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Posts Tagged ‘Vyacheslav Molotov’

The Nazi-Soviet Pact (signed in August of 1939) is easily the most recognizable agreement between Stalin’s Russia and Hitler’s Germany.  I suppose that’s something of a surprise, since Adolf Hitler despised Russia’s Bolshevism and Joseph Stalin despised Germany’s National Socialism (and was paranoid of nearly everything and everyone else).  And it was that distrust that really made the Pact possible, as it was a way to create something of a buffer zone between the two (albeit at Poland’s expense).

But this certainly wasn’t the only agreement between the two countries.  Just days before the Nazi-Soviet Pact was signed, Russia and Germany signed an economic agreement.  The Russians would send food, raw materials, and oil to Germany in exchange for money and equipment.  In February of 1940, the economic agreement was expanded and became more militaristic in nature, as Germany promised to send blueprints for some of its military assets to Russia, receiving more raw materials (particularly oil) in return.

There were also secret agreements.  There was the secret addendum to the Nazi-Soviet Pact, in which Germany gave Russia a free hand to do what it wanted with Finland, Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania.  And then there was the secret protocol of January 10, 1941.  Signed by Vyacheslav Molotov (the Russian Foreign Minister) and Count von der Schulenburg (the German ambassador), this had nothing to do with economics, but returned once again to territory.

The “Sulwalki Strip” was a 25-mile by 50-mile strip of Lithuanian territory that was controlled by Germany.   The German government agreed to relinquish control of the area.  In return, the Russians agreed to give Germany 31.5 million Reichsmarks…sort of.  One-eighth of the money (3,937,500 Reichsmarks) would be delivered as raw materials, to be paid within 3 months.  The remaining seven-eighths (~27,500,000 Reichsmarks) were actually reductions in the payments that Germany was making to Russia as part of the expanded 1940 Economic Agreement.

So Germany gave up a little piece of land and, in return, got  more raw materials from Russia.  It also kept a sizeable chunk of change in its own coffers, money which would come in handy when they invaded Russia just six months down the road.

Recommended Reading: The Eastern Front – Day By Day, 1941-45

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I hope you all had a great Thanksgiving holiday…I know we did.  There was too much food, all of it good.  There was no Black Friday shopping, which was awesome!!  Well actually, there was a bit of shopping on Friday and Saturday, but Friday’s was in the early afternoon, well after all the diehards were pretty much done and back home in bed.

So let’s see, what do we have for today?…Well, it’s my wife’s birthday, so “Happy Birthday!!” to her.  I’m not sure she knows it, but her presents are all ready to go, so we’ll keep that a secret.

Let me check the official Today’s History Lesson spreadsheet…

Here we go…

The Tripartite Pact was an economic, military, and political alliance that was originally set up between three countries (hence the “Tri” in Tripartite).  Germany, Italy, and Japan were the original signers in September of 1940, but the Pact wasn’t strictly limited to them.

As 1941 approached, the Russians were approached about joining the Pact.  It’s a bit unusual, given the natural opposition that Hitler’s National Socialism felt for Russia’s Communism.  But Adolf Hitler’s designs on Russia were not strictly military in scope.  Russia’s tremendous natural resources had as big a target on them as did her military forces.  And if they could be taken peaceably, so much the better.

So Vyacheslav Molotov was invited to Berlin in mid-November and given the Tripartite Pact sales pitch.  And there was some hope that Molotov would listen.  The Russians and Germans had already done business on the Polish issue a couple of years before.  And Hungary, Romania, and Slovakia were all within days of joining the Tripartite Pact.

But those hopes proved fleeting, as the meetings did more to highlight Russo-Germans disagreements than they did to create common ground.  Molotov left Berlin having refused Germany’s “peaceful” overtures, and from the German perspective, the die was cast.  Or maybe “the die was confirmed” is a better phrase, since regardless of the outcome, Hitler had decided years before that Russian soil would be invaded at some point.

On November 29, 1940, the German High Command offered up a proposal for the invasion of the Soviet Union.  The draft included three massive Army Groups, setting off along an 1,800-mile front.  Army Group North would make for Leningrad.  Army Group Centre would have the capital of Moscow as its goal.  And Army Group South was tasked with the capture of Kiev, to be followed with a push to Stalingrad via Kharkov.

Within three weeks, the draft would be polished, planned, and finalized as Directive No. 18…Operation Barbarossa.

If Hitler couldn’t get what he wanted the easy way, he would get what he wanted by any means possible…

Recommended Reading:  WorldWar-2.net – One of the best World War II timelines available anywhere.  A wee bit clunky to navigate, but loaded with information.

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Poland.
That stubborn country that refuses to do what I want.
Poland.
The country with the backwards military, to whom “blitzkrieg” means “saddle up those horses and ride like mad”.  Where airplanes still have two wings and shoot bullets through the propellers.
Poland.
The puzzle piece that sits right between the much more important pieces of Germany and East Prussia.
Poland.

I can’t prove that Adolf Hitler thought all these things, but I’ll wager that thoughts very similar to those (and many others less pleasant) went through his mind.  The German dictator had been working overtime to gain back the Free City of Danzig and the Polish Corridor as a way to unite “east and west”, but to this point had been stymied as the Poles simply refused to cooperate.

So rather than work with the Polish government, he decided to simply work around it.  In May of 1939, Germany joined the Pact of Steel with Italy.  A pact of mutual cooperation and mutual defense, the treaty was designed to provide “flanking” protection to Germany against a French and/or British military response to German aggression.

But still, Hitler worried about overrunning Poland without bringing trouble from the Soviet Union upon himself.  And that’s where the Nazi-Soviet Pact came into play.  Though signed in the early morning of August 24th, it was dated August 23, 1939, and it goes by numerous names…the Nazi-Soviet Pact, the MolotovRibbontrop Pact (named for the Russian & German foreign ministers who put it together), and the German-Soviet-Non-Aggression Pact, among others.

Regardless of the exact name, the Pact gave Hitler similar protection in the east to what the Pact of Steel gave him in the west.  It also secretly provided for the disappearance of Poland (into Germany and the Soviet Union) as well as giving the Soviet Union a free hand with Finland, Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia.

Reactions were similar, though for very different reasons.  Elements in both Soviet Russia and Germany were aghast that Bolshevism and National Socialism, two sworn enemies, were now operating in partnership.  France and Britain were aghast, as they had also been working on negotiations with Stalin and the Pact was a stunning turn of events.  And Poles were aghast because they knew that Hitler’s dream of, once again, joining Germany and Prussia was about to become a reality…at their expense.

Recommended Reading: The Deadly Embrace – Hitler, Stalin, and the Nazi-Soviet Pact 1939-1941

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