Russian Ambassador Sergey Andreev has caused an outcry in Poland after stating that Soviet invasion of Poland in 1939 was an act of self-defense prompted by the failure of the Poles to join a coalition against Hitler. It was a bizarre claim was not only politically disastrous but historically moronic. The Russians have often omitted from their accounts of the heroic Russian war with Germany that they were first and foremost an ally of Hitler and sought to carve up Europe with him. it was only when Hitler betrayed Stalin that the Russians fought against Germany in its invasion.
The Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact between Soviet foreign minister Vyacheslav Molotov and the German foreign minister Joachim von Ribbentrop was non-aggression pact containing a secret protocol dividing Romania, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, and Finland between the two dictators. Had Hitler not invaded Russia, Russia was committed to a non-aggression pact and the subjugation of its neighbors to dictatorship. It was a disgraceful chapter in Russian history that the Putin government appears eager to rewrite. Indeed, adding to this ignoble history, was the betrayal of Polish freedom fighters in the Warsaw uprising and the massacre of Polish intellectuals by the Russians in Katyn Forest.
The invasion of Poland was a joint operation between Nazi Germany and Russia — with the German invasion occurring one week after the signing of the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact.
Andreev insisted “Polish policy led to the disaster in September 1939, because during the 1930s Poland repeatedly blocked the formation of a coalition against Hitler’s Germany . . . Poland was therefore partly responsible for the disaster which then took place.” It is an untrue and dishonorable statement from a country that contributed to the death of millions in Poland.
There is an irony in these efforts to shift blame, including Poland’s own checkered history in dealing with Hitler. The German–Polish Non-Aggression Pact was signed in 1934 and pledged to avoid armed conflict for ten years. Later, it was suggested that this pact was the result of a refusal by France to declare war on Germany when Hitler began to rearm his country and violate the Treaty of Versailles. When France refused, Poland moved ahead with its pact with Hitler, though historians are divided on this relationship between France’s decision and the decision of Poland to join Hitler in its own agreement. None of this however offers any excuse or rationalization for Russia to carve up Poland and other countries in coordination with Hitler.
Regrettably, Putin has reasserted many of the worst Soviet-era powers and practices, including propaganda and historical revisionism. Just in case pictures can speak a thousand words, here are the Germans and Russians congratulating each other on the invasion of Poland and carving up the country: