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World War II: Soviet-Polish Non-Aggression Pact

(May 9, 1934)

The Ambassador in the Soviet Union to the Foreign Ministry - analyzes Soviet policy in Eastern Europe.

A 1175 Moscow, May 9, 1934.

IV Ru. 2323. Received May 12.


Subject: The extension of the Soviet-Polish nonaggression pact as the concluding item of the Litvinov pacts with the Baltic States.

With reference to my telegraphic report of May 6.

On May 5 People's Commissar Litvinov and the Polish Ambassador, Lukasiewicz, finally signed here the protocol which also extends the validity of the Soviet-Polish nonaggression pact until December 31, 1945. Except for minor differences, the protocol has the same content as those agreed on by the Soviet Union with the Baltic States and Finland at the beginning of April.

The extension of the Polish-Soviet nonaggression pact was already discussed during the presence of Polish Foreign Minister Beck in Moscow. However, the negotiations stretched out and came upon a serious obstacle when Litvinov, who in the meantime had also undertaken a similar extension of the nonaggression pacts with the Baltic States and Finland, complied with Lithuanian wishes regarding the Vilna question in the extension of the Lithuanian-Soviet nonaggression pact. It was agreed in that connection that the documents forming the pact were also to remain in force until the end of 1945, and among these were the notes exchanged in 1926 in which the Soviet Union states that in spite of the violation of the Lithuanian borders by Poland's marching into Vilna area the attitude of the Soviet Union regarding the territorial sovereignty of Lithuania as it was established by the Soviet-Lithuanian peace treaty of 1920 was not shaken.

The specific support for the Lithuanian standpoint in the Vilna question was annoying to Poland, and the latter made the extension of the Polish-Soviet nonaggression pact dependent on a satisfactory settlement of this point. One need not go into the question of whether Litvinov used compliance with the Lithuanian whishes merely as a maneuver in order to exercise pressure on hesitant Poland, or whether there was an oversight in the drawing up of the annexes or whether he really believed he would be able to put this over. At any rate the extension of the pact with Poland could not be accomplished without clearing up this question, and so the Soviet Government agreed to state in the final protocol to the extension protocol with reference to the Riga peace treaty "that the note of People's Commissar Chicherin of September 28, 1926, to the Lithuanian Government could not be interpreted in such a manner as though by this note the Soviet Government intended to intervene in the settlement of the territorial questions mentioned in the note."

With this statement the Soviet Government has for the third time renounced interference in the Vilna question. The first time it had to state to Poland in the Riga peace treaty of March 18, 1921, that the question of the ownership of the areas contested between Poland and Lithuania was exclusively the concern of Poland and Lithuania. The second renunciation occurred in 1926, when the Polish Government at that time registered a protest against the above-mentioned Soviet note to Lithuanian of September 28, 1926, and the Soviet Government answered to the effect that it had in no way had the intention to place in doubt the provisions of the Riga peace treaty by means of the note to Lithuania. Now it has once more had to confirm this renunciation.

With the signing of the Polish-Soviet protocol the policy instituted by Litvinov after his return from Washington and Rome of a further peace guarantee in regard to the Baltic States comes, insofar as it can be determined thus far, to a certain conclusion. As is known, it aimed in the first place at guaranteeing together with Poland the independence of the Baltic States by means of a declaration. After the failure of this project Litvinov proceeded to the extension of the nonaggression pacts with the Baltic States and at the same time tried to achieve, in conjunction with Germany, the statement on the independence and integrity of the Baltic States which had not been accomplished in cooperation with Poland. This attempt likewise failed as a result of our rejection, and thus the only outcome remaining is the extension of the nonaggression pacts.

Now one might ask why this whole policy was really undertaken, since we cannot really discern any concrete reason for it affecting the Soviet Union. If we set aside Litvinov's vanity striving for new successes and his hostility toward Germany, against which the spearhead of the project is clearly directed, then the motivations are probably the same as the main motive underlying the entire Soviet foreign policy: a demonstration of the Soviet Union's love of peace and the imperialism of the capitalist countries, specifically Germany, as well as actual fear. There is not the slightest doubt, absurd as it may appear, that the latter, namely fear of an aggressive policy of Germany, also plays a role in the present case. Since time immemorial the Russians have believed Germany capable of any accomplishment, and the Soviet people cannot be talked out of the hysterical fear of alleged German plans to intervene in the Baltic States and in the Ukraine based on the familiar German writings and statements, and in particular anxiety arising from the appearance of certain nationalist movements in Latvia and Estonia that the Baltic States are to provide the assembly area against the Soviet Union for a militant National Socialism.

However, the thought also occurs that the whole Litvinov action merely had in mind the strained and uncertain situation of Lithuania between Germany and Poland and was meant to spare Lithuania the possible fate of becoming an object of agreement between the two big neighbors, or at least to secure for the Soviet Union a right of a voice in this eventuality. Should this actually have been the real purpose of the action, then the renewed Soviet renunciation of interference in the Vilna question should be accorded still greater significance and the result of the action should be evaluated as an absolute failure.

However, the success is also not great if the action achieved only what the separate démarches designated as the purpose. For the only positive factor as opposed to the rejections by Poland and Germany is the extension of the nonaggresssion pacts, which after all mean nothing other than a renewed promise of the Soviet Government not to attack the Baltic States. But perhaps Litvinov has still other plans in his pocket of pursuing his project.


Source: "Documents on German Foreign Policy," series C, Vol. II p. 801.

Sources: Yad Vashem