Today is the 80th anniversary of one of the most significant events of the twentieth century: Molotov and Ribbentrop’s signing of the Non-agression Pact between Germany and the Soviet Union. This newspaper extra pretty much captures the story, which came as a surprise to much of the world. One of the most shaken constituencies was the International Left, many of whom had spent the past two decades unwisely admiring Stalin and Lenin. To them it seemed impossible that Soviet Russia could sign such a deal with Fascist Germany, but there it was. I’ll leave it to you to find the images of the principals signing the agreement, smiling all the while like the cat that ate the canary. There are no heroes in this story. Just a week later the two nations invaded Poland.
It is often lost on us for how long Hitler’s Germany and Stalin’s Soviet Union remained allies. Their pact held until late June 1941, almost two years. They shared all kinds of resources while committing all kinds of cruelties, looking the other way at each others’ atrocities. How things might have gone were in not for Operation Barbarossa is one of the great counterfactuals of the Second World War. There are just so many contingencies when it comes to World War 2.