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The Hitler-Stalin Deal Dividing Europe 70 Years Later: How the 1939 Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact Impacts the World Today

Recorded on August 6, 2009

Location: The Heritage Foundation's Allison Auditorium

One of the most cynical treaties in modern history was signed on August 23, 1939, by Nazi Foreign Minister Ribbentrop and Soviet Foreign Minister Molotov. The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact was termed a non-aggression pact but was in fact an aggression pact against free and independent neighboring countries. A secret protocol divided Central and Eastern Europe into spheres of influence between the two totalitarian countries. A week later Nazi Germany invaded Poland, starting World War II, and shortly thereafter the Soviet Union absorbed Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania into its empire for more than 50 years.

Since regaining their independence after the collapse of Soviet communism, the Baltic states and all of Eastern and Central Europe have spent considerable time and money on security arrangements that would minimize the effect of any similar "great power" treaty. The "end of history" optimism that followed the fall of the Berlin Wall 20 years ago has been replaced in large part by realpolitik pessimism.

The Heritage Foundation has assembled a panel of experts to discuss the infamous Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact and to examine key questions such as: Should "great powers" be permitted to make decisions without regard for their impact on smaller sovereign nations? What role should NATO, the EU and the UN play in minimizing the impact of great power pacts?