Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki upped the ante in an ongoing diplomatic tiff with Moscow, alleging that the Molotov-Ribbentrop Non-Aggression Pact between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union was actually a “military alliance”.
“Signed on 23 August 1939, the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact was not a ‘non-aggression pact’. It was a political and military alliance, dividing Europe into two spheres of influence,” the prime minister said in a statement published Sunday on the Polish government’s website.
According to Morawiecki, “the USSR and the Third Reich cooperated closely all the time,” and it was only thanks to Moscow’s “complicity in the partition of Poland” that the Nazis were able to subsequently take control of all of Europe.
Commenting on President Putin’s recent remarks on the period of history leading up to the Second World War, Morawiecki accused Putin of “lying” about Poland “on numerous occasions,” and of doing so “deliberately”. He also accused the Russian president of “trying to rehabilitate” Stalinism in Russia.
Feud Over Poland’s Interwar Ambassador
Morawiecki’s comments are the latest shot in the back-and-forth Russian-Polish historical debate which kicked off last week, after Russian President Vladimir Putin chided Poland’s interwar leadership for siding with the Nazis in the run-up to World War II. On December 24, Putin recalled, citing archival documents, that Polish Ambassador to Nazi Germany Jozef Lipski had once promised to build Nazi leader Adolf Hitler “a beautiful monument in Warsaw” if he succeeded with his plans to expel all of Germany’s Jews to Africa.
“That bastard! That anti-Semitic pig,” Putin said. “He was in complete solidarity with Hitler in his anti-Jewish, anti-Semitic sentiment.”
The president’s remarks were part of a broader speech in which he commented on some Western countries’ alleged attempts to distort history and to forget the Red Army’s efforts to liberate Europe from Nazism. In Poland alone, an estimated 600,000 Soviet troops laid down their lives between 1944 and 1945 to free country from the Nazis.
Putin’s comments prompted Poland to summon the Russian ambassador in Warsaw, where a ‘tough but consistent’ exchange of views reportedly took place.
Incompatible Views of History
In recent years, Poland’s authorities have attempted to blame the Soviet Union, and by association, its formal legal successor Russia, for the start of the Second World War. As evidence, Polish authorities cite the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, the infamous German-Soviet non-aggression treaty signed on 23 August 1939. One week after the treaty was signed, Nazi Germany invaded Poland. Two weeks after that, on September 17, after Poland’s government fled the country, Soviet forces moved into eastern Poland and annexed territories in eastern Poland which Warsaw had seized during the Polish-Soviet War of 1919-1921.
Before signing the pact with Germany, the USSR spent months negotiating with France and the UK on the creation of an anti-German alliance, but Paris and London showed little interest in the idea. Furthermore, between 1936 and 1939, Hitler’s Germany carried out a number of aggressive acts which Western powers did not respond to, including the re-militarisation of the Rhineland in 1936, the annexation of Austria in 1938, and the carving up of Czechoslovakia between October 1938 and March 1939 together with Poland and Hungary.