Operation "Caucasian Oil", or Unprecedented Ruscist Crimes

November 07, 2022

Within less than a month, Russia carried out more than 100 targeted attacks on critical facilities of the Ukrainian energy system. In total, the aggressor spent approximately $1.1 billion on its terrorist attacks, which is commensurate with two-day revenues from all hydrocarbon exports. Before that, in the first fifty days of the unprovoked aggression, the Russian army destroyed the Ukrainian oil refining sector.

Such a brazen violation of all norms of the international law is unprecedented in history. Even World War II did not know such cases. However, I would like to dwell upon one episode in more detail. Had it come true, the defeat of the Nazi and Communist regimes would have happened much earlier, and today's Russian crimes against humanity would be just a ghastly dream. However, it happened as it happened. Unfortunately, Stalin's totalitarian regime found its continuation. Now, it is our task to draw conclusions from this historic lesson.

The Soviet-German pact of August 23, 1939 and additional protocols to it turned out to be the last spark that lit the fire of World War II. This treaty made the communist regime an ally of Nazi Germany, so the British and French saw the weakening of the USSR as the weakening of Germany.

A few days into World War II, the Turkish Foreign Minister Saracoğlu arrived in Moscow to make a treaty of alliance. Molotov responded to Ankara's proposal of a Soviet-Turkish security pact: "Whom will this Soviet-Turkish pact be directed against? We cannot make a pact against Germany, against Italy — it is an ally of Germany. Against Bulgaria? But it does not threaten Turkey."

By the way, later, Stalin’s regime, whose representatives said so, accused Turkey of long-term cooperation with Germany. But Turkey, unlike the Soviet Union, which embarked on the path of cooperation with Nazism, signed the Anglo-Franco-Turkish Pact on October 19, 1939.

Willing to prevent a Turkish treaty with the Western Allies, Stalin said on October 1 that the Turks had not asked his advice, and if they had, he would have advised against the Anglo-Turkish and Franco-Turkish pacts. Official Ankara probably took such a step not accidentally. The fact is that in the fall of 1939, the French intelligence obtained information from Caucasian emigrants that Stalin planned to demand that Turkey close the straits, agree to the construction of a Soviet naval base in the Bosphorus area, and recognise the borders of 1914 in the Caucasus. In case of Ankara’s refusal and preservation of its pro-Western sentiments, then Kremlin tyrant was going to partition Turkey as soon as an opportunity arises.

The USSR cooperation with Germany presented a serious problem for the Western allies. The British and the French began to build military plans, one of which envisaged a breakthrough of the French troops stationed in Syria to the South Caucasus and bombing of Baku.

London hesitated, but as soon as in September 1939, the ruling circles of France began to discuss, via political and then military channels, the destruction of the Baku, Grozny and Maikop oil fields.

The Soviet Union learned about it, and on September 23, when the joint military parade of the Red and Nazi armies took place in Brest on the occasion of the full occupation of Poland, Beria issued a secret directive demanding to strengthen the protection of oil wells and prevent sabotage.

The Soviet-Finnish war accelerated military planning by the Anglo-Franks. At the same time, the French general Weygand arrived in Syria from Beirut, met with representatives of the Caucasian emigration and said that he did not rule out prompt liberation of the Caucasus by the Allies, but for this, accurate intelligence on the region was needed. The French General Staff received the necessary information soon.

In November 1939, the plan of bombing Baku was also discussed in London but there was no consensus in the government offices of France and Great Britain. Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain and Navy Minister Winston Churchill, instead of bombing Baku, proposed to send submarines to the Black Sea to attack tankers and, accordingly, cut off oil supplies to Germany. By the way, General de Gaulle was among the opponents of the idea of ​​bombing Baku. Later, he recalled, "Some hotheads, instead of confronting Berlin, thought how to destroy Baku's oil fields." Despite this, both the British and French ambassadors in the Soviet Union sent information about the Caucasus to London and Paris via secret channels, especially about the oil industry of Azerbaijan, its railways and the troops stationed in Transcaucasia.

In particular, the military attaché of France in the Soviet Union, General Auguste Antoine Palasse in response to a request of the Defence Ministry and the General Staff of the French army wrote on December 19 that on December 24, 1939, he would send a document to Paris entitled "On possible fields of military operations in the Caucasus", which, along with the general information, contains technical specifications of the Baku-Batum railway, roads leading from the Caucasus to the South Caucasus, the strength and data of the troops stationed there. Similar work was carried out by the French military attaché in Turkey, who prepared and sent to Paris an analytical document entitled "Conditions and methods of attacking the oil centres of the Caucasus."

