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History of World War II 1939–1945 The origin of war. The struggle of progressive forces for the preservation of peaceSelected Articles from the History of World War II 1939–1945 in 12 volumes.
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Italo-German intervention in Spain and the policy of "non-intervention"
In the summer of 1936, Spain fell victim to the aggressive actions of Italy and Germany. By that time, it had taken a special place in the aggressive plans of the fascist powers. This was explained by the fact that the victory of the Popular Front in the parliamentary elections in Spain and then in France stimulated the struggle of all the peoples of Western Europe against fascism and war, for peace and democracy; favorable conditions began to emerge for the formation of an international front against the threat of a new world war.
Long before the intervention, German and Italian fascism established close ties with Spanish reactionary and fascist organizations. So, in 1933, immediately after the creation of the Spanish "military alliance", the German and Italian agents hastened to establish permanent contacts with him. Hitler promised financial support to the fascist party (“Spanish phalanx”), founded in 1933. He entrusted the transfer of weapons to Spain for fascist detachments to the apparatus of the Abwehr (German military intelligence) and the Gestapo, and to the foreign department of the Nazi party - conducting propaganda through those who lived there Germans. Mussolini in March 1934 concluded an agreement with the Spanish monarchists, pledging to contribute to the overthrow of the republic. Spain was repeatedly visited by the head of the Abwehr V. Canaris, German intelligence agents actively recruited spies, saboteurs, and terrorists in Spain, created secret arms stores, worked to unite the counter-revolutionary forces and, together with the leaders of the Spanish fascists, prepared an armed rebellion. Direct participation in this was taken by such career intelligence officers as Rau and Lieutenant Colonel of the General Staff Ber. On the eve of the rebellion, Rau was sent by Canaris to Spain to help Sanjurjo and Franco in organizing intelligence work on the territory of the republic. Together with them and other fascist generals, he developed a plan for a military rebellion, in particular the uprising of the Madrid military garrison, which, according to the plan of the conspirators, was to play a decisive role in overthrowing the republican government.
The Abwehr actively promoted Italian intervention in Spanish affairs. On behalf of Hitler, Canaris, together with the head of Italian intelligence, General Roatta, developed a plan for the participation of fascist Italy in the struggle against the Spanish Republic, which was adopted by Mussolini.
On the eve of the rebellion, Spain was actually turned into one of the main strongholds of Hitler's intelligence in Southwestern Europe. Numerous branches of this intelligence in Spain and Spanish Morocco were financed from Germany and received directive instructions from there. Under the signs of various German representative offices, firms, companies, bureaus, etc. they created a wide agent network in the strategically important centers of Spain. Among the recruits were a variety of people: from reactionary prominent government officials, generals and officers of the Spanish army, professors and factory engineers to the owners of taverns and taverns, arms dealers and various crooks.
Subsequently, this allowed the Nazis to identify the plans of the republican government, as well as the command of the armed forces, and oppose their implementation. Thus, fascist agents from among the old military specialists, who were surrounded by the Prime Minister and Minister of Defense F. Largo Caballero, not only supplied their masters with the most valuable intelligence information, but also in every possible way prevented the construction of a new regular republican army. Under the influence of these "specialists", Largo Caballero opposed the creation of a general staff and the introduction of the institution of military commissars. After the security agencies of the republic exposed the subversive activities of the adjutant General Miahi, the chief of staff of the Asturian government troops and a number of other persons from the command, it was established that
Hitler's intelligence made a serious bet on the Germans living in Spain - members of various "unions" and "associations", which were branches of the National Socialist Party. The archives of the Spanish branch of the Ausland organization seized by the Republicans in the first days of the civil war in Barcelona and other cities revealed the methods of espionage, propaganda and other subversive activities of the German intelligence services and undeniably proved their direct participation in the fascist rebellion. In Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia, Murcia and other cities, the republican security organs uncovered, and neutralized large fascist organizations created by German intelligence and preparing armed uprisings. For their shelter, they even used the premises of diplomatic and other official representations of the capitalist (especially Latin American) states. In Madrid, for example, in the building of the Peruvian embassy, 800 armed fascists equipped with a radio station were found and arrested; another group took refuge in the premises of the Madrid “diplomatic hospital”.
