160 Joint Intelligence Committee Appreciation 1/47

MELBOURNE, 27 March 1947



[matter omitted]

Terms of Reference:

By minute dated 12 December 1946, the Joint Secretary, Joint Planning Committee forwarded copy of Chiefs of Staff Committee Minute No. 11/1946 and copy No. 32 of 'An Appreciation of the Strategical Position of Australia' dated February 1946. [1] The Joint Secretary, Chiefs of Staff Committee requested that this matter receive the attention of the Joint Intelligence Committee, and that they report on the Intelligence aspects thereof to the Chiefs of Staff Committee. [2]

Having examined these documents, the Joint Intelligence Committee submit the following appreciation for the consideration of the Chiefs of Staff Committee.

Division of this Appreciation into parts:

2. For convenience, this appreciation is divided into three parts- Part 1- Review of the world situation as it affects Australia.

Part 2A- Possibility of war.

B- The likely courses of action the enemy would adopt, with particular reference to theatres of operations.

Part 3- Short summary of conclusions of Joint Intelligence Committee.


Threats from Adjacent Countries:

3. In the foreseeable future, which can be regarded as the period which planning based on present knowledge must take into account, Australia's physical security is not likely to be seriously endangered as a result of any hostile or unfriendly action in her own theatre. No country in the Pacific or South East Asia (India is dealt with separately) possesses the capacity, either in point of organisation or equipment, to conduct operations against her of any significance. There is no danger at present discernible of any of them developing a military potential which would enable them, either together or singly, successfully to challenge the Commonwealth.

4. Apart from questions of their military capacity, none of these countries, perhaps with the exception of Siam, has yet evolved any set policy to govern its future relations with Australia. In the case of Indonesia, Burma, Malaya, Indo-China and the Philippines, a variety of factors, particularly the incomplete stage of their political development, makes it extremely doubtful whether their own leaders, as distinct from their foreign administrations, Dutch, British, French or American as the case may be, which exercise or until recently exercised jurisdiction over them, have yet got down to thinking in terms of external policy. What is quite clear is that a considerable time will elapse before any grouping of these countries define their essential area interests.

Until they do so and have a clear appreciation of what they want, they are unlikely to quarrel with Australian policy. The risk remains that they can at any time be prompted by external pressure, whether Russian, Chinese or Indian, to protest against some aspect of Australian policy or to lend their support against some Australian action. But the point at which their protests become a military threat will be the point at which Australia, as part of the British Commonwealth, faces a greater threat in Europe or Asia or both. By themselves, whether they are regarded in groupings or singly, the countries in this area do not endanger our physical security except insofar as they are made part of a hostile programme whose main impact is felt elsewhere.

Nature of the Problem:

5. Such threats to Australian security as here require consideration will be in consequence of hostile or unfriendly action in the Middle East or Far East. This does not disregard Europe as a possible theatre of war, or the possibility that initial moves by a future enemy will be made in Europe. What it does say is that inevitably hostile action in any one of the three major theatres, whether Europe, the Middle East or the Far East, will quickly react in the other two, thus establishing in the case of Australia a responsibility to concentrate, in her defence planning, on the Middle East and the Far East as the regions in proximity to her.

6. Each of these two areas, particularly the former, is capable of producing a situation which threatens some vital British interest resulting in Australia becoming involved either because of her ties with the United Kingdom or because it is felt that Australian participation is essential in order to protect her own ultimate position.

7. The only Powers capable of waging war singly against the British Commonwealth are the United States and the USSR It is assumed for present purposes that no threat arises from the United States. For so long as close relations are maintained between the British Commonwealth and the United States, no combination of powers which does not include Russia can safely challenge the British Commonwealth.

8. In these circumstances, this paper limits itself to a survey of the position in the Far East and the Middle East as the areas in which any threat to Australia may become real, either because of direct Russian action or because of support given by the Soviet to other major countries in those areas.

9. It is not said that Russia is committed to aggression, or that diplomacy is incapable of adjusting current or future differences.

The proposition is merely that, in estimating the military contingencies that can arise in the future, attention must be given first and foremost to the factor of Russia.

Russia in the Far East.

