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Remember Soviet WWII role, Putin urges world

June 19, 2020

In a lengthy article, Vladimir Putin insists on recognition of the Soviet Union as the prime defeater of Nazi Germany, censures Poland's actions before the war and defends the annexation of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.

Remember Soviet WWII role, Putin urges world
Image: picture-alliance/AP/A. Nikolsky

In a lengthy essay published by the US journal National Interest on Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin urged the world to recognize the contribution of the Soviet Union in the defeat of Nazi Germany. The article, titled "The Real Lessons of the 75th Anniversary of World War II,'' appeared six days before a huge military parade in Red Square to commemorate the end of World War II in Europe.

The timing of the essay underlines how the war is a linchpin of Russia's national identity. The Soviets suffered 27 million deaths during World War II. And Moscow routinely accuses Western Europe, Poland and Ukraine of downplaying its role in the conflict. "It is essential to pass on to future generations the memory of the fact that the Nazis were defeated first and foremost by the Soviet people,'' Putin wrote.

He bemoaned that "certain politicians rushed to claim that Russia was trying to rewrite history.''

Read more: Poland versus Putin: Dispute over history

Defending Soviet actions

Poland and Russia frequently butt heads over who is to blame for starting the war, and Putin took up the issue in the article.

"The blame for the tragedy that Poland then suffered lies entirely with the Polish leadership, which had impeded the formation of a military alliance between Britain, France and the Soviet Union and relied on the help from its Western partners, throwing its own people under the steamroller of Hitler's machine of destruction,'' Putin wrote.

Putin also reiterated the contention that the Soviet Union was forced into signing a non-aggression agreement with Germany before the war — the so-called Molotov-Ribbentrop pact — after France and the UK cold-shouldered creating a military alliance.

The Russian leader in his essay defended the Soviet Union's annexation of Lithuania, Latvia 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," he said.

Read more: How WWII affects the grandchildren of the war generation

World War II began on September 1, 1939 with the German invasion of Poland from the west, followed by the French and British declaration of war on Germany, and soon after Soviet seizures of eastern Poland.

Putin's essay, likely to draw hefty rebuttals in nations such as Poland and Ukraine, precedes next Wednesday's Moscow Victory Day parade, postponed since May 9. On Thursday, the World Health Organization (WHO) again warned that Russia's plan to stage its 75th anniversary to mark the end of World War II in Europe risked spreading the novel coronavirus, officially called SARS-Cov-2.

'No global war, despite sharpest contradictions'

The Russian president concluded his essay by suggesting that a prime lesson of the war is the necessity of broad international diplomacy.

He expressed hope that a Russia-proposed summit of the leaders of the UN Security Council's veto-holding countries would take place soon to discuss global security, the economic consequences of the coronavirus pandemic and other issues.

Putin said post-war "rules of conduct" agreed by Britain's Winston Churchill, the USA's Franklin D. Roosevelt und the Soviet Union's Josef Stalin had "laid the foundations of a world that for 75 years had no global war, despite the sharpest contradictions."

The proposed summit, asserted Putin, would demonstrate commitment to "values for which our fathers and grandfathers were fighting shoulder to shoulder."

"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,'' he said.

ipj/sri (AP, dpa)