ISSN 2330-717X

Lavrov Turns European History At Start Of World War II Upside Down – OpEd


Russian commentators have long played down the fact that World War II broke out in Europe as a result of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact which gave both Hitler and Stalin a free hand in their immediate neighborhoods and ensured that Germany would not from the outset have to fight a two-front war.


But now, Putin’s foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, has taken this propensity of Russian officials to rewrite history to a new level by insisting that “when World War II began, Hitler under his banners assembled … a large part of Europe for a war against the Soviet Union” (

Lavrov’s interpretation is so over the top as to be laughable. The war began with Hitler and Stalin as allies. Hitler attracted only a few of his clients to his side by force and not on the basis of any common idea for a crusade against the Soviet Union. And most important, the Nazi leader worked to occupy Europe for almost two years before turning on his erstwhile ally.

The Russian foreign minister made this remark in order to suggest that what the EU and NATO are doing today, in coming together to resist Russian aggression, is an example of the same policies Hitler was carrying out, an equally outrageous reading of the present as well as the past.

Moscow has long acted on the assumption that having nuclear weapons means you never have to say you’re sorry. But it is clear that the Putin regime is equally convinced that it need not have any respect for history or facts either. What is sad is how little international reaction there has been to this statement. (For a useful exception, see


Paul Goble

Paul Goble is a longtime specialist on ethnic and religious questions in Eurasia. Most recently, he was director of research and publications at the Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy. Earlier, he served as vice dean for the social sciences and humanities at Audentes University in Tallinn and a senior research associate at the EuroCollege of the University of Tartu in Estonia. He has served in various capacities in the U.S. State Department, the Central Intelligence Agency and the International Broadcasting Bureau as well as at the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Mr. Goble maintains the Window on Eurasia blog and can be contacted directly at [email protected] .

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