What would japans northern doctrine get out of invading the USSR?

This is very much an exercise in alternate history and assumes the japanese won at Khalkin Gol (the loss was the whole reason they abandoned it and moved to the southern expansion doctrine). So when the Germans would invade the USSR, japanese would move in too. The only problem is the right side of russia is pretty much empty and useless. And the USSR would lose because it could not fight a 2 front war.

So what would the japanese gain in the end? And was the northern expansion doctrine poorly thought out from the beginning?


I think it was poorly thought out, but the Southern Expansion Doctrine had equal flaws.

Prewar Japan was anti-Communist and the Northern Doctrine was an anti-communist ideological crusade. But it could not provide rubber, oil or much in the way of resources generally. But the Soviet Union had a land border with Japan.on Sakhalin and was the most proximate major power.

The Southern Doctrine promised mire resources except the IJM was dreadful at convoy work to actually exploit those supplies and relied on thr Soviet Union being neutral.

A carve up of Siberia with Germamy might have benefitted both but Germany would still have the Caucausus Oil. Besides, that large a land area is ripe for guerrilla war.

If both the USSR and the US/UK team up on Japan, Japan.is doomed.

Interestingly I have played this out in HOI4; you always need to aim for the Southern Doctrine, start the war, draw in the USSR and take it out with Germany, THEN get the Southern resources and then conquer India.


Real history is far more interesting than pretend-this forum should focus on ‘what happened’-take no offense intended.


Potential which is still being discovered today. In 1939 it was a huge unknown. No one knew what resources were there cause no one had looked.

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You have asked for a bit of World War 2 trivia that has been buried in my brain for many years. Way back in 1988, I was stationed at US Naval Radio Transmission Facility, Kami Seya, Japan. The small station library had several books on World War 2 and the second Sino-Japanese War directly translated from Japanese in the 1950’s given the Japanese perspective. The two old books that I read on the Japanese side of the Sino-Japanese also gave the Imperial Japanese Army goals on the northern doctrine.

The overwhelming goal of the Northern Doctrine was to permanently eliminate the Soviet Union/Russia as a threat to the Empire. The first goal is to unite the people of Japan behind the doctrine through the conquest of the Kurile Island chain and the Soviet controlled portion of Sakhalin Island. The majority of the Japanese at the time considered these islands to have been illegally seized and colonized by the Russians during the declining days of the Tokugawa shogunate so they would support the seizure of the islands. The second goal was to pernamently eliminate any Soviet/Russian naval threat to the Empire through the conquest of the Soviet Marinetime Province bordering the Sea of Japan. This will also allow the Japanese to connect their Manchurian railroads to the Trans-Siberian railroad making the conquered city of Vladivostok the principal port for the economic development of Manchuria. The third goal was the complete seizure of the Soviet side of the Amur River basin making the northern border of the Empire to be in the uninhabited and undeveloped Stanovoy Mountain Ranges and the Stanovoy Uplands . The economic benefit for the Japanese is that during the summer months, they would be able to use the tributaries and the Amur River to ship the raw materials and manufactured goods in Manchuria by river barge and small river frieghters to be loaded onto Japanese ships at Nikolayesk-on-Amur at the mouth of the Amur River. The final goal of the doctrine was to force the defeated Soviet Union to accept a western border based on Lake Baikal and the Irkut River. This would give the Imperial Japanese Army complete control of all the mountain ridges to the south and east of the river and the lake. This would allow the army to fortify the mountain ridges to defend the Empire. Any future assault by the Soviet Union or a successor Russian state to recover the lost territory will require the Russian to engage in series of brutal atrictional attacks to break their way through the Japanese fortifed mountain ridges while the Japanese slowly withdraw from ridge to newly fortified ridge staying on the defense in a repeat of the World War 1 Battles of the Izono.

The Japanese did have a far more coherent Northern Doctrine than they did with the Southern Expansion Doctrine. The trouble is that the Imperial Japanese Army lacked the capability to take on the Soviet Army. At most, the Imperial Japanese Army could muster only 32 divisions to invade the Soviet Union and try to defeat the defending 60 Soviet Infantry Divisions equipped with tank battalions in conjunction with Barbarrosa. The Japanese would have advanced at heavy cost but their offensive would have eventually grinded to a halt against the superior Soviet manpower in the area. Additionally, the Soviet tanks that were no match on the battlefield against the Panzer Mark IIIs and IVs were very effective against Japanese infantry armed with only anti-tank rifles for defense in the open Manchurian steppe. The extremely short campaign season in the area before the onset of winter would have still allowed the Soviets to transfer forces to fight against the Germans.


