As the West prepares to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings, voices are being raised to stress the colossal role played by Russia in World War Two.
Dmitry Linnik, a journalist with Voice of Russia, the Russian government’s international radio broadcasting service., said: “For Russians it’s a lot more than statistics, it’s 27 million people that died, half of them Russians, and the rest from the other former Soviet republics – now countries – so it is literally every family that lost someone in the war. That is something that people in the West find hard to fathom.”
After Hitler launched an offensive to annihilate the Communist states, Moscow joined the Allies in 1941 against the common enemy. The Soviet Union counterattacked. The Germans bogged down. The Wehrmacht took heavy losses,
and after the terrible Battle of Stalingrad they never regained the initiative in the East. Berlin had to pour forces from the Western Front to shortstop its failing invasion.
Historian Habbo Koch, at the University of Cologne, said: “Germany’s defeat began at Stalingrad and that became more obvious and visible with D-Day and in the month that followed. There was no military ground defence left which could have stopped the Allied advance. But in itself, it has to be said that the Normandy invasion wasn’t enough to end the war; it went on for more than half a year.”
Today seems like a different universe. Russian President Putin has thrown post-Cold War territorial order into grave doubt with his annexation of Crimea. The D-Day commemorations will mark the first time Western leaders come face to face with him since then. If Putin ignores their urging to do right by Ukraine, more sanctions could open a new phase in confrontation between Russia and the West. Yet historians remind us the current tensions do not alter that Russia played a gigantic role in helping defeat Nazi Germany.
Political analyst Pierre Defraigne said: “Putin is simply the current president of Russia. We cannot deny the contribution of the Russian people to [the] victory just because Putin is an authoritarian, abusive president.”
More than 80 percent of Russians approve of Putin’s performance, according to a recent survey, and many want Russia’s superpower status restored — 70 years after 27 million of their kin were killed in Hitler’s onslaught to rule the world.