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Part IV: Soviet Military Assistance: Planning, Supply, and Compensation

 

Only now, well past the halfway mark of this study, do we arrive at the issue of Stalinist Russia's military involvement in the Spanish Republican war effort. Our course up to this point, however, has been faithful to the Kremlin's own piecemeal approach to the Spanish struggle. The war's outbreak in July 1936 triggered reactions by the Soviet leadership on several fronts, but direct military assistance to Madrid was not immediately planned or anticipated. By contrast, Stalin had deliberated only two weeks after the start of the uprising on 18 July before mobilizing a domestic campaign of solidarity with the Republic. Simultaneously, a global movement directed by the Comintern exploited events in Spain as a pretext for closing ranks among international Communists and adherents of the Popular Front. Shortly thereafter, from early to mid-August 1936, Stalin dispatched his first representatives to the Iberian Peninsula, a small party, but one which included journalists, cinematographers, military and trade attachés, and high-level diplomats. It was only at this stage, some six weeks into the Iberian struggle, that the Kremlin authorized preparations for a covert operation of unilateral military support to the Republic. This section will provide a chronology of Soviet military aid to the Republic and examine the separate facets of that assistance, including organization, logistics, the quantity and quality of the hardware, and the Republic's compensation for Soviet aid.
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Stalin and the Spanish Civil War