Don’t flirt with an anti-Western bully. How Berlin and Paris “talk” with Putin
History has taught us that appeasing an aggressor is ineffective and dangerous.
Eighty years ago, one totalitarian state, Nazi Germany, violated its non-aggression pact with another totalitarian state, the Soviet Union, and invaded its territory .
Hitler’s attempt during the blitzkrieg in Eastern Europe to crush the Red Empire of the commissars and provide, as he saw it, a “Lebensraum” for the German ” master race”, especially in the vast fertile Ukraine, led to crimes, suffering and human losses of unimaginable proportions.
Enough decades have passed to reflect on what those terrible ordeals in the bloody theater of World War II were like. But have the lessons of this terrible experience been properly assessed?
Today Germany and Russia behave as if they are again ignoring, or in any case, extremely selective about the thoughts and reservations that the experience of those apocalyptic times leads us to.
After a long and terrible struggle, the war with Nazi Germany brought about the triumph of the temporary forced alliance of the Western allies with their new politically antagonistic oppressive Eastern partner. But the results were far from what the victory over the tyrannical multimedia system in the name of freedom should have brought about.
Led by a monster that was bleached after the Nazi invasion and euphemistically portrayed even by Churchill and Roosevelt as the progressive, if not good-natured “Uncle Joe” (Joseph Stalin), the Soviet colossus, despite all its losses, backed by various forms of Western support, emerged as a dominant military strength in a traumatized and devastated Europe.
Alas, but quite predictably, the elimination of the terrible Nazi threat did not lead to the liberation (in a democratic sense) by Soviet forces of eastern Europe, but only to a new type of enslavement under the communist rule of Moscow of a significant part of the countries of Eastern Europe.
This was the result of the actual division of Europe into two blocs – the western democratic and the eastern communist, which was recorded in the conditions of the shameful Yalta conference in Crimea in February 1945.
There, leaders of the three main anti-Nazi allies – Britain, the United States and the Soviet Union – said they have agreed to submit the next version of the naive formula doomed 1938 the year “peace in our time” (appeasement of Hitler by Britain and France at the expense of the fate of Czechoslovakia). Only this time it was on the terms not of Hitler, but of Stalin.
We know what happened next. The lowering of the Iron Curtain and the subsequent onset of the Cold War. It continued at various levels of confrontation until the collapse of the Soviet Union in the late 1980s under Mikhail Gorbachev.
The uprisings in East Berlin in 1953, in Budapest in 1956 and in Prague in 1968 failed to nullify Yalta’s legacy. In fact, the West agreed to adhere to these agreements at the famous Helsinki East-West Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe in 1975, at which Moscow at least agreed to recognize the nominally “human dimension” (that is, human rights) as a legitimate issue. It wasn’t until the Berlin Wall fell in late 1989 that the political floodgates were opened and much of Europe was united.
The collapse of the Moscow Empire ended with the collapse of the Soviet Union in December 1991 and the emergence of 15 independent states on the world stage, including Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova and the three Baltic states, not to mention a truncated Russia in the form of the Russian Federation.
Everything seemed to be heading in an encouraging direction, and a “democratic” post-Soviet Russia seemed to be pushing, under President Boris Yeltsin’s leadership, to take its place in Europe, stretching from Ireland to Vladivostok. But the popular ideas of the “ winds of change” that the Scorpions soothed us at the time turned out to be illusory. Russia under Putin soon returned to its old imperialist, authoritarian and anti-Western path.
Putin and his henchmen have rewritten history to whitewash and further praise the murderous expansionist regimes that formerly operated under the red flag, but are now adapted to modern conditions with the restored former tsarist Russian tricolor.
And yet today for Berlin this is the business of uber alles, although for Moscow business is never separated from politics, as the notorious scheme of the Nord Stream-2 gas pipeline reminds us of.
Unfortunately, the Russian-centric view of the Second World War and the Soviet Union still prevails in the German and Western public in general. And that is exactly what Putin wants.
That is why the Ukrainian ambassador to Berlin refused to attend the German anniversary events at the German-Russian museum in Berlin, which he believed actually matched Moscow’s interpretation and humiliated the role and victims of non-Russians in countering the Nazis and their current plight in relation to a potentially reborn predatory Russia. …
In addition, the Germans forget that after the Second World War, the victors imposed a policy of “denazification” on them . But in the USSR, the Soviet totalitarian system, combined with mass terror, the Gulag and communist rule over the “liberated” Eastern Europe, continued.
