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Article byVladimir Putin Being Open, Despite thePast

Anarticle bythePresident ofRussia has been published intheGerman weekly newspaperDie Zeitandis timed tocoincide with the80thanniversary ofthebeginning oftheGreat Patriotic war.

June 22, 2021


Being Open, Despite thePast

OnJune22, 1941, exactly 80 years ago, theNazis, having conquered practically thewhole ofEurope, attacked theUSSR. FortheSoviet people theGreat Patriotic War thebloodiest one inthehistory ofour country began. Tens ofmillions ofpeople lost their lives, theeconomic potential ofthecountry andits cultural property were severely damaged.

We are proud ofthecourage andsteadfastness oftheheroes oftheRed Army andhome front workers who not only defended theindependence anddignity ofour homeland, but also saved Europe andtheworld from enslavement. Despite attempts torewrite thepages ofthepast that are being made today, thetruth is that Soviet soldiers came toGermany not totake revenge ontheGermans, but with anoble andgreat mission ofliberation. We hold sacred thememory oftheheroes who fought against Nazism. We remember with gratitude our allies intheanti-Hitler coalition, participants intheResistance movement, andGerman anti-fascists who brought our common victory closer.

Having lived through thehorrors oftheworld war, thepeoples ofEurope were nevertheless able toovercome alienation andrestore mutual trust andrespect. They set acourse forintegration inorder todraw afinal line under theEuropean tragedies ofthefirst half ofthelast century. AndIwould like toemphasize that thehistorical reconciliation ofour people with theGermans living both intheeast andthewest ofmodern united Germany played ahuge role intheformation ofsuch Europe.

Iwould also like toremind that it was German entrepreneurs who became pioneers ofcooperation with our country inthepost-war years. In1970, theUSSR andtheFederal Republic ofGermany concluded adeal ofthecentury onlong-term natural gas supplies toEurope that laid thefoundation forconstructive interdependence andinitiated many future grand projects, including theconstruction oftheNord Stream gas pipeline.

We hoped that theend oftheCold War would be acommon victory forEurope. It seemed that just alittle more effort was needed tomake Charles de Gaulle's dream ofasingle continent not even geographically from theAtlantic totheUrals, but culturally andcivilizationally from Lisbon toVladivostok become areality.

It is exactly with this logic inmind thelogic ofbuilding aGreater Europe united bycommon values andinterests that Russia has sought todevelop its relations with theEuropeans. Both Russia andtheEU have done alot onthis path.

But adifferent approach has prevailed. It was based ontheexpansion oftheNorth Atlantic Alliance which was itself arelic oftheCold War. After all, it was specifically created fortheconfrontation ofthat era.

It was thebloc's movement eastwards which, bytheway, began when theSoviet leadership was actually persuaded toaccept theunited Germany's accession toNATO that turned into themain reason fortherapid increase inmutual mistrust inEurope. Verbal promises made inthat time such asthis is not directed against you orthebloc's borders will not get closer toyou were quickly forgotten. But aprecedent was set.

Andsince 1999, five more waves ofNATO expansion have followed. Fourteen new countries, including theformer Soviet Union republics, joined theorganization, effectively dashing hopes foracontinent without dividing lines. Interestingly, this was warned about inthemid-1980s byEgon Bahr, one oftheSPD leaders, who proposed aradical restructuring oftheentire European security system after German unification, involving both theUSSR andtheUnited States. But no one intheUSSR, theUSA orEurope was willing tolisten tohim atthetime.

Moreover, many countries were put before theartificial choice ofbeing either with thecollective West orwith Russia. Infact, it was anultimatum. TheUkrainian tragedy of2014 is anexample oftheconsequences that this aggressive policy has led to. Europe actively supported theunconstitutional armed coup inUkraine. This was where it all started. Why was it necessary todo this? Then incumbent president Yanukovych had already accepted all thedemands oftheopposition. Why did theUSA organize thecoup andtheEuropean countries weak-heartedly support it, provoking asplit within Ukraine andthewithdrawal ofCrimea?

Thewhole system ofEuropean security has now degraded significantly. Tensions are rising andtherisks ofanew arms race are becoming real. We are missing out onthetremendous opportunities that cooperation offers all themore important now that we are all facing common challenges, such asthepandemic andits dire social andeconomic consequences.

Why does this happen? Andmost importantly, what conclusions should we draw together? What lessons ofhistory should we recall? Ithink, first andforemost, that theentire post-war history ofGreater Europe confirms that prosperity andsecurity ofour common continent is only possible through thejoint efforts ofall countries, including Russia. Because Russia is one ofthelargest countries inEurope. Andwe are aware ofour inseparable cultural andhistorical connection toEurope.

We are open tohonest andconstructive interaction. This is confirmed byour idea ofcreating acommon space ofcooperation andsecurity from theAtlantic tothePacific Ocean which would comprise various integration formats, including theEuropean Union andtheEurasian Economic Union.

Ireiterate that Russia is infavour ofrestoring acomprehensive partnership with Europe. We have many topics ofmutual interest. These include security andstrategic stability, healthcare andeducation, digitalization, energy, culture, science andtechnology, resolution ofclimate andenvironmental issues.

Theworld is adynamic place, facing new challenges andthreats. We simply cannot afford tocarry theburden ofpast misunderstandings, hard feelings, conflicts, andmistakes. It is aburden that will prevent us from concentrating onthechallenges athand. We are convinced that we all should recognize these mistakes andcorrect them. Our common andindisputable goal is toensure security onthecontinent without dividing lines, acommon space forequitable cooperation andinclusive development fortheprosperity ofEurope andtheworld asawhole.