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Stalin's French strategy

Paris - If Churchill had not opened the second front in Normandy when he did, the Soviet Union would have invaded France, Stalin told Maurice Thorez, leader of the French Communist Party, in 1947, during a secret meeting in Moscow, writes Mary Dejevsky.

Minutes of the meeting, which have been in Russian archives for 50 years, have been seen by Stephane Courtois, a French historian and specialist on Communism who prints a transcript in his journal, Communisme; excerpts are published today in the magazine l'Evenement du Jeudi.

On being told of the Red Army's plans in 1944, Thorez responded: "The British and Americans disembarked in France less to destroy Germany than to take up positions in Western Europe." He then told Stalin the French "would have received the Red Army with enthusiasm" and that de Gaulle would not have existed, to which Stalin added: "De Gaulle would have left."