The Far East remained quiet until 1945, when the Russians invaded and destroyed the Japanese positions.  What if things had been different?


Unknown: A butterfly flaps its wings in a slightly different pattern, altering the air currents in a tiny manner.


August 1939: As the Russians, under the command of Georgy Zhukov, prepared for their decisive advance, Japanese aircraft spot the jaws of the advancing trap before it is too late.  Japanese airpower is called in to delay the Russians while the Japanese High Command, realising that they have stuck their heads in the tiger’s mouth, start working desperately to get a realistic defence in place before it is too late.  Although the Japanese air attacks don’t slow the Russians much, they give the Japanese soldiers on the ground access to better reconnaissance and tactical support than their opponents. 


The Japanese High Command works desperately to build a new defence line as the first reports come in of encounters with Russian tanks.  The Japanese tin-cans simply cannot stand up to them, something discovered very quickly after an armoured unit is obliterated by the Russians.  The Japanese airpower, however, is hacking away at Russian supply lines, forcing the Russians to slow their advance as the Japanese rush units northwards.  Instead of a single decisive battle, there are a series of running battles that are painful for the Japanese, but not fatal.


In Moscow, Stalin is displeased by this.  He wanted to slap the Japanese back; instead, the Japanese are continuing to fight.  He orders the Russians to keep advancing, with the result that a Japanese counter-attack cuts off and surrounds a stranded Russian division (as happened in the Winter War.)  The Japanese claim that this is a great victory, although it is rather bittersweet as the Russians keep fighting anyway and force the Japanese to reduce the pocket by force.  The Japanese also learn a great many lessons about the dangers of Russian artillery and other advantages.  A captured Russian tank is shipped back to Japan urgently with orders to duplicate it and put a new version into production.


The front stabilises as the Russians suffer a supply crisis.  Zhukov isn’t too worried about it, because the Japanese are unable to dent his forces too badly.  The Japanese may have superior air power, but the Russians have the strength to overcome and ignore it.  Stalin is less than happy though, because he has been hearing from the Germans.  They’re offering to split Poland between Russia and Germany, but with a possible war in the Far East he doesn’t dare get entangled with another war.


In Japan, the Japanese Government realises that the war might have spun out of control.  The Japanese Army is acting, effectively, as an independent power.  The militarists insist that the remainder of Japan supports the Army, whatever the risk.  The Imperial Japanese Navy steams north and hammers the Russian naval base at Vladivostok, destroying the Russian Far East Fleet.  Outraged, Stalin orders additional units sent east.  He has blood in his eye.


Hitler isn’t too displeased by this turn of events.  He wanted to split Poland between Germany and Russia; now, with the Russians distracted, he may be able to walk away with Poland anyway – all of Poland.  He isn’t impressed by the reports from the Far East; if the Russians can be beaten by ‘little yellow men,’ they won’t last long against his forces. 


September 1939: In Poland, the German Army streams across the border and rapidly advances, aiming to crush the Polish Army as fast as possible.  The Poles are originally shocked by the attack, with many army units destroyed or otherwise shattered, but as the Germans advance the Polish Government attempts to trade space for time.  They have more room to do it with than in OTL.  The Russians aren’t coming in from the east.


Hitler’s forces rapidly overwhelm the territory assigned to Germany by the secret discussions between Hitler and Stalin.  The problem is that the Poles aren’t beaten and that they’re using ‘Russian’ territory as a base for rearming and preparing their forces.  Hitler, who knows that a long war would be fatal, orders the German Army to advance into East Poland and give chase.  The Russians are none too happy about that either.


The Japanese have been trying to funnel reinforcements north, but it isn’t easy; relatively few units are up to the task of taking on the Russians.  The Japanese are also looking for allies and outsiders to sell them tanks, but very few governments want to sell them any tanks.  The Italians are the only ones to make any concrete offers and Italian tanks are not only unimpressive, but are a very long way away. 