10. From the economic point of view, the Far East is important to the Soviet because of the great potential resources of her own eastern territories as well as of Manchuria, the potentialities of the Chinese market, the mercantile outlet provided by the warm water ports of Dairen and Port Arthur, and the access which these ports give her to raw materials in the Pacific and South East Asia.

11. Russia also has a definite political interest in the Far East.

Her frontiers with China are largely protected by a chain of buffer states and provinces in which Soviet influence predominates, but her Pacific seaboard provides a back door through which Russian security can be seriously threatened. In the face of the growing power of the United States, which now confronts her in Asia as well as in Europe, it has become essential that she establish for herself a strong position on the Pacific coast. This objective is helped by the eastward movement of Soviet industry, although considerations of Russian security in Europe here play their part. The Soviet position is further strengthened by her occupation of Northern Korea, by the acquisition of the Kuriles and Southern Sakhalin, and by the activity of Chinese communists in Manchuria and elsewhere in northern China.

Russian Policy towards Japan:

12. Russia is unlikely to regard her position in the Far East as consolidated for so long as United States forces remain in Japan.

If and when those forces withdraw, the Soviet may aim to dominate the country by a puppet Japanese government backed up by military pressure from adjoining Soviet territory. Meanwhile, Soviet policy is directed towards the communisation of Japanese prisoners of war in Russian hands. In Japan itself its opportunities are at present limited to preparing the ground. This can be done by supporting the spread of communism among the Japanese, and by undermining American influence.

The Factor of China:

13. Since the early withdrawal of American forces from Japan cannot be forecast, the Soviet may be prompted to look for alternative support in the Far East. The prospect of Japan under what for all practical purposes is American control is one which can be easily faced only if the Soviet is not at the same time confronted by an unfriendly China, which could quickly become an enemy base.

14. Threats which the Soviet may find in China would be removed if that country were brought under Russian influence. This end might be accomplished by the establishment, through penetration or by civil war, of a passive Chinese government or, in the last resort, by a political and military understanding with the Kuomintang.

15. The present temper of Chinese nationalist leaders does not rule out the possibility of China and the Soviet reaching an understanding which goes beyond the limited scope of their treaty of 14th August 1945. There is already some evidence of Chinese distrust of American policy in the Far East. There are potential sources of friction, some of which can lead to serious disagreement, between China and the United Kingdom and between China and France. The reappearance of Japan as a strong economic unit, especially if this results from the policy of the Western Powers, may create grave disquiet. These factors, singly or in combination, are capable of re-orientating Chinese sympathy towards Russia.

16. There is, however, no immediate need for the Soviet to entertain the idea of a military alliance with China. With the American decision to discontinue efforts at mediation between the Chinese Government and Chinese communists, the way is open for the Soviet herself, if she so elects, to attempt to bring about the establishment of a central Chinese government which in the initial stages might be at least partly Communist and offer scope for future infiltration of Russian influence. It is perhaps relevant to mention that in some quarters the American failure at mediation is traced to Russian efforts, exercised through Yenan, to prevent the creation under American influence of a unified China which might threaten Russian security.

Russia and South East Asia:

17. South East Asia cannot be without some importance in Soviet strategy, but it is important in the restricted sense that South East Asia plays a part in the economy as well as in the strategic dispositions of the Western Powers, and unrest there can have a prejudicial effect on their military capacity in Europe, in the Middle East and in the Far East. Russia's broad objectives, whether expansionist or merely aimed at her own conception of security, could be achieved in this region by propaganda and disruptive tactics which would curtail resources from the Western Powers and hold down their forces.

18. Direct Russian intervention in South East Asia is most improbable. Quite apart from the relative unimportance of the area to her, the Soviet would hardly risk the danger of extending her forces into South East Asia while the United States remains unchallenged on her eastern flank. A Soviet challenge to the United States in the Far East would seem to be a necessary pre- condition to Russian military activity in South East Asia or, for that matter, elsewhere in the Pacific.

Importance of China:

19. The real danger to South East Asia, and therefore to Australia, will arise from the Far East if Russia should combine with China. Under these circumstances China would be well placed, and indeed might be prompted on her own account to embark on operations in Indo-China, Burma, Siam, Malaya or elsewhere in the region. In such an event she would derive substantial assistance from the large groups of overseas Chinese who honeycomb these countries. These Chinese nationals must be considered a potential source of trouble in South East Asia, firstly because incidents between them and indigenous peoples of the area are capable of provoking demands or providing the excuse for intervention by China in South East Asia; and secondly because, in the event of such intervention, they can facilitate the entry of Chinese forces and, in some regions, cause widespread paralysis of public services.

