That 75th anniversary of Barbarossa: a look back at Opportunities wasted
The speech that the German leader SHOULD have given on the occasion
On the Bundeskanzlerin’s page for June 21, 2016, we find this realization from then-Federal Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier: “Peace in Europe is inextricably bound up with German-Russian relations.”
The heading runs as follows:
75 years ago Hitler launched his war of annihilation against the Soviet Union. “We must never forget what Germans did in the Soviet Union”
Steinmeier’s vision has been ignored or forgotten, and there was nothing from Bundeskanzlern Merkel herself, but political commentator Leo Ensel has filled in for her with the speech which she should have given on the occasion, and here it is, chock full of points that needed making, points that would not be needed, in our view, had the West been able to make do without an enemy. As I work on the German text below, I am mindful of Georgiy Arbatov’s dictum “We are depriving you of an enemy.” But the Western War Machine couldn’t have it. Without further preamble, the speech:
Дорогие россияне! * I am very pleased to have President Putin’s permission to send you a message today on this historic date and in this still uneasy political situation on Russian television.
75 years ago today, German soldiers of the Hitlerite Wehrmacht invaded the Soviet Union and caused immense suffering throughout this country. This war was not a war in the traditional sense. It was planned from the beginning as an extermination campaign against the population and that is how it was conducted.
When Germany had deservedly lost the war just four years later and had been freed from Nazi rule by the soldiers of the Red Army and the Western powers, it was the Soviet Union that had by far the most victims. Nearly 27 million people: Russians, Ukrainians, Belorussians, Armenians, Georgians, Azerbaijanis, Kazakhs, Uzbeks, Kyrgyz, and people of many other nationalities, not to mention the Soviet Jews!
If there can be a single lesson from this gruesome slaughter, it is: Never again may a war break out between our peoples! And never again may the nations on the European continent split apart!
And that brings me to the present.As we all know, the last two and a half years have not been an easy time for relations between Russia and the West in general and for relations between Russians and Germans in particular.
Let me say it bluntly here today: in my estimation, all sides – the European Union, NATO, Ukraine and even Russia – have come up short: we have all run into a blind alley! And please take it from me: I am deeply concerned about this development! Without going into the background and the complicated details here, I would like to make one thing clear at this point: We all do not need any further escalation of the already very bad situation!
The most important thing we all need right now is a mitigation policy that will hopefully lead as soon as possible to a policy of de-escalation and, in the medium term, to a new policy of detente.
And I assure you: as Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany, I am ready!
Later historians will probably find that we all made mistakes. And not just since the beginning of the Ukraine crisis, which has grown horribly into a war in Ukraine – a war that by no means should escalate into a war for Ukraine or even worse!
First of all, our mistakes, the mistakes of the West: I am afraid that we did not respect your country, Russia, enough after the end of the Cold War that was so fortunate for us! Instead, there were even voices that triumphantly sounded like a “Victory of the West in the Cold War”!
I know what a hard time most of you had to go through in the late eighties and early nineties – while at the same time we Germans could enjoy our reunion.
How bitter and arrogant these voices must have sounded in your ears!
Dear citizens of the Russian Federation, as you all know, we Germans celebrated the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall a year and a half ago. And I would like to say it unequivocally at this point: I myself would never be Chancellor of the united Germany today, if the soldiers of the Red Army had not stayed in their barracks in autumn 1989!
The same applies to our Federal President. – We Germans have not forgotten that the Soviet Union not only bore the brunt of the Second World War, but that the fall of the Berlin Wall and the reunification of Germany would not have been possible without the constructive policies of the then Soviet Union!
And this fills us with great gratitude!
And again, our mistakes, the mistakes of the West: I am also afraid that since the end of the Cold War we have paid too little attention to the security needs of Russia. Yes, in retrospect we realize that the West has evidently been too unilateral for some time now and still is.
That has to change!
Conversely, I can not help but notice that even Russian policy has not always been flawless. I am thinking in particular of the war in eastern Ukraine and the still unresolved Crimean issue. My dear viewers in the Russian Federation, I am deeply saddened that the relations between our peoples, who had developed so hopefully after the end of the Cold War, have recently taken such a tragic turn.
Let us do everything we can to ensure that our peoples do not stumble into disaster for the third time in more than 100 years after the outbreak of the First World War and 75 years after the invasion of the Soviet Union! Rather, let us return to the times not so long ago, when we, the Germans, were one of the most popular people for the Russians!
We Germans still have a good memory that in the 1980s it was the Soviet administration at the time, which, with a series of unilateral measures, set the decisive signal for victory over the logic of the arms race.
So this time it is up to us to take the first step!
It is unbearable for me that a quarter of a century after the reunification and just at this time, German soldiers are in the Baltic States practicing war against Russia again!
So, first of all, we want to help turn the entire border between NATO and Russia into a broad, demilitarized corridor. This also means that the project “Missile Defense Screen” on the doorstep of Russia, from which you feel – rightly or wrongly – threatened, will be deleted without replacement.
I will plead with our partners in NATO at the next meeting in Warsaw in July that our side will start with these measures – in the great hope that your country will be involved in its turn!
In addition, I am very pleased to inform you that the German Federal Government has decided as a second one-sided step the following: From now on, we will introduce visa-free regime for the Federal Republic of Germany for all students of the post-Soviet space!
This measure applies unconditionally and is unlimited in duration. – Dear students, there are also excellent universities here in Germany. If you like, come to us, get to know our country, make friends! Germany is open to you, you are welcome!