I give thanks for the possibility of directly addressing the French public opinion just before the 60th anniversary of the victory over Nazism. This date is still sacred today because it was when our peoples united against Nazism. Today, democracy, freedom, justice and humanism are the values that bind us in the construction of a safe and civilized world.

Nazism was the worst monstrosity. For our people, and for others, losing a battle meant losing our national sovereignty, it meant ceasing to exist as a nation, and it meant physical extermination. For the first time, the peoples joined against a global danger. That war of good against evil had to be won and it was. Victory was achieved at the cost of dozens of millions of dead Soviets. All Russian families lost at least a member. The Russian people fought during four endless years, they freed their territory in 1944 and, later, the territory of 11 other nations with one million soldiers giving their lives. In the Eastern front, the Nazis suffered 75% of their casualties. France and its resistance significantly contributed to victory and their actions forced the Nazis to keep troops in France that they would have preferred to send to the Eastern front. Russia appreciates the way in which France recognizes the role played by the USSR in the victory over the Nazi plague. The Russian people, and also all the peoples of the former Soviet Union, express their appreciation of the French who fought Nazism. In France, General De Gaulle was a symbol of this struggle and we will unveil a statue in his honor in Moscow on May 9th.

We also thank our allies for their help in sending supplies and the opening of a second front. The fight against Hitler gave birth to the United Nations. Our parents and grandparents shared the weight of war but not the victory in 1945. We do not share it today either. World War II was won by all the allies of the anti-Hitlerian coalition and by the German anti-fascists. It is a common celebration. Victory Day belongs to every one of us.

Just before the 60th anniversary that we are going to celebrate, researchers and historians again study the causes and the stages of World War II. The important thing is not only the historic analysis but also the moral lessons that we can draw from it. When the Nazis developed their power in Germany and prepared the aggression against their neighbors, the idea of a common alliance emerged in Paris and in Moscow. Nonetheless, faced with the threat, the possibility of establishing defense mechanisms was replaced by the imaginary hope of staying “under cover”.

It was the same logic that led to the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact and the Munich Accords. Soviet leaders believed that Munich was not only about the dismemberment of Czechoslovakia but also about isolating the USSR. In 1989, the USSR’s Supreme Soviet, the legislative body of the country, offered a precise legal and moral assessment of the Molotov-Ribbentrop. Our neighbors of the Baltic know it well but they keep demanding a sort of “repentance” from Russia. These demands lack foundation and their only purpose is ignoring discriminatory policies, their past of collaboration with the Nazis and the rehabilitation of the SS in those countries. Russia is ready to discuss with the Baltic countries always taking into account the realities of today and not the complexes of yesterday.

In order to understand what is happening today, it would be convenient to review what happened in Yalta in 1945. I am totally convinced of the fact that the leaders of the anti-Hitlerian coalition were trying to create a new international system that would obstruct the re-birth of Nazism. The UN was founded with this purpose. Historians may argue the decisions made at that time but they can not forget that those were collective decisions that were made taking into account the problems of those times. In that case, the historic paradox is that the system that was born in Yalta rested upon an agreement of the anti-Hitlerian coalition and at the same time it marked the beginning of a geo-political rivalry and a competition among “superpowers”. However, the Yalta accords created certain balance that allowed avoiding a confrontation. With respect to Germany, the USSR had asked to maintain only one state but it was the Cold War that led to its division. No one can have any doubts about the important role our country played in the peaceful reunification of Germany.

Russia, Germany and France today constitute the main positive element of international and European dialogue. I am convinced of the fact that the Great Europe, united from the Atlantic to the Urals - and in fact to the Pacific Ocean -, whose existence rests on universal democratic principles, represents an exceptional opportunity for all countries of the continent.

May 8th and 9th were declared by the United Nations as days of Reconciliation and Memory. It is time to reconcile the men who fought at both sides of the front line as it is also time to unite all nations in the fight against new challenges, against terrorism, against ideological doctrines based on racism and xenophobia. Only mutual trust, solidarity and cooperation of all the world community can do away with these threats. The dramatic events of the 1930s and the 1940s of the 20th century are a warning for us all, a warning against the repetition of the errors of the past, against the illusion that we can get rid of the evil “at the expense of the neighbor”. That demands that history manuals be objective.

To conclude, I wish to send to the French people, and particularly to the veterans of that war, my warmest greetings on the occasion of Victory Day. I wish you all health, happiness and prosperity.

Le Figaro (France)
Circulation: 350 000 copies. Property of Socpresse (founded by Robert Hersant, it is owned today by planes manufacturer Serge Dassault). This is the reference journal of the French right.

" Les leçons de la victoire sur le nazisme ", by Vladimir Putin, Le Figaro, May 7, 2005.