Putin’s Valdai Speech Echoes Not Churchill’s at Fulton but Hitler’s at Berchtesgaden, Illarionov Says

File Photo of Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler Riding in Convertible

(Window on Eurasia – Paul Goble – Staunton, November 9, 2014) Some Moscow commentators have compared Vladimir Putin’s speech to the Valdai Club meeting in to Winston Churchill’s 1946 “Iron Curtain” speech at Fulton, Missouri, but the Kremlin leader’s remarks in fact are far closer to those delivered by Adolf Hitler to Neville Chamberlain at Berchtesgaden in 1938, according to Andrey Illarionov.

“There is no basis, neither by content, not by the place it was delivered, not by its author” for anyone to draw a parallel between Putin’s speech and Churchill’s, but there are numerous reasons to draw one between the remarks of the Kremlin leader now and the German fuehrer before World War II, the Russian commentator says (szona.org/eto-ne-fulton/).

Churchill’s Fulton speech was devoted to “the principles of the organization of international peace, freedom and order after the horrors of World War II taking into account the possibilities of the only just formed United Nations and those threats which the totalitarian USSR presented to the world by erecting ‘an iron curtain from Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic.'”

Putin’s speech in Sochi, in contrast, was one in which its author advanced “colonial claims which justify [in his mind] the application of force” and which in fact represent a declaration of war, Illarionov says.

“The Fulton speech was a typically Anglo-Saxon one,” delivered in a university, in a free country, and with the president of the United States in attendance. The Sochi speech “was typically continental, delivered in the southern residence of the master of an authoritarian regime on the territory of an unfree country in the presence of the world political science beau monde and former leaders of continental Europe.”

And the Fulton speech was delivered “by one of the greatest defenders of freedom, law and democracy,” while the Sochi speech was given “by one of the most consistent destroyers of freedom, law and democracy.”

If one is looking for an analogue to Putin’s Sochi speech, Illarionov says, it would be far more appropriate to consider two messages composed by Adolf Hitler to British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain on August 23 and August 25, 1939, in Berchtesgaden. And to make his point, he offers a table of 26 places in which Putin made remarks that parallel Hitler’s.

Among these parallels are the following:

  • In 1939 Hitler said “Germany has never sought a conflict with England and never will interfere with English interests.” In 2014, Putin said, “we are prepared to respect the interests of our partners but we count on the same respectful attitude toward our interests.”
  • In 1939 Hitler said “the German state like any other state has certain interests which it cannot give up.” In 2014, Putin said, “Russia does not require any special place for itself in the world … Respecting the interests of others, we simply want that our interests and position be respected as well.”
  • In 1939, Hitler said that “these interests do not go beyond the necessary limits established by the previous history of Germany and arise from vital economic considerations.” In 2014, Putin said “we do not require any special place under the sun” and “the thesis that Russia seeks any exceptional position is completely false.”
  • In 1939, Hitler said that among Berlin’s greatest concerns was “the German city of Danzig and the problem of the corridor,” something that had been part of Germany for centuries. In 2014, Putin said that Ukraine is “one of the conflicts of this type” because eastern Ukraine had been part of Russia in the past.
  • In 1939, Hitler said that he was ready to resolve the problem of Danzig by negotiations. In 2014, Putin said that “if Ukraine wants to preserve its territorial integrity and we also want this, it must understand” that it is senseless to fight for each village, “must end the bloodletting, and begin dialogue.”
  • In 1939, Hitler said that the 1.5 million Germans living in Poland, “the problems of the corridor and Danzig were problems that must be and will be solved.” In 2014, Putin said that “the vital interests of the Russian language and Russian population” in what is now Ukraine but used to be Russia must be resolved as well.
  • In 1939, Hitler said that nothing could change the commitment of the German government to “protect the interests of Germany.” In 2014, Putin said that Russia is “an independent country” and that it does not have to ask anyone’s permission or provide any justification to others to defend its interests.
  • In 1939, Hitler said that Europe’s problems cannot be resolved in a peaceful fashion by Germany alone but must involve those who committed the crimes involved in “the Versailles diktat.” In 2014, Putin said that the international system must be adjusted to new realities and that the US, “which declared itself the victor in ‘the cold war'” needs to make adjustments.
  • In 1939, Hitler said that he had always sought “Anglo-German mutual understanding,” that “the German-Polish problem must be and will be solved,” and that he looked forward to new and broader cooperative relations with London. In 2014, Putin said that “the deep and strategic interests of the American people and the Russian people coincide in large measure.”
  • Illarionov says that it isn’t likely that Putin and his speechwriters were “acquainted with the Berchtesgaden texts of A. Hitler” and it is even less likely that they intended for others to draw these parallels. But they show, he suggests, “the similarity in the ways of thinking” of the two, and that must disturb everyone.

After all, Hitler’s 1939 messages were “the last communication of the fuehrer with the outside world before the beginning of the Second World War on September 1, 1939.”