Commenting on the pre-World War II articles on Russia and the Baltic States, Mari-Ann Kelam says "What I find shocking about these articles is that so much of what was happening, what the Soviets were doing then was known and in the media AND STILL IT WAS ALLOWED TO HAPPEN."
Monday, Oct. 09, 1939
The velvet glove of diplomacy is empty unless a firm fist can be felt beneath it. Last week J. Stalin showed Russia's fist as well as her finesse. For several days Moscow was the undisputed diplomatic capital of Europe. It was a Mecca to which diplomats either made pilgrimages or salaamed. The Foreign Ministers of Germany, Turkey and Estonia all trotted to the Kremlin. Great Britain discussed whether she ought to send David Lloyd George there, and Hungary, Rumania, Bulgaria were all on the point of dispatching top flight statesmen eastward. In Sofia, Tsar Boris III of Bulgaria, than whom no crowned head is more anti-Bolshevik, wrapped up three large packages of his gold-crested cigarets with his own hands and addressed them as gifts respectively to Communist Party Secretary General Joseph Stalin, Soviet Premier Viacheslav Molotov and Defense Commissar Kliment Voroshilov. The Tsar's peace offering was flown to Moscow by Colonel Vasil Boydev, chief of the Bulgarian Air Force who came to see about starting a commercial air line between the U.S.S.R. and the Kingdom of the Bulgars.
Bluff and Bombers. Meanwhile, Dictator Stalin suddenly brought down Russia's fist upon Estonia. This prosperous little Baltic state flanks the sea approach to Leningrad, where the Red Navy is frozen up tight at least three months of each year, and its capital, Tallinn, is an ice-free port. On the pretext that the Estonian Government recently "allowed" an interned Polish submarine to chug out of Tallinn and become a commerce raider-actually it shot its way out, fired upon by harbor batteries (TIME, Oct. 2)-the Moscow press and radio have been violently attacking Estonia as "hostile" to Russia. These attacks redoubled in fury last week as Soviet stations screamed that the pint-size Russian freighter Metallist had been "torpedoed in Estonian waters" with a loss of five proletarian lives by a "mysterious submarine."
Next thing Estonians knew, warships of the Red Navy appeared off their ports. Soviet bombers, some of whom the Estonians thought came from a Russian aircraft carrier, began a threatening patrol over Tallinn and the nearby countryside. What all this meant, the Estonian Government soon learned from their Foreign Minister Karl Selter. He had flown to Moscow the week before to "boost trade," now flew back to Tallinn with word that the Russians bluntly asked Estonia to reduce herself to the status of a protectorate of the Soviet Union in return for trade favors. J. Stalin suggested that an Estonian delegation empowered to sign a treaty along these lines be at once brought to Moscow by Foreign Minister Selter. Some 48 hours later Mr. Selter emplaned with an imposing array of Estonian bigwigs.
"Higher and Higher!" It was no fun for A. Hitler to watch the "Berchtesgaden technique" of bluff & bludgeon being successfully used on Estonia last week by Russia. Germans have always hoped to dominate the Baltic. As long as 20 years ago German General Staff officers had perfected a fine set of plans for invading Russia with a thrust through Estonia to seize Leningrad. The Führer may or may not have realized before what his chumming up with the Bolsheviks might cost him in the Baltic sphere, as well as in the Balkans, but he saw every reason to inject trusted Nazi negotiators into the Moscow picture before the Estonian delegation arrived. Up and away from Berlin streaked three powerful German transport planes carrying Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop and an entourage of 35, including No. 1 Danzig Nazi Albert Forster.
In the Soviet capital a much larger guard of honor was sent to the airdrome to greet Herr von Ribbentrop than when he came to sign the Communazi Pact which emboldened Germany to plunge into World War II (TIME, Aug. 28). There was even a Red Army band (there had been none before), but Germany and Russia were not yet good enough friends for it to burst into either the Horst Wessel song or the Internationale. As the German Foreign Minister alighted, as he shook hands with the Soviet greeting committee and paced stiffly along inspecting his honor guard, the band merely tootled a Red Air Force ditty, Higher and Higher, which no Nazi was likely to recognize. As the Germans swept away in limousines at 6 p. m. the honor guard and band withdrew. Neither was left to greet the Estonian delegation of enforced capitulators who alighted a few minutes later at the same Moscow air field.
