Suvorov claims that Stalin successfully manipulated Hitler into removing the "buffer zone" (Poland) between Europe and the USSR. Suvorov further argues that Stalin's goal was the export of communism to other countries. Once Hitler 'broke the ice', Soviet victory in the large-scale war that followed would enable the USSR to impose Stalinist regimes on most of Europe. In this theory, Nazi military aggression would ironically form the icebreaker for a communist invasion.
Suvorov is often accused (or praised by historical revisionists) of shifting the blame of WW2 on Stalin and thus removing the blame from Hitler; however, the actual content of the book contains no praise of Hitler or justification of his terror. In his later books, Suvorov insists that Stalin was a true evil genius (although unlucky), while reducing Hitler to a grossly incompetent evil.
Suvorov mounts two arguments in support of his thesis. The principal argument is based on analysis of available data on troop numbers, weaponry, locations and behaviour, matched against technical specifications and Soviet tactics. To support the main argument, Suvorov argues that Stalin perceived the outcome of WW2 as a loss.
The view of Trotsky was that a communist revolution could succeed only by continuous revolutionary activity in other nation-states. The notion of socialism surviving in a single nation-state was considered ridiculous and self-contradictory. The remaining capitalist powers would swiftly move to crush the USSR. Since the bourgeois nations would be more powerful, they would probably succeed in destroying socialism. However, if the working classes of these countries could understand that a war of conquest in support of capitalism was not in their class interests, they would not support such a war and socialism would survive through the process of revolution abroad.
Stalin, on the other hand, argued that 'socialism in one country' was feasible if properly managed. His subsequent program of militarizing the whole Soviet economy was simultaneously a means of maintaining his totalitarian power and ensuring the survival of the Soviet state without regard to the internal politics of other nations.
It is important to note that Stalin's approach flew in the face of most Marxist thought up till that point, but that neither the Trotskyist view nor the Stalinist envisioned the use of conventional armed forces to wage aggressive war.
Prior to the rise of the Nazis, joint military training facilities existed in the USSR, in which German and Soviet soldiers developed nascent versions of the tactics and weapons that would come to prominence in the Second World War. However, these joint endeavors occurred during a period when Germany was weak, under the Weimar Republic, and were shut down once the Nazis came to power.
The Soviet view was that as efforts to 'surround' Hitler failed, and as the Western powers seemed to allow Nazi expansion in Central Europe (as long as it was not aimed westward), some accommodation had to be reached with Germany in order to buy time. Stalin knew the USSR was not ready to fight Germany, but the massive rearmament and reorganization programs begun in 1939 might begin to bear fruit by 1942.
A noteworthy refutation of Suvorov's thesis is contained in Colonel David Glantz's work Stumbling Colossus: The Red Army on the Eve of World War. Glantz views Suvorov's argument as "incredible" on a variety of fronts: first, Suvorov rejects without examination classified ex-Soviet archival material, and makes highly selective picks from memoirs. Glantz points to this as a serious methodological flaw. Further, Glantz argues, Suvorov's thesis is strongly contradicted both by ex-Soviet and German archival material, and the facts do not support the argument that the Red Army was prepared to invade Germany. On the contrary, the appalling lack of readiness, poor training level, and abysmal state of deployments show that the Red Army was unprepared for static defense, much less large-scale offensive operations. Glantz's conclusion is that "Stalin may well have been an unscrupulous tyrant, but he was not a lunatic."
Although Suvorov claims that an attack date of July 8, 1941 had been selected, this is contradicted by the evidence as presented by Glantz and others. There were no stockpiles of fuel, ammunition, and other stores held in forward areas as would have been needed if an invasion was about to be mounted. Major ground units were dispersed into small garrisons rather than being concentrated at railheads, as they would have been had they been preparing an invasion. Units were not co-located with their own transportation assets, leaving, for example, major artillery units immobile. Air Force aircraft were parked in neat, tightly-packed rows along their airfields rather than dispersed. Over 50% of all Soviet tanks required major maintenance on June 22, 1941. If an invasion were being planned, these maintenance tasks would have been completed. Most Soviet armor units were in the process of re-organizing into new Tank Corps; the German invasion caught these units in the midst of this reorganization. Such a large-scale reorganization is inconsistent with an impending invasion.
The origin of Suvorov's thesis may lie in the fact that Marshal Zhukov did suggest a pre-emptive strike on Germany early in 1941. Zhukov recalled this plan later but claimed either that the plan was rejected by Stalin or didn't reach the leader at all. This doesn't sound too convincing, though, as military historian Mikhail Meltyukhov has pointed out. First, it is hard to believe Zhukov's claim that he had given the top secret document to a secretary so that the latter could deliver it to Stalin. Second, the claim by Suvorov rejectors that the document doesn't have signatures really proves nothing. It is known that during those years official military documents were almost exclusively passed without proper formatting.