It looks as though common sense has triumphed, and that western leaders will, after all, be meeting President Putin in the margins of the 70th Anniversary of D-Day next month, for what are generally being described as “informal” talks.
There’s an element of self-interest here, of course, since western leaders are well aware that without Russia there can be no solution to a number of the world’s current problems, and that, for all that they may sulk about Ukraine, this is likely to be true for the foreseeable future.
But it may not be too much to hope that there’s another component to these decisions: shame. It’s hard to think of a greater historical injustice, after all, than the deliberate minimisation, and even denial, of the incredible suffering of the Russian people between 1941 and 1945, and the overwhelming role played by the Red Army in the defeat of Nazism. It can’t be said often enough: it was the Soviet Union that won World War II. Ninety percent of the German war effort was directed towards the East and, had it not been for the Red Army , there would have been no D-Day to write about, and you would be reading this (if I were even allowed to write it) in German. And I do mean the Soviet Union: without the energy and discipline of the Red Army and the Communist Party, Russia would have gone down to defeat in 1941, unpopular as that idea may be today.
Much as it chokes them to do so, western leaders can hardly deny what every historian knows. It’s nearly a generation now since the end of the Communist party in Russia made it politically acceptable to recognise the real nature of the Second World War and how and why it was won, and by whom. We owe the Russian people a debt we can never repay, even if, one day, we actually started to consider thinking about perhaps starting to pay it. How about just a few words of gratitude for the cameras, oh leaders of western Europe, whose countries would not exist today without Mr Putin’s predecessors. Come on, it won’t actually hurt.