When Germany signed its non-aggression pact with the Soviet Union in August of 1939, it caused a huge stir in the capital cities of many countries, not the least of which were London, Paris, and Warsaw. There the reactions were those of shock and dismay, as the British and French had been trying to negotiate with Joseph Stalin, and the Polish now realized that their days were numbered.
But many don’t know that just four days before that, the Soviets and Germans had, with relative quiet, signed an economic aggreement as well. The German-Soviet Commercial Aggreement, signed on August 19th, allowed the Soviets to trade raw materials (oil, rubber, manganese, and foodstuffs) to Germany and receive a couple hundred million Reichmarks worth of civilian (and military) equipment in return.
And then the war came a week later and even Poland, probably the weakest enemy Germany fought, proved a tremendous strain on Germany’s resources. What’s more, her aggression served to cut her off from additional suppliers, and Hitler knew that expansion to the West would be very difficult without the resources of transport, particularly oil.
And so, the German dictator turned to the Soviets again. On February 11, 1940, another aggreement was reached. This pact was also called the German-Soviet Commercial Aggreement, but served to expand the trade between the two powers. The numbers were increased to 650 million Reichmarks. The Germans would send the Soviets the blueprints for the Bismarck, the unfinished cruiser Lutzow, a destroyer (in pieces), naval guns, gobs of other military equipment, and plans for airplanes, including the Me-109 fighter. The Soviets would send to Germany oil, grains, oil, manganese, more oil, a little oil, some copper, oil, platinum, and oil.
But the catch for the Soviets was in the delivery times. All Soviet products had to be delivered to Germany within 18 months. From February 11, 1940, that meant a deadline of August of 1941. Germany, on the other hand, didn’t have to fulfill its end of the deal for 27 months, or May of 1942. And of course, you’re probably laughing, since Germany’s invasion of the Soviet Union commenced in late June of 1941…just about the time of the Soviet deadline. Who do you suppose got the better end of that deal?
Recommended Reading: Absolute War