Embassy of the Russian Federation in the Republic of Botswana
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12 august / 2019

Press-Release concerning the 80th anniversary of the outbreak of the Second World War


On September 1, 1939, the German armed forces attacked Poland. From this day the Second World War began.

As the 80th anniversary of the outbreak of the Second World War approaches (September 1, 1939), a politically motivated propaganda campaign is gaining momentum. Its goal is to blame Hitler’s Germany and the Soviet Union equally for this global catastrophe, while casting a shadow on modern Russia. The facts are misrepresented, the events of the past are distortedly interpreted. This primarily refers to the Soviet-German nonaggression pact on August 23, 1939 (Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact), which supposedly was the root cause of the war, giving a "green light" to Hitler’s attack on Poland. In order to effectively counteract such “approaches,” it is needed to rely on specific facts and documents that characterize the complexity of the pre-war situation, reveal the true cause and effect relationships that led the world to a tragic cataclysm.

After the Munich Agreement on September 29-30, 1938, a qualitatively new situation was created in Europe, characterized by increased international isolation of the Soviet Union. In Moscow, the prospect of the formation of a united anti-Soviet front (Britain and France signed non-aggression declarations with Hitler on September 30 and December 6, 1938) was growing alarming. Nevertheless, in these conditions, the Soviet government did not lose hope for the formation of a collective security system, the urgent need of which became even more evident after the Nazis liquidated the Czechoslovak state in March 1939. The USSR categorically condemned the aggressive actions of the Third Reich, refusing to recognize the capture of Czechoslovakia and considering its priority is reaching an agreement with London and Paris.

In the spring and summer of 1939, Soviet-Polish relations acquired special significance. Moscow proceeded from the fact that an agreement with London and Paris can only make sense if Warsaw is connected to it. Soviet representatives have repeatedly tried to convince the Polish government of this, but without success. The Poles began to realize that they would become another victim of aggression, but they believed that England and France would support them even without Moscow. Not only the anti-Soviet, but also the extremely anti-Russian attitude of the ruling circles of Poland, ready to negotiate with any power, but not with Russia, played its role. The short-sighted position of Warsaw, which in many respects entailed the failure of tripartite negotiations, predetermined the development of events according to a well-known scenario.

The Munich Agreement was signed on September 30, 1938, by the Nazi Germany, the United Kingdom, the French Third Republic, and the Kingdom of Italy

Tripartite Anglo-Franco-Soviet negotiations continued until the second half of August 1939. The Soviet draft agreement provided for immediate military assistance in case of aggression, which did not suit the British and French, who preferred the Red Army to "drag the chestnuts" out of the fire for them. Negotiations were dragged on by endless amendments and contrived discussions. The final breakdown of negotiations was due to several reasons, the main ones being the Polish factor (Warsaw’s refusal to allow the Red Army go through its territory) and the approach of the Western partners to negotiations as a way to exert pressure on Germany, having achieved another compromise with it at the expense of not only Poland but also the USSR.

In early August, taking into account the current situation, the Soviet leaders agreed to begin Soviet-German negotiations. Germany sought to avoid a clash with the Soviet Union in connection with the planned invasion of Poland, and for the Soviet Union the key task was to prevent the rapprochement of Germany and Western democracies on an anti-Soviet basis and ultimately not to be in the position of object of aggression. The conclusion of the Soviet-German non-aggression pact became a severe necessity for the Soviet Union, a compelled and extremely difficult decision. If the Munich Agreement gave the whole European country to be destroyed by the Nazis, the agreement on August 23 removed the vast areas of Western Ukraine and Belarus from the German sphere of influence, saving them from death and slavery of the “new order”. The Nazi occupation of Poland confirmed the correctness of the decision adopted by the Soviet leadership. Great Britain and France left the Poles to their fate and did not lose hope of a confrontation between Germany and the USSR.

On September 17, the Red Army entered Poland. Only the areas occupied by Poland in 1920-1921 were invaded. The famous British politician and statesman D. Lloyd George emphasized after the events of September 1939: “The USSR occupied territories that were not Polish and were captured by Poland after the First World War ... It would be crazy to put Russian move on a par with the move of Germany.” It is important to emphasize: the USSR was not at war with Poland, what was recognized by the ruling circles of Western countries and the Polish government. Neither London nor Paris considered the intervention of the USSR as "aggression", nor did they formally protest Moscow in this regard.

Thus, the Soviet Union met the initial period of the war on strategically advantageous positions. Not joining any of the belligerents, it adhered to a policy of neutrality and used the current situation to strengthen his military-political and economic positions.

In conclusion, we note that any event of the past should be considered in the context of a particular era, and not be adjusted to speculative schemes for the sake of “historical politics”. Our opponents, who put Hitlerism and Stalinism on the same level, should be reminded of indisputable facts. After Hitler came to power, the USSR for a long period remained the only power that restrained the implementation of his aggressive plans and insisted on the unification of the efforts of European countries to maintain peace. No matter how you evaluate Soviet politics at the initial stage of the Second World War, in the end it was the Soviet Union that defeated Nazism, liberated Europe and saved European democracy from destruction.

The Embassy of the Russian Federation in the Republic of Botswana