May 11, 2005
BUSH IN EUROPE: CONTINUING HIS 'WORLD MISSION FOR DEMOCRACY'
** Conservative papers praise Bush's "commitment to freedom in Moscow's backyard."
** "Deteriorating" U.S.-Russia ties are now "based on realism tinged with cynicism."
** Euro dailies decry Putin's "dubious view of the past."
** Skeptics dismiss comparisons between freedom in East Europe and the "Iraq experience."
An 'interventionist foreign policy'-- Supportive dailies backed Bush's "enthusiasm to embrace" the new democracies of Eastern Europe. They judged the trips to Latvia and Georgia a "political and diplomatic success" for Washington's "new order," based on an "unrelenting faith in democracy," that "overturns the canons of internationalist realism." Canada's leading Globe and Mail welcomed this "admirable vision of promoting democracy and confronting tyranny," and Italy's center-right Il Giornale hailed U.S. "encouragement for democratic revolutions" to "isolate or neutralize tyrannical regimes." Numerous analysts concluded that "freedom is on the march" worldwide.
'Tensions and disputes' likely-- Other papers decried Bush's "program to humiliate" Putin and alleged the U.S. is "repeatedly provoking" Moscow by trying to "squeeze Russia's strategic space." France's regional Les Derniers Nouvelles D'Alsace stated that "tensions with Russia are useless." Euro outlets noted Russia's "lost grandeur"; Lithuania's independent Veidas described Russia as an "elderly lady who hides her fatigue under thick makeup." Critics of Putin blasted the "authoritarianism of today's Russia" and regretted the EU's failure to affirm the U.S.' "firm language in favor of democracy" in Russia. Hungary's center-left Nepszabadsag assailed the "renaissance" of "Russian nationalism with a Soviet flavor" under Putin.
Stalin's 'unparalleled harshness and cruelty'-- Euro outlets balked at "Czar Vladimir I's" praise for the "shameful" Soviet past and urged Russia to embark on a "honest and critical historical analysis." Austria's centrist Die Presse called on Russians to admit Stalin was a "monstrous tyrant" and Poland's centrist Rzeczpospolita added that Putin "falsified history." These papers contrasted Bush's "recognition of errors" by the U.S. at Yalta with Putin's "Soviet--or even Stalinist--version of history." Euro commentators did "salute the courage and valor" of Russians in World War II; the center-left Irish Times expressed "gratitude and awe" for Russia's struggle.
A 'bogus line of argument'-- Leftist media dismissed Bush's attempt to draw a "direct line from the Second World War to his view of current events." Britain's Guardian concluded that Bush's "subtext was Baghdad 2003" in an effort to "lump together the epochal turmoil" of World War II with the plan to boost global democracy. Germany's Sueddeutsche Zeitung refused to accept this link to the "distortions of the Iraq war." The UAE's expatriate-oriented Gulf Today concluded, this "occasion to honor the war dead has given Bush an opportunity" to imply that a long-term U.S. military presence is necessary in Iraq "until the 'liberation' is complete."
Prepared by Media Reaction Branch (202) 203-7888, email@example.com
EDITOR: Ben Goldberg
EDITOR'S NOTE: Media Reaction reporting conveys the spectrum of foreign press sentiment. Posts select commentary to provide a representative picture of local editorial opinion. Some commentary is taken directly from the Internet. This report summarizes and interprets foreign editorial opinion and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Government. This analysis was based on 92 reports from 30 countries over 4 - 11 May, 2005. Editorial excerpts are listed from the most recent date.
BRITAIN: "Stalin's Long Shadow"
An editorial in the conservative Daily Telegraph read (5/10): "In his choice of European itinerary, Latvia and Georgia as well as the Netherlands and Russia, Mr. Bush has underlined his commitment to freedom in Moscow's backyard. At the same time, Poland and the Baltic three have demanded that Russia apologise for the Soviet occupation. Mr. Putin regards the westwards extension of Russian dominance after 1945 as a liberation rather than an occupation. From a former KGB officer who believes that the collapse of the Soviet Union was 'the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century', such obtuseness is not surprising."
"Berlin, Baghdad And A Bogus Line Of Argument"
An editorial in the left-of-center Independent read (5/9): "It suits Mr. Bush to lump together the epochal turmoil of a world war--which was no war of choice for the Europeans who resisted Nazi Germany--with the largely peaceful transition to democracy of the countries held in thrall to Soviet communism, and the electoral processes in train in places such as Palestine, Lebanon and Egypt. And Iraq is seen through the same prism as just one more achievement for democracy and freedom along the way"
The left-of-center Guardian maintained (5/9): "True liberation for western Europe meant the imposition of Soviet rule in the east--hence the current row between the Baltic states and Russia. But was the US really guilty of appeasement in the Yalta carve-up (and the long nuclear standoff of the cold war) as Mr. Bush implied? The president was talking about Berlin 1945, but his subtext was Baghdad 2003. Yet there is no epic grand alliance onslaught that will topple today's tyrants in the manner of 1945."
FRANCE: "Between Emotion And Stiffness"
Dominique Moisi wrote in regional Ouest France (5/10): “A mixture of emotion and stiffness characterized yesterday’s ceremonies in Moscow.... It was legitimate for world leaders to be present in Moscow. Russian veterans deserved the tribute, as well as our admiration and our gratitude.... But celebrating the past must not hide the realities of the present or our concerns for the future.... While part of Europe, following France and Germany, seems ready to accept Putin’s game and the re-writing of history, it is not the case for President Bush’s America. By starting his visit to the former Soviet Union with Riga and ending it with Tbilisi, President Bush’s intention was to send a clear message to the world in general and Putin in particular. Liberty and democracy are on the march.... Today, in Tbilisi, over one hundred thousand people will celebrate President Bush’s visit, seeing it as a sign of their liberation and their defiance of Moscow. Europe needs to hear their message, in the interest of Russia and the Russians.”
Left-of-center Le Monde opined (5/10): “Commemorations are meant to celebrate history, they are not meant for soul searching.... This would have been the case in Moscow except for the fact that several leaders from Baltic countries decided to break with the politically correct.... President Bush proved in his speech in Riga that recognizing one’s errors could not be a one-way street. Having acknowledged that racial segregation was a shameful episode of U.S. history, he also regretted Roosevelt’s acceptance of Yalta’s division of Europe...as well as the fact that Americans sacrificed the right to freedom for the weakest in the name of international stability, or more precisely for an illusion of stability. His visit to Georgia, where the Americans have been active in the election of Saakashvili, is part of this new policy. The U.S., under the leadership of President Bush, is not a nation prone to the status quo but an advocate of democratic change. The Iraqi experience demonstrates that this is also a risky policy. Nevertheless, we regret that the EU, in its relations with Moscow, does not speak in the same firm language in favor of democracy.”
Pierre Rousselin wrote in right-of-center Le Figaro (5/9): “The visit of President Bush to Moscow...is taking place in a tense atmosphere. The American President first chose to visit the Baltics, at the risk of alienating Putin.... Germany has recognized its crimes, just as Japan has newly done vis-a-vis the Chinese. Why does Russia have such a problem in denouncing the reign of Stalin? In presenting the 25th of April, the anniversary of the fall of the USSR, as ‘the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century,’ Vladimir Putin showed the extent of his nostalgia.... President Bush heralded all of these concerns when he spoke in Riga.... For the Kremlin, the call to order is serious. It is in line with the U.S. President’s crusade for democracy in the world, in the Middle East, but also in Georgia, Ukraine and Central Asia.... Belarus illustrates Washington's democratic offensive.... Because Russia is not just any other nation, because it is a nuclear power, because it is a privileged and strategic partner of the U.S., it is important for it not to feel trapped. It’s up to our leaders to make the Kremlin’s chief understand that it is in his own interest...to bet on internal democracy, and on democracy outside his borders. This is how Russia will regain its lost grandeur.”
"Victory Without Russians…?"
Jean-Claude Kiefer said in regional Les Dernieres Nouvelles d’Alsace (5/9): “Memory is selective.... In the U.S., too, they know how to interpret history. Yes, the Americans liberated Western Europe from Nazism. No, they did not win the war alone, as successive presidents in Washington would suggest, reinforced by hundreds of Hollywood films. The credit for Victory belongs first to Churchill’s Great Britain which resisted alone for two years. This credit goes, too, to the Soviet Union...a troubling victor (who) replaced one yoke with another. Still, its role was primordial.... Wherever one goes (in the former Soviet Union) there are ONLY Verduns. Seeing those infinite battlefields one understands that ‘the Great Patriotic War’ united the USSR with blood and still unites Russia.... The ambiguities (of war) are real. But it was not up to President Bush to remind Vladimir Putin, from Riga, about them in remarks worthy of the ‘cold war.’ Tensions with Moscow are useless. Even if it means controlling, from
Georgia, Caspian Sea oil."
"Bush’s Three Slights To Putin"
Thomas de Rochechouart asserted in popular right-of-center France Soir (5/9): “May 8, 1945 marked the beginning of the Cold War between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. May 8, 2005 seems to be opening an era of glacial peace between Washington and Moscow.... As Putin put together a ceremony that was meant to reaffirm Russia’s newly-found power, President Bush built his own ready-made program to humiliate the Russian President. He was careful to bring his support to the Kremlin’s adversaries during his visit to Latvia.... He also called for free elections in Belarus...and will visit Georgia where he will promote freedom.”
Dominique Quinio opined in Catholic La Croix (5/9): “The ceremonies being celebrated in Moscow are there to show what the European continent owes the soldiers of the Red Army and the 27 million Russian casualties.... The American President and his weekend hosts reminded everyone that sixty years ago half of Europe was freed from totalitarianism while the other half was not.... Perhaps Russian patriotic pride, which is mixed up with a misplaced nostalgia, is due to the nation’s frustration in having lost its grandeur and the under-estimation, by history and by the West, of the sacrifice of the Russian people. Justice must be rendered to it.... Here and elsewhere, a rigorous study of history is in order so that lies and denials do not lead to humiliation or to hate. Wars are perverse, and render even peace painful or at least incomplete.”
"For Putin, Operation Seduction"
Veronique Soule contended in left-of-center Liberation (5/9): “Relations between Washington and Moscow are now based on realism tinged with cynicism, with each acknowledging it needs the other. Both partners remain ‘strategic partners’.... But President Bush will not make it easy for Putin, convinced as he is about his world mission for democracy, and in particular in former Soviet republics. His visit to Moscow, which was preceded by a visit to Latvia and will be followed by one to Georgia, is the perfect illustration.”
