World Putin hails WW II heroes, warns of degrading Europe security
Biden, unlike predecessors, has maintained Putin skepticism
President Joe Biden frequently talks about what he sees as central in executing effective foreign policy: building personal relationships. © Provided by Associated Press FILE - In this March 10, 2011 file photo, then U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, left, shakes hands with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in Moscow.
MOSCOW (AP) — Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday marked the 80th anniversary of the Nazi attack on the Soviet Union by hailing the country's World War II heroes and calling for efforts to strengthen European security.
The Nazis invaded the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941, and the country lost a staggering 27 million people in what it calls the Great Patriotic War. The enormous suffering and sacrifice have left a deep scar in the national psyche, and the Victory Day marking the end of World War II in Europe that is celebrated in Russia on May 9 is the nation’s most important secular holiday.
Some US allies near Russia are wary of Biden-Putin summit
KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Central and Eastern European nations are anxious about the coming summit meeting between U.S. President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin, wary of what they see as hostile intentions from the Kremlin. Some in the countries that once were part of the Soviet Union or the Moscow-led Warsaw Pact during the Cold War worry that Washington could scale down support for its allies in the region in a bid to secure a more stable and predictable relationship with Russia.
“The day of June 22 still evokes anger and sorrow in the hearts of all generations, causing pain for the destroyed lives of millions of people,” Putin said in a speech at the Unknown Soldier’s Tomb at the Kremlin wall. “Those trials, those terrible years, are literally imprinted into our memory.”
The invading Nazi forces quickly overran the western part of the Soviet Union and came as close as 30 kilometers (less than 19 miles) to Moscow. But the Red Army rebounded and routed the Nazis near the capital, dealt them a crushing defeat in the Battle of Stalingrad in 1943 and then drove them back across Europe all the way to Berlin.
Biden and Putin agree relations are abysmal. Will their meeting change anything?
President Biden and Russia's Vladimir Putin agree the nations' relationship is at a low point before their summit. Trump sends the ex-KGB chief 'warmest regards.'Both said as much in interviews leading up to Wednesday's meeting in Geneva, which comes amid tensions over myriad issues, including a spate of cyberattacks emanating from within Russia; Putin's military adventurism along his country's border with Ukraine; and his imprisonment of opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who survived poisoning with a Russian nerve agent.
The Kremlin has been anxious to see international recognition of the nation’s wartime sacrifices and its role in defeating the Nazis.
In an article published Tuesday in the German weekly Die Zeit, Putin emphasized that “despite attempts to rewrite the pages of the past that are being made today, the truth is that Soviet soldiers came to Germany not to take revenge on the Germans, but with a noble and great mission of liberation.”
He hailed postwar efforts to restore mutual trust but blamed NATO's eastward expansion to embrace former Soviet bloc countries in Central and Eastern Europe and ex-Soviet Baltic republics for the deteriorating security.
“We hoped that the end of the Cold War would be a common victory for Europe,” Putin said in the article. “But a different approach has prevailed based on the expansion of NATO, a relic of the Cold War. Fourteen new countries, including the former Soviet Union republics, joined the organization, effectively dashing hopes for a continent without dividing lines."
What can Biden and Putin hope to accomplish at their summit?
After years of mounting antagonism, expectations are low, red lines are drawn and the presidents have plenty to disagree on. But there are openings.The Biden administration hopes merely to foster a more "stable and predictable relationship" with Russia. For Putin, the summit in Geneva will be all about demonstrating that his country is taken seriously as an international power.
Moscow saw NATO's expansion as a threat to its security, and Russia-West ties sank to post-Cold War lows after Russia's 2014 annexation of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula that followed the ouster of the Moscow-friendly Ukrainian president.
“The whole system of European security has now degraded significantly,” Putin wrote. “Tensions are rising and the risks of a new arms race are becoming real."
He insisted that prosperity and security in Europe could only be achieved through joint efforts and noted that “Russia is in favour of restoring a comprehensive partnership with Europe.”
“We simply cannot afford to carry the burden of past misunderstandings, hard feelings, conflicts, and mistakes,” Putin said. “Our common and indisputable goal is to ensure security on the continent without dividing lines, a common space for equitable cooperation and inclusive development for the prosperity of Europe and the world as a whole.”
Opinion: How meeting with Biden put Putin on top of the world .
The Geneva summit never should have happened, writes Garry Kasparov. Now that it's over, I'm even more mystified as to why it happened at all. I can answer for Putin, of course. Dictators love events that put them on an equal footing with democratic leaders and sitting one-on-one with the president of the United States is the most coveted prize of all. Putin already scored a major victory the moment the summit was announced, especially since Biden himself proposed the meeting. For Putin, it wasn't just a meeting between heads of government -- for him, it was literally the highest point, the top of the world.