Britain and France are divided on what to do.  The French Army is unwilling to advance into Germany, even though the Poles are still holding out.  The British are keen on more action, but there is nothing they can do without French agreement, apart from a handful of bombing raids on Germany.


Stalin demands that the Germans honour their agreement with the Russians, but Hitler balks.  The Germans have paid in blood and sweat for the Polish territory and they’re not inclined to hand it over to the Russians.  Hitler just isn’t very impressed with the Russian Army on the other side of the army.  Every time the Russians outrun their supply lines in the Far East, they get roughly handled by the Japanese.  The Japanese are also putting pressure on the Germans to help them out with the war, but Hitler hesitates.  The German Army is short on supplies and getting into a long war would be fatal.  On the other hand, Hitler knows that neither Britain nor France would willingly come across the border and invade Germany.  The Western Powers might be quite happy to sit still for a game of ‘let’s you and him fight.’


In the Far East, the Russians launch yet another offensive that splutters out when it outruns its supply lines.  Hitler takes it as a sign and starts shifting additional reinforcements into the east.  If the Russians are truly as weak as they seem…there is a chance for glory.  His generals, who are themselves divided on the question, insist that Poland not be treated poorly by the Germans.  The last thing the Germans need, if they do get into a war with the Russians, is a restive Poland in their rear area.


October 1939: Stalin, suspecting that Hitler intends to launch an attack as soon as possible, starts shifting heavy reinforcements into the west.  It is both alarming and reassuring to Hitler; alarming, because the Russians are moving a lot of men and guns; reassuring, because the Russians simply aren’t performing very well.  The Red Army has all kinds of problems, particularly in the west.


The Red Army of 1939 isn’t the force Hitler attacked in 1941 or the force that crushed Germany and took Berlin in 1945.  There are major weaknesses within the army.  Many experienced officers had been purged only a short time ago.  Junior officers were not taught how to use their minds and think for themselves.  Political officers held superiority over professional military officers.  The massive tank armies hadn’t been brought into existence (the famous T-34 wasn't brought into service until 1940 or 1941) and there were major shortages at all levels.  Worst of all, morale was rock-bottom, not least because of the ongoing war in the Far East. 


Hitler’s forces surge across the border and into Byelorussia.  The Russians are to some extent expecting the invasion.  On the other hand, their defences are hardly in position to slow the offensive down.  The commissioners make matters worse by insisting that the Red Army goes on the offensive at once – as laid down in Soviet tactical doctrine – and ensure that large numbers of trained and organised troops are fed into the German meatgrinder.  The Germans establish air supremacy over the battlefield very quickly, capturing or destroying vast numbers of Russian troops.


Everything isn’t rosy, however.  The Germans are in no way geared up for a war against the USSR.  German units suffer massive supply shortages as they press further into Russian territory, often having to fall back for want of supplies.  The German officers, trained to think quicker than their Russian counterparts, start capturing and using Russian hardware alongside their own, something that is – at first – officially discouraged.  There are a number of embarrassing incidents where German units run out of ammunition and are slaughtered by the Russians.


The shock of those defeats, although tiny in the grand scale of things, weakens Hitler’s position vis-à-vis his generals.  The Nazi Party was never very good with the economy and never had a coherent plan to mobilise the entire country for war.  Now, Hitler is forced to demand extra sacrifices from the Germans and rationalise the German industry.  This creates unhappy mutterings about a return to 1917, when Germany was starving as a result of the Allied blockade, although the SS manages to keep a lid on any real discontent.


Stalin demands that the British and French launch an invasion of Germany at once, effectively stabbing Hitler in the back.  The various Communist Parties around the world suddenly discover that Hitler is evil and start demanding immediate action.  This doesn’t amuse their detractors, who conclude – correctly – that most of them are taking orders from Moscow.  The governments in both Britain and France regard the eastern war with a certain degree of relief.  Hitler and Stalin will hopefully destroy one another, allowing the west to invade afterwards and impose a suitable peace.  Allied production is getting stronger all the time.  By 1942, they calculate, Britain and France will be far stronger than Germany.  Elements within the British Government are seriously considering aiding the Germans against the Russians.  They always viewed communism as a greater threat that Germany.


