David Low named his political cartoon describing the German-Russian invasion of Poland that started the WW2 - "Rendezvous." The cartoon depicts a meeting by the two allied Nazi-Soviet dictators over the corpse of a Polish defender. Hitler says to Stalin while smiling, lifting his hat and bowing: "The Scum of the Earth, I believe?" and Stalin responds to him "The Bloody Assassin of the Workers, I presume?" while smiling, bowing and lifting his in kind. The secret agreement on the division of Poland that was part of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact was not yet known, but nonetheless, Low recognized what happened and drew it in this work. (Image: The Evening Standard (UK), September 20, 1939 issue)
Moscow analyst Yury Mukhin offers an historical analogy which says far more than he intends. In a new commentary, he argues that it was British support for Poland, not the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact between Hitler and Stalin, that was responsible for the outbreak of World War II in Europe.
Had Britain not committed itself to defend Poland against aggression, he suggests, Warsaw would have been compelled to accede to German demands and war would not have broken out. And if London refuses to back Ukraine, Kyiv will have to come to an agreement with Moscow and once again war can be avoided.
By making this analogy between the events of 1939 and those of today, Mukhin unwittingly invites the conclusion that Putin’s Russia, just like Hitler’s Germany, felt compelled to invade Ukraine because the Ukrainians like the Poles thought that the West would come to their aid and prevent or at least repel such actions and did not accede to reasonable demands.
Two German soldiers near the ditch with bodies of executed Poles, Sept.-Oct. 1939 (Image: nationaalarchief.nl)
The Royal Palace in Warsaw on fire after German artillery shelling during the siege of the city, Sept. 17, 1939
The execution of Polish citizens by German army during the occupation of Poland. 56 people were executed near Bochnia on Dec. 18, 1939
T-26 tanks of the Soviet 29th Tank Brigade enter Brest. On the left - German motorcyclists and Wermacht officers next to Opel Olympia car, Sept. 22, 1939 (bundesarchiv)
Soviet Union started WW2 on Hitler's side. The meeting of Soviet and German patrols in near Lublin in occupied Poland
German and Soviet commanders meet at the Nazi-Soviet demarcation line in Poland, after a successful invasion, September 1939
Soviet Union started WW2 on Hitler's side. The meeting of Soviet and German invading armies in Stryj (now in Lviv oblast of Ukraine), Sept. 1939 (reibert.info)
Soviet Union started WW2 on Hitler's side. Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact map signed by Stalin and Ribbentrop and dated Sept. 28, 1939
Soviet soldiers inspect some of the Polish weapons the Red Army captured during the joint German-Soviet invasion of Poland in September-October 1939, as was agreed in the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact of 23 August 1939. The military operations ended with the two-way division and annexation of the entire territory of the Second Polish Republic by Germany and the Soviet Union.
Soviet troops at the German-Soviet parade in occupied Brest, Sept. 22, 1939
Soviet colonel and German officers discuss the Soviet-Nazi demarcation on a map of Poland. German troops advanced farther than was agreed in the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact
German (L) and Soviet (R) commanders in Poland discuss the Soviet-Nazi demarcation on a map of the conquered country in September 1939. At the time, German troops advanced farther than was agreed in the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact and had to cede the extra territory to the Soviets.
Soviet and German troops in a friendly discussion after suppressing Polish resistance in Brest, Sept. 18, 1939
Soviet and German troops in a friendly discussion after suppressing Polish resistance in Brest, next to armored vehicle БА-20 of the 29th Soviet Tank Brigade, 1939 (nationaalarchief.nl)
Soldier of the invading Soviet army guarding a Polish fighter airplane downed by the German air force, Sept. 17, 1939
Russian and German commanders in discussion over a map, during the invasion of Poland, 1939 (imgur.com)
Political officers of the Soviet Red Army ready for the joint Soviet-German parade in occupied Polish city of Brest, Sept. 23, 1939
Polish women reading public orders of the German occupation force, September 1939
Polish tanks destroyed and abandoned near Lviv, Sept. 1939
Polish prisoners of war, defenders of Westerplatte who held out for seven days in the face of heavy Nazi attacks that included dive bombings, September 1939
Polish cavalry in Sochaczev, part of the Battle of Bzura counterattack, Sept. 9-14, 1939
Polish capital city Warsaw after German bombings, Sept. 28, 1939
Parade of German occupation troops in Stryj (Lviv oblast, Ukraine), September 1939
Ordynacka Street in Warsaw destroyed by German bombings. Massive bombardment of Warsaw was conducted on Sept. 25, 1939 with 1150 sorties and 550 tons of bombs
Soviet troops walk freely in Brest by then already occupied by the German Wehrmacht. The Nazis will leave it to the Communists, just as it was agreed in the secret part of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, September 1939
Invading German troops marching past a road sign near Lviv, 1939
Invading German troops enter Warsaw on Oct. 1, 1939
German troops crowding around Adolf Hitler traveling in Poland, 1939 (geheugenvannederland.nl)
German soldiers having a friendly conversation with commander of Soviet armored vehicle БА-20 from the 29th Tank Brigade in Brest, Sept. 20, 1939 (Max Ehlert, bundesarchiv.de)
German soldiers destroying border signs on the border with Poland on Sept. 1, 1939
German soldiers boarding trucks to leave the Polish town they destroyed, September 1939
German soldier talking to commanders of the Red Army's 29th Tank Brigade near Dobuczin (now Pruzhany, Belarus), Sept. 20, 1939 (Max Ehlert, bundesarchiv.de)
German officers visiting the Soviet military in Brest, Sept. 22, 1939 and hosted by brigade commander Semion Krivosheyin (center). Next to him his deputy major Semion Maltsev
