Article in today's Guardian:
Tom Parfitt in Moscow
Russia has declassified top-secret surveillance documents in an attempt to justify its occupation of Eastern Europe under the Nazi-Soviet pact, signed 70 years ago on Sunday.
The hidden protocols of the pact, in which Joseph Stalin and Adolf Hitler agreed to carve up Poland and other sovereign states, were denounced by the Soviet parliament in 1989, shortly after they were revealed for the first time.
But the pact, which lasted until Hitler's invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941, is now being rehabilitated to chime with Kremlin ideology that claims a Russian sphere of interest in the "near abroad" former Soviet republics.
Hundreds of formerly secret spy documents have been published in a compendium by Lev Sotskov, a retired KGB major general working under the auspices of the SVR, Russia's foreign intelligence service. The SVR said the files demonstrated the Soviet Union was left with no choice but to agree a non-aggression pact with Nazi Germany in August 1939 after Britain and France signed the Munich agreement appeasing Hitler's partition of Czechoslovakia the previous year.
The pact – signed by foreign ministers Vyacheslav Molotov and Joachim von Ribbentrop – bought time for the Kremlin after the west had betrayed Stalin, Sotskov told reporters in Moscow. Declassified documents collected by the NKVD showed London and Paris wanted to "direct Hitler's aggression to the east" and were indifferent to the fate of the Baltics, he said, adding: "Now the thinking behind English politics is revealed: let Germany start a war with the USSR and then we'll see what happens."
Most contentious is likely to be Sotskov's claim that Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania willingly acquiesced to Soviet domination. "There was no occupation," Sotskov said. Historians and politicians in those countries vehemently deny such claims, saying tens of thousands of people were killed or sent to the Gulag and puppet authorities installed to enable annexation.
Russia's president, Dmitry Medvedev, stressed after the war with Georgia last year that Russia has a "zone of privileged interests" in its "near abroad". Earlier this year he set up a commission to battle "falsification of history", saying neighbouring states were trying to distort Russia's past for political gains.
Pavel Felgenhauer, a military expert at the Novaya Gazeta newspaper, claimed Moscow was praising the Nazi-Soviet pact's secret protocol outlining a sphere of influence in Europe because "the Kremlin clearly wishes to re-enact it."
"In his understanding of realpolitik, [prime minister] Vladimir Putin does not diverge from the line set by Josef Stalin," military analyst Alexander Golts wrote in the online Yezhednevny Zhurnal. "Military force decides everything, and if there is an opportunity to grab a piece of someone else's territory, it should be taken."
Latvia's ex-president Vaira Vike-Freiberga said in a radio interview that Russia was "incapable of understanding the tragedy of our occupation". "We will have to battle to preserve our independence until the end of our days," she said.
Russia declassifies secret documents on Nazi-Soviet pact
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