MEP Tunne Kelam’s Speech at Official Ceremonies Marking the 75th Anniversary of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. 26.08.2014
Tallinn, August 23, 2014
The European Parliament’s 2009 Resolution „European Conscience and Totalitarianism“ is a continuing call to recognize the enormous mass murders carried out by two 20th century totalitarian regimes and to commemorate the victims.
Unlike Nazism, Communist totalitarianism is not dead. Instead, such regimes control the lives of every fifth person in the world.
August 23, 1939 was the infamous day when two dictators, both aiming to conquer the world, signed a deal. Regrettably, they were able to reach this deal and subsequently carve up Europe due to the short-sightedness of democratic nations, their self-centered pragmatic policies and naive hopes that European peace could be bought by appeasing the aggressors.
The focus was on avoiding war, rather than on creating adequate resources and making preparations to curb aggressors. The attempts to avoid war led even to the dismembering of some European nations. A logical connection can be seen between the Munich Agreement in 1938 and the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact in 1939. The dismemberment of Czechoslovakia and the annexation of Austria gave both Hitler and Stalin a shot of confidence. Both Hitler and Stalin must have concluded that the priority of their non-authoritarian partners was to avoid a serious conflict. In all likelihood, this confirmed the two dictators’ belief that the rule-of-law countries would continue to lack sufficient moral and military commitment and could be further bullied and manipulated.
The greatest practical problem for Western democracies continues to be how to deal with authoritarian leaders who have a gangster mentality, for whom self interest, use of force, violence and lies justify the breaking of all kinds of rules and agreements.
The immediate consequence of MRP was the beginning of World War II. Both partners sought world domination; both committed the greatest crime against world peace and international rule of law.
For Estonia the MRP meant that two months later the Red Army, in far greater numbers than the Republic of Estonia’s own armed forces, entered its territory on the pretext of „defending“ Estonia from possible Nazi invasion. This Soviet military force was decisive in toppling Estonia’s legal government as well as in annexing Estonia in the summer of 1940.
Political analyst and diplomat Paul Goble, among others, considers the annexation of the Baltic States to be the model for totalitarian aggression and take-overs of other victims. He also sees a direct connection between this model and President Putin’s annexations.
As the Estonian Republic stresses its legal continuity, it must not be forgotten that internationally another kind of continuity exists – the violent and dishonest continuity of totalitarian and authoritarian regimes, their mentality and behaviour. It should not be forgotten that already in December 1999, in his role as acting president, Mr. Putin proposed a toast in the Kremlin in honor of Stalin, one of history’s greatest mass murderers.
Today, 75 years later, we are still faced with the problem of an uncompleted job – there is no authoritative international judgement on Communist totalitarianism and its crimes. Would we have a problem today with the Russia that Mr. Putin has managed to create – a nationalistic, anti-Western, aggressive country that twists international law according to its whims – if such a judgement had been made 20 years ago?
Would a Soviet Gestapo spy have become not only the leader of a nuclear-armed nation, but also have been able to bring with him to the heights of power most of his cronies from the criminal KGB? Today we can see that giving a political and moral, internationally binding verdict to the communist regime is not just a nostalgic dealing with the past but is, in fact, a burning real-political challenge. Following the legal condemnation of nazism in post-Hitler Germany it became unthinkable that recent Gestapo officers could have reached the position of policy-makers. If a similar judgement of totalitarian communism would have taken place in Russia and elsewhere, we would not have to face Putin’s revanchist Russia today.
The MRP also made clear that eventually different extremes tend to meet. In fact, the division between extremist left and extremist right has seldom posed insurmountable hurdles. Proof of this is that today’s forces hostile to European democracy both on the left and on the right – from Marine Le Pen to Greek Communists – have united in applauding Putin’s aggressive nationalistic politics.
At the same time, the international security structure has been violated. While democratic nations are issuing protests, they do not have the will nor the real power convincingly to stand up to the aggressor.
The lessons from 75 years ago make it clear that attempts to buy peace by appeasing an aggressor will sooner or later end in war. 113 years ago, US President Theodore Roosevelt made the following recommendation: „Speak softly and carry a big stick, and you will go far“. Nowadays, when we are facing threatening neighbours with big modern sticks, relying predominantly on soft speaking won’t change the game. This is particularly true since the economic crisis has depleted the defence budgets of democratic nations most strongly.
We are in a new situation – history has not ended, it continues, more and more taking the forms of previous centuries. Most of the world is still not democratic. Conflicts, amplified by modern technology and propaganda networks, are involving bigger and bigger areas of the world. Problems are being resolved more and more through the use of force. Those defending the rule of law have not succeeded in making themselves sufficiently heard and felt in Realpolitik.
On this background we need enhanced solidarity and convincing guarantees that NATO forces and military equipment will remain in the Baltic States and Poland until Russian aggression and revanchism really ends. Putting into practice NATO’s principle „One for all and all for one“ is going to become a crucial test of the very credibility of this democratic organisation of collective security. The security and stability of Central and Eastern Europe can also be beefed up by demonstrating efficient solidarity with regard to Ukraine and every Eastern Neighbourhood country that is aspiring to join the European economic cooperation and rule-of-law space.
At the forthcoming NATO Cardiff summit there is an urgent need to update the 5th Article of the NATO Treaty to accommodate it for repelling any form of modern „fluid“ aggression being carried out under the cover of proxies, „protection“ of minorities and propaganda warfare. It would be fatal to allow the post-MRP model of annexation of the Baltic states to be used in Ukraine. Only by stopping using this mixed model of crude force and lies in our immediate neighbourhood, will we be able to prevent attempts to apply it once again to the Baltic nations.
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