20. China by herself does not now or in the foreseeable future represent a threat to South East Asia or to Australia. She has become impoverished by many years of war; politically she is sharply divided although a growing nationalism may ultimately blunt this division; her army is poorly equipped, there are no Chinese naval or air forces of any consequence; and she has a primitive economy.

Future of Japan:

21.Premature withdrawal by the United States and the British Commonwealth of their occupation forces in Japan would leave the way open for an immediate Russian influx, possibly resulting in Japan being quickly brought for all practical purposes under Soviet direction. If, on the other hand, the Western Powers remain in control, the prospects are that Japan will establish a stable government, which at any rate in form will be a democratic government, and a reasonable economy. These characteristics may, nevertheless, be insufficient, after the period of occupation, to keep her out of the Russian camp. The essential danger is that whatever the nature of their government, the Japanese may be prompted by expediency to turn to any foreign quarter whose support is calculated to facilitate the re-establishment of Japan as a first class power. This urge may orientate Japan towards Russia, despite the inconclusive factor of the traditional enmity between these two countries and despite Russia's occupation of the Kuriles and Southern Sakhalin. It is difficult to dogmatise at this stage but, given a withdrawal from Japan of American influence, an understanding between Japan and Russia is less improbable than an understanding between Japan and China. Either development, however, is beyond the period encompassed by this paper.

Russia in the Middle East:

22. The Middle East area is of particular strategic concern to the Soviet. As a potential source of trouble it outranks the Far East in importance. Although, in consequence of the war, the Soviet has achieved her old frontiers in the west and east, she has not done so in the south where her frontier has no protective screen. In her desire to deepen her defences she may attempt to dominate countries such as Turkey and Persia which she considers necessary to her security in this region. It is held in some quarters that the Russian search for security is a constantly expanding process without fixed limits. If this view is correct, the Soviet may seek access to the Persian Gulf, and generally attempt to extend her economic and political, and perhaps her ideological influence throughout the Arab countries. In this region there are minorities lending themselves to exploitation, and the unrest throughout the area provides fertile ground for an active policy.

23. If Russia merely aims at self-protection, if there are in fact clear limits to her search for security, some appreciable measure of Soviet activity in the Middle East can still be expected. In this region she must be conscious of great weakness in two important respects. While the industrialisation of her eastern areas, an essential feature of her planning, has reduced the vulnerability of Soviet industry to attack from the West, that industry has now become vulnerable to attack from the south. At the same time, her Caucasian oilfields upon which she is so dependent are an easy objective for any potential enemy operating from adjacent areas to the south.

24. The importance of the Middle East in future strategy arises partly from the fact that it contains one third of the oil resources of the world. Russian oil supplies are not inexhaustible for her long term requirements, and she must therefore at some stage look beyond her southern borders to increase them.

Conversely, the Soviet's own position is strengthened, riot only in the Middle East, but in every other theatre, if, by political or other measures, she can deny oil to Britain, the only other major power of any consequence in the Middle East. Since roughly seventy Percent of British requirements are drawn from this region, the implications of any serious curtailment of these supplies are obvious.

Threats to South East Asia:

25. As in the case of Russian policy in the Far East, South East Asia can be regarded as being of secondary importance to Soviet strategy in the Middle East. It is difficult to imagine a direct Soviet attack on any of the countries in South East Asia, for the reason that, in the event of war elsewhere, disruptive tactics without resort to force would achieve much the same result as a direct assault, namely, the holding down of the forces of Western Powers and limiting the flow of their supplies. If, notwithstanding this factor, a Soviet attack were launched from the north west, it would require to b@ based on India or on the Persian Gulf. It could be based on the Persian Gulf only if Russia first secured her eastern, that is to say, her Indian flank by an understanding with India, or by some assurance that India would remain neutral.

Importance of India:

26. It is reasonable to assume that, in keeping with a traditional attitude, Russia will develop increasing interest in India from this point onwards. The United Kingdom is no longer in a position effectively to control the course of Indian events, and British authority will be withdrawn not later than 30th June, 1948. This decision, coupled with India's internal dissension, provides Russia with an opportunity to pursue a more positive policy in India than she has done in the past.

