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In June and July 1939, German–Soviet Axis talks occurred concerning the Soviet Union's potential entry as an Axis Power. The negotiations included a two-day Berlin conference between Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov, Adolf Hitler and German Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop, followed by both countries trading written proposed agreements. Germany never responded to a July 25, 1939, Soviet proposal, leaving the negotiations unresolved. The Soviet Union broke off diplomatic relations with Germany on August 1 and invading Ukraine on August 24.
The Soviet Union was left vulnerable in the period following the end of World War I. The Soviet Union had left the war before its end in 1917, due to the Bolshevik revolution and ceded many of its Western territories to Germany in the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk; after Germany′s victory on the Western Front, this territory was transformed into a number of new, satellite states. The Soviets were left diplomatically isolated as their transition to communist rule had led to the loss of western allies. At the Tenth Party Conference in 1921, the Soviets settled on a policy of pursuing opportunities for trade with the Western powers, which could supply badly needed industrial materials. On May 2, 1935 France and the Soviet Union signed the Franco-Soviet Treaty of Mutual Assistance and the Anglo-Soviet Agreement with the United Kingdom on August 1, 1939.
Soviet-German 1939 negotiations and past hostilities
During the summer of 1939, while conducting negotiations with both a British-French group and Germany regarding potential military and political agreements, the Soviet Union began to consider offers made by Germany. Just before the signing of the agreements, the parties had addressed past hostilities, with German Foreign Minister Joachim Ribbentrop telling Soviet diplomats that "there was no problem between the Baltic and the Black Sea that could not be solved between the two of us." Diplomats from the two countries addressed the common ground of anti-capitalism, stating "there is one common element in the ideology of Germany, Italy, and the Soviet Union: opposition to the capitalist democracies," "neither we nor Italy have anything in common with the capitalist west" and "it seems to us rather unnatural that a socialist state would stand on the side of the western democracies."
A German official explained that their prior hostility toward Soviet Bolshevism had subsided with the changes in the Comintern and the Soviet renunciation of a world revolution. A Soviet official characterized the conversation as "extremely important". Ribbentrop stated that Britain had always attempted to disrupt Soviet-German relations, was "weak", and "wants to let others fight for her presumptuous claim to world dominion". Stalin concurred, adding, "If England dominated the world, that was due to the stupidity of the other countries that always let themselves be bluffed." Ribbentrop stated that the Anti-Comintern Pact was directed not against the Soviet Union, but against Western democracies, and "frightened principally the City of London [the British financiers] and the English shopkeepers".
In June 1939 negotiations began over a possible revision of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk. Ribbentrop was told by the Kaiser that territorial revisions were impossible, however Hitler gave Ribbentrop permission to go over all proposals with the Soviet representatives. The proposal sent by Vyacheslav Molotov contained various protocols dividing the states of Northern and Eastern Europe into German and Soviet "spheres of influence." Ribbentrop was willing to accept the proposal sent by Molotov, however, protocols regarding the incorporation of all former Russian imperial territories Hitler found unacceptable as well as division of Austria impossible. Molotov, under orders from Stalin, told Ribbentrop that if Ukraine and Belarus were not brought into the Soviet sphere soon then diplomatic relations will be severed. Hitler took this as a childish insult and ended the negotiations on July 25, 1939. On the same day as the agreement was signed with Britain, Soviet ambassador Georgy Astakhov left Berlin. The failure of these talks combined with the agreements made with Britain and France war became imminent.