Considering the following four facts:

  1. Many western countries helped the anti-communist government during the Russian civil war,
  2. League of Nation supports Finland,
  3. The war lasts really long comparing to the Poland war,
  4. Due to the braveness of Finns, just one or two divisions with advanced armament will be enough to lock Soviet forces in the quagmire for longer. This is a typical low risk high reward investment.

It is hard to believe that no country significantly (i.e. more than one division of forces or advanced armament or significant trade blockage) helped Finland.

UK did plan to send 100k troops, but their main purpose seems to control the iron mines and avoid direct conflict with soviet forces.

In the last phase of the war, the most significant foreign supports were blocked or delayed by German:

  1. Hungarian volunteers were delayed by Germany.
  2. France planned to send 35k troops to directly fight against soviet army. But they are also blocked by Sweden, under the pressure of Germany.
  3. Italy sent massive amount of armament, but detained by German.

First, it is very weird that Germany would help Russia by blocking the supports from reaching Finland, because Germany itself started to plan an invasion into Russia after seen the incapability of soviet forces.

Second, even if the land route through Sweden is blocked by Germany and Sweden, other countries can still find other routes and send air/naval volunteers to help Finland.

  • 2
    Perhaps because something bigger was brewing in Western Europe and at sea. Although on land WWII started with the "phoney war", at sea the battle was joined at once. As for Germany, anything that tied up Soviet troops either fighting or as an army of occupation would assist in the later Operation Barbarossa.
    – user55099
    Mar 24 at 9:25
  • I'm not sure how easy it would be to send aid in the winter of 1939-40, whether by sea through the Baltic (past Germany) or by land; Norway and Sweden were initially both neutral, so using them as a route for troops would be problematic. The short length of the war would also have made it hard to send supplies.
    – Stuart F
    Mar 24 at 11:27
  • 2
    Churchill had a bit about this in his memoir/history of the war, which should answer this at least from the British side. If no one else uses it, I'll try to look it up when I get home and can find the time.
    – T.E.D.
    Mar 24 at 18:52
  • @StuartF Well, I agree that sending land units might be hard. But sending aircraft and/or blocking Russian ports and trade routes should be very easy for UK, US, Japan, and France.
    – dodo
    Mar 25 at 2:33
  • @Martin Yes that explains why UK did not help Finns. If you are right, then Germany should significantly help Finns to tie-up Soviet forces. However, most international helps to Finns were blocked by Germany.
    – dodo
    Mar 25 at 2:37

1 Answer 1


This is a partial answer. Two arguments were on the table, at least:

  1. Because the countries other than the USSR and Finland negotatited concessions in exchange for not participating in the war. Countries were preparing for their own major war (IIWW). The same happened in the Spanish Civil War. Both conflicts are "early IIWW" conflicts. In the case of the Spanish Civil war, the IIWW was looming in the horizon already. In the case of the Winter War, IIWW had already started, but it was very early in the conflict.

  2. Because "neutral" and "anti-soviet" democratic Finland happened to find itself strategically "allied" to Nazi Germany interests. Not that they wanted, but strong Finland meant trouble for the UK-USSR alliance. This alliance was struck on paper on 1941 in the Anglo-Soviet Agreement, but for the UK, the soviets had been for a long time their "insurance policy" against a powerful continental Germany. They both benefited. The UK sure was democratic like Findland, but they would never fight against their own "insurance company" (The USSR) when UK own survival was at stake.

This second point is the basis of the "tragedy feeling" of the Winter War. Democratic countries emotionally wanted to help but in rational strategic decisions, they would not do so for their own interests.

  • 2
    You need to watch the timeline. For the whole of the Winter War the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact was in effect which divided Eastern Europe between the Soviets and Germany. Only 15 months after the end of the Winter War did Germany launch Operation Barbarossa leading to the Anglo-Soviet agreement of 12 July 1941, two years into the war.
    – user55099
    Mar 25 at 9:20
  • 1
    The Anglo-Russian security relationship for continental Europe dates from the Napoleonic years, at least. This is not a circumstancial thing, some even argue this alliance is still in place (this would be another discussion). You can understand the treaty of Brest-Litovsk and the Ribbentrop-Molotov as a pause to this long-term relationship, because of internal Russian needs/advantageous conditions for them.
    – James
    Mar 25 at 13:45

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