German generals headed by Heinz Guderian talking with battalion political commissar of the 29th Soviet Tank Brigade Vladimir Borovitsky in occupied Brest
German generals headed by Heinz Guderian meeting with battalion political commissar of the 29th Soviet Tank Brigade Vladimir Borovitsky in occupied Brest
German generals headed by Heinz Guderian discussing with battalion political commissar of the 29th Soviet Tank Brigade Vladimir Borovitsky in occupied Brest
German generals headed by Heinz Guderian conversing with battalion political commissar of the 29th Soviet Tank Brigade Vladimir Borovitsky in occupied Brest
German general Heinz Guderian and Soviet brigade commander Semion Krivosheyin during the transfer of Brest to Red Army troops. General Mauritz von Wiktorin on left, Sept. 22, 1939
German general Heinz Guderian and Soviet brigade commande Semion Krivosheyin during the transfer of Brest to Red Army troops. Front - Horch 901 Typ 40, Sept. 22, 1939 (bundesarchiv.de)
German dive bombers Junkers Ju.87 in the sky over Poland, September 1939 (Image: Heinrich Hoffman)
Commanding officers of the 29th Soviet Tank Brigade near armored vehicle БА-20 in Brest. Front - battalion political commissar Vladimir Borovitsky, Sept. 1939 (Corbisimages)
Armored vehicle БА-20 of the 29th Soviet Tank Brigade in occupied Brest during talks between Soviet and German invaders (nationaalarchief.nl)
Adolf Hitler hosting the parade in occupied Warsaw after the fall of Poland to German and Soviet military invaders, Oct-5-1939 (Image - Hugo Jager)
Adolf Hitler at the parade in occupied Warsaw after the fall of Poland to German and Soviet military invaders, Oct-5-1939 (Image - Hugo Jager)
10-year old Kazimiera Mika crying for her sister killed by gun fire from a German plane near Warsaw, Sept. 1939 (Image: Julien Bryan)
In Germany's Federal Military Archive, among documents of the top command of the 2nd Tank Group there's a document called "Vereinbarung mit sowjetischen Offizieren über die Überlassung von Brest-Litowsk" (translated as "Agreement with Soviet Officers about the Transfer of Brest-Litovsk") dated September 21, 1939. Here's an excerpt from it: "14:00 (2:00 PM) -- Start of the ceremonial march (Vorbeimarsch) by the Russian and German troops in front of the commanders of both sides with concluding with a change of flags. During the flag change ceremony, the orchestra plays the national anthems." (Image: bild.bundesarchiv.de)
He thus implicitly acknowledges that Moscow made demands of Ukraine like those Hitler made of Poland and that the actions of both Putin and Hitler were thus legitimate, an equation amazing from someone in a country which commemorates what it calls “the Great Fatherland War” as the unifying event of national life.
Further, Mukhin implies that any government committing itself to the defense of another against outside aggression is in the wrong if the author of the aggression is stronger than the target of that aggression and is itself to blame for the war rather than the one that has launched the invasion.
And finally, he goes even further than the notorious Andranik Migranyan did a few years ago when the Russian propagandist then in New York, said the world must distinguish between a “good” Hitler up to his invasion of Poland and a “bad” one after that time.
Joint Soviet-Nazi military parade in Poland. The history of Russian aggression.
If one follows Mukhin’s logic, what Hitler did in Poland was justified – and of course, what Stalin did in conjunction with him, was too – because the British should not have supported Poland and thus been the chief cause of World War II in Europe rather than it being a playing out of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact and its secret protocols dividing the continent.
Those in the West who oppose helping Ukraine defend itself against aggression lest it “provoke” Putin need to recognize the exact nature of Russian “logic” about such things. Putin will feel “provoked” whenever he wants to be and regardless of what anyone does. And he will blame others for the wars that he himself has caused.
Britain’s willingness to go to war to defend Poland against aggression in 1939 was one of its finest hours; a failure by Britain or the West more generally now to help Ukraine defend itself against Russian aggression would not be – and it would only delay but not prevent the broader war Putin appears to want.
Ukraine needs independent journalism. And we need you.
Join our community on Patreon and help us better connect Ukraine to the world. We’ll use your contribution to attract new authors, upgrade our website, and optimize its SEO.
For as little as the cost of one cup of coffee a month, you can help build bridges between Ukraine and the rest of the world, plus become a co-creator and vote for topics we should cover next. Become a patron or see other ways to support.Become a Patron!
Paul Goble is a longtime specialist on ethnic and religious questions in Eurasia. He has served as director of research and publications at the Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy, vice dean for the social sciences and humanities at Audentes University in Tallinn, and a senior research associate at the EuroCollege of the University of Tartu in Estonia. Earlier he has served in various capacities in the U.S. State Department, the Central Intelligence Agency and the International Broadcasting Bureau as well as at the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Euromaidan Press republishes the work of Paul Goble with permission from his blog Windows on Eurasia.
James Sherr, Senior Fellow, Estonian Foreign Policy Institute at the International Centre for Defence and Security, Tallinn, Associate Fellow, Russia & Eurasia Programme, Chatham House, London By voicing his “insistence” on...
Privacy & Cookies Policy
Necessary cookies are absolutely essential for the website to function properly. This category only includes cookies that ensures basic functionalities and security features of the website. These cookies do not store any personal information.
Any cookies that may not be particularly necessary for the website to function and is used specifically to collect user personal data via analytics, ads, other embedded contents are termed as non-necessary cookies. It is mandatory to procure user consent prior to running these cookies on your website.