War becomes global (1941)

On 22 June 1941, Germany, along with other European Axis members and Finland, invaded the Soviet Union in Operation Barbarossa. The primary targets of this surprise offensive[111] were the Baltic region, Moscow and Ukraine, with an ultimate goal of ending the 1941 campaign near the Arkhangelsk-Astrakhan line, connecting the Caspian and White Seas. Hitler's objectives were to eliminate the Soviet Union as a military power, exterminate Communism, generate Lebensraum ("living space")[112] by dispossessing the native population[113] and guarantee access to the strategic resources needed to defeat Germany's remaining rivals.[114] Although the Red Army was preparing for strategic counter-offensives before the war,[115] Barbarossa forced the Soviet supreme command to adopt a strategic defence. During the summer, the Axis made significant gains into Soviet territory, inflicting immense losses in both personnel and materiel. By the middle of August, however, the German Army High Command decided to suspend the offensive of a considerably depleted Army Group Centre, and to divert the 2nd Panzer Group to reinforce troops advancing towards central Ukraine and Leningrad.[116] The Kiev offensive was overwhelmingly successful, resulting in encirclement and elimination of four Soviet armies, and made further advance into Crimea and industrially developed Eastern Ukraine (the First Battle of Kharkov) possible.[117] Soviet counter-attack during the battle of Moscow, December 1941. The diversion of three quarters of the Axis troops and the majority of their air forces from France and the central Mediterranean to the Eastern Front[118] prompted Britain to reconsider its grand strategy.[119] In July, the UK and the Soviet Union formed a military alliance against Germany[120] The British and Soviets invaded Iran to secure the Persian Corridor and Iran's oil fields.[121] In August, the United Kingdom and the United States jointly issued the Atlantic Charter.[122] By October, when Axis operational objectives in Ukraine and the Baltic region were achieved, with only t e sieges of Leningrad[123] and Sevastopol continuing,[124] a major offensive against Moscow had been renewed. After two months of fierce battles, the German army almost reached the outer suburbs of Moscow, where the exhausted troops[125] were forced to suspend their offensive.[126] Large territorial gains were made by Axis forces, but their campaign had failed to achieve its main objectives: two key cities remained in Soviet hands, the Soviet capability to resist was not broken, and the Soviet Union retained a considerable part of its military potential. The blitzkrieg phase of the war in Europe had ended.[127] Animation of the WWII European Theatre. By early December, freshly mobilised reserves[128] allowed the Soviets to achieve numerical parity with Axis troops.[129] This, as well as intelligence data that established a minimal number of Soviet troops in the East sufficient to prevent any attack by the Japanese Kwantung Army,[130] allowed the Soviets to begin a massive counter-offensive that started on 5 December along a 1,000 kilometres (620 mi) front and pushed German troops 100–250 kilometres (62–160 mi) west.[131] German successes in Europe encouraged Japan to increase pressure on European governments in south-east Asia. The Dutch government agreed to provide Japan oil supplies from the Dutch East Indies, while refusing to hand over political control of the colonies. Vichy France, by contrast, agreed to a Japanese occupation of French Indochina.[132] In July 1941, the United States, United Kingdom and other Western governments reacted to the seizure of Indochina with a freeze on Japanese assets, while the United States (which supplied 80 percent of Japan's oil[133]) responded by placing a complete oil embargo.[134] That meant Japan was essentially forced to choose between abandoning its ambitions in Asia and the prosecution of the war against China, or seizing the natural resources it needed by force; the Japanese military did not consider the former an option, and many officers considered the oil embargo an unspoken declaration of war.