18.05.2005
The Great Victory
№2 2005 April/June
Sergey Lavrov

Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation.

The events of World War II, which resulted in a dramatic victory
over Nazism, have tremendous social and political significance.
Therefore, it is no coincidence that the upcoming 60th anniversary
since the end of hostilities has given rise to serious debates in
many countries around the world. Quite often, those debates have
broader scope than simply the interpretation, for example, of one
or more wartime events. They contain conflicting moral assessments
of the war’s results as they are directly related to the present
policies in Europe and the world.

These discussions make us morally responsible to the many people
who sacrificed their lives to defeat Nazism, as well as to those
who casually view World War II as a distant event. This
responsibility demands that we defend the historic truth of this
war and foster a correct understanding of its lessons from the
perspective of the modern age.

World War II was a truly epoch-making event. Apart from being a
global battle which exceeded all previous armed conflicts in scale
and scope, it embodied a clash of interests that involved different
nations, competing ideologies, and irreconcilably different
approaches to the very foundation of mankind’s existence. For the
first time in history, the survival of whole nations was at stake.
The gas chambers and crematoriums of Auschwitz (Osґwie,cim) present
in bold relief the mortal menace of Nazism and exactly what kind of
future the “new order” was destined to build.

In essence, the main outcome of the war was much bigger than
simply the victory of one coalition of countries over another
coalition, as the forces of creativity and civilization emerged
victorious over the forces of destruction and barbarism; Life
triumphed over Death.

The war brought great tragedy to the peoples of Europe and the
world at large regardless of what side they happened to find
themselves on. Not a single family, not a single human destiny was
left untouched. Historians have an obligation to tell the truth
about that tragedy, which must never be used as a ploy in political
machinations. Shifts of moral criteria are inadmissible in
discussions of the results of that war. President Vladimir Putin,
while on a visit to Osґwie,cim, Poland, on January 27, 2005, said
that attempts to rewrite history and place an equal sign between
the victims and the butchers, the liberators and the occupants,
were profusely immoral.

The greater the time that separates us from World War II, the
clearer the picture of the central role that our country and its
people played in attaining victory; it was truly a monumental feat.
Russia has a thousand-year-old history, but it had never seen
anything comparable to the ordeal that befell the wartime
generation. The desire to achieve victory united the diverse
nationalities living in this country, the people of all ages and
social groups. That is why the upcoming anniversary of our victory
is, most importantly, an opportunity to pay tribute to those people
who defended the independence of our homeland and brought
long-awaited liberation to the European nations who had been
devastated by the Nazis. The forthcoming V-Day festivities remind
us of the great spiritual potential inherent to Russia and its
people. The history of World War II will remain an inexhaustible
source of our strength and confidence for future generations.

Russian diplomacy paved the way to Victory together with the
Russian people. The creation of the anti-Hitler coalition became
the most significant diplomatic breakthrough of the time. The
coalition served as an example of countries with different
ideologies and political systems pooling together their resources
in the face of a common deadly threat. There is no sense in
oversimplifying or adorning history now that 60 years have elapsed
since V-Day. Each member state of the coalition pursued its own
objectives and had its own national interests. Naturally, mutual
trust was difficult to achieve, but they found the strength to put
aside contradictions and trivial matters for the sake of winning a
common victory. The opponents of Nazism shared the realization that
they had to thwart evil without restraint and without compromises,
concessions or separate agreements. Today, that lesson remains
relevant.

The experience of international camaraderie in arms is acquiring
new significance as mankind is now confronting new challenges posed
by a new enemy, that is, international terrorism. Today, the very
foundation of civilization is being threatened once again. Like
Nazism, terrorism has nothing to offer the world besides violence,
disregard for human life, and a readiness to crush the fundamental
norms of human morality in order to reach its maniacal goals.

Similar to the events 60 years ago, solidarity and mutual trust
provide the only ground for overpowering this danger. Double
standards are as inadmissible when dealing with terrorists as are
the attempts to rehabilitate Nazi accomplices. Giving the floor to
terrorists so that they may declare their hatred for humanity is
the same as permitting former SS soldiers the right to hold parades
in particular countries – some of which loudly trumpet their
commitment to democracy.

We have a debt to those people who shed their blood for saving
mankind from Nazism. We must erect powerful barriers against the
spread of ideas which preach racial, ethnic, or religious
superiority. Unity among the antiterrorist coalition countries,
harmony between different nationalities and religions, tolerance,
mutual respect, cultural diversity and a fruitful dialog of
civilizations are the invaluable conditions for victory over the
forces of hatred and extremism.

The lessons of World War II are no less relevant from the
perspective of the postwar global order. The results of the war had
a profound impact on the progress of international relations. Even
now that six decades have passed and the world has witnessed
fundamental changes, elements of the postwar arrangement in Europe
and across the world retain importance for ensuring peace and
security on our planet.

The willingness to deliver mankind from war horrors in the
future inspired the anti-Hitler coalition nations to set up the
United Nations Organization, a global mechanism of ensuring
international peace and security. The UN Charter became a
universally recognized foundation of contemporary international
law, the commonly accepted code of rules for countries and
international organizations. Its principles and norms have
withstood the test of the Cold War and are the only set of
guidelines for forming a safe and just world order during the era
of globalization.

The 60th anniversary of victory in World War II  must not
be used as a pretext for confrontation, for settling old scores. It
is noteworthy that the UN has declared May 8 and May 9 as days of
remembrance and reconciliation. Festivities in Moscow, to be
attended by the heads of state and government of more than 50
countries and the heads of major international organizations, will
be held under that motto. It is essential that the forthcoming
holiday promote unity among countries and nations and help develop
their solidarity in the face of new threats and challenges which
the 21st century has brought with it.