Editor’s Note: Deena Stryker joins FDL Book Salon on Aug 2nd to discuss Lunch With Fellini, Dinner With Fidel.President Obama’s four-day European tour leading up to the D-Day celebrations in France began in Poland with the announcement of an increase in the number of American troops stationed there, as the post-coup government in Ukraine continued military action against citizens who refuse to recognize it.
The borders of Poland, Bela Rus and Kievan Rus (going back to the Middle Ages) have dissolved into one another for centuries with ‘Ukraine’ as an entity created during the Russian Revolution of 1917. Aside from that, Obama’s commitment to defending Poland from a threat to the east twenty odd years after the collapse of the Soviet Union is no small irony: Having failed to defend Poland against Germany in World War II, it would now defend it against Russia, which has threatened no one.
American academia has finally acknowledged that the Soviet Union played the most significant role in the defeat of Nazi Germany, the allied D-Day landing having signaled the opening of a second front to the one the Soviets had been fighting on since June, 1941. However, from the end of WW II until 1991, the Soviet Union was condemned by the West for creating friendly governments in its buffer zone of Eastern Europe, including Poland, and accused of being an imminent threat to the ‘free’ nations of Western Europe. And by declaring in 2005 that the demise of the Soviet Union had been a geo-political catastrophe, Vladimir Putin provided the United States with a handy excuse to condemn Russia’s every policy.
Russia is labelled as aggressor for respecting the referendum organized by Crimea’s largely Russian population that desperately wants to become part of Russia, as it had been for centuries before the Soviet regime made it part of Ukraine. It is also suspected of evil designs on the Baltic countries as well as in Moldova in the south. And yet, while Washington has made it illegitimate for Russia to resist encirclement, NATO’s presence in Eastern Europe implies that the Soviet Union’s concerns over its buffer zone were legitimate.
The 70th D-day anniversary will serve as backdrop for the first meeting between Obama and Putin since the Ukraine coup, which the Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs (an interesting, and probably post-Soviet title) Victoria Nuland boasted publicly that Washington spent five billion dollars preparing. It is more than likely that a good part of those funds went to Right Sektor, an ultra-right para-military group that trained in Western Ukraine for months before turning the peaceful Maidan protests into all-out war and installing a government in which it holds four ministerial positions while continuing to worship its predecessors who, as German allies, committed atrocities against Jews, Communists, Gypsies and Poles.
Notwithstanding this uncomfortable truth, the Polish government can no more refrain from meddling in Ukraine today than it has historically. However, Europe’s uncomfortable position between a rock and a hard place is evident in the arrangements France’s President made for receiving both Obama and Putin in Paris in the run-up to tomorrow’s ceremony in Normandy: He had dinner with Obama, then a late supper with Putin. (Putin also responded to journalists’ questions in a TV show, which you can see on RT or France 24.) The reality behind these diplomatic acrobatics is that as Western Ukrainians reach for a European dream that is fast vanishing for its citizens, the United States and its allies are faced with a nightmare: Russia’s spearheading of an economic zone stretching from the Black Sea to the Pacific, in tandem with China.