Boycott of Moscow's Victory Day Parade Helps New Iron Curtain Fall
The term “Iron Curtain” was not coined by Winston Churchill, but it was he who turned it into one of the symbols of the latter part of the twentieth century by using it in his famous Fulton speech of 1946.
Back then it actually described only one of the “Iron Curtains” which have existed in the past decades.
With “Kiev-led” Ukraine celebrating Europe Day and the “People’s Republics” marking Victory Day and holding a parade of their own, one of Europe’s largest countries is just one example showing that the notion of an “Iron Curtain” is not only limited to a specific stretch of time. Seventy years after the war ended and 69 years after the Cold War began (and Churchill used that phrase), it looks like the latter was only briefly interrupted by a truce. Those who once fought together, later turned against each other but chose to bury the past, now seem to be running the risk of returning to a previous episode of relations. And all of them are relying on their own versions of history, picking Ukraine as an occasion to prick each other.
Indeed, history was kind to Churchill as he predicted (“for I intend to write it,” as he said). But so it was to all victors. After all, the Soviet Union was, for some time, tacitly helpful to Nazi Germany as the latter advanced west in the first years of the war, while the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact was still in force. Later some authors, like ex-Soviet military intelligence officer Viktor Suvorov, have argued that the Soviet Union also sought to attack the Third Reich and this forced Hitler into preventive retaliation. The UK and France didn’t object to the actions of Hitler as he advanced east and south-east. On the other hand, there was a darker side to the US involvement, not just with the nuclear bombs dropped over Japan (how can the war have ended in May if bombs were dropped over Japan in August?) but also with its political and military leadership’s insistence on unconditional capitulation which put off peace for some time and cost “extra” hundreds of thousands of lives (though history now shows there were also other solutions on the table). The perverted nature of Nazi Germany and its inhumane, genocidal regime must never be denied. But in one thing the Allies and Nazi Germany were quite alike: despite having different reasons to be involved in the war, they all pursued their goals in a ruthless manner, except France, which was unable to do so for obvious reasons.
Now the “triumph” of the US in the Cold War has allowed Washington to portray the Soviet Union and its heir (and predecessor) Russia as the utmost evil, even when this is not officially and explicitly stated. Until just months before the 2012 presidential race, Republican candidate Mitt Romney had described the biggest threat to US quite simply: “Russia”. In the past year, Russia has been no different. It achieved what Moscow calls its “reunification” with Crimea and ever since has been claiming threats are coming from NATO, warning the alliance against any interference and using the “fascist” tune to describe the developments in Ukraine – and upon hearing these words one could start wondering if the World War is really over. Strangely enough (though not unexpected), European decisionmakers also opt to take a side,fervently attacking Russia and citing its aggression in Ukraine as a reason to boycott the Victory Day parade. Some minor states facing internal problems, however, feel they cannot afford to turn their backs on any of the more substantial vectors of economic relations.
Taking a side is not an problem in itself as long as one doesn’t adhere to it blindly. Unfortunately, the mass boycott of May 9 celebration over the Ukraine crisis shows this is exactly what happened. It makes both Russia and the West – and, currently, Europe – forget Europe Day wouldn’t have been possible without Victory Day, and Victory Day would have been hard to conceive without Western allies (something that even Russia’s Pervy Kanal admitted lately, releasing a documentary about US contribution).
Europe and the US don’t hesitate to criticize Russia over Ukraine, forgetting that only several years ago, while they were already used to celebrating together in Moscow, each of them had long ago been pursuing own goals in Eastern Europe, only had been doing so more silently.
Russia for its part is attempting to downplay the refusal of most European leaders to boycott the parade. However, putting an emphasis on the number of “our non-aligned partners” (says Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov) visiting Moscow for the parade is surprising: it is unclear why one should be exalted by the prospect of celebrating old victories only with new rivals, because this is what China and India are to Russia in the new multipolar world.
Actions of both Russia and boycotting leaders of other former Allies suggest they learned nothing from the past. Only active cooperation can help tackle present-day threats, and even if the bipolar order of the Cold War didn’t make this post-war lesson evident, the message was there, back in the very foundation of the “Iron Curtain”, and was left unnoticed for decades.
There are those historians who argue Churchill used the term to foment a cleavage between the US and the Soviet Union at a time when the British Empire was exhausted, economically devastated and somewhere between peaceful decolonization and violent independence conflicts.
Nowadays, even if we accepted that none of the powers in the Northern hemisphere is seeking to put a wheel on cooperation (and as a matter of fact some are) between the others to gain advantage, other actors, who had so far been watching passively, might be glad to see what is happening.