The Hitler-Stalin Pact of 1939: A Strategic Trap for the Soviet Union
The history of the Second World War has always attracted my attention. Indeed, how could it happen that none of the leaders of the great powers could prevent the dangerous chain of events that led to the worst catastrophe in the history of the mankind? How did Hitler manage to outwit Stalin? Stalin, who did not even trust his closest associates at home? These are the questions that history appears not to be able to answer….
Moscow’s consent to sign a non-aggression pact and secret protocols thereto with Germany in August 1939 was, objectively speaking, a triumph of German diplomacy. Hitler succeeded in making an offer that Stalin could not refuse. He could not refuse this offer due to the then regime’s aims of territorial expansion of the Soviets. Therefore, while making a proposal for the division of Poland and endorsing the assignment of the Baltic countries and a part of Romania to the Soviet “sphere of influence”, Hitler played “strategic checkers” with Stalin.
According to the official Russian reading of Stalin’s motives, Stalin gained territory and ostensibly moved away the boundaries of the USSR. Yes, he did move them away, but the question is: From what? In essence and in fact – from the Kremlin. At the same time the distance of the boundaries from the Nazi Germany, his likely opponent, was nullified. Was his purpose to win the time? And what for? To better prepare for defense or for offense?
If Stalin was indeed contemplating a strategic plan for Germany, he failed to implement it effectively and quickly – again, in essence and in fact. In the early months of the Hitlerist Germany’s war against the USSR the striking force of the Red Army was crashed. It turns out that not Stalin, but Hitler realized the opportunity to significantly increase military capabilities that were relatively weak in 1939, which enabled him at the appropriate moment in a matter of days to pick up the territory that was “assigned” to Stalin, as it turned out, for less than two years.
The “respite”, which the USSR allegedly received, did not play, as shown by the early months of the Nazi war against the USSR, any positive strategic role for the Soviet Union. Instead, if Poland was supported by Moscow in preserving its state independence, it could have played the role of a buffer that, at least, would not have allowed Germany to take the Soviet leadership by surprise.
While concluding the pact, Hitler and Stalin acted on the basis of similar geo-strategic motives, seeking to prevent a scenario where they would have to fight on two fronts. But Hitler, realizing that for Stalin – as well as for himself – the pact was only a piece of paper, decided to take strategic initiative over from his “partner” in order to completely destroy his ability to act militarily.
Today, in Russia the pact is considered as immoral, but at the same time they continue to claim its justification, i.e. expediency. The facts refute this assertion. The pact and the protocols did not bring any good to the USSR: they did not prevent the war, but rather lulled the Soviets’ vigilance, and plunged the country into a strategic trap, Getting out of this trap cost the Soviet Union many millions of lives.