Putin on Poland: Ally of
Adolph Hitler? (Gazeta Wyborcza, Poland)
"From Red Square, where on May 9 the 70th anniversary of
victory was celebrated, conciliatory words flowed directed at the West. The very
next day, however, Vladimir Putin accused Poland of collaborating with Hitler.
…On May 9, Putin sat and listened to
24 heads of state who had accepted invitations to the celebration. Moscow had,
however, prepared room in Red Square for 68 presidents and prime ministers.
Most of the invitees boycotted the ceremonies. … Putin tried to give the
impression that the scorn this reflects was not especially painful."
By Wacław Radziwinowicz in
Moscow, Bartosz T. Wieliński in Warsaw
From Red Square, where
on May 9 the 70th anniversary of victory was celebrated, conciliatory words
flowed directed at the West. The very next day, however, Vladimir Putin accused
Poland of collaborating with Hitler.
Putin was defending, justifying and praising the Soviet
authorities for signing the Ribbentrop-Molotov
Pact, which resulted in the partition of [Poland's] Second Republic between
Germany and the Soviet Union in 1939. According to the Russian president,
Poland participated in the partition of Czechoslovakia and thus was responsible
for the fate that befall her.
[Editor's Note: This is a very touchy issue because in fact,
when Hitler took over Czechoslovakia in 1938, Poland did grab
the tiny ethnically-Polish region of Zaolzie, which had been in dispute
between Poland and Czechoslovakia since 1920. However, it wasn't as a result of
a deal with the Nazis, nor was the joint annexation of Poland by the Soviet
Union and Nazi Germany under the Ribbentrop-Molotov
Pact a way of punishing Poland for doing so, as Putin's comments suggested.
Poland's bloody annexation by Germany and the
Soviet Union 11 months later brought the brief episode to an end.]
Those words were spoken during a joint press conference with
Angela Merkel [inexplicably unavailable in English] who arrived in Moscow on
May 10. The German chancellor, who, like the overwhelming majority of European
leaders, refused to participate in Saturday’s parade on the Red Square, came to
lay flowers at the Monument to the Unknown Soldier. The chancellor managed to
avoid taking part in the parade's propaganda show while still paying homage to
the Soviet soldiers who died fighting Nazi Germany. Moscow daily Vedomosti praised her for that:
"Merkel is a consummate diplomat and leader of a country that has came to
terms with its past; she can differentiate between admiring tanks at a parade
from historical memory, which obliges her lay a wreath at the Tomb of the
To Putin’s words about the Ribbentrop-Molotov pact, she
reacted immediately, albeit with great restraint. "The pact is difficult
to understand without taking into account the secret protocol (which divided eastern
Europe into German and Soviet spheres of influence). That was completely
lawless" she said.
According to witnesses, before walking toward the Kremlin
wall where the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is located, Merkel and Putin were
engrossed in an animated conversation. No translator accompanied them; Putin,
who in his KGB years worked in Dresden, knows German; and Merkel speaks
After the ceremony, Merkel and Putin spoke again during a
small dinner party.
Meanwhile in Volgograd (previously Stalingrad) on Saturday,
there was a meeting of German and Russian foreign ministers, Frank-Walter
Steinmeier and Sergey Lavrov. The talks, of course, were about the situation in
east Ukraine. Germany is worried about reports that Moscow-backed rebels
continue firing artillery - which were supposed to be retired from Donbas
according to the Minsk
ceasefire agreement - at Ukrainian positions. Putin, in turn, urged
Ukrainians to start negotiations with the rebels. Yet the Kremlin also hoped to
convince Merkel and Steinmeier that it was time to return to their former
friendly relations and lift the sanctions.
Merkel, however, in response to overtures from Putin - who
reminded her that "Russia and Germany have achieved a lot, even if we are
now going through well-known problems" - responded tersely that "we
look forward to talking about the territorial integrity of Ukraine." In
other words, Berlin agreed to lift sanctions based on the implementation of the
Minsk Agreement - which still hasn't occurred.
On Saturday Putin also spoke to Czech President Milos Zeman
- who was similarly absent from the parade on Red Square. After their talks,
however, in Zeman's words, Russian troops were not fighting in east Ukraine on
the side of the rebels, and he expressed the hope that E.U. sanctions on Russia
would be lifted soon and that "within 20 years" Russia would become
an E.U. member.
In response to those comments, Zemen recounted that his
Kremlin host said he was looking forward "not only to rebuilding our
relations with the European Union as a whole, Eastern Europe and the Czech
Republic, but to developing them even further." Putin added that
"because of reciprocal sanctions everyone is worse off and nothing
positive is coming out of it."
Posted By Worldmeets.US
Earlier, in his speech at Red Square before the start of the
grand parade [watch below], Putin called on the world leaders to "work
together on a security system for all countries" - a system corresponding
to current threats. Only in this way can peace and tranquility on the planet be
guaranteed - assured the president.
The Kremlin host gratefully mentioned "the contribution
of the peoples of Great Britain, France and United States to victory." He recalled the time when Soviet and American soldiers, attacking from the east and west, met and fraternized on the shores of the Elbe river in May 1945. According
to him, "the trust and unity" which then characterized Moscow and its
Western partners "became our common heritage and an example of the
co-operation of the world's peoples in the name of peace and stability."
Posted By Worldmeets.US
Putin urged a return to this old formula of reconciliation
in front of 15,000 troops who, immediately after his speech, proceeded to march
across Red Square. Listening to his speech and awaiting the signal to start the
parade were also the crews of 194 combat vehicles and 143 military planes.
Putin sat and listened to 24 heads of state who had accepted
invitations to the celebration. Moscow had, however, prepared room in Red
Square for 68 presidents and prime ministers. Most of the invitees boycotted
Putin tried to give the impression that the scorn this
reflects was not especially painful. In an interview with Rossiya 1 television on Saturday evening he declared, with little
tact, that "everybody we wanted to see was here." It seems like
Moscow, despite inviting 68 important guests, didn’t wish for over 40 of them
to be present at its celebration feast.