The fascist German intelligence agencies made extensive use of the organization of the Spanish Trotskyists (POUM), the Iberian Anarchist Federation (FAI) and the National Confederation of Labor (NKT), some of whose members collaborated with the intelligence services of fascist Germany and Franco, on their assignments they were engaged in collecting espionage information on the territory, not occupied by the rebels, waged vicious slanderous agitation against the republican government.
The armed uprising of the rebels in Spain intensified the counter-revolutionary activities of the Trotskyists and members of the White Guard émigré organizations in other countries. In particular, the Trotskyists from Paris sent anti-Marxist literature to their like-minded people in Madrid, Valencia, and Barcelona.
In July 1936, after the Paris conference of the Trotskyists, their "international secretariat" sent its people to Barcelona to establish contact with the POUM and intensify its anti-government activities. Somewhat later, for negotiations with Franco on the conditions for the transfer of Russian White Guards and their participation in battles against the republican troops, the former tsarist general Shatilov, one of the leaders of the White émigré so-called Russian All-Military Union (ROVS), who actively collaborated with Nazi intelligence, left. The recruitment of white emigrants and their sending to Spain was carried out by members of another counter-revolutionary emigrant organization, the Brotherhood of Russian Truth, known for its connections with German, Japanese and other intelligence services.
The aggressors hoped that the Spanish reaction would establish a "new order" in a legal way. But the powerful anti-fascist movement of the masses frustrated these plans. That is why, after the victory of the Popular Front in the parliamentary elections, Germany and Italy began to actively support the reactionary forces in the preparation of the fascist coup, relying on the military. However, having a low opinion of its capabilities, the general staffs of Germany and Italy planned their intervention in the internal affairs of Spain. The facts show that as early as March-April 1936, the High Command of the German Armed Forces (OKB) was considering the active participation of the German armed forces in the coup. According to the information available to the Soviet government, serious preparatory steps were taken in the Design Bureau for intervention in Spain, moreover, the plan of the operation provided for surprise and speed. In March 1936, in Berlin, General Sanjurjo, who was expected to be the leader of the rebellion, received assurances from the Nazi leaders that they would provide him with all the necessary assistance. The German and Italian general staffs not only knew the plans of the conspirators in detail, but also actively participated in their development.
With all the coincidence of interests in the Spanish question, there were serious contradictions between Germany and Italy. The Reich's ally intended to turn the Mediterranean into an "Italian lake" and take over the French colonies in North Africa. The German fascists hoped that their partner, bogged down in Spain, would be unable to resist the capture of Austria and the strengthening of Germany's positions in Central Europe, as well as in the Danube zone and in the countries of the Balkan Peninsula.
An important role in the plans of both states was played by military-strategic goals. In one of the documents of the German embassy in Madrid, it was noted that if Germany and Italy occupied the Iberian (Iberian) peninsula, they could "take France in a vice from the south, so that the French would know what it means to wage a war on two fronts."
This position was expressed even more clearly in a memorandum of the German Foreign Ministry, prepared in October 1938. Its authors wrote: “Filling the military and political vacuum in the Iberian Peninsula, which has already been largely achieved, means a radical change in the position of France ... France's connection with her colonial empire would become problematic. Gibraltar will lose its price, the freedom of passage of the English fleet through the strait will depend on Spain, not to mention the ability to use the Iberian Peninsula for operations by submarines, light naval forces, and aviation ... A European conflict in which the Berlin-Rome axis will resist England and France, will take on a completely different look if a strong Spain joins the Berlin-Rome axis. These strategic and political goals, it was further stated, would require “to do everything possible to
Having established themselves on the Iberian Peninsula, the fascist powers would have been able to cut off the communications that connected England and France with their colonial possessions in Africa and Asia and establish control over a significant part of the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. Spain would become an advantageous springboard for the development of aggression on the African continent, a convenient naval base, a springboard for jumping into Latin America. The Hitlerite leadership considered the implementation of such plans not only as a way to improve their position in every possible way in case of a conflict with England and France, but also as one of the stages in strengthening their political and economic positions in order to solve the main task in the future - the war against the USSR.
