Judy Asks: Should Western leaders attend Moscow’s WWII parade?

Opinion piece (Carnegie Europe)
15 April 2015

Western leaders do not need to attend Moscow’s Victory Day Parade on May 9. Only twice, in 1995 and 2005, have many of them participated since the first such celebration was held in 1965. This time, there are both contemporary and historical reasons to stay away. First, Russia is occupying Crimea, and Russian forces are fighting alongside rebels in eastern Ukraine. High-level Western participation in Moscow would imply acceptance of this aggression against a neighbor. Russia could also claim that attendance indicates agreement with the idea that Russians today are fighting fascism, as their ancestors did in the Great Patriotic War.

Second, Western leaders would implicitly endorse a distorted portrait of the Second World War that ignores the Hitler-Stalin Pact and the role of the Soviet Union’s allies in enabling it to keep fighting. Moscow’s view also overlooks the fact that for Central and Eastern Europe, 1945 brought the imposition of a Communist regime almost as brutal as the Nazi occupation.

So let Western leaders commemorate all those who died in the war and the Holocaust, and even pay special honor to the Soviet Union’s millions of dead—many of them Ukrainians and Belarusians. But let them not be party to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s belligerent myth-making, and the idea of Moscow as the world capital of antifascism.