GERMANY: "America's Europe"
Stefan Kornelius judged in center-left Sueddeutsche Zeitung of Munich (5/10): "It is strange but America is far away when we remember the end of WWII.... U.S. veterans rather commemorate D-Day in Normandy.... That is why the U.S. president has embarked on a rather unspectacular commemoration tour across Europe. That is why he did not play an outstanding role among the leaders on Red Square and was satisfied with a few calls to order to prevent Russia from painting an excessively one-sided picture of its history. Even in Germany, the U.S. role in ousting [Hitler] is playing an increasingly insignificant role.... The memory is fading.... America's significance is fading, while Russia's re-discovery as a partner is becoming increasingly important. A few historical truths are subordinated to this development. Russia and Putin's dubious view of the past, and the revival of the Stalin cult, the stubbornness with respect to the Soviet role in suppressing the peoples in Central and Eastern Europe. And this is not even an issue in the part of Germany that had to suffer from Soviet imperialism. But the change of America's significance has been closely linked to geo-political shifts since the end of WWII, everyday politics, the name Bush, and the distortions of the Iraq war, which have not been resolved until today caused.... America is a European founding nation because the liberation and the democratization of Europe would not have been thinkable without the U.S. America is a European power because it created security when the continent and Germany in particular, were worried about their prosperity. And beyond its historical merits, America is an indispensable nation for Europe, because the attractiveness of the democratic model and the strength of the country are still big enough to divide the continent. Iraq is only one example. That is why doubts about the European role of America are dangerous because they damage Europe's unity. The lesson from the defeat and all the years of the Cold War is that Europe does not have the choice to choose between Russia and the U.S."
"A New Thinking"
Right-of-center Hannoversche Allgemeine Zeitung of Hanover argued (5/10): "It was the U.S. president who contributed much with his unusual itinerary to a the new thinking in the new East. He paid tribute to the Soviet achievements in the fight against fascism, but also to the small republics, which freed themselves from Russian centralism. The fact that Bush has now also referred to a U.S. and British co-responsibility for the occupation of the Baltic nations and addressed the mistakes in the post-war plans of the victorious powers, will strengthen the credibility of his mission in the East. The struggle for a self-determined life continues for the people in some of the former Soviet republics. For them the ideals are Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, and Ukraine. The western democracies, however, are called upon not only to act as shining examples but also to offer vigorous support."
Center-right Volksstimme of Magdeburg declared (5/10): "According to Vladimir Putin, the Russian people should remember this picture: On the 60th anniversary of the victory, the Russian leader is taking the salutes on Red Square, and the most powerful leaders in the world, with the U.S. president at the helm, are visiting him to show their respect to Russia's greatness. This worked out, but nevertheless, it could not be a perfect day for Putin. The main reason is that Bush showed up in Moscow only between his visits to the ex-Soviet republics of Latvia and Georgia, which are still at loggerheads with Russia. The U.S. president's itinerary was cleverly selected. The Georgians hope even more for U.S. backing than the Baltic people who are protected by the EU and NATO. If Bush succeeded in pushing the withdrawal of the last Russian forces and the settlement of the conflict with the secessionist areas in the Caucasian republic, [the people] in Tblissi would probably even set up a monument for him."
"Preferring The U.S."
Right-of-center Münchener Merkur maintained (5/10): "Shared memories: No one exposed the ambiguity of these ceremonies so clearly than U.S. President Bush. Bush traveled to Georgia where one wants to get rid of the rest of the Soviet forces. But this was an isolated gesture. Who is still talking about Chechnya, Transnistria or even about human rights in Russia itself? The 'old Europe' has got used to a political pragmatism toward Russia, which it calls 'reconciliation.' But people, for instance, in the EU forget about the fact that, after the enlargement, they must integrate a totally different picture of history, mainly towards Russia. This part of history must still be discussed--and the allegedly side episode of the Bush trip indicated why the peoples in Eastern Europe prefer to get U.S. support in times of danger."
"Turn Of An Era"
Markus Ziener concluded in business-oriented Handelsblatt of Duesseldorf (5/10): "Is this the good relationship between two strategic partners? The one, Putin, is inviting the other, Bush, to a celebration in Moscow and receives in return many needle pricks that could hardly be more painful.... What should we think of Russia and America when the two partners pat their shoulders and crack jokes on this commemoration day as if they were the best friends? No this 'realpolitik' that is as obvious as this one does not create any appetite for more. And Bush can afford it only because he is the president of the only remaining superpower. Only this president can afford such impoliteness. But this is exactly what has been characterizing relations between the U.S. and Russia. For Washington, Russia is at best a 'junior partner'.... For the foreseeable future, there will be no joint foreign policy at eye level.... Bill Clinton may have alleviated post-imperial Russian pain by showing consideration for Moscow's problems, but George W. Bush is acting in an imperial way, at least like a hegemon. As compassionate this may be it is at least honest. And the American president is treating the Russian president like every one else. He gives him advice, which is sometimes by no means unfounded.... But it is questionable whether George W. Bush's honesty is promoting the things that are desirable, i.e. a political modernization of the country. But Putin and the large part of the Russian elite react in a sensitive way to the breach of etiquette and humiliations. The buddy-like behavior during public appearances cannot obscure this fact. In order to understand Russia, it is necessary to look at its long history as regional and later as major power. This is the only reason to understand that Moscow will continue to think in imperial terms for years and decades.... Seen from a historical point of view, a global power which is on a rapid decline, and a nation which has probably reached the peak of its power are currently meeting. The pictures from Red Square could hardly have made this more obvious. What was presented there was the past, a memory of allegedly glorious times. But it created strage backward-oriented effects. It was a bow to the achievements of a people in the war against Germany. But the future lies elsewhere.... This is the sobering reality once the celebrations from Moscow are over."
Hermann Krause said on regional radio station Norddeutscher Rundfunk of Hamburg (5/9): "On this day of celebrations, many questions have come up which Putin did not want to see. For instance, the question of the occupation of the Baltic states. Was it an occupation--this is how the Baltic people see it--or was the 'integration' of Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania into a Soviet Union, as the Russian leadership sees it? This is one of the basic problems of Russia. The period in which the past was discussed ended at the latest with Putin.... To simply exert pressure as President Bush has now tried, will only create the opposite effect in the current Russian leadership."
"Free, Not Free"
Klaus-Dieter Frankenberger noted in center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine (5/9): "The Baltic peoples and other Central and Eastern Europeans witnessed their liberation from the Nazis only as a transitional stage to new occupation and Soviet terror. For them, the fall of the Soviet Union meant nothing but the attainment of freedom. In Russia...people have a different opinion. It is this refusal to call an injustice by name, which, for instance, fills the Baltic people with deep distrust towards Russia and lets them seek closer relations with America. To an America that has been governed by a man, who has made freedom the symbol of his presidency; a man, who first reshaped global politics and is now appearing as revisionist of history: the U.S. and Great Britain are co-responsible for the division of Europe, whose cement was prepared in Yalta.... This is something we have not heard from a U.S. president. It is obvious why Bush, who is certainly aware of the significance of the war alliance with Moscow in defeating Germany, is speaking of a historical co-responsibility: It makes his own 'freedom mission' appear all the more farsighted - as a challenge for a false...stability. In any case, Putin and Bush have something to talk about. The error of imperial nostalgia and the nature of democracy are part of this discussion, including Russia's mental distance to Europe."
"A Bloody Chapter"
Centrist Südwest Presse of Ulm declared (5/9): "The global commemoration of the end of WWII made clear the differences in dealing with this bloody chapter [of history]. While tens of thousands of democrats took to the streets in Berlin to protest neo-Nazis and shouted 'Never a War Again,' President George W. Bush said something different in Riga and near Maastricht. He said that no soldier is as strong as a soldier who fights for freedom. With this remark he established a link not only to the liberation fight of U.S. forces against Nazi Germany, but he also wanted to include in this tradition the individual fighters for freedom in Afghanistan and Iraq, too. This shows that there can be no drawing the line."
Karl Grobe stated in left-of-center Frankfurter Rundschau (5/9): "In Riga, the U.S. president tried to spoil the Russian president's mood.... For the Baltic states Latvia's president made clear that May 9, 1945 was not a day of liberation, and she offered President Bush the opportunity to say this too. President Putin has tried for weeks to reinterpret...May 9 as the day of Liberation, and described the collapse of the Soviet Union as the greatest geo-political disaster of the century.... But President Bush's perspective is in a similar way one-sided. When he described the Yalta Agreement from February 1945 as an unequal treaty in which the U.S. and Britain made too many concessions to Moscow and put it on the same level as the Hitler-Stalin Pact, then this hits Putin's understanding of history to the quick, but it is as unhistoric as Putin's."
"The Periphery Of Spheres Of Influence"
Thomas Urban opined in center-left Sueddeutsche Zeitung of Munich (5/7): "The media in Moscow do not conceal their view that they consider President Bush's visit to Riga...as an anti-Russian demonstration. But the Americans formulate the visit with different terms: At issue is a strengthening of democracy.... But in Moscow people have by no means accepted yet that the three small Baltic nations are now members of NATO and the EU. They continue to call the former Soviet republics 'near proximity' indicating that they are still under Russia's sphere of influence. This is the basis for the Kremlin's policy, while the leaderships in Tallinn, Riga, and Vilnius describe relations with Moscow as diplomatically less friendly.... The Baltic nations hoped that these problems would be settled after the accession to the EU...but experience was sobering: Chancellor Schröder and President Chirac want to avoid any conflict with President Putin.... That is why the Chancellor is now--probably inadvertently--contributing to close links between the former East Bloc nations that are now part of the EU and the U.S. And the more he emphasizes his friendship with Putin, the more the [Baltic nations] distrust him, and all the greater resistance among the new EU states to this pro-Russian course. For Bush...this development is not unwelcome. In the Baltic nations he almost played a 'home game'...while Bush's military-strategic interest in the region is rather small.... But Bush said several times that he wants to spread democracy in the former East Bloc states. In the Baltic nations, people venerate him for this. Anti-Bush protests would be unimaginable. No one would take part."
ITALY: "Bush, The Pedagogy Of Democracy"
Elite, center-left Il Riformista judged (5/11): “There’s the export of democracy, in all its forms (the one having to do with guns is still difficult to digest, but luckily it is being seen in a less dogmatic way by the left as well). And then there’s the pedagogy of democracy. In both cases (we must acknowledge), George W. Bush has developed a certain degree of skill.... Yesterday in Georgia he gave further proof of this, by exulting ‘the rose revolution,’ which served as an example in three other former Soviet republics.... And he told Russia once again that it should be happy to have democratic countries along its border, because democracies are peaceful. It’s the second warning. The first one, the criticism of the Yalta accords and the division of Europe, didn’t sound so much like an historical revision (for which the U.S. President is not equipped), rather a political message for current times, and it has to do with the limits of the new alliance against terrorism. Putin...compared it to the ‘great anti-fascist alliance,’ between Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin. Bush took his precautions: unlike then, the U.S. will not close its eyes, and it will not put democracy on the backburner. The expansion of democracy is a condition for the victory against Islamic fundamentalism, a follower of theocracy. It’s a message that Putin pretended not to hear, but that he will have to take into account.... Bush’s mission between the Baltics and Caucasus was a political and diplomatic success. Georgie boy has grown-up.”