Aside from speculation, this was doctrine the IJA pursued for some time in real life and then rejected, so it bears discussion.

Japan had a strategic weakness in that its home islands, population centres and industry were ‘off side’ of its Pacific holdings. Thus a southern expansion makes Japan vulnerable to a Soviet intervention and requires the Soviet Union to stay neutral. In WWII the Japanese enjoyed that advantage for as long as possible.

Japan had fewer natural barriers to Soviet attacks than for Southern ones, though. Their primary defense ironically was a chronically weak Soviet Navy in the Pacific.


Very good information which correlates to what I saw in Japanese museums.

There is one other thing. I think after the after the Russian defeat early in the century and the Japanese intervention(which is seen as an invasion by the Russians) as it involved 70000 Japanese the Japanese got complacent. They also felt shortchanged by Versailles and the postwar attitude.

Anyway as we know they made a big but understandable mistake by underestimating the Soviet/Russian industry and its capability to come back and their tanks which could Chew :smiling_imp: up the little Japanese hago tanks.

So hubrus played a role as well. The Japanese were much better at invading islands as the Soviet mess in the Kuriles showed in 1945 but on land the Japanese in no way could get the capability to fight the Soviets.


Playing Devil’s advocate, one could argue they didn’t have the Navy to take on the US and Britain either. It didn’t stop them.

I can envision a campaign which would have some success if they severed the Russian supply lines. But long term, they could never hold it and Russia could take it back whenever they got around to it. Japan was not a land power in Asia. Never would be. They could barely beat the Chinese.


Good point, their motto: If you are in a big hole keep digging! And lets pick on every superpower in the are, what can go wrong? :scream_cat: :smiling_imp:

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Japan did enjoy local naval superiority but did not have the industrial base to win the logistics game, which was the game that really mattered. They couldn’t win against a nation like the US tgat treated even capital ships as replaceable and was willing to risk them often.

Unless Jaoan could enlarge its industrial base it was always doomed.


We can always argue the tactics but you are totally correct in saying Japan was always doomed. They thought they would succeed mostly because the US didn’t have the will to fight. They did not understand the US of the 1940’s at all.


wait, they did right? Because Yamamoto said that he could run wild against the brits and americans for an year or so, after that he has no hope. And 6 months later. Whammo… Battle of Midway.

So I guess what you are trying to say is the time it would take America to catch up is what the japs didn’t understand.

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What I was saying is America could put out more force than Japan could resist. Yes it took time but their defeat was pretty complete. The moment we declared war, we were going to win the only question is how long and how bloody. That’s not saying America was invincible but Japan could not compete in a war of attrition. They had a good run of maybe 8 months and then the downhill slide began.

They did not understand how America would react and take the challenge. I, not even sure they took our economy seriously. They seemed to start the war thinking they could not lose.


HOI4 is good to illustrate this point. As Japan is isolated and distant from British and American power bases, as long as it neutralizes the USSR/Russia, the only proximate land power (China is another discussion), it can ‘run wild’ for a year while the US and the UK are distracted. It can even take territory like Malaya or the Phillippines (or both).

The counterpunch is delayed but when it comes, particularly from the USA which had plenty of both manpower and industry, it is overwhelming and irresistible.

The US learned from the American Civil War that supply and production beats bravery in the end. The US learned sooner than most other nations the advantages out-producing an enemy and the value of throwing lead not blood. Japan never learned this until it was too late.


You are so right. I really feel that the US civil gave so many lessons applicable to major wars and most of them were effective but pointed to the dark side of war. Economic production, economic deprivation to one side. People called Grant a butcher but imho, they were very wrong. He was one of those practical generals who did hard things to win.


Very good points and Grant did end a war that seemed to go nowhere after marching on after the Wilderness. Prolonging the war could have brought more destruction an starvation. But as usual the Generals get the blame and politicians the big statues,


I don’t remember which episode but doesn’t indy mention that Japan tried suing for peace after reaching it’s zenith because once the American War Machine kicked into high gear they would have no chance of winning.

That would suggest to me that they knew about the American economy and they fought side by side in russia (against the commies) during and after ww1.

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I don’t remember that but it would have been an interesting thing to see.