Skip to comments.Bush: U.S. Had Hand in European Divisions
Posted on 05/07/2005 8:50:22 AM PDT by cornelis
Bush: U.S. Had Hand in European Divisions By JENNIFER LOVEN
RIGA, Latvia - President Bush said Saturday the Soviet domination of central and eastern Europe after World War II will be remembered as "one of the greatest wrongs of history" and acknowledged that the United States played a significant role in the division of the continent.
Bush said the agreement in 1945 at Yalta among President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Soviet leader Josef Stalin and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill "followed in the unjust tradition of Munich and the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact." The decisions at Yalta led to the division of eastern Europe and creation of the Soviet bloc.
"Once again, when powerful governments negotiated, the freedom of small nations was somehow expendable," the president said, opening a four-nation trip to mark the 60th anniversary of Nazi Germany's defeat. "Yet this attempt to sacrifice freedom for the sake of stability left a continent divided and unstable."
"We will not repeat the mistakes of other generations _ appeasing or excusing tyranny, and sacrificing freedom in the vain pursuit of stability."
During a speech at a Riga cultural center, Bush commended the Baltic people for keeping "a long vigil of suffering and hope" during 50 years of oppressive Soviet occupation. He said the United States has a "binding pledge of the alliance" to protect the freedom of the Baltic nations.
"In defense of your freedom, you will never stand alone," he said before about 200 Latvian government and community leaders in the audience.
Bush's decision to bracket his trip to Moscow with visits to this Latvian capital and the ex-Soviet republic of Georgia prompted a letter of protest from Russia. Moscow views Bush's travel itinerary _ along with U.S. support for democratic change in Ukraine and Georgia _ as a sign of inappropriate meddling in its neighborhood.
The Yalta agreement carved up post-World War II Europe, giving Stalin the whole of Eastern Europe. The agreement led to much criticism of Roosevelt, who was accused of delivering Eastern Europe to communist domination. The meeting took place in Crimea, in the Soviet Union.
Russian President Vladimir Putin's government recently angered Poland by saying it should be grateful for the Yalta treaty, which consigned Poland to the Soviet sphere for decades.
Bush said the victory over Nazi Germany soon gave way to decades of standoff with the Soviet Union.
"The great democracies soon found that a new mission had come to us: not merely to defeat a single dictator but to defeat the idea of dictatorship on this continent.Through the decades of that struggle, some endured the role of tyrants, and all lived in the frightening shadow of war.
"Yet because we lifted our sights and held firm to our principles, freedom prevailed."
Bush met earlier with the leaders of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania and said afterward that Russia has no cause to be angry at U.S. involvement in democratic progress on its doorstep and suggested that Moscow recognize the lingering pain caused by the decades-old Soviet annexation of the Baltics.
"The idea of countries helping others become free _ I would hope that would be viewed as not revolutionary, but rational foreign policy and decent foreign policy and humane foreign policy," Bush said. "I think countries ought to feel comfortable with having democracies on their borders.
"I will continue to speak as clearly as I can to President Putin that it's in his country's interests that there be democracies on his borders," Bush said.
Bush acknowledged the Baltics' lingering resentment over the Soviet Union's 1940 annexation of their homeland that led to 50 years of oppressive occupation. Though Bush did not directly call for Putin to apologize, the White House hopes the president's high-profile dive into the matter will encourage the Russians to confront a dark spot in their history, in which the end of World War II saw the Baltics merely trade Nazi domination for communist rule.
Putin, writing in a French newspaper Saturday, said the Soviet Union already made amends in 1989 and his country will not answer the demands of Baltic states for futher repentance. "Such pretensions are useless," Putin wrote in Le Figaro.
Putin said the Baltic nations are just trying to get attention, justify discrimination against Russian-speakers who live there and "mask the shame of past collaboration" with the Nazis.
In his speech, Bush recalled that the United States continued to support the Baltic countries during Soviet oppression by flying the flags of free Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia _ illegal in those countries _ over diplomatic missions in the United States.
But he said that the defeat of Nazism was a paradox because it spread further captivity in Europe.
"The end of World War II raised unavoidable questions for my country: Had we fought and sacrificed only to achieve the permanent division of Europe into armed camps?" Bush asked. "Or did the cause of freedom and the rights of nations require more of us?
"Eventually, America and our strong allies made a decision: We would not be content with the liberation of half of Europe _ and we would not forget our friends behind an Iron Curtain," he said.
The Munich agreement resulted in the dismemberment of Czechoslovakia, and the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact consigned the Baltic republics to Soviet rule.
Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus and Estonian President Arnold Ruutel both have chosen not to attend Moscow's World War II military parade in protest of Russia's refusal to say that the occupation was illegal.
Bush is going, but added the stop in Latvia and Georgia, two young democracies resisting Kremlin influence and turning West.
Bush flatly rejected the suggestion that Washington and Moscow work out a mutually agreeable way to bring democracy to Belarus _ the former Soviet republic that Bush has called the "last remaining dictatorship in Europe."
"Secret deals to determine somebody else's fate _ I think that's what we're lamenting here today, one of those secret deals among large powers that consigns people to a way of government," Bush said.
Bush called for "free and open and fair" elections set for next year in Belarus, now run by authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko.
Adamkus said Baltic leaders hope to introduce to other nations "some kind of dose of oxygen into the resistance and opposition that is striving for the same rights we are enjoying."
Adamkus also reassured Bush that the three Baltic nations were "staunch allies in the fight against terrorism." The three countries are some of the strongest supporters of the United States in Iraq, contributing only a combined 290 soldiers but recently deciding to extend their mission at a time whether others are scaling back or pulling out.
A service of the Associated Press(AP)
I love this President Bush putting the blame for the USSR's occupation of eastern Europe squarely where it belongs, On the shoulders of FDR.
That'll tick off the Dems!
He's socking it to them, and I love it. It wasn't all FDR but also Truman, although you can chalk it up to FRD running for a 4th term when he was so sick.
Here's a succint statement of the new Bush doctrine:
"We will not repeat the mistakes of other generations _ appeasing or excusing tyranny, and sacrificing freedom in the vain pursuit of stability." ...The idea of countries helping others become free _ I would hope that would be viewed as not revolutionary, but rational foreign policy and decent foreign policy and humane foreign policy," Bush said. "I think countries ought to feel comfortable with having democracies on their borders."
Hey the facts always tick the dems off, don't they?
At last, a president with real courage, instead of well-phrased cover ups.
Let's see if THAT quote makes my daughter's high school textbooks.
Not holding my breath.
Bush statement that "the Soviet domination of central and eastern Europe after World War II will be remembered as "one of the greatest wrongs of history" is a direct response to Putin who recently described the collapse of the Soviet Union as "the greatest geopolitical catastrophe" of the 20th century.
And it's rhetoric of course, but a remarkably frank counterpoint. It's a viewpoint perfectly absent from the textbook captions, as eno_ noted.
Bump. Great to have a President who tells the truth about this tragedy.
The 40s version of Vietnam.
Good, about time FDR was 8itch slapped for his commie loving ways.
I remember his stupidity of saying, "he trusted his friend "Uncle Joe" and the one about, "there is nothing to fear from communists, some of my best friends are communists"
FDR was a puke.
... and let's not forget who "lost China".
FDR,Stalin, and Churchill. Well at least the west had one representative at Yalta.