As the rains start to fall in Russia, slowing the German advance to a crawl, Stalin cleans house.  Blaming the defeats upon a number of generals, he orders several hundred people and their families shot, further weakening morale within the USSR.  More practically, the Russians start working on plans to boost their industry, calculating that they can eventually out-produce the Germans.  Stalin also takes the calculated risk of shipping some of the better-trained and more competently-led forces from the Far East to the West.  The Japanese, he decides, are a pain in the ass.  The Germans could very well be lethal.


More by luck than judgement – and against Hitler’s better judgement – the Germans have stumbled onto a formula for possible victory.  Vast numbers of Ukrainians lived in Poland (in territory that had originally been allotted to the Russians in 1939) and they weren't always very happy about it.  The Russians treated the Ukrainians like dirt and worked hard to commit what was effectively genocide in the 1930s.  If the Germans can tap that manpower, they would be able to multiply their forces considerably.  Against orders, at least at first, German commanders reach out to Ukrainian communities and start building up illicit fighting units.


Hitler isn’t too pleased about this turn of events.  His long-term plan for the USSR doesn’t include any freedom or self-determination for the locals.  On the other hand, he needs them – and the military logic in favour of using them has convinced most of his generals.  The last thing he needs is a major split between the civil and military governments in Nazi Germany.  The SS have been considerably weakened by the sudden need to boost military power as much as possible.  Using captured Russian equipment, the Germans start officially raising allied fighting units.  Ribbontrop points out that they can make all the promises their allies could want.  They can always go back on them later.


Italy has refused to declare war on the USSR, but has contributed several army and air force units to join the fighting.  The Germans rapidly lose all respect for the Italian Army, but their air force units do remarkably well.  The Italians also sell the Germans military supplies, including some obtained from the Western Allies. 


November 1939: With offensive operations suspended for the moment, Stalin works hard to build up a reserve of Russian military power that he can unleash once General Winter really starts to grip the Germans.  The Western Allies are tapped for as much support as they can, although Britain cannot send very much to the Russians and the British insist on being paid in hard cash.  Stalin calculates that if the Russians can hold together for another couple of months, the Red Army can make a decisive advance against the Germans and break their army. 


The Russians are, however, having political problems.  The Germans are not only making use of local manpower, they are making political promises to the Russians and their subject nationalities.  Stalin has no illusions about his personal popularity with the Russian people.  The collective farms are loathed by the vast majority of Russian farmers and they would escape them if they could.  The Germans are working to position themselves as the liberators of the Russians from the communists.  It is having a considerable effect on Russian minds.


The propaganda war is also spreading overseas.  The Germans have uncovered the remains of vast mass graves and have invited the Red Cross to inspect them, confirming that they were killed by the Russians.  They have been recording interviews with Ukrainian farmers willing to talk about the joys of communism and how much they loved being starved to death by Stalin and his goons.  The propaganda plays surprisingly well in the United States, damaging the reputation of the Russians and communism.  The US, as a general rule, is content to remain isolationist.  Both sides in the war try to purchase American goods and recruit Americans to fight on their side. 


As October comes to an end, the Germans surround Leningrad.  The Russians, however, dig in and prepare to resist savagely.  Hitler wants to take the city intact, but the generals refuse to launch a massive invasion of the city itself.  The German Army is too weak to risk it.


December 1939 – January 1940: The German Army is having major problems.  They are short on almost everything, from fuel to winter clothing.  Worse, the trained cadre of leaders and soldiers the Germans built up is being burned away…and there are relatively few experienced replacements.  Although the German generals fight hard to prevent it, the quality of German leadership is falling rapidly.  They do have additional manpower from the Ukraine, opening up new possibilities, but only if they survive this winter.  The German Air Force isn’t in a much better state.  The Russians have poorer machines than the Germans, yet there are a LOT more of them.


