Early on August 22, 1939, the world was startled to learn from an announcement in the Soviet press that German Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop would arrive in Moscow on the following day to sign a nonaggression pact. Equipped with instructions from Adolf Hitler authorizing him to sign both a treaty and a secret protocol that would enter into force as soon as signed by the two countries (rather than when ratified later), Ribbentrop left for Moscow that evening. At the airport, the German delegation was met by deputy commissar for foreign affairs, Vladimir P. Potemkin, who earlier that year had declined an invitation to meet with British Foreign Secretary Lord Halifax.

Stalin and Molotov, the commissar for foreign affairs, held several conversations in the Kremlin with Ribbentrop and the other German diplomats. During the night of August 23-24 an agreement was reached on all points; the pact and a secret protocol were signed; a celebration party followed in which the participants drank toasts to each other, to German-Soviet friendship and to the absent Hitler.


The nonaggression pact, which was published, provided that Germany and the Soviet Union would not attack the other or assist any third power at war with the other, thereby assuring each of the neutrality of the other party should either decide to attack a third country. They promised not to join groups of powers directed against the other and to settle by peaceful means all differences that might arise between them. The pact was to last for ten years and then an additional five years unless a notice of termination were given a year before its expiration.

Immediate effectiveness also applied to a secret protocol attached to the published treaty and governed by a special agreement to ensure its secrecy-an agreement that the Germans maintained until the end of the Third Reich and that the Soviets are only now considering breaking. This protocol provided that Finland, Estonia and Latvia were to be in the Soviet sphere of interest; Lithuania, enlarged by the Vilna area then in Poland, was assigned to Germany. Initially, Germany wanted to divide Latvia between the two powers at the Daugava (Dvina) River; on Soviet insistence, Latvia was quickly turned over entirely to the Soviet Union. As for Poland, with the exception of the Vilna area signed over to Lithuania for inclusion in the German sphere, it was to be partitioned along the line of the Pissa, Narev, Vistula and San rivers. This line divided the core area of Polish settlement within prewar Poland, and the two powers agreed to review at a later time the question of whether or not a rump Polish state would suit their convenience. And during Ribbentrop's second visit to Moscow on September 28, 1939, Germany accepted a Soviet proposal whereby the territory between the Bug and Vistula rivers, together with a small piece of Polish territory in the north, would be traded to Germany in exchange for Soviet control of the bulk of Lithuania. In effect, this agreement left the question of any Polish state in the tender hands of the Germans.

Further south, the original partition scheme of August 23 provided that the Soviet Union could prosecute its interest in Bessarabia-which Russia had taken from its ally Romania in 1878 only to lose it after World War I-while the Germans declared their complete political disinterest in southeast Europe. It is now known that Ribbentrop was authorized to go even further and agree to Soviet control of Istanbul and the Straits, but Stalin evidently did not ask for this.

The new agreements worked out on September 28 also included a friendship treaty between Germany and the Soviet Union (which was later supplemented by a boundary protocol), a confidential agreement on the exchange of populations across the borders separating the Soviet and German spheres in eastern Europe, a secret protocol to the effect that neither would tolerate Polish agitation concerning territory seized by the other, and several exchanges covering major extensions of the economic agreement that had been signed between the two countries on August 19. These latter agreements were designed to help the Germans break the British wartime blockade by assisting in acquiring raw materials that could then be shipped across the Soviet Union. While these arrangements to support the German war effort were kept secret, the two powers publicly called for an end to the war which, now that they had divided Poland between them, served no further purpose in the opinions of Berlin and Moscow. It is, of course, essential to recall that between Ribbentrop's two trips to the Soviet capital, the partners of the Nazi-Soviet pact had both attacked Poland; their friendship, in Stalin's phraseology, had been "cemented with blood."1


As is already clear from the description of the text of the August agreements, they provided the Germans with a green light for an attack on Poland and were so interpreted by all at the time. Unlike prior nonaggression pacts signed by the Soviet Union, this one contained no provision that it would become invalid if either party attacked a third country.2 Furthermore, the agreements assured the Germans that if England and France honored their promise to go to war on Poland's behalf, the disappearance of the hated Polish state would provide a common border with Russia; this would be a friendly Russia, committed to helping Germany break the British blockade. From the Soviet Union itself, Germany could draw on supplies of oil, grain and nonferrous metals needed for the conduct of war against the western powers; across the Soviet Union, Germany would be able to obtain other important raw materials from the Near East, East Asia and possibly the western hemisphere. Above all, Germany could concentrate all its forces, after the quick defeat of Poland, on the western front.

