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"Friendly Relations" with Germany


Stalin’s intelligence agents had informed him of Hitler’s secret designs, including the plan to invade the Soviet Union in a few years time. Yet this did not deter the Soviet dictator from making a deal with Hitler. Several days after the pact had been signed, it was ratified by a rubber-stamp vote of the USSR’s Supreme Soviet. The deputies approved the treaty without even knowing that the pact had an additional secret protocol that defined the spheres of interests of the Soviet Union and Germany in eastern and southeastern Europe. The protocol envisaged that in the event of a German-Polish armed conflict the German troops would occupy western and central Poland, while the remaining part of eastern Poland, together with Finland, Estonia, Latvia, and Bessarabia, would fall into the Soviet sphere of influence. 


On the day after the ratification of the treaty by the USSR’s Supreme Soviet, Germany, without declaration of war, invaded Poland. The Soviet government bided its time for two weeks and on 17 September sent its troops across the Polish border under the credible pretext of coming to the rescue of the East Slavs—Ukrainians and White Russians—living in eastern Poland and now threatened by the German occupation. Poland was swiftly routed under the blows from west and east, and Molotov and Ribbentrop endorsed the results of its partition in the new Soviet-German treaty on “friendship and borders” signed on 28 September. The secret addenda to the new treaty further clarified the victors’ spheres of influence. The Soviet sphere was augmented by the inclusion of Lithuania in addition to the territories specified in the secret protocol of 23 August.

Following the signing of the German-Soviet nonaggression pact, the antifascist agitation in the Soviet media was toned down, as the two countries were now engaged in large-scale economic cooperation that constituted an important part of the “friendly relations.” In the two years following the conclusion of the treaty and up to the day of Germany’s sneak attack on the USSR, the German economic and military machine benefited substantially from trade with its future victim. Germany received about 2.2 million tons of grain, 1 million tons of oil, 0.1 million tons of cotton, 80 million cubic meters of timber, and other strategic commodities. On the very night that German troops were completing their final preparations for the surprise attack on the Soviet Union, ships and trains carrying grain, oil, and other commodities were in transit from the USSR to Germany.

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USSR in World War II


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