Polskieradio International leaders in Poland for WW II ceremony 01.09.2009 17:36 Delegates from 31 nations, including PM Putin, Chancellor Merkel and PresidentMessage 1 of 1 , Sep 1, 2009View Source
International leaders in Poland for WW II ceremony01.09.2009 17:36Delegates from 31 nations, including PM Putin, Chancellor Merkel and President Sarkozy, gathered today in Westerplatte, northern Poland where war began 70 years today.
The politicians often used the historical occasion to make points relevant to today’s international tensions.
All the leading participants gave speeches commemorating where the first shells fell of a war that would take 60 million lives.
The most eagerly awaited speech was from Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, whose visit to Poland has been preceded by claims by President Medvedev, the Russian Intelligence Service and documentary makers in Moscow of Poland’s alleged collaboration with Nazi Germany in 1934, with intentions of eastward expansion into the Soviet Union. Particular and angry debate has flown back and forth between Warsaw and Moscow over the role of the Mokotov-Ribbentrop Pact of 1939, which Russia says was effectively forced on the USSR in fear of an alliance between Germany, Poland and Japan.
So what would Putin say to those gathered in Westerplatte today?
“We want to bow our heads before the millions of anti-Hitler coalition soldiers, guerrillas and civilians who perished at the hands of the [Nazi] executioners,” Putin began.
He said that the cost of defeating Nazism came at great cost, no less to the USSR, which lost 29 million people in the war.
As to the roots of war and the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, PM Putin appeared unwavering: “We need to think about what led to the war being so terrible. There was intrigue and conspiracy. The roots of war lie in the shortcomings of the Treaty of Versailles.”
He said from 1934 - the date Poland signed a non-aggression pact with Germany - to 1939, a sustained effort to "appease the Nazis” by agreements and pacts was made. This was, Putin said, unacceptable from a moral standpoint and from a political perspective it "was dangerous and wrong."
Finally he said: “My country recognizes its mistakes and is involved in the construction of a new world."
President Lech Kaczynski took the opportunity at the ceremony in his speech to liken the Munich Agreement - signed in 1938 by Germany, Italy, France and Great Britain, which left the way open for the Nazis to annex Czechoslovakia - to Russia’s invasion of Georgian territory last year.
“Such a breach of territorial integrity is not just a problem of totalitarianism, but of neo-imperialism, such as we saw last year," said President Kaczynski.
Poland’s head of state also mentioned the “two totalitarians, Hitler and Stalin” as being equally ruinous for Europe and the world - a point made recently by the OSCE but one which angers the current Russian government, which sees no moral comparison between the two.
Chancellor Angela Merkel said she fully excepted Germany’s responsibility of what happened during WW II, the horror of which “no words can express.”
She also stressed that since 1939, Poland and Germany have come a a long way. “We now have a very friendly relationship on many levels between our two countries. Here is strength in unity, which has made the unification of our histories possible.”
Poland's prime minister Donald Tusk’s speech looked to the future and a “new order”, reminding of Hitler’s words that “only might is right”
“In the new order which we want to build in Europe, there is no place for such words,” said PM Tusk. “In our world, right is the one who is right. We must reject the temptation by the strong to dominate the weak.