Today Stalin, a former ally of Hitler, is once again officially glorified in Russia. Putin and his entourage remain resolutely anti-Western and advocate Russia’s superiority, its right to hegemony over neighboring countries and disregard for international law if it runs counter to Moscow’s interests.
As with Hitler, the Sudeten Germans and Austrians in 1938, Putin believes he can invade and occupy other countries in the name of defending the rights of the so -called “Russian-speaking” people. He has issued hundreds of thousands of Russian passports in these ethnically cleansed areas.
Listening to Putin and his associates, it seems as if you are listening to Hitler and Goebbels in the late 1930s. Anti-Western autocrats, inspired by the messianic leitmotif of Russia’s greatness and the right to do what they please, thanks to their military strength and, I suspect, the habitual passivity and calmness in the West’s reactions.
This week, Putin’s closest aide in recent years, Vladislav Surkov, has been rather insolent about what was behind Russia’s 2014 aggression against Ukraine. He boasted in an interview with the Financial Times: “I am proud to have been part of the takeover. This was Russia’s first open geopolitical counterattack [against the West] and so decisive. “
Also on June 22, Putin repeated his standard deceptive line in an article for Die Zeit. It was the Red Army, he tells the Germans, that “saved Europe and the world from enslavement.” He adds: “Despite attempts to rewrite the pages of the past that are being made today, the truth is that Soviet soldiers did not come to Germany to take revenge on the Germans, but with a noble and great mission of liberation.”
So why then did the partition of Germany, the Berlin air bridge, the Berlin wall and the Stasi take place? Why was there a constant humiliation of the Federal Republic of Germany, militarization and de facto control of Moscow by the occupied German “Democratic” Republic during the Soviet period ? Finally, why did NATO appear if the USSR was such a virtue?
Importantly, Putin also pays tribute to the receptive German business community and implicitly hails them for supporting the Nord Stream 2 project.
“I would also like to remind you that it was German entrepreneurs who became the ‘pioneers’ of cooperation with our country in the post-war years,” says Putin. “In 1970, the USSR and the Federal Republic of Germany entered into the ‘deal of the century’ for long-term natural gas supplies to Europe, which laid the foundation for constructive interdependence and initiated many future ambitious projects, including the construction of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline.”
Some people in Berlin may have a short memory, but not everyone. Before World War II, there were short-sighted but no less shameful acts of cooperation and pacification against the Soviet and Nazi tyrants of the time. And business requirements were often used to justify them.
And it didn’t start with the inglorious appeasement of Hitler in Munich in 1938 by British and French leaders Chamberlain and Daladier. Likewise, German-Soviet military cooperation did not begin with the Nazi-Soviet non-aggression pact in August 1939.
Already in 1922, under the Rapallo Treaty, democratic Weimar Germany and the Soviet Union entered into trade agreements that masked their significant military cooperation over the next decade.
Or one more example. In September 1934, just over a year after millions of people starved to death in Moscow-ruled Ukraine during the Holodomor, delegates from the League of Nations telegrammed the Soviet government inviting the Soviet Union to join the League and “promote important cooperation.”
Today, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her team tell us: “We are interested in remaining in dialogue with Russia if we want security and stability in the European Union, no matter how difficult it may be.” However, they are not even ready to provide Ukraine with weapons to defend themselves and Europe from the ongoing Russian aggression.
As mediators in the agreements within the Normandy Four, Berlin and Paris have been ” talking” with Russia for seven years about ending military intervention in eastern Ukraine and at the same time cooperating with this aggressor in the Nord Stream 2 project and other “businesses” , as well as block the integration of Ukraine into NATO and the EU.
On the 80th anniversary of the invasion of the former Soviet Union by the German Nazis through Ukraine and Belarus, after two years of alliance with Stalin, this is unacceptable and shameful. History has taught us that appeasing an aggressor is ineffective and dangerous.
Talk and do your business if necessary, but do not flirt with the anti-Western bully who threatens not only neighbors, but everything that Europe and the democratic world represent for the sake of business and a convenient Ukrainian buffer zone in the east.
In short, Berlin and Paris, do not sell yourself at the price of those who look down on you, a hostile system, cynically perceive you as something like a traitor Gerhard Schroeder or Nicolas Sarkozy, if not an ambivalent Merkel, rather see you as descendants of Robert Schumann, Konrad Adenauer, etc.
Perhaps motivated by Washington, Warsaw, Vilnius, Riga, Tallinn and Kiev, Berlin will finally be forced to veil these truths (illustrated by the Nord Stream 2 saga) and represent a semblance of a European command player. That is why on this sad anniversary, perhaps, Merkel called Zelenskiy and invited him to visit Berlin.
Translated by the author