Voices from Russia

Saturday, 12 July 2008

A View from Moscow by Valentin Zorin… Lessons of History

Pyotr Krivonogov. Victory! 1948


Pyotr Krivonogov



The world is celebrating an anniversary of the most important event in modern history, the victory over Nazi Germany. Had it not been for that victory, the inhuman leaders of the barbarous Third Reich would’ve been able to carry out their plans, and the world would’ve looked much different, and there would’ve been neither democracy nor human rights nor freedom nor equality of nations to talk of nowadays. Many nations paid a dear price for that victory over global evil. My country lost, only in combat casualties, twenty-two million human lives. Millions of men and women died in Nazi concentration camps, or succumbed to hunger and disease at home. Thousands upon thousands of American, British, and French soldiers never returned from the battlefield. Two future US Presidents, naval officer John F Kennedy and torpedo-plane pilot George H W Bush, fought as heroes in that war. A third President of the USA, Allied commander Dwight D Eisenhower, was one of very few people to win the highest military order of Russia.

The innumerable sacrifices on the altar of Allied victory keep us from forgetting the everlasting lessons of a global tragedy. The military power of the Nazi régime was so great that it couldn’t be defeated by any nation single-handedly. To be able to join forces to save human civilisation, the Allied nations had to rise above their ideological and political differences and shake off, for the sake of their great goal, the burden of outdated habits and stereotypes. Difficult and novel as it was, they did it. US President Franklin D Roosevelt played a special role in that truly historic endeavour. It took incredible wisdom to lead humanity away from the brink of the abyss and win victory in the Allied effort against Nazism. Today, I only wish that the leaders of the post-war years had shown enough wisdom and farsightedness for a continued quest for coöperation and mutual understanding.

It makes little sense to wonder who fired the first shot in the standoff that came to be known as the Cold War. Every warring party had a role to play, but there’s no doubt whatsoever that the international community, taken as a whole, stood to lose in that infamous conflict. At a certain point, the leading nations seemed to wake up to that sad truth. I attended the Gorbachyov-Bush Sr rendezvous aboard a Soviet vessel anchored off the coast of Malta in December 1989. The two national leaders agreed to write finis to the Cold War. They declared no one won it. Nor, they said, had anyone lost it. So, they also said, it was time to promote bona fidé coöperation between our countries. Let me point out in passing that US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice openly admitted that they made all those declarations. However, her admission doesn’t keep her and her teammates from doing things that reverse the message of the Malta meeting.

The historical process confronts the world with new and fatally dangerous problems that do what those of sixty years ago did. They cry out for international unity, because no country, powerful as it may be, is capable of settling them single-handedly. The 9/11 events shook America and the rest of the world; the bomb explosions in Moscow and other cities of Russia, the loss of life in the London Underground, the acts of railroad sabotage in Spain, al-Qaeda’s moves in Afghanistan and the Middle East, all those things prove that international terrorism poses a big threat to the global community of nations. No smaller is the looming threat of environmental disaster. It isn’t only human civilisation, but life on this planet that’s threatened by it. The spread of hunger throughout the world and the loss of millions of lives in epidemics of hitherto-unknown diseases are but some of the horrible threats of the early 21st century.

That no one country is capable of meeting the existing threats entirely on its own is as clear as it was when the sinister Berlin-Rome-Tokyo axis was plotting its criminal action. There’s no time better than now for a glance at the lessons of the Great Victory and at the international unity that repaired seemingly irreparable rifts, shook off outdated stereotypes, and rejected politically biased plans that hindered efforts to meet those threats. Lessons of history can’t and mustn’t be forgotten. It’s necessary to accept and learn them.

8 May 2008

Valentin Zorin

A View from Moscow

Voice of Russia World service



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