Moldova still suffers from Nazi-Soviet Pact's pernicious results
By Prof. Ernest H. Latham, Jr. Ph.D., Washington, DC
Tomorrow, August 23rd, the world will give passing note and a brief mention to the fact that some seventy years ago one of the most cynical and unscrupulous treaties in all of history was signed. It is known as the Nazi-Soviet Pact or sometime after the names of the two signatories the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. By rights it should be known as the Hitler-Stalin Pact for it was those two despots who really wrote the treaty, not their fearful, ambitious, immoral puppets who signed it. On its surface it was a relatively harmless, anodyne non-aggression treaty between the communist Soviet Union and National Socialist Germany. It pledged the two sides to peace between themselves and to neutrality in the event that one of them found itself at war with a third party.
In stunned silence and surprise the world watched this treaty being signed. The Soviet Union and Nazi Germany had been from their beginnings mortal enemies. In his book Mein Kampf, Adolph Hitler had written in the 1920s of his deep hatred for communism and his determination to expand Germany eastward into the Soviet Union. No less had the communist leadership condemned from its first appearance fascism in all its forms as a betrayal of the workers and peasants that communism allegedly championed. Indeed in the years 1936-39 through volunteers and surrogates the Soviet Union and Germany fought each on opposite sides in the in the Spanish Civil War. It was unthinkable that these two implacable enemies would come together with a treaty, but now the unthinkable had happened.
If the world struggled to understand this unexpected development, it did not have to struggle long. Hardly a week later Germany invaded Poland to begin the Second World War, and less than three weeks after that the Soviet Union invaded Poland from the east. No match for the two largest armies in Europe, Poland was quickly defeated and disappeared from the map of Europe for the next six years. What had appeared to be unthinkable was now transparently clear; beneath the treaty’s beneficent surface was a secret protocol breath-taking in its implications, a protocol effectively dividing Eastern Europe between the tyrannies of the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany. The Soviet invasion of Finland was shortly followed by the annexations of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Bessarabia (a territory of Romania) in the Soviet Union as Soviet Socialist Republics. Romania’s Northern Bucovina was added to Ukraine S.S.R.
In June of 1941 the German invasion of the Soviet Union forced the Soviets temporarily to disgorge these ill gotten gains, but throughout the war Stalin carefully maintained that the frontiers of the Soviet Union would be restored to those of June 1941. Thus it was in 1945 and for the more than four decades of the Cold War these annexed peoples remained under the thumb of Moscow. Only with the breakup of the Soviet Union and their declarations of independence in 1991 did these nations finally return to the freedom and independence that they had lost on the eve of World War II. Few in these new-old countries would agree with Vladimir Putin when he observed that the dissolution of the Soviet Union was the greatest geopolitical disaster of the 20th century.
Thus tomorrow the world may give only passing regard and a brief mention to the event of seventy years ago, because with time the wrongs of that era have been righted and the status quo ante bellum restored. If the world does so lightly dismiss this anniversary, the world will be wrong.
First, the world will be wrong because there is an important cautionary tale here. The Nazi-Soviet Pact would never have been signed with all the egregious events that followed if the democracies had been wiser, stronger and less selfish sooner. As the ever perspicacious Edmund Burke observed in the 18th century, for evil to triumph it is enough for good men to do nothing. His observation is quite as applicable in the 21st century.
Second, the world will be wrong because all of the wrongs resulting from the Nazi-Soviet Pact have not been righted. Beyond the wounds and humiliations that the people of Eastern Europe suffered which only more time and a less restless Russia can heal, there still remain the manifold problems of the Republic of Moldova. This is not the occasion to review the many problems that beset that state, but it is the occasion to note that many of these problems flow from the continuous interference of Russia in Moldovan affairs since 1940, most especially the continuing support and encouragement given to the breakaway eastern area that styles itself the Pridnestrovian Moldovan Republic, a region that lives in some sort of a Soviet time warp complete with red flags, statues of Lenin and an abundance of hammers and sickles. Were this only a misplaced nostalgia, it would be harmless enough. But it is not harmless because it is accompanied by the presence of Russian troops, who intervened in the quasi civil war in 1992 on the side of the breakaway area and could do the same again if Moscow so ordered.
Thus it is that tomorrow the world should give serious attention to the Nazi-Soviet Pact and its pernicious results from which the world in general and Moldova in particular still suffers.