The Poles can never have had much doubt that blaming Russia for the Second World War would upset Vladimir Putin. It was rather like poking a tiger with a pointed stick: it could never end well. Putin has retaliated verbally, mentioning it five times during the run-up to Christmas, including at a Defence Ministry board meeting, in a meeting with leaders of the Duma and again while talking to important business people. He also said he would write an article about it. He seems very sensitive, but then, like most Russians, he sees any attack on the Soviet victory in what Russians call the Great Patriotic War as an attack on Russia itself. However, a newly-assertive Poland, with the right-wing nationalist Law and Justice Party (PIS) comfortably back in charge, felt it was safe to put a resolution before the European Parliament ascribing equal blame to Russia and Germany for the war which began 81 years ago (it was tabled to mark the 80th anniversary). The resolution, passed in September, 2019, after much reference to the notorious agreement between Vyacheslav Molotov for the Soviet Union and Joachim von Ribbentrop for Nazi Germany, “Stresses that the Second World War, the most devastating war in Europe’s history, was started as an immediate result of the notorious Nazi-Soviet Treaty on Non-Aggression of 23 August 1939, also known as the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, and its secret protocols, whereby two totalitarian regimes that shared the goal of world conquest divided Europe into two zones of influence.”
Stalin supervising the signing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact on Aug 23, 1939 © Tass
This reads at first glance like something of an over-simplification, and indeed it is, if not by much. Certainly, Josef Stalin was a monster who believed that the triumph of Communism was an historical inevitability. He believed, as Karl Marx had written in the Communist Manifesto, that the proletariat would overthrow the bourgeoisie. “What the bourgeoisie, therefore, produces, above all, is its own grave-diggers. It’s fall and the victory of the proletariat are equally inevitable.” Except, of course, that they were not. Stalin had his sights set on expansion and the pact ascribed to Molotov and von Ribbentrop was really negotiated directly between Josef Stalin and Adolf Hitler.