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Co-belligerence

From Academic Kids

Co-belligerence is a term for waging of war together - against a common enemy. Co-belligerence is to be distinguished from a military alliance, but may be perceived as a euphemism. A government "finds itself" in a position as co-belligerent; compared to the alliance which is actively and willfully sought.

Co-belligerence is a broader and less precise status than wartime partnership in a formal military alliance. Co-belligerents may, or may not, support each other actively, but some degree of joint coordination, and for instance exchange of intelligence, is natural.

The term co-belligerence may indicate some kind of remoteness between the co-belligerent parties, cultural, ideological or otherwise, whereas alliance then indicates a corresponding closeness.

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The Allies as co-belligerents with former enemies

The term was used in 1943-45 during the latter stages of World War II to define the status of former German allies and associates (chiefly Italy, but also from 1944 Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary and Finland), after they more or less voluntarily joined the Allies' war against Germany.

Finland as co-belligerent with Nazi-Germany

Co-belligerence is also the term used by Finland for her military co-operation with Nazi-Germany in the Continuation War of 1941-44, when both countries had the Soviet Union as a common enemy. The Continuation War was a direct consequence of Nazi-Germany's attack on the Soviet Union, Operation Barbarossa. Until then the German and Soviet governments had been allies, as during the Winter War (1940) against Finland.

While the Allied propaganda from 1941 often referred to Finland as one of the Axis Powers, this description is especially in Finland viewed as negligent and erroneous, as Finland was never a signatory to the German-Italian-Japanese Tripartite Pact of September 1940, and as the Continuation War formally was seen as a separate war by both Moscow and Helsinki.

Remaining sympathy among the Allies, that was founded at the turn of the century, during the Russification of Finland, enhanced in connection with the Finnish War of Liberation, Finnish cooperation with Franco-British interventions in the Russian Civil War, and again enhanced during the Winter War, may have contributed to Allied assessment of Finland that, despite the state of war, was more understanding than in the cases of Hungary and Romania.

Finland's co-belligerence as an euphemism

Hitler declared to be allied with the Finns, but Finland's government declared their intention to remain a non-belligerent country, not the least due to a remaining neutralist public opinion. The truth was somewhere in-between:

  1. In practice, by mining the Gulf of Finland Finland's navy contributed to Germany's attack from the beginning. Thereby the Leningrad navy was locked in by Finland's navy, making the Baltic Sea and the Gulf of Bothnia practically domestic German waters, where submarines and navy could be trained without risks.
  2. After the Soviet attack on Finland, its re-conquest of the Karelian Isthmus, and to a lesser extent the occupation of East Karelia, contributed to the siege of Leningrad.
  3. The sixteen Finnish divisions tied down large numbers of Soviet troops.
  4. Germany's supply of much needed nickel from Petsamo and iron from Sweden was critical to the Nazis' ability to prolong the war.

Hungary and Romania as co-belligerents with Nazi Germany

There was never a written, official military alliance against the USSR between the National Socialist Germany, the democratic Finland, the fascist Italy, the semi-feudal Hungary and the ideology-free military dictatorship of Romania. The relations with the expected European dominant power, Nazi Germany, was not radically different in Hungary or Romania than in Finland. The German government was confident of victory and saw no reason to bind its hands with official written treaties and alliances with the various other states which were counted on joining the campaign. The difference was rather that Finland more successfully could utilize remaining sympathy among the Allies.

Another factor explaining why Finland but not Hungary or Romania in English works often are charcterized as co-belligerent with the Third Reich may be the Soviet occupation of Hungary and Romania. It was in line with Soviet policies to enhance the occupied nations' willingness to absorb Socialism by means of simplified accounts of the history of the Soviet Union's and particularly the Red Army's "heroic struggle against Fascism," that easily exaggerated the strength of Fascism in pre-Socialist Hungary and Romania.

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