End of the Second World War, battle dust was still flying in the air, when Winston Churchill commands the launching of Operation Unthinkable. Without chance to celebrate victory, soldiers go to the next war fighting with new enemy.

Now what I'm wonder who could most likely win that war. And what kinds of economical and political repercussions of that war would there be for new Europe.


closed as too broad by Andon, JohnWDailey, StephenG, Aify, Rekesoft Feb 16 '18 at 10:47

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    $\begingroup$ At the end of the 2nd World War, Winston Churchill was the head of government of a bankrupt mid-size power which could not even feed its population. The United Kingdom had no more money, no more credit, and its economic base was strained to the breaking point. The Soviet Union had large manpower reserves, its industrial base was safe in the Urals, and the Red Army was inflamed with the spirit of victory. The most likely consequence of such a foolish act would have been the confinement of Winston Churchill in an insane asylum. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Feb 15 '18 at 23:32
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    $\begingroup$ AlexP is probably right. Churchill cannot justify another war with a (former) ally after five years of gruelling combat and rationing. He would need a really, really good excuse to launch operation Unthinkable, and morale and appetite for war are likely to be at zero percent. Only if the Soviets attack first could he have rallied enough public support behind him. You'd also need to drag in the Americans to have any chance of succeeding, while also mobilising the French and the ruins of Germany. $\endgroup$ – Erroneous Feb 15 '18 at 23:49

This is heavily speculation, but I suspect it would play out similar to the Germans fortunes earlier. The Soviets were in a better position in mainland Europe (as per your link about a 2.5:1 superiority)...assuming there was no surprise, this would have likely seen the soviets push far further into Germany early on in this conflict.

However with that being said, much of the Soviets resources were badly stretched and they were starting to experience food shortages...early in this new conflict, the Russians would have had to cope with Famine (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soviet_famine_of_1946%E2%80%9347) that saw drought and post-war conditions see a harvest with a yield of barely 40% what they saw in 1940.

Reversely, the UK would remain quite well supplied...not necessarily due to their own resources, but due to the semi-defunct far flung British empire. New Zealand and Canada proved more than capable of feeding the British isles throughout WWII and their lands didn't see the ravages of war like much of the Russian grain producing lands did. And the 'far flung empire' wasn't simply food producing anymore...by the end of WWII, Canada had emerged as the 4th strongest industrial producer followed closely by India, South Africa, and Australia. As any conflict in Europe extended, the world wide resources of the British would begin to have an impact. Additionally, British air superiority would likely dominate the skies and limit what all the soviets could take on land.

Just like Hitler, if this was a purely conventional war, the Russian's would see strong military success to begin however a lack of logistics and supplies would be an eventual downfall.

However thats not the game changer. Russia would develop the atomic bomb option in 1949...giving the allies 4 full years of sole access to a war ending weapon. The Earth may be significantly more irradiated in this alternate timeline, but the Allies would see victory from it. Keep in mind that the Chinese and now Japanese air bases were now in American hands, bringing the nuclear option into play from the east as well as the west.

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    $\begingroup$ I agree with the nukes. Russia would be ended as an opponent the same way the Japanese were. There is no meaningful resistance they could put up. $\endgroup$ – Willk Feb 16 '18 at 1:43
  • $\begingroup$ Operation Unthinkable was intended to be a joint operation with the USA. Your answer mainly assumes this was a British affair. In the post-war era of the late 1940s (in history) the USA bluffed the USSR that it had more nuclear weapons than it actually possessed. Presumably wartime production of nuclear weapons would have certainly made more & quicker too. $\endgroup$ – a4android Feb 16 '18 at 5:06
  • $\begingroup$ @a4android - I focused on the UK as they were the ones with questionable supply lines vs a protracted war (US troops will remain well fed and supplied so I skipped over them in that point), but you are right...British air superiority in Europe heavily depends on American involvement and the 2.5:1 ratio only exists due to American involvement. I'll edit the answer to include a bit more stress on the joint op portion. $\endgroup$ – Twelfth Feb 16 '18 at 16:21

The reality was at that time, that neither country could go to war but had no real idea whether or not the other was in a similar position.

The problem here is one of sustainment.

In military thinking, sustainment is the ability of a nation to continue to pay for military action on a given scale over a defined period. When the Nazis invaded Poland, the resulting war was existential in nature. That is to say, France, England, Australia, the USA, were all fighting an enemy that intended to strike them and either destroy or completely occupy them. In such a situation, money is always found to fight such an enemy because economic futures only have to be worried about if there is a future to worry about in the first place.

If you look at Australian defence spending during the early 1940s for instance (apologies but this is the only country that I have numbers for off the top of my head) it was spending around 40% or more of GDP per year on its military engagements. That is completely unsustainable beyond a couple of years. Admittedly Australia at the time had a very small military at the beginning of WWII and ramped up in aircraft building, troop numbers, and many other military ventures as a result of finding itself in a war in two theatres (European and Pacific) and as such is probably an extreme case, but the truth is that the other nations embroiled in WWII were also quite strapped at the end of it economically.

Russia was even strapped DURING the war. At Stalingrad, they didn't have enough rifles for all their soldiers and the only reason why Stalingrad held was that the Germans were completely unprepared for Russian winters.

So, it was actually a good thing that the war ended when it did. Part of the reason why there was an Eastern European bloc during the cold war was that the Allies didn't have the resources to drive Russia back out of Europe, and Russia didn't have the resources to drive further west into Europe.

Who would've won? Whomever had the better command of their resources at the time. Given that the USA and Australia were always likely to have to pull out to finally deal with Japan at the time, it's possible that Russia would have taken all of Germany, and possibly even more of Europe, but in reality we'll never know because both sides were really hiding their economic positions too well. The cold war was a cold war for a reason when you realise no-one could afford a hot one.

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    $\begingroup$ Russia was also a command economy, so to a certain extent they could make up for lack of funding with good old fashioned slave labor. Hundreds of thousands of peasants and assorted so called undesirables were rounded up and shipped to factories to work for a thousand calories a day and a straw pallet to sleep on for a few hours a night. Drastically cut costs at the expense of untold human misery and a death count that dwarfed the holocaust. $\endgroup$ – TCAT117 Feb 15 '18 at 23:43
  • $\begingroup$ This is actually a good point; manpower was effectively a consumable resource in Russia because there were so darned many of them. Even so, I think one has to consider RATE of output, which was why I think the Russians were more interested in a Cold War; it gave them time to get their stockpiles of military equipment back up to war footing levels after WWII and the rate at which their stockpile had been depleted at the time. $\endgroup$ – Tim B II Feb 15 '18 at 23:49

The soviets didn't posses nuclear weapons yet while the US did. Its unlikely that in the state Russia was in immediately following the end of the 2nd world war that they would have been able to cobble one together if a serious large scale attack was pressed. The biggest weakness the allies had was a war weary public. Imagine having huge victory celebrations only to tell all those troops their conscription dates had been extended indefinitely. Imagine all their families back home who only a few days prior had jubilantly thought their sons were coming home being told they were instead being thrown into a new meat grinder. Allied Morale would be utterly devastated, their only ace in the hole would be nuclear strikes, at which point the already demoralized public would undoubtedly begin drawing similarities between their leaders and the axis war criminals. Its pretty hard to call yourself a good guy and rally your troops and people's morale when you are vaporizing cities with horrific super-weapons. WW2 was sustained on the idea that it was a righteous cause. As soon as the allies launched a surprise attack against a former ally that had been instrumental in defeating their enemies The allied leaders would have lost their peoples trust and confidence.


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