The war at sea has effectively fizzled out after a handful of German submarine successes.  The big battleships have been cancelled.  The German Navy has been largely sidelined for the war against Russia.  The Royal Navy has been escorting convoys from America to Britain, France and Russia without hindrance. 


Chamberlain surveys the situation with some satisfaction.  The Germans are being burned out by the war, allowing the British and French to continue building up their forces and preparing for the final blow.  Some fire-eaters, including Churchill, would love to mount an immediate offensive, but he sees no reason to risk an advance.


The Japanese Army is in a poor state.  Their main problem is that they cannot mount a challenge to the Russians that actually will allow them to drive the Russians from the Far East and gain a victory.  At the same time, they cannot actually withdraw, not after the Russians managed to successfully bomb Japanese territory. The Italian tanks are better than the Japanese tanks, but not really good enough to win the Japanese a victory.  The Russians can keep funnelling in manpower and machines, trapping Japan in a war of attrition they cannot win.


Worse, from their point of view, China has suddenly grown much worse.  The Chinese Communists have started launching savage attacks against Japanese positions.  The Nationalists, not to be outdone, have started launching their own attacks.  The Japanese urgently need to deal with both threats, but they don’t have the resources to deal with either.  Worst of all, the propaganda about Japanese atrocities – not even slightly exaggerated – is convincing the US to start slapping sanctions on Japan.  France and Britain follow suit, placing the Japanese in a downward spiral.


With the Red Army as ready as it will ever be, Stalin launches Operation Lenin – the relief of Leningrad.  Two mighty prongs of soviet manpower advance towards the German lines, intent on forcing the Germans into a war of attrition.  Stalin had scraped up everything he could funnel into the area to make the offensive as powerful as possible, spearheaded by Far Eastern units.  The Germans see the offensive coming and deploy against it.  The battle begins and rapidly spreads out of control.


Both sides learn a great deal from the fighting.  The Russian Far Eastern divisions learn that German tanks are much better than Japanese tanks and that the Germans actually know how to use them.  The Germans learn that some Russians are actually capable of commanding and coordinating a moving battle.  The Russians, however, are not quite good enough to actually deliver a killing blow to the Germans.  The Germans launch a counterattack that came alarmingly close to breaking the Russian lines before they ran out of supplies.  With several units destroyed or captured because of supply problems, the Germans disengage and pull back from Leningrad.  The Russians win the battle on points.  Soviet propaganda transforms it into the greatest victory in world history.


The defeat brings the tension between Hitler and his generals into the open.  The Generals have long been critical of advice from the jumped-up corporal.  On the other side, Hitler regards them as conservative hidebound reactionaries, hardly inclined to give their all for the New Order.  The Generals, who have been giving the Ukrainians more and more self-government, clearly don’t have the willingness to do whatever it takes to crush the Russians.  Himmler, at Hitler’s orders, had been drawing up a plan for a new Night of the Long Knives, aimed at the Generals.  Unluckily for Hitler, one of the people he trusted enough to know about this plot was Erwin Rommel, the former commander of his personal guard and – since then – promoted forward by Hitler himself.  Horrified, Rommel alerted the army’s senior officers, believing that a power struggle in Germany would be fatal.


As the German Army stumbles back from Leningrad, the Generals strike first.  Berlin is rapidly secured by an infantry unit that had been brought back from the front for R&R.  Hitler is taken into custody by some of his forces – after a botched attempt to kill himself – and transported to a secret and secret location.  The SS is rapidly disbanded, with its fighting units folded into the German Army and its police/security units broken up.  Most of the Nazi elite are either arrested or killed resisting arrest.


The Generals don’t have a clear idea what to do with Germany.  They have no intention of subjecting their country to another humiliating treaty at the end of a lost war.  On the other hand, they are in an open war with the USSR and declared war with Britain and France.  That is an untenable situation for Germany and they don’t share Hitler’s confidence that the British and French won’t intervene.  German intelligence has an excellent idea of just how powerful both sides are becoming and they know that they cannot win a war on two fronts.


