The Nazi-Soviet Pact: Collaboration and Consequences

Topics: History

Nazi-Soviet Pact

Communist beliefs:

  • As a communist Josef Stalin saw fascist and democratic nations as the same; capitalist.
  • He was only concerned with keeping the capitalist nations from uniting against the USSR.
    • As such he was happy to do a deal with either.
  • Stalin believed that capitalist powers were naturally aggressive as was taught by communist writers.
  • Stalin wanted:
    • To make sure that the USSR was on the winning side.
    • To enter the war at the end so that the USSR may be the deciding factor as to who wins the war.

Reacting to Hitler:

  • January 1934, Stalin announced in public that the USSR would be willing to work with any country that did not threaten it:
    • This was so that he made clear to Hitler that they could do business.
    • Hitler was not interested in co-operating with the USSR at this stage and ignored Stalin.
    • Hitler always hated Soviet communism, he even used this to help him gain popularity in the elections.

Support for the League and collective security:

  • Failing an alliance with Hitler Stalin looked to the LoN.
  • September 1934 the USSR joined the LoN:
    • Prior to this Stalin had referred to the LoN as a band of robbers.
  • 1935, communist parties were ordered to stop attempting revolutions and to help any anti-fascist groups.
  • 1934-38 Soviet Foreign Minister Maxim Litvinov attempted to build links between the USSR and Britain and France.
    • He believed in collective security and thought it could counter Hitler.
    • Thought these links would help counter German aggression.
    • His efforts came to nothing on account of the distrust the Western powers held for communists.

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Appeasement and the Soviets:

  • Appeasement disappointed Litvinov and Stalin.
    • A link between the USSR and Britain and her allies no longer seemed too valuable.
  • In the Munich Crisis, Rhineland and Austria the Allies gave in to Hitler too readily; they were too eager to make a deal.
  • Stalin never really trusted Britain and France and their dealing with Hitler made him think that they were aiming to encourage a war between the USSR and Germany and so allow the two to destroy each other.

A Soviet offer to the West:

  • Spring 1939 there was a possibility that Britain and France would go to war with Germany:
    • Both sides wanted a deal with the USSR.
  • 17 April, 1939, Litvinov outlined a deal with France and Britain:
    • All three promise to defend existing borders of the states of Eastern Europe from German attack.
    • Mutual aid in the case of German attack.

A Change of Foreign Minister:

  • Britain took 6 weeks to reply to Litvinov’s offer:
    • Stalin was not impressed.
  • Stalin dismissed Litvinov as a sign to Nazi Germany that the USSR was open to offers:
    • Litvinov had been friendly with some of the Allied politicians.
    • New foreign minister was known as Molotov.
  • Exploratory talks between the Soviets and Germans began in May 1939:
    • These were secret and the British and French knew nothing of them.
    • German and Soviet contact continued through the summer.
    • Germans made clear to Soviets that if they stayed neutral they would be allowed to increase their territory in Eastern Europe.

Failure in Leningrad:

  • 12 August, 1939:
    • British, French and Soviet military leaders met in Leningrad.
    • The Soviets under Voroshilov asked for the right to move Soviet troops through Polish and Romanian territories to fight Germany.
    • Poland and Romania did not want this so Britain and France so no.
    • The talks ended in failure on 21st August, 1939.

Hitler sends a letter:

  • In the Leningrad conferences no senior ministers or top generals were present:
    • Those who were could not sign a treaty.
    • This was taken as a slight on the USSR.
  • Hitler, on the other hand, took the unusual step of writing a personal letter to Stalin:
    • Took place on 20th August 1939.
    • Suggested high level talks in Moscow.
    • Stalin was impressed and replied the next day.

Ribbentrop calls on Stalin:

  • 23rd August Hitler sent Ribbentrop, Foreign Minister of Germany, to Moscow with the power to sign a non-aggression pact.
  • Ribbentrop met Stalin and Molotov and they began bargaining:
    • Stalin was particularly interested in the ‘Secret Protocol’:
      • Germany offered to share most of the territories that lay between the USSR and Germany.
      • The USSR would receive Finland, Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania and parts of the Belarus and Ukraine that were controlled by Poland.
    • Molotov, the Soviet Foreign Minister, signed the pact.
    • This pact assured that war would occur in Europe.
    • Stalin even celebrated with Ribbentrop afterwards and toasted Hitler.
    • This pact allowed the Soviets 2 years of extra time before having to enter the war:
      • This time was used to strengthen their military 2.8 times over.
      • Their army became over 5 million strong and their air defenses were also strengthened.

Why did Hitler do this?

  • Hitler offered half of Poland to Stalin:
    • He knew that if he invaded Poland without Stalin’s approval Stalin would declare war on him:
      • Poland was traditionally a part of the USSR.
      • Hitler knew he was not ready for a war on two fronts.

The Two Choices:

  • The British and French offer:
    • Military agreement.
    • Soviet Union would be given military support it if it was attacked by Germany.
    • USSR would agree to join forces with France and Britain in protecting Poland from Nazi aggression.
    • USSR would not gain any additional territory.
    • It would have to risk war with Germany.
    • It was not clear how the agreement would work in practice:
      • Poland refused to allow Soviet troops entry into their country no matter the scenario.
    • This pact was meant as a bluff to scare the Germans so as to prevent an attack on Poland and war.
  • The German offer:
    • Non-aggression pact.
    • USSR would promise not to stop a German invasion of Poland.
    • Finland, Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania and parts of the Belarus and Ukraine that were controlled by Poland would be given to the USSR most of these territories were originally part of the Russian Empire prior to the revolutions in 1917. (Secret Protocol)
    • USSR would not immediately need to involve herself in the war.

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The Nazi-Soviet Pact: Collaboration and Consequences. (2023, Aug 02). Retrieved from

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