Spain also occupied a special place in the economic plans of the fascist bloc. It provided about 45 percent of the world's mercury production, more than 50 percent of pyrite, was a major exporter of iron ore, tungsten, lead, zinc, potassium salts, silver and other minerals needed for the military industry. Capturing sources of strategic raw materials would allow the bloc to significantly increase its economic potential to the detriment of future adversaries. Göring's confidant in Spain, I. Bernhard, noted in 1937 that the goal of Germany's economic efforts "should be a deep penetration into the main sources of minerals in Spain ...". It was from this point of view that he proposed to evaluate the effectiveness of the intervention.
German monopoly capital has always sought to oust the British and French monopolies from the Spanish economy. Back in 1935, the Metal AG company, whose capital was forty-two million marks, together with Italian concerns, decided to create an administration for the exploitation of the iron ore resources of Spain in order to make Germany "completely independent of England, France and Sweden."
It is no coincidence that at the very beginning of the intervention, special joint-stock semi-state companies (Hisma, Robak, Sofindus, Safni) arose with the task of strengthening the positions of German-Italian monopoly capital in Spain as much as possible and providing the military industry with raw materials. In helping the Spanish reaction, the ruling circles of Germany and Italy proceeded primarily from the economic interests of their monopolies. Thus, according to the agreement of November 28, 1936, concluded by Italy with Franco, Spain was to provide her with "all privileges for the use of ports, air lines, railways and highways, as well as for indirect trade relations." In a conversation with the head of the protocol department of the German Foreign Ministry, Bülow-Schvante in 1937, Mussolini stated that Italy, given the presence of rich reserves of raw materials in Spain, spent billions of lire on the "Spanish enterprise" and is interested in returning them. In turn, the German Imperial Ministry of Economy sought guarantees from the Francoists for the preservation of the property of German companies. Goering directly connected the provision of assistance to "national Spain" with the provision of German interests in its economy. Thus, the political, economic, as well as military-strategic goals of German and Italian fascism were aimed at turning Spain into an experimental training ground and using it to implement plans for gaining world domination. The aggressors regarded the Spanish action as a test of strength, which, if successful, according to Mussolini's frank statement, would allow the allies "to take on all countries in turn, so that, where necessary, force them to fight against Bolshevism."
On July 17, 1936, the Spanish units stationed in Spanish Morocco mutinied against the republic and the next day completely took possession of the entire protectorate zone. On July 18, most of the Spanish garrisons joined the rebels. The leaders of the rebellion hoped in the shortest possible time to break the resistance of the units loyal to the republic and take power into their own hands. They also pinned considerable hopes on disagreements within the Popular Front, especially on the capitulatory elements of the bourgeois-republican parties. The rebels managed to win over to their side a significant part of the Spanish land army and civil guard, more than half of the artillery regiments and a foreign legion. In the first week, 100,000 soldiers and officers out of a 145,000-strong army supported the rebels. Taking advantage of the suddenness of the speech and the inactivity of the republican government, the rebels captured Spanish Morocco, the Canary and Balearic Islands (except for the island of Menorca), and fortified themselves in a number of provinces of northern and southwestern Spain. It seemed to the leaders of the rebellion that there was no such force in the country that could resist them.
But tens of thousands of workers, employees, students, peasants, representatives of the intelligentsia, at the call of the Communist Party and organizations of the popular front, rose to defend the republic. "The wall of their bodies" they stopped fascism. Detachments of the people's militia and soldiers and officers who remained loyal to the republic in stubborn battles defeated the rebel garrisons in Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia, Cartagena, Malaga, Bilbao, Santander and other major industrial and administrative centers of the country. Sailors and non-commissioned officers thwarted mutiny attempts on most ships of the fleet. The air force remained loyal to the republic. By the end of July, the position of the rebels on the peninsula was so critical that some of their leaders were already thinking about capitulating and fleeing.
