The Blog

Stalin-Hitler Pact Redux

Russia blames Poland for failing to appease Germany in 1939.

12:00 AM, Jun 12, 2009 • By STEPHEN SCHWARTZ
Widget tooltip
Single Page Print Larger Text Smaller Text Alerts

A Russian revival of enthusiasm for the results of the Stalin-Hitler pact has other sinister nuances. As seen in the European Parliament elections in recent days, ultra-right parties are gaining popularity among protesters against the global financial crisis, as alternatives to socialists and other traditional leftists. Moscow, birthplace of a "red-brown" alliance in the 1990s, uniting Communists and neo-Nazis on a Jew-baiting platform, may now see the ultra-nationalist parties in Western Europe as more certain supporters for its "principles" than the discredited left.

Most dangerous, however, is the new Russian approval for Nazi Germany's 1939 demands that Danzig and East Prussia be united with Germany. Nazi exploitation of Germans outside their political control--in the Saar, Rhineland, Austria, and Sudetenland (the pretext for Munich), before 1939--has a direct parallel in Russian manipulation of "its" co-ethnics in Ukraine, Moldova, the Baltic states, and other former colonial possessions of the Soviet empire.

The baneful character of the "ethnic unification" trope is nowhere more visible than in the Balkans. On Thursday, June 4, William Montgomery, a former U.S. diplomat in the region, published an op-ed in the New York Times disclosing a dismaying agenda. According to Montgomery, "an increase in violence against Kosovo Serbs" is inevitable, since Serbia refuses to recognize the Kosovo Republic. That all disorders in Kosovo, since the Kosovar declaration of independence more than a year ago, have been a product of Serbian intrigues, escaped the commentator's notice. According to Montgomery, Serbia is "trapped" into supporting its co-ethnics outside its territory, "to prevent a nationalist backlash while trying to move toward the E.U." The former diplomat wrote that benign Serbian intentions, and forecasted bad behavior by the Albanians, would result in "partition [of Kosovo] between the Albanians and Serbs." Like Putin in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Serbian aggressors must get their way.

Montgomery went on to propose other novel and, frankly, outrageous options in the Balkans. These include letting the so-called "Republika Srpska" or "Serbian Republic," carved out of Bosnia-Herzegovina at the price of hundreds of thousands of dead, raped, and displaced Bosnian Muslims, Croats, and others, hold a referendum on independence. Montgomery suggested the West should be ready "to use military force" to impose permanent partition on Bosnia and Kosovo.

Russia and its allies are bent on regaining a zone of control made possible by Stalin's friendship with Hitler, using Hitler's own favorite method -- mobilizing "their" people abroad. How will the democracies react to these moves toward the restoration of Russian imperial dominance? The Sarajevo daily Oslobodjenje (Liberation) marked the two decades since Poland achieved its freedom from Russian intimidation by reprinting a poster from the historic election, showing Gary Cooper, as Marshal Will Kane in High Noon, wearing a Solidarity badge and carrying the weapon of the ballot. The past and present victims of reanimated totalitarian expansionism still look to America for help. Unfortunately, the spirit of Will Kane appears as dead as the actor who played him.

Stephen Schwartz is a frequent contributor to THE WEEKLY STANDARD.