Engaged in a border war with Japan in the east and fearing Germany would turn on it in the west, the Soviet government began secret negotiations for an arrangement with Germany, meanwhile continuing talks, begun in April 1939, with France and the United Kingdom for an anti-German entente (understanding). On August 23, 1939, the Soviet government shocked the Western democracies as well as many Communists around the world by signing a nonaggression pact with Nazi Germany. Beyond improving the Soviet Union’s defensive posture, the agreement gave it an opportunity to carry out territorial expansion, something it had not had the strength to do since 1917. Confidential protocols provided for German and Soviet spheres of influence in Poland and for a free Soviet hand in Estonia and Latvia in the event of military conflict in the area.
That conflict was not long in coming. On September 1 Germany, emboldened by the pact with Moscow, invaded Poland, thereby provoking declarations of war by the United Kingdom and France and launching World War II. Sixteen days later the Red Army crossed the Polish frontier, took possession of eastern Poland, and began the Sovietization of the occupied areas.
This would involve their incorporation into Ukraine and Belorussia and the deportation of thousands of Poles to Siberia. On September 29 Germany and the USSR signed another treaty modifying territorial arrangements in Poland and consigning Lithuania to the Soviet sphere. The Soviet Union then imposed agreements on the Baltic States giving it the right to base troops on their soil.
Also during the fall of 1939, Stalin demanded of Finland that it hand over the southeastern section of the Karelian Isthmus as a buffer zone for Leningrad and that it permit the USSR to lease naval bases on the Finnish shore of the Gulf of Finland. Rejection of these proposals led to the undeclared Russo-Finnish War (also known as the Winter War), touched off by the Soviet invasion of Finland on November 30, 1939. The League of Nations expelled the Soviet Union for its aggression.
After a valiant but futile resistance, the Finns were overcome by the numerically superior Soviet forces. A treaty signed March 13, 1940, gave the USSR the land it sought and other strategic and economic advantages. The Karelo-Finnish region was promptly added to the galaxy of Soviet republics. "USSR" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia.
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