For the Soviet Union-well informed by its espionage network that the German attack on Poland, when it came, would be a preliminary step to an attack by Germany in the west-the agreement appeared to provide insulation from what was already being referred to as the "Second Imperialist War." The agreement also provided great accretions of territory, the disappearance of the Polish state, which the Soviets hated as much as the Germans did, and an encouragement to Germany, which had drawn back from war in 1938, to launch a war with the western powers that Stalin assumed would weaken both parties equally, satisfying Soviet belief in "the need for a war in Europe."3 In addition, the pact assured the leaders in Moscow that Japan, whose troops had just been defeated by the Red Army in clashes at Nomonhan on the border between Manchuria and Outer Mongolia,4 would not dare attempt a new attack on East Asian territories belonging to or controlled by the Soviet Union.

For Poland, the pact clearly meant total isolation in the face of what looked like an imminent German attack. Though not immediately apparent to the Polish government, it also meant that any hope of holding out against German troops in eastern Poland during the winter of 1939-40 could not be realized, because the Soviet Union would invade Poland from the east and seize the territory allocated to it by the secret German-Soviet agreements.

For Great Britain and France, the pact meant that all their hopes of a multifront war against Germany were dashed. In pursuit of those hopes, drawn from a belief that a powerful Germany could most likely be defeated only by a combination of allies, they had made a long series of concessions to the Soviet Union in lengthy negotiations during the summer of 1939; for example, the proposal that a Soviet declaration of war on Germany would be contingent on a prior declaration of war by Britain and France. Until August London had postponed signing an alliance with Warsaw in the hope that one with Moscow could be arranged. Now that this possibility was clearly excluded, the treaty with Poland was rushed to signature on August 25. Determined to go to war at the next instance of German aggression if it were resisted, the British government hoped that an obvious and public stand might still deter Germany from war. In a special letter to Hitler, Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain said that London would go to war with or without allies; he warned both Hitler and Benito Mussolini that once the war started it would not end after any defeat of Poland but would be continued until Allied victory.

For the French, as for the British, the pact dashed any hopes of assistance from the Soviet Union against the German menace. The various French schemes advanced in the winter of 1939-40 for attacking the Caucasus oil fields and for aiding the Finns in their defense against Soviet attack, while occupying the Swedish iron mines along the way, can be seen in part as a reflection of the disappointment and anger in Paris.

For Japan, the pact was a traumatic experience, partly because the Japanese had been involved in fighting with the Soviet Union and wanted help from their German Anti-Comintern Pact partners, which would now not be forthcoming, and partly because they imagined themselves still involved in negotiations with Berlin and Rome for an alliance against Moscow. The government in Tokyo fell in the face of what looked like a humiliating diplomatic reversal, but successor cabinets in Japan failed to draw long-term conclusions from the way Germany had treated them.

For fascist Italy, which had been among the first of the major powers to develop good relations with the Soviet Union, the Germans appeared to have gone rather far, but at the time Mussolini was not prepared to argue the point. Like the Germans, Italy's leaders had considered the Anti-Comintern Pact as directed primarily against England, and this reinforcement of anti-British forces could only be welcome to Rome.

The United States had been the last of the major powers to recognize the Soviet regime. It had done so in part as a counterweight to possible aggressors in Asia or Europe. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who did not share the then common belief in the great strength of the French army, had tried hard to warn Stalin of the dangers of aligning the Soviet Union with Germany, pointing out in the summer of 1939 that a Germany victorious in western Europe would then be a menace to all other countries, including the Soviet Union and United States. As these warnings fell on deaf ears in Moscow, Washington could only observe the outbreak of war in Europe in sadness. It would adopt a policy for keeping out of that war opposite from the one followed by the Soviet Union. Instead of helping Hitler, the United States would assist his foes.


