The Atlantic

The Lasting Lesson of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact

For the first time in its history, NATO does not have a strong, principled American leader to guide it.
Source: Ints Kalnins / Reuters

Thirty years ago this week, on August 23, 1989, more than 2 million citizens of the Baltic republics of the U.S.S.R. engineered one of the most dramatic and successful mass protests in Soviet history. Men, women, and children linked hands in a continuous human chain more than 400 miles long that they called the “Baltic Way,” connecting the Estonian capital of Tallinn in the north with the Latvian capital of Riga in the center and the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius in the south.

They were protesting what was then the 50th anniversary of one of modern history’s most brutal and cynical backroom deals—the secret agreement made 80 years ago on August 23, 1939—by Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin to divide Eastern Europe between them on the eve of the Second World War. The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact (named after Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov and Nazi Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop) divided Poland, giving Hitler a free path to go

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