Vladimir Putin: At a ceremony in Moscow, the Russian President commemorated the Red Army soldiers who died in World War II.
In a guest contribution on the occasion of the 80th anniversary of Hitler’s Germany attack on the Soviet Union, Russian President Vladimir Putin has campaigned for better relations with Europe and at the same time clearly criticized the EU, NATO and the USA.
Putin writes in the article for the weekly newspaper “Die Zeit” that the end of the Cold War was linked to the hope of a unified continent that would be held together by common values and interests.
It was in this spirit that Russia wanted to develop its relations with the Europeans. “However, a different approach prevailed. This was based on the expansion of the North Atlantic Alliance, which itself was a relic of the Cold War,” said the Russian head of state.
The eastward expansion of NATO was also controversial in Western Europe and the USA. Critics warned of a danger to the stability of Europe and feared a weakening of the reform forces in Russia. NATO, in turn, defended the enlargement steps on the grounds that NATO was not pushing itself on the countries, but that they had applied for membership of their own free will. In Poland and the Baltic States, for example, a large majority of the population supported joining NATO.
According to Putin, the advance of NATO has led to mutual distrust in Europe. In addition, verbal promises that the enlargement was not directed against Russia had been broken. Five waves of NATO expansion since 1999, including former Soviet republics, have “de facto destroyed all hopes for a continent without dividing lines.”
That ultimately led to the “Ukrainian tragedy” of 2014, as Putin writes. “Europe actively supported the armed unconstitutional coup in Ukraine. That is where it all started.” Although the then Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych had already accepted all of the opposition’s demands, the USA organized a “coup d’état” which the EU states supported reluctantly and thus provoked the division within Ukraine and the “exit of Crimea from the Ukrainian state” would have.
Mass protests began in Ukraine at the end of 2013. The demonstrators called for the resignation of President Yanukovych’s government and new elections, as well as the signing of the already negotiated association agreement between the EU and Ukraine, which Kiev had put under pressure from Moscow. After the protests escalated massively in February 2014, Yanukovych actually responded to essential demands of the opposition. Nevertheless, he did not resign, the central concern of his opponents. Only parliament removed him from power. The annexation of the Crimea was enforced by Russia through covert military intervention. The Federal Government and the European Union therefore speak of an “illegal annexation”.
Putin: Opportunities for cooperation not used
According to the Russian President, the European security system is in a desolate state today. As tensions and the risk of a new arms race mount, enormous opportunities for cooperation are being missed. According to Putin, prosperity and security in Europe are only possible through the combined efforts of all countries, including Russia. His country is “open to fair and creative cooperation”.
From the perspective of the Russian President, there are many common interests such as security, strategic stability, climate and environmental problems. He proposes a “common area of cooperation and security from the Atlantic to the Pacific”, including various integration formats such as the EU and the Eurasian Economic Union – although he does not mention NATO.
Memory of the German attack
The occasion of the guest contribution that the Russian embassy offered to “Zeit” two weeks ago is the 80th anniversary of the attack on the Soviet Union. With around 27 million dead, the Soviet Union suffered more victims than any other country in World War II .
With the attack by the Nazis, the so-called Great Patriotic War began for the Soviet Union – “the bloodiest in the history of our country”. “We are proud of the courage and steadfastness of the heroes of the Red Army and the workers at home, who not only defended the independence and dignity of their fatherland, but also saved Europe and the whole world from enslavement,” writes Putin. At the same time, he pointed out what, in his view, German-Russian reconciliation played a colossal role in European integration after the end of the Cold War.