Vladimir Putin: The Real Lessons of the 75th Anniversary of World War II

June 18, 2020 Topic: Security Region: Europe Tags: RussiaUSSRSoviet UnionWorld War IIHistory

Vladimir Putin: The Real Lessons of the 75th Anniversary of World War II

The Russian president offers a comprehensive assessment of the legacy of World War II, arguing that "Today, European politicians, and Polish leaders in particular, wish to sweep the Munich Betrayal under the carpet. The Munich Betrayal showed to the Soviet Union that the Western countries would deal with security issues without taking its interests into account."

At that time, the leaders of the USSR, the United States, and the UK faced, without exaggeration, a historic task. Stalin, Roosevelt and Churchill represented the countries with different ideologies, state aspirations, interests, cultures, but demonstrated great political will, rose above the contradictions and preferences and put the true interests of peace at the forefront. As a result, they were able to come to an agreement and achieve a solution from which all of humanity has benefited.

The victorious powers left us a system that has become the quintessence of the intellectual and political quest of several centuries. A series of conferences – Tehran, Yalta, San Francisco and Potsdam – laid the foundation of a world that for 75 years had no global war, despite the sharpest contradictions.

Historical revisionism, the manifestations of which we now observe in the West, and primarily with regard to the subject of the Second World War and its outcome, is dangerous because it grossly and cynically distorts the understanding of the principles of peaceful development, laid down at the Yalta and San Francisco conferences in 1945. The major historic achievement of Yalta and other decisions of that time is the agreement to create a mechanism that would allow the leading powers to remain within the framework of diplomacy in resolving their differences.

The twentieth century brought large-scale and comprehensive global conflicts, and in 1945 the nuclear weapons capable of physically destroying the Earth also entered the scene. In other words, the settlement of disputes by force has become prohibitively dangerous. And the victors in the Second World War understood that. They understood and were aware of their own responsibility towards humanity.

The cautionary tale of the League of Nations was taken into account in 1945. The structure of the UN Security Council was developed in a way to make peace guarantees as concrete and effective as possible. That is how the institution of the permanent members of the Security Council and the right of the veto as their privilege and responsibility came into being.

 

What is veto power in the UN Security Council? To put it bluntly, it is the only reasonable alternative to a direct confrontation between major countries. It is a statement by one of the five powers that a decision is unacceptable to it and is contrary to its interests and its ideas about the right approach. And other countries, even if they do not agree, take this position for granted, abandoning any attempts to realize their unilateral efforts. So, in one way or another, it is necessary to seek compromises.

A new global confrontation started almost immediately after the end of the Second World War and was at times very fierce. And the fact that the Cold War did not grow into the Third World War has become a clear testimony of the effectiveness of the agreements concluded by the Big Three. The rules of conduct agreed upon during the creation of the United Nations made it possible to further minimize risks and keep confrontation under control.

 

Of course, we can see that the UN system currently experiences certain tension in its work and is not as effective as it could be. But the UN still performs its primary function. The principles of the UN Security Council are a unique mechanism for preventing a major war or global conflict.

The calls that have been made quite often in recent years to abolish the veto power, to deny special opportunities to permanent members of the Security Council are actually irresponsible. After all, if that happens, the United Nations would in essence become the League of Nations – a meeting for empty talk without any leverage on the world processes. How it ended is well known. That is why the victorious powers approached the formation of the new system of the world order with utmost seriousness seeking to avoid repetition of the mistakes of their predecessors.

The creation of the modern system of international relations is one of the major outcomes of the Second World War. Even the most insurmountable contradictions – geopolitical, ideological, economic – do not prevent us from finding forms of peaceful coexistence and interaction, if there is the desire and will to do so. Today the world is going through quite a turbulent time. Everything is changing, from the global balance of power and influence to the social, economic and technological foundations of societies, nations and even continents. In the past epochs, shifts of such magnitude have almost never happened without major military conflicts. Without a power struggle to build a new global hierarchy. Thanks to the wisdom and farsightedness of the political figures of the Allied Powers, it was possible to create a system that has restrained from extreme manifestations of such objective competition, historically inherent in the world development.

It is a duty of ours – all those who take political responsibility and primarily representatives of the victorious powers in the Second World War – to guarantee that this system is maintained and improved. Today, as in 1945, it is important to demonstrate political will and discuss the future together. Our colleagues – Mr. Xi Jinping, Mr. Macron, Mr. Trump and Mr. Johnson – supported the Russian initiative to hold a meeting of the leaders of the five nuclear-weapon States, permanent members of the Security Council. We thank them for this and hope that such a face-to-face meeting could take place as soon as possible. 

What is our vision of the agenda for the upcoming summit? First of all, in our opinion, it would be useful to discuss steps to develop collective principles in world affairs. To speak frankly about the issues of preserving peace, strengthening global and regional security, strategic arms control, as well as joint efforts in countering terrorism, extremism and other major challenges and threats.

A special item on the agenda of the meeting is the situation in the global economy. And above all, overcoming the economic crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Our countries are taking unprecedented measures to protect the health and lives of people and to support citizens who have found themselves in difficult living situations. Our ability to work together and in concert, as real partners, will show how severe the impact of the pandemic will be, and how quickly the global economy will emerge from the recession. Moreover, it is unacceptable to turn the economy into an instrument of pressure and confrontation. Popular issues include environmental protection and combating climate change, as well as ensuring the security of the global information space.

The agenda proposed by Russia for the upcoming summit of the Five is extremely important and relevant both for our countries and for the entire world. And we have specific ideas and initiatives on all the items.

There can be no doubt that the summit of Russia, China, France, the United States, and the UK can play an important role in finding common answers to modern challenges and threats, and will demonstrate a common commitment to the spirit of alliance, to those high humanist ideals and values for which our fathers and grandfathers were fighting shoulder to shoulder.

Drawing on a shared historical memory, we can trust each other and must do so. That will serve as a solid basis for successful negotiations and concerted action for the sake of enhancing the stability and security on the planet and for the sake of prosperity and well-being of all States. Without exaggeration, it is our common duty and responsibility towards the entire world, towards the present and future generations.

Vladimir Putin serves as President of the Russian Federation. 

Image: Reuters.