Tuesday, May 10, 2005
President Bush was given a seat of honor in a Red Square reviewing stand on Monday and watched goose-stepping soldiers and flags adorned with the Soviet hammer and sickle glide by, recalling days of communist might.And so it goes.
But Russia's 60th anniversary celebration of its World War II victory with other Allied forces over Nazi Germany - a ceremony that offered a one-sided, rosy picture of the Soviet Union's war legacy - was awkward theater for a U.S. president who has made democracy's spread the singular foreign-policy cause of his second term.
Nonetheless, as Russian President Vladimir Putin's grand World War II victory party went forward, Bush allowed him his day in the global spotlight. The two put aside their public sniping of recent days over postwar Soviet domination and present-day democratic backsliding in Russia.
It seems that the Moscow celebrations yesterday were not so much the commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the end of the Second World War (or rather its end in the European theater), but rather of the Soviet victory - a position that the Soviet legatee Russia has eagerly embraced, having suffered by far the greatest casualties in the war (untold many through Nazi brutality, but equally, untold many initially through mind-boggling military incompetence and later on through mind-boggling disregard for human life - I'm talking about sending waves of soldiers to clear minefields with their own bodies so that tanks could pass safely).
Even the choice of Moscow as the venue for celebrations is not entirely logical, although to hold it in Berlin would probably be considered too mean-spirited in our sensitive new age. Still, an all-inclusive ceremony should have included all the Ally troops instead of turning into a pageant "modelled on Stalin's original victory parade held in June 1945."
The timing of the celebrations also perpetuates the old Soviet tantrum dating back to 1945. Germany surrendered unconditionally on May 7 to American forces on the Western front (Eisenhower's headquarters in Reims) but the Soviets would have none of it until the surrender was also made to the Red Army, so the ceremony was restaged the following day in Berlin. Even May 8, however, wasn't good enough, and the Soviets insisted that the official celebration should be held on May 9. The Western authorities rolled on that demand, but the media would have none of it and broke the news on May 8, leading to euphoric scenes throughout the world. Grumpy Soviets still insisted on having their euphoric scenes on May 9.
And as many of my readers pointed out under my previous post on the topic, thankfully this is an anniversary of the end of war and not the entry into war, lest everyone be forced to remember that the Soviet Union had entered World War Two on 17 September 1939, as a Nazi ally, stabbing Poland in the back and partitioning the country with Hitler under the provisions of the Ribbentrop-Molotov pact. The Soviets then stayed German allies for almost two years, happily so until the very day they were themselves attacked by the German Army (the last trains with wheat, oil and metal ores rolled west across the border as Wehrmacht rolled east).
I'm not dredging up the past to be mean, but I promise to stop when President Putin stops whitewashing the past, both the pre-June 22 1941 and the post-1944 reentry into Eastern Europe.
On a lighter topic, check out Pundit Guy - are Bush and Putin just friends, or are things starting to get serious?