27. As distinct from this, Russia must calculate the strategic importance of India in relation to any moves which she may contemplate in the Middle East. A hostile India, providing a base for operations against the Russian flank created by any Soviet thrust into Persia, is a potential threat which Soviet policy cannot afford to ignore. A neutral India, on the other hand, would greatly facilitate Russian strategy in the Middle East since it safeguards that flank. Indian neutrality is, in fact, of more essential use to the Soviet than an India brought into an alliance, because an alliance would open the country not only to enemy attack but also to enemy occupation.

28. In India itself, the situation is fluid, and some considerable time is likely to elapse before Indian leaders make up their minds regarding which course the country should follow. There appear, however, to be at least three ways in which the situation may develop- (a) There are a number of indications, including the resolution of the Constituent Assembly for the proclamation of India as an independent sovereign republic, that India will decide not to remain in the British Commonwealth. Despite her withdrawal, however, India may continue to go along with countries of the British Commonwealth because she already has firm economic and political relations with many of them, because of her long connection with the United Kingdom, and because she may consider that she would gain strength from maintaining a close connection with British countries, especially if, as is and will be the case, those countries maintain close relations with the United States.

(b) India may join the Russian camp. On security grounds her leaders may argue that China is bound ultimately to come under Russian control, thereby increasing the threat to India from Russia in the north east. On ideological grounds, it may be argued that Russia is an Asiatic power; insofar as the Moslems are concerned, cultural ties may be found in the fact that there are 25,000,000 Muslims in adjacent Soviet Republics. On purely political grounds, those Indian leaders who desire to cast India as the principal power in South East Asia may be tempted to conclude that this role might be more quickly accomplished if given Russian backing. Finally, it is not without point that Russia, unlike the United Kingdom, France and Holland has no colonial possessions in the area, the administration of which may provide a source of friction, or at least evoke adverse Indian comment.

(c) India may adopt a completely independent role, reasoning that in view of her huge size, population and resources she can maintain herself as a single unit. It is impossible at this stage to predict with any confidence the course which India may take.

The most that can be suggested is that Soviet policy will aim to ensure Indian neutrality in the event of hostilities in the Middle East. It is open to serious doubt whether Russia, having an eye on her own particular strategy which demands that she focus attention on the Middle East, would be prepared to support by military strength any foreign aspirations which India may develop.


29. Just as China is the key to hostile strategy in eastern Asia, so India must be regarded as the key to hostile strategy in the area to the north west of Australia. Australia's physical security is not directly threatened by Russia without China, nor by Russia without India. In the foreseeable future neither China nor India constitutes a military danger to Australia unless it receives Russian military support. Given such support, these countries could represent a threat.




30. In discussing the possibilities of war it should be borne in mind that service intelligence is bound to consider the worst case, in order that:-

(a) The intentions of a potential enemy can be assessed as long as is possible before actual hostilities are declared.

(b) The necessary data can be accumulated to wage a successful war.

31. While there is no evidence to show that war between the British Commonwealth of Nations and the USSR is inevitable, the possibility that such a conflict may occur exists, and will continue to exist. Therefore, in laying plans for the future, consideration must be given not only to the possibility of a clash with the USSR, but also to the future time at which such a clash is most likely to occur.

32. The main possibility of war between the British Commonwealth of Nations and the USSR lies in the expansionist policy which the Soviet Government has followed to date. While at present there is a halt in the Soviet long range plan of expansion, it is likely that, after consolidation, further stages of the plan will be put into effect.

33. Though at present it appears unlikely that the USSR will deliberately seek war with the UK and the USA-since war with the former would most probably mean war with the latter also-the possibility continually exists that, through a miscalculation of the exact point at which she will be opposed by force, the USSR may make a move which will provoke armed counter measures.

34. While, therefore, the possibility of an armed clash between the UK and the USA on the one hand and the USSR on the other, does exist, the probability of such a clash and the future time at which it is likely to occur, will be governed primarily by the following factors:-

(a) The future foreign policy adopted by the USSR.

(b) The ability of the economy of the USSR to back up an aggressive foreign policy.

