Friday, June 06, 2014

Message to Putin

On Weds June 4 Pres. Obama met with a gathering of Heads of State of Eastern European countries, including newly elected Pres. Poroshenko of Ukraine, in Warsaw, Poland, to commemorate 25 years since the first free election in Poland that began the fall of communism.  This was the victory of the non-violent Solidarity movement, that started with trade unionists refusing to work under degrading conditions and ended with complete freedom for Poland and not only the fall of communism in Poland, but the withdrawal of all USSR forces from Poland.  And this had a domino effect that led to the freedom of all the so-called Iron Curtain countries in Eastern Europe, including Hungary and East Germany and led to the fall of the USSR and its break-up into 15 independent non-communist countries and the reunification of Germany.  This amazing transformation after 72 years of the USSR and 44 years of communism in Eastern Europe took all of 2 years, from the first election in Poland in 1989 to the dissolution of the USSR in 1991.
But, Obama's meeting and rousing speech in Warsaw was meant as a message to none other than Pres. Putin.  It was a not-so-veiled threat, that the coalition of free nations represented there, and of the EU and NATO, will not stand for any undue Russian interference in the affairs of these free countries, that have been under Russian control and influence for so long.  While Ukraine is not a NATO country, as is Poland, nevertheless the countries assembled there, including the USA, gave a solemn warning to Putin to stop meddling in the affairs of Ukraine.  Crimea has already gone from Ukraine to Russia, but Eastern Ukraine, centred around Donetsk, is still in the balance.  Obama promised a billion dollars to strengthen democracy in Eastern Europe by providing arms, ammunition and training.  The US will not supply arms to Ukraine, but will provide non-military supplies as well as much-needed military advice and training for the growing Ukrainian forces to combat the pro-Russian insurgents.  NATO will also increase its defensive maneuvers in the regions surrounding Eastern Europe.  Whether or not Putin will listen to these warnings will determine the future of us all.
Two statements in Obama's speech had historic significance, first the reference to the Warsaw Ghetto uprising of 1943, that was a  last desperate attempt by the Jewish occupants of the Ghetto to resist the Nazi onslaught.  It should be pointed out that in terms of freedom in Eastern Europe this was the first mass uprising against totalitarian oppression there.  Also, Obama mentioned the Warsaw uprising by Poles in 1944 that was doomed to failure when the Soviet forces deliberately held back across the Vistula River and allowed the Germans to reinforce and reoccupy Warsaw.  None of the Eastern European countries represented there are inclined to be very friendly to Russia, remembering that tragic history, but they are prepared to deal with Russia as long as it obeys the rules of international relations.  
On June 6 will be the commemoration in Normandy of the D-Day landings of 1944 that spelt the relief of Russia from German invasion and that heralded the end of WWII.   This will be another opportunity for Obama to remind Putin that they both owe each other a great deal and as democratic nations need to work together.  To the extent that Russia remains democratic it will resist the desire to occupy more land and take over other countries.   


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