Staunton, June 22 – Vladimir Putin’s Die Zeit article, ostensibly about the 80th anniversary of the Nazi invasion of the USSR, is intended to get Europe to lift sanctions on Russia, an action that would mean the EU would be recognizing “de facto” the post-Soviet space as a Russian sphere of influence, Boris Sokolov says.
Entitled “Let Us be Open Despite the Past, the article is in many respects modeled on “the infamous secret protocols of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact,” the opposition Russian politician and commentator says, even though it seems likely that the EU would not view the lifting of sanctions as affecting the status of the Balts in the EU and NATO (graniru.org/opinion/sokolov/m.282023.html).
But because ending sanctions at a time when Moscow shows no willingness to end its aggression against Ukraine, its illegal occupation of Ukraine’s Crimea and Ukraine’s Donbass, and its threats against other former Soviet republics, such an EU move would be read in the Kremlin as evidence that Europe is prepared to accept Putin’s vision of the present.
Putin’s words are an offense against history as well as against European values, Sokolov says. The Kremlin leader writes that “The Soviet soldier came to the land of Germany not to take revenge on the Germans but with the noble and great mission of a liberator,” a lie that the flight of millions of Germans from the Soviet-occupied areas to the West underscores.
Moreover, as Sokolov points out, Putin ignored the cooperation of the Soviet Union with Hitler via the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact and the more than 40 years of Soviet occupation of eastern Euirope. Had he taken this occasion to apologize, Russia would have gained a lot, the commentator says, “but Putin isn’t accustomed to apologizing.”
As a result, in his article, instead of acknowledging the role his own actions have played in leading to the deterioration of relations between Russia and the countries to her West, Putin charges that this all happened because of the expansion of NATO, a move he says “in fact buried the hopes for a continent without dividing lines.”
Putin clearly hopes that he can play on the guilt Germans still feel about invading the USSR, Sokolov says. But in his tendentious effort to do so, the Kremlin leader is asking the Germans to betray the principles on which the new Germany rests and engage in the sphere of influence politics that Hitler and Stalin did with the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact.
Some Germans may be swayed by Putin’s article, but more are likely to be offended by anyone who suggests that they should behave as Berlin did in the past.