Myth 3 – The USSR Consistently Fought for Peace and the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact Was a Forced Move


The USSR Consistently Fought for Peace and the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact Was a Forced Move

Kyrylo Halushko, Rostyslav Pyliavets

Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition, Volume 5

“The Soviet Union placed itself as an alternative… of the Western powers’ position: they found themselves isolated in a direct threat against an attack from Nazi Germany or, exhausting the possibilities of an alliance with Britain and France, they signed the proposed German nonaggression pact and thus pushed back the threat of war. Inevitable circumstances forced the second choice. Concluded on 23 August 1939, the Soviet-German treaty contributed to the fact that, contrary to calculations of Western politicians, the Second World War began with a clash of the capitalist world.”

The Essence of the Myth

The policy of the USSR before the Second World War only included support for world peace and stopping Hitler’s aggression. Only because of the West’s rejection of Moscow’s peace proposals was the Soviet leadership forced to conclude the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact in order to win some time and postpone the beginning of the war.

Fast Facts

Stalin wanted a new great war, which would allow the communist movement to seize power in all of Europe. The signing of the Soviet-Nazi pact only accelerated the beginning of the Second World War.

Detailed Facts

The proposal for a collective security organization against the possible aggression of the Third Reich was expressed by Britain and France in April 1939. On 12 August, military missions from these countries arrived in Moscow, but negotiations ended on 21 August mainly because the Soviet leadership deliberately put forward unacceptable conditions for cooperation. The Soviet representative, Kliment Voroshilov, demanded the right of the Red Army to occupy the Galicia and Vilnius regions, which were part of the Polish state.

However, Moscow drew their attention to Berlin along with their negotiations with London and Paris.

On 19 August 1939, Stalin spoke publicly about the need to nudge Europe to large-scale war, which would become an overture to “world revolution”.

Speaking at a meeting of the Communist Party Politburo, the Soviet leader said:

“The question of war and peace has entered a critical phase for us. Its solution depends entirely on the position which will be taken by the Soviet Union. We are absolutely convinced that if we conclude a mutual assistance pact with France and Great Britain, Germany will back off from Poland and seek a modus vivendi with the Western Powers. War would be avoided…if we accept Germany’s proposal, that you know, and conclude a nonaggression pact with her, she will certainly invade Poland, and the intervention of France and England is then unavoidable. Western Europe would be subjected to serious upheavals and disorder… we could plan the opportune time for us to enter the war. The experience of the last 20 years has shown that in peacetime the Communist movement is never strong enough for the Bolshevik Party to seize power. The dictatorship of such a Party will only become possible as the result of a major war. Our choice is clear.”

Nazi Germany and Stalin’s USSR were equally as unhappy with the world order which was formed as a result of the First World War. In these circumstances, the closeness of the Third Reich and the Soviet Union was a natural alliance. The choice in favour of a union with Germany gave the Kremlin a chance to successfully implement their geopolitical goals. The Soviet leadership planned the ascent of these countries into a big war during a convenient time. The only accompanying element of this policy was procrastination which was mainly thanks to the German side of the pact.

In order to get close to Stalin, Hitler promised every assistance in the implementation of territorial claims upon the Baltic countries, Poland (including the modern territories of western Ukraine and western Belarus), Finland as well as in trade and economic relations.

Additionally, German and Soviet representatives signed an extremely broad economic agreement on 19 August. On the same day, Vyacheslav Molotov sent a draft agreement between the two countries to Berlin. The agreement guaranteed Hitler peace on the eastern borders of Germany and allowed a “blind” war with Poland, France and Britain.

On 23 August, German Foreign Minister Joachim Ribbentrop arrived in Moscow. The talks culminated in the signing of the non-aggression pact which historically has been called the “Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact” and which was essentially a pact between Stalin and Hitler.

World Revolution – the Soviet response to the global financial crisis. Soviet poster from the 1930s

The document had tragic consequences for the people of Europe and the world. This agreement was the mechanism which “opened the door” to a new world war.

The agreement would last for 10 years with an automatic extension of five more years unless one of the parties denounced it beforehand. Both countries pledged to refrain from any violent acts against each other, expressed their willingness not to support third parties in case of an attack on any of the contracting countries. The agreement prohibited the participation in international blocs and alliances against the participants of the Pact.

An additional secret protocol entered into the contract included the division of spheres of influence of Eastern and Central Europe. This document grossly violated the sovereignty and territorial integrity of a number of independent states.

The Soviet sphere of influence covered Estonia, Latvia, Finland, Bessarabia and the eastern parts of the Polish state (east of the rivers Narva, Vistula and San). On the Soviet side, in addition to the Ukrainian and Belarusian ethnic lands, the Warsaw and Lublin provinces were included which was mainly inhabited by Poles.

Cartoon from L. Illingworth in the British newspaper “Daily Mail”, 1940

These talks openly violated the existing European borders and the system of international agreements. In fact, Germany and the Soviet Union not only initiated this division of Poland but also the continental military conflict since the guarantors of Poland’s security were Britain and France.

The Soviet Union denied the existence of the secret protocols of the Non-Aggression Pact between them and Germany, and the later German-Soviet Frontier Treaty until the late 1980s.

The issue of the secret agreements arose during Perestroika. A specially formed commission headed by Alexander Yakovlev, the secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union which studied the issue and posted their opinions at the Congress of the People’s Deputies of the USSR on 24 December 1989. The Congress condemned the signing of the secret additional protocol and other secret agreements with Germany, noting, that they registered the distinction of “areas of interest” between the USSR and Germany and other actions that legally contradicted the sovereignty of countries.

The original Soviet additional protocol was revealed later – in October 1992, after the declassification of the archives of the Central Committee. This secret protocol, together with other documents in “special folders,” was released between late 1992 and the beginning of 1993. However, today – contrary to historical facts – even with the availability of additional secret protocols of the Nazi-Soviet Pact, many Russian historians and politicians denied it as a fake, forged by Western intelligence services for the purpose of tarnishing the USSR.

By signing the Pact, Soviet leaders were complicit in the crimes Hitler committed and the outbreak of the Second World War.