But precisely at the time when the fascist military revolt was dying down under the powerful blows of the masses, external forces intervened in the Spanish events. The whole world reaction came to the rescue, and first of all the fascist powers. On July 22, General Franco, who had assumed command of the African army after the death of General Sanjurjo, sent groups of officers to Berlin and Rome asking for assistance. A few days later, Hitler decided to send transport planes to Spanish Morocco to transport Francoist troops to the mainland. Mussolini made the same decision. On July 28, German and Italian planes arrived at Tetouan and began transporting Franco's troops through the Strait of Gibraltar. A vast rebel base emerged in southern Spain. On August 2, formations of German and Italian ships entered the territorial waters of Spain.
At the end of July, a special headquarters "W" was created in Germany, which was led first by General Wilberg, then by General Eneke. This headquarters was entrusted with the task of transferring military equipment, specialists, and later military units to Spain. In addition, the Nazis formed the Nordsee naval group, which created a "bridge" between the German, Portuguese and Spanish ports captured by the rebels. During 1936-1939. at least 170 German ships carried out military transportation to Spain.
In August 1936, by order of Hitler, Colonel Warlimont, soon promoted to general, was appointed commander-in-chief of the German armed forces in Spain and representative of the Wehrmacht under Franco. Mussolini took similar steps. To coordinate the actions of various military departments, he ordered the creation of a Spanish department under the Italian Foreign Ministry under the leadership of his assistant Pietromarchi. At the same time, agents of the Spanish rebels in Rome were recruiting volunteers, offering them uniforms, equipment, food, and fifty lire a day.
The fascist aggressors covered up the intervention with a noisy campaign under the slogan of "fighting Bolshevism" and tried to convince the ruling circles of England, France and the USA that they were not going to encroach on their interests in Spain.
A wave of deep indignation arose all over the world, honest people of the planet demanded that sanctions be applied to the fascist interventionists. At first, Germany and Italy carefully disguised their aggressive actions: troops were transported under the guise of tourists, businessmen and production specialists, and weapons and ammunition under the brand name of scrap iron, agricultural machinery and fertilizers. Vessels under the flag of neutral states were chartered to transport military cargo.
The growing flow of German and Italian military equipment provided the rebels in August-September with significant advantages over the Republicans, especially in aviation. Entire armadas of German and Italian bombers of the latest design made raids on the positions of the Republican troops. The Republicans could oppose them with eighty-five obsolete aircraft, of which in mid-October only one bomber and two fighters remained in service.
Using superiority in technology, the Francoist troops in August launched a counter offensive from the north and south against the city of Badajoz. Having mastered it, the northern and southern armies united. Then General Franco directed the main attack on Madrid, and part of the forces attacked Irun and San Sebastian. The capture by the rebels of these two points deprived the republican north of communication with France.
From the end of October 1936, especially after the official recognition of Franco's government by Germany and Italy on November 18, the intervention in Spain took on a qualitatively new character. If earlier fascist countries sent only military equipment and specialists, now they sent entire military formations. The scope of assistance to the Francoists from Germany and Italy is evidenced by the fact that military supplies cost these countries no less than (one billion dollars). Aviation, tank, anti-aircraft, engineering and other German units that were part of the so-called "legion Condor", in which there were 250 aircraft, including 100 bombers and 140 fighters, 180 tanks, hundreds of anti-tank guns and other means. According to the estimates of the Nazis themselves, the cost of the transfer, maintenance and support of this "legion" from November 7, 1936 to October 31, 1938 amounted to more than 190 million Reichsmarks. Being the main striking force of German fascism in Spain, it became a major training center where 56,000 officers and candidate officers of the Francoist army underwent military training.
Germany and Italy sought to "pass through the Spanish front" as many soldiers and officers as possible to gain combat experience. On average, 10-12 thousand Germans and 40-45 thousand Italians were in combat every month. In total during 1936-1939 more than 300 thousand foreign soldiers fought on the side of the rebels at different times, of which at least fifty thousand Germans, 150 thousand Italians, 20 thousand Portuguese, groups of fascists from other European countries, as well as about ninety thousand Moroccans.