February-March 1940: As the Russian offensive in the west burns itself out, the Russians launch an attack in the Far East.  This time, the Russians have prepared carefully for an offensive, including stockpiling vast amounts of supplies and older equipment that is less useful against the Germans, but very capable against the Japanese.  Several Japanese units are destroyed by the shelling and then in the retreat as the Russians push forward.  The Japanese prepare to cut off the Russians when they run out of supplies – as in every other Russian advance – but this time the Russians don’t push the advance too far.  Instead, they chew up the Japanese as they retreat and settle down to resupply. 


Stalin is growing more concerned about the Ukraine and the German-backed nationalists.  Now that the Germans have walked away with a bloody nose, they need the Ukrainians more than ever.  The Ukrainian Nationalists have established a semi-government over a ‘Ukraine’ that includes parts of pre-war Poland and several Russian enslaves.  Luckily for him, the Ukrainians are carrying out ethnic cleansing rather than attempting to convince the Russians to stay as part of a new Ukraine.  Even so, the Ukraine does hold an alarming amount of factories, natural resources and manpower.  Given time, the Ukrainians may be able to become a major threat in their own right.


A worse problem is that the Russians are running out of foreign exchange.  They have a number of dependences on imported supplies and the West is refusing to sell them except for cash in hand.  Stalin suspects – from Russian spy rings – that such supplies will eventually become dependent upon political concessions.  The new Ukrainian nation has been playing well in the west.


Stalin has been seriously considering attempting to do a deal with the Germans, making concessions now and breaking them later.  It looks attractive, on the face of it, but it wouldn’t play well with the Russian public.  Stalin knows that outright rebellion is all too possible, if only because of the example of the Ukraine and the thousands of thousands of Russians working for the Germans.  The last thing he needs is to create a perception of weakness.


In Germany, the Generals are concentrating on rebuilding their army and feeling out the west for peace terms.  Sweden is quite prepared to help negotiate peace, but Germany and Britain/France are talking about very different terms.  Britain wants a restored Poland, an independent Ukraine and general German disarmament.  France is more interested in the latter.  The German Generals want to keep what they’ve gained, at least parts of Poland and occupied Russia.


The eastern front is quiet, for the moment, as both sides struggle to prepare for new battles.  Poland isn’t so quiet.  The Russians have been trying to smuggle in guns and encourage uprisings against the Germans, in hopes that the Germans will crack down hard and sully their image in the eyes of the world.  The Poles are not, however, as badly treated as in OTL and resistance is more random than focused or coordinated.


No one expects the quiet to last for long.


April 1940: The Germans, correctly suspecting that the Russians are preparing for another hammer-blow, launch a spoiling attack of their own.  Without Hitler’s pressure, the plans are much less ambitious than their former plans.  The forces assembled for battle also include new tank designs, which have been improved with the lessons learned from the war.  The attack makes considerable progress at first, but then fails as the Russians counter-attack.  Stalin has figured out the German weakness and is intent on making them burn up as much of their supplies and ammunition as possible.


The Russians launch a series of additional operations against German lines, concentrating on heavy attacks that force the Germans to fight back or fall back in disarray.  Many of the attacks cost the Russians dearly, but Stalin isn’t concerned and by the end of the fighting, the Russians have definitely gained ground.  Stalin intends to keep on the pressure as much as possible, weaken the Germans and then launch another mighty offensive in June. 


In Germany, the Generals find themselves confronting the possibility of a disastrous defeat.  That looses all kinds of resolutions.  The Germans reach out to the Polish underground – in typical Polish fashion, the Germans and the Poles had known how to talk to one another for quite some time – and start trying to do a deal.  They’re prepared to offer to create a rump Poland that will be independent of the Germans, in exchange for an end to Polish resistance and Polish support for Germany’s war with Russia.  The Polish underground hesitates.  They have no love for Stalin, and coming back into the open would allow them to save Poland from the worst excesses of the German regime, but they don’t trust the Germans to keep their word.  They drive a hard bargain.  The Germans have to arm and train a new Polish Army, release POWs and allow free communications and trade to the west.  The German Generals are not happy about this, but they don’t see much choice.  Germany is rapidly running out of friends.


