by Randolph T. Holhut
Chief of AR Correspondents
May 14, 2015
SNUBBING PUTIN ON V-E DAY WAS AN ACT OF PETULANCE
DUMMERSTON, Vt. -- The 70th anniversary of V-E (Victory in Europe) Day was celebrated on May 9 in Moscow.
Missing from the celebration was President Barack Obama and his counterparts from Britain (David Cameron), France (Francois Hollande) and Germany (Angela Merkel).
They snubbed the Russians, ostensibly over the continued tensions between the West and Russian leader Vladimir Putin over the U.S.- and NATO-engineered coup in Ukraine last year.
The gesture was intended to humiliate Putin on one of the most important days on the Russian calendar (although Chinese leader Xi Jinping attended).
Instead, it made Obama and his allies appear petulant and ahistorical - lacking context and perspective, in other words.
It took a lot to defeat Adolph Hitler and his Nazi regime in World War II. In the case of the Soviet Union, the cost of victory was about 26 million deaths - the exact number will never be known - and the destruction of many of its major cities.
The then-Soviet Union absorbed unbelievably high losses to stop the Nazi advance. In the Battle of Stalingrad in 1942 and 1943 alone, nearly 500,000 Red Army soldiers were killed - more than the total number of U.S. deaths in the entire war.
The Normandy invasion on June 6, 1944 was tough for allied forces, but it would be hard to imagine what D-Day would have been like had not the Nazi army been bled dry on the Eastern Front by the Russians. It's estimated that three-quarters of the German losses during the war came at the hands of the Red Army.
President Franklin Roosevelt knew this, which is why the Soviets were considered allies.
But now, in the rush to create a new Cold War with Russia, it seems like the United States is trying to rewrite the history books.
The Russians remember, though. It's estimated that 60 percent of Soviet households lost at least one member of their immediate family in the war.
The Russians also remember the economic "shock therapy" engineered by the United States after the end of the Soviet Union in 1991, and the rise of the oligarchs that followed.
You won't hear many dissenters in Washington regarding current U.S. policy toward Russia. But the realities on the ground contradict the Obama Administration, starting with the fact that Russia had no plans to annex Crimea, home of one of the Russian navy's only warm water port, until the U.S.-backed coup happened in Kiev.
It's hard to imagine that top U.S. officials didn't realize that Russia was not about to cede control of Sevastopol, one of its most important naval bases, to a Ukrainian government itching to join NATO.
Were they that dumb, or did they not care that this would reignite the Cold War?
Blame American exceptionalism, I suppose. Our leaders seem to think that the United States is the most awesome country on earth and is not bound by the laws that govern other nations' behavior.
Hopefully, this snub will pass and the U.S. and Russian governments will recognize that it's in the best interests of both to cooperate with one another on all the pressing issues that crowd the global stage right now.
AR's Chief of Correspondents, Randolph T. Holhut, holds an M.P.A. from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and is an award-winning journalist in New England for more than 30 years. He edited "The George Seldes Reader" (Barricade Books). He can be reached at email@example.com.