During the first two years of the war, Germany sent General Franco 650 aircraft, two hundred tanks, seven hundred artillery pieces. Italy, according to official data, supplied the rebels with about 2 thousand guns, 7.5 million shells, about 241 thousand rifles, 325 million cartridges, 7633 vehicles, 950 tanks and armored personnel carriers, 1000 aircraft, 17 thousand air bombs, 2 underwater boats and 4 destroyers. She spent 14 billion lire, six times the cost of her partner.
The Pope also actively helped the rebels. According to the Polish military attache in Rome on January 4, 1937, the Vatican gave Franco 2 million lire a day.
On Spanish soil, the Fascists tested the principles of their military doctrine, especially the methods of waging total war. Barbaric bombardments and shelling of cities and towns (Guernica, Alicante, Durango, Barcelona and others), mass executions of civilians, sea robbery, political and ideological sabotage - all these attributes of total war were practiced by the fascist armies on the Iberian Peninsula, so that in an even more monstrous form use them in a future world war. The fascist powers held a "fitting" of the most important aspects of the coalition strategy and tactics.
The German fascists turned Spain into a huge training ground, where they tested military equipment, improved weapons, and worked out ways to use them. Attaching great importance to future aviation operations and motorized troops, the Nazis practically tested all the latest types of aircraft produced in Germany (Dornier-17, Junkers-88, Heinkel-51, Messerschmitt-109), samples of anti-aircraft and anti-tank artillery, small arms, the capabilities of tanks and vehicles. Particular interest was shown in Soviet weapons. According to Lieutenant Colonel Barroso of the Francoist General Staff, in December 1936, the Germans and Italians hastily evacuated samples of captured Soviet tanks from the battlefield for a thorough study in their own country. In the summer of 1938, Hitler's General Reichenau openly admitted.
The Italo-German intervention changed the balance of power between the enemies and defenders of the Spanish Republic and became the determining factor in the military superiority of the Francoists. The war in Spain caused major changes in the balance of power within the fascist bloc itself. Italy, which sent significant forces to Spain and at the same time was forced to keep a large army in unconquered Ethiopia, was unable to challenge the hegemony in the fascist bloc and subsequently lost its position as an equal partner. However, the German-Italian agreement signed on October 25, 1936 - the Berlin-Rome axis - contained an "amicable" delimitation of spheres of influence in the Balkans and in the Danube basin.
Italo-German intervention created a direct focus of war in Europe. If the Spanish Republic, in accordance with the norms of international law and the charter of the League of Nations, received the support of the states on which peace in Europe largely depended, the torch of war could be extinguished as soon as possible. But the ruling circles of England, France and the United States, as before with respect to Ethiopia, declared "non-interference" in Spanish affairs. Originating in the depths of Baldwin's English conservative cabinet, this policy was proclaimed by the French government headed by the right-wing socialist L. Blum.
In November 1936, the American ambassador in Paris, Bullitt, urged French Foreign Minister Delbos that if Franco did not receive immediate assistance from Italy and Germany, "Spain would quickly fall into the hands of the Communists, and Portugal would soon follow."
"Non-intervention" - one of the manifestations of the policy of "appeasement" - was brought to life by the anti-communism of many politicians in the West, their fear of a "Soviet revolution" in Spain, the victory of which could strengthen the revolutionary tendencies in France and other countries. During August 1936, 27 European states joined the non-intervention pact proposed by the French government. The agreement provided for the prohibition of export, re-export and transit to Spain and its possession of all types of weapons, military materials, and equipment, then it was supplemented by an agreement on the prohibition of sending foreign volunteers to Spain. Numerous protests by the government of the Spanish Republic, which characterized the policy of "non-intervention" as a blockade, were rejected by France and England.
The initiators and supporters of "non-intervention" motivated the need for such a course by the fact that otherwise the war in Spain could develop into a pan-European one. This thesis does not stand up to criticism, because at that moment the fascist powers, neither militarily nor economically, were yet ready for such a war. This is evidenced by the following. In the summer of 1937, when the Nazis adopted the directive “On the unified preparation of the Wehrmacht for war”, which provided for “special operation“ Richard ”- military operations in “red Spain”, they were not going to start a war in Europe because of Spain. Speaking at a meeting of the Nazi elite in November 1937, Hitler said that he preferred a protracted war in Spain: “From the German point of view, a 100 percent victory for Franco is undesirable.
