Day of Remembrance and Sorrow: Vladimir Putin urges Europe "to be open, despite the past"

Day of Remembrance and Sorrow: Vladimir Putin urges Europe "to be open, despite the past"

Today, marking Russia's Day of Remembrance and Sorrow, Russian President Vladimir Putin urged European partners to recognize mistakes of the past and correct them to ensure security on the continent for equitable cooperation for the prosperity of Europe and the world as a whole, according to his article entitled Being Open, Despite the Past, uploaded to the Kremlin's website on Tuesday.

"On June 22, 1941, exactly 80 years ago, the Nazis, having conquered practically the whole of Europe, attacked the USSR. For the Soviet people the Great Patriotic War - the bloodiest one in the history of our country - began. Tens of millions of people lost their lives, the economic potential of the country and its cultural property were severely damaged," Putin recalled.

"We are proud of the courage and steadfastness of the heroes of the Red Army and home front workers, who not only defended the independence and dignity of our homeland, but also saved Europe and the world from enslavement. We hold sacred the memory of the heroes, who fought against Nazism," he stressed.

"Despite attempts to rewrite the pages of the past that are being made today, the truth is that Soviet soldiers came to Germany not to take revenge on the Germans, but with a noble and great mission of liberation," he said.

He pointed out: "We remember with gratitude our allies in the anti-Hitler coalition, participants in the Resistance movement, and German anti-fascists, who brought our common victory closer".

"Having lived through the horrors of the world war, the peoples of Europe were nevertheless able to overcome alienation and restore mutual trust and respect. They set a course for integration in order to draw a final line under the European tragedies of the first half of the last century," Putin believes. "The historical reconciliation of our people with the Germans living both in the east and the west of modern united Germany played a huge role in the formation of such Europe".

Putin stressed that "it was German entrepreneurs, who became 'pioneers' of cooperation with our country in the post-war years".

"In 1970, the USSR and the Federal Republic of Germany concluded a 'deal of the century' on long-term natural gas supplies to Europe that laid the foundation for constructive interdependence and initiated many future grand projects, including the construction of the Nord Stream gas pipeline," Putin noted.

"We hoped that the end of the Cold War would be a common victory for Europe. It seemed that just a little more effort was needed to make Charles de Gaulle's dream of a single continent - not even geographically 'from the Atlantic to the Urals', but culturally and civilizationally 'from Lisbon to Vladivostok' - become a reality," Putin believes.

"It is exactly with this logic in mind - the logic of building a Greater Europe united by common values and interests - that Russia has sought to develop its relations with the Europeans. Both Russia and the EU have done a lot on this path," he writes. "But a different approach has prevailed. It was based on the expansion of the North Atlantic Alliance, which was itself a relic of the Cold War. After all, it was specifically created for the confrontation of that era. It was the bloc's movement eastwards - which, by the way, began, when the Soviet leadership was actually persuaded to accept united Germany's accession to NATO - that turned into the main reason for the rapid increase in mutual mistrust in Europe. Verbal promises made in that time such as 'this is not directed against you' or 'the bloc's borders will not get closer to you' were quickly forgotten. But a precedent was set".

The state coup in Ukraine in 2014 that split the country and prompted Crimea’s withdrawal was organized by the United States and only tentatively supported by European states. "Why did the USA organize the coup, and the European countries weak-heartedly support it, provoking a split within Ukraine and the withdrawal of Crimea?" Putin remarked, speaking about the 2014 events.

Speaking generally about the situation on the European continent after the end of the Cold War period and the NATO expansion, Putin pointed out that "many countries were put before the artificial choice of being either with the collective West or with Russia". "In fact, it was an ultimatum," the Russian leader stressed.

As the Russian president noted, the Ukrainian tragedy of 2014 is an example of "the consequences that this aggressive policy has led to".

"Europe actively supported the unconstitutional armed coup in Ukraine. This was where it all started. Why was it necessary to do this? Then incumbent president [of Ukraine Viktor] Yanukovych had already accepted all the demands of the opposition," Putin said.

Putin noted that NATO expansion eastwards and the former Soviet Union republics’ joining it dashed hopes for a continent without dividing lines. "Since 1999, five more "waves" of NATO expansion have followed. Fourteen new countries, including the former Soviet Union republics, joined the organization, effectively dashing hopes for a continent without dividing lines," the Russian leader said in the article.

This was warned about in the mid-1980s by Egon Bahr, one of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) leaders, who proposed a radical restructuring of the entire European security system after German unification, involving both the USSR and the United States, Russian President noted. "But no one in the USSR, the USA or Europe was willing to listen to him at the time," he added.

The Russian president pointed out that the system of European security had deteriorated significantly, and that the risks of a new arms race were becoming more real. "Why does this happen? And most importantly, what conclusions should we draw together? What lessons of history should we recall?" he asked.

"I think, first and foremost, that the entire post-war history of Greater Europe confirms that prosperity and security of our common continent is only possible through the joint efforts of all countries, including Russia. Because Russia is one of the largest countries in Europe. And we are aware of our inseparable cultural and historical connection to Europe," Putin wrote.

He noted that the common goal of the countries of the world is to ensure security without dividing lines, to create a single space for equal cooperation and universal development.

"Our common and indisputable goal is to ensure security on the continent without dividing lines, a common space for equitable cooperation and inclusive development for the prosperity of Europe and the world as a whole,"  the Russian leader wrote.

He drew attention to the fact that the world is developing dynamically, facing new challenges and threats. "We simply cannot afford to carry the burden of past misunderstandings, hard feelings, conflicts, and mistakes," Putin believes.

According to the Russian President, this burden will interfere with solving urgent problems. "We are convinced that we all should recognize these mistakes and correct them," Putin said.

He noted that the risks of a new arms race are becoming real amid the degrading European security system. "The whole system of European security has now degraded significantly. Tensions are rising and the risks of a new arms race are becoming real," the Russian leader stressed.

The sides are missing out on the tremendous opportunities that cooperation offers, Putin said.

"This is all the more important now that we are all facing common challenges, such as the pandemic and its dire social and economic consequences," the Russian president stressed.

"We are open to honest and constructive interaction. This is confirmed by our idea of creating a common space of cooperation and security from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean, which would comprise various integration formats, including the European Union and the Eurasian Economic Union," he noted.

According to Putin, Russia is open to honest and constructive cooperation with Europe, and it calls for the recovery of a comprehensive partnership with it. "I reiterate that Russia is in favour of restoring a comprehensive partnership with Europe. We have many topics of mutual interest. These include security and strategic stability, healthcare and education, digitalization, energy, culture, science and technology, resolution of climate and environmental issues," the Russian leader said in the article.

"The world is a dynamic place, facing new challenges and threats. We simply cannot afford to carry the burden of past misunderstandings, hard feelings, conflicts, and mistakes. It is a burden that will prevent us from concentrating on the challenges at hand. We are convinced that we all should recognize these mistakes and correct them. Our common and indisputable goal is to ensure security on the continent without dividing lines, a common space for equitable cooperation and inclusive development for the prosperity of Europe and the world as a whole," Vladimir Putin concluded.