"Bush-Putin, It’s Real Dialogue"
Mario Platero asserted in leading, business-oriented Il Sole-24 Ore (5/10): “Each one of the leaders attending yesterday’s parade in Moscow had his own reason to be cautious towards his neighbor. Japanese premier Junichiro Koizumi was only few meters away from Chinese president Hu Jintao, and nothing has yet been resolved between them. Kofi Annan was going alone towards Red Square, only accompanied by the oil-for-food shadow.... Silvio Berlusconi was near Gerhard Schroeder and Germany has just received Russia’s support for a new permanent seat at the UN.... But most importantly, George W. Bush and Vladimir Putin were there next to each other. They are really a strange couple...confronting each other when speaking from far, [but] quite friendly and clearly happy if speaking close.... A reassuring aspect of the dialogue between Bush and Putin, beyond their strong personal relationship, is that factors bringing them together are more than their divisions. In fact, both want peace in Middle East, both don’t want nuclear proliferation, both work for democracy and yet are authoritarian leaders. These two leaders love to sit and talk to each other alone. And some White House source told us that Bush’s respect for Putin is unassailable.... Therefore, this is the message one should be pondering about at the end of Bush’s second mission in Europe in two months. It would also be wise to consider that...EU-U.S. summit took place once, while Russia and U.S. met twice.... Washington continues to advance its new order, which is based on market economy and democracy as guarantors of stability.... It is normal that Putin’s response is cautious, let’s think about Chechnya. However, it is exactly on this new order that the two leaders are negotiating.”
"Bush In Red Square For Putin’s Victory"
Maurizio Molinari maintained in centrist, influential La Stampa (5/10): “In the morning he was standing alongside Vladimir Putin to take part as ally and friend in the parade of symbols on Red Square.... In the evening, he was on the streets of Tbilisi, which welcomed him as a sort of protector from Moscow’s interference.... Behind Bush’s double face is Secretary Rice’s conviction that the best way to convince Putin to accept internal reforms as well as the presence of democratic countries along his border is to reassure Russia, to speak to the heart of this immense nation by sending signs of friendship...that will push away the specter of encirclement that in the course of history has often led the Kremlin to commit errors and horrors.”
Massimo Teodori concluded in pro-government, leading center-right Il Giornale (5/9): “By condemning Roosevelt’s policy and bi-polar equilibria, the Bush Administration consolidated, in Moscow, the new course of an interventionist foreign policy that completely overturns the canons of internationalist realism established by Henry Kissinger during Nixon’s presidency.... Now it appears that the encouragement for democratic revolutions with the objective to isolate or neutralize tyrannical regimes throughout the world has truly become the American strategic line which is not only being tested in the very difficult situation in Iraq, but even more through diverse peaceful means in North Korea, Iran, and other Muslim countries like Lebanon and Syria.... It’s too soon to tell how the policy of interventionism, global responsibility and of the spread of democracy will affect authoritarian regimes.... Certainly, what first appeared to be unrealistic and dangerous was subsequently evaluated more positively. It’s true that U.S. interventionism in Iraq continues to be very costly...but we are beginning to see its effects in the entire Islamic area, from Lebanon to Syria, and from Libya to Egypt.”
"The Risks of Idealism"
Vittorio Zucconi opined in left-leaning, influential La Repubblica (5/8): “The agreement on the tacit division of Europe...reached in Crimea by Stalin, Churchill and Roosevelt, was not only an error for Bush, but a sign of continuity with the secret understanding of division between Berlin and Moscow signed by Molotov and Ribbentrop. Therefore, a pact that originated from the abominable acts of political and military violence perpetrated by the worst dictatorships of the twentieth century.... But Bush’s remarks contain the necessary and inevitable continuity with the doctrine on 'the export of freedom’ as the only real and long-lasting antidote to the war.... Given that democracy is painfully trying to put down roots in the daily bloodshed in Iraq, and North Korea is shamelessly flaunting the ‘weapons of mass destruction’ that Saddam did not have, Russia and the nations freed from Moscow have become a fundamental test of the success and the feasibility of neo-conservative interventionism.”
"An Underlying Authoritarianism"
Mario Platero averred in leading business-oriented Il Sole-24 Ore (5/7): “There’s something more at the center of the controversy: a strong debate on democracy, on its role and values. And on Washington’s fears that Moscow could return to an underlying authoritarianism. The memory of Moscow’s inept and blatant interference in Ukrainian elections is still very vivid and repetitions are not wanted in neighboring countries. This is also one of the reasons the U.S. is trying to increase its political and psychological grip on Moscow: in case of an internal destabilization, it doesn’t want to put neighboring countries at risk.... America and the West do not want democracy to recede in Russia. This is why Washington is being relentless with Putin: the objective is also to make sure that there will be fair play for the 2008 presidential elections in Moscow--and that other political adversaries between now and then may have the opportunity to emerge in an open and direct debate. And we can’t exclude that the U.S. may already have an alternative in mind for Putin: Defense Minister Serghei Ivanov is increasingly becoming Washington’s privileged interlocutor.”
RUSSIA: "Moscow On The Defensive"
Valeriy Vyzhutovich said in official government-run Rossiyskaya Gazeta (5/11): “Moscow remains on the defensive not only because, feeling like a liberator, it hates being called an occupier. Besides, for Russia, the USSR’s legal inheritor, to acknowledge the act of occupation would mean to pay enormous damages.... It is an easy guess on whose side the U.S. is in this dispute. The fact that George Bush arrived in Moscow for Victory Day after visiting our neighbors in the Baltics says it all.”
Yuliya Petrovskaya held in centrist Nezavisimaya Gazeta (5/11): “He was almost like a Russophobe in Riga, a Russophile in Moscow, and a goody-goody in Tbilisi, guarding against Moscow’s intrigues.... The presence of the superpower’s leader was the highlight.... The way President Vladimir Putin treated the guest made that quite clear.... The Kremlin can take credit for the American’s ‘good behavior’-Bush keeping silent, with the West lively debating the topic of Russian democracy, may be interpreted as support for Putin’s policy. But Bush having a liking for Putin and Bush epitomizing America are not one and the same person, as confirmed by his European itinerary.”
"A New Arbiter In Post-Soviet Republics"
Gennadiy Sysoyev commented in business-oriented Kommersant (5/11): “By visiting Georgia, the forerunner and symbol of ‘velvet revolutions’ in CIS countries, George Bush made it clear that the U.S. will support the democratic wave in the CIS, whether Russia likes it or not. More than that, Washington suggesting that it might mediate between Russia and Georgia on Russian troop withdrawal is in fact a claim to play a new role in what used to be the USSR. Until recently, Moscow, as it made concessions elsewhere in the world, has always insisted on special interests in former Soviet republics. Now the situation has changed radically, with the U.S. actively trying for the role of the chief arbiter in those countries. Moscow has had to accept the new reality, as it must be the price it has to pay for a strategic partnership with Washington.”
"Fighting On Two Fronts”
Georgiy Bovt wrote in Internet-based Strana.ru (5/9): "Stories of the appallingly miserable life of those who shed their blood in half of Europe contrast sharply with the geopolitical pomp of the festivities in Moscow attended by the heads of more than 50 states.... From June 22, 1941, to May 9, 1945, the Soviet Union, having lost in that bloodbath at least 27 million people, was fighting on two fronts: Hitler and the bloodcurdling aftermath of Stalin’s crazy rule. But then, all assessments by experts, grumbling by former allies, gloating by former enemies, and official bombast and extravaganza are nothing compared to the aching wounds of surviving war veterans. The hubbub will end, and those involved in it will sink into oblivion. Political debates over the country with the ‘unpredictable past’ will die down, too. But after the dust settles, war heroes will stay in eternity, sacred to us.”
"How Much Is Victory?"
Aleksey Shcheglov said in Internet-based Strana.ru (5/9): "The Victory Day celebrations show how much the interpretation of history means to the present and future of a country affected by that war, the biggest event in the 20th century. There is a world of difference in how much each country paid for the victory. Without a doubt, the sacrifices made by the peoples of the Soviet Union are incomparable to what other countries had to pay in flesh and blood. But the exact figure of the losses will probably never be named. That, too, is a lesson of the war.”
"Bush’s Peculiar Itinerary"
Aleksandr Reutov said in business-oriented Kommersant (5/7): “Some of Vladimir Putin’s friends in the ‘far abroad’ the Kremlin has relied on since Gorbachev’s days have let him down. British Prime Minister Tony Blair has excused himself from coming by saying he can’t leave his country right after the elections. Putin’s friend George Bush, the U.S. President, has hurt him even more. With the itinerary the American chose to get to Moscow, he would have done better not to come at all. Mr. Bush’s two-day stay in Latvia is a clear signal to the Kremlin regarding the U.S.' political preferences. In Riga, the U.S. President more than once emphasized that Washington had never recognized Latvian, Lithuanian and Estonian membership in the USSR, considering those countries occupied by the Soviets. Addressing his colleagues in the Baltics, he even promised that, coming to Moscow, he would raise the question of Russia having to apologize for having brought Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia into the USSR. As a sweetener, George Bush said national minority rights needed to be observed, which has a direct bearing on the status of the Russian-speaking population in the Baltics. But that isn’t going to repair the situation, particularly because the upcoming Bush-Putin conversation, apart from the Baltics, will include the worn and trite question of human rights in Russia.”
Vyacheslav Tetekin stated in nationalist pro-opposition Sovetskaya Rossiya (5/5): “U.S. President George Bush’s security service will have Moscow in a state of siege these days. The Americans have put forward a set of demands not even the Kremlin dares dispute, and will apparently have Russian special services follow their scenario. As he fawns on the West, Putin makes his choice clear: he is not with Russia, he is with Western ‘partners’.... Today practically all of Europe is in a hostile camp, NATO.... Why this hullabaloo? Mr. Putin clearly hopes to boost his prestige in the West’s eyes by presiding over the Victory Day celebrations. Vain hopes. At the summit on May 10, the EU will come up with new ultimatums, demanding new concessions. Even before that, when Bush pays a visit to Riga on May 7 and 8, more aspersions will be cast on our heads. Then Bush will go on to Tbilisi to open another floodgate of slander about this country.... We are celebrating a victory in the Great Patriotic War. It is our holiday, not Europe’s. Europe fought against us, building tanks for the Wehrmacht, and doing everything to delay the opening of the Second Front.”
AUSTRIA: "Putin's Phantom Pain"
Foreign affairs editor Livia Klingl wrote in mass-circulation Kurier (5/10): "In Russia's former satellite states, a mixture of fear and aversion against the erstwhile brothers still prevails. Top government officials from Lithuania and Estonia have shown this openly these days. This can be ascribed mainly to Vladimir Putin's character.... Economically, Russia has moved towards a Wild East capitalism that excludes millions of people. On the political side, it has established a democracy in which the media wear a muzzle and are engaged in a permanent war at the Caucasian edge that engendered terrorism. Externally, Putin tried to enlarge his sphere of influence. However, he did not succeed in getting rid of the phantom pain."
Burkhard Bischof held in centrist Die Presse (5/9): "Who of those in charge in Moscow these days still remembers the unparalleled harshness and cruelty--not just against the German aggressors but also against his own people--with which Stalin's victory over Hitler was achieved?.... Who in Moscow still talks about the fact that whole ethnic populations--such as Ingushians, Chechens and Crimean Tartars--Stalin had deported to Central Asia because of alleged collaboration with the enemy? As long as this internal process of coming to terms with Russia's past is blocked by the Kremlin, the Russian leadership will not be prepared to face openly the 'external' consequences of the Soviet advance into Middle Europe. For this would mean an admission on the part of Moscow that the liberation of Eastern Middle Europe by the Red Army was followed by a decades-long phase of Soviet colonialism. An honest and critical historical analysis in Russia will only be possible when Stalin is finally perceived in terms of what he was: A monstrous tyrant who has to answer for the deaths of up to 20 million of his own people."