How had the agreement between Germany and the Soviet Union come about? Why had the two powers, which for years had made numerous nasty comments about each other in public, worked out secret agreements to partition eastern Europe between them? What led them to call jointly upon the other nations of the world to accept this division, which ended the independence of Poland as well as Czechoslovakia, most of which Germany had swallowed and whose permanent demise the Soviet Union had legally recognized just before invading Poland? The motives of the two partners were different, and we are far better informed on those of the Germans; the motives for each must therefore be examined separately.

With Hitler's rise to power in 1933, Germany began following a policy that called for the establishment of a dictatorship inside the country, the massive rearmament of a racially aware population and, thereafter, a series of wars to secure land on which the German population could feed itself and grow ever larger. It was obvious from a look at the map that most of Europe's agricultural land lay in the east, primarily in the Soviet Union. In the official doctrine of the Nazi state, the peoples living there, most of them of Slavic stock, were racially "inferior." By what Hitler considered an extraordinary stroke of good fortune for the Germans, these people were now ruled by even more inferior and incapable Jews who had come to power as a result of the Bolshevik Revolution-a revolution in which the at least minimally capable old Germanic ruling class of Russia had been replaced by total incompetents.

Hitler believed that the seizure of vast land masses from the Slavic people would be a simple matter and that the inhabitants of the conquered areas could be easily displaced or murdered; before this could be done, Germany's position in Europe had to be strengthened. In particular the French, whose army stood perilously close to Germany's most important industrial area, the Ruhr, had to be crushed, and the British, who could obviously not be separated from them, had to be driven off the continent. The war against the west could, it was believed, be won most easily from a base that included Austria and Czechoslovakia under German control, and these states had accordingly been absorbed into Germany as preliminary steps.

During the years when the Germans were rearming and moving first against Austria and then Czechoslovakia, all soundings from the Soviet Union to improve relations were waved aside. There was, from the perspective of Berlin, nothing that Moscow could do for them under these circumstances. In internal affairs, Germany's Communist Party had once assisted the Nazis in destroying the Weimar Republic by targeting the Social Democratic Party as the main enemy, but now the Communist Party was itself the target of the regime's destructive fury. In the field of rearmament, the Soviet Union had provided the German Republic with the opportunity for secret work in the areas prohibited to Germany by the Versailles Treaty of 1919: armored warfare, poisonous gases and air warfare. The new government in Berlin, however, was carrying out its rearmament program on a vastly greater scale and increasingly in the open so that secret facilities in the Soviet Union were no longer of any special use. As for the building up of a huge blue-water navy, then under way or being planned for war against Britain and the United States, that was a field in which the Soviet Union had never been of assistance to Germany.

In the diplomatic field, there similarly had been nothing in Berlin's eyes that the Russians could have done to help during the years 1933-38. Neither Austria nor Czechoslovakia had a common border with the Soviet Union, and in its preparations for seizing Austria and attacking Czechoslovakia, Germany ignored the Soviet Union entirely. Under these circumstances, the repeated efforts made in Berlin by Stalin's special representatives for the purpose of warming German-Soviet relations were invariably ignored. In the winter of 1938-39 this situation began to change.

Germany had planned to attack Czechoslovakia in 1938, expecting to annex that country as the result of an isolated war. But that project did not work out as Hitler had intended; the very device by which he had hoped to isolate his victim from outside support-the presence of over three million Sudeten Germans in Czechoslovakia-ended up involving Germany in negotiations that ceded to Germany the territory on which the Sudeten Germans lived. To his subsequent regret, Hitler had drawn back from war and had settled for the ostensible rather than the real aims of German policy.5 Thereafter, he plotted to seize the rest of Czechoslovakia after a "decent interval" while preparing for war with the western powers, which he now intended to launch in the near future. Such a war, in his opinion, would require a quiet eastern border and the subordination of the two eastern neighbors, Hungary and Poland.

