At the point of signing the treaty with Japan, Stalin and the USSR as a whole seem pretty confident that Germany will attack, even though the Molotv-Ribbentrop Pact has a non-aggression pact as part of it. So why did they think a similar treaty with Germany´s ally Japan was any form of assurance of peace?
To give a clue to the answer, the following were some of the international reactions to the treaty (to quote from The Pittsburgh Press (April 14)):
Semi-official reaction indicated that the Japanese expected great things from the treaty. They think it would aid them in bringing a quick end to their war with China, give pause to the United States in its efforts to aid Great Britain against Germany and Italy and to oppose Japanese ambitions on Oceania. Japan is now free to devote its attention “elsewhere,” was the general tenor of Japanese comment.
More on Tokyo’s reaction to the treaty here.
Well informed sources said:
The treaty is designed to harmonize Japanese-Soviet relations and interests, which follow the Axis policy. The treaty certainly is intended to preclude any United States-Russian rapprochement.
A victory for the Rome-Berlin-Tokyo alliance. It kills the hope of Americans and British that Russia will intervene against the Axis if the United States enters the war.
Official quarters saw the treaty as not necessarily unfavorable to Britain on the theory that it frees Russia to cope more actively against German aggression in Europe. But this is outweighed in many minds by the threat of greater Japanese aggressiveness in the South Pacific.
Officials anxiously studied the treaty to appraise its meaning to the United States, which opposes Japanese expansion in the South Pacific. Secretary of State Hull belittled the pact and said America’s policy in the Pacific remains unchanged.
Informed Chinese sources said Moscow has assured China that the new pact does not affect the fundamental Soviet policy of aid to China. As a result, the pact was not regarded as substantially detrimental to China’s position.
In layman’s terms, to quote an editorial from the same newspaper:
Conditions on which, as of Easter Sunday 1941, that the two governments thought such a treaty would work to mutual advantage: Russia, fearing Germany might try to overrun the Ukraine, wanted assurance that if she went to war in this quarter, Japan would not knife her in the back. Japan, apprehensive of trouble with the United States, wanted similar assurance from Russia. So they signed a piece of paper.
I get that Moscow thought the treaty safeguarded them from japanese aggression. What I don´t understand is why. They have a treaty with Germany, that they don´t think Hitler will uphold. Germany also has enemies to fight in europe and africa, and so would benefit from not attacking the USSR until there is peace of capitulation from britain. Japan is in a similar position, with an ongoing war in china and further invasions likely in the pacific. So what reason do the soviets have to actually trust the treaty?
I’m not sure why you say that. Stalin was quite sure that Hitler would NOT attack him. All the history says that, that he was utterly surprised by Hitler’s decision. Stalin disregarded all the intelligence coming into him. This surprise nearly cost Stalin the war…
His name is Richard Sorge, he’s a a German diplomat and secret Communist privy to almost all high level diplomatic communication with the Japanese. He’s their best agent in the far east by a long shot.