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The Germano-Soviet Pact

Hitler  came to power on January 30, 1933. Only the Soviet Union understood the dangers to world peace. In January 1934, Stalin told the Party Congress that `the ``new'' (German) policy ... recalls the policy of the former German Kaiser, who at one time occupied the Ukraine and marched against Leningrad, after converting the Baltic countries into a place d'armes for this march'. He also stated:

`(I)f the interests of the U.S.S.R. demand rapprochement with one country or another which is not interested in disturbing peace, we adopt this course without hesitation.'

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Stalin, Works, vol. 13, p. 309.

Until Hitler's  coming to power, Great Britain had led the crusade against the Soviet Union. In 1918, Churchill  was the main instigator of the military invervention that mobilized fourteen countries. In 1927, Great Britain broke diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union and imposed an embargo on its exports.

In 1931, Japan invaded Northern China and its troops reached the Soviet border in Siberia. The Soviet Union thought at the time that war with Japan was imminent.

In 1935, fascist Italy occupied Ethiopia. To oppose the danger of fascist expansion, the Soviet Union proposed, as early as 1935, a collective system of security for Europe. Given this perspective, it signed mutual assistance treaties with France and Czechoslovakia. Trotsky  made vicious attacks against Stalin who had, with these treaties, `betrayed' the French proletariat and the world revolution. At the same time, official voices of the French bourgeoisie were declaring that their country was not obliged to come to the aid of the Soviet Union, should it be attacked.

In 1936, Italy and Germany sent their élite troops to Spain to fight the legal republican government. France and Great Britain adopted a `non-intervention' policy, leaving free reign to the fascists. They were trying to placate Hitler  and to push him East.

In November of the same year, Germany and Japan signed the Anti-Cominterm Pact, which Italy joined soon after. The Soviet Union was encircled.

On March 11, 1938, Radio Berlin announced a `Communist uprising in Austria' and the Wehrmacht (German army) pounced on that country, annexing it in two days. The Soviet Union took up Austria's defence and called on Great Britain and France to prepare collective defence. `Tomorrow will perhaps be too late', underscored the Soviet leadership.

In mid-May, Hitler  concentrated his troops on the border with Czechoslovakia. The Soviet Union, with treaty obligations towards the threatened country, placed 40 divisions on its Western border and called up 330,000 reservists. But in September, Great Britain and France met in Munich with the fascist powers, Germany and Italy. Neither Czechoslovakia nor the Soviet Union were invited. The great `democracies' decided to offer Hitler  the Sudeten region of Czechoslovakia. Along with this treacherous act, Great Britain signed on September 30 a declaration with Germany in which the two powers stated that they regarded the agreement `as symbolic of the desire of our peoples never to go to war with one another again.'

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Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the U.S.S.R., Documents and Materials Relating to the Eve of the Second World War (New York: International Publishers, 1948). vol. 1, p. 271.

France did the same in December. Nevertheless, the Soviet Union offered its aid to Czechoslovakia in case of German aggression, but this offer was declined. On March 15, 1939, the Wehrmacht seized Prague. By cutting up Czechoslovakia, Hitler  offered a piece of the cake to the reactionary Polish government, which greedily gobbled up the bait.

A week later, the German army occupied the Lithuanian territory of Klaipeda, an important Baltic port. Stalin could see that the monster was advancing East and that Poland would be the next victim.

In May 1939, the Japanese army attacked Mongolia, which also had a military assistance treaty with the Soviet Union. The following month, Soviet troops, led by an unknown officer, Zhukov,  took up battle with the Japanese army. It was a sizeable military confrontation: Japan lost more that 200 planes and more than 50,000 of its soldiers were killed or wounded. On August 30, 1939, the last Japanese troops left Mongolia.

The next day, another Soviet border was set aflame: Germany invaded Poland.

Everyone knew that this aggression would take place: to ensure an optimal position and begin his war either against Great Britain and France or against the Soviet Union, Hitler  had to `resolve Poland's fate'. Let us look at the events of the previous months.

In March 1939, the Soviet Union began negociations to form an anti-fascist alliance. Great Britain and France allowed time to pass, maneuvered. By this attitude, the two great `democracies' made Hitler  understand that he could march against Stalin without being worried about the West. From June to August 1939, secret British-German talks took place: in exchange for guaranteeing the integrity of the British Empire, the British would allow Hitler  to act freely in the East. On July 29, Charles Roden Buxton  of the Labour Party fulfilled a secret mission for Prime Minister Chamberlain  to the German Embassy. The following plan was elaborated:

`Great Britain would express her willingness to conclude an agreement with Germany for a delimitation of spheres of interest ....

`1) Germany promises not to interfere in British Empire affairs.

