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Putin: Russia is committed to the restoration of a comprehensive partnership with Europe.
Photo credit: Administration of the President of Russia
Russian president wrote an article on the 80th anniversary of the Nazi Germany invasion of the Soviet Union for a German weekly Die Zeit. Putin emphasizes, that having survived the horrors of the world war, the peoples of Europe have overcome alienation and restore mutual trust and respect. He calls to act together today as well.
Vladimir Putin, President of Russia
On June 22, 1941, exactly 80 years ago, having conquered almost all of Europe, the Nazis invaded the USSR. The Great Patriotic War began for the Soviet people. It was the most violent war in the history of our country. Tens of millions of people died; the economic potential and cultural heritage were inflicted with heavy losses.
We are proud of the courage and resilience of the heroes of the Red Army and home front workers, who not only defended the independence and dignity of their homeland but also saved Europe and the world from enslavement.
And whoever is now making attempts to rewrite the pages of the past, the truth is that the Soviet soldier came to the land of Germany not to take revenge on the Germans, but with the noble, glorious mission of a liberator. The memory of the heroes who fought against Nazism is sacred to us. We remember with gratitude the allies in the anti-Hitler coalition, the members of the Resistance, the German anti-fascists who contributed to the common victory.
Having survived the horrors of the world war, the peoples of Europe were still able to overcome alienation and restore mutual trust and respect; they embarked on a course of integration in order to draw the final line under the European tragedies of the first half of the past century. And I would like to emphasize that the historical reconciliation of our people and the Germans who lived both in the east and in the west of today's united Germany was integral in the evolvement of such kind of Europe.
Let me remind you that it was German entrepreneurs who pioneered cooperation with our country in the post-war years. In 1970, the USSR and West Germany signed the landmark deal on long-term natural gas supplies to Europe. It laid the foundation for constructive interdependence and opened the way for many subsequent ambitious projects, including the construction of the Nord Stream gas pipeline.
We hoped that the Cold War’s end would be a common victory for Europe. It looked like Charles de Gaulle’s dream of a united continent, not even the geographical one from the Atlantic to the Urals, but the cultural, civilizational continent - from Lisbon to Vladivostok, was so close to becoming a reality.
It was the following type of logic - the logic of building the Greater Europe united by common values and interests, that was the basis of Russia’s striving to develop its relations with the Europeans. A lot was achieved on this path by both us and the European Union.
However, a different approach came to the fore. It was based on the expansion of the North Atlantic Alliance, which itself was a survival of the Cold War. Indeed, it had been established to confront the times of that era.
The expansion of the Alliance to the east began, by the way, with the Soviet leadership being literally persuaded to allow united Germany to join NATO. This very expansion became the main reason behind the explosion of mutual distrust in Europe. They were quick to forget about the promises made verbally back then, that “this is not directed against you”, and “the borders of the Alliance will not get closer to you”. Yet, the precedent was set.
And since 1999, five more waves of NATO expansion have followed. The Alliance was joined by 14 new countries, including the republics of the former Soviet Union. Thus, hopes for the continent without borderlines were forgone. By the way, Egon Bar, one of the leaders of the SPD, had warned about it in the mid-1980s. Back then he proposed to fundamentally rebuild the entire European security system after the unification of Germany with the participation of both the USSR and the United States. But nobody wanted to listen to him, neither in the USSR, nor in the USA, nor in Europe.
Moreover, many countries were faced with an artificial choice - to stand either with the collective West or with Russia. In fact, it was an ultimatum. The consequences of such an aggressive posture can be seen in the Ukrainian tragedy of 2014. Europe actively supported the anti-constitutional armed coup in Ukraine. It all started from there. What was the reason behind that? At that time the incumbent President Yanukovych had already agreed with all the demands of the opposition. Why did the United States organize a coup, and why did the countries of Europe support it as if they had no will of their own? It provoked a split within Ukraine and the secession of Crimea.
Currently, the entire European security system has heavily deteriorated. Tensions keep growing, and the risks of a new arms race become real. We fail to use the enormous opportunities offered to us by cooperation, all the more so as it is so important now when we all face the common challenges - the pandemic and its drastic social and economic consequences.
Why is this happening? And, above all, what conclusions do we have to draw together? What lessons of history do we need to recall? I think, first of all, we need to remember that the entire post-war history of Greater Europe constitutes the confirmation that the prosperity and security of our common continent are possible only through the joint efforts of all countries, including Russia since Russia is one of the largest European states. And we feel our indissoluble cultural and historical bonds with Europe.
We are open to honest-minded and results-orientated cooperation. This is evidenced by our idea of creating a single space for cooperation and security all the way from the Atlantic to the Pacific, which would include various integration formats, including the European Union and the Eurasian Economic Union.
I would like to reiterate: Russia is committed to the restoration of a comprehensive partnership with Europe. We have many topics of mutual interest. These are security and strategic stability, healthcare and education, digitalization, power industry, culture, science and technology, finding solutions for climate and environmental challenges.
The world develops dynamically. It faces new challenges and threats. And we simply cannot afford to tug along the past misunderstandings, grievances, conflicts, and mistakes. This is the burden that will disturb our focus on solving current issues. We are deeply convinced that all of us need to acknowledge such mistakes and correct them. Our common and indisputable goal is to ensure continental security without borderlines, a united space of equitable cooperation and inclusive development for the prosperity of Europe and the world.
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