The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact provoked the outbreak of WW II

New evidence indicates Stalin as the architect of the Pact

By Carl O. Nordling

 

The MRP (Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact) caused Hitler to dare defying the Western Powers and to start a war with prospects of being a lengthy one. Stalin anticipated that this war was going to exhaust both parties whereupon the Red Army could easily make big conquests.

 

The evidence that reveals these intentions of Stalin has been found in:

 

Stalin’s speech to the Politburo on August 19, 1939;

 

A news item in The Times on August 26, p. 9;

 

A news item in Svenska Pressen on September 8, 1939, p. 4;

 

The Stalin interview in Pravda on November 30, 1939;

 

The consular report from Prague quoted in Igor Lukes: Czechoslovakia between Hitler and Stalin.

 

Stalin, "The Champion for Peace"

It is well known that it took about 2,000 years for Ekphantos’s theory on the earth as a boll revolving around its axis to become generally accepted. Almost everyone relied on such authorities as Aristotle and he Catholic Church, who were against it. It is a prevalent conception that such a dependence upon authorities belongs to the distant past. This is, however, an entirely false conception. What will be presented below is just a counterpart in the field of history to the prolonged conception of the earth as the center of the Universe, in spite of disproving evidence.

 

Many books about World War II describe how Stalin in 1939 manoeuvred in order to keep the Soviet Union outside the war that he expected soon to break out. The Western Powers would not, however, allow him the buffer that he said was indispensable. That is to say they did not consent to the entry of Russian troops into the Baltic States and Poland against the will of these states.

Most established historians argue that in such a situation Stalin had no alternative but to enter into a pact with Hitler instead. By way of example, A. J. P. Taylor (1906-90), the well-known English Professor of History, wrote1: "It is difficult to see what other course Soviet Russia could have followed." He thinks the Ribbentrop-Pact was in the last resort anti-German: "It limited the German advance eastwards in case of war." Apparently Taylor thinks that the Germans would have taken Moscow if not the Pact had limited their penetration.

The actual result of the Pact was, however, that Poland ceased to function as buffer in case of a German assault. A professorial chair at Oxford seems to be tantamount to a license to write sheer rubbish.

The situation at Cambridge was similar. The historian Edward Hallett Carr (1892-1982) wrote already in 19522: "In return for non-intervention Stalin secured a breathing space of immunity from German attack." Carr assures that the "bastion" created by means of the Pact, "was and could only be, a line of defense against potential German attack." Even so, according to Carr, the Pact gave Stalin another and more important advantage. It granted that "if Soviet Russia had eventually to fight Hitler, the Western Powers would already be involved." Here Carr conveniently disregards the fact that both treaty parties were notorious breakers of treaties. None of them attached any importance to signatures on a piece of paper. Carr himself knew that the Pact did not prevent Hitler from attacking the Soviet Union in June 1941. How could the same Pact have prevented Hitler from attacking, let us say, in October 1939 as a direct continuation of the Poland campaign? The fact that he did not was of course due to quite other motives than any respect for a given word.

Also the guarantee (through the Pact) that the Western Powers would be at war before a possible attack on the Soviet Union did not exist. Such a guarantee would have required a Soviet pact with the Western Powers instead; something Stalin had declined. With such a pact no German troops could have reached Soviet territory before the outbreak of a German war against Poland and her two allies.

Hitler had chanced upon a pact with Stalin in the hope thereby to deter the Western Powers from fulfilling their obligations to enter the War on the side of Poland. There seemed to be a good chance for this hope to materialize. After all, the Western Powers had not went to war when Hitler broke the Locarno Pact in 1936 (occupying the Rhine district), neither to fulfill the French guarantee to Czechoslovakia in 1938, and not even to fulfill the joint guarantee to Rump-Czechoslovakia in March 1939. In August 1939 the conditions were far less favorable for the Western Powers, after the Soviet Union had declared both non-intervention and backing up Germany with a generous trade agreement. On the other hand, there was no guarantee either that Hitler should go to war against the Western Powers before he turned against the Soviet Union. In his book Mein Kampf he had declared that a two-front-war was a certain road to disaster.

