The 60th anniversary of the victory over Nazism was commemorated in Moscow on May 9th. [1] The celebrations were supposed to bring together the leaders of all nations at war but the presidents of Estonia, Lithuania and Georgia refused to participate. It is a new expression of international tensions in the former Soviet region in which Russia and the United States are involved in what Zbigniew Brzezinski has called a new “big game” and, in this game, history - or its interpretation rather - occupies a privileged place as an element of legitimization.
Media has reported these historic controversies, however, only few media outlets note that the viewpoints of each part are not only the expression of their perception of World War II but also the expression of myths that justify current strategies. Thus, in the Atlantist circles, it is customary to make emphasis on Stalinist crimes and the Soviet-German Pact, while the supporters of a Paris-Berlin-Moscow coalition recall the importance of the sacrifice of the Russian people during the war against Nazism and highlight that the Soviet domination could not be compared to that of Hitler.

George W. Bush expressed his vision of the world conflict during his visit to Latvia last week. For the American president, World War II was a result of the Soviet-German Pact signed to the detriment of the Baltic nations. After that, these countries were submitted to the Stalinist regime due to the Yalta accords that, according to Bush, represented a shameful renunciation for the United States.

However, Washington soon realized its mistake and continued its struggle for democracy through the Cold War. Eventually, the United States triumphed in Europe with the collapse of the Soviet Union and will not take long to win in the Middle East by establishing democracies in the region.

This reinterpretation of events tends to put Nazism, Communism and Islamism at the same level to make the United States look like the ultimate freedom fighter. In the first place, it takes advantage of the ethnocentric vision of the Europeans who interpret World War II without taking into account its extension to the East, since the invasion of Manchuria in 1931. In addition, it ignores European realities such as the re-militarization of Renania (Rheinland), the war of Spain, the Anchluss and, above all, the Conference of Munich and the destruction of Czechoslovakia as well as the invasion of Albania.

So, they set the starting point of the war in the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact through which Poland was shared out between the USSR and the Reich, thus trying to ignore that this Pact was a response to the Munich Accords and the distribution of Czechoslovakia. All these tricky moves free the Baltic countries, currently Atlantist nations, from any cooperation with the Reich. They also try to caricature the Yalta Conference to discredit the principle of multilateralism and minimize the role of Roosevelt, whose economic policy was the antithesis of George W. Bush’s, and they magnify Truman’s willingness to wage the Cold War to justify the current war against terrorism. Finally, the collapse of the Soviet Union is presented a military victory of the United States that put an end to the Cold War and served as a warning to Vladimir Putin, who is regarded as someone tempted to re-establish the Soviet monster.

The president of Latvia, Vaira Vike-Freiberga, clearly supports this myth in Der Tagesspiegel and then, with some retouching in her argument, in the Washington Post and in the Gulf News. She affirms that Russia has not given up its intention to honor Stalin and adds that her country has learned to look past in the face: Latvia was not liberated in 1945 but it was re-occupied by the Soviets. However, she does not dare to go so far like in her country where she publishes a history-negation manual and approves demonstrations by former members of the SS.
Let us point out that this falsification uses real elements masking their context. It is true that Stalin martyred Baltic populations but did not submit them to a special treatment. He submitted them to the same horrors than the other Soviet peoples. In addition, it is false to affirm that the Baltic nations were occupied by the USSR. Actually, these countries first approached the Reich and then, through free elections and majority changes, they were governed by Communists who asked to be legally joined to Soviet Union.
Based on Bush’s interpretation of Yalta, that is, considering multilateralism as a weakness in front of totalitarian states, Georgian President Mijail Saakashvili recommends in the Washington Post to organize a new conference of Yalta that would definitely erase the previous one and would bring together the “new democracies”. In this text, of course, he refers to his country and also to Ukraine and Romania. The three of them should participate in the “spreading of the democracy” that Washington wants not only in Belarus but also beyond Europe, that is, Cuba or Zimbabwe.

The first Yalta was the US’s acknowledgement of the USSR’s weight in the post-war world. This one would be the affirmation of the absolute world dominance of the United States, for everyone’s sake.

Of course, General Wojciech Jaruzelski, a former Polish leader, does not share this Atlantist viewpoint. In Die Welt, he explains why he would participate in the ceremonies to commemorate the victory against Fascism, in Moscow. As a former combatant of the Great Patriotic War, as they call World War II in the East, Jaruzelski thanks the Soviets for having saved Poland from the destruction planned by the Nazis, even after a term in prison in the heart of the Soviet system.

