German–Soviet Axis talks

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In October and November 1940, German–Soviet Axis talks occurred concerning the Soviet Union's potential entry as a fourth 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.


Stalin sent Molotov to Berlin to negotiate the terms for the Soviet Union to join the Axis and potentially enjoy the spoils of the pact. Molotov spent much of the trip to Berlin searching his rail car for listening devices.

Molotov's train arrived at 11:05 a.m. on November 12.

It was a bad omen for success that von Schulenberg, the architect of the meeting, was excluded. Molotov was greeted by Ribbentrop at the train station decorated with Soviet and Nazi flags above a large basket of flowers, with a band playing The Internationale for the first time since 1933. After a brief breakfast, the talks started immediately that day at the Schloss Bellevue Hotel.

After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, a Moscow journal published certain selected correspondence revealing that Stalin was closely supervising Molotov's talks via telegram, but some of those telegrams remain unpublished.

At the outset, Ribbentrop stated,

"England is beaten and it is only a question of time when she will admit her defeat.... The beginning of the end has now arrived for the British empire."


"the entry of the United States into the war is of no consequence at all for Germany. Germany and Italy will never again allow an Anglo-Saxon to land on the European Continent.... This is no military problem at all.... The Axis Powers are, therefore, not considering how they can win the war, but rather how rapidly they can end the war which is already won."

He further stated that Germany and the Soviet Union had together

"done some good business."

Accordingly, Ribbentrop concluded that the time had come for the four powers (Germany, the Soviet Union, Italy and Japan) to define their "spheres of interest."

He stated that Hitler had concluded that all four countries would naturally expand "in a southerly direction."

Ribbentrop said he wondered if the Soviets might turn southward toward the sea, and when Molotov inquired "which sea?",

Ribbentrop stated that

"in the long run the most advantageous access to the sea for Russia could be found in the direction of the Persian Gulf and the Arabian Sea."

Regarding the division of the world into four spheres of influence, Molotov stated the new idea was "very interesting" and worthy of a discussion in Moscow with Ribbentrop participating.

Stalin became annoyed with a telegram to him from Molotov stating that the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact was "exhausted" with the exception of the Finnish issue, with Stalin stating that any future agreements would merely be added to it because it served as a fundamental basis for Soviet-German relations.

In the afternoon, Molotov visited Hitler at the Reichskanzlei.

Hitler also spoke of striking that "final blow against England."

Hitler stated that "it is time to think about division of the world after our victory."

Regarding the "problem of America" he stated that it could not "endanger the freedom of other nations before 1970 or 1980."

He and Molotov agreed that the United States had no business in Europe, Africa or Asia. Hitler stated that there were no fundamental differences between the two countries in their pursuit of aspiring for "access to the ocean."

Molotov expressed his agreement with Hitler about the role of America and Britain and Soviet participation in the Axis Pact in principle but only if the Soviets could participate as an active partner. That same day, Germany also postponed until the following year its plans to invade Britain because of failures in the air campaign against Britain.

Molotov agreed with Hitler that there were no unresolved problems between the countries, except about Finland.

When Molotov returned to his hotel, he stated that he was "relieved at Hitler's amiability."

In a telegram to Molotov that night, Stalin insisted that the security of the USSR cannot be ensured "without securing tranquility in the area of the Straits", referring the Bosporus straits for entry into the Black Sea. That was linked directly with the Soviet-Bulgarian agreement for passage of Soviet troops for "the defense of entry into the Black Sea." Stalin added that "this question still bears current importance and does not allow any procrastination."

November 13    

The Bosporus intersects Istanbul in the southwest corner of the Black Sea. Bulgaria is to its north.

Molotov and Hitler resumed their discussions the next morning. Molotov demanded to know why German troops were occupying Finland, while Hitler replied that they were traveling through Finland to Norway and wondered whether the Soviets intended to go to war over Finland. While Hitler agreed that Finland was within the Soviets' sphere of influence, he also stressed that Germany had a legitimate wartime interest in Finland's nickel and wood supply and that any new conflict in the Baltics would lead to a severe strain in relations.

Molotov concluded that nothing good could come from further talks about Finland and stated that he saw no signs of any resumption of a Soviet-Finland conflict.