`2) Great Britain promises fully to respect the German spheres of interest in Eastern and Southeastern Europe. A consequence of this would be that Great Britain would renounce the guarantees she gave to certain States in the German sphere of interest. Great Britain further promises to influence France to break up her alliance with the Soviet union and to give up her ties in Southeastern Europe.

`3) Great Britain promises to give up the present negotiations for a pact with the Soviet Union.'

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Ibid. , vol. 2, pp. 110--111.

The Soviet intelligence services ensured that Stalin was aware of these maneuvers.

In August 1939, negociations between Britain, France and the Soviet Union entered their final phase. But the two Western powers sent second rank delegations to Moscow, with no mandate to finalize an accord. Voroshilov  insisted on binding, precise engagements so that should there be renewed German aggression, the allies would go to war together. He wanted to know how many British and French divisions would oppose Hitler  should Germany invade the Soviet Union.

He received no response. He also wanted to draw up an accord with Poland so that the Soviet troops could engage the Nazis on Polish soil in case of German aggression. Poland refused, thereby making any possible accord effective. Stalin understood perfectly that France and Britain were preparing a new Munich, that they were ready to sacrifice Poland, encouraging Hitler  to march on the Soviet Union. Harold Ickes,  U.S. Secretary of the Interior, wrote at the time in his journal:

`(England) kept hoping against hope that she could embroil Russia and Germany with each other and thus escape scot-free herself.'

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Harold L. Ickes,  The Secret Diary of Harold L. Ickes (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1954), p. 705.

`France would also have to renounce to Central and Eastern Europe in favor of Germany in the hope of seeing her wage war against the Soviet Union. Hence France could stay in security behind the Maginot Line.'

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Sipols  and Kharmalov,  A la veille de la Seconde Guerre mondiale (Moscow: Éditions Novosti, 1973), p. 262.

The Soviet Union was facing the mortal danger of a single anti-Soviet front consisting of all the imperialist powers. With the tacit support of Britain and France, Germany could, after having occupied Poland, continue on its way and begin its blitzkrieg against the USSR, while Japan would attack Siberia.

At the time, Hitler  had already reached the conclusion that France and Britain had neither the capacity nor the will to resist. He decided to grab Western Europe before attacking the USSR.

On August 20, Hitler  proposed a non-aggression pact to the Soviet Union. Stalin reacted promptly, and the pact was signed on August 23.

On September 1, Hitler  attacked Poland. Britain and France were caught in their own trap. These two countries assisted in all of Hitler's  adventures, hoping to use him against the Soviet Union. Right from 1933, they never stopped speaking in praise of Hitler's  battle against Communism. Now they were forced to declare war against Germany, although they had no intention of doing so in an effective manner. Their rage exploded in a virulent anti-Communist campaign: `Bolshevism is fascism's natural ally'. Half a century later, this stupid propaganda is still be found in school books as an unquestioned truth. However, history has shown that the Germano-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact was a key for victory in the anti-fascist war. This may seem paradoxical, but the pact was a turning point that allowed the preparation of the necessary conditions for the German defeat.

In fact, the Soviet Union concluded this pact with the clear understanding that sooner or later war with Nazi Germany was inevitable. Once Germany had decided to sign an accord with the USSR, Stalin forced out of Hitler  a maximum of concessions, ensuring the best possible conditions for the war to come. The September 23, 1939 issue of Pravda wrote:

`The only thing that was possible was to preserve from German invasion Western Ukraine, Western Byelorussia (two provinces seized from the Soviet Union in 1920) and the Baltic countries. The Soviet government forced Germany to make the engagement to not cross the line formed by the Thasse, Narew, Bug and Vistula rivers.'

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Grigori Déborine,  Les secrets de la Seconde Guerre mondiale (Moscow: Éditions du Progrès, 1972), p. 35.

In the West, those who sympathized with Hitler's  anti-Communist politics immediately cried out: `The two totalitarianisms, Fascism and Bolshevism, shared up Poland.' But the advance of the Soviet troops corresponded to the interests of the masses in these territories, since they could get rid of the fascists, the landed gentry and the capitalists. This advance also helped the entire world anti-Hitler  movement. The most realistic bourgeois saw clearly that by advancing its troops, the Soviet Union gave itself a better starting position for the coming war. For example, Churchill  declared on October 1, 1939:

`(T)hat the Russian armies should stand on this line was clearly necessary for the safety of Russia against the Nazi menace. At any rate, the line is there, and an Eastern Front has been created which Nazi Germany does not dare assail.'

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Winston S. Churchill,  op. cit. , p. 449.

Unable to see through their dream of seeing the Nazi army charge through Poland to attack the Soviet Union, France and Britain were forced to declare war on Germany. But on the Western Front, not a single bomb would bother Nazi tranquility. However, a real internal political war was launched against the French Communists: On September 26, the French Communist Party was banned and thousands of its members were thrown into prison. Henri de Kerillis  wrote:

`An incredible tempest swept through bourgeois minds. The crusade storm raged. Only one cry could be heard: War on Russia. It was at this moment that the anti-Communist delirium reached its apogee.'

