By Elisabeth Hellenbroich
With the D-day celebrations commemorating on June 6th the 70th anniversary of the Normandy invasion against Nazism (6th June 1944) which 70 years ago paved the way for ending world war II, the stage was set to open the door for a more active diplomacy that may bring moderation of the Ukraine crisis.
While in the prelude to the event, the G-7 and the European press had been gloating about President Putin –who had been invited by French President Francois Hollande –as being “isolated” from the rest of the world, a “pariah”, the Russian President who attended the celebrations side by side with the Queen of England, President Barak Obama, UK Minister President David Cameron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and many other leading European heads of states, used this opportunity to personally discuss since the outbreak of the Ukraine crisis with the French President, US President Obama, David Cameron, Angela Merkel, as well as with Ukraine President Poroschenko. The meeting, which had been mediated and attended by both President Hollande and Chancellor Merkel, mainly focused on the question how to reach a potential settlement of the Ukraine crisis.
Commemoration of the monstrous World War II
The historical context of the Normandy celebrations is an eerie reminder to the world, which being confronted right now with “new dramatic war scenarios” in the Mideast (Iraq/ Syria/Iran), is reminded of the necessity to urgently to draw the lessons of World War II. During World War II between 60 and 85 Million people died! This is approximately 2,5% of the world population. 21 Million Soldiers and civilians alone died in the Soviet Union, which had to deplore by far the greatest amount of victims among its population. The author who followed the D-day commemorations live on German TV was struck by the fact that various TV commentators who up to a day before the celebrations had engaged in a strong anti- Russian rhetoric, suddenly shifted, underlining the importance of having Russia that is after all part of the European civilization, attend the celebrations.
In his opening speech French President Francois Hollande paid in particular tribute to the Russians, stressing that they were a critical factor that contributed to the Nazi defeat:
“Let us pay our respects to the memory of the 21 Million Russians –and I mean 21 million– who died in the ruthless war against Germany”, President Hollande stated. He as well as President Obama recalled that Normandy today is covered with the graves of all of Europe’s children- those young Europeans who were the victims of barbarity. “Only the emergence of a common European conscience will protect us against the return of hatred in the form of nationalism, extremism and populism.” Hollande urged the youth of France and Europe “who have never known anything other than democracy and peace”, that they “be the equals of those who have gone before us in the European battle.”
Diplomacy in action
In the follow up to the Normandy celebrations on June 10, a “Trialogue” was held in St Petersburg between Russian Foreign Minister Sergej Lavrov, German Foreign Minister Frank Walter Steinmeier and Polish Foreign Minister Radosław Sikorski; it was the first meeting of that kind this year since the eruption of the Ukraine crisis. In the ensuing press conference the three Foreign ministers expressed cautious optimism: “For the first time in weeks and even months, options for de-escalating the crisis are in sight”, German Foreign Minister Steinmeier said. While a “political settlement to the conflict was still some way off”, he stressed that “now the positive momentum must be used. We must make the process of de-escalation irreversible.” He furthermore stated that (…) “we tried to reach agreement on the fact that, in this profound European crisis, none of the states involved in the talks could have any interest in risking a new division of Europe. And everybody knows just how hard we have fought in the past days and weeks to make sure that this division is really prevented.”
An important prelude to the “Trialogue” was the is direct contact between Ukrainian Minister President Poroschenko and Russian President Putin that had taken place in the Normandy and during which the two were discussing efforts how to bring about a cease fire in Eastern and Southern Ukraine, including “joint management” of the border between Ukraine and Russia in order to halt the flow of weapons and fighters into Ukraine, a subject which also was discussed by the respective three Foreign Ministers.
On June 12 President Putin and Poroschenko had their first telephone conversation, in which they discussed further ways to settle the conflict in Eastern Ukraine and Southeast Ukraine as well as prospects of future bilateral relations, including a future gas price settlement. Negotiations on fixing the gas price have been suspended till June 16th While Russia has offered a 100 Dollar reduction (385Dollar) per 1000 cubic meter, Ukrainian President Jazeniuk is still asking for more reduction.
Russian presidential advisor accuses US to militarize Ukraine
There are however people who want to play with fire. It was reported in the press that “militant” separatists in Eastern Ukraine have been calling some days ago upon Russia to send in “peace troops”. This move was harshly rebuffed by Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov and other political representatives. During a round table debate which had been organized by the Russian News Agency “Rossya Segodyna” (June 10th), according to Ria Novosti, Russian Presidential advisor Sergei Glaziev warned of the consequences which the sending of such troops could have. He accused the US to do everything to “drive very brutally and persistently the Ukraine toward war against Russia” Glaziev further pointed to the enormous rearmament which is taking place in Ukraine whose aim is to have “war against Russia”- as a way to get back to the Crimea.