MUNICH AND THE MOLOTOV-RIBBENTROP PACT IN HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE
"It is important to understand that any collaboration with extremists, which in the Second World War meant Nazism and its underlings, leads to tragedy, whatever the motives for such collaboration. In effect it is not collaboration, but collusion aimed at furthering one's ends at the expense of others.
Therefore, it has to be admitted that all the attempts made between 1934 and 1939 to appease the Nazis with various agreements and pacts were morally unacceptable and practically meaningless, as well as harmful and dangerous. It was the combination of all these actions that led to this tragedy, to the start of World War II.
Of course, mistakes have to be admitted. Our country has done so. The State Duma of the Russian Federation, our country's Parliament, has condemned the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. We are entitled to expect the same from other countries that had made a deal with the Nazis, and not at the level of statements by political leaders, but at the level of political decisions".
Vladimir Putin, 1st of September Address in Gdansk marking the 70th anniversary of the start of World War II, www.premier.gov.ru/eng.
"Meeting of the 'Inner Cabinet' at 3:30 and P. M. [Neville Chamberlain] made his report to us. I was completely horrified - he was quite calmly for total surrender. More horrified still to find that Hitler has evidently hypnotised him to a point. Still more horrified to find P.M. has hypnotised H. [Lord Halifax - Foreign Secretary] who capitulates totally....I know there is a shattering telegram from Phipps [Sir Eric Phipps, British Ambassador in Paris] about position in France: I knew we and they are in no condition to fight: but, I'd rather be beat than dishonored. How can we look any foreigner in the face after this? How can we hold Egypt, India and the rest? Above all, if we have to capitulate, let's be honest. Let's say we're caught napping: that we can't fight now, but that we remain true to all our principles, put ourselves straight into war conditions and rearm. Don't - above all - let us pretend we think Hitler's plan is a good one. I've never had such a shattering day or been so depressed and dispirited".
Sir Alexander Cadogan, Permanent Under-Secretary of State at the Foreign Office, 1938-1946, Diary entry 24th September 1938.
The diplomatic tempest in a teapot last week in Gdansk (or if you like Danzig) has one hopes passed. Overall, I thought that for once Putin's speech, tried to do the right thing: clearly acknowledging Russian misbehavior in the past, while not put too much emphasis on the alleged misbehavior of others. Unfortunately, the Polish President's statement in response was of a piece with his tendency to shoot verbal barrages first, and ask questions afterwards. Still, unlike the conflict which started back on the 1st of September 1939, no one was injured by any of last week's altercations. However, that being said I did wish to clarify something which has been raised in a sotto voce fashion, during the past week: viz the alleged 'moral equivalence', between 'Munich' and the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. Speaking as someone who in graduate school and afterwards acquired a rather good detailed knowledge of British diplomacy in the 1930's, I can state quite clearly that in point of fact there is no equivalence, moral or otherwise to the two agreements. The first agreement was reached on the British & French sides due to duress and weakness. Pur et simple. No other rationale exists. Neither government gained anything from the agreement, other than being able to avoid war for another eleven months or so. Even so, at the time for many Munich had the air of something disreputable and dishonorable. Which helps to explain the reason why the French Premier Daladier fully expected to be verbally if not physically lynched when he arrived back in Paris from the Munich Conference (instead he was greeted with shouts of joy...). These feelings are easily found in much of the private diaries and diplomatic documents of the time `a la Sir Alexander Cadogan.
Conversely, Sovietskaya Vlast gained, immediate material benefits from its agreement with Germany in August-September 1939. It did not merely avoid being drawn into a war which it did not wish to fight, it also reaped tangible benefits from its pact with Germany. Id est., annexing half of the entre-deux-guerre Polish Republic. As well as shortly thereafter all three of the Baltic States and Bessarabia. Not to speak of portions of Finland. These fruits of Russian diplomacy did not cause any heartbreak by the then Russian officialdom. As V. M. Skyriabin-Molotov's posthumously published tagebuch discussions with Felix Chuev make quite clear, Stalin's chief diplomatic henchman saw his role as Foreign Minister as being to: "increase the frontiers of the Fatherland". And, thus it is quite clear that the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact cause as far as one can make out, no qualms or distress to its Russian authors. Either at the time or later. But, then again, why on earth would gangsters of the Sovietskaya Vlast variety have any moral qualms about anything? The question provides its own answer. Quod erat demonstrandum.