A week before World War II began, the foreign ministers of the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany sat down in Moscow and signed an infamous treaty of non-aggression which shocked the world. This pact came to be known as Molotov – Ribbentrop Pact that divided Eastern Europe into German and Soviet spheres of influence.
Insights of this article are :-
- How Did It All Began?
- The Molotov Ribbentrop Pact
- Why German-Soviet Agree To Sign The Pact?
- The Aftermath of The Pact
- The Scrapping of The Pact and The End Result
How Did It All Began?
By the end of 1930s, Germany’s aggressive actions brought the European Union to a boiling point. While France and the United Kingdom made concessions to avoid any conflict, Hitler continued his plans to expand the borders of Germany by annexing Austria and a big slice of Czechoslovakia. Also at that point of time, Germany’s relationship with the Soviet Union was fundamentally hostile.
At the time of Munich Conference in September 1938, the Soviet Union failed to reach a collective security agreement with Britain and France against Nazi Germany. By early 1939, the Soviet Union faced the possibility of stopping Nazi Germany from expanding in Eastern Europe alone and thus began to look for a change of policy. On May 3, 1939, the then Soviet leader Joseph Stalin fired the foreign minister who was a Jewish and an advocate of collective security and replaced him with Vyacheslav Molotov who soon began negotiations with the foreign minister of Nazi Joachim Von Ribbentrop. Meanwhile, the Soviet Union continued to negotiate with Britain and France. But, in the end, Stalin reached and preferred to sign an agreement with Germany.
The Molotov Ribbentrop Pact
On the night of August 23rd 1939, in the presence of Stalin, the foreign ministers of Nazi Germany and the Soviet union sat together and signed a 10 years neutrality pact. This pact which was signed by Vyacheslav Molotov and Joachim Von Ribbentrop contained the following terms:-
- Not to attack each other either independently or in conjunction with other powers
- Not to support any third power that might attack the other party of the pact
- To remain in consultation with each other upon questions touching their common interests
- Not to join any group of power directly or indirectly threatening one of the two parties
- To solve all differences between the two by negotiation or arbitration
This pact came to be known as Molotov Ribbentrop Pact and was decided to last for 10 years with an automatic extension for another 5 years, unless one of the parties notified to end it 1year before it’s expiration. The pact also contained an additional secret protocol which carved eastern Europe into mutual spheres of influence. This protocol was also issued at the same time but was promised by the two to be kept as a secret and hence it was not published when this pact came into light.
Why Did Germany-Soviet Agree to Sign The Pact?
The signing of the non-aggression pact by Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union was something no one could ever think of, however, both of them had their own reasons for signing the pact.
For Hitler, it was primarily a short term agreement which allowed him to invade Poland without any fear of intervention from the Soviet Union.
On the other hand, Stalin was more invested in the pact. While people considered him a fool for signing the pact he viewed it as a way to keep his nation on safe terms with Nazi Germany. The secret protocol in the pact also lured the dictator towards signing this pact. Besides having a guarantee of strong, beneficial economic relationship with Germany, the pact ensured that Stalin would get all of the territories that he lost in the World War I. This pact also gave the Soviet Union the time to strengthen their army without fearing invasion from Nazi Germany.
The Aftermath of the Pact
- Prior to 1939, it was pretty much unthinkable and hence no one ever imagined that Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union would ever end up in collaboration due to the hostile relationship between the two. As a result, this pact came as a shock for the whole world and people found it hard to believe that both of them actually signed a non-aggression pact.
- The pact also caused terror in the capitals of Britain and France.
- On September 1st,1939 Nazi Germany invaded Poland from the West. As a result, France and Great Britain attacked Nazi Germany on September 3rd,1939 and this is how World War II began.
- On 17th of September,1939 the Soviet Union attacked from the East. As a result, the whole of Poland was divided and occupied.
- In accordance with the secret protocol, Stalin attacked Finland on November 30 and forced it in March 1940 to yield the Isthmus Of Karelia and make other concessions. He also established pro-Soviet governments in three of the Baltic States ( Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia)and occupied regions of Romania. As a result, Finland, parts of Romania and three the Baltic States were eventually annexed into the Soviet Union.
The Scrapping of The Pact and The End Result
The Molotov – Ribbentrop Pact lasted for less than two years. Germany after invading much of Central and Western Europe attacked the Soviet Union on 22nd June 1941. In its Operation Barbarossa, Hitler sent approximately 3 million Nazi Soldiers for invading the Soviet Union. As a result, the agreement was terminated and the pact became a dead letter.
After World War II ended in 1945, the Western Forces found out a copy of the Molotov – Ribbentrop Pact and it’s secret protocol in a Nazi archive and revealed them to public. As an effect, Joachim Von Ribbentrop was convicted of war crimes and was later executed.