Da The Moscow Times del 06/05/2005
Originale su http://www.themoscowtimes.com/stories/2005/05/06/002.html

Victory Day Promises Pride and Pomp

After the lavish May 9 celebrations are over and police barriers in central Moscow come down, President Vladimir Putin may be left with nothing more tangible than a sense of pride in having hosted dozens of the world's leaders.

While big on ceremony, the Victory Day celebrations will offer little of substance for Russia, as the key meeting of the occasion -- between Putin and U.S. President George W. Bush -- is not expected to produce any new agreements or policy breakthroughs. By comparison, the European Union-Russia summit on Tuesday could well see the signing of a roadmap agreement to advance economic, educational and security cooperation between Moscow and the 25-member bloc.

The Kremlin's main diplomatic success is likely to be simply the presence of so many leaders, as more than 50 countries have accepted invitations to take part in the 60th anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II.

Russians have traditionally called the Soviet Union's war with Germany, from 1941 to 1945, the Second Great Patriotic War -- the first being Russia's victory over Napoleon in 1812.

When asked what the Kremlin hoped to gain from the May 9 gathering, Alexander Pikayev, an independent analyst on security and U.S.-Russian relations, described the celebrations as "pompous protocol." "This event is meant to reaffirm the country's role in World War II," he said.

Moscow's Victory Day celebrations are planned on an even grander scale than those two years ago for the 300th anniversary of St. Petersburg, Russia's imperial capital and Putin's home city. During this year's festivities, the entire city center will be closed to all except a select number of VIPs, veterans and officials, while the public, including the vast majority of World War II veterans, will be denied access.

And in contrast to St. Petersburg's uncontroversial anniversary, the Soviet Union's role in World War II is not universally seen as positive, given the ongoing controversy over the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, the Soviet occupation of the Baltic states and the postwar communist domination of Eastern Europe, which lasted five decades.

Bush on Thursday vowed to raise the issue of the pact behind closed doors with Putin, The Associated Press reported.

Latvia, which suffered under the Nazi-Soviet carve-up of Eastern Europe in 1939, may follow Bush's lead and call for Russia to denounce its Soviet past, but more publicly, in a way that could severely embarrass the Kremlin. Ahead of her visit to Moscow, Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga in an interview with The Associated Press on Thursday urged the Kremlin to recognize the Soviet Union's annexation of the Baltic states in 1944. The Latvian president is the only one of the three Baltic leaders who has agreed to come to the event.

"Someone obviously liked how the celebrations in St. Petersburg went, but what they failed to take into account was that there were no negative connotations to that event," said Fyodor Lukyanov, editor of the Russia in Global Affairs journal. The Kremlin, in seeking to maximize the scale of the May 9 festivities, is still looking to entwine Russia's national identity with that of its Soviet past and to boost the current leadership's legitimacy, Lukyanov said by telephone Thursday.

As part of the Kremlin's efforts to boost patriotic feelings ahead of the anniversary, Putin said Thursday that it was "difficult to find a more sacred and unifying day than May 9. ... We have no right to simply forget about the sacrifices that were made for the fatherland and for world civilization by our nation."

Putin did attempt, however, to draw a line between the heroism of the Soviet people in the war and the rule of Soviet dictator Josef Stalin. "Our country, our people, our society were viable in 1941, despite all the attempts by the regime at the time to destroy this viability through repression," The AP quoted Putin as saying, in reference to the purges ordered by Stalin before the war.

Yet Putin chose not to mention Stalin by name, in an apparent effort to avoid direct criticism of the Soviet dictator, whom many Russians, especially the elderly, still see as the country's savior against Nazism.

Ahead of the world leaders' visit to Moscow, Russian diplomats and lawmakers have sought to justify the Kremlin's refusal to condemn the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, arguing that the treaty was dissolved by Hitler's invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941.

Also, since the U.S.S.R. Supreme Soviet in 1991 denounced the treaty's secret protocols that detailed the carve-up of Poland and the occupation of the Baltic states, another denunciation is not necessary, Pikayev said.

Sergei Yastrzhembsky, Putin's envoy to the EU, said that Russia would not apologize to the Baltic states either. Soviet troops were not occupiers but welcome liberators, he said.

His comments were echoed by Federation Council member and last Soviet Prime Minister Nikolai Ryzhkov, who said that the Baltic countries "should be grateful" for Soviet occupation. These countries "should themselves apologize" for the fact that some of their residents fought on the German side in the war, Interfax reported him as saying.

Russia is reluctant to renounce the pact because it would strengthen the Baltic countries' argument that they were occupied by the Soviet Union and that Russia should pay them compensation or cede territory, Pikayev said.

Yet Bush will not likely want to overly antagonize his Russian host on these issues, which are sensitive for Russia and are lower down Bush's real Russia agenda than cooperation on combating terrorism and ensuring nuclear nonproliferation, analysts said.

Specifically, Bush is expected to ask Putin to grant U.S. inspectors access to Russian nuclear arsenals that are undergoing U.S.-funded security upgrades, Pikayev said.

Russian officials have chosen to carry out a pre-emptive strike on this issue also, warning the Americans not to bother seeking such access.

"Our stand on the monitoring of nuclear weapon depots is firm: There is no access to these depots at present, and I do not think it will be granted in the near future," Colonel General Nikolai Solovtsov, commander of the Strategic Missile Forces, told Interfax.

And given that U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's recent visit to Moscow failed to produce any agreement on inspections or any other issue, there is little prospect of anything being signed by Bush and Putin at the summit, Lukyanov said.

The two leaders are more likely simply to run through their traditional agendas, ranging from security and terrorism to an energy dialogue, the rule of law and media freedom, he said.

The only likely new topic on the agenda is the arrest in Switzerland this week of Russia's former nuclear power minister, Yevgeny Adamov, on U.S.-brought charges of fraud and money laundering, Lukyanov said. (See story, Page 3.)

Yet despite no public deals or agreements planned for the meeting, Bush and Putin's 14th since 2001, "it is still good when two leaders get an opportunity to discuss issues face-to-face in private," Pikayev said.

In comparison, the EU-Russia summit on Tuesday is expected to generate practical results in the form of a roadmap agreement on the so-called four "common spaces": economy; external security; freedom, security and justice; and education, research and culture.

But a sticking point, the liberalization of visa regimes between the EU and Russia, is unlikely to be removed next week, as the two sides remain at loggerheads over the issue of readmitting illegal immigrants to the EU into Russia.

Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Chekhov has recently said that Russia would agree to take back Russian citizens found to have illegally entered the EU but would not readmit illegal migrants from other countries -- even if they entered the EU from Russia.

Many thousands of illegal immigrants enter the EU every year, and a significant proportion of them are either from or transiting through ex-Soviet countries.

Differences over readmission may or may not be overcome in time for the summit, Yastrzhembsky said. "The documents are nearly ready, but even today I am not 100 percent sure we will finish everything in time," he said at a Thursday news conference.

While acknowledging the Kremlin's differences with the EU, Yastrzhembsky appeared to seek to shift the blame for them onto some of the EU's new members, including the Baltic countries.

"Certain members of the EU are nursing historical phobias and prejudices," he said.

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