During the Russian offensive, the Russians encountered an Italian division commanded by a crony of Mussolini’s.  The Italians were unprepared for modern combat and were rapidly and brutally eliminated.  The disaster shakes the underpinnings of the fascist regime in Rome and Mussolini is removed from power by the King.  The new Italian government withdraws the remaining Italian troops from the war and renounces Mussolini’s demented foreign policy.


With the Italians out of the war, the Germans know that the odds are rapidly tipping against them.  The British and French are not only building up their own forces, but are learning from the lessons of the German-Russian War.  The Germans are still better trained, but the British and French – mainly the French – have much more equipment and manpower.  The British also have better aircraft than the Germans and more of them.  Best of all, from the British point of view, the gold the Russians had to pay them for support is an unexpected boost to the British economy.  The war is actually proving good for business.


In the Far East, disaster strikes for Japan as the Russians launch their largest offensive yet into the teeth of the Japanese positions.  This time, the Japanese have a massive stroke of bad luck as a shell hits their HQ and kills the officer in command of the Japanese forces in the region.  Before someone else can assume command, the Russians have advanced and encountered Japanese forces that have not been ordered to fall back and retreat.  The Russians are deploying so much firepower that entire Japanese positions are just blown out of the ground.  The Japanese lines are not only shattered, but they cannot fall back and regroup at the next set of lines.


The Russians have a little help from the Chinese Communists.  The Japanese have been forcing Chinese coolies to work for them as their logistics are poor.  Many of those coolies were communists who volunteered to work for the Japanese.  At the right time, the coolies turned on the Japanese and attacked them, tearing apart the Japanese rear areas and wrecking supply dumps.  Japanese troops had to be diverted to deal with the uprising, which meant that the Russians were able to advance much further without being stopped.  In Tokyo, the Japanese Government wants to find a way out of the war, but the militarists are determined to fight on. 


May 1940: As the new Polish Government begins to take on form, the Western Allies finally go on the offensive.  The French start with heavy shelling of the West Wall, followed by a heavy tank and infantry offensive to take the German defences before the Germans rally and counterattack.  The RAF and French Air Force launch massive fighter sweeps, intent on sweeping the German aircraft from the skies, while Bomber Command launches attacks on German positions to the rear.


The Allies have a number of advantages over the Germans.  The British have perfected radar systems – including airborne radar – that gives them an unexpected advantage in the battle.  The Allies also have far more firepower and, oddly, better tanks.  The downside is that the Allies have little real experience and most of the Allied Generals are untested. 


The Germans have long had a contingency plan for an Allied attack.  Once Hitler was removed, the Generals worked to reinforce the West Wall, although the most modern units had to be deployed to the east.  The Germans concentrate on delaying the allies once it becomes clear that the West Wall isn’t going to hold them back for long.  The Germans call up their final reserves and put them at the line, hoping to delay the allies long enough for forces to be diverted back from the east. 


Much to the fury of armour enthusiasts like de Gaulle, the allied advance is slow and ponderous.  It does have the advantage of forcing the Germans to realise that it is a heavy sledgehammer, but the Germans keep falling back and delaying the advance.  The Germans mount several deception operations intended to convince the allies that they’re planning to hook through Belgium and strike for Paris, but the defenders of Belgium report that the attacks are little more than probes and slap them back.  They do not, however, enter the war formally. 


In the east, Stalin sees his chance and orders the great offensive launched a month and a half ahead of time.  At first, the Russians make headway against the Germans, who have been stabbed in the back, but then the Germans rally and counterattack.  The Russians are not yet good enough to pull off such an offensive and half of the preparation has not yet been completed.  The Germans launch a series of smashing counterattacks that give the Russians a very bloody nose.  Historians would later comment that if the British and French hadn’t been invading from the west, the Germans came closest then to knocking the Russians out of the war.


