President Vladimir Putin on keeping the records of the pre-WWII time straight

“Future generations will acknowledge their debt to the Red Army as unreservedly as do we who have lived to witness these proud achievements.”
— Winston Chirchill

At the end of last year the heads of CIS (sans Ukraine) held a summit in St.Petersburg, during which President Vladimir Putin raised a very important of keeping the record of the pre-WWII years straight, especially in light of the EU and the collective West trying to reverse polarities and paint the victim – the USSR – as an aggressor. Like in the caricature below:

Quite a few documents were taken out of the archives and made available to the public for the first time, presenting unrefutable evidence of how Germany was armed by the West for an attack on the USSR, and how the USSR tried every thinkable peaceful venue to stop the war at the bud.

This initiative resulted in, among other things, a documentary film “The Great Unknown War”, which I newly translated. The President also published an article in The National Interest, called The Real Lessons of the 75th Anniversary of World War II with great insights of that not so distant past for the Western “amnesiaside” audience.

Here I want to draw everyone’s attention to Mr. Putin’s speech during that summit, with a few fragments quoted below.

CIS informal summit of December 20, 2019

I was surprised, even somewhat hurt by one of the latest European Parliament resolutions dated September 19, 2019 “on the importance of preserving historical memory for the future of Europe.” We, too, have always strived to ensure the quality of history, its truthfulness, openness and objectivity. I want to emphasise once again that this applies to all of us, because we are to some extent descendants of the former Soviet Union. When they talk about the Soviet Union, they talk about us.

What does it say? According to this paper, the so-called Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact (the foreign ministers of the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany), as they write further, divided Europe and the territories of independent states between two totalitarian regimes, which paved the way for World War II. The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact ‘paved the way to WWII…’ Well, maybe.

In addition, the European parliamentarians are demanding that Russia stop its efforts aimed at distorting historical facts and promoting the thesis that Poland, the Baltic countries and the West really started the war. I do not think we have ever said anything like this, or that any of the above countries were the perpetrators.

Where is the truth after all? I decided to figure this out and asked my colleagues to check the archives. When I started reading them, I found something that I think would be interesting for all of us, because, again, we all come from the Soviet Union.

Here is the first question. We talk about the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact all the time. We repeat this after our European colleagues. This begs the question: was this the only document signed by one of the European countries, back then the Soviet Union, with Nazi Germany? It turns out that this is not at all the case. I will simply give a list of them, if I may.

So, the Declaration on the Non-use of Force between Germany and Poland. This is, in fact, the so-called Pilsudski-Hitler Pact signed in 1934. In essence, this is a non-aggression pact.

Then, the Anglo-German maritime agreement of 1935. Great Britain provided Hitler with an opportunity to have his own Navy, which was illegal for him or, in fact, reduced to a minimum following World War I.

Then, the joint Anglo-German declaration of Chamberlain and Hitler signed on September 30, 1938, which they agreed upon at Chamberlain’s initiative. It said that the signed ‘Munich Agreement, as well as the Anglo-German maritime agreement symbolise…’ and so on. The creation of a legal framework between the two states continued.

That is not all. There is the Franco-German Declaration signed on December 6, 1938 in Paris by the foreign ministers of France and Germany, Bonnet and Ribbentrop.

Finally, the treaty between the Republic of Lithuania and the German Reich signed on March 22, 1939 in Berlin by the foreign minister of Lithuania and Ribbentop to the effect that Klaipeda Territory will reunite with the German Reich.

Then, there was the Nonaggression Treaty between the German Reich and Latvia of June 7, 1939.

Thus, the Treaty between the Soviet Union and Germany was the last in a line of treaties signed by European countries that seemed to be interested in maintaining peace in Europe. Also, I want to note that the Soviet Union agreed to sign this document only after all other avenues had been exhausted and all proposals by the Soviet Union to create a unified security system, in fact, an anti-Nazi coalition in Europe were rejected.

On October 19, 1938, US Ambassador to the UK Joseph Kennedy, the father of future president John Kennedy, gave the following assessment of the Munich Agreement signed between the Western countries, or democracies, and Germany and Italy: It has been my belief for a long time now that it is unproductive and unreasonable on the part of both democracies and dictatorships to emphasise the existing differences between them. They can benefit from working towards resolving their common problems, something that will change relations between them for the better.

Speaking at a League of Nations plenary meeting in September 1938, our Foreign Minister Maxim Litvinov said, “Avoiding a likely war today and getting a sure and universal war tomorrow – and that at the cost of feeding the aggressors’ insatiable appetite and destroying sovereign countries – does not mean acting in the spirit of the League of Nations pact.” That is, the Soviet Union condemned this event.

