All this time, Hitler could not forget his ultimate aim: The winning of living space in the East. The original operations in Poland had been designed as preliminaries to this major conquest: Hitler would gladly have avoided the war in the west: he wished to be free to attack Russia by 1943 at latest. Once involved in war against the west, he had hoped to finish that war quickly, by decisive conquest, and then turn back to the east. In fact, he had found himself unable to conquer Britain, and while he struggled with this obstinate enemy, the Russians were exploiting his conquests to improve their own position in the east. In these circumstances Hitler felt that he could no longer wait for the final defeat of Britain. Provided Britain were excluded from the Continent, he would turn his back on it and strike, before it was too late, at Russia. Accordingly, on 18th December, 1940, he issued his Directive for Case Barbarossa.