Taylor and Carr seem to have been obsessed by a desire to describe Stalin (1879-1953) in the most favorable light apart from any logical considerations. In spite of their lack of evidence they have "founded a school". Still, now at the turn of the century one finds Stalin described as a peacekeeping leader who eventually falls victim to a war instigator beyond his control, namely Hitler. Most encyclopedias agree that the Pact was a defensive measure in some way or other. That was certainly exactly what Stalin wanted his "useful idiots" to believe.

Stalin informing about his "grand strategy"

At the same time as he fed propaganda phrases to the masses Stalin wanted to inform his intelligent henchmen of the real purpose with the Pact. He also found various ways to do it without disturbing the belief of he idiots. The members of the Politburo could be informed in plain language at a secret meeting, of course. This took place on 19 August 1939, just four days before the signing of the Pact. The minutes from this meeting were published already in November 1939 in a rather esoteric journal3 and thus became almost totally neglected until the beginning of the 1990's. The historians may therefore be excused for not having read Stalin's famous 19 August speech during the preceding 50 years.

The Communist leaders abroad had to be informed long before November 1939, if possible. Yet Stalin must have considered it necessary to inform them in a roundabout way. One of these ways went through the Times, where a news item containing the essence of Stalin's speech appeared on 26 August 1939. By way of introduction the item said that "British and French Communists have received a communication from M. Dimitroff in the name of Comintern. The document is said to give the following reasons to the Russo-German pact:

1) New tactics are felt to be necessary in view of the experience of the past five years, which have led to undesirable electoral and other alliances with democratic and bourgeois parties;

2) Although the adhesion of Russia to the democratic Peace Front would have checked the [Berlin-Rome] Axis, it would have been a derogation of Communist principles to support capitalist countries;

3) The Soviet Government and the Comintern have therefore decided that it is best to hold aloof from any conflict, while remaining ready to interfere when the Powers engaged therein are weakened by war in the hope of securing a social revolution;

4) The pact is a great diplomatic and ideological victory for Russia at the expense of the Axis;

5) The chief obstacle to the conclusion of an agreement between France, Great Britain, and Russia, and the chief encouragement to the conclusion of the present Pact, were the hostile attitude of Poland, Rumania, and the Balkan Entente." 4

The really important parts of this "communication" are the statements that the Soviet Union could have checked the Axis, and that the Pact gives hope for a war which will weaken the Axis and democratic powers so that revolution might be secured. The fifth paragraph was probably added in order to give the "useful idiots" something to chew lest they should notice the real message.

A few days later the European war broke out, according to plan. The intelligent readers, trained in Marxism-Leninism, would then have understood Stalin's policy and prepared themselves for the coming "social revolution", i.e. the Sovietization of Europe.

Many historians apparently write about the Pact without checking the contemporary follow-up even in the most distinguished newspapers. No wonder then that they have missed the more complete summary of Stalin's speech that was published on 8 September 1939. This occurred in the Swedish evening daily Svenska Pressen in Helsinki, a paper with a rather limited circulation. It began with a statement that all superior Communist leaders in Russia and abroad received a circular in dialogue form the day before the Pact was concluded. Most of the dialogue follows, with a couple of exclusions indicated. The main points are the following:

The final aim of the Comintern is still the same as before: world revolution. However, all attempts at activating revolution have failed. According to certain arguments from Marx, Engels and Lenin (omitted from the news item) a lengthy war could hasten the outbreak of revolution. But a pact between the Soviet Union and the Western Powers would not hasten the coming of such a war, because it would cause Germany to resign from plunging into any military adventure. On the other hand, a Russo-German pact (implying Russian neutrality) would make it possible for Germany to realize her plans of aggression.

Therefore, in order to hasten world revolution, the Soviet Union should support Germany so that she can start a war, and then try to effect the war to become a lengthy one. By way of conclusion the news item states that the circular was drawn up in the Kremlin by Stalin and all the members of the Politburo of 1939, except Khrushchev. The purpose is said to be to forestall discontent among the Communist leaders. 5

(For the complete text of the Svenska Pressen cricular, see Stalin’s Politburo explains the Ribbentrop pact.)

