Should Western Leaders Attend Moscow’s WWII Parade?
On May 9, Russian President Vladimir Putin will preside over the Moscow Victory Day Parade in Red Square, which will celebrate the seventieth anniversary of the capitulation of Nazi Germany in 1945. Carnegie Europe asked a group of experts whether Western leaders should attend the event.
Joerg Forbrig, Transatlantic fellow for Central and Eastern Europe at the German Marshall Fund of the United States
Western leaders face a dilemma. On the one hand, they acknowledge the enormous suffering endured by the Soviet peoples during the Second World War and the crucial role played by the Red Army in defeating Nazi Germany. On the other hand, they see how Russian President Vladimir Putin instrumentalizes and manipulates historical memory to boost his standing at home and abroad, and to justify his aggression against Ukraine and other neighbors.
The challenge for Western leaders is to find a way that allows them to pay tribute to Soviet victims and veterans of World War II while not legitimizing Russia’s current politics as a direct descendant of the Soviet victory in 1945.
No one felt this dilemma more strongly than the German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and she has found an elegant and appropriate response. She will not attend the May 9 victory parade, leaving it instead to an international circle of Putin’s autocratic friends to abuse history for Russian power politics today. Instead, she will go to Moscow on the following day to honor the millions of Soviet citizens who suffered, fought, and died as a result of Germany’s aggression against the Soviet Union. This is an example other Western leaders should follow.