May 05, 2005


What's going on in Russia? From today's Washington Post, this seems like an odd thing to ask Putin to do:
Without mentioning the stymied private-channels U.S. lobbying, Hadley added that Moscow should renounce Molotov-Ribbentrop, as the Congress of People's Deputies did 16 years ago. "Obviously it would be an appropriate thing for Russia, now having emerged out of the Soviet Union, to do the same thing," he said.
Huh? If Moscow's supposed to "renounce Molotov-Ribbentrop" just to assure Poland and the Baltics that they won't ever be swallowed up again, well okay, that seems fine. Or if this is all part of a larger game of purging historical ghosts and denouncing Stalin for the fun of it, that's okay too. But if Hadley's point is that Molotov-Ribbentrop was objectively wrong or evil from a historical standpoint, well that seems a bit odd.

Stalin had a lot of reasons for allying himself with Hitler, but the most convincing explanation I've heard is that he was genuinely afraid that the Western democratic powers were all too happy to let the Germans and Russians beat the hell out of each other. Indeed, Stalin made several overtures to Chamberlain concerning an alliance against Germany, but it never came about, and the 1938 Munich agreement made Stalin really quite nervous. Now it's true, poor Josef was excessively paranoid most of the time, but in this case he had good reason to believe he was being sold out. (To be fair to the Western democracies, one of the reasons they opposed an alliance with Stalin was that he was essentially asking for unchecked influence over the Eastern "satellite" countries.) The pact itself was vile, and the divvying up of Poland totally immoral, but it's not as if Stalin didn't have real security concerns here, no? Especially given that he had, y'know, shot most of his competent generals a few years before and wasn't in any position to fight a war.

UPDATE: Ah, okay, Justin Logan gives as convincing explanation as any in comments. Or at least part of one. Seems that Russia still has "peacekeepers" and military bases in Transnistria, a separatist region of Moldova. Russia originally annexed Moldova (then known as Bessarabia) in 1941 as part of Molotov-Ribbentrop, so it's possible that a full renunciation of the pact would force Moscow to acknowledge it no longer has any right to keep troops in Transnistria. Or something. Seems plausible; surprisingly not a single news story has mentioned this angle (it is sort of minor, I guess), although former Estonian PM Mart Laar made the connection last year in a Wall Street Journal op-ed, which also makes a broader pro-renunciation case.
-- Brad Plumer 2:04 PM || ||