It should have been one of the most important tasks for the foreign press attachés to report the full text of this news item to their respective governments. It seems, however, that none of them did.

Apparently, Stalin felt that all this was not enough. So three months later he granted the Pravda an interview. The editor "asked Comrade Stalin for his opinion of the Havas report of 'the speech' allegedly made 'by Stalin to the Politburo on 19 August', in which he is said to have expressed the thought that the war should go on as long as possible, so that the belligerents are exhausted." (See Stalin's August 1939 speech, evaluated!) The Pravda then quotes Comrade Stalin saying:

1) that it cannot be denied that it was France and England that attacked Germany and consequently they are responsible for the present war;

2) that Germany made peace proposals to France and England, proposals supported by the Soviet Union on the ground that a quick end to the war would ease the situation of all countries and peoples;

3) that the ruling circles of England and France rudely rejected Germany's peace proposals. 6

The “Havas report” that Stalin mentions may refer to the then newly published article in Revue de Droit International that contained Stalin's speech of 19 August, supposedly provided by some member of the staff of Agence Havas. It emerges from the article that Stalin wanted his message to be conveyed to all Communist leaders.

The Pravda interview was published on 30 November 1939, the very day when the Soviet Union started an outright war of conquest.

Those who had studied Marxism-Leninism certainly knew that "easing the situation for all countries" would not promote world revolution in the least. And every reader of the Pravda would understand that if Stalin had spoken about "the war" on 19 August 1939, he would have referred to an expected or planned war, not any "present war". The road to the war was opened only on 23 August (with the Pact) and Hitler embarked on it on 1 September. Stalin's real attitude to war should emerge from the manner in which he translated words into deeds the very day when the interview was published. Those "in the know" were thus sufficiently informed that Stalin had concluded the Pact in order to make possible a war with prospects of exhausting the belligerents – even if Stalin formally denied the “Havas report”.  The date of publishing would confirm that the phrases about peace were for the sake of appearance only.

Historians and Kremlinologists may be excused for not knowing about the item in the Svenska Pressen. It was republished (in English translation) only in 19847. To overlook the Pravda is, however, remarkable, to say the least.

Stalin's and Hitler's reasons for the Pact

Every serious historian certainly realizes that neither Stalin nor Hitler felt himself bound to pacts, vows or other commitments. All accept that at least Hitler entered into the Pact with the intention to break it at the first suitable moment. Still they cling to the thought that the Ribbentrop Pact prevented Hitler from breaking it during precisely 22 months. What if Hitler had seen a suitable moment turning up after 22 days? Certainly, Hitler could have attacked the Soviet Union at any moment between October 1939 and June 1941 if he had seen fit to do so, pact or no pact. It is obvious that the strategic possibility for an attack did not appear at any time before May 1941. The Pact did not protect the Soviet Union in the least.

In his book Mein Kampf Hitler had made it clear that he considered a war on two fronts as a disaster for Germany. An attack on Poland in August 1939 implied the risk of a war on two fronts. The Western Powers had promised to go to war on behalf of Poland in case of a German attack. In a talk with General von Brauchitsch on 14 August Hitler expected Great Britain not to fight for Poland - but he was not quite sure. But if Mr. Chamberlain would become convinced that no support from the Soviet Union was to be expected, British passivity would be as good as guaranteed. Since Hitler knew that Stalin could break the Pact at any moment, it did not protect Germany either.

Therefore, Hitler's reason for the Pact must have been to make sure that the Western Powers should not interfere when he attacked Poland. Hitler based his opinion on a piece of information about a British officer of the General Staff having estimated the power of the Polish Army. The officer would have reached the conclusion that Poland's resistance would break down quickly. Knowing this, Hitler thought that the British General Staff would advise the Government not to engage in a war without any prospect of success8. Even when the Western Powers did declare war, Hitler consoled himself and his entourage that "England and France evidently had declared for appearances only, in order not to loose face before the world".

Stalin, on the other hand, knew that the German attack on Poland would trigger off the war that he needed, and he even told Ribbentrop: "England would wage war craftily and stubbornly"9. The reason for his knowledge was, of course, the fact that he had agents in the highest circles of the British Government, viz. Blunt, Burgess, McLean and Philby, to mention those who have been exposed.