In the winter of 1938-39, this aim was attained with regard to Hungary but not with regard to Poland. The litmus test was joining the Anti-Comintern Pact. After much hesitation, Hungary took this symbolic step of obeisance to Germany, but Poland simply would not agree to it. The leaders of Poland were as anticommunist as anyone in Europe, but they were not about to give up the revived independence of their country without a fight. On all other questions they were prepared to make some compromises, but formal obeisance to Berlin was out of the question. It took Hitler a while to recognize that Warsaw meant what it said, but once he realized that the Polish regime would not subordinate itself to the whim of Berlin, he decided that a preliminary war against Poland would be necessary before Germany attacked the west, unless, of course, the western powers joined Poland.

It was in this context that the German picture of relations with the Soviet Union changed. The Soviet Union had a long common border with Poland as well as a long tradition of hostility. A partition of Poland with the Soviet Union appeared to offer a number of advantages to Germany: it would isolate Poland for a quick attack; it might deter Britain and France from aiding Poland and going to war against Germany until the latter picked its own time to attack them; it would open the way for Germany to acquire much needed materials from and across the Soviet Union, thereby invalidating any blockade of Germany even before it was instituted.

The prospect of an alignment with Moscow looked even more attractive to Berlin at a time when it was having difficulty recruiting other allies for the coming war with Britain and France. The Italians eventually agreed to sign an alliance, the so-called Pact of Steel of May 1939, but the Germans recalled that Italy had urged a compromise in 1938 and had, at the time of signing the alliance, made it clear that several years of peace were needed to prepare Italy for the confrontation with the west. Germany's other major prospective ally, Japan, did not want an alliance against the west at all. Engaged during prior years and again during 1939 in border clashes with the Soviet Union, Japan wanted an alliance against that country, not against Britain and France who, in their eyes, were likely to be supported by the United States. Here was an ally who wanted to march in the wrong direction; an alliance with the Soviet Union looked like a much better prospect to Hitler.

Since Hitler believed that the attack on the west was the difficult but necessary prelude for the subsequent simple and fast attack on the Soviet Union, concessions could easily be made to Moscow. Whatever the Soviets wanted, they could get, including a few things they did not even ask for. These calculations were based on the assumption that once Germany had won its big war in the west, it could take back everything given away in the east-and more. The real question was not, therefore, the terms on which an agreement might be reached but whether the Soviet Union would be prepared to arrive at an agreement in the time frame within which the Germans were working and whether they would provide assurances of economic support as well as the diplomatic aid Germany wanted.

It was from this position that Berlin examined the soundings from Moscow in 1939 and interpreted Stalin's speech of March 10, 1939, and the replacement of Foreign Commissar Maxim Litvinov by Molotov in early May as signs of Soviet seriousness. The vast publicity attendant upon negotiations by the Soviet Union with Britain and France left the Germans in some doubt as to whether their secret talks with the Soviets would really produce an agreement, but the very fact that their own negotiations were being kept secret and that an economic agreement was being worked out combined to make the prospects look good. In order to create a common border, the disappearance of the smaller countries between the two powers was an inviting prospect for Berlin, and ending the independence of these countries by partition with Moscow was acceptable, with the exact terms and demarcations being of no special importance. Here was the chance for Germany to secure its eastern border while fighting a war in the west, and if an agreement with the Soviet Union provided this condition, all the better. But, of course, once the agreement with the Soviets had served its purpose of shielding a German victory over Britain and France, then the campaign in the east against the Soviet Union would follow, hampered neither by the paper barrier of the non-aggression pact nor by the need to keep large forces in the west.

