Vladimir Putin has said there was nothing bad about the Nazi-Soviet Pact, the non-aggression treaty which led to the carve-up of Poland at the outset of the Second World War, suggesting that Britain and France were to blame for Adolf Hitler’s march into Europe.
He also said that Britain and France had destroyed any chance for an anti-fascist front with the Munich Agreement.
The Russian president made the comments at a meeting with young historians in Moscow, at which he urged them to examine the lead-up to the war.
His comments are likely to cause dismay in Eastern Europe, amid wider debate in Russia about growing attempts to use history as a means of shoring up Mr. Putin’s rule.
He claimed that Western historians try to “hush up” the 1938 Munich Agreement, in which France and Britain, then led by Neville Chamberlain, appeased Hitler by acquiescing to his occupation of Czechoslovakia’s Sudetenland.
“Chamberlain came, waved a piece of paper and said, ’I’ve brought you peace’ when he returned to London after the talks,” Mr. Putin said on Wednesday, according to a Kremlin transcript.
“To which Churchill, I think, said somewhere to a small group of people, ’That’s it, now war is inevitable.’ Because compromise with an aggressor in the form of Hitlerite Germany was clearly leading to a large-scale future military conflict, and some people understood that.” Mr. Putin appeared to think that Moscow’s agreement with Hitler – the 1939 Nazi-Soviet or Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact – was fine, however.
“Serious research must show that those were the foreign policy methods then,” he said. “The Soviet Union signed a non-aggression treaty with Germany. People say ’Ach, that’s bad.’ But what’s bad about that if the Soviet Union didn’t want to fight, what’s bad about it?”