Another reference to a document. This is a transcript of conversations of May 17, 1939, between representatives of the French and Polish Commands about the possibilities of war in Europe between the Italian-German and Polish-French coalitions. The French Chief of Staff said at a meeting with the Polish Minister of Military Affairs that the overall situation in 1938 offered many more opportunities for opposition to Germany. So what was he talking about? That given a timely response, the war could have been avoided. Meanwhile, during the Nuremberg Trials, Field Marshall Keitel said, when responding to the question of whether Germany would have attacked Czechoslovakia in 1938 if the Western powers had supported Prague, “No. We were not strong enough militarily.” The Munich [agreement] objective was to push Russia out of Europe, gain time and complete the arming of Germany.

The Soviet Union consistently tried to prevent the tragedy of partitioning Czechoslovakia based on its international obligations, including its agreements with France and Czechoslovakia. However, Britain and France preferred to throw a democratic East European country to the Nazis to appease them. And not only that, but also to steer Nazi aspirations eastward. Polandat the time, unfortunately, was instrumental in this. The leaders of the Second Rzeczpospolita did everything they could to resist a collective security system that would include the USSR.

I want to show you another document – a transcript of Adolf Hitler’s conversation with Foreign Minister of Poland Jozef Beck of January 5, 1939. This document is indicative. It is a sort of distillation of the joint policy of the German Reich and Poland on the eve of, in the course of, and after the end of the Czechoslovakia crisis. The content is cynical in its attitude towards neighbouring nations and Europe as a whole. And it clearly illustrates the contours of the Polish-German alliance as a striking force against Russia.

And what kind of people are those who hold such conversations with Hitler? It was them who, while pursuing their mercenary and exorbitantly overgrown ambitions, laid their people, the Polish people, open to attack from Germany’s military machine, and, moreover, generally contributed to the beginning of the Second World War. What else can one think after reading these documents?

And something we also witness today: they desecrate the graves of those who won that war, who gave their lives, including in Europe, while liberating those countries from Nazism.

By the way, it occurred to me that it had nothing to do with Stalin whatsoever. The monuments in Europe were erected to our regular Red Army soldiers, including those who came from currently absolutely independent states established after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. They were ordinary people. Who were these Red Army soldiers? They were mainly farmers and workers, many of whom also suffered from the Stalin regime – some of them were repressed kulaks, some had family members sent to labour camps. These people died as they were liberating the European countries from Nazism. Now memorials to them are being demolished, among other things, so that the facts of a real collusion of some European leaders with Hitler should not surface. This is not revenge on Bolsheviks: they are doing all they can to conceal their own position.

The Soviet Union was trying to the utmost to use every opportunity for establishing an anti-Hitler coalition, held talks with military representatives of France and Great Britain, thus attempting to prevent the outbreak of World War II, but it practically remained alone and isolated. As I have already said, it was the last of the European states concerned that was compelled to sign a non-aggression pact with Hitler.

Yes, there is a classified part on the partitioning of some territory. But we do not know the content of other European countries’ agreements with Hitler. Because while we have de-classified these documents, the Western capitals are still keeping all this classified. We know nothing of their contents. But now we do not need to, because the facts show that there was collusion. In essence, we see the partitioning of a democratic independent state, Czechoslovakia. And the participants in it were not just Hitler but also the then leaders of those countries. It was this that opened the road to the east for Hitler, it was this that became the cause of the outbreak of World War II.

And now a quote from Winston Churchill’s personal message to Joseph Stalin of February 22, 1945. It was on February 22, the eve of the 27th anniversary of the Red Army. Churchill writes that the Red Army celebrates its twenty-seventh anniversary amid triumphs, which have won the unstinted applause of their allies. And I would like to stress the following in connection with the resolution adopted recently by our colleagues in the European Parliament: “Future generations will acknowledge their debt to the Red Army as unreservedly as do we who have lived to witness these proud achievements.” But we see how the present-day generation of European politicians reacts to this.

Here is what Roosevelt wrote to Stalin in 1945, “The continued outstanding achievements of the Red Army together with the all-out effort of the United Nations forces in the South and the West assure the speedy attainment of our common goal—a peaceful world based upon mutual understanding and cooperation.”

And some time later Harry Truman, the new US President, wrote, “We fully appreciate the magnificent contribution made by the mighty Soviet Union to the cause of civilization and liberty. You have demonstrated the ability of a freedom-loving and supremely courageous people to crush the evil forces of barbarism, however powerful.”

First President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev: This must be made public.

Vladimir Putin: We have already made it public. But I just want to put it all together properly and write an article. I want to write an article on this matter.