Josef Kirchengast commented in independent Der Standard (5/9): "Putin's words mark a stark contrast not just to the widely noticeable Stalin nostalgia in Russian society but also to the perception of history that prevail in official Russia--which manifests itself in the fact that history books in schools continue to honor Stalin as commander, and a work that deals critically with the dictator and his war against his own people has been banned from lesson plans for the past two years. Not Stalin but the people of the former Soviet Union made a decisive contribution to victory over National Socialism and paid the heavy blood toll of almost 27 million dead. A people that bore this indescribable suffering and survived it can be trusted to cope with the undisguised truth about its history. Even more: It has a right to the truth--out of a feeling of respect for the victims and as a starting point for a really fearless future."
BELGIUM: "The Ceremonies Are Over But The Controversy Remains"
Pol Mathil wrote in left-of-center Le Soir (5/10): "It is easy to reconcile dead people, but it is less easy with people who are alive. Praising Soviet soldiers’ heroism with the former USSR anthem as a musical background and in front of the mausoleum containing Lenin’s remains, Vladimir Putin has perfectly illustrated this dilemma. Of course, he managed to turn the V-Day ceremonies into a world-scale event. Of course, everyone came for very practical reasons, the Europeans coveting Russian gas and the Americans needing help in the war on terror. But still, the presence of about sixty world leaders--to begin with George W. Bush--around Vladimir Putin has perhaps made the latter a world-scale statesman in the eyes of the Russians.... But once the ceremonies will be over, the controversies that were overshadowed by the Red Square commemorations will be back on the agenda. Of course, George W. Bush did not want to spoil the ceremonies, but he remained very critical of the democratic situation in Russia by meeting with human rights groups and, first and foremost, he is not giving up the idea of reinforcing America’s presence around Russia.... Besides, the ceremonies in Moscow did not give Baltic countries any reason to change their mind about the Soviet occupation of their countries after their liberation in 1945. As for Poland, which is already not on good terms with Moscow, it will probably see as a provocation the medal that Putin offered General Jaruzelski.... The ceremonies in Moscow are over, but clouds are remaining. In Grozny, there wasn’t even any commemoration. But May 9 is also a day of remembrance there: last year, Akhmad Kadyrov, Moscow’s man in Chechnya, was killed by a bomb in a stadium where he was commemorating V-Day.”
"Bush And Putin Give Greater Importance To Reason"
Boris Toumanov said in independent La Libre Belgique (5/10): "The ceremonies marking the 60th anniversary of V-Day gave Vladimir Putin a unique opportunity to assess Russia’s real weight and role in the world, fourteen years after the collapse of the Soviet empire. On the one hand, the atmosphere that prevailed during the Russian President’s meetings with his Western colleagues--and with George W. Bush in particular--seems to confirm that they have a privileged or even faithful relationship, in spite of the criticism that the United States and Europe recently voiced on some of Putin’s policies.... Of course, one will have to wait for the conclusion of the Russia-EU Summit that is taking place today in Moscow to have a better idea of the state of the relationship between Russia and the West, but it seems that Putin has already succeeded in maintaining his ranking among major world leaders. On the contrary, the Kremlin’s longstanding hopes to turn Russia into a kind of political center of the post Soviet world seem irrevocably lost. Indeed, at the CIS Summit that took place without great enthusiasm in Moscow on May 8, leaders of former Soviet Republics almost unanimously confirmed their intention to turn this institution into a purely economic and commercial body. That means that, in the future, Moscow can only rely on the--pragmatic--faithfulness of regimes that need its help to stay in power.”
Foreign editor Frank Schloemer commented in independent De Morgen (5/10): "Vladimir Putin’s charm offensive towards the world leaders was impressive, but it could not conceal one thing: it was meant to show that Russia is still a nation with superpower ambitions and the average Russian should understand that he owes that to Czar Vladimir I. With his show, master of ceremonies Putin once more drew the world opinion’s attention to Russia and, for a moment, he was able to get out of the isolation where he put himself after his clumsy acts in Chechnya and, more recently, in Ukraine. After yesterday, the EU friends--Germany and France in the first place--will treasure him even more. Of course, economic self-interests play an important role--given the fact that EU powers France and Germany are Moscow’s principal trade partners. In such circumstances, one tends to close one’s eyes to the patriotic--almost nationalist--spectacle.... In Vladimir I’s country democracy nowhere to be seen. There is no genuine freedom of the press and barely free expression of opinion. The Parliament must carry out what the Kremlin ruler decides. Old KGB apparatchiks--including Putin himself--hold high key posts. Even at the far horizon a properly functioning social-economic system remains invisible. Of course, nobody said that to him during the mass spectacle in front of the Kremlin where the old men’s club of Stalinist leaders used to wave boringly at the marching masses. It is understandable: when you, as a political coryphée, are invited to a party in Moscow, you are not going to affront your host, are you?”
"Putin’s Moment Of Truth"
Pol Mathil wrote in left-of-center Le Soir (5/9): "For the former ‘kidnapped countries,’ reconciliation with Russia requires that Moscow acknowledges the truth on the USSR’s arbitrary policies in 1945.... They want Russia to admit that the war did not begin with the Reich’s aggression against the USSR in late 1941, but by the invasion by these two countries of Poland and the Baltic countries in 1939 and 1940.... The ceremonies in Moscow represent a fantastic PR operation. In a few words, Vladimir Putin--who once said that the fall of the USSR was the worst geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century--could turn this May 9 not only into the anniversary date of the end of WWII but also into the celebration of the real victory, that of the liberation of people.”
"Stormy U.S.-Russian Relations"
Philippe Paquet observed in independent La Libre Belgique (5/9): "The commemorative ceremonies of V-Day on the occasion of which U.S President George W. Bush intends to restore some historical truths are likely to deal a blow to U.S.-Russian relations. Indeed, before arriving in Moscow, the U.S. President made some thundering statements about the Soviet occupation of Central and Eastern Europe, suggesting that the consequences for people were hardly less painful than the Nazi occupation. The choice of the countries he visited while in Europe could also hardly have been more provocative.... Vladimir Putin does no longer recognize his friend George. Of course, during her recent visit to Moscow, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had candidly spoke with Putin about the repression in Chechnya and about the freedom of the press, but the smiles at the end of the meeting led people to believe that the partnership was globally intact. One can henceforth have doubts about it.”
FINLAND: "Freedom Is On The March And More Is On The Way"
A report in leading centrist Helsingin Sanomat read (5/8): "The President indirectly apologized to Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania for the fact that small nations were left on their own devices in Yalta.... Bush’s polite message also included a call for the Baltic countries to do more vis-a-vis their minorities."
HUNGARY: "Baltic Countries"
Endre Aczel held in top-circulation, center-left Nepszabadsag (5/10): “Russian nationalism with a Soviet flavor is experiencing its renaissance in the Putin era. On the eve of May 9 it became obvious that the Russia of the former KGB officer considered its own World War II performance a kind of civilizing mission from under the umbrella of which it refused to withdraw anyone.... This is a very bad message for the small nations for whom a dream of an empire, regardless of whether it dons Russian or Soviet clothes, is nightmare itself.... At the same time, neither is the conscience of the Baltic people clear. They had welcomed Hitler’s troops as liberators, but the Nazis, of course, had not restored their independence. Not even in return for the fact that they, especially the Latvians, had collaborated [with the Nazis].... Never mind, time will straighten things out in everybody’s heads. But until then: the Baltic countries now in NATO and in the EU are not, cannot be, threatened by anything. They could be more generous when they weigh on what May 9 has brought to the community where they now (proudly) belong. Because the day of victory is not the celebration of Putin; it is the celebration of a community.”
"Meeting At The Moscow River"
Oszkar Fuzes pointed out in top-circulation, center-left Nepszabadsag (5/10): “Putin is only a victor in the past, and hopefully, in the future; in the present, not quite yet. It is the right and the obligation of the Russian president as a host to remind people that his country carried most of the burden of that victory. They who longer exist as an empire--lost the next war, the 'cold' one--and Russia is not yet united enough, not yet democratic enough, and does not yet have a foreign policy stable enough to be a true value for the world. But it is worth encouraging Russia, and important to help it become so. The joint celebration of the anti-Fascist coalition could be another step towards this, next, victory.”
IRELAND: "War That Shaped Our World"
The center-left Irish Times argued (5/10): "The second World War was just that: it involved 61 countries in Europe, Asia, America and Africa.... The outcome of this huge conflict, including the crushing defeat of Nazi Germany, the fall of fascism in Italy and throughout Europe, the defeat of Japan, the renewed division of Europe and the world between two geopolitical blocs, and the end of colonial rule, laid down the parameters of a world political order for the following two generations. All this makes the 60th anniversary of the war's end in Europe last weekend a momentous occasion.... It was a world war originating in Europe, reflecting this continent's centrality in the global system of power. But at its conclusion power shifted decisively to the United States, which crafted the succeeding world order according to its own values and interests.... Nazi Germany devoted its greatest efforts to defeating the Soviet Union. The gargantuan campaign there ended instead in Hitler's demise, a defeat co-ordinated with Stalin's American and British allies.... It is right to remember the huge human and material costs to the Soviet Union with gratitude and awe.... The EU pointed out correctly last week that for many millions the end of dictatorship came only when the Berlin Wall fell in 1989. Ireland rightly remained militarily neutral to protect its independence, while Northern Ireland participated fully in it. This newspaper was harshly censored because of its support for the war against fascism, despite its respect for neutrality. We now know that the wartime government shared intelligence fully with the Allies, a policy which reflected the fundamental political values of the Irish people in the confrontation with fascism."
KOSOVO: "If Russia…!"
Elida Bucpapaj argued in pro-LDK, mass-circulation Bota Sot (5/9): “If after the fall of Berlin Wall and the conclusion of The Cold War Russia followed the same path as did Poland, Czech Republic and Hungary, then Russia would have been a member of NATO and EU. If Russia gives up of its Orthodox paranoia just as it got rid of the communist ideology, today it would have been the main ally of the USA, first of all for its own good, but also for the good of the rest of us. After all, Russia and Russians were born before religion. The visit of President Bush for the celebration of the 60th anniversary of the fall of Nazism (that ends today in Moscow) is being misinterpreted by some Italian journalists who have given up Catholicism and converted. One of them is Vittorio Zucconi, the director of La Republica newspaper. From the position of a surrogate man, without finding a single word to portray Stalin, in his article ‘Bush and the dangers of idealism’ he goes so far to call Roosevelt, Truman and Eisenhower ‘cynics’ and then turns on President Bush. One has to be either nuts or a dirty Stalinist to define as ‘cynics’ the three Great Saviors of Europe. However, it seems that this Zucconi has been inspired for his article from the statement of George W. Bush in Riga, whereas the latter defined the ‘Yalta Agreement’ as ‘one of the biggest mistakes of history'.... If this Zucconi does not suffer from sclerosis, he should recall that Italy was saved from Stalin by ‘cynics’ Roosevelt, Eisenhower and Truman, while Albania for example, had suffered the tragedy of the ‘Yalta Agreement’ after the installation of totalitarian regimes in the Central, Eastern Europe and the Balkans.... George W. Bush only spoke the truth when he stated that ‘Yalta was one of the most fatal mistakes of history.'”
