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Briefing by Russian Ambassador to the Netherlands Alexander Shulgin

Briefing by Russian Ambassador to the Netherlands Alexander Shulgin

On August 26 Russian Ambassador to the Netherlands Alexander Shulgin held a press-conference for the heads of diplomatic missions accredited in The Hague dedicated to the "80th anniversary of the outbreak of World War II."

During the briefing, Alexander Shulgin said that some countries are making persistent attempts to reconsider the causes and results of World War II and distort historical facts based on myths in order to place responsibility for unleashing World War II not only on Germany, but also on the Soviet Union. 

At the end of the event, the ambassador answered questions that were posed by the representatives of the diplomatic corps.

On top of that, a photo exhibition of documents from the Foreign Policy Archive of the Russian Federation was shown in the lobby of the Embassy.

 

Speech of Russian Ambassador

to the Netherlands

A. Shulgin at the briefing

for representatives

of the diplomatic corps

dedicated to the 80th Anniversary

of the start of WWII

 

         Ladies and gentlemen,

         In 2020, we will all celebrate the 75th anniversary of the end of WWII and the liberation of Europe from Nazism.

         In the Soviet Union, with the Russian Federation being the successor state, that  war was named as the Great Patriotic War by analogy with the Patriotic War of 1812 when the Grande Armée led by Napoleon suffered defeats it would never recover from.   

         The war became the greatest tragedy for all mankind, left deep, unhealed wounds in the hearts of millions and affected the fate of entire generations. The war claimed the lives of more than 34 million people, with 26 million being citizens of the multinational Union of the Soviet Socialist Republic. Around 7 million were from Germany. The Netherlands lost approximately 200 thousand people. That is why the events that pushed the world into the abyss still attract the main attention of  politicians, public figures and statesmen, scientists.

         Unfortunately, what we have to state today is that a number of countries make persistent attempts to reconsider the causes and results of WWII, distorting historical facts and imposing false views based on speculations and fictions.

         It becomes very fashionable to denounce the Soviet Union, to blame Joseph Stalin for committing all the mortal sins, and then the Russian people are called upon to repent, admit their guilt and, ultimately, to compensate for the material and moral damage.

         Thus, the charges brought against the Soviet Union are actually presented against Russia. At the beginning of the last century cartoons that were dedicated to Tsarist Russia depicted a bear who wanted to devour and subjugate all of Europe. Now, in the age of the Internet when various technological methods are used to conduct information wars, in fact, little has changed: our country is still portrayed as a bloodthirsty forest owner.

         This is particularly bitter to observe, as everyone knows that it was our country that made a decisive contribution to defeat Hitler’s War Machine, as well as to liberate the world from the “brown plague”.

         Another myth that is actively spread nowadays is that the USSR, having concluded a non-aggression pact with Germany in 1939, better known in the West as «the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact», is thus responsible for unleashing WWII. By the way, the European Commission has also contributed to disseminating these views the other day. The statement by F. Timmermans and V. Yurova that was released on August 22 this year interprets the treaty as "the beginning of the dark chapter of European history", which, according to Brussels, lasted until 1989.

         There is nothing in this narrative that is relevant to the truth. In the prewar years Soviet leaders took in fact a number of political and diplomatic steps in order to prevent the aggression of Nazi Germany. The USSR persistently sought to conclude a trilateral agreement with Great Britain and France on mutual military assistance; that was a desperate and, unfortunately, belated attempt to create an Anti-Hitler coalition. What became the main stumbling block during the negotiations on that issue was the position of the Polish and Baltic states. The USSR did not have a common border with Germany, and Poland and the Baltic states repeatedly stated during that period that "they will not let any single Soviet soldier set foot on their soil." They flatly refused to discuss any guarantees of their independence and territorial integrity on the part of the USSR.

         Such an unconstructive position made meaningless any talks concerning a  military convention, under which a new Entente on the model of the WWI would be created between the USSR, France and England. Nevertheless, the Kremlin tried to do something until the end. We know, for example, that the British and French missions came to Moscow in August 1939 after all. And it was only during the Moscow negotiations when it turned out that nothing but a “declaration of intent” could be signed.

