Saturday, May 07, 2005

America's undiplomatic diplomat 

President Bush is traveling to Latvia and Georgia before going to Moscow to take part in the 60th anniversary celebration of the end of World War Two. Bizarrely, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has sent a letter to Condi Rice protesting Bush's visits in the former Soviet republics.

Even more bizarrely, there is somebody at the State Department who's not holding back. His name is Dan Fried, and he is the U.S. assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs:
[Fried] told reporters traveling with Bush that Russia ignores a two-year non-aggression pact the Soviet Union with Nazi Germany -- which ended when Germany invaded Russia in June 1941 -- in portraying itself as a victim of the Nazis.

In visiting Latvia and Georgia in connection with his visit to Russia, Bush is "celebrating victories of freedom over tyranny" beginning with the defeat of Nazi Germany and progressing to the liberation of the Baltics from Soviet domination and now the potential future freedom of Georgia following its 2003 "Rose Revolution," Fried said.

"It is taking the president's freedom agenda and applying it to the complexities of the real world," Fried said.

Fried said the U.S. and Russia have "competing narratives of World War II. The first is the true narrative, which is ours," he said. [ouch!]

The Soviets "spread communism where they went," said Fried, who also said the U.S. erred before World War II by remaining isolationist and failing to organize the West against Hitler. France and Britain, Fried said, can be faulted for appeasement. The difference is that while the U.S. and Europe recognize those "darks spots" in history, Russia doesn't, Fried said.
Please don't hold back; tell us what you really think. Dan Fried surely is not a career diplomat - he's too honest.

Fried is right, of course. Not taking anything away from the incredible war-time sacrifice (both voluntary and involuntary) of her people, the Soviet Union's role in World War Two is ambiguous on at least these two grounds: because together with the Nazi Germany she was the initial aggressor of the war and remained Hitler's ally for almost two years thereafter, and because the "liberation" of the Eastern Europe meant merely the replacement of one totalitarian system with another, less bloody and over time less destructive one.

All this will make for interesting celebrations tomorrow. Stay tuned.


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