If this was Hitler's perception, it was one that in its essentials was supported enthusiastically by others in the upper levels of Germany. Many of the diplomats had long believed that good relations with Russia, whatever its government, would be good for Germany (though a few were sufficiently alarmed by the prospect of a German-Soviet agreement to warn the United States). The German military leaders could hardly contain their eagerness for war against Poland and welcomed anything that might lead to that happy event. The prospect of a one-front war made the agreement with the Soviet Union all the more desirable. A few old Nazi Party members were affronted by the tie to the center of communism, which Nazi propaganda had long pictured as the great enemy, but such rumblings had no impact on German policy. For a short time, Berlin was willing to sign an agreement with Moscow.


On the Soviet side, a different ideology by a different route led to the same result. Assuming that the capitalist world would remain united against the Soviet state, and incapable for ideological reasons of comprehending the special nature of the Nazi state, Stalin had repeatedly approached the Germans for some agreement that would assist them in turning against what he perceived to be the capitalist imperialist rivals of the Third Reich. A war between Germany and the western powers looked to the Soviet leader like the best prospect for both the safety and the future expansion of Soviet power. Repeated rebuffs by Berlin did not discourage Stalin from making more approaches. In 1938, when it looked as if war might break out over a German attack on Czechoslovakia, a country with which the Soviet Union had a defensive alliance contingent on France honoring its alliance with that country, the Russians took a public stance in support of Czechoslovakia while privately declining any opportunity to assist that country. The fact that the Germans funked at war-by contrast with the Japanese who had thrown themselves into war with China without encouragement from anyone-made it look in 1939 as if an agreement with Germany might have the effect of encouraging that country to take the plunge.

In this context, Stalin believed that negotiations with the western powers for an agreement, accompanied by plenty of publicity, might induce the Germans to come to a settlement and to go forward with their plan for war against Poland and the west simultaneously or in sequence. From what evidence we have, it would appear that three factors required clarification in Soviet eyes:

-whether the Germans were serious about an agreement, an issue all the more important to Moscow because in January 1939 the Germans had aborted an economic mission to them under circumstances that left the Soviets both mystified and annoyed;

-whether or not the Germans were prepared to make the concessions that Stalin wanted in terms of territory in Poland;

-whether the Germans saw the need for the disappearance of the independent states of eastern Europe in essentially the same way as Stalin did.

As Stalin subsequently explained to the British ambassador, "the U.S.S.R. had wanted to change the old equilibrium. . . . England and France had wanted to preserve it. Germany had also wanted to make a change in the equilibrium, and this common desire to get rid of the old equilibrium had created the basis for the rapprochement with Germany."6

The negotiations showed the Russians that the Germans were indeed serious about sharing eastern Europe by division with them, contrary to the position of the western powers who hoped to preserve the independence of the countries there. From Stalin's point of view, therefore, it was a matter of stringing along the western powers in public by steadily increasing Soviet demands, a procedure to put pressure on the Germans to raise their offers to the Soviets in private. When Hitler wrote Stalin a personal letter asking him to receive Ribbentrop promptly, the Soviet leader realized that the time had come to take final action. Further stalling would force Germany to postpone an attack on Poland since good campaign weather in eastern Europe was coming to an end. By that time Moscow had already signed a long-term economic agreement with Berlin-a clear sign that the Soviet Union had no intention of joining Britain and France. Now was the moment to receive the German foreign minister and hammer out the details of an agreement. The "old equilibrium" would indeed disappear.


Once the agreement of August 23, 1939, and its secret protocol had been signed, Germany felt free to go to war with Poland. And, after some last-minute efforts to separate that country from its western allies, Germany attacked. Since Hitler intended to strike in the west after beating Poland, it did not appear especially important to him whether the war with France and England came immediately or was postponed. The key point was to obtain a peaceful border in the east for a subsequent campaign in the west, and here was his chance to get it. Once it became certain that the western powers would stand by Poland, he did not even wait out the extra day his own timetable allowed. Acting on the lessons he had drawn from the Munich agreement, Hitler was worried that someone might arrange a compromise at the last minute and cheat him out of war, as had happened in 1938. Now was the time to strike-and the sooner the better.