LATVIA: "After The Fireworks"
Askolds Rodins commented in independent, centrist Diena (5/10): "After the collapse of the USSR, November 7 lost it meaning completely. 'The national idea' that was attractive to all layers of society was being chaotically and unsuccessfully sought. It turned out that for present-day Russia, victory over Germany has in fact been the only nation-uniting event for the last hundred years, and, according to Moscow, Victory Day has to be celebrated with enthusiasm and delight throughout the world. Any doubt about the Soviet Union and now Russia's interpretation of any event during or after WWII is automatically taken as sacred blasphemy.... Celebrations could be organized as an open public holiday that focused everyone's attention on war veterans. The main ideological emphasis could be put on the selflessness of the nation and the sacrifices made to defeat the brown plague. The Kremlin made a different choice--to shake up Russian citizens deceived in their hopes by inviting high-ranking guests, organizing pompous events, and recalling and emphasizing the power and excellence of the USSR. It corresponds with the recent announcement by Vladimir Putin that the collapse of the USSR had been one of the biggest geopolitical catastrophes of the previous century.... It became clear that with the preparations for the Victory Day celebrations, the rehabilitation of Stalinism was rapidly taking place.... The issue of Baltic occupation is talked about not only in Latvia, but everywhere else. Latvians, however, are being called the most wicked in Russian propaganda at the moment.... Russia has not been able to reevaluate its history yet. The fireworks there have ended, and the routine has begun. Sooner or later, Russia will have to do so, and our task is to make them not forget."
LITHUANIA: "Tired Empire"
Nerijus Kaucikas wrote in independent weekly Veidas (5/5): "The Moscow celebrations of victory in the Second World War were supposed to reflect the return of Russia's growing might. However, as time goes by, [Russia] looks more like an elderly lady who hides her fatigue under thick makeup.... Despite a good rapport between Putin and the leaders of France and Germany the development of the relationship between Russia and the EU is not very smooth, among other things because of the differences in values between the two sides. It is expected that an agreement on the four common spaces, for which negotiations have long been under way, will finally be signed on 10 May. Agreement has already been reached on the common spaces in economy, education and culture; however, there are some problems with the common spaces in internal affairs and external security. It has been said that if the treaty is signed, it will only be signed after some disputed issues have been crossed off.... Vladimir Putin has grown tired. The secret of his success in becoming the president of Russia was his militaristic attitude.... The Kremlin public relations strategists needed something that would boost the low ratings of the former secret service officer. The war in Chechnya 'gave' the nation a resolute, uncompromising leader. Another war, this time with Yukos, helped Putin win the 2004 presidential elections.... The verdict in the case of the owners of Yukos, Mikhail Khodorkovskiy and Platon Lebedev was to be announced last week. The court hearing was postponed...most likely because they did not want to spoil the mood of the guests who arrive in Moscow for the celebrations.... After the Russian president had read his annual report, in which he 'pardoned' the oligarchs, Putin's advisor Andrei Ilarionov hinted that the sentences could be rather light. However, observers of events in the Kremlin stress that the court hearing was postponed because some unidentified oligarchs who are in power have 'borrowed' Yukos assets and Khodorkovskiy's early release is not beneficial for them. Thus, it is quite clear that in the Kremlin 'life-and death' decisions are being made and the country is ruled by whoever there is in power, but not by Vladimir Putin himself."
Conservative De Telegraaf editorialized (5/9): "American President Bush, together with Queen Beatrix, Prime Minister Balkenende, and thousands of visitors--among whom were many veterans--commemorated in a dignified manner the 8,301 American soldiers buried there who gave their lives for our freedom. Their graves show the horrible price they had to pay for that freedom, Bush said. It is good that Bush and Balkenende emphasize their sacrifices once again sixty years after the end of World War II in Europe. Amidst the trendy anti-Americanism that is looming here and elsewhere in Europe, this is the message that serves history. It is, and both leaders are right, a message that is still valid. The fight for freedom must also be fought today: not only to allow us to live in freedom but also for those who are denied freedom.”
Centrist Algemeen Dagblad declared (5/9): “The commemoration of the military victims yesterday at the war cemetery in Margraten, in the presence of American President Bush and queen Beatrix was absolutely impressive. Bush’s first visit to the Netherlands went flawlessly, suiting the nature of the event. Even the opponents of Bush’ foreign policy, apparently must have realized that this was not the time for mass demonstrations. In the margins of the commemorations the American and Dutch government had meetings, the content of which gave Foreign Minister Bot the impression that the U.S. is changing its attitude toward Europe. The notion of Europe obviously being an ally of U.S. foreign policy is changing to one of more equal partners, one in which the U.S. indicates that it needs the support of Europe. The fact that the Americans do not change their views and do not radically change their approach should not surprise anybody. The fact is that the new attitude reflects more respect. And that is the way it should be. Taking a position of having no criticism and subservient loyalty to all that the U.S. is doing can impossibly be an everlasting interest to pay for the lives that many young soldiers gave for our freedom. Prime Minister Balkenende pointed out rightly in his speech that freedom is particularly accepting of one another’s differences.”
"Liberation And Occupation After The Second World War"
Left-of-center Trouw contended (5/9): “One does not need to support the entire policy of American President George W. Bush to still support his main vision: ‘Freedom is the birthright of the entire mankind.’ Speaking these words, standing before the graves in Margraten, Bush drew a direct line from the Second World War to his view of current events: to the intervention in Iraq and the recent democratization wave in the former Soviet republics, for example. However, the long march to freedom has not always been so unequivocal. Particularly the Baltic states continue pointing out that their liberation from the Nazis by Soviet troops launched a communist occupation and dictatorship that would last decades.... It is, of course, right for Russia to commemorate its 20 million soldiers who died in the fight against Nazism. But it is also time, as Latvian President Vike-Freiberga said, for Russia to get the courage to make a distinction between its heroes and tyrants, and to reject crimes which the Soviet Union committed in the name of communism. Hopefully, Bush made this very clear to Putin.”
"Riga And Margraten"
Influential liberal De Volkskrant observed (5/9): “Does American President George W. Bush have a European statesman hiding in him, one who has a better view of European history and the current fraction lines than many a European? This is the question that pops up when you look at Bush’ commemoration tour to Riga, Margraten, Moscow, and Tblisi. The fact that Bush used the invitation by President Putin to also visit two smaller European countries and the Netherlands is not a coincidence. It demonstrates his ability to flawlessly sail through the largest cliffs in the political minefield of the joint commemoration today in Moscow. Two weeks after President Putin called the end of the Soviet Union the ‘largest catastrophe of the 20th century, Bush said in the presence of three Baltic leaders that the post-war Soviet rule of European Europe is ‘one of the main black pages from history.’ Bush likes to cherish his good relations with Putin in public, but that does not detract from his enthusiasm to embrace the new European democracies.... The question as to which consequences this freedom imperative will have, continues to be topical. But this past weekend, the most important question was: why did Bush travel from Riga via Margraten to Moscow. Bush answered this question very convincingly in his tribute to the fallen soldiers this past Sunday. He reminded us of the common history that both countries share and he thanked the local people who have taken such good care of the graves for the past sixty years. That silent work of the people of Margraten fortunately overshadowed the mediagenic roars of a small group of demonstrators who had a hard time with the fact that an American President came here to commemorate the death of those who gave us freedom.”
NORWAY: "Day Of Victory With A Bad Aftertaste"
Newspaper-of-record Aftenposten noted (5/10): "In Europe, the Day of Victory has been marked with great speeches, parades and the unveiling of new monuments. But the fight over history continues.... The memorial in Moscow yesterday, in Riga on Saturday and in other European capitals on Sunday became a forum for a much-needed discussion on questionable decisions and actions that were swept under the rug in the fight against a greater evil, and then later opportunistically forgotten about.... There can be no doubt that the Soviet Union carried the largest burden in the fight against Hitler Germany.... There hardly exists a single family in Russia or in the 14 other Soviet Republics that were not in one way or another marked by the war. Therefore it must seem hypocritical to very many that Joseph Stalin, the great Soviet dictator, is now again praised as a great commander bringing home victory to the Soviet Union. The truth is rather that Stalin’s misguided military planning and his suppression of the Soviet people and land that was included in the Soviet Union after an agreement with Hitler’s Germany, strongly contributed to the high number of victims. After the war the shameful Soviet treatment of people who ended up behind the German lines, or who were taken captive, increased the number of victims. The same was true for the occupation of, among others, the three Baltic states. Stalin’s newly dusted-off glory does not shed light, but rather, casts a shadow over the victory over Nazism.”
Newspaper-of-record Aftenposten observed (5/8): "Sixty years ago, May 8, 1945, silence came to Europe. The war was over in Norway, as elsewhere in Europe.... But the effects of it live on, for better or worse. For the worse for those whose lives were marked by their experiences forever, and who lost their close ones in actions of war or through systemic genocide, for those who had their lives turned upside down, their bodies impaired, their dreams shattered.... It is important to pay credit to those who understood the importance of looking forward at the moment of victory, and not let themselves be blinded by thoughts of revenge or by a wish for payback.... With all its faults, international society today is based on other principles than before the Second World War. In Europe nations cooperate. The UN is with all its underlying organizations a tool for conflict management and development--not a perfect tool, but still a more effective one than its predecessor the League of Nations was. When we today honor the victims in the Great War it is to prove that they did not fight in vain.”
POLAND: "Good Relations--Not At Any Cost"
Krzysztof Gottesman held in centrist Rzeczpospolita (5/11): “Russia’s President Vladimir Putin can feel satisfied. Almost the entire world was at the Kremlin grandstand on Monday to hear his words about Russia’s power.... Contrary to Russia and Putin, the recent days were moments of sadness and humiliation for Poland and Poles.... It turned out that goodwill on the part of Poland--which was the main argument for our going to Moscow--was perceived as weakness by Russia. This is something Poland cannot afford. We need good relations with Russia...but not at the cost of humiliation.... Therefore it is a good thing that the 60th anniversary resolution the European Parliament is to pass today says that the year 1945 meant the start of communist tyranny in Eastern Europe. One must care about relations with Russia, but not at the cost of truth.”
"The Words That Were Not Said"
Slawomir Popowski wrote in centrist Rzeczpospolita (5/10): “What matters the most in President Putin’s speech...is what he did not say. His very moderate address contained no word about Stalin that many lovers of the Father of Nations had been waiting for. However, it also did not contain any reflection on the complex post-war history and a divided Europe. Painful to the Poles in particular, the speech did not mention our contribution to breaking German fascism. Putin promised he would not apologize to anyone, and he kept his word. But those who assumed that the 60th anniversary...would become a propaganda campaign for Putin and his program of rebuilding a Great Russia, must have suffered a defeat. Moscow went overboard. First, because it falsified history, or rather returned to the Soviet--or even Stalinist--version of history. Second, because by Russia's irritation and sometimes hysterical reaction to the determined stance of those who, regardless of political consequences, refused to take part in the Moscow extravaganza, it only provoked a wave of criticism in the world media.”
