Soviet WWII Soviet Policy Leading Up Research Proposal

Pages: 9 (2876 words)  ·  Style: MLA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1+  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Drama - World

soviet WWII

Soviet Policy Leading up To WWII

On August 23, 1939, Russian foreign minister Vyacheslav Molotov and German foreign minister Joachim Von Ribbentrop applied their signatures to a Non-Aggression Pact that would, at a crucial moment in world history, determine the course of events which would shape World War II. Brokered between Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin on the eve of the war's total outbreak, the pact came as a shock to the world and represented the terrifying threat of a unity between two totalitarian imperial powers. And in retrospect, it is often described as an event which demonstrated the rising power of Germany and the declining mettle of Russia. But a careful examination of this pact and the consequences of the agreement, both during the course the war and thereafter, shows that in fact this was a compact that was mutually beneficial. Though Germany and Russia would come into military conflict with one another only two years after the inception of the agreement, these two years would figure substantially into the form and outcome of the war. In elucidating its pertinence to the war, one can also find pragmatic defense for Stalin's decision, even so far as to contend that the Pact would be central in the growth of the Soviet sphere of influence following the war.

The agreement itself represented a serious shift in Russian-German relations, but the pre-history of the war factored heavily into many of the conditions which instigated its commencement. In addition to the economic realities which faced a defeated German public after World War I, diplomatic isolation and disadvantage had created a deep resentment amongst the people. The reality of its relationship with its neighbors had become one of impractical imbalance.

By the 1930's, the European continent had been devastated by economic depression. The Versailles Treaty would gradually achieve recognition as a major factor in the instability which, following the First World War, would be economic, political and social.

In an effort to roll back the implications of the Versailles Treaty, the European powers began a process of submission to Hitler's will which, in addition to undoing the imbalances provoked in the 1919 peace contract, also created a state of unchecked power-growth for the Germans under Hitler. (Roberts, 14) The Versailles Treaty's outsized levying of war reparations upon Germany for its singular role of aggression in World War I caused such economic despair there as to stimulate the collapse of the Weimar Republic altogether in 1933. (HMM, 1) This not only incited the empowerment of Hitler's Third Reich, but began the process by which Germany attempted to actively regain all that it had surrendered in the treaty and beyond. Due to their clear part in instigating this process, as well as their mutual desire to avoid conflict at high cost, Britain and France consented to much of Hitler's 'reunification' agenda.

It was under this circumstance that Britain and France allowed Germany to begin rearmament in 1935, a process which would almost guarantee an eventual transition into hostilities in Eastern Europe. From the outset, European appeasement was juxtaposed by staunch bellicosity between the Third Reich and the Soviet Union. Though neither the Europeans nor the Russians were interested in provoking Hitler to war, Stalin's position on German rearmament was one of explicit renunciation. This was in no small way a condition incited by the fact that both ideologically and politically, Hitler "was a fanatical anti-communist who harboured dreams of eastward expansion to secure German lebensraum (living space) in Russia." (Roberts, 14) Such antagonism would become gradually more threatening beyond the form of simple public rhetoric as German rearmament transitioned into genuine territorial expansion.

Its annexation of Austria in March of 1938 marked two very crucial points of inflection which would accelerate the cataclysmic encounter of conflicting interests. First and foremost, this act of occupation demonstrated that German Nationalism was a movement aimed at reclaiming its imperialist identity and holdings. But this was not a revelation at the time, as the collective public opinion had in Europe come to acknowledge the failures of the Versailles Treaty. That Germany would seek to re-establish its prewar borders did not strike all parties as fully outside the realm of its entitlement. This sentiment, though, would lead to the true revelation of Austria's occupation, which was that the European powers were at this juncture unwilling to intervene with the fulfillment of Hitler's ambitions.

Both Hitler and Stalin read this message loud and clear. After a long duration of negotiations with the French and British for the formation of a triple alliance against Hitler, Stalin witnessed here an unwillingness of Europe to intervene with German ambitions. (Roberts, 16) If it failed in this atmosphere to stake its claims, Russia would be threatened by a German expansion which Europe was not willing to check. Certainly, Hitler's unfettered support of fascism in the Spanish Civil War reinforced Russia's assumptions and ultimately caused it to assume German victory would be inevitable.(HMM, 1) Thus, the signature to its agreement in 1939 was a matter of diplomatic practicality rather than ideological preference for Stalin.

France and Britain's appeasement went so far as to sign over entitlement of the border regions of Czechoslovakian territory to the Nazis in 1938. By 1939 this would unfold into a full-fledged and illegally partitioned occupation to which Russia, France and Britain collectively balked but enabled. (HMM, 1) It did cause Britain and France to declare an official response of military intervention to an attempted expansion of this invasion into Poland.

However, the Molotov-Ribbentrop agreement in August made inevitable the September 1st German invasion of Poland. The nature of the agreement in the context of its Polish invasion appears most to benefit Hitler, who used Russia's assurance of Non-Aggression in the same way that it had used Poland's to expand its regional interests. The nature of the agreement would indicate that in fact, though, Russia had much to gain by signing on. "Attached to the public non-aggression treaty was a secret agreement which specified an eastern limit of Germany's expansion into Poland and carved up the Baltic States into German and Soviet spheres of influence." (Roberts, 15)

In 1934, Hitler had joined a pact of non-aggression with Poland, a preemptive effort at preventing a Polish alliance with its French rival. Though it was a strategically informed compact, it did require some German capitulation, particularly clashing with what would develop into a focus on national pride and strength. The agreement with Poland had not been "popular with many Germans who supported Hitler but resented the fact that Poland had received the former German provinces of West Prussia, Poznan, and Upper Silesia under the Treaty of Versailles after World War I." (HMM, 1) This would form the basis for Poland's complicity in a rising Nazi influence though, becoming one of the first neighbors to contractually submit to Hitler's ambitions by promising to withhold military intervention. So when Hitler invaded in 1939, Germany set a precedent for its adherence to its Non-Aggression contracts.

The Soviet Union would not be the second party to make non-aggression this concession but, in fact, would follow both France and Britain into policies of Nazi appeasement. This contrasts a favored impression of the Soviet Union, and Stalin in particular, as having demonstrated both weakness and naivete in its resignation to a pact that would soon be easily recognizable as an act of deception. Constructed essentially to enable itself an assurance of Russian non-intervention so that it could invade Poland, the treaty would prove itself to be an act of continental provocation. With the joint French-British declaration that the integrity of Poland's borders would be protected from Nazi expansion, Hitler faced certain military opposition from the European powers. Removing the Soviet Union from contention, if only temporarily, would prove the jump that Hitler needed to segue from Polish occupation to European invasion and eventually, to Russian invasion.

And in addition to the clear image which this presented of a Soviet Union which was not prepared to face the Third Reich in armed engagement, the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact seemed to signal a nefariously dangerous alliance of unchecked and parallel imperial ambitions. If one is to accept the characterizations which emerged from the Western powers, certainly this was a negative alignment to the perspective of the world community. "According to Winston Churchill, 'the sinister news broke upon the world like an explosion'. (Roberts, 14) This characterization, though, belies a long-standing indication of its own unwillingness to stand up to Nazi aggression, a policy which had only shifted four months prior with its assurance to protect Poland. It is thus that it can be said that Britain and France helped to encourage Russia toward its pact.

There is, therefore, a case to be made that the Soviets had justifiable incentive to in avoid direct aggression with Germany. The conditions which faced Russia in the space of time between the Versailles Treaty and the initiation of hostilities in 1939 were not ideal. The Bolshevik Revolution… [END OF PREVIEW]

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