Immediately following Germany's attack on Poland, Hitler urged the Soviet Union to seize the territories assigned to it, and he was somewhat unhappy that Stalin did not move sooner. But once the Soviet Union had signed a truce with Japan, it moved quickly against both Poland and the Baltic states. Since the Lithuanians had refused German pressure to join in the war against Poland, they were traded to the Russians for portions of central Poland, as already mentioned; thus the two partners of the pact worked out the details of dividing eastern Europe. When the Russians ran into trouble in their attempt to impose their will on Finland, Germany supported the Soviet position, while communist parties in western Europe were ordered by Moscow to do what they could to undermine resistance to the Germans. The Soviet Union provided vast quantities of raw materials to Germany under the trade agreement and did what they could to support the German navy's war against Allied shipping. In exchange, the Germans delivered some machinery and naval equipment to Russia.

As the war continued in 1940, the cooperation between the two partners appeared to go well. The Soviet Union assisted Germany in its strike at Narvik in the Norwegian campaign and was delighted by the German victory there. Germany's triumphs in the west during May and June of 1940 were made possible, on the one hand, by the pact with the Soviets, which enabled Germany to concentrate its forces on one front at a time when it was not yet exhausted, as it had been by the time the Soviets signed a separate peace in the First World War. On the other hand, these triumphs enabled the Soviets to end the vestiges of independence still left to the Baltic states,7 to put renewed pressure on Finland and to annex not only Bessarabia but a substantial additional piece of Romania as well.

What Stalin did not realize, or would not believe, was that by this time Germany was already planning an attack on the Soviet Union, an attack Hitler originally scheduled for the fall of 1940. Soviet action against Finland and Romania provided Germany with allies on the two flanks of the coming front. As friction mounted, the Soviet Union expressed a willingness to join the Tripartite Pact signed by Germany, Italy and Japan in September 1940, but the Germans were not interested. Neither growling nor pleading by the Soviets had any influence on Berlin. The acceleration of Soviet deliveries of supplies to Germany from its own stocks or across its territory from the Far East had no more effect on German policy than the simultaneous acceleration of American deliveries to Britain (with the passage of the lend-lease program) affected Hitler's assurance to Japan that Germany would go to war with the United States if Japan got into such a war as a result of the latter attacking Britain. The German government went to war with others on the basis of its calculations, not on the policies of those it planned to strike.

The bloody fighting that began with the German attack on the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941, pointed up the terrible miscalculations made by both parties to the Nazi-Soviet pact. The Germans would discover that heading east before finishing the war in the west was a dangerous step. They would learn the hard way that their beliefs about the inferiority of Slavs and the weakness of the Soviet Union were delusions derived from the false doctrines of racial determinism. At least a few Germans would also learn that the establishment of a tier of independent states between Germany and the Soviet Union at the end of World War I had been an enormous advantage, not a disadvantage, for Germany. And along with the great blessing in the Versailles Treaty of maintenance of German unity, it had been destroyed by the Germans themselves.

The Soviet leadership was similarly deluded by its own ideology. Just as many Germans had believed in the racial inferiority of the east European peoples, Stalin appeared to have believed in the Marxist-Leninist nonsense about fascism as the tool of monopoly-capitalism struggling for markets, investments and raw materials-a view that left no room for an independent Nazi ideology of racial agrarian expansionism. The shocked surprise with which the Soviet leadership met the German attack-when their own intelligence had warned them, when the British had warned them and when the Americans had provided them with the outlines of the German invasion plan-has to be understood, in my judgment, as the triumph of preconceptions over reality. In 1927, when there had been no signs of an invasion of the Soviet Union, there was a war panic in Moscow. Now that all the signs were in place with innumerable warnings, what should not be could not be.

What made the Soviet miscalculation so horrendous was, of course, that by the time Stalin realized that Chamberlain and Roosevelt were correct in their belief that Germany could be defeated best by an alliance of powers, the Soviets had helped the Germans drive the Allies out of northern, western and southern Europe, leaving the Soviets alone with them on the continent in the east. Millions and millions of Soviet citizens would lose their lives over this disastrous miscalculation; only the incredible endurance of a suffering civilian population, the bravery of the Red Army's officers and soldiers and the diversion of German manpower and resources to an escalating war against the western powers allowed the regime to survive.


