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7.Nevertheless, Stalin did not immediately close the door to negotia tions with the democracies; on April 17 Molotov proposed to the British and French ambassadors in Moscow the formation of a triple alliance against German aggression.The preparations, however, pro- eded in leisurely fashion, and even at that late date the British Govern- appeared to have no realistic estimate of the danger, no accurate no- of the forces involved, and, above all, no conception of the absolute cessity for an immediate and binding agreement with the Soviet UNION.On April 8, 1939, Litvinov resigned as commissar of foreign affairs, and his portfolio was taken over by the premier (chairman of the Council of People's Commissars), Viacheslav Molotov.


Original text


  1. The Soviet-German Nonaggression Pact


The Munich Pact alarmed and dismayed the Russian leadership. It appeared t to them an open rapprochement between the western democracies and Germany and her satellites an agreement which could only mean that the Nazis were to be given a free hand in the east. Soviet relations with France and Great Britain at their best had never been cordial, but with the signing of the Munich agreement Soviet leaders lost what little confidence hey had had in the sincerity and ultimate purposes of the democracies. It was evident that had Hitler at that time struck directly at Russia he would ve encountered little if any opposition from France or Britain.


Hitler's new ambitions, however, proved to be too extreme even for Chamberlain. While it is true that when Hitler invaded Prague on March 14, 1939, he was allowed to overrun the Czech state without opposition from any of the western powers, it is also true that from that day onward Great Britain began to prepare for war. The preparations, however, pro- eded in leisurely fashion, and even at that late date the British Govern- appeared to have no realistic estimate of the danger, no accurate no- of the forces involved, and, above all, no conception of the absolute cessity for an immediate and binding agreement with the Soviet UNION.
On April 8, 1939, Litvinov resigned as commissar of foreign affairs, and his portfolio was taken over by the premier (chairman of the Council of People's Commissars), Viacheslav Molotov. The meaning of the change should have been obvious to anyone who troubled to think about the mat ter, for Litvinov for years had been closely associated with the policy of collective security. His resignation was open notice to the world that the Soviet Goverment no longer expected the common action which Litvinov had so long advocated, and was now determined to free itself of previous commitments in order to follow the course it deemed best. Strangely enough, however, the implications of the event were not at the time fully grasped by either the British or the French. The German appraisal of the situation was much more correct. There it was understood that since Chamberlain had chosen to play the role of appeaser in the west at the ex- pense of Russia, Stalin was now prepared to play the same game in re- verse. Nevertheless, Stalin did not immediately close the door to negotia tions with the democracies; on April 17 Molotov proposed to the British and French ambassadors in Moscow the formation of a triple alliance against German aggression. The French representatives were willing to ac- cept the Russian proposal, but London demonstrated no interest. On May 31 in a speech before the Supreme Soviet Molotov repeated the offer, and this time again under pressure from left and Labor groups-Chamberlain agreed to send a special envoy to discuss the situation in Moscow. Instead of assuming the duty himself or assigning it to an important representative of the British Government, he sent William Strang, a man who then held no high official position and moreover was not given sufficient latitude or authority. The negotiations instituted by Strang in Moscow dragged along for weeks without achieving appreciable results. The Russians insisted that both Poland and the Baltic countries be guaranteed against indirect as well as direct aggression. The British were prepared to speak only of direct at- tack. Though this may well seem a minor technicality, it proved to be the point on which the negotiations broke down. The Russians were concerned about the possibility of German "infiltration" into one or more of the Baltic countries, and wished to be protected by Allied guarantees to the border states against the piecemeal dismemberment suffered by Czechoslovakia. The British position on the matter was fixed: they were reluctant to give such a guarantee for fear Russia would then be in a position to determine by herself under what circumstances Britain would be obligated to go to war.


Unable to make any headway in the conversations with Great Britain and convinced that the British were merely delaying a decision, the Rus As made a friendly gesture in the direction of Berlin by undertaking new penning a hade treaty with Germany. Meanwhile, how ever, the conversations with Great Britain and France were not broken off and, as a matter of fact, entered a new stage-staff talks. The Anglo- French military missions chose to journey to Moscow by boat through the North Sea to Leningrad, the slowest possible way in an age of air travel. Conversations were begun immediately upon their arrival, but once again a Sag was soon encountered. The Russians insisted on the adoption of a plan which would authorize them to send troops into Poland and the Baltic countries in the event of a German attack. The British were afraid this would open Europe to Russian armies; and both Poland and the Baltic states resisted any suggestion that the Red Army be allowed to enter their territory. The Russians immediately pointed out that under such circum- stances no realistic or effective plan of cooperation could be devised. So- viet leaders were becoming convinced that the only way to keep Russia out of war was to choose the other alternative-to come to terms with Ger- many.


On August 21 a new Soviet-German trade agreement was signed in Berlin by which the Germans agreed to advance a credit of 200,000,000 marks to the Soviet Union. Two days later German Foreign Minister Rib- bentrop arrived in Moscow by plane, and a nonaggression pact between Germany and the Soviet Union (dated August 23) was signed at 1 A.M. on August 24. According to the provisions of this pact, the two contracting parties pledged to "refrain from any violence, from any aggressive action, and from any attack against each other, either individually or jointly with other powers." Any disputes or conflicts which should in the future arise between the two contracting powers were to be solved "exclusively in a peaceful way through an amicable exchange of views." The pact was to be effective for ten years.


On August 25 Great Britain countered by signing a mutual assistance pact with Poland. The British act was a demonstration of gallantry but it was hardly evidence of a realistic appraisal of the situation. Nothing was done to prevent the final step being taken on the agreement between Russia and Germany, and on August 31 the Supreme Soviet unanimously ratified the German-Soviet pact.


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