|President George W. Bush tries to open an umbrella (top) and then struggles to control it as President Vladimir Putin, his wife Ludmilla look on and Laura Bush walks ahead in Moscow. (AP, Reuters)
Moscow, May 9: Vladimir Putin, President of the Russian Federation, today gave call on the occasion of the Sixtieth anniversary of Victory Day marking the end of World War II, to ensure that there should never be repeat of any war ' 'neither ‘cold’ nor ‘hot’.'
This, he said, could only be achieved through 'a world order based on security and justice.'
Speaking at a grand parade organised at the Red Square in the presence of 50 world leaders, Putin recounted the moral lessons to be drawn from World War II.
He said: 'Indifference, temporising and playing accomplice to violence inevitably lead to terrible tragedies on a planetary scale. Faced with the threat of terrorism today, we must, therefore, remain faithful to the memory of our fathers,' he said.
Moscow was bedecked in yellow, orange and red flags and the mood was one of remembering past sacrifices.
Putin used the opportunity also to boost domestic morale by demonstrating his international acceptability at a time when his social policies are becoming unpopular.
His shift from liberal democracy towards authoritarianism does not have many takers internationally or at home. He does not allow a free press, is disdainful of any Opposition and recently described the break-up of the Soviet Union as a great geo-political tragedy.
In harking back to Russia’s glorious past, his critics argue, he is trying to present Russia as a global power when its stature and influence is on the decline. Not all constituents of the former Soviet Union celebrate Victory Day in the same manner as Russia. The leaders of the Baltic states of Estonia and Lithuania boycotted the ceremonies.
They want Moscow to use the occasion to apologise to their populations ' their liberation from Nazi Germany was replaced by Soviet occupation. Although the President of Latvia, Vaira Vike-Freiberga, attended the celebrations, she voiced her demand for an apology almost on arrival.
Putin, however, did not want to spoil a good show by referring to the controversies dogging him or the Victory Day celebrations.
The Russian President while recounting the heroic sacrifices of the Russians made an attempt to project it as a pan-European victory.
'We never divided victory into ours and theirs. We will always remember our allies ' the US, Great Britain, France and the other countries who fought in the anti-Nazi coalition, the Germans and the Italian anti-fascists,' he said grandly.
Such large-heartedness has been uncommon in Russia ' it has tended to place its sacrifices in the fight against the Nazis above that of others. It is certainly true that Hitler would never have been defeated but for the Russians.
That is why the Russians specifically wanted the Nazis to surrender to them in Berlin even after they had already done so to UK, France and the US on May 8, 1945.
The Red Army organised another ceremony late on May 8, 1945 (May 9 in Moscow because of time difference). Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel then formerly surrendered on behalf of the Wehrmacht to Soviet Marshal Georgy Zhukov. Today, Putin, however, seemed keen to emphasise the broad and inclusive vision of Russia. He cited the historic reconciliation between Russia and Germany as a shining example of this policy. Putin wished even those who were defeated in World War II, a peaceful future.
It was in this spirit that Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder of Germany ' the axis powers of World War II ' joined the victors today.
Collectively, they laid a giant wreath at the grave of the Unknown Soldier in the Alexander garden near the Kremlin wall.