"Seen From Moscow"
Waclaw Radziwinowicz asserted in liberal Gazeta Wyborcza (5/10): “Putin directed his speech to the ‘sovek’--the average post-Soviet citizen, who sticks to the stereotypes served by USSR propaganda.... The fact that those in power in Moscow today do not want to go beyond the ‘sovek’ stereotype is dangerous for Russians above all. If Russians understood that the much-loved Stalin squandered the lives of soldiers, there would have been no bloody storm in Grozny in 1994. If they wanted to learn what their soldiers did to women in the countries they seized, there would have been no Colonel Budanov raping Chechen women. If they admitted that the defeat of fascist Germany was a joint success of the civilized world, it would be easier for Russia to become a full-fledged member of the world--and have a place it really deserves.”
ROMANIA: "Apparent Calm"
Andreea Bratosin stated in newly-established independent Gandul (5/10): "It was as if nothing remained of the brisk coldness of the joint press conference in February, in Bratislava, when President Putin could not, or did not want to, hide his disapproval of what the Russian diplomacy is not afraid to call ‘American interference’ in the former Soviet republics, dominated, until recently, by the Moscow’s influence. This time, nothing of the Kremlin leader’s attitude betrayed any annoyance at the ‘democratic lessons’ taught by his guest in speeches delivered prior to his arrival in Moscow or by the latter’s references to the ‘Soviet occupation of Eastern Europe.' He didn’t even seem to care about the fact that the White House leader stopped in Riga before going to Moscow, for a meeting with the Baltic ‘dissidents’ who have boycotted the Red Square ceremonies, or about the fact that, from Moscow, Bush would leave for Tbilisi, where he is to meet another leader who is no longer under the influence of Moscow.”
Simona Haiduc commented in independent Curentul (5/10): "Disappointment. Even anger and confusion. This is the way that we can describe the public reaction to the new refusal of President Bush of making it clear, once and for all, to Vladimir Putin what the new world order is and what the place and role of each pawn is on the large chess table of political games.... One thing is for sure, though: the two are definitely up to something.”
Bogdan Chirieac noted in newly-established independent Gandul (5/10): "Apart from the various interpretations of history, within such celebrations, everybody protects their own interests or justifies their future actions.... In other words, America will export democracy, even if this means making use of force; for example, as in Afghanistan and Iraq. In his turn, Putin cannot condemn the USSR because Russia sees itself, at least in one direction, as a continuation of the Soviet power: that of regaining, from every possible from of view, the status of world power, together with America.”
Dana Hadareanu opined in independent Romania Libera (5/10): "Confronted with an increasingly severe attitude from the international community, the criticism for democracy deficiency being added to the demand to acknowledge and denounce the Soviet occupation, President Putin wished...to reaffirm Moscow’s role as world superpower.... At the same time, he intensely ‘wooed’ the one he called ‘his special guest,’ President Bush...not leaving his side for the entire ceremony. Significantly enough, Bush didn’t deliver any public speech and didn’t have any meeting with the press in Moscow.”
"Further Pressure On Russia"
Calin Stoica-Diaconovici commented in independent Cotidianul (5/9): "The past, which, at least in the neo-conservative vision of Bush’s second mandate, serves the interests of the U.S., can add further pressure on the relationship with Russia.... Even though US officials usually deny any involvement in the recent ‘revolutions’ of Georgia, Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan or Lebanon, the American president did not hesitate to recognize implicitly that this [involvement] is his policy."
Independent Romania Libera argued (5/4): "For the first time since the end of the Cold War, an American president seams ready to send the world a message that has been considered a taboo: East European countries did nothing but replace one totalitarianism with another, which was just as malefic. From the point of view of the repression, there was no difference between communism and Nazism.... The moral and political de-legitimization of the Soviet Union represents an encouragement addressed to the democracies of the former Soviet bloc...that America will stand by them.... What Russia will do now is play the blackmail card; Washington has more to lose if the relations with Moscow grow cold.... The important thing is for Bush to follow the example of his role model, Ronald Reagan, and not give in."
SPAIN: "Anniversary Of A Victory"
Conservative ABC opined (5/10): "It's important to separate the praise that the Russian people deserve from any other apologist temptation for the Soviet regime, which for many decades enjoyed an anti-fascist alibi to obtain from European intellectuals, from the western left and from some 'pragmatic' democracies, the absolution of Stalinist genocides. There are many reasons that the cordiality among Putin and the leaders of the western democracies, especially Bush, must reflect something more than the kindness of the commemoration. The experience of confronted blocs, areas of domination, regional conflicts, and armament tensions should enervate any retroactive temptation and give way to a multilateral cooperation based on the spreading of democracy and human rights. The best way to celebrate anniversaries such as this one is to make sure that the causes will never be repeated."
"Summit In Red Square"
Conservative La Razon editorialized (5/10): "It's true that yesterday was not the most appropriate day to denounce Stalin's brutality...but the use that Putin made of Stalinist iconography in the parade was, to say it softly, scandalous and indecent. The Russian President has used for his internal purposes a ceremony of worldwide reach that looked to celebrate the triumph of freedom over oppression and the victory of democracy over dictatorship. Putin refused to recognize the large communist occupation of the Baltic Republics and, in the most unpleasant Soviet style, organized a parade that didn't compare unfavorably of the ones of the 'Cold War'.... The Russian President has pointed to the Soviet past not to repeat it internally but to emulate its capacity to influence the worldwide scene and to recuperate the lost power of big Russia...an objective that won't be easy, having two giant neighbors in expansion process: China...and Europe.... Fortunately, Russia has always survived to its worst leaders and there is reason to think that Putin won't be one of those."
Left-of-center El País declared (5/10): "Two realities overlapped in the Russian capital, as both the absences of leaders from the former Soviet field and the planning of Bush's trip show.... Disagreement on the liberation of 1945 has two faces. What for western Europe was the start of a stage of freedom and welfare without precedent...was for many countries of Eastern Europe, as Bush reminded, the replacement of Nazi tyranny with Stalinist dictatorship.... The dissimilarity of the experience and the different time perspectives feed different versions of history and explain why the three Baltic countries continue demanding that Moscow asks for forgiveness for a brutal occupation of forty years.... Putin (does not) hide his evident hostility towards the democratic revolutions he has not been able to prevent 'indoors', whether it is Georgia, Ukraine or, more recently, Kyrgyzstan. The rejection to assume a fundamental part of the past, unlike Germany or even Japan, makes Russia indebted still to many of its former satellites and explains why the celebration in Moscow, organized in order to celebrate the historic triumph over one of the faces of evil, became the loudspeaker of criticism of the Soviet role in a crucial period and denunciation of Kremlin's antidemocratic drift."
SWEDEN: "Like The Bad Old Days"
Conservative Stockholm-based Svenska Dagbladet editorialized (5/10): "It was like in the bad old days; a military parade, hammer and sickle flags, and war veterans lurching under the weight of all their medals. President Vladimir Putin spoke about good defeating evil, and victory of liberty over tyranny.... But for half of Europe peace turned into yet another lack of freedom. The Yalta Agreement between the allies resulted in the replacement of Nazi Brown with Communist Red. However, to the victims the color was indifferent.... In the East hopes that Russia would find a natural place among the democratic states have been shattered, and nostalgia is prevailing. President Putin is seeking his roots in the dictatorship and power of the (old) Soviet Union. Democracy is pushed back, and there is popular support for this.... More of Putin’s guests ought to have followed the example of President Bush who praised the Soviet Union’s contribution in the fight against the Nazi empire, and also aimed criticism against the re-Sovietization.”
"More Democracy, Less Nostalgia In Russia"
Independent, liberal Stockholm-based Dagens Nyheter editorialized (5/9): "Today Russia celebrates the anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany...and certainly it is a victory worth remembering. For good reasons Russians have complained over the fact the West often overlooks the enormous sacrifices that the Soviet Union made during WWII.... However, today’s celebration in Moscow also is a demonstration of the difficulties to isolate the Soviet victory and the subsequent consequences. The representatives of the East European countries that were liberated from Nazism only to fall under Communist dictatorship have mixed feelings about today’s ceremonies. The victory ceremony in Moscow ought not to be so politically charged. Should there have been an open and self-critical historical description from all parties concerned, everyone would be able to honor the heroic efforts by the Russian people in the fight against Hitler’s Germany.... Russia’s development towards democracy and openness in the 1990s has, in many respects, been extraordinary.... Therefore, Putin’s increasingly undemocratic methods, the calls (within the country) for ‘powerful leaders,’ and the disinclination to come to terms with the Stalin era, are alarming signs. With the knowledge of the tragic history of the country, Europe must, without hesitating, speak clearly on democracy, openness, and human rights in Putin’s Russia.”
TURKEY: "After The Moscow Summit"
Yilmaz Oztuna obsered in conservative Turkiye (5/11): “The VE Day celebrations were marked by some some very important messages from world leaders, including on the value of peace and human rights. Even President Bush’s criticism about Russian democracy and Putin’s harsh response did not harm the overall positive atmosphere. Yet the most important message in Bush’s speech was about the ‘Pax Americana,’ which he explained at some length. The ‘Pax Americana’ refers to the process of democratization in Asia and North Africa. Bush expressed in a very determined way the U.S. commitment on the democratization issue. This determination also stems from US desire to control oil supplies in those areas. But Washington should realize that democracy cannot be easily applied in every society. Recent developments in Egypt are just one recent example. Egypt is discussing the method for electing a parliamentary speaker. At US insistence, the single-candidate system is about to be changed. The Egyptian ‘democratic’ will now allow more than one candidate to run, but under one condition -- all candidates must come from the ruling party!”
Ergun Goze noted in conservative-sensational Halka ve Olaylara Tercuman (5/11): “Presidents Bush and Putin engaged in a war of words during the 60th anniversary celebrations of VE Day. Bush criticized the Russians for occupying Europe after World War II. In return, Putin claimed that Russia had freed Europe from the Nazis. Bush continued urging Russia to become a democratic state. Putin questioned democracy in America by reminding Bush that he had to come to power through a court decision. Both sides voiced their differences in an open manner. We need to thing about where Turkey fits in to this picture. Before WWI, Turkey was often depicted between a bear and a whale--the bear symbolizing Russia and the whale representing the West. Except for the fact that the West is now dominated by the U.S. rather than Europe, not much has really changed. Turkey’s fate is the same as before, squeezed between the whale and the bear.”
"The Debate On Freedom"
Sámi Kohen commented in mainstream Milliyet (5/10): “The VE Day celebrations demonstrated friendship between the old winners and losers, but they also highlighted differences between friends of today. The celebrations included a debate about facing up to history, which predictably led to tension between Russia, Europe, and the U.S. over the Baltic states. Russia wants to distance itself from the historical responsibilities of the Soviet Union. Putin thinks that a one-time apology is good enough. But the current debate is more about the future than the past. The differences stem from policies for the future. In fact, the architect of this debate is President Bush. His speeches, both in Latvia and the Netherlands, set forth a doctrine of democracy and freedom. Bush not only expressed support for democracy, but also named a number of countries that need to go through the democratization process. Bush believes that the time has now come for countries like Belarus and Moldova. The U.S. is urging Moscow not to be afraid of democratization in neighboring countries. But the Russian leadership is expressing its discontent, effectively telling the U.S. to mind its own business. This debate looks like it could be a source for new conflicts around the world. It may not lead to the development of new and opposing ‘blocs,’ but it certainly has the potential to create new tensions and disputes.”