(c) The possession by the USSR of atomic and biological weapons.

35. The foreign policy of the USSR has so far provided her with a ring of buffer states except in the Middle East and on her Pacific seaboard and it is most probable that her future aim is to achieve similar protection for what she considers her present weak spots.

These two areas also represent the most likely places in which the adoption of a policy of expansion on the part of the USSR is likely to bring her into conflict with UK and USA interests.

36. Probably the largest single factor in determining the future time at which a war with the USSR is likely to take place is the ability of Soviet economy to support a major war. At present Soviet economy is not in a position to do this as it is engaged in the process of rehabilitating itself after the exhausting struggle of World War II. The overall economic objective has been officially stated as being to increase its military-economic potential to such a degree that the country will be safe in the future against any contingencies. All effort under the present five year plan is being directed towards this end, with special emphasis on heavy industry, in which sphere the USSR hopes to reach the USA output level of 1939 by 1960. In the all-out drive to step up production in heavy industry the output of light industry has suffered considerably, since the five year plan cannot produce the consumer commodities the USSR requires and at the same time maintain the target set for it in heavy industry. in an attempt to supply the much needed consumer goods, without unduly retarding her overall programme, the Soviet Government has made, and is continuing to make, trade agreements with Eastern European and Scandinavian countries. At the present rate of progress there appears to be little chance of the Soviet economy being able to achieve its ultimate aim until 1955 at the very earliest, with the possibility however, that at the end of the current five year plan in 1950, it may be sufficiently far advanced for the Soviet Government to become somewhat bolder in its foreign policy. In addition, the USSR is having its own share of internal problems, the cumulative effect of which may be to retard production and so lengthen the period required to reach the ultimate economic goal. The main internal problems of the USSR are:-

(a) The intense ideological campaign which is in progress to ensure that all branches of the intelligentsia are solidly behind the Soviet regime.

(b) The necessity for an extensive overhaul of the Communist Party to eliminate the laxity and corruption that wartime relaxation of party controls allowed to flourish, and to ensure that all members of the party, which has doubled its strength since 1939, receive an adequate political education.

(c) The shift of Soviet industrial centres eastward has caused unrest in the Urals due to the enforced retention of large numbers of workers in that area under severe weather conditions and with poor housing facilities.

(d) Unrest in the Ukraine which is deeply bound up with the nationalist aims of the Ukrainians and in the last 18 months has caused the replacement of over half the leading workers in that area.

37. While it is impossible to judge accurately to what extent the development of atomic and biological weapons has progressed in the USSR, her espionage attempts and her recent support of the principle of disarmament indicate that she has not as yet developed these weapons. The Soviet Government is however expending considerable money and energy on atomic research and it appears a reasonable assumption that by 1951 she will be in a position to produce atomic weapons. This view is supported by American atomic experts and has been stated by Mr. Bernard M.

Baruch who was until recently a member of the U.N. Atomic Energy Commission. It is unlikely that the USSR would risk war without possessing atomic weapons, since the disadvantage at which this would place her might well prove insurmountable.

38. Another minor factor which may reduce the possibility of an early war with the USSR is the British withdrawal from India by 30th June, 1948. This will enable Soviet propaganda to be greatly increased in that country and will afford opportunities for the USSR to develop friendly relations with India. A friendly or neutral India is essential to the USSR should she see fit to extend her influence in the Middle East by military means.

39. From a consideration of the above, it will be seen that the possibility of war with the USSR does exist, particularly if that country continues to indulge in an expansionist foreign policy.

The possibility of the USSR precipitating a war before 1950-51, however, appears remote, although after that date the possibility of war will increase and will continue to increase until 1960, when, if her economic plans are successful she will consider herself in a position to support economically an aggressive foreign policy backed by military force.



40. It is proposed in this section to discuss the possible course of military action that the USSR might follow in the event of hostilities with the Western Powers. This will be confined to a consideration from the point of view of the USSR and does not include any reference to possible counter measures by the Western Powers.

[matter omitted]

General Strategy:

44. From the foregoing, it will be seen that any aggression on the part of the USSR in the immediate future would, of necessity, be primarily confined to land advances supported by the air forces, both of which will be supplemented by intense submarine activity against our trade communications and seaborne troop movements.

