Just days earlier, without even allowing the Czechs to represent themselves at the negotiations, Britain and France reached an accord with Nazi Germany about the partition of Czechoslovakia.The mountainous Sudetenland, home of three million ethnic Germans, would join the Third Reich in exchange for the end of German territorial conquest in Europe.Soviet thought followed along similar lines; Poland would serve as a buffer state against any future German expansion. Upon the signatures of Molotov and German Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop, the deal came into force.
Communism then easily would spread to the Atlantic amid the ruins of European capitalism.
Unlike Czarist Russia in 1914, this time around the Soviets wanted to stay out of a German war.
Much less did Stalin realize that the battle-hardened German war machine would soon overrun his country in a surprise attack beginning on June 22, 1941, a little less than two years after the signing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact.
The non-aggression pact in a way had also ensured that a European war would soon turn into a global massacre that left roughly 65 million dead.
The partition of Poland into “spheres of influence” was harrowing business; western Poland, occupied by the Nazis, underwent a “racial reorganization”; eastern Poland suffered Sovietization.
In both zones, undesirables, such as Jews and Catholic clergymen, were systematically detained, dispossessed, and killed that autumn.
That mutual hatred explained why dictators Adolf Hitler and Josef Stalin both despised and feared each other.
Yet all at once, such illusions vanished with signing of the pact.
By any measure, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s policy of appeasement was an unequivocal failure.
Under threat of attack by Nazi Germany, the western democracies sacrificed the Austrians, Czechs, Spaniards, and Albanians to prevent a war that came anyway.