TCS Daily

What Bush Must Do In Moscow

By Melana Zyla Vickers - May 5, 2005 12:00 AM

Josef Stalin, no slouch in the paranoid-suspicion department, took an extra day in May of 1945 to confirm Nazi Germany's surrender in World War II because he thought his British and American colleagues would pocket the May 8th surrender on the Western front and then turn on him.

Millions of Eastern Europeans wish that Stalin's suspicions had been proved right. After all, had the Communist dictator's war-weary partners seen the evil in Moscow and not dismissed it, they might have stopped it in its tracks. Instead, it took several decades and an expensive Cold War for the West to pry open the clutches of murderous Moscow. By then, hundreds of millions of people were slaves of the Soviet empire, and millions were dead.

This is the historical backdrop of President George Bush's visit to Moscow Monday. He will be there to mark Stalin's day of commemoration, not ours. So when he joins President Vladimir Putin on the ceremonial dais, anything short of a condemnation of Stalin's evils, and a recognition of the horrors that went on behind the Iron Curtain after the war ended for the West, would be a sham.

Of course, a condemnation won't be what Putin wants to hear. As recently as January of this year, he used his most important annual speech to the Russian parliament to declare that the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 -- not World War II, not the Holocaust, not Communist atrocities -- marked "the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century." (It's interesting to note that the propaganda apparatchiks on at least one Russian diplomatic website, ever eager to look genteel to the West, falsely translate Putin's words as "a major geopolitical disaster.")

Putin, an ex-KGB man who has centralized power and enriched his secret police, is using the May 9th event, with its parade of some 50 heads of state, to whitewash history and give global legitimacy to the Soviet horrors and Russian imperialism he so perversely treasures. Preparations have even seen the re-mounting of several Stalin monuments, as Anne Applebaum, author of a Pulitzer Prize-winning book on the Soviet gulag, has noted in an excellent column on Monday's event.

All of this leaves George Bush with a clear task. If he fails on Monday to address, at length, the maniacal Communist totalitarianism of Moscow in the 20th century, he'll be falling into Putin's trap and doing great harm.

Bush must instead follow the example of his partners in the region. His colleague in Poland Aleksander Kwasniewski, for instance, has called the Yalta agreement a "tragedy and a trauma" and plans to talk about the victims of Communism in Moscow. Ukraine's Viktor Yushchenko is staying away from the Moscow event entirely, as are the leaders of Estonia and Lithuania. After all, the Baltic States and Polish-dominated Ukraine were consigned to Soviet enslavement after Stalin happily accepted them as gifts from Hitler, under the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact.

These leaders will instead stay home to honor the millions of ethnic Ukrainians, Balts, Russians and others who were dragooned into the service of the Red Army and gave their lives to defeat Nazi Germany.

Their boycott makes clear that Moscow's celebration of Stalin, Lenin, and other perpetrators of atrocities exploits the defeat of one evil regime -- the Nazis -- to glorify another -- the Communists.

It's bad enough that President Bush is attending the Monday event. If he doesn't speak the truth in Putin's presence, he will have committed a diplomatic atrocity of his own.


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