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Cited in La grande guerre nationale de l'Union soviétique (Moscow: Éditions du Progrès, 1974), p. 20.

At the same time, Stalin spoke with great insight to Zhukov: 

`The French Government headed by Daladier  and the Chamberlain  Government in Britain have no intention of getting seriously involved in the war with Hitler.  They still hope to incite Hitler  to a war against the Soviet Union. By refusing in 1939 to form with us an anti-Hitler  bloc, they did not want to hamper Hitler  in his aggression against the Soviet Union. Nothing will come of it. They will have to pay through the nose for their short-sighted policy.'

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G. Zhukov,  The Memoirs of Marshal Zhukov  (London: Jonathan Cape, 1971), p. 171.

Knowing that war with Germany was inevitable, the Soviet government was extremely worried about Leningrad's security, as it was only 32 kilometres from the Finnish border. On October 14, 1939, Stalin and Molotov  sent a memorandum to the Finnish government about the problem of the defence of Leningrad. The Soviet Union wished to be able to `block the access to the Gulf of Finland'. It asked of Finland that it be ceded by lease the Port of Hanko and four islands. To ensure the defence of Finland, it asked for part of the ithmus of Karelia belonging to Finland. In exchange, the Soviet Union would offer to Finland part of Soviet Karelia, twice the size.

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Ministère des Affaires Étrangères de Finlande, Documents sur les relations finno-soviétiques (Paris: Éditions Flammarion, 1940), pp. 93--95, 109.

Encouraged by Germany, Finland refused. On November 30, 1939, the the Soviet Union declared war on Finland. A few days later, Hitler  gave instructions for the coming war with the Soviet Union. Here is one passage:

`On the flanks of our operation we can count on active intervention from Romania and Finland in the war against the Soviet Union.'

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Jacobsen,  op. cit. , vol. 1, p. 118.

Britain and France, worried about not getting caught up in this `strange war', charged headlong into a real war against the Bolshevik menace! In three months, Britain, France, the U.S. and fascist Italy sent 700 planes, 1,500 canons and 6,000 machine guns to Finland, `victim of aggression'.

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Pavel Zhiline,  Ambitions et méprises du Troisième Reich, (Moscow: Éditions du Progrès, 1972), p. 74.

The French General Weygand  went to Syria and Turkey to prepare an attack against the Soviet Union from the South. The French Chief of Staffs prepared to bomb the Baku oilfields. At the same time, General Serrigny  cried out:

`In fact, Baku, with its annual oil production of 23 million tons, dominates the situation. If we succeed in conquering the Caucasus, or if these refineries were simply set alight by our air force, the monster would collapse exhausted.'

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Bernard Serrigny,  L'Allemagne face à la guerre totale (Paris: Éditions Grasset, 1940), p. 228.

Even though no shot had been fired against the Hitlerites,  despite the fact that they were in a state of war, the French government regrouped an expeditionary force of 50,000 men to fight the Reds! Chamberlain  declared that Britain would send 100,000 soldiers.

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Falsificateurs de l'Histoire (Brussels: Éditions ABS, 1948), p. 118.

But these troops were unable to reach Finland before the Red Army defeated the Finnish army: a peace accord was signed on March 14, 1939. Later on, during the war, a Gaullist publication appearing in Rio de Janeiro claimed:

`At the end of the 1939--1940 winter, Chamberlain's  and Daladier's  political and military plot failed. Its purpose was to provoke a backlash against the Soviet Union and to end the conflict between the Anglo-French alliance and Germany through a compromise and an anti-Comminterm alliance. This plot consisted in sending an Anglo-French expedition to help the Finns, the intervention thereby provoking a state of war with the Soviet Union.'

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Petite encyclopédie politique du monde (Rio de Janeiro: Éditions Chanteclair, 1943), p. 136.

The Germano-Soviet Pact and the defeat of Finland prepared the conditions for the Red Army's victory over the Nazis.

These two events had four important implications.

They prevented the formation of a united front of the imperialist powers against the socialist Soviet Union. A German attack in 1939 would certainly have provoked a Japanese intervention in Siberia. What in fact happened was that the Soviet Union succeeded in signing with Japan a Non-Aggression Pact that held until the defeat of fascism.

France and Britain, which had both refused throughout the thirties a collective security system, were forced into an effective military alliance with the Soviet Union once Germany broke the Germano-Soviet Pact.

The Soviet Union was able to advance its defences by 150 to 300 kilometres. This factor had great influence on the defence of Leningrad and Moscow at the end of 1941.

The Soviet Union won 21 months of peace, allowing it to decisively reinforce its defence industry and its armed forces.



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Fri Aug 25 09:03:42 PDT 1995