Baltic Pact. J. Stalin received A. Hitler's envoy at the Kremlin just five hours after he reached Moscow. Herr von Ribbentrop left a ballet performance of Swan Lake to go to the Dictator at 11 p. m. and they talked until 4 130 a. m. Seemingly this German intervention made no difference in the terms meted out to Estonia and signed two days later by Foreign Minister Selter's delegation.
The new Baltic Pact, running for ten years, provides: 1) Estonia grants Russia the right to maintain naval bases and airdromes protected by Red Army troops on the strategic islands dominating Tallinn, the Gulf of Finland and the Gulf of Riga; 2) Russia agrees to increase her annual trade turnover with Estonia and to give Estonia facilities in case the Baltic is closed to her goods (i. e. by Germany) for trading with the outside world via Soviet ports on the Black Sea and White Sea; 3) Russia and Estonia undertake to defend each other from "aggression arising on the part of any great European power" (i. e. Germany); 4) the Pact "should not affect" the "economic systems and state organizations" of Russia and Estonia.
This last clause, which carefully does not bind Russia to abstain from spreading Communist propaganda in Estonia, seemed to mean that the country will be spared for a time such outright Bolshevization as the Russians are putting through in their part of Poland. Military experts said that the Pact definitely transforms Estonia from a country capable of fighting for its independence into one completely at the mercy of the Soviet ships, planes and troops which are now to be based on her soil.
"Permanent Boundary." According to the covertly disgruntled Germans, Herr von Ribbentrop was in Moscow not out of Baltic anxiety but to negotiate the final partition of Poland, cement the new Russo-German ties still more firmly and secure J. Stalin's good offices in bringing pressure upon Great Britain and France to back out of World War II.
On all this Nazi Ribbentrop clicked with his Soviet hosts. Working long after midnight in the Kremlin two nights running, Premier Molotov and the German Foreign Minister, with J. Stalin sitting in, again redrew the map of Poland (see map). They moved last fortnight's provisional "Military Division" far eastward from the Vistula River to the Bug. Racially the population on the swastika side is almost purely Polish, on the hammer & sickle side it is nearly all of Ukrainian or White Russian blood. Thus the new "Permanent Boundary" is drawn on broad ethnographic lines. It was
embodied in a mealy-mouthed Protocol of Friendship signed by von Ribbentrop and Molotov in which they said that the purpose of Germany and Russia is "to restore in this region [Poland] law and order and to insure nationals living there an existence corresponding to their national character." The Protocol defied Great Britain & France by binding Germany and Russia to "decline interference of any kind by a third power with this settlement'' and described itself as laying "a foundation for progressing development of friendly relations between [the German & Russian] peoples." In outward token of chumminess, Herr von Ribbentrop, whose German aides on the occasion of his first visit said they were sure his Russian hosts were too tactful to ask him to meet a Jew, banqueted in the Kremlin cheek by jowl with two Jewish Soviet Cabinet Commissars.
Peace and Barter. In a joint statement attached to the Protocol and also signed by von Ribbentrop and Molotov, they declared that Germany and Russia have now laid "a safe foundation for lasting peace in Eastern Europe" and "will direct their joint efforts toward searching ... as soon as possible ... an end to the war existing between Germany on the one hand and England and France on the other." Should their efforts fail "then the fact would be established that England and France are responsible for continuation of the war and in case of continuation of the war the Governments of Germany and Soviet Russia will consult each other regarding the necessary measures."
Moscow correspondents reported that this clause gravely alarmed most of their Russian friends, for the same reason that it set most Germans beaming with elation: it implied that J. Stalin in the ultimate pinch might put the Red Army into World War II on the side of A. Hitler.
