On June 22, 1941, Adolf Hitler violated the non-aggression pact he signed with Stalin and attacked the USSR after Germany and the Soviets had been dividing Europe for two years and launching terror campaigns against the civilian population. Russia still propagates the myth of the "Great Victory" in the Second World War (while claiming that the war started with the attack on the USSR). offers a recap on what the Kremlin lies about and how the United States helped Stalin win the war through lend-lease.
Lend-lease from the U.S. and Canada for the USSR
By no means did the USSR achieve its "Great Victory" on its own: it wouldn’t have been possible without support from Western allies. They warned the Soviet Union about the imminent attack by Adolf Hitler (and not once), but Joseph Stalin didn’t believe the intelligence data with clear maps showing amassed Wehrmacht troops and dismissed them as provocation.
To help the USSR resist the Third Reich, the United States extended its Lend-Lease Act, which allowed it to arm its allies without engaging in the war, to the USSR as early as October 1941. Although the United States did enter the war in December 1941, after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the act was in force until September 20, 1945.
The provision of weapons and humanitarian aid under the 1941 Lend-Lease Act mainly didn’t imply payment for the equipment and humanitarian aid directly but had the following conditions:
- unless destroyed, the U.S. military materiel had to be returned;
- the Americans were granted the right to lease naval bases in the territories of their allies during the war.
The U.S. Lend-Lease wasn’t the only assistance to the USSR: Canada implemented a similar, albeit smaller, Mutual Aid program for the Soviet Union and the United Kingdom.
How much it cost for the United States to arm the allies
During the Second World War, the United States provided its allies with $50.1 billion (equivalent to around $846 billion in 2023). They were distributed as follows:
- the United Kingdom — $31.4 billion, or $530 billion in 2023 currency (however, Winston Churchill wrote in his memoir that after June 1941, Britain sent the maximum possible aid received from allies to the USSR, while Clementine Churchill raised millions of pounds specifically for humanitarian aid for the Russians);
- the USSR — $11.3 billion, or $191 billion in 2023 currency (the U.S. and the U.K. agreed upon Lend-Lease for the USSR in October 1941 in Moscow on condition that Britain and the United States would deliver the weapons and aid to the Eastern Front themselves);
- France — $3.2 billion ($54 billion in 2023 currency);
- China — $1.6 billion ($27 billion);
- other allies — $2.5 billion ($42 billion in 2023 currency).
Reverse services of the lease of air bases totalled a much lesser $7.8 billion ($131 billion in 2023 currency), of which $6.8 billion ($114 billion in 2023 currency) were provided by the United Kingdom. Reverse Lend-Lease from the USSR to the U.S. amounted to merely $2.2 million, or $37 million in 2023 currency.
The Canadian program provided $4.7 billion ($79 billion in 2023 currency) worth of aid, which was also delivered mostly to Britain and the Soviet Union.
Lend-Lease is believed to be one of the initiatives of Franklin Roosevelt that dragged the United States into the war. However, its purpose was quite the opposite, as it managed to hold off a direct confrontation between the Americans and the Axis powers until December 7, 1941.
What the USSR received from the U.S.
As part of Lend-Lease, the United States provided the USSR with:
- hundreds of thousands of tons of aviation fuel;
- millions of rounds of artillery and small-arms munitions;
- spare tracks for tanks;
- car tires;
- spare parts for tanks, planes, etc.
Most of the BM-13N (the renown Katyusha) multiple rocket launchers were mounted on American-made Studebaker US6 trucks.
Supplies to the USSR were carried out by several routes (the Pacific route, the Trans-Iranian route, Arctic convoys, via the Black Sea, and the Soviet Arctic), and none of them was safe. Arctic convoys were the fastest but also the most dangerous. Early after Hitler’s invasion of the USSR, in July–December 1941, 40% of all supplies were carried out through this path. Approximately 15% of the cargo ended up on the ocean floor.
The USSR received an extensive list of aid for defense and counteroffensive under Lend-Lease.
Spare parts and components
- railway rails — 622,100 tons;
- car tires — 3,786,000;
- freight wagons — 11,075;
- radars — 445;
- engines for ships — 7,784;
- locomotives — 1,981;
- motor vehicles — 427,284;
- passenger SUVs — 51,503.;
- trucks — 375,883;
- motorcycles — 35,170;
- tractors — 8,071;
- cargo ships — 90;
- tanks — 7,056;
- army motorcycles — 32,000;
- aircraft — 14,700;
- anti-submarine ships — 105;
- torpedo boats — 197;
- aviation gasoline — 2,13 million tons;
Weapons and explosives
- rifles — 8,218;
- automatic weapons — 131,633;
- pistols — 12,997;
- explosives — 345,735 tons;
- dynamite — 31,933 tons;
- gunpowder — 127,000 tons;
- TNT — 123,150 tons;
- toluene — 107,683 tons;
- detonators — 903,000;
Resources, garment, and food
- food stocks — 4,478,000 tons;
- sugar — 610,000 tons;
- canned meat — 664,600 tons;
- non-ferrous metals — 802,000 tons;
- oil products — 2,670,000 tons;
- chemicals — 842,000 tons
- cotton — 106,893 tons;
- skin — 49,860 tons;
- alcohol — 331,066 l;
Boots and blankets
- army boots — 15,417,000 pairs;
- blankets — 1 541 590.