When considering these aspects it is likely that our anti- submarine measures will need to be on a far larger scale than those which were necessary during World War II against Germany and Japan.

45. From the point of view of available manpower, it would be possible for the USSR to take aggressive action simultaneously on her Eastern, Southern and Western frontiers. However, in view of the present limitations of her communications, and the disposition and development of her economic resources in the Far East, it is considered that full scale aggression on all fronts would be unsound. It is thought, therefore, that as a general plan the USSR would fight an aggressive war on her Western and Southern flanks with the object of overrunning Europe-including Great Britain and the Middle East, while fighting a holding war in the Far East after the initial occupation of Manchuria (should China be an unfriendly neutral) and Korea.

Probable Military Action:

46. In view of the above overall strategy that the USSR is likely to adopt, the following more detailed moves in the various areas are within her scope and are considered to represent the probable manner in which she will achieve that strategy:-

(a) Europe- Immediately on the outbreak of hostilities, the USSR could occupy Eastern Europe, at the same time advancing westwards to overrun France and Spain. The present strength of the Western Powers' armies of occupation on the continent would preclude any serious resistance to this move. These steps would include the eventual isolation of United Kingdom and, if possible, an invasion of that island. In these moves the forces of her satellite states could be given an important role such as an assault on Greece. With this accomplished, the USSR would control the Mediterranean and effectively seal the Dardanelles.

(b) Middle East- In the Middle East the USSR could seize Persia, Iraq and Palestine and occupy Arabia to a line between the head of the Persian Gulf and the Suez Canal. This would give her control of 90% of the existent Middle East oilfields and complete the isolation of Turkey which could be reduced at leisure. Should India prove unfriendly the USSR could occupy Afghanistan to guard against the possibility of a counter-offensive being mounted from India, and for use as a propaganda base to further disrupt Indian unity.

(c) Far East- The USSR while desirous of occupying Japan might be unable to do so provided the Occupation Forces remained, and retained their comparative naval and air superiority. If denied the possession of Japan, the USSR would attempt to neutralise, as much as possible, its effectiveness as an Allied base, and to this end would probably make use of what atomic and biological weapons she had at her disposal. The USSR would also occupy Sinkiang, Manchuria and Korea, and probably the Inner Mongolian Province of Chahar, in order to make use of the war potential of these areas (particularly Manchuria), to lessen the strain on her rather weak Trans-Siberian communications and to assure her of a buffer area on her otherwise unprotected frontier. In this former respect it is noteworthy that Manchuria is estimated to be the only area in the Far East which is capable of supporting a large population other than its indigenous people. This figure is considered to be approximately 1,500,000- On the other hand, the USSR Far Eastern provinces are at present incapable of supporting themselves in essential commodities, much less a large striking force in addition.

Should China prove friendly towards the USSR, however, the foregoing move would not be necessary.



47. The following is a summary of the main conclusions reached by Joint Intelligence Committee as a result of the Appreciation of the Strategical Position of Australia:-

(a) In the foreseeable future Australia's physical security is not likely to be seriously endangered, as the result of any hostile or unfriendly action in her own theatre.

(b) The USSR is the only major power against whom the British Commonwealth of Nations is likely to be involved in a war.

(c) The possibility of the USSR precipitating a war within the immediate future appears remote, although the possibility of war will increase as time elapses, and continue to increase. By 1960 her economic development could be sufficiently advanced to support an aggressive foreign policy backed by military force, plus all advanced scientific aids.

(d) In the event of such a war Britain might be in the position of an island fortress because of the use of guided missiles and biological warfare. Empire defence might therefore become the primary responsibility of the Dominions and British possessions overseas.

(e) Likely areas of Australian participation would be the Middle East and the Far East.

(f) It is considered that as a general plan the USSR would fight an aggressive war in Europe and the Middle East, with the object of overrunning both areas, while fighting a holding war in the Far East after the initial occupation of North China (Sinkiang, Manchuria and Korea) should China prove an unfriendly neutral.

1 See Volume IX, Document 134.

2 The Joint Intelligence Committee met to discuss this appreciation on 13 December 1946, then on 12 and 27 February and 13 March. J.C.G. Kevin represented the Department of External Affairs.

[AA : A1068 T4, DL47/5/1A]