Hitler made no secret in those August days about his being in great hurry to get an agreement with the Soviet Union. It was obvious that he did not dare start his Polish campaign without some proof of Stalin's neutrality. Within a few weeks the autumnal rains would begin and render a campaign impossible.

To summarize: Stalin realized that without a pact with Germany there would not be any attack on Poland and therefore no war between Germany and the Western Powers. By accepting an agreement with Hitler, he could have the European war of which he had spoken ever since 1925 as something that would act "accelerating and facilitating the revolutionary battles of the proletariat"10. There was Stalin's motive to conclude a pact with his arch-enemy Hitler - whom he could not possibly trust in the least.

The failure of the historians

The above line of argument is carried out in the book The Incompatible Allies (New York 1953) by the German diplomat Gustav Hilger and a certain Alfred G. Meyer. They conclude, however, that Stalin provoked the war only in order to gain precious time for rearmament11 (implicitly: to be able to complete his rearmament before the German attack). Hilger and Meyer disregard the fact that Hitler could not attack The Soviet Union without conquering Poland in advance. And the Pact was a prerequisite for conquering Poland!

More recent authors, such as Geoffrey Roberts and Gabriel Gorodetsky disregard much more in their books on Stalin. In The Soviet Union and the Origins of the Second World War (1995) and Grand Delusion: Stalin and the German Invasion of Russia (1999) there is no mention of Stalin's speech of 19 August 1939 and no discussion of the value of a pact between two notoriously untrustworthy persons.

Actually, most historians have failed to draw the logical conclusion that Stalin used the Pact as a means to start a World War. Roberts and Gorodetsky had the opportunity to read Stalin's own unveiled words. Other historians have had access to his veiled words in the Pravda and the Times. And everybody could have looked up what initiated persons thought about Stalin's intentions at the time. Foreign Minister von Ribbentrop, Ambassador Sir Nevile Henderson and Stalin's biographer Boris Souvarine gave their opinion along the same lines as Stalin in his speech. The French General Schweisguth already in September 1936 anticipated that Stalin aimed at releasing a ruthless war, into which the Soviet Union should enter only when the primary belligerents were exhausted.

A weighty confirmation emerged in 1951 when the defected Soviet Colonel Grigori Tokaev published his book Stalin Means War. In this Tokaev testified what he had been thought at lectures at the Military Air Academy in 1939 and later. One of these lectures was concerned with one theme alone - that the USSR should coerce Britain and France into fighting Germany to the death, and simultaneously, coerce Germany to fight Britain and France to the death. 12 Concerning the Pact, Tokaev mentions what he learned from an authentic source two days after its ratification. "The Kremlin was fully and firmly aware, at the time when the agreement was signed, that within a few days Germany would invade Poland." In Tokaev's opinion Stalin understood perfectly well that by releasing Hitler from dread of fighting upon two fronts, he was irreparably inflicting a second world war on mankind.13

Recently, at least one historian has realized the importance of a dust-laden document that most of his colleagues might have carelessly neglected. Says Professor Igor Lukes at Boston University14:

“A document obtained by the U.S. consul in Prague in 1939 described a trip by a group of Czechoslovak communists to Moscow after the outbreak of World War 11. […] They had gone there demanding an explanation of the astounding friendship between Stalin and Hitler. Their comrades suffered in Gestapo jails for their love of the Soviet Union, and Stalin was seen beaming with joy as the pact with Nazi Germany was being signed. How was this possible?

 

The delegation was received by an official of the Commissariat for Foreign Affairs. The Molotov‑Ribbentrop pact was justified, he said: ‘If the USSR had concluded a treaty with the Western powers, Germany would never have unleashed a war from which will develop world revolution which we have been preparing for a long time. . . . A surrounded Germany would never have entered into war. . . . We cannot afford Germany to lose […]. The present war must last as long as we want. . .  Keep calm because never was the time more favorable for our interests than at present.’

 

The long‑term Soviet strategy outlined in the document obtained by the U.S. consul in Prague was in harmony not only with the 7th Congress but also with the ideas laid down by Zhdanov in his August 1938 speech before the Czechoslovak Communist party's Central Committee.”

