Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Putin Ordered Publication of Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact to Show Boldness and Sow Discord in West, Eggert Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 5 – Vladimir Putin ordered the publication of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact this year to “whitewash Stalin’s policies” so as to “troll” Western public opinion in the year of “the tragic anniversary of the beginning of the war unleashed by Hitler with Stalin’s support,” according to Konstantin Eggert.

            Unlike in the last “round” anniversaries of 1939, the Russian commentator continues, the Kremlin leader feels he has nothing to lose because comparisons between his aggressive and repressive policies with those of Stalin have become “practically a commonplace” across Europe (комментарий-пакт-молотова-риббентропа-факт-признанный-москвой/a-49049863).

            Unlike his post-Stalin predecessors who felt that the less said about such things the better, Putin has acted in his own characteristic way: “You say that we did this! We respond without reservation: yes, we did. We divided Europe with Hitler and we will continue to call black white when this is in our interests. And if need be, we will repeat what we have done.”

            “Be afraid, be very afraid.”

            With the publication of the facsimiles of the pact and its secret protocols, Eggert argues, “the Russian leadership has asserted for both internal and external consumption a new version of the history of a key event of the 20th century, significantly more radical than the version of the Khrushchev-Brezhnev ‘collective leadership.’”

            From the death of Stalin until perestroika, the Soviet leadership denied that there had been any secret protocols. Molotov went to his grave denying them. But gradually after the late 1980s, the fact of them proved too difficult to deny, and Moscow fell back on saying that if they existed, it couldn’t find them in the archives.

            Now, 30 years later, “a pseudo-research center financed by the Kremlin, the Institute for Foreign Policy Research and Initiatives” suddenly came up with them and published them.  That couldn’t have happened with Putin’s clearance, and he certainly was pleased with the defense of what Stalin had done in 1939 as a forced measure that his critics had done even worse.

            In contrast to the late Soviet version which essentially was based on the principle “’the less said, the better,’ the new Putin version which now will be made official and obligatory presupposes pride for the wide Stalin, hatred for Western democracies … and the assertion of the right of the strong regarding neighboring countries.”

            “All this is not so much about the past as about the present,” Eggert continues.  In Putin’s mind, there are precise analogues to the foreign governments Stalin had to deal with.  The US and NATO are the “’hypocritical’ Chamberlains,” and the Baltic countries, Poland and Ukraine are the “Russophobic” threat, one that can only be dealt with by military means.

            When the news came that the secret protocol had been published, Eggert says, he called his friend, British historian Roger Moorhouse, the author of the most complete history of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, The Devils Alliance: Hitler’s Pact with Stalin, 1939-1941 (London, 2016).

            “On the one hand, this is a good thing,” Moorhouse said; “but on the other, Russia following the USSR continues to deny the obvious. It is still afraid of looking at its own history with clear eyes.”  Eggert says that the situation is even worse: Putin and his people in the Kremlin “think that they are speaking the truth.”

            “They very much want to ‘repeat’ all this. The question now is will they take the risk?”

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