Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin visited Poland on September 1. The head of the Russian government took part in the ceremony to mark the 70th anniversary since the beginning of World War Two. The ceremony took place on the outskirts of Gdansk, the town of Westerplatt.
Putin held a meeting with his Polish counterpart, Donald Tusk, prior to the ceremony.
The last time, when a Russian leader visited Poland, took place seven years ago. This frequency of visits testifies to an extremely low level of relations between Russia and Poland. The Polish PM did not leave that fact out of attention.
“It’s absurd when the relations between Moscow and Warsaw are worse than the relations between Poland and Germany, or between Russia and Germany,” Tusk said.
Putin and Tusk conducted negotiations on a number of issues. The two prime ministers signed several agreements on cooperation in the nuclear field and in the field of culture. The signed agreements can obviously be characterized as a breakthrough in the Russian-Polish relations taking into consideration the fact that there were no agreements whatsoever during the previous years.
Putin and Tusk agreed that the contract for the delivery of Russian natural gas to Poland would be signed in September. The two politicians touched upon the issue of the Nord Stream gas pipeline project. The Polish PM acknowledged that his country did not like the fact that the pipeline would be built bypassing Polish territorial waters.
Brushing all those economical issues aside, the questions of the history of relations between Russia and Poland became the most talked-about subject in Gdansk. Putin and Tusk stated prior to their meeting that the two countries must look into the future, but it was impossible to leave the issue of history aside.
Many Polish newspapers published numerous articles claiming that Russia must apologize to Poland for the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. The Rzeczpospolit а newspaper, for instance, published the results of a recent opinion poll on August 29. The article particularly said that 76 percent of Poles believe that Putin must publicly apologize for the deployment of Soviet troops in Poland on September 17, 1939.
Alexander Rar, a well-known German scientist of politics said in an interview with Pravda.Ru that Poland should not take too much effort seeking historical truth just because of the fact that Poland was far from being perfect too.
“Poland returned to the map of Europe mostly due to the efforts of Soviet Russia in 1918. In addition, Poland’s then-leader Jozef Pilsudski attacked Soviet Russia in 1920,” the historian said.
Indeed, that was the time when Pilsudski annexed western territories of today’s Ukraine and Belarus. The territories later became a part of the Soviet Union after the signing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact.
About 60,000 soldiers of the Red Army found themselves at Poland’s concentration camps. About 20,000 Polish servicemen were executed in Katyn by the Russian army.
Vladimir Putin wrote an article for Poland’s Gazeta Wyborcza on August 31.
“There are reasons to condemn the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact from August 1939. But France and England signed an agreement with Hitler a year before, having destroyed all hopes for the creation of the joint front to struggle against fascism,” Putin wrote.
Putin did not justify either the pact or the deployment of the Red Army on Polish territories. However, Putin did not apologize either.
The Russian PM expanded on the subject on September 1 during a press conference with Donald Tusk.
“The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact was preceded with an agreement between Poland and Germany and other bilateral agreements about non-aggression between Germany and other European countries. Polish troops and Wehrmacht invaded Czechoslovakia the day following the signing of the Munich Treaty in 1938.
“History does not have only one color. A lot of mistakes have been made from all parts. All of those actions led to Nazi Germany’s aggression,” Putin stated.
Putin said that the people, who want to blame the USSR for the beginning of the Second World War, are similar to those who liked to find sweet raisins in moldy buns and leave fungus for somebody else.
“Nothing good will come out of this. It will not create conditions of trust, although this is something that we are looking for,” the Russian Prime Minister said.
Donald Tusk said that one must not conceal the historical truth.
“The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact resulted in Hitler’s attack against Poland. Truth can be hurtful, but it cannot humiliate anyone,” the Polish PM said.
The results of Putin’s visit to Poland showed that the two neighboring states may look into the future bravely. If the two countries want to develop their relations, they will be able to solve all problems step by step. History will not be an obstacle at this point, as it currently happens in the relations between France and Germany: these two countries do not even remember their dark problems of the past now.
Also read: Stalin-Hitler Pact commemorated