It is obvious that there have been clues for any one who wanted to search into the motives of Stalin and the causes of the Second World War. In the last few years even Stalin's speech of 19 August 1939 has been available. Every serious historian writing on Stalin ought to be familiar with it, of course. In spite of this, there seems to exist an ideological resistance among most professional historians against recognizing Stalin as the instigator of W.W.II. The general public is blissfully ignorant of the fact that the sole profiteer of the War also was the very person who got it started, former bank robber Iosif Vissarionovich Dzugashvili, alias Stalin. Instead, many people still see Stalin as the peace loving defender of the Russian people.

The treachery of the allied leaders

Churchill and Roosevelt must take on a large part of the responsibility for this state of things. They posed as authorities setting the tone. As soon as the Soviet Union had unawares joined the belligerents, the two leaders took great pains to present Stalin in the most positive light that they could accomplish. Things came to such a pass that they - against their better judgment - accepted Stalin's version of the Katyn massacre as a German mass murder. When the War was over, this partial attitude had spread to most historians.

The estimation that Churchill published in 1948 passed by, without any critic reacting. He wrote15: "[The] vital need [of the Soviets] was to hold the deployment positions of the German armies as far to the West as possible so as to give the Russians more time for assembling their forces from all parts of their immense empire. [...] They must be in occupation of the Baltic States and a large part of Poland by force or fraud before they were attacked. If their policy was cold-blooded, it was also the moment realistic in a high degree." Even to be said by Churchill, this is really a bit on the naive side. "The Russians" did not, as is well known, carry on any policy, realistic or not. That was done by the autocratic Stalin alone, and he already had the use of a strong line of defense. Every historian should be able to realize the unsuitability of occupying Estonia and Latvia under the circumstances. A forced occupation calls for military resources, which thereby are split up. Stalin's policy also resulted in the loss of a number of potential allies in an eventual defensive war against Germany: Finland, the Baltic States, Poland and Romania.

Nevertheless, rash pronouncements of this kind were seen in book after book. A contributory cause may be the Nuremberg trial that had canonized certain opinions about the War as "politically correct". Among these was the dogma that only the Germans and the Japanese committed war crimes. As a consequence, among Hitler's crimes is counted his failure to capitulate in 1943 when he could have spared a couple of million German lives. At the same time Stalin's gets the credit for not having capitulated in 1941, but fought on until he had conquered Eastern Europe, in spite of the losses of Soviet lives that accumulated. (The final result was about 27 million, as counted from the censuses before and after the War.)

Belief in authority and group pressure seem to be capable to make most academic historians ignore the rules imparted to them at their university education, nay even to ignore common sense.

References:

1. Taylor, A.J.P., The Origins of the Second World War, London 1961, p. 262-3.

2. Carr, Edward H., German-Soviet Relations between the Two World Wars, 1919-1939, Oxford 1952, p. 136.

3. Revue de Droit International, de sciences diplomatiques et politiqueGenève,  tome XVII, n:o 3, juillet-septembre 1939, pp. 247-8

4. The Times, 26 Aug. 1939, p. 9.

5. Svenska Pressen, Helsinki, 8 Sept. 1939, p. 4.

6. Pravda, 30 Nov. 1939.

7. Contrib. to Soviet and East European Research, Vol. 11, No. 1, p. 103-

8. Speer, Albert, Erinnerungen, Frankfurt 1969, p. 179.

8. Ulam, Adam B., Expansion and Coexistence, N.Y., p. 277.

9. Stalin, Iosif, The Essential Stalin: Major Theoretical Writings 1905-52, London 1973, p. 93

11. Hilger, Gustav, and Meyer, Alfred, The Incompatible Allies, N.Y. 1953, p. 307.

12. Tokaev, Grigory, Stalin Means War, London 1951, p. 72.

13. Tokaev, p. 30

14. Lukes, Igor, Czechoslovakia between Hitler and Stalin. N.Y. 1996, p. 258.

15. Churchill, Winston, The Second World War, Part I, London 1948, p. 306-7.

 

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Carl O. Nordling