Subsequently, on December 30, 1939, the General Staff of the French Army prepared the document "Consequences of the Soviet-German Pact. Note on strategic warfare". Part of this document was devoted to the ways to deprive Germany of the Baku oil. It said that the Soviet oil from the Caucasus was supplied to Germany. To prevent this, the Baku-Batum oil pipeline should be blocked and, if possible, the Baku oilfields, which provided 75% of Soviet oil, should be destroyed. According to the authors of the report, the achievement of this strategic goal would create great difficulties for the Soviet economy, with its poor industry and mismanagement.

In January 1940, the French government instructed the Deputy Chairman of the Supreme Military Council, General Maurice Gamelin, and the Chief of the General Staff of the Naval Forces, Admiral François Darlan, to work out possible scenarios for disabling Russian oil fields. As soon as on January 19, Prime Minister Édouard Daladier was presented with a report "On preparation of operations against the USSR with the aim of destroying oil fields."

The authors of the plan proposed three options. The first one was to seize German tankers transporting oil in the Black Sea. The second option involved an invasion of the Caucasus. The third one suggested supporting the liberation movement of the Muslim peoples of the Caucasus as much as possible, while abstaining from direct actions against the communist regime.

In addition to Daladier, this document was submitted to the French Army Commander General Louis Koeltz and the Chief of Staff of the Air Force, Joseph Vuillemin. The French ambassador in Ankara, René Massigli, hoped that to this end, all the Turkic peoples living in the Soviet Union would support the Turanist movement and create the Great Turan state.

Interestingly, during the Soviet-Finnish war, even the Finnish ambassador in Budapest arrived in Ankara in January 1940, where he campaigned for Turkey's attack on the Soviet Union in order to free millions of Muslims from communist enslavement. In particular, because of this, the Allies became more actively involved in the Caucasian operation since February 1940.

On February 18, the French Army General Staff and the Foreign Ministry drafted the document "Baku - the lifeblood of the Soviet Government. Paths of Destruction", which said that if it was not possible to obtain the consent of Turkey and Iran to bombing Baku, the only means would be to use sabotage groups made up of local Azeris hostile to the Kremlin.

As soon as in March 1940, the plan of bombing Baku was worked out. The French military circles tried to engage Turkey on their side. They knew that even operation from Syrian and Iraqi air bases would require Turkish airspace, but there was a treaty of friendship and neutrality between Turkey and the Soviet Union, and the Allies understood that Turkey would not turn a blind eye to bomber flights to Baku, because this could cause great problems in its relations with the USSR. Given this, the Allies wanted to inform the Turkish government of their plans to bomb Baku without a formal consent, so that Turkey could later say that it was unaware of the plans. The Allies had no doubt that an attack on Baku would provoke a Soviet-Turkish confrontation, in which case it would be necessary to supply Turkey with large quantities of weapons and equipment, and to reimburse the damage caused to the Turkish economy.

General Gamelin once mentioned that for implementation of the Caucasian Plan, secret consultations had been held with the Chief of the General Staff of the Turkish Army, Marshal Fevzi Çakmak.

After these events, on March 7, 1940, the British Air Force Commander in the Middle East Marshal Mitchell informed the French Army Commander in Syria Weygand that he had received an order to bomb the oil areas of Baku and the oil refineries of Batum.

Mitchell clarified that the Commander-in-Chief of the Turkish army, Marshal Fevzi Çakmak, allowed to use Diyarbakır, Erzurum, Kars and the lake Van for crossing. On March 12, General Gamelin gave Weygand an order stating that the Caucasian operation would be carried out by Allied aircraft and probably special units, as well as the Turkish army under the Turkish command. Gamelin recommended Weygand to consult Marshal Çakmak and to participate in all preparatory activities in the Middle East.

The German intelligence was aware of the readiness of the British and the French to attack the Caucasus from the Middle East. Knowing that there were many Armenians serving in Weygand’s Syrian army, the Nazi intelligence in early 1940 used them to establish a stable channel to learn about the preparation of the Anglo-French attack on the Caucasus via Syria in alliance with Turkey.

The chronology of the events in the second half of March 1940 was as follows.

On March 20, a meeting of the British and French generals took place in Aleppo (Syria), where it was decided to complete the construction of 20 first-class airfields in the Middle East by June 1940 and to prepare them for the Caucasian operation.