"Bush In Georgia"
Fikret Ertan observed in Islamist-intellectual Zaman (5/10): “Georgia’s capital Tbilisi is going to host a very important and special guest today. Of course, this guest is US President George W. Bush. This is the first-ever visit by a US President to Tbilisi. The people of that city have been preparing for this important visit for a long time. They will no doubt crowd the ‘Independence Center’ today to listen to Bush’s speech on democracy and freedom with great excitement. With this visit, President Bush will try to improve and strengthen relations between two countries that have been moving closer together for the past ten years. Bilateral relations between the US and Georgia have been growing in three areas: military, economic, and politics. Bilateral military relations are definitely ahead of the political and economic dimensions, but President Bush’s historic visit highlights Georgia’s growing importance for the US, and its position as the Americans’ closest friend and ally in the Caucasus.”
"President Bush’s Self-Defined Mission"
Yasemin Congar wrote in mainstream Milliyet (5/9): “President Bush’s trip to Europe has given certain indications about his foreign policy priorities as well as the diplomatic style we can expect during his second term. During his first term, Bush focused primarily on the fight against terrorism in the post-9/11 atmosphere, using this issue as a main justification for toppling Saddam Hussein. In the second term, Bush is seemingly broadening the concept of the struggle against terror. Both the war on and the administration’s Iraq policy are combined with a mission to expand freedom.... This priority can be seen in almost every foreign policy statement or remark by President Bush. He highlights that ‘freedom is the natural right of all people,’ and urges ‘support for democratization instead of appeasement for the sake of stability'.... President Bush’s recent speech in Riga contains both the essence of his self-defined mission for freedom and the US expectation from its allies on this issue.”
"Have We Taken The Lessons From World War II?"
Yasin Dogan argued in Islamist-opinion maker Yeni Safak (5/9): “The anniversary of the end of WWII should remind us that this was one of the worst disasters of humanity, and that it resulted from an imperialist policy. The US used atomic bombs against Japan, another indication of the horrifying aspects of imperialism.... WWII also marked the end of fascism, the force that had turned both Germany and Italy into war machines. The primary actors in World War II distorted the notion of civilization, and neither side showed respect for humanistic concepts.... With the end of WWII, humanity took this lesson to heart by establishing the UN and drawing up the International Declaration of Human Rights. Yet today, the world has drifted far from this spirit. World politics is moving toward the formation of a world system based on the interests of superpowers. Despite the commemorations of the tragedy of WWII, it seems that little effort is being made to prevent such events from happening again.”
SYRIA: "Is Moscow Still A Potential Enemy For Washington?"
Dina Dakhlallah speculated in government-owned Al-Ba'th (5/10): "Washington still considers Moscow a possible enemy that must be contained by controlling its foreign influence through alliances with its neighboring states to help the US control borders. Thus, the US rests assured that Russia has become isolated and distant from any foreign influence. Apparently, President Bush who undertook the sacred responsibility of spreading democracy and freedom in the world and considered the Soviet influence in Eastern Europe as a tremendous mistake that should not be repeated, will strive to control Russia's political aspirations.... Challenge and dispute between Moscow and Washington is no more taking place as a clash, rather within the framework of exchange of smiles, even though they are cynical. Bush says that Russians should learn democracy. Putin responds: We do want to learn democracy from a president who became a president in his first term of office by a court ruling, not by clear majority."
UAE: "Pleading Guilty"
The English-language expatriate-oriented Gulf Today held (5/9): "The World War II memorial events in Europe have presented US President George W. Bush a wonderful platform to propagate the pet American theme of 'freedom on the march'.... Bush's master stroke was his owning up of 'one of the greatest wrongs in history' that America did to Europe after the end of World War II--the US role in the division of Europe into Western and Communist blocs.... Bush believes that the agreement marked the beginning of decades of communist oppression in Europe and that it was America's historical mistake to let that happen. The admission of guilt went further. Bush insisted that the US has learnt its lessons and that it will not be forgotten while the superpower leads the spread of 'freedom' in the Middle East. Coming as a curious curtain-raiser for the summit in Moscow on Monday between Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin, the American message bears the typical Republican stamp of sharp-edged diplomacy. Bush may now prod Putin for a similar admission of guilt for all that the Soviets did in Europe in the past.... It would surely be a diplomatic coup if Bush can achieve that. However, Putin's past record shows no such possibility.... Bush feels that continued American military occupation would have prevented Soviet control of Central and Eastern Europe. He shows himself as setting an example in Iraq, where American military presence is set for a long-haul, until the 'liberation' is complete. This is also a warning that any future American invasion and occupation of a country...would last as long as it takes, until Washington is convinced that the people there are relishing the fruits of freedom and democracy. An occasion to honour the war dead has given Bush an opportunity to reiterate America's carrot-and stick foreign policy. Washington needs the Baltics dearly as its outposts in Europe. It does not want a sulking Russia complicating the process.... Bush may use a different tone at the Kremlin, but the theme will be the same--America has arrived in Russia's backyard and intends to stay there."
"Lessons Of History"
The expatriate-oriented English-language Khaleej Times declared (5/8): "This 60th anniversary of WWII is no happy occasion. It’s a sombre affair partly because of the unprecedented loss of life on both sides.... While no one is questioning the decisive role played by the Soviet Union in defeating Hitler...its own role after the war has come under spotlight amid the victory celebrations. The Europeans today shudder to think of the consequences if the Red Army had not hit back at the Germans during the crucial Stalingrad encounter of 1941 and thus incapacitated Hitler. The Soviet Union and its people had to pay a heavy price for trying to stop the Germans.... Russian pride over their role in WWII is therefore not unjustified. But it is Moscow’s postwar role that generates much anger in the neighbourhood. Stalin’s army saved Eastern Europe and Baltic states like Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, from the Nazis only to occupy them itself.... Last week, President Putin lamented the fall of Soviet Union describing it as 'the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century.' However, most of Russia’s neighbours, from Central Asian Muslim republics to Baltic states to east European nations like Poland, would disagree with Putin’s view. The end of Soviet Union for them meant liberation and deliverance from absolute tyranny.... These states were largely treated as fiefdoms of the new Czars in Kremlin. The wounds of Soviet occupation in these lands are still raw. Moscow would do well to attempt to heal those wounds rather than revisit its grand past this May 9. Tomorrow as the world community celebrates the fall of Hitler and his truly evil empire, it should reaffirm its commitment to a more just and peaceful world where people are not punished for their creed or colour."
EAST ASIA AND PACIFIC
CHINA: "U.S. President’s Visit To Baltic Countries Puts Further Squeeze on Russia’s Turf"
Li Xuejun remarked in official Xinhua Daily Telegraph (Xinhua Meiri Dianxun) (5/9): "The Bush administration’s intention is obvious. It wants to squeeze Russia’s strategic space by increasing its alliance with the Baltic countries of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. The U.S. plan wants to rid the Baltic countries of Russia’s influence.... Recently the U.S. has provided strong support to other 'color revolution' countries of the previous Soviet Union. Analysts point out it would be dangerous if these countries become staunch U.S. allies since Russia dominates the resources of these countries. Besides, the U.S. doesn’t have geopolitical interests in the Baltic Sea region and Caucasia area. It is clear that the U.S. will continue to ‘disturb the water’ in the region and the U.S.-Russia relations will continue to have a tense nature in the future.”
CHINA (HONG KONG AND MACAU SARS): "U.S. Encourages Three Baltic States To Resist Russia"
Pro-PRC Chinese-language Macau Daily News remarked (5/10): "On May 6, U.S. President Bush started off on a five-day visit to four countries in Europe. He attended a commemoration ceremony for WWII in Moscow. The White House called this trip 'a trip to support democracy.' In Latvia, Bush criticized Russia for invading the three Baltic states. With the support of the U.S., the three Baltic states requested that Moscow makes an apology for the 50-year-long military occupation.... The U.S. scrupulous arrangement and Bush's words and deeds have reminded Russia and the Baltic states of the historic scar, which led to U.S. and Russian leaders criticizing each other shortly before the commemoration day. Bush met the three Baltic leaders in Riga and said that the end of the war in Europe was 'a victory of justice over evil.' The end of the war did bring about peace to the three Baltic states, and it led to Russia's occupation and pressure from the communist party. He said that the west did not forget the 'painful history' of the three Baltic states. It is obvious that Bush's move is meant to encourage these former Soviet Union members to resist Russia."
"Time For Remembrance And Reconciliation"
The independent English-language South China Morning Post editorialized (5/9): "The world leaders who gather in Moscow today to mark the defeat of the Nazis 60 years ago have much to celebrate.... Much progress has been made in that time. The formation and growth of the EU has reconciled past foes and acted as a force for peace. The cold war is over and Russia is engaging the west. The emphasis at today's ceremony should therefore be on reconciliation and remembrance--rather than focusing on historical wounds which have sadly not yet healed.... The role of Russia has been thrust into the spotlight as a result of today's high-profile ceremony. But attention will soon shift back to the Sino-Japanese relationship. The 60th anniversary of the defeat of Japan is approaching. It is not yet clear whether Japanese leaders will be invited to commemorations in Beijing. There have been some signs in recent days that the two governments are making progress--after the recent plunge in Sino-Japanese relations. But big obstacles still remain. The ceremony in Russia today has reopened old wounds. The one that will follow later in Beijing will, it is hoped, be more about healing."
"New Conservatism Targets Russia"
Independent Chinese-language Hong Kong Economic Journal noted (5/9): "Before flying to Moscow, President Bush first visited Latvia. In this former Soviet Union republic, Bush made a speech to warn Russia not to interfere in the democracy of this country formerly controlled by the Soviet Union.... Bush repeatedly provokes Russian President Putin. As early as February, Bush had already shown his dissatisfaction to the retrogression of Russia's democracy and the rule of law. Secretary of State Rice repeated the warning when she visited Russia last month. Many people think that neo-conservatism has become more arrogant after Bush's reelection. However, they did not expect that the battle field of U.S. neo-conservatism will be moved to former Soviet Union republics and will be targeted at Russia and Putin. When Bush met with Baltic leaders in Riga last Saturday, he 'did not decline' the claim that the U.S. was the backstage supporter of revolutions in Georgia, Ukraine and Kirghizstan. The remembrance ceremonies for WWII should be a chance to boost peace. However, the smell of gunpowder is getting thicker and thicker in the international community."
JAPAN: "Bush Slows Down Mission For Democracy?"
An editorial in top-circulation moderate Yomiuri read (5/10): "President Bush's visit to Latvia, Georgia and Russia on the occasion of 60th anniversary of the Allied victory over Nazi Germany had been aimed at propagating his 'world mission for democracy' in a region where democracy and freedom have yet to take root even since the end of World War II and Cold War. At his meeting with Russian President Putin in Moscow on Sunday, Bush toned down his rhetoric advocating the 'democratic offensive' apparently in consideration of the importance of fostering close and strong cooperation with Russia in waging the war on terrorism and terminating nuclear proliferation."
