Tuesday the military parade for the 75th anniversary of the end of the Second World War took place in Moscow. 23 June was declared 9 May by President Vladimir Putin: the pandemic had forced the postponement.
Why 23 June of all days? Because this day is also an anniversary, on the same day 75 years ago Stalin celebrated his victory parade. That is how you set an example.
Vladimir Putin had provided the pattern for the political signal shortly before, with a long article on the American website of the magazine “The National Interest”. It’s worth reading, both for its political message and for the idiosyncratic picture of the prehistory of the Second World War.
The Moscow invitation is only valid for the time after Corona
The political message can be found at the very back of Putin’s article. It is not breaking news but rather the confirmation of an invitation:
“The calls that have been made quite often in recent years to abolish the veto power, to deny special opportunities to permanent members of the Security Council are actually irresponsible. After all, if that happens, the United Nations would in essence become the League of Nations – a meeting for empty talk without any leverage on the world processes.
It is a duty of ours – all those who take political responsibility and primarily representatives of the victorious powers in the Second World War – to guarantee that this system is maintained and improved. Today, as in 1945, it is important to demonstrate political will and discuss the future together. Our colleagues – Mr. Xi Jinping, Mr. Macron, Mr. Trump and Mr. Johnson – supported the Russian initiative to hold a meeting of the leaders of the five nuclear-weapon States, permanent members of the Security Council. We thank them for this and hope that such a face-to-face meeting could take place as soon as possible. “
An invitation for better times, in other words, when the pandemic has abated.
Putin analyses the failure of the League of Nations
Putin’s adherence to the status quo only becomes understandable when one reads in the same article his quite accurate analysis of the League of Nations and its failure in the interwar period:
“The League of Nations also failed to prevent conflicts in various parts of the world, such as the attack of Italy on Ethiopia, the civil war in Spain, the Japanese aggression against China and the Anschluss of Austria. Furthermore, in case of the Munich Betrayal that, in addition to Hitler and Mussolini, involved British and French leaders, Czechoslovakia was taken apart with the full approval of the League of Nations. I would like to point out in this regard that, unlike many other European leaders of that time, Stalin did not disgrace himself by meeting with Hitler who was known among the Western nations as quite a reputable politician and was a welcome guest in the European capitals. …
Poland was also engaged in the partition of Czechoslovakia along with Germany. They decided together in advance who would get what Czechoslovak territories. … The partition of Czechoslovakia was brutal and cynical. Munich destroyed even the formal, fragile guarantees that remained on the continent. It showed that mutual agreements were worthless. It was the Munich Betrayal that served as a ‘trigger’ and made the great war in Europe inevitable.”
Does the West really deny the shame of the Munich Agreement ?
Putin already sharpened his pen on the subject of the Munich Agreement of 1938 with a quotation that preceded his article: “Today, European politicians, and Polish leaders in particular, wish to sweep the Munich Betrayal under the carpet. The Munich Betrayal showed to the Soviet Union that the Western countries would deal with security issues without taking its interests into account.”
So that settles it: the West was to blame for the Second World War. And Poland. But neither Stalin nor the USSR.
Putin, as the former Moscow correspondent of German weekly “Die Zeit”, Michael Thumann writes on Zeit-online, “whirls around the facts so virtuously that in Poland and the Baltic states the outrage is great.”
And the Hitler-Stalin Pact of 23 August 1939?
Did the Soviet Union seriously attack the Balts at their request?
Putin: “In autumn 1939, the Soviet Union, pursuing its strategic military and defensive goals, started the process of the incorporation of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. Their accession to the USSR was implemented on a contractual basis, with the consent of the elected authorities. This was in line with international and state law of that time. Besides, in October 1939, the city of Vilna and the surrounding area, which had previously been part of Poland, were returned to Lithuania. The Baltic republics within the USSR preserved their government bodies, language, and had representation in the higher state structures of the Soviet Union.”
That’s not how the Balts remember it. Putin embezzled, writes Markus Wehner, also a former Moscow correspondent, in the German daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, “what doesn’t fit the picture like the murder of thousands of Polish officers in Katyn by Stalin’s secret service and the Soviet attack on Finland.” Neither one word on the Soviet invasion of Bessarabia and northern Bukovina, which were part of Romania.
Not a word about the devil’s pact between Germans and Soviets
Putin illuminates the relationship of the British, French or Poles to Hitler’s Nazi regime before the war began, right down to the last detail. In the shadows, however, there is no mention of “The Devil’s Pact” (Sebastian Haffner), the German-Russian military symbiosis of the interwar period. Back then, Stalin had the German Reichswehr in the USSR develop and test new weapons – a clear violation of the Versailles Agreement.
According to Haffner, Werner von Blomberg, who later served Hitler as war minister, was also gaining experience in Russia at the time.
So Putin is rewriting history in his own way and for his own purposes. As a politician he is not alone in this, neither does the president want to go down in the annals as a historian. At the end of his article, he then returns to his real concern:
“There can be no doubt that the summit of Russia, China, France, the United States, and the UK can play an important role in finding common answers to modern challenges and threats, and will demonstrate a common commitment to the spirit of alliance …”
The president plans to hold a cautious round of fives in Moscow
The five victorious powers of the Second World War and the veto powers of the UN Security Council are thus to shape the 21st century in a small, cosy group. If that’s not worth a trip to Moscow. … For it’s not only the Soviet Union but also Russia today that is affected by this feeling, “that the Western countries would deal with security issues without taking its interests into account.” That must not happen again, Putin seems to call.
Vladimir Putin no longer wants to be home alone. In 2005 he described the collapse of the USSR as “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century”. The leap back to the forefront should change that now. To achieve this, of course, the Russian president must also do something that is very difficult at this time (and not just for him): find and take the right confidence-building measures.