On April 25, 2020, the White House released a Joint Statement by President Donald J. Trump and President Vladimir Putin of Russia commemorating the 75th Anniversary of the Meeting on the Elbe. In honor of the May 8th anniversary of the end of World War II, the CEEC objects to this statement and calls for the United States government to recognize the anniversary’s tragic historical significance as it marked the beginning of 50 years of oppression for the nations of our heritage.
In the statement, both parties highlighted the “historic meeting between American and Soviet troops, who shook hands on the damaged bridge over the Elbe River…herald[ing] the decisive defeat of the Nazi regime.” In addition, the statement conveys “the ‘Spirit of the Elbe’ [as] an example of how our countries can put aside differences, build trust, and cooperate in pursuit of a greater cause.”
The CEEC is alarmed over the statement’s disregard of the brutal legacy of the Soviet Union, its enabling of the Kremlin’s historical revisionism, and its failure to recognize the Putin regime’s revanchism in Europe. We find the statement to be inconsistent with a committed stance against Moscow’s ongoing antagonism toward the U.S. and its allies.
We recognize that the end of Hitler and Nazism was a historic victory for the U.S., Europe, and the world. We also realize that nations across the globe today must work together to coordinate efforts against pandemics and other threats to the human race. However, this joint statement with Putin on the legacy of WWII fails on a number of fronts.
The statement does not include historical context acknowledging that the Allies’ partnership with the Soviet Union precipitated almost 50 years of Moscow’s subjugation of half of Europe. Under the totalitarian rule of the Soviet Union, Central and Eastern European nations suffered rampant human rights abuses, political and economic corruption, and loss of fundamental freedoms.
Indeed, the statement enables the Kremlin’s dangerous historical revisionism that seeks to validate the Soviet Union and its post-Soviet incarnation as a partner to build “trust” with. We must remember the hegemony that the Soviets wrought in Europe, and how Americans led the West in the Cold War against it for nearly half a century. We must not let the U.S. be complicit in the Putin regime’s false narrative of the Soviet Union’s legacy.
In the context of this legacy, the statement also fails to acknowledge the Putin regime’s calculated foreign policy to undermine U.S. interests and dominate democracies at its borders and around the globe. Putin has called the collapse of the Soviet empire “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century.” In noting the U.S. and Russia “put aside differences, build trust, and cooperate in pursuit of a greater cause … to confront the most important challenges of the 21st century,” the statement in fact facilitates the military and political revanchism over Europe that Putin continues to plot.
Today, Putin’s regime continues to antagonize the U.S. and its allies in Europe through a hybrid war of disinformation, election interference, cyber-attacks, and protracted occupation of parts of Ukraine and Georgia. It threatens the peace and stability that American leadership has enabled through decades of investment and partnership after WWII. We cannot afford to “put aside differences” of principle, rule of law, and aggressive actions.
As we mark the 75th anniversary of the end of WWII, the CEEC calls for U.S. policy and action that uphold democratic values and the long history of American leadership in protecting them. We urge President Trump to place those values ahead of engaging with a regime that fails to respect the sovereignty of other nations, promotes the corrupt legacy of a failed state, and continues to wage aggression against the U.S. and its allies.