In addition, the ruling circles of Germany and Italy at that moment were clearly afraid of the common actions of their potential opponents. For example, in the fall of 1936, State Secretary of the German Foreign Ministry Dickhoff proposed to refuse to send troops to Spain in the event of a decisive reaction from England, France and the United States. In turn, Mussolini sent troops to Spain, only making sure that neither England nor France was going to take action in support of the Spanish Republic.
In cases where the fascist powers encountered more or less stubborn resistance from England and France, they immediately limited assistance to the Francoists. In response to the piratical actions of the Italian fleet and aviation, which paralyzed merchant shipping in the Mediterranean, at the initiative of England and France, a conference of European countries was convened in Nyon (Switzerland) in September 1937, which instructed the British and French fleets to ensure the safety of navigation up to the destruction pirates. The aggressors had to moderate their appetites. German Foreign Minister Neurath, in a conversation with his Italian colleague Ciano, directly recommended that the Italians "be careful in measures related to the Spanish conflict", and received assurances from him that the Italian side would be more prudent "when torpedoing Bolshevik ships,
Numerous facts testify that if England, France and the USA were guided in relation to Spain by the elementary norms of international law and resolutely opposed the interventionists, the fascist powers would be forced to refuse assistance to Franco, and the republican government would have real opportunities to quickly put an end to the rebellion. The United States of America did not formally take part in the "non-intervention" policy, but fully shared its goals. In May 1937, the US Congress passed a new Neutrality Act. This law gave the president the right to authorize the sale of military materials to a belligerent country for cash and subject to their export by its transport. Republican Spain had neither currency nor ocean-going ships. The law turned against her in practice. But without any restrictions, the United States supplied the rebels.
Thus, due to the policy of "non-intervention" and "neutrality", the Spanish Republic found itself in a tight ring of economic blockade. She could buy weapons, military-strategic raw materials, medicines and food only in the USSR. The Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic, X. Alvarez del Vayo, rightly noted that the so-called "non-intervention" in reality was "a real, direct and immediate intervention in favor of the rebels."
The implementation of this policy was entrusted to the London Committee, created in September 1936, which consisted of the ambassadors of 27 European states accredited to the British government. The Soviet Union sent its representatives to the committee in order to get the imperialist states to stop helping the rebels. However, both the Anglo-French "peacekeepers" and the fascist aggressors sought to use the committee to stifle Republican Spain.
As for the League of Nations, where the same Anglo-French "peacekeepers" were in charge, it was limited to demagogic calls for the preservation of peace in Europe. Despite the numerous demands of the Soviet Union to apply the provisions of the Charter of the League of Nations to the invaders, this organization adopted streamlined resolutions that expressed only “concern” about the events in Spain and the “methods” of actions of some countries that were contrary to international law.
The striking contrast between the tragedy of Spain and the serene peace of the rich quarters of London and Paris was figuratively reflected by the great Chilean poet Pablo Neruda in lines filled with anger and pain:
When Spain dug the earth with her nails, Paris was cheerful and careless; Spain was shedding its last blood, and London was cutting its lawns and grooming its swan ponds.
In pursuing a policy of "non-interference", the ruling circles of England and France proceeded primarily from their class goals. In the fascist rebels, they saw the defenders of the power and privileges of the ruling Spanish classes, as well as the guarantors of the inviolability of their capital invested in the economy of this country. The value of the shares of the British and French monopolies, which had investments in Spain, rose sharply in connection with the beginning of the rebellion and intervention. So, if on the eve of the rebellion the cost of one share of the English company "Rio Tinto" was 975 francs, then in November 1936, when the fascist troops stood at the walls of Madrid, - 2600, in March 1937, during the offensive of the Italians near Guadalajara, - 3400, and after their defeat - 2500 francs.
At the same time, the ruling circles of these powers could not help but consider that the invasion of Spain by the fascist aggressors posed a serious threat to their colonial possessions in Africa and Asia and worsened their military-strategic and political positions in the event of a possible clash with Germany and Italy. Therefore, England and France tried to find a common language with the rebels, to agree with Franco on guarantees for their investments in Spain, to neutralize the penetration of German and Italian capital into the Spanish economy and to prevent the final transition of "nationalist" Spain to the side of the fascist powers.
