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Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact


One of the main reasons for this sudden reorientation toward Germany was the deteriorating situation close to the Soviet borders. On 22 March 1939 Germany had occupied the Lithuanian port of Klaipeda, forcing Lithuania to conclude a humiliating treaty. A large-scale German invasion in the Baltic area seemed to be in the offing. Moreover, the governments of the three Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia took an openly anti-Soviet stand; and two of them—Latvia and Estonia—signed friendly nonaggression treaties with Germany. The Soviet leadership had grounds to fear that Germany was preparing to launch an attack on the USSR from the territories of the three Baltic states and Poland. The security situation at Soviet borders was jeopardized further because of the escalating military tension in the Far East, where the Red Army was involved in large-scale military operations against Japan in the summer months of 1938 and 1939. 

Under these circumstances, Stalin and Molotov made the decision to terminate the talks with Britain and France and to conclude a nonaggression treaty with Germany.

Molotov and Ribbentrop: 23rd August, 1939 

The main advantage of the pact seemed to Stalin to be that it gave the USSR a much-needed strategic respite to augment its military-economic capabilities. Moreover, it kept the Soviet Union out of the fray that was about to engulf “imperialist” capitalist nations. Moscow would be able to watch from the sidelines how its class antagonists fought with one another until they bled themselves white.  

In the meantime, the USSR would pursue some of its own imperial ambitions by expanding its borders farther west in accordance with the treaty’s secret protocol. In addition, Moscow hoped to use Germany’s influence over its Japanese ally to put pressure on Tokyo to restrain its aggressive anti-Soviet intentions in the Far East. Hitler’s own objectives in securing the treaty with the Soviet Union were also strictly pragmatic. He wanted to neutralize the USSR as a possible adversary for a period of about two years. This would give Germany enough time to achieve its military-strategic objectives in western and central Europe.

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USSR in World War II


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