On March 22, the Commander-in-Chief of the British and French land forces General Gamelin prepared a top secret document addressed to the head of the French Council of Ministers, Paul Reynaud, "Preparation for an operation to deprive Germany and the USSR of oil sources in the Caucasus." In this document, an invasion of allied troops of the oil-rich Caucasian regions was reasoned by the need to deprive Germany of a possibility to buy Caucasian oil, and Russia — of the raw materials necessary for its economy.

Military operations were planned near Baku, Grozny-Maikop and Batum. The Grozny-Maikop area lies to the north of the Caucasus Mountains, which protected it from air raids. Hence, General Gamelin insisted on airstrikes on Baku and Batum.

The Allies hoped that they would be able to obtain Reza Shah's permission to build an air base in northern Iran or to fly heavy bombers over Iranian territory.

An air attack on Baku, Gamelin believed, should be planned either from Turkey, the areas of Diyarbakir-Van-Erzurum, or from Iran, or from Syria and Iraq (the areas of Cizre and Mosul). Since the distance between Tabriz and Baku is 400 km, and between Baku and Erzurum or Mosul - 700 km, Gamelin believed that the bombardment of Baku should be carried out by 6-8 groups of long-range heavy bombers. He concluded that military operations in the Caucasian oil regions should mobilise the Muslim peoples of the Caucasus and be political, or become a routine military operation against the most important centres of the Soviet oil industry.

On March 22, the Supreme Council of the Allies brought up the issue of bombing the oil-rich Caspian regions for wide discussion. In his letter, Édouard Daladier instructed General Gamelin and Admiral Darlan to work out a more operational and comprehensive plan to destroy the oil supply routes from the Soviet fields to the Third Reich.

On April 4-5, 1940, the liaison group of the supreme command of the French Air Force held a two-day meeting on bombing the oil regions of the Caucasus via the Turkish territory. It was decided to use Glenn Martin bombers, which were considered the most advanced at that time, for attacks on Baku and Batum. An attack on Baku was planned from Mosul.

In order to destroy twelve oil refineries in Batum, six groups of Glenn Martins were to make seven sorties within fifteen days. Five squadrons of Wellington bombers were to be used to bomb Baku and Grozny.

In general, it was planned to engage 90 to 100 French and British planes in the «Caucasian Oil» operation, which were supposed to drop 70 tons of bombs in each sortie. The effectiveness of the operation was to be facilitated by plans of oilfields and oil refineries obtained in advance by the British intelligence. The Allies agreed that the Baku oil fields would be bombed by British pilots, and the oil facilities of the Georgian Black Sea coast and Grozny — by French aircraft.

On April 17, General Weygand reported for the last time to Gamelin and Vuillemin about the readiness of the "Caucasian Oil" operation. Within 30 days, he promised, all preparations would be completed. But Weygand drew the attention of the superiors to the problem that had arisen: Turkey refused to be used as a springboard for the Allies and barred Anglo-French planes from flying over its territory.

On April 23, 1940, at a meeting of the Supreme Council attended by Chamberlain and Reynaud, the British Prime Minister announced that Turkey's negative position made it impossible to launch strikes on the territory of the USSR in the near future. Reasoning his opinion, Chamberlain emphasised that for such an operation it was necessary to use the airspace of either Turkey or Iran.

However, General Weygand proposed to bomb the oil regions of the Caucasus, as planned. The first strike on the oil regions of the USSR was planned for the end of June. The French leadership attached so much importance to the "Caucasian Oil" operation that, despite the invasion of German troops into Denmark and Norway, Prime Minister Paul Reynaud gave the military an order to prepare for a two-day attack on Baku.

However, the Allies did not have the time to implement the "Caucasian Oil" plan — on June 8, 1940, the Nazi troops entered Paris.



Maksym Bielawski

Leading Expert, Energy Programmes

Born in 1986 in Zhytomyr oblast


Zhytomyr State Technological University (2008)

Ph.D in Technical Science (2010)

Ivano-Frankivsk National Technical University of Oil and Gas (2012)

Author of 17 patents and 100 scientific works

Work Experience:

2008 – 2011 — Operator of Gas Infrastructure Units, Controller of Gas Transmission System in Rivne Division of PJSC "Ukrtransgas"

2011 – 2017 — Leading Engineer, Deputy Head of Press-Service, Head of Public Relation Department of PJSC "Ukrtransgas"

2017 – 2018 — HR Director of PJSC "Maine Gas Pipelines of Ukraine", Advisor to the Minister of Energy and Coal Industry of Ukraine

2021 — Director of Integrated Communications of NJSC "Naftogaz of Ukraine"