Monday, August 24, 2009

Seventy Years since the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact

Seventy years ago an alliance of evil was signed by National Socialists and Communists. The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact was a geopolitical division of eastern Europe between the Nazi's German Reich and the Communist's Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

The pact was a geopolitical agreement that was meant to avoid a war between the two powers that began regardless. While most people know of the deal to split Poland in two there were other geopolitical land grabs as well. The USSR was allowed to do a massive land grab against Finland, Romania, and the all of the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. The latter came as a surprised to the Germans who expect the USSR to allow Lithuania to rejoin a realm of German influence.

The treaty lasted less than two years. Both Hitler and Stalin had plans to break it since the start. The Eastern Front aka the Great Patriotic War was by far the bloodiest section of World War II. Even before the Soviets took Berlin, an ailing Roosevelt, mostly blind to the evils of Stalin, gave all of Eastern Europe to the Soviets for a sphere of influence. The evils of Molotov-Ribbentrop were magnified by Yalta and later Potsdam.

While the Pact is viewed as an alliance between evils in the West, Russia has defended the pact. Moscow states the pact was necessary to keep the peace and it was not a deal between two imperial powers hungry for land. Disagreeing with Russia's point of view may be an international crime, according to Russia.

When it comes to crimes of the past there seems to be three categories
  • Some countries admit shame like Germany
  • Some countries still try to draw positive lessons like Japan
  • Other countries merely spin and embrace their actions like Russia.

Molotov-Ribbentrop deeply impacted the landscape of Central and Eastern Europe. Sadly, it was not the first nor last pact to harm so many.

7 comments:

Adrian said...

"Even before the Soviets took Berlin, an ailing Roosevelt, mostly blind to the evils of Stalin, gave all of Eastern Europe to the Soviets for a sphere of influence."

I realize this is a common conservative complaint, that we should have immediately rolled back the Soviet Union, but how many millions of dead American soldiers do you think it would have taken? The US did not "give" eastern Europe to the Soviets - they took it by force from the most efficient army in history. We would have had to take it back. The Red Army was a more effective fighting force than the US, and Britain probably would not have joined us in a crusade to free eastern Europe (Churchill would have been dumped). Not to mention that we were still fighting Japan.

Dan tdaxp said...

It says something about the relative nature of human nature that the Soviets in general, and Molotov in particular, are simultaneously the 'normal people' in Chinese politics at the same time.

During the Yalta conference, Roosevelt's own pact with Molotov, the Soviets assured the western allies that they did not consider the Chinese Communist Party to be either stable or Communist, and promised to sign a treaty of alliance with the Republic of China later that year (which they did).

Dan tdaxp said...

At a minimum, it would seem to have been sensible to begin openly encouraging "free" Eastern European governments, engage with minor and non-Communist "United Front" parties and so on.

Of course, as the same time we had formed what appeared to be a three-way USSR-KMT-USA friendship against Mao... Such a complicated time...

Catholicgauze said...

Adrian,
Thanks for the comment. The Allies couldn't have rolled back the Soviets via force. You are right there. However, we could have defended our right to support conservative and liberal parties and gave the Soviets the right to support Communist parties. Instead Roosevelt and Churchill allowed the Soviets to install dictatorships.

Anonymous said...

@Catholicgauze

You do realize that all countries in Eastern Europe(exept Czechoslovakia) were dictatorships before Communist parties took over?

Catholicgauze said...

Anonymous,
That's untrue. Here is a breakdown
of countries' governments before they fell to Nazi/Soviet conquerers

Germany (East): fascist government, was a republic before.

Poland: Republic. Government-in-exile continued until 1990, when President Walesa received symbols of governance from president-in-exile Kaczorowski.

Hungary: Fascist seized monarchy. After WWII but before Communist take over Hungary was a republic

Romania: Constitutional Monarchy

Yugoslavia: Constitutional Monarchy

Albania: Constitutional Monarchy

Bulgaria: Last Tsar Constitutional Monarchy

Latvia: Fascists overthrew parliamentary democracy

Lithuania: Parliamentary democracy

Estonia: Parliamentary democracy

Confini amministrativi - Riigipiirid - Political borders - 国境 - 边界 said...

A particular is often forgotten in the history os World War II. Lithuania did get important gainings thanks to Stalin. In 1939 Lithuania did eat a piece of Poland; particularly, the town of Wilno, which changed the name into Vilnius. From this town Polish population was expelled and it became the new capital of Lithuania (before it was Kaunas). In 1945 USSR allow Lithuania to eat a piece of East Prussia from Germany: the town of Memel, today Klaipeda. This is the skeleton of shame inside the Lithuanian wardrobe.