Eubank, K. The Origins of World War II. Wheeling, IL: Harlan Davidson, 2004. P.142-159 On March 10, 1939, before the Eighteenth Congress of the Communist Party, Joseph Stalin made his usual report in a speech that contained significant statements regarding foreign policy…
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Such a policy revealed ?an eagerness, a desire, not to hinder the ag- gressors in their nefarious work.? The western powers allowed Germany to have Austria, ?despite the undertaking to defend her independence; they let her have the Sudeten region; they abandoned Czechoslovakia to her fate.? Finally, Stalin enunciated Soviet policy towards its neighbors: We stand for peaceful, close and friendly relations with all neighboring countries which have common frontiers with the U.S.S.R. That is our position; and we shall adhere to this position as long as these countries maintain like relations with the Soviet Union, and as long as they make no attempt to trespass, directly or indirectly, on the integrity and inviola- bility of the frontiers of the Soviet state. He concluded with a warning to the Party ?to be cautious and not to allow our country to be drawn into conflicts by war- mongers who are accustomed to have others pull the chestnuts out of the fire for them.?11 Was Stalin's statement a revolution in Soviet foreign policy or was he restating an old hope, agreement with Germany over Eastern Europe? He was probably attempting to warn Britain and France not to leave the Soviet Union to face Germany alone. From Berlin there was silence. Although Ribbentrop brought the speech to Hitler's attention suggesting that he be authorized to learn more about Stalin's intentions, Hitler was uninterested. Alexei Merekalov, the Soviet ambassador, brought a message from the Kremlin to the German Foreign Ministry on April 17. Ostensibly the reason for his visit was the matter of Soviet con- tracts with the Skoda works in Czechoslovakia for war materi- als. However, Merekalov proceeded to lead Ernst von Weizsaecker, the state secretary, into a discussion of German-Polish relations and finally came around to the subject of Russo-German affairs. At last Merekalov got to the point: ideological differences, he suggested, need not be a ?stumbling block? to friendly relations. ?Russia had not exploited the present friction between Germany and the western democracies against us [Germany], nor did she wish to do that.?12 There was no reason for Russia and Germany not to enjoy normal relations. In contrast to Weizsaecker's account, according to Soviet doc- uments released in 1990 and 1992, the meeting was not the occasion of a Soviet hint at a possible rapprochement. The signal of detente was coming from the Germans. Merekalov was merely following instructions in presenting Soviet complaints concern- ing Germany's failure to fulfill contracts of the former Czecho- slovak Skoda factories. Merekalov made no plea for improved Russo-German relations. It is quite possible that Weizsaecker's account is the more accurate. Meanwhile, Britain and France embarked on tortuous nego- tiations with the Soviet government. On April 14, the British gov- ernment pressed the Soviet Union to make a public declaration promising to assist any European neighbor of the Soviet Union who resisted aggression if such assistance was desired. Britain would not be involved in this declaration. France, however, made a different proposal involving France going to war against Germany if Poland or Romania were to be attacked. France would aid the Soviet Union if it were at war as a result of aid- ing Poland or Romania. Litvinov replied on April 17 with a proposal for a triple al- liance in which Britain, France, and the Soviet Union would aid each other in case of aggression against
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