Describing the position of the ruling circles of France, the Soviet plenipotentiary J. Surits noted: “The Spanish problem split the country into two camps, but even among Franco's supporters, the majority will be against allowing the Italians and Germans to their Pyrenean border. They base all their calculations (false, of course) on the belief that with the help of England, which is also interested in preventing Italians and Germans from entering Spain, it will be easy to seize Franco and, with the help of "golden" and other keys, "free" him from German-Italian guardianship.
This, in particular, explains the numerous attempts by Britain and France to achieve a "peaceful settlement" of the Spanish problem. Thus, at a critical moment, when fascist troops approached the outskirts of Madrid in early November 1936, the governments of England and France proposed a "peaceful settlement" of the Spanish conflict by creating a "provisional government" under the control of European states and turning Spain into a federation of semi-autonomous areas. In the spring of 1937, at the height of the fighting on the Jarama River and near Guadalajara, England again tried to impose a "truce" with the rebels on Republican Spain. At the same time, Britain made great efforts to establish direct contacts with the Franco government. Already in October-November 1936, she established trade relations with him, and at the beginning of 1937. English consulates were opened in the area captured by the rebels. In November, the Chamberlain government effectively recognized the Franco government.
In turn, the fascist rebels tried to use the contradictions in the Pyrenees between England and France, on the one hand, and Germany and Italy, on the other, to strengthen their positions both within the country and in the international arena.
When, after the defeat of the interventionists and rebels near Madrid, the front stabilized, the Francoist command made serious adjustments to military and political plans. Now the main efforts were directed at the northern provinces of the republic - the Basque Country and Asturias. In the first place, Germany insisted on changing the direction of the main attack, being interested in the exploitation of this large mining region.
As soon as the fascist troops captured Bilbao, Franco allowed the English company "Orkonera" to resume the export of iron ore from this port, for which he was granted a loan of one million pounds sterling. Germany, extremely concerned about Franco's flirting with England, demanded from him in the form of an ultimatum guarantees of their economic interests. During March - July 1937, she achieved the signing of three Spanish-German protocols, according to which the rebels undertook to conclude a trade agreement with Germany, not to conduct economic negotiations with other countries without her consent, to send raw materials and various goods to the Reich to pay for military supplies, and to allow German monopolists to explore and exploit the mineral resources of the metropolis and its possessions. Shortly thereafter, German companies acquired concessions for 73 Spanish mining enterprises and, in order to increase the export of raw materials, began to modernize them. In an effort to prevent such deals between Franco and England, the Nazis bluntly told him that Germany would increase its assistance only if the latter provided it with supplies of ore.
Britain, France and the USA considered the policy of "non-intervention" as a means of creating a united front of the capitalist states against the Soviet Union. In 1936–1937 such a line has not yet manifested itself in full, since this was hindered by the position of the democratic public of the world, which not only stood in solidarity with the Spanish people, but also provided them with all-round support. Forced to reckon with this, the British and French governments resorted to maneuvering in the policy of "non-intervention". They either softened the blockade of the Spanish Republic or strengthened it.
However, in late 1937 and early 1938, when supporters of direct collusion with the fascist powers (Daladier and Chamberlain) came to power in France and England, the anti-Soviet tendency in the policy of "non-intervention" became dominant. On this occasion, the Soviet plenipotentiary in London, I. M. Maisky, wrote: “Chamberlain is deeply hostile to communism and the USSR. He is completely unable to step over this enmity for the sake of creating a united front of peace-loving powers, even in order to protect the British Empire. Moreover, he believes that German and Italian fascism can still be useful to the British bourgeoisie as a battering ram in the fight against the "communist danger" coming from the east. That is why his entire foreign policy orientation is based not on resistance to the aggressors, but on a deal with the aggressors at the expense of third countries, if possible, at the expense of the USSR.”
Republican Spain experienced especially strong pressure from the surrendering circles of England and France during the period when Germany seized Austria and was preparing to dismember Czechoslovakia. In March-April 1938, the interventionists and rebels delivered a powerful blow on the Aragonese front and broke through to the Mediterranean Sea. Having cut off Catalonia from the central and southern parts of the country, they reached the approaches to Valencia, which sharply worsened the strategic and political position of the republic. It was at this moment that the ruling circles of England and France again strenuously pressed the republican government to conclude an "honorable peace" with the rebels. In August 1938, Britain and France, in an ultimatum form, again demanded a ceasefire from the government of the republic.
One of the main acts of the policy of "non-intervention" of England and France during this period were negotiations with Germany and Italy on the withdrawal of volunteers and granting Franco the right of a "belligerent". Chamberlain suggested that Italy create a kind of "Mediterranean Locarno". As a price for this, England agreed that the evacuation of Italian "volunteers" from Spain was purely symbolic.
However, negotiations on the evacuation of volunteers, which lasted for many months in the London non-intervention committee, were thwarted by Hitler, Mussolini and Franco, whose tactics, according to the head of the political department of the German Foreign Ministry, Weizsäcker, was to “avoid at any cost the removal of “volunteers” from the Francoist army." The fascist powers did their best to delay the solution of this issue with the help of "skillful counter-questions, reservations and counter-proposals." Meanwhile, the war continued. While negotiations were going on, Germany and Italy dramatically increased the supply of military materials and weapons to the Francoists. By the autumn of 1938, the Spanish Republic found itself in a tight ring of blockade.
The Italo-German intervention and the policy of "non-intervention" by Britain, France and the United States greatly complicated the struggle of the Spanish people against the rebels. However, the aggressors failed to strangle the republic for almost three years. This is explained by the fact that the international democratic community, led by the Soviet Union, came out in its defense, which in every possible way contributed to the rallying of the forces of the Spanish anti-fascists and patriots.
The USSR continued to demand that the agreement on non-intervention in Spanish affairs be equally observed by all powers, including the fascist ones. At the XVII Plenum of the League of Nations in September 1937, M. Litvinov said that the Soviet Union, seeking to put an end to aggression, acceded to an agreement on non-intervention, “despite the fact that it considers the principle of neutrality inapplicable to the struggle of rebels against a legitimate government and contrary to international law ...".
But after the policy of "non-intervention" had become a means of strangling Spanish democracy, and its initiators and fascist aggressors had disregarded the norms of international law with regard to the Spanish Republic, the Soviet government warned on October 7, 1936 that "in no case could it agree to about non-intervention in the screen covering military assistance to the rebels by some of the parties to the agreement” and that, if this practice does not stop, it “will consider itself free from the obligations arising from the agreement”. Since the Western powers did not change their policy, the government of the USSR on October 23 notified the parties to the agreement that it had decided to "return to the government of Spain the rights and opportunities to purchase weapons ...".
Even those who have no sympathy for communism are forced to admit that the measures taken by the Soviet Union are perfectly just, since they were aimed not only at providing legitimate assistance to the Spanish Republic, but also at maintaining security and peace in Europe.
The Soviet Union made the most of all diplomatic channels to expose the fascist aggressors and the Anglo-French "peacekeepers". The representatives of the USSR in the London Committee and the League of Nations waged a stubborn struggle in defense of the Spanish Republic, for the mobilization of world public opinion against fascism. The efforts of the Soviet state played an important role in frustrating the attempts of the ruling circles of England and France behind the back of the Spanish Republic to come to terms with the fascist aggressors in 1936-1938.
At the final stage of the war, the ruling circles of Britain and France openly took the side of the fascist rebels. At the end of January 1939, Chamberlain and Daladier demanded in an ultimatum from the government of the republic an immediate surrender to Franco. On February 9, the British cruiser Devonshire supported the rebel invasion of the island of Menorca, which belonged to the Republicans. On February 27, England and France broke off diplomatic relations with the Republic and recognized the Franco government.
The policy of "non-intervention" stubbornly pursued by Britain, France and the United States significantly undermined the international front of anti-fascist forces and enabled their opponents to take advantageous strategic positions for subsequent aggressive actions that directly opened the way to the Second World War.