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28 августа

A column by Russian Ambassador to India Nikolay Kudashev on the occasion of 80th anniversary of the beginning of the Second World War

“He who thinks of the past also has the future in mind. He who speaks of the future has no right to forget the past. Having gone through the inferno of many battles I know at first-hand what war means and I do not want mankind to face that again.” — Vasily Chuikov, Marshal of the Soviet Union.

As we approach a significant date, the 80th anniversary of the beginning of the Second World War, our memories go back to the enormous adversities that the world had gone through in 1939-1945. On this occasion, we grieve the millions of innocent lives lost in Europe, Asia, and Africa, which were engulfed in the flames of hostilities for six long years. We remember the hardships met by our fathers and grandfathers. They sacrificed their lives in the efforts to defeat the adversary and rebuilt the war-torn motherland amidst post-war hunger and extreme austerities.

We also remember the many lessons that the Second World War taught humankind. Today, as we witness how the instruments of collective security come under repeated attacks, let us recall the chain of events that led to the disaster.

By the mid-1930s, the instigators of the upcoming war, the Nazis in Germany, the Fascists in Italy and the imperialists in Japan, were busy getting their economies and armies battle-ready. Even as Italy was spreading its foothold in Africa and the Mediterranean, Japan began the conquest of Asia. Germany, having done away with the limitations imposed by the Treaty of Versailles, was eyeing its share of colonies and the vast resources of the USSR. The young Soviet country came under a grave existential threat.

Change in tack

The Soviet Union realised that the cooperation with Great Britain and France may have prevented the war or at least ensured a quick defeat of the aggressors. Over the next few years, Soviet diplomacy desperately tried to forge international collective security arrangements, based on existing allied pacts as well as mutual interests. As evident from archival documents, the British conservatives under the leadership of Neville Chamberlain had another plan in mind. Rather than joining hands for peace with the USSR and other countries to thwart the aggressive plans of the Nazis in Europe, they decided to appease Adolf Hitler (to ride the tiger, as Winston Churchill put it). The aim was to isolate the USSR and to channel predatory German energy to the East, towards the Soviet Union. In Asia, the British government encouraged Tokyo to direct its annexationist appetite to the Russian Far East, further away from the British colonies in south China.

In 1938, these sordid intentions resulted in London and Paris signing the infamous Munich Agreement. This ignominious act allowed the dismembering of their ally, Czechoslovakia. Thus began the countdown to the war. Moscow’s attempts to honour its commitments to save Prague, the first victim of imminent German aggression, were rejected. Warsaw, saturated with hatred and distrust to the communists, said no to the Soviet proposals for meaningful talks and joined the shameless feast by annexing the Polish-populated territories of Czechoslovakia.

The war theater

In 1939, the stage for the global war was set. By then Germany had determined its aggressive policy by annexing Czechoslovakia, tearing apart the non-aggression pact with Poland, denouncing the maritime treaty with Great Britain and setting up colonial claims against the U.K. and France. Japan had captured large territories of China, and in August, attacked Mongolia in a futile attempt to strike a blow to the USSR. Moscow intensified attempts to reach an agreement with London and Paris. Yet, the British and French negotiators had clear instructions to drag on discussions. The talks reached a deadlock. Facing the threat of a two-front war in total isolation, the USSR was forced to sign the non-aggression pact with Germany, getting some respite before the decisive battle.

Today, we witness the drive to rewrite and falsify the history of the Second World War, to whitewash the real culprits and demonise the victors. These attempts accentuate the efforts to dilute the international security system and undermine international law. The lessons of the Second World War teach us about the dangers of such actions. Having made a decisive contribution to the victory over the evil forces, our country consistently reaffirms its readiness to defend peace by strengthening the existing instruments of global stability as laid out in the UN Charter in 1945.

We consider India as an important partner in this endeavour. Together with other like-minded countries in the framework of the UN, G20, BRICS and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, we stand strong for the establishment of truly multipolar, just and equal world order. We stand against any illegal unilateral actions, which undermine strategic and regional stability, spread uncertainty and unpredictability in global affairs.

The Hindu: https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/remembering-a-painful-past/article29271734.ece