An article in the US magazine The National Interest published on 19 June became a certain noticeable event about the article ‘The Actual Lessons of 75 Anniversary of the World War II’ written by Vladimir Putin. This text surprised and even arouse resentment in the Baltic States and Poland, because the article repeated the Soviet interpretation of the events in 1939-1945 verbatim and even took things a step forward. For instance, V. Putin actually blamed Poland for the beginning of the World War II. However, some political analysts noticed that this article, although it was presented as contemplations about the past, told a lot about the current attempts of the Kremlin to escape from international isolation. Let’s discuss some aspects related to that.
Under Cover of History
We can relate the emergence of the discussed article also with an attempt of the Kremlin to take revenge on actually postponed celebration of the Victory Day. Moscow had to postpone it because of the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. We can remind that now a traditional parade of the Victory Day has to take place in the Red Square on 24 June. I have already written that the Kremlin would in no way give up a possibility to make use of 75 years anniversary against the Nazi Germany for a broader spread of propaganda. We can consider the current V. Putin’s article as another element of this process.
In the article the President of Russia (of course, he hardly wrote the article himself, but most probably he approved it personally) produced ‘all truth’ about factors that resulted in World War II. We can say that the goal of this article was to shed off the responsibility of the Soviet Union and diminish significance of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact and spread as more of responsibility on others. Finally, the USSR played the role of the only country that was seeking peace in Europe. In his article V. Putin also ‘established’ the crucial role of the Soviet Union in the victory against Germany. The number of victims of the USSR in this war was a real argument.
V. Putin was not lazy and draw some attention to occupation of the Baltic States. Of course, he did not call this ‘occupation’. On the contrary, the President of Russia told that the USSR incorporated Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia according to ‘international legal rules of that time’. He also cynically emphasized that the Soviet Union ‘had its authorities’ in the Baltic States and could uphold national languages, etc. In other words, he repeated the same Soviet version of history, as I’ve already mentioned.
We can say that V. Putin in his article interpreted history in a quite free way and expressly manipulated in historical narratives. The past was presented in the way the Kremlin wants to see it. Besides, it is obvious, that it wishes others to believe in such a historical story.
Actually, there is one episode in the history that V. Putin forgot to mention in his text – i.e. the war of the Soviet Union with Finland in 1939-1940. To be exact, the obvious aggression of Moscow against it neighbour. By the way, the Soviet Union then was excluded from the League of Nations just because of that aggression. It seems that V. Putin didn’t manage to interweave this episode to the narrative advantageous to Moscow.
It is not by accident that this text actually is not just about the past, but about the present. At the end of the article V. Putin instigated the current great countries to sit at one table again and agree about the world order by appealing to the post-war meetings of the great countries. This is a dream that the Kremlin has been cherishing for years. It invites five greatest countries to sit at one table – permanent members of the United Nations Security Council that have a nuclear arsenal. Besides Russia it includes China, the USA, France and the United Kingdom. Actually, V. Putin demonstrates that he is ready to talk at different levels with these four countries. Probably this is the most interesting aspect hiding behind the article.
On one hand, V. Putin’s text may be considered as an attempt of the Kremlin to evaluate the vision of its history. The text is obviously dedicated to the Western auditorium, first of all to the USA. On the other hand, this article may be also considered as a particular cry of despair and an attempt to get out of the situation that Moscow found itself as a result of annexation of the Crimean Peninsula in 2014 and continuation of dangerous hybrid games in the east of Ukraine. The dream of the Kremlin is to agree with the West by retaining the achieved positions. V. Putin would like to sit at the table with other leaders of the great countries and agree the post-Soviet area to be recognized as the zone of particular interest of Russia where Moscow could do anything it wants. Luckily, in the contemporary world such things are probable only in the sick fantasies of the current leader of Russia.
We should also draw your attention to the publication, which published discussion of V. Putin’s text. As it was mentioned above, this was the magazine The National Interest that is printed by the Center for the National Interest. The mentioned analytical center was established in 1994 by the US President Richard Nixon. Currently, Dimitri Simes is managing this center. A hot aspect is that the mentioned person was mentioned many times in the so-called prosecutor’s Mueller’s investigation (we can remind of the investigation that was conducted in regards to attempts of Russia to make influence on US presidential elections in 2016). D. Simes is well-known in the USA as a lobbyist of the Kremlin and the agent of the current interest of Russia. Mass media that is controlled by Russia particularly like him as a ‘political analyst’.
By the way, Dmitry Peskov, spokesman of the President of Russia told that The National Interest was chosen for the article of V. Putin, because they wanted to focus ‘only on a solid publication that is read by respectable and intelligent people’. However, in the United States the reputation of The National Interest is quite ambiguous and it is directly related to the mentioned reputation of D. Simes. Therefore, most probably, we should not over-rate the influence of V. Putin’s article.
On the other hand, maybe President of Russia and members of his team were hoping that thoughts about new division of spheres of influence in the world in this way would reach the most radical and conservative part of the US society and President Donald Trump though them. Finally, he is one of those that V. Putin would like to draw new lines of interests in Europe and more widely – in the world.
The content of the President of Russia V. Putin’s article actually is quite trivial. The fact that the Kremlin returned namely to the Soviet interpretation of the discussed historical period some time ago was obvious. The opinion about occupation of the Baltic States in 1940 that was mentioned in the text also complies with the narrative that currently Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russia was ‘pushing’. Of course, this text might convince a reader from the West who has not much knowledge about aspects of the pre-war history; however in our countries manipulation principle of interpretation of historical events that was used in the article is obvious.
Of course, the Kremlin is trying to use the 75th anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany for its own interests. It would be strange if it did not try to do so. Besides, it has been done in order to improve the current situation of Russia in international politics. The Kremlin believes that the attitude of the West to international relations actually is cynical and ‘realistic’ and it means that they can reach an agreement in regards to Crimea and Ukraine (I would say that it is a most sore point of Moscow, taking into consideration a certain international isolation and sanctions imposed on Russia). This article is actually a signal to the West (first of all, to the USA) that the Kremlin wants to negotiate – in a similar way as it negotiated in Yalta in 1944. However, the world has changed in seventy years time, thus nobody (even China) rushes to the negotiation table and start negotiations with V. Putin.