         There are a huge number of historical documents that give a true account of the real events that preceded the outbreak of WWII. Such documents are valuable, as they, on the basis of inexorable facts, show who plunged the world into a monstrous catastrophe and who tried to save it. While clouds were gathering over Europe, Western politicians made a selfish and at the same time extremely short-sighted choice to appease the Hitler regime in the hope of ensuring their safety at the expense of others. The culmination of that policy was the Munich agreement, when England and France in September 1938 allowed Hitler to capture the Sudeten region of Czechoslovakia what resulted in the country losing about 1/5 of the territory, 5 million people, and also a third of industrial enterprises.

         Following those developments, we had to ensure our national interests, to stop Hitler’s aggressive movement further to the East - what England and France indeed wanted to happen. Moscow knew that Poland and then the Baltic states would become the next victims of Germany. And that would mean that German troops would stand on full alert in front of the Soviet borders and in the immediate proximity to Leningrad, Minsk, Kiev, Odessa - the most important political, industrial and cultural centers of the USSR.

         Under these circumstances, the Soviet Union had to ensure its national security on its own and sign a non-aggression treaty with Germany. That forced step allowed the USSR to better prepare for the upcoming battle with the enemy. At that time Moscow made every effort to create a coalition against Germany, only to find no understanding in London and Paris. And if in the pre-war period the countries had combined their efforts, then there would not have been millions of victims.

         Thus, the Soviet-German non-aggression pact of 1939 was, in fact, a result of the short-sighted policy conducted by the Western European states, as well as of the Munich agreement. If there hadn’t been «the Munich Betrayal», there would not have been a Soviet-German non-aggression treaty.

         In addition, the Soviet leadership was aware of the real goals of Western governments that you may see in many surviving documents. In particular, declassified archives clearly show that politicians in Paris and London delayed in considering the Soviet proposal to form a collective security system. Even in the spring and summer of 1939, when it was clear that the conflict could not be avoided, they naively believed that the war would bypass them, the Western powers and played a double game, trying to channel Hitler's aggression to the East. As early as 1938, immediately following the Munich agreement, the Anglo-German and Franco-German declarations were signed that provided for the non-use of force. A similar document was concluded in 1934 between Warsaw and Berlin.

          Dear colleagues,

         The great Russian historian Vasily Klyuchevsky once said that history “punishes  for ignorance of its lessons”. In circumstances when the world community is facing dangerous challenges and threats, zero-sum geopolitical games are alarming and harmful, as well as attempts to establish global hegemony. What is needed is to get back to the difficult work of creating an architecture of equal and indivisible security and broad cooperation of sovereign states in the Euro-Atlantic and Eurasia.The most essential thing in order to succeed is to rely on the universally recognized principles and norms of international law, which should be strictly observed by all participants in interstate communication without exception.

         Guided by these principles, Russia will consistently work to improve the situation in the world and will contribute fully to the political and diplomatic settlement of numerous crises and conflicts.

         In conclusion, I would like to note that one of the main principles of history as a science is not to assess past events, from exclusively today’s perspective. To apply the logic of modern international relations to the Soviet-German treaty is the same as to reproach the United States for annexing Texas that used to be a part of sovereign Mexico. And in the middle of the XIX century it was in fact nothing more than the annexation of a significant part of the territory of a sovereign country.

         One of the main lessons of history is that a desire of somebody to rule the world inevitably results in failure. Just as attempts aimed at ensuring own security at the expense of the security of others. It is trust, along with realism in international relations, that ensure durable and reliable peace in the world.

         Thus, when evaluating the dramatic events that preceded WWII we may draw a number of important historical conclusions, the most important of which is that common security can be achieved only through joint efforts of states and that it is impossible to ensure one’s own security at the expense of others, let alone bargaining security with aggressor. I am convinced that the historical lesson of WWII was given to mankind with the aim that such tragic events would never occur again.

         Thank you for your attention!