Molotov conveyed Stalin's interest in reviewing the status of the Bosporus, and pressed for a guarantee for Bulgaria, at least in principle. Molotov later noted that Hitler became "markedly agitated" at the request to revoke guarantees to Romania. Molotov stated Stalin's wish to grant a guarantee to Bulgaria similar to the one that Germany and Italy had granted to Romania. Hitler pointed out that the Soviets had entered Bukovina in Romania, which went beyond the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. Hitler stated the parties had prior made an oral agreement that the former Austrian territories, such as the Balkan states within the Austro-Hungarian empire, were to fall within the German sphere of influence. Hitler pointed out that a primary goal of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact was to restore the old empires of the countries

Stalin, still hopeful to get a draft agreement, was monitoring the conversations by telegram and sent a telegram to Molotov to remind Hitler of the importance of securing the Bosporus, explaining the events of the Crimean War. Hitler stated that he could not make decisions regarding Bulgaria without conversing first with Italian leader Benito Mussolini.

Hitler changed the subject to the larger matter of the opportunities available after the conquest of England. Hitler told Molotov that:

“After the conquest of England, the British Empire would be apportioned as a gigantic world-wide estate in bankruptcy of forty million square kilometers. In this bankrupt estate there would be for Russia access to the ice-free and really open ocean. Thus far, a minority of forty-five million Englishmen had ruled six hundred million inhabitants of the British Empire. He was about to crush this minority . . . Under these circumstances there arose world-wide perspectives . . . All the countries which could possibly be interested in the bankrupt estate would have to stop all controversies among themselves and concern themselves exclusively with the partition of the British Empire. This applied to Germany, France, Italy, Russia and Japan.

Molotov told Hitler that

"the time has now come to discuss a broader agreement between the USSR and Germany",

but first the Soviets wanted to know the precise meaning of "the New Order in Europe" regarding participating countries and the basic ideas of the pact.

Molotov then was scheduled to meet with Ribbentrop that afternoon.

A telegram Molotov sent to Stalin on the meeting with Hitler underscored "Hitler's great interest in reaching an agreement and strengthening friendly relations with the USSR with respect to spheres of influence.] Molotov stated that his talk with neither Hitler nor Ribbentrop produced the desired results, as the issues with Turkey and the Balkans had not been answered.

Because of British aerial bombardment, Ribbentrop and Molotov conducted talks that night in an air raid shelter. Ribbentrop reiterated that the chief goal was to define the four powers' interests and reach an agreement with Turkey on Bosporus issue. Ribbentrop proposed several parallel steps the parties should then take including that Molotov should discuss the issues raised in Berlin with Stalin while Ribbentrop discussed them with Japan.

Germany, Italy and the USSR would also pressure Turkey to acquiesce to Soviet demands on the Bosporus. Thereafter, the parties would negotiate and draft confidential documents bearing mind that the final accord would be a Soviet entry into the Axis pact.

What Molotov did not know is that, that night, Hitler issued secret "Instruction No. 18", directing his forces to continue to prepare for war in the east "irrespective of the results yielded by these discussions."

German proposed draft agreement

In the air raid shelter, Ribbentrop gave Molotov a draft agreement with two parts. As had become the practice between the parties, one part was of the agreement that would eventually be made public, while the other contained the secret agreement. The public portion contained an agreement with a ten year term whereby the parties would respect each other's natural spheres of interests, while Germany, Italy and Japan would affirm their recognition of existing Soviet borders.

The draft of the secret agreement included the obligation not to join any alliance directed at the four signatories and to assist each other in economic matters.

The secret agreement contained a protocol defining the territorial objectives of the four signatories, with Germany laying claims to central Africa, Italy in northern and northeast Africa, Japan in southeast Asia and the Soviet zone to the to ”center south of the national territory of the Soviet Union in the direction of the Indian Ocean.” A second secret protocol provided that Germany, Italy and the Soviet Union would "liberate" Turkey from its international obligations with Britain to guarantee its borders.

Molotov stated that the Soviet Union was concerned with several European issues, such as Turkey and Bulgaria, but also the fates of Hungary, Romania, Yugoslavia and Greece. In addition, the Soviets were also interested in the question of Swedish neutrality and passage out of the Baltic sea.

Molotov also sarcastically remarked about why, if England's fate was sealed, they were talking in an air raid shelter.

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    Name Born / Since / At Died Languages
    1Joachim Von RibbentropJoachim Von Ribbentrop30.04.189316.10.1946de, en, fr, lt, lv, pl, ru
    2Vyacheslav MolotovVyacheslav Molotov09.03.189008.11.1986de, en, fr, lt, lv, pl, ru
    3Adolf HitlerAdolf Hitler20.04.188930.04.1945en, lv, pl, ru
    4Joseph StalinJoseph Stalin18.12.187805.03.1953de, en, fr, lt, lv, pl, ru