How serious was the situation on the Eastern Front in 1942?

Extracts from a telegram sent by Soviet leader Josef Stalin to British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, November 1942

Catalogue ref: CAB 65/28

Extract a

Personal and Secret.
1.Your message received on the 5th November.
2. My congratulations on the successful development of the military operations in Egypt. Let me express confidence that now you will be able to completely annihilate the Rommel’s [German commander in North Africa] gang and his Italian allies.
3. We all here hope for the success of the Torch [joint British and US campaign against German forces in North Africa].
4. Many thanks for your communication that you and President Roosevelt [US president] have decided to send in the near future to our Southern front the 20 British and American squadrons [of fighter planes]. A speedy arrival of these 20 squadrons would be a very valuable help.

Extract b

5. The situation on our Caucasian front [in the far south of Russia] deteriorated somewhat as compared with October. The Germans succeeded in capturing the town Nalchik. They are approaching Vladikavkas where severe fighting is going on at present. Our difficulty here is our weakness in the fighter aircraft.