During and after the war, the Soviet Union offered a variety of new explanations for signing the pact. Official Soviet statements originally depicted the pact as an instrument of peace, but this line was abandoned after June 1941. It was also asserted that the western powers were about to make a Munich-type agreement with Germany, a somewhat curious line of argument that had to be abandoned in the fall of 1939 when the Soviet Union urged them to make peace with Germany on the assumption that both Poland and Czechoslovakia were to disappear.8 Other public arguments, then and later, asserted that the western powers would not make sufficient concessions to the Soviet Union, a point that has to be interpreted in terms of Stalin's own belief that ending the independence of the countries of eastern Europe was in the interest of the Soviet Union as well as Germany. The Soviets also claimed afterward that Russia's expansion westward provided an additional buffer against a German invasion, though the events of 1941 would show that the shift from the old defended border to a new one weakened, rather than strengthened, the ability of the Red Army to hold off the Germans.

Until recently Soviet publications have either ignored the existence of the secret protocol of August 23, 1939, or denounced it as a forgery. This question has arisen in face of renewed and ever more open agitation for a greater degree of autonomy in the Baltic states-perhaps real independence-and an entirely new situation in Poland. A new look at the events of August 1939 has major current political relevance.

There cannot be any doubt that the documents that record the partition of eastern Europe between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union are authentic. The originals were deliberately destroyed by the Germans but only after they had been microfilmed along with many other important documents.

Perhaps a new perception of the past will enable the Soviet Union to see the secret protocol as part of a mistaken and adventurous policy by Stalin-a policy that cost Russia the most horrendous losses, and for which the country had not properly prepared. As Europe moves into a new phase, perhaps the Soviets as well as the Germans may come to see that allowing the peoples living between them to enjoy a real independence can contribute to the security of all countries.

1 Stalin to Ribbentrop, Dec. 22, 1939, quoted in Roman Umiastowski, Russia and the Polish Republic, 1918-1941, London: Aquafondata, 1945, p. 182.

2 It may be worth noting what Maxim Litvinov said on this subject at a speech given to the League of Nations on September 14, 1935: "Not every pact of nonaggression is concluded with a view to strengthening general peace. While nonaggression pacts concluded by the Soviet Union with its neighbors include a special clause for suspending the pact in cases of aggression committed by one of the parties against any third state, we know of other pacts of nonaggression which have no such clause. This means that a state which has secured by such a pact of nonaggression its rear or its flank obtains the facility of attacking with impunity third states." (Quoted in Jane Degras, ed., Soviet Documents on Foreign Policy, 1939-1941, Vol. 3, London, New York: Oxford University Press, 1953, p. 145.)

4 There is now an excellent study of this conflict; Alvin D. Coox, Nomonhan: Japan against Russia, 1939, 2 Vols., Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1985.

6 Sir Stafford Cripps to the Foreign Office, July 16, 1940, Public Record Office, FO 371/24846, f. 10, N 6526/30/38. The document is quoted with permission of the Controller of Her Majesty's Stationery Office.

8 It has been suggested at times that Moscow reacted to the news of talks in London between the secretary of the Department of Overseas Trade, Robert S. Hudson, and a German official, Helmuth Wohlthat. Since we now know that the Soviet decision to sign a long-term trade agreement with Germany preceded those talks, that theory must be discarded regardless of how the Hudson-Wohlthat talks are interpreted. In view of the information available by that time, the author called attention to this point in the preface to the second printing of his Germany and the Soviet Union 1939-1941, Leyden: Brill, 1972, p.vi.

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  • Gerhard L. Weinberg is William Rand Kenan, Jr., Professor of History at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is the author of many books, including Germany and the Soviet Union, 1939-1941, The Foreign Policy of Hitler's Germany (in two volumes, Diplomatic Revolution in Europe, 1933-1936 and Starting World War II, 1937-1939) and World in Balance: Behind the Scenes of World War II.
  • More By Gerhard L. Weinberg