STALIN AND VOROSHILOV PREPARE TO
MEET THE AXIS THREAT
Stalin seemed to be pursuing two contradictory policies during the late 1930s. On the one hand, the pace of the five year plans and the collectivization of agriculture required to support urban production centers were proceeding at what seemed breakneck speed to provide the industrial base for the modernization of the armed forces. On the other hand, the purges of 1937 and 1938 seemed to be intent on the decapitation of the very institutions for which the weapons and equipment were intended. Abroad, the impact of the military purges on the foreign perception of the Red Army's combat capabilities completely negated any positive impression that may have arisen from the expanding industrial base. Franz Halder, chief of staff of the German ground forces ( 1938-42), evaluated the Soviet officer corps as very poor and thought that it would take twenty years to return it to its former level of competence ( Gor'kov 1995, 50).
Stalin, of course, did not measure the results of the purges with a military yardstick. He and his closest "military" lieutenants had long held suspicions about the loyalty and competence of the professional military, especially those military specialists who may have had some relationship with the former commissar of defense, Trotsky. They saw the military purges as a narrow escape from a Fascist-Trotskyite plot that, they claimed, they had not realized was so widespread and so deep and so rotten ( Izvestiia TsK CPSU 1989, 59). It is unlikely that Stalin or his close associates ever regretted the decimation of the Soviet high command even when their armies were reeling back on Moscow in 1941. It is more likely that they shared the view of Joseph Davies, American ambassador to Moscow from 1936 to 1938; when