Since we were first blessed with the advent of mass communications we’ve been cursed with a flood of horrifying, blood-chilling images.
Thousands of skeletal bodies bulldozed out of Soviet and Nazi concentration camps, uncovered mass graves filled by both evil regimes, Japanese children disfigured by radiation, people jumping to their deaths out of the World Trade Centre and so forth.
Some images, however, aren’t so much blood-chilling as puke-making: the England footballers raising their arms in the Heil Hitler salute at the 1936 Olympics, Martin McGuinness wearing white tie, a bearded sideshow winning the Eurovision song contest, happy homosexual couples kissing at the altar, that living argument against affirmative action Obama pontificating on the joys of European federalism (or anything else), Tony Blair whatever he does – the list is interminable.
It’s hard to decide how high or low Putin rubbing shoulders with Western politicians in Normandy should be on this list. But there’s no doubt he belongs there.
I don’t mean to keep banging on about this, but please let’s not forget that the Second World War was started by the alliance of Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union.
Both nations were seeking world domination, which eventually led to them falling out. Both suffered horrendously as a result, but then so does a man who kills a dozen pedestrians at random before turning the gun on himself. In both instances, the perpetrators’ horrendous suffering is self-inflicted, which is more than one can say about the victims.
This is something we ought to keep in mind as we shed a tear for the millions caught in the deadly spectacle or, come to that, for the lone murderer’s family. Forgive we may, but we should never forget.
Frau Merkel and Col. Putin, the leaders of the two erstwhile predators, are holding a meeting behind closed doors even as we speak. I doubt we’ll ever know exactly what they’re talking about because the get-together is likely to be strictly à deux: they speak each other’s language, so even interpreters aren’t needed.
The two share common interests and, to a large extent, common backgrounds. When Col. Putin did his spying in the Dresden rezidentura of the KGB, Frau Merkel held a nomenklatura position in both East Germany’s Kommunistischer Jugendverband Deutschlands, the Young Communist League working hand in glove with the Stasi, and in the ruling party Sozialistische Einheitspartei Deutschlands.
It’s not inconceivable that the two met in their professional capacities back in those unlamented days, which is why they use the familiar forms of address when takling to each other, du in German, ty in Russian. Yet what matters in this context is that since then the two colleagues have taken divergent paths.
Frau Merkel took over the leadership of a country that had unequivocally repudiated Nazi Germany’s criminal past and tried to make amends for it. That’s why, whatever we may think of her personally or indeed of her country’s persistent efforts to dominate Europe by subterfuge, as Chancellor of a repentant Germany she belongs among the world leaders coming together in Normandy to commemorate D-Day and those thousands who died on the beaches.
Col. Putin’s country, on the other hand, not only hasn’t repudiated her criminal past, but she’s proud of it. More important, she’s extending it into the present and doubtless the future as well.
That makes Putin, who regards the collapse of the Soviet Union as “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the twentieth century”, an active accomplice in Soviet crimes – including the country’s aggressive role in starting the Second World War.
That’s why his presence in Normandy is so utterly emetic: he doesn’t belong there any more than a proud ex-SS officer would. By welcoming this unrepentant KGB thug still acting in character, the leaders of civilised nations risk having some of the Soviet evil rub off on them.
Just imagine the stench and reach for a sick bag – you may well need it, especially on a hot day.