On 5 December 1940 OKH had delivered a plan for the German attack on the USSR. Benito Mussolini had attacked Greece on 28 October and, to support their Italian ally German High Command began planning a campaign in the Balkans to be launched in March 1941. Hitler’s directive No. 18, issued on 12 November 1940, appeared to give primacy to executing the war in the West over Russia. The situation instigated by Mussolini must also be ‘tidied up’. This was the background to the meeting on 5 December, which resulted in a compromise plan for the offensive against Russia – Hitler believed that the Russians would give ground before Moscow, but would fight hard to protect the resources of the Ukraine and hold on the Baltic ports. Therefore a compromise was agreed that once the area between Minsk and Smolensk was gained then the decision to press to Moscow or move north or south would be taken.
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