The Germans Generals are smart enough to see the writing on the wall.  Working through Sweden, they make contact with the Allies and ask for terms.  While there is a strong (mainly-French) feeling that Germany should be ground under, the British are not so keen on the idea.  Crushing Germany will probably mean another German War in twenty years and this time the Allies might lose.  That would be bad.  Stalin demands a seat at the peace table and doesn’t get it.  The French – and to a lesser extent British – Communists treat it as a betrayal and riot.  The French Army puts down the French Communists with considerable enthusiasm. 


In June, the peace treaty is signed.  Germany agrees to return ethnic Polish territory to Poland.  The Czechs are freed, although a referendum in Austria insists that the Austrians want to remain with Germany.  The Ukraine (not the one in OTL; it includes part of Poland and less of Eastern Ukraine) is recognised as an independent state.  The German-held territory in Belarus is recognised as being in German custody, a droll way of admitting that no one wants to see the USSR reoccupy it, least of all the locals.  The Germans promise to respect the locals and, eventually, to leave their territory.  The Poles reluctantly agree to grant the Germans transhipment rights across Polish territory. 


Stalin sees himself – correctly – as having been betrayed, although the Allies made no promises about the future of Russian territory.  His first inclination is to continue the war, but it seems that the Germans will be welcomed back into the family of nations and will soon be drawing on the western industries to power a war against the USSR.  Sullenly, Stalin concedes the lost territories – for now.  They can always, he tells himself, be regained later. 


In the meantime, the Russians ship additional forces eastwards and advance against the Japanese.  The Japanese simply cannot stand up to the Russians when they have their supply lines working, which they do now.  With attacks from Chinese and Korean resistance fighters in their rear – the Chinese, at least, being supplied by the Americans – the Japanese position crumbles.  Russian tanks keep advancing until the Russians occupy Manchuria and Korea.  In Japan, the militarists are removed from office by the Emperor, who finally speaks out against them.  The Japanese economy effectively collapses.  The new government negotiates terms from the Americans and British and generally renounces imperialism, for the moment. 


Late 1940: The winding down of the war provokes a major recession in Germany.  The Germans find themselves attempting to sell war material and war expertise to anyone who will buy it.  The Poles, ironically, find themselves learning from the Germans, as do the Finns, Ukrainians and local units raised in Belarus.  The Generals, who are still in command of the state, calculate that if they can hold on to their links to Eastern Europe, Germany will be well-placed to rebound.


The absence of the Holocaust means that the German Jewish population is still alive.  Quite a few are prepared to remain in Germany, but most of them want to emigrate to…anywhere that will take them.  While Palestine is their preferred destination of choice, most of them end up being allowed to emigrate to Australia, America or South Africa. 


The British and French go through a minor recession, although they don’t suffer as badly as the Germans.  Without the shock of the world wars, decolonisation proceeds slower than OTL, with India becoming independent in 1950 and much of South Africa after that.


Stalin finds his position increasingly shaky as the Russian population starts experiencing the fallout from the war.  The Ukraine, which has abolished collective farming, is experiencing an economic boom and the Russians, who have eyes, are able to realise what it means.  Resistance to the communists starts to spread through the Russian countryside, with commissioners being ambushed and killed and a low-level civil war underway by 1943.  The booty the Russians took off the Japanese does not make up for the war. 


The Japanese find themselves considering a headlong rush against the Dutch East Indies in the hope that it will bring them enough raw materials to allow the Japanese Government to survive.  Such a plan, however, is increasingly obviously suicidal and, eventually, a democratic government makes a number of concessions.  Japanese society continues to stumble from left to right, but as technology advances they become increasingly backward and far less of a threat to the rest of the world.


FDR loses the election in late 1940, as there is no overseas threat to galvanise him into winning.  America profited from the war, to some extent, but remained neutral and, over the years, became even more isolationist.


In this timeline, atomic weapons are not invented until 1950, along with atomic power and other such inventions.  The Germans lead the world into space, but all of the major powers follow soon enough.