Sunday, November 9, 2014
Anniversary of Toppling of Berlin Wall is Germany’s Day
The free world today observed the 25th anniversary of the toppling of the notorious Berlin Wall, a brick, mortar and steel structure that symbolized not merely communist dictatorship but also Russia’s subjugation of eastern European nations, including Ukraine, Belarus, the Baltic countries, Poland, Czechoslovakia Hungary, Rumania and East Germany.
The Berlin Wall, a segment of the iron curtain that Winston Churchill belatedly recognized for what it is, signified a divide between the haves and have nots but not merely in economic terms. It was a visible, detested border between those in the West that enjoyed unbounded freedom and those in the East that were oppressed by Moscow.
Germans on both sides of the wall, imbued with spiritual strength and confidence, grabbed sledge hammers, and demolished the wall physically and ideologically.
The German nation probably found its inspiration from President Reagan’s words who, standing in the shadow of Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate, issued on June 12, 1987, a historic challenge to Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev:
“We welcome change and openness; for we believe that freedom and security go together, that the advance of human liberty can only strengthen the cause of world peace. There is one sign the Soviets can make that would be unmistakable, that would advance dramatically the cause of freedom and peace. General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization, come here to this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”
That passage has outshined another one that Reagan uttered later in the same speech and presaged the spread of freedom:
“As I looked out a moment ago from the Reichstag, that embodiment of German unity, I noticed words crudely spray-painted upon the wall, perhaps by a young Berliner: ‘This wall will fall. Beliefs become reality.’ Yes, across Europe, this wall will fall. For it cannot withstand faith; it cannot withstand truth. The wall cannot withstand freedom.”
Indeed, the wall and the iron curtain fell. In quick succession, other eastern European countries followed suit and exited the Soviet Russian prison of nations, or as Reagan noted – the evil empire – until Ukraine finally did so two years later on August 24, 1991. The once captive peoples and their supporters in the free world were filled with hope that freedom and democracy will finally envelop nations that have for decades and centuries fought for their independence from Russia.
Unfortunately, this remarkable demonstration of a people’s will turned out to be an anniversary of Germany’s reunification rather than the ultimate defeat of Russian communism and oppression because Russia’s imperialism and repression continue today in a non-communist image. As I wrote at the launch of The Torn Curtain 1991 in February 2012, Russia in any form will attempt to restore the iron curtain of repression and subjugation.
Marking the anniversary, German Chancellor Angela Merkel alluded to this by observing that the toppling of the Berlin Wall “showed that we have the power to shape our destiny and make things better. That is the message of the fall of the Wall. It is directed at us in Germany, but also at others in Europe and the world, especially to people in Ukraine, in Syria, Iraq and other regions where human rights are threatened or violated.
"It was a victory of freedom over bondage and it’s a message of faith for today’s, and future, generations that can tear down the walls – the walls of dictators, violence and ideologies.”
Without diminishing Germany’s national victory, Europe and the world are not free of the threat of domination, dictators and violence. Russia has not slithered away from the global stage. Despite the free world’s hopes and wishes, Moscow has never accepted the departure of the captive nations, especially Ukraine, from its orbit. Russia may have only withdrawn to re-position itself militarily and politically for another attempt at restoring its empire and the inglorious prison of nations.
With every attempt by Kyiv to establish Ukraine as a respected, independent and sovereign member of the European community, Russia increased its efforts and evident threats to preserve its domination of Ukraine. It sabotaged elections and established its own governors but the nation continued to fight back.
In July 2013, while visiting Ukraine for the anniversary of the Christianity of so-called Rus, Putin did not conceal his displeasure with Ukraine’s proclaimed intention of signing the EU accession accords that would have sealed its independence from Moscow.
Amid of host of religious, predominantly Orthodox spiritual leaders, Putin on Saturday, July 27, urged Ukraine to join forces with Russia, cruelly saying Russians and Ukrainians were “one people.” He said the two majority Orthodox neighbors should further integrate economically.
“Intense competition is going on now in global markets, for global markets," Putin said after talks with President Viktor Yanukovych who did not oppose his Russian boss. “Only by joining forces can we be competitive and win in this rather tough competitive fight. We have every reason to believe that we can and must do it.”
However, he added deceivingly that Russia would “respect whatever choice the Ukrainian people and the Ukrainian state will make.”
Putin also stressed the bonds between both countries forged by a common history and what he called Russia and Ukraine’s “spiritual unity.”
“Together we went through great trials, tribulations and tragedies, together we built and defended the Great Rus,” Putin said following a meeting with Ukraine’s top Orthodox clergy. “All of us are spiritual successors of what happened here 1025 years ago. And in this sense we are certainly one people.”
That was Russia’s warning and pledge to re-subjugate Ukraine despite the defeat of communism – that sadly fell on deaf ears.
The Ukrainian people were undaunted in their attempts to sever the chains that bound them to Russia. When Yanukovych ultimately reneged on his pledge to sign the EU accords in the fall of 2013, the people took to the streets across Ukraine, toppled hundreds of Lenin monuments and ousted Yanukovych in what came to be known as the Euromaidan Revolution.
Russia did not give in to Ukraine’s national fervor. In February 2014, after the Sochi Winter Olympics, Moscow invaded southern Ukraine by way of Crimea and annexed the peninsula, and then invaded eastern Ukraine. The war rages until now.
Today, as the world commemorates the 25th anniversary of the toppling of the Berlin Wall that was erected by then Soviet Russia, contemporary Russia continues its war against Ukraine by sending additional waves of tanks, regular troops and mercenaries into eastern Ukraine.
Ukrainian military spokesman Col. Andriy Lysenko said today “Russia continues to send additional reinforcements, weapons, ammunition to the rebels.” Lysenko also said there’s a “high probability” Russia is preparing major provocations such as terrorist attacks or shelling that it can blame on Ukraine as a pretext to send “so-called peacekeepers” into rebel-held areas.
Some of the heaviest fighting in months erupted in and around the rebel stronghold of Donetsk early Sunday, hours after an unmarked column of weaponry and armed vehicles arrived in the eastern Ukrainian city. Despite declared ceasefires, Russia continues to violate every truce.
Eastern Europe fears that nothing will be able to stop Russia as it advances across Ukraine and into eastern Europe. Poland, among other former captive nations, has revised its defense strategy and reinforced its border with Ukraine.
Russia has stepped up military incursions over eastern Europe and in the seas around Europe. NATO is perplexed about what to do as a military alliance though some commanders, such as Gen. Philip Breedlove, commander, U.S. European Command, as well as the 17th Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR) of NATO Allied Command Operations, have warned about the threat that Russia poses to European and global peace, security and stability. Their advice should be heeded.
A ghost of the cold war, Mikhail Gorbachev, has resurfaced in the past few days, not recalling the fall of the Berlin Wall but professing unbounded support for Putin’s war while cautioning the US and Europe that they are heading toward a new cold war because of their support for Ukraine. Gorbachev’s recent statements demonstrate that communist Soviet Russia is no different from federated Russia. Both have been and will continue to be aggressive and imperial by nature. Russia under any flag will pose a danger to the international community.
So as the French say, the more things change, the more they stay the same.
Let’s raise a stein of German beer and say “prost” on the occasion of the reunification of Germany. But on the 25th anniversary of the toppling of Russia’s Berlin Wall, let’s look truth in the eyes and admit that the Russo-Ukraine War of 2014 proves that Russian colonialism was not defeated in 1989.