Why were the West and the USSR unlikely allies in 1941?

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The West (Britain and its allies) and the Soviet Union were unlikely allies indeed in the war year of 1941 because they subscribed to two very different systems of thought and government. The West's capitalist society and the Soviet's communist regime were on opposite ends of the spectrum ideologically, politically, and economically.

Yet the West and the Soviets needed each other badly by 1941, for they had a common enemy in Adolf Hitler's Nazi Germany. Hitler had already rolled into Austria and Poland and was fighting through France and bombing Great Britain. The US had not yet entered the war officially and would not do so until the Pearl Harbor attack on December 7, 1941.

Yet Hitler was not content. He turned toward Russia with an eye for conquest and rolled into Russia in 1941 with three million soldiers, nineteen panzer divisions, and over two thousand airplanes. Troops from other nations added to the numbers against the Soviets, and this made for a pretty bleak picture. It actually caught the Soviets by surprise. The Germans pushed their way into Soviet territory, brushing aside defenses and killing thousands. The Soviets finally organized and pushed back against the Germans, but they needed help. They needed allies, and they reached out to the West. Britain and the Soviet Union made a formal alliance in July of 1941.

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