On the other hand, there was no denying that the Soviet-Estonian Treaty and the way the map of Poland is now drawn, amount to Russia's having blocked Germany out of both the North Baltic and the East Balkans. The only apparent advantage Nazi von Ribbentrop obtained in Moscow last week was a pledge signed by Premier Molotov that Russia will "supply Germany with [raw] materials for which Germany will compensate her by industrial supplies [finished products] over a long time." But. each side being as cagey as it is, there was a long way between promise and delivery.
Turkish Angle. The big diplomatic finesse which the Soviet Dictator was quietly developing in Moscow last week concerned the question of the Dardanelles. If the Turks should permit a British and French fleet to slip into the Black Sea through this narrow waterway, the Allies could then firmly bolster up Rumania and go far toward bluffing the Balkans into halting their supplies of raw materials now going regularly to Germany, notably Rumanian oil up the Danube.
In Moscow was Turkish Foreign Minister Shroku Saracoglu who said he was only going to stay "three days," but changed his mind and settled down as rumors spread that the Kremlin contemplated trying to make a "Balkan Pact," partial purpose of which would be to freeze the Allies out of the Dardanelles while extending Soviet influence in the Balkan sphere. This, plus fear that A. Hitler might be about to give J. Stalin a free hand to take Bessarabia from Rumania, created such a sensation that both Rumanian Foreign Minister Grigore Gafencu and Bulgarian Premier George Kiosseivanov announced they were smarting on the morrow for Moscow, then abruptly canceled their visits and let it be known they would confer with the Turkish Foreign Minister as he passes through the Balkans on his way back to Ankara.
This week, when Premier Molotov received Mr. Saracoglu for a four-hour conference in the Kremlin, it had become fairly clear that Russia and Turkey, who have been close friends and allies for more than a decade, were leaving it up to Britain and France to bid, and bid high, in competition with Germany on the issue of whether the Dardanelles are to be kept open to them or closed.
To see what the Allies have to say a Turkish mission headed by General Kiazim Orbay left for London, reputedly to demand that if Britain and France want Turkey to stand with them they must furnish her at once with large supplies of tanks, planes and artillery and must agree to support the Turkish currency-a clear case of Oriental blackmail.
Fist Over Latvia. So pleased was J. Stalin with his Estonian success that the Dictator told that country's luckless Foreign Minister to stop at Riga on his way home and "invite" the Latvian Government to yield to Russia in return for trade favors, a naval base at Libau.
There was nothing else for Latvian Foreign Minister Vilhelms Munters to do but hustle to Moscow this week with a delegation empowered to sign. This obviously cut two ways: on the one hand Russia has taken efficient measures to exclude the Germans from Estonia and Latvia; on the other hand the Soviet Union has obtained the use of fine, ice-free Estonian and Latvian harbors through which Russian supplies could be routed to Germany after Leningrad freezes up late this month.
This week the Soviet Dictator, giving the panicky North Baltic not an instant's respite, set the Moscow radio to suggesting that Finland and Lithuania too "lease" bases to Russia in return for "trade." A German correspondent in Kaunas, the capital of Lithuania, flashed reports that its Foreign Minister Juozas Urbsys would shortly speed to Moscow.
These articles, which give an overwhelming impression of passive observation and the sense that "it's not our business", give added emphasis to the content of President Bush's speech at Riga on May 7 2005, when he said:
As we mark a victory of six days ago -- six decades ago, we are mindful of a paradox. For much of Germany, defeat led to freedom. For much of Eastern and Central Europe, victory brought the iron rule of another empire. V-E Day marked the end of fascism, but it did not end oppression. The agreement at Yalta followed in the unjust tradition of Munich and the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. Once again, when powerful governments negotiated, the freedom of small nations was somehow expendable. Yet this attempt to sacrifice freedom for the sake of stability left a continent divided and unstable. The captivity of millions in Central and Eastern Europe will be remembered as one of the greatest wrongs of history.