How the USSR paid back its Lend-Lease debts
The amount of Lend-Lease debts of U.S. allies after the Second World War was as follows:
- the United Kingdom — $4.33 billion, or $73 billion in 2023 currency; London made the last payment on December 29, 2006;
- France — in 1946, it signed a package of agreements with the United States to settle the French debt in exchange for a number of trade concessions (for example, it significantly increased quotas for displaying American films);
- China — $187 billion ($3.1 billion in 2023 currency); the United States first recognized the People's Republic of China as the successor to the debt, but in 1989, the U.S. demanded its return from Taiwan; the further fate of the debt is still unclear.
The United States demanded that the USSR pay $1.6 billion ($27 billion in 2023 currency) after the war, but the amount was halved in 1951 to $800 million ($9.3 billion in 2023 currency). the USSR agreed to pay only $300 million ($3.5 billion), which brought the negotiations to a standstill.
The agreement with the USSR on repayment of the debt was concluded only in 1972 (for the amount of $722 million, or $5.2 billion in 2023 currency). The Soviet Union paid only $48 million and stopped payments due to U.S. sanctions.
In June 1990, the United States and the USSR agreed on a new debt repayment period (2030). As of 2003, Russia owed another $100 million.
How Russia downgrades help from allies
The Lend-Lease Act made it possible to promptly arm the USSR. Moreover, the British delivered humanitarian aid to the Russians during the siege in the cold winter of 1941. Clementine Churchill collected this aid throughout the war, along with the Red Cross and other charitable organizations. Volunteers walking through the snow to the eastern front were dying on their way — not all of them returned home.
Did Soviet textbooks write about it, and do modern Russian textbooks write about it? Russia intentionally downgrades the role of Lend-Lease and the allies in general to emphasize its status as the sole victor in the war. It also disregards the fact that the "great victory" was bathed in the blood of the Poles executed and thrown into concentration camps by the USSR back in 1939, as well as in the blood of the Ukrainians, some of whom were declared collaborationists after the war.
Thus, Oleksandr Dovzhenko writes in his book Ukraine in Flames about women returning from German captivity who were immediately put on Soviet "fair" post-war trials. The same fate awaited a lot of former prisoners of war.
It’s also worth noting that the Russians have mythologized WWII as the Great Patriotic War, which in their interpretation lasted from 1941 to 1945.
"Second Front Now" after the division of Europe
The Russians try to erase the well-known information about two years of close relations between Stalin and Hitler and their joint march across Europe from history and bury it under the pathos of the "great victory".
In his memoir about WWIII and Hitler’s invasion of the USSR, Winston Churchill wrote:
"Up to the moment when the Soviet Government was set upon by Hitler they seemed to care for no one but themselves. Hitherto they had watched with stony composure the destruction of the front in France in 1940, and our vain efforts in 1941 to create a front in the Balkans. They had given important economic aid to Nazi Germany and had helped them in many minor ways."
"Now, having been deceived and taken by surprise, they were themselves under the flaming German sword. Their first impulse and lasting policy was to demand all possible succor from Great Britain and her empire, the possible partition of which between Stalin and Hitler had for the last eight months beguiled Soviet minds."
"They did not hesitate to appeal in urgent and strident terms to harassed and struggling Britain to send them the munitions on which we were counting, above all, even in the summer of 1941 they clamored for British landings in Europe, regardless of risk and cost, to establish a second front."
"The British Communists, who had hitherto done their worst, which was not much in our factories, and had denounced ‘the capitalist and imperialist war,’ turned about again overnight and began to scrawl the slogan ‘Second Front Now’ upon the walls and hoardings."
Hitler and Ribbentrop Streets in Moscow
The 80-year cycle. Biden signs Lend-Lease, like Roosevelt once did
A short historical recap of what happened next: in 1941, Lord Beaverbrook (Minister of Supply in Churchill's War Cabinet) led a British delegation to Moscow to offer weapons and supplies, including Lend-Lease from the United States.
Despite the fact that the British came with an offer of help, according to Churchill, they were received without much honor and blamed for all the troubles. At the same time, the generals brought back an interesting anecdote from this trip, which the prime minister cited in his memoir:
"One incident preserved by General Ismay in an apocryphal and somewhat lively form may be allowed to lighten the narrative. His orderly, a Royal Marine, was shown the sights of Moscow by one of the Intourist guides. "This," said the Russian, "is the Eden Hotel, formerly Ribbentrop Hotel. Here is the Beaverbrook railway station, formerly Goering Station. Will you have a cigarette, comrade?" The Marine replied, "Thank you, comrade, formerly bastard!"
Following negotiations, the delegates signed a protocol with the Soviets. It determined that supplies from Britain and the United States could be available to Russia between October 1941 and June 1942.
The Soviets dumped the transportation and unloading of all weapons in the USSR onto the U.S. and Britain.