This opinion is also supported by former Belgian minister Guy Spitaels and journalists Jean-Marie Chauvier and Vladimir Caller in La Libre Belgique. The authors denounce the historic lies presented by part of western media. In their opinion, today there is a movement that relies on the historiography of the Cold War that tends to minimize the weight of the USSR in the victory against Nazism and which tries to rehabilitate groups who collaborated with Hitler. They note that Russia’s sacrifice has to be acknowledged and add that it is necessary not to yield to this tendency that develops from Riga to Kiev.

In a long article for the French public published by Le Figaro, Vladimir Putin presents his own version of that period and the lessons he takes for our times. The Russian president recalls that his country was the first victim of the war and that victory over Nazism would have not been possible without the USSR. He condemns the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact as much as the Munich Accords. In his opinion, both accords have the same logic that consists of reaching an agreement with the enemy instead of facing it; a catastrophic decision that should never be made again. As to Yalta, he considers that those accords did not cause the division of Europe, which was the result of the international tensions that came later. On the contrary, Yalta provided an opportunity to establish cooperation among the powers to avoid new wars. Finally, he rejects the arguments of those who say that Russia refuses to recognize its own mistakes. He says it is a maneuver by the Baltic countries to hide the rehabilitation of Nazism. Vladimir Putin thinks that the Europeans must remember the lessons of the past: the only way to resist the threats is not to hide in the face of danger, to build strong systems of collective defense, not to ignore aggressions against other nations and, above all, to reject any doctrines that extol the domination of a people by another in the name of race or religion. Finally, he urges Europeans to create an alliance whose pillars would be in Moscow, Paris and Berlin. It is hard not to see, between lines, as call to create an alliance against the United States and against the American willingness to provoke a “clash of civilizations” that is implicitly compared with the Nazi threat. The message is clear: this time there will not be any Munich Accord or Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact when the threat becomes clear.
Just before the publication of this text, French President Jaques Chirac, in an interview with Izvestia, referred to France’s debt to Russia. Chirac sees with delight a Russian-French alliance and openly refers to Vladimir Putin as a personal friend. However, he does not go beyond than his Russian counterpart as to the dangers to face in the future. The visit of the French president was symbolically marked by the inauguration of a statue of General De Gaulle in Moscow, an activity that marked the Russian-French alliance.
_Considering the different role that his country played during World War II, German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder develops another opinion in Komsomolskaia Pravda, but he reaches the same conclusion than his allies. He apologizes to the Russians for all the suffering caused by the Nazis and refers to May 9 as a day of repentance for his country. He notes that Russia and Germany share a totalitarian past, that they are learning and he leans on this similarities to praise the strength of bilateral commercial relations established in recent years.

In the United States, George W. Bush’s visit to the Baltic countries, Russia and Georgia, has reactivated the debate about relations with Moscow. The Los Angeles Times news daily, gives the floor to two analysts. For Michael McFaul, an expert of the NED/CIA, the solution is simple: the United States should cooperate with Russia in several security issues while it prepares the overthrow of Vladimir Putin or his successor on the occasion of the Russian presidential election in 2008. In this case, it would be necessary to implement the same methods as in Serbia, Georgia and Ukraine. From now on, it is necessary to begin helping the Russian “democrats” and to lean on the Georgians and the Ukrainians. However, for Eugene B. Rumer, a former US national security advisor for the USSR, this strategy can not work: Putin is too much popular, the population unanimously condemns the US-inspired reforms of the 1990s and the Russian do not trust in Washington’s interference. So, they have to give up changing Russia and have to accept it as it is and try to have with that country the best relationship possible.
Aware of the fact that the hostility of the Russian population against Washington obstructs any possibility of an American action, the president of the Nixon Center, Dimitri Simes, tries to calm down the Russians in Komsomolskaia Pravda. He thinks that there are people in Washington who want to use Georgia and Ukraine against Russia while the leaders of those countries want to use those people to obtain political advantages in exchange for their loyalty. However, that is not the policy of the White House and things should not be mixed. According to the author, George W. Bush wants Moscow and Washington to cooperate.
Ironically, as he continues to accuse Russia for re-establishing its Stalinist past, it is precisely an American leader who uses the trick of the good prince and the bad advisors, so often seen in totalitarian regimes that practice personality cult.

[1The establishment of historic dates is an ideological challenge itself. In this case, the end of World War II was not commemorated but the victory over Nazism. The capitulation of the Reich was signed on May 7th, 1945 in Reims; the combats ended on May 8th and, the same day, the capitulation was ratified in the Soviet headquarters in Berlin. The Western Europeans declared the end of the war the day after the signing (that is, on May 8th), while the Soviets declared the war over the day after the ratification (that is, May 9th). Eisenhower represented the United States in Reims and thus declared the “Victory in Europe” on May 8th. Nevertheless, they extended the combats in Asia so that they could have enough time to show their nuclear power, occupy Japan and settle themselves in the Philippines. So, it was not until December 31st, 1946, that President Truman declared the end of hostilities.