Excellent to see Southwark Council teaming up with the Soviet War Memorial Trust Fund to "mark 70 years since the nazis surrendered to the Red Army".(Morning Star, 04/05/15). The contrast with the attitude of our vote-wary political parties, and sabre-rattling spokespeople from both the military and arms industry is obvious, and it is disgraceful that so many of the west`s leaders are boycotting the Moscow commemorations. Remembering the massive role played by the USSR in the defeat of the Nazis, and their loss of more than 20 million war dead, even if it only means taking part in wreath-laying like Merkel is doing, should be a no-brainer for UK representatives. The British refusal can be excused, apparently, because of the timing of the election, but are there not plenty of alternatives to a prime-minister? Would a Russian visit not be an ideal opportunity for a member of the royals to prove the family`s diplomatic worth, or are they too busy to be able to spare the time?
The truth is that British foreign policy has long been based on an over-estimation of the threat of Russia. Throughout the 19th century British fear of Russia`s acquisition of a warm-water port contributed not only to the causes of the Crimean War, but also the flawed Treaty of Berlin which led to so many of the problems in the Balkans, building up to World War One. After the revolution, of course, communism was seen by the British establishment as a far greater threat than Nazism, and the exaggerated fear of Russian military expansion after 1945, despite its exhaustion and losses, led to the Cold War. Sadly, suspicion of Russian motives has not diminished!
History has clearly taught political leaders in the west very little. How much could relations between countries improve if compassion and respect for war dead were shared? It should be obvious to everyone, by now, that threats and sanctions are not going to solve the Ukrainian problem, whilst diplomacy can almost certainly lead to a much-needed increase in mutual understanding.