Lessons of World War II that were never learned

ANDREY BURAVOV
Published 31.08.2019 00:25

Sept. 1st marks 80 years since the start of World War II, which brought catastrophe to many in Europe and around the world. Just the dry statistics of casualties suffered are still shocking: over 55 million people perished during that war and of them, 26.6 million were the Soviet people alone. In global history the eight decades that have passed since then are not that big of a time span and the years have witnessed other events, though less pivotal and dramatic for humankind. Still, this time was enough to realize the presence of the apparent inability and reluctance of the international community, of certain members rather, to study the principal lessons of the tragedy of World War II and of the Cold War that followed.

The main lesson to learn is an imperative to refuse attempts to establish global hegemony, from striving to ensure one's security at the expense of others and for the benefit of unilateral selfish interests, be they narrow and national or for the bloc. It's no less important to refrain from making dividing lines and trying to impose international isolation on selected countries and from resorting to such cynical geopolitical methods as playing countries and people against each other.

These methods mentioned were employed in the years preceding World War II. The facts substantiated by many archived documents, including those kept classified earlier, reveal the efforts of European elites in those days to prevent the aggression of fascist Germany through redirecting it to the East and to the Soviet Union particularly. Those efforts culminated in the signing of the Munich Pact on Germany's annexation of the Sudetenland by the governments of Great Britain and France on Sept. 30, 1938.

Even under those dire circumstances the Soviet government didn't stop trying to build joint alliances with London and Paris and with the involvement of Warsaw, a collective security system whose urgent necessity was revealed after Czechoslovakia was liquidated in March 1939. On purpose the French and British authorities dragged out negotiations, the relevant evidence is available, by putting in the long drawer the Soviet proposals on building a collective security system. Even in the spring and summer of 1939, when it became apparent that there was no way a conflict could be avoided, the Western powers remained naïve enough to believe that the coming war would go around them while continuing to play double games striving to direct Hitler's aggression toward the USSR.

Nevertheless, when the absolute impotence of Soviet-British-French negotiations became apparent and the approximation of Great Britain and France with Germany, on the one hand, while, on the other hand, a military confrontation between the USSR and militarist Japan kept building – under those circumstances Moscow was forced to resort to an exclusive diplomatic combination, though not favorable.

Guided by concerns for Soviet state security, the USSR government agreed in the first days of August 1939 to a suggested Germany proposal to start negotiations and on Aug. 23 signed a treaty of non-aggression similar with the pacts earlier signed by some European countries.

Later, the so-called Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact generated speculations and accusations from certain Western historians and politicians who deliberately took this episode out of context of events experienced in the strife to obscure the shameful episodes of their own history while drawing in black the Soviet Union and now the Russian Federation, its successor. Some of them have proceeded even further by trying more than once to portray the USSR if not as the war perpetrator than as an aggressor comparable to the antihuman fascist military machine.

It would be healthy to remind the so-called experts that Russia and other post-Soviet states made the decisive contribution to the collapse of Hitler's Germany and liberating Europe and the world from Nazism.

Nevertheless, in the second half of the 1930s, a mix of heavy contradictions and geopolitical gambling eventually resulted in the outbreak of a world war tragic for many countries. If the world had managed to unite in efforts in the prewar time, then the numerous casualties suffered in its course would have been avoided.

At the end of the 1980s and beginning of the 1990s, the experienced retirement from the Cold War and its bitter bipolar ideological confrontation rendered unique opportunities for refurbishing European and global architecture on the principals of indivisible and equal security and broad cooperation without dividing lines. Quite logical it seemed to establish the new foundations for security in Europe by means of strengthening the military and political component of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). Russia voiced more than once numerous proposals and initiatives in this regard and remains open to proceed in this direction.

Unfortunately, our Western partners have chosen a different way to further with a confrontation vector of NATO expansion eastwards, closer to the Russian borders. Continuous steps are taken aimed at building spots of instability in post-Soviet regions in proximity to Russia.

For this, a great variety of methods are used, like technologies for "color revolutions" and "unleashing" through force the "frozen conflicts" by puppet leaders. New crises are created by provoking anti-constitutional coups and inspiring open anti-Russia instigations of certain country's governments and groups of people in the countries bound by the centuries-old bonds with Russia and the Russian people. These scenarios particularly have brought, as a result, the August 2008 events in Georgia and developments in Ukraine on the eve of 2013-2014.

In the meantime, Western leaders and political technologists deliberately portray what goes on there in a distorted way, virtually turning everything upside down. Broad-scale information wars are ongoing, the anti-Russia hysteria is loud and the mechanism of unilateral and ungrounded economic sanctions gain working momentum. Russia is alleged to be an aggressor striving to rebuild its military might and recover the USSR's geopolitical hegemony.

Is it Russia and not the U.S. that possesses today a far-reaching network of military bases to control the whole world? Is it Russia and not the U.S. and NATO that increases its military budget year on year? In 2018, the U.S. and NATO military expenditures exceeded 14 and 20 times accordingly to Russia's expenses on military needs.

The Washington administration meticulously works on dismantling all key elements of the global system of control over strategic arms that took decades to build.

Firstly, in 2002 the U.S. left the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABM Treaty) and now more recently the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF Treaty). This dangerous tendency is accompanied by statements of U.S. officials on their readiness to build up nuclear arsenals. In the same line falls the refusal of the U.S. administration to give a start to negotiations on saving the last Russian-U.S. restrictive mechanism on nuclear missiles, the New START Treaty due to expire in February 2021.

It deems that the core of the system problems that negatively affect today the international relations of Russia and certain countries, on the one hand, and U.S. and European countries, on the other, is the latter's belief in their exclusivity, a made-up civilizational superiority and in the unparalleled "traditional Western democratic values."

In order to get out of this deadlock, it's imperative to understand the necessity of having a dialogue of equals, based on the universally recognized norms and principles of international law serving the solid ground for the U.N. that was founded after World War II. Long-lasting success could be gained by means of heading to partnerships of civilizations based on the honorable interaction of different cultures.

A good example of such an honorable interaction is seen today by Russia-Turkey relations. While disagreements and occasionally opposite approaches are present concerning certain regional matters, our countries reveal their readiness for a constructive dialogue of equals and determination to come to terms on the most pertinent issues.

Russia is after confrontation with nobody. On the contrary, we are always open to the broadest possible interaction with every interested party including the U.S., NATO and the EU.

The Russian Federation leadership has acknowledged this more than once. In front of common new challenges and threats, it's imperative to revert to the painstaking effort to create in the Euro-Atlantic and Euro-Asia regions an architecture of equal and indivisible security and mutually beneficial cooperation of sovereign states.

*Consul General of the Russian Federation, Istanbul

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