Bullies Make Strange Buddies, 1939-1941
From the Polish plains war gradually engulfed the world, but two years of fighting and diplomacy were to pass before the Second World War became a global conflict. When they were over, the Nazi-Soviet partners of 1939 would be mortal enemies and the antagonisms of 1939 between the Western democracies and the Soviet Union would have given way to a pragmatic cooperation that many people in the West quickly idealized.
Nazi-Soviet cooperation had enabled Hitler to unleash the Second World War. It was strengthened during the first phase of the conflict. On September 3, 1939, true to the secret Nazi- Soviet agreements of August 23, German Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop invited the Soviet leaders to move the Red Army into eastern Poland. Six days later, as German pincers closed on Warsaw, Commissar for Foreign Affairs V. M. Molotov informed Berlin that Soviet forces would move soon. The newspapers Pravda and Izvestia created pretexts for an attack, protesting against Poland's treatment of minorities (an excuse Hitler had used to justify his own invasion). They also asserted that Polish aircraft had violated the Soviet frontier. On September 16 the U.S.S.R. gained greater freedom to move against Poland; a truce