"Bush, Putin At Odds Over Yalta Accords"
An editorial in conservative Sankei read (5/9): "Two days before commemorations of the 60th anniversary of the Allied victory over Nazi Germany in Russia, President Bush, speaking in Riga, Latvia, criticized agreements reached at the Yalta Conference, calling them the biggest mistake in history that led to the Soviet Union's annexation of the Baltics and its rule over eastern Europe. It is unprecedented that a president of a WWII victor nation has slammed the Yalta accords reached by three leaders of the victor nations--President Roosevelt, Prime Minister Churchill and Stalin. But Russian President Putin hailed the Yalta Agreements as an instrument that saved the post-World War II world from catastrophe. Their remarks indicated that Bush and Putin were quite at odds over the accords that also defined the Soviet occupation of the Japanese-held Northern islands off Hokkaido."
INDONESIA: "For Russia, V-E Is Also A Moment To Rediscover Its Soul"
Leading independent Kompas remarked (5/10): "If the culmination of the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe was held in Moscow, this is not without significance. Out of some 50 million victims of Nazi Germany, no fewer than 21 million were Soviet Union citizens, both soldiers and civilians. Citizens of the Soviet Union sacrificed a great deal in the struggle to defeat Hitler.... Yet, no less important is what Soviet citizens suffered. Millions of people became the victims of Stalin’s brutality, who, since before the war, had regularly committed cleansing [crimes] against his political opponents.... However, Russia’s feelings not only concern Stalin’s position in history, but also the role of Russia in the international arena.... When reality shows that the significant influence Russia once had is now decreasing, there comes other assessments. The West, especially the U.S., views President Putin, who has been in office for five years, as becoming less democratic. In addition, a discordant relationship can be seen between Moscow and a number of Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) members. From this perspective, the anniversary of the end of WW II in Europe, held in Moscow and attended by more than 50 world leaders, is expected to raise the international prestige of the Russian leader.”
PHILIPPINES: "How About Some Payback?"
Publisher Max Soliven wrote in the moderate Philippine Star (5/8): "We're all for Mr. Bush cozying up somewhat to Mr. Putin, the fomer KGB chief.... For Russia's a good card to play...with Pyongyang's nuclear rockets...ready to test their new delivery systems in the direction of Tokyo and Washington DC.... Putin, of course, has his own agenda. He's already selling weaponry...to the Chinese, but his nostalgia for past Soviet Power is what's worrisome, not his mercantile instincts.... Longing for the old USSR? You betcha. Putin doesn't hide his yearning.... Tomorrow [May 9] it will be emphasized how Russia demolished Hitler, pounded Berlin to rubble...in effect ended the war by bringing Germany down to the ashes of defeat.... We salute the courage and valor of the Russian people.... Yet, this might be a propitious moment for Bush to hand oil-rich...St. Petersburg the unpaid bill. It's already forgotten...that America supplied their Allies with more than $50 billion in war material through Lend-Lease, with most of the weaponry...being rushed to embattled Russia.... Could Russia have won without U.S. Lend-Lease help?.... They still haven't paid and never will--not even in terms of gratitude or a salute."
INDIA: "Sheer Affront"
The centrist Statesman averred (5/10): "Last week the American President, ventured into regions next door to the Russian federation, to excel himself at what he does best, insult good friends to little purpose. Appearing in the capital of Latvia, President Bush laid a wreath with full ceremony, with his press and personnel in attendance, to pronounce that the Second World War had ended, some 60 odd years later! He also delivered provocative well-worn homilies and was quite unashamed as he intoned the virtues of democracy and representative government and recommended them to his audience. You have to give it to the man; he is not ashamed of anything he or his government have ever done.... The question arises why! Why after a lapse of some 60 years does he think the world is ready to hear his lies and his disgraceful protests of practicing good governance, like declaring war--a wholly illegal and unjust war--on defenseless civilians, looting their oil, murdering them in their thousands from the air without accounting, because somehow they are a lower class in his view and count for nothing.... To hear him one would suppose that he was all virtue unwrapped, dipped in holy water and a model of what a good leader should be. Instead, he has been about the worst President the U.S. has ever had, a man with a closed mind, a singular but unfortunate affliction.... The question still survives--why now? The answer seems to be that Bush had said in Washington that he would withdraw from Iraq next year, and was desperately looking to cover this disgrace, by another scrap with Putin, fresh and inviting. It may also be that Bush is serving notice that he, as the only surviving world class power, is determined to interfere rudely in Russia’s affairs. Putin’s predictable reply will hog the headlines for a while and may even push Iraq and its problems so wantonly created, into the background. That may be Bush’s hope. The point is simply this--if he does not succeed, he will try something else!”
CANADA: "True Confession"
Paul Jackson commented the conservative tabloid Calgary Sun (5/10): "President George W. Bush's extraordinary public confession that the U.S. and its wartime allies betrayed hundreds of millions of people when they allowed Soviet dictator Josef Stalin to enslave half of Europe in 1945 deserves applauding. That Bush's VE-Day condemnation is true--and many politicians have privately mumbled about this betrayal over the decades--doesn't make his stance less profound. Unlike so many other world leaders, Bush has now shouldered his country's--and that of other western nations--responsibility for perhaps the greatest sellout in world history.... Finally, though, in Bush we have a man who now admits a great 'mistake' was made in 1945 when the Allies decided not to take on the Soviet Union and free the captive nations. Added Bush, 'we will not repeat the mistakes of other generations by appeasing or excusing tyranny and sacrificing history in the vain pursuit of stability.' There was an implied message in Bush's words that apply to the terrorists in Afghanistan, Iraq and the dictators in other Middle East countries: Their regimes are coming to an end. Democracy is on the march. This time, the U.S. will not be found wanting. Bush may not yet be of the stature of Reagan--but, despite his hysterical detractors, he is turning out to be a president of some substance."
"Yalta Was No Betrayal, Mr. Bush"
Conrad Black wrote in the leading Globe and Mail (5/10): "Bush should remember, even if he does not want to repeat it to live audiences in Eastern Europe, that, of all those countries, only the Czechs were politically distinguished before the war. The Hungarians and Poles jubilantly joined in tearing up Czechoslovakia after Munich. Munich was a bad arrangement, undertaken with good intentions by British prime minister Neville Chamberlain, because he knew that Britain and France could not go to war against the desire of the Sudeten Germans to join Germany. The Nazi-Soviet Pact of 1939 was an act of stupefying cynicism, carving up Poland and the Baltic states, and submitting them all to brutal occupation. Yalta was an unexceptionable arrangement that required 45 years of vigilant containment to enforce. Mr. Bush should not perpetuate the Yalta myth and should not give ammunition to the forces of anti-Americanism in Europe, which claim that the English-speaking countries betrayed Eastern Europe. The West went to war for Poland. The English-speaking countries liberated Western Europe and, with those liberated countries, withheld recognition of Stalin's violation of his Yalta promises until Eastern Europe, too, was liberated. Sixty years after V-E Day, this Republican president should stop parroting McCarthyite defamations of Roosevelt, Churchill and Truman. He cannot seriously lament that the West did not go to war with the USSR over Eastern Europe in 1945. He should stop apologizing for what was not, in fact, a discreditable episode in American diplomatic history."
"What Bush Forgot In His Yalta Remarks"
The leading Globe and Mail editorialized (5/10): "U.S. President George W. Bush likes to dismiss his critics as 'Monday-morning quarterbacks.' Yet there he was on the weekend, passing retrospective judgment on one of the big plays of the Second World War 60 years after the fact.... Mr. Bush has shown himself a bold thinker with an admirable vision of promoting democracy and confronting tyranny. He is right to say that to surrender to despotism for the sake of stability is often a bad bargain. Americans learned that on 9/11, when they were attacked by a band of terrorists who sprang from Egypt and Saudi Arabia, whose authoritarian rulers Washington had supported as pillars of stability. But along with vision, leaders need a measure of realism. Yalta was the supreme example of realpolitik--doing what is possible, rather than what is ideal, in a complicated world."
"'Freedom Is Not Tired'"
The conservative National Post opined (5/10): "Few contemporary leaders enjoy the clarity of purpose and the moral foundation of Mr. Bush, and fewer still have the ability to deliver their message with the plain language and eloquent idealism of the President. This was demonstrated again Saturday when Mr. Bush delivered a speech in Riga, the capital of Latvia. It might have been a throwaway, a collection of perfunctory niceties dispensed to an assemblage of Baltic dignitaries on the 60th anniversary of VE Day. Instead, Mr. Bush used the occasion to deliver an address that might well be rated as historic.... All of this enraged Russian President Vladimir Putin, who unsuccessfully sought to stymie Ukraine's Orange Revolution, and who continues to insist the Soviet occupation of the Baltic States was benign. But this did not cause Mr. Bush to hold back. Indeed, he warned tacitly against Russia's future meddling in the affairs of neighbouring states, and urged it to instead embrace the new democracies on its border.... What was clear from Mr. Bush's Riga speech was his unrelenting faith in democracy--he called its progress a 'miracle'--and the rejection of relativism.... After the address, a reporter suggested to Mr. Bush that the U.S. might be behind the 'revolutionary' change in Georgia and Ukraine, and might be 'inappropriately meddling in the neighbourhood.' Mr. Bush replied: 'Freedom is universal. Freedom is etched in everybody's soul. And the idea of countries helping others become free, I would hope that would be viewed as not revolutionary, but rational foreign policy, as decent foreign policy, as humane foreign policy.' Well said, Mr. Bush. The spread of freedom and democracy is more than decent, rational foreign policy. It is a human imperative."
ARGENTINA: "Bush In Europe Amid A Confrontation With Russia"
Ana Baron noted in leading Clarin (5/7): "On the eve of his trip to Europe, which will include a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, President George W. Bush expressed his concern over the 100,000 rifles that Russia has recently sold to Venezuela. Bush said 'We are very concerned because those weapons could well end up in the hands of the FARC, a very destabilizing force in South America.' In this way, he made clear that Venezuela is not a minor issue in the complicated and full agenda of his meeting with Putin.... In a letter sent to the leader of Lithuania, the head of the White House said that the 60th anniversary of the end of the Second World War is a tragic moment for Baltic countries due to the fact that during the conflict they were annexed to the Soviet Union. Russia reacted in a blunt way. The Russian ambassador to the EU said that one couldn't talk about occupation because the Soviet forces of that time had been invited to enter those nations, and that this explains why there was not a popular confrontation of any kind whatsoever."
BRAZIL: "Ride In The Volga"
Center-right O Estado de S. Paulo remarked (5/10): “President Bush is right on everything he said about the Soviet past and on the authoritarianism of today’s Russia. The problem is that Washington only began to criticize Putin’s actions clearly when he harmed the property rights of Yukos oil company. Putin’s actions against freedom of the press, for example, have not received the same [USG] criticism.... The U.S. and Russia are subject to cycles of cooperation and tension. Washington needs Moscow in the area of security, for example to pressure North Korea to resume multilateral negotiations on nuclear issues…. And Moscow needs Washington to project itself as a global interlocutor, particularly now when the next G-8 meeting will take place in Saint Petersburg.”
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