Commentary World War

Russia attempts to justify Ribbentrop-Molotov pact

Russia’s FM Sergei Lavrov and charge d’affaire of the German Embassy have opened the Second World War exhibition in Moscow. It’s part of the narrative in which Russia attempts to whitewash its role in the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact, reports Michał Potocki.

At the launch of the exhibition, Sergei Lavrov argued that it was wrong to consider Russia alongside Germany as the aggressors and that this was just an excuse for countries to whitewash their own history of attempting deals with Nazi Germany.

The Russian FM claimed that it was the Polish-German non-aggression declaration of 1934, together with the policies pursued by Paris and London, which forced the USSR into signing the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact on August 23rd, 1939.

The exhibition itself concentrates on the genesis of WWII. It displays documents such as the Ribbentrop-Molotov pact itself. Literature previewing the exhibition argues that Poland rejected Soviet offers of countering German expansion leaving the USSR with little choice but to seek an agreement with Hitler. This is meant to build a narrative which places some blame on Poland for the outbreak of WWII.

Poland has not invited the Russian President to the commemoration of the 80th anniversary of the start of WWII in Warsaw on September 1st. Its argument for so doing has been that Russia has lately engaged in acts of expansionism reminiscent of the aggression against the Baltic states and Poland that followed the signing of the Ribbentrop-Molotov pact.

According to Łukasz Jasina from the Polish Institute of Foreign Affairs (PISM), this Russian narrative is nothing new. But it is becoming more aggressive with elements of accusing Poland of being implicit in the Holocaust that is meant to weaken Poland’s relations with Israel and the USA.

Jasina is not convinced by Russia’s claim that it has accepted responsibility for the slaughter of thousands of Polish officers in Katyn 1940, since Russia at the same time refused to investigate it as anything more than a routine crime that is covered by the statute of limitations. In Russia itself any mention of Soviet aggression against Poland leads to prosecution for ‘rehabilitating Nazism”.

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