Upon studying Vladimir Putin’s address to the Valdai Club in Sochi, some commentators hastened to compare it to Winston Churchill’s Fulton Speech. Such comparison has no grounds either by its content, or by its author.
Churchill’s Fulton speech was devoted to creation of a Temple of Freedom, to establishing of solid international peace, freedom and order after the horrors of World War II. It took into account both the possibilities of the newly formed United Nations and the threats which the totalitarian USSR presented to the world, including “an iron curtain from Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic.” Putin in his Sochi’s speech, on the contrary, advanced imperial claims and tried to justify the application of force and coercion, which in fact represented a declaration of global war.
The Fulton speech was a typically Anglo-Saxon one, delivered at a university in the course of a foreign tour of Great Britain’s former Prime-Minister and with the President of the United States in attendance. Both Great Britain and the US were free countries. The Sochi speech was a typically continental one. It was delivered in the southern residence of an authoritarian ruler, on the territory of a non-free country and in the presence of some of the former leaders of continental Europe, accompanied by the political beau monde.
The Fulton speech was delivered by Winston Churchill, one of the greatest fighters for freedom, rule of law and democracy in history. The Sochi speech was presented by Vladimir Putin, one of the most consistent destroyers of freedom, rule of law and democracy.
If one is looking for an analogue to Putin’s Sochi speech, it would be far more appropriate to consider two messages sent by Adolf Hitler to British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain on August 23 and August 25, 1939, in Berchtesgaden, which was the Fuhrer’s favorite residence, build in the South of Germany, in the Bavarian Alps at a colossal expense for the time.
The table below provides a comparison between the “Berchtesgaden” and the ‘Sochi” texts. The “Sochi” column also includes a paragraph from Vladimir Putin’s speech during his Meeting with young academics and history teachers in November 5, 2014, in Moscow. It’s marked with an asterisk (*).
English translation of Putin’s quotations is from Meeting of the Valdai International Discussion Club. English translation of the extracts from Hitler’s messages has been done specially for this publication.
|Hitler’s Messages to Chamberlain, Berchtesgaden, August 23 and August 25, 1939.||Putin’s “Valdai Address”, Sochi, October 24, 2014.|
|Germany has never sought a conflict with England and never will interfere with English interests.||We are willing to respect our partners’ interests, but we also expect that our own interests will be treated with the same respect…|
|On the contrary, for years it [Germany] has sought friendship with England, unfortunately in vain.||Let me remind you that we were the first country to support the American people back then, the first to react as friends and partners… Our partners expressed agreement, but a little time passed and we ended up back where we started.|
|That’s why it [Germany] has voluntarily imposed self-restraint upon its own interests on most of Europe’s territory.||Success and real results are only possible if key participants in international affairs can agree on harmonizing basic interests, on reasonable self-restraint…|
|The German state, however, as any other state, has certain interests which it cannot give up.||Russia does not demand a special exclusive place in the world, I’d like to stress it. While respecting the interests of others, we simply want for our own interests to be taken into account and for our position to be respected.|
|These interests do not go beyond the necessary limits established by the previous history of Germany and are based upon vital economic considerations.||The idea that Russia is seeking some sort of exclusivity is false... We are not demanding a special place under the sun; we are simply proceeding from the premise that all participants in international relations should respect each other’s interests.|
|The German city of Danzig and the problem of the Danzig corridor are among these considerations||Ukraine, which I’m sure was discussed at length and which we will discuss some more, is one of the example of such sorts of conflicts…|
|I should add that all the territories situated within the abovementioned German sphere of interests and especially those which have been returned to Germany 18 months ago had been culturally developed not by the hand of the English people, but by Germans, which took place more than a thousand years ago.||After all, it was in Crimea, in Khersonesos, that Prince Vladimir was baptized, subsequently baptizing Rus. The first, initial font of Russia’s Baptism is there. And what is Khersonesos? It is Sevastopol. You can see the connection between the spiritual source and state component, meaning the fight for Crimea overall and for Sevastopol, for Khersonessos. In essence, the Russian people have been fighting for many years to gain a firm foothold in its historical font (*).|
|Germany was ready to resolve the problem of Danzig and of the Corridor by negotiations based on an offer of an unprecedented generosity.||The most important thing is to immediately stop the war and move the troops away. If Ukraine wants to keep its territorial integrity, and this is something we want as well, they need to understand that there is no sense in holding on to some village or other – this is pointless.... The idea is to stop the bloodshed and to start normal dialogue.|
|An unsubstantiated reassurance of support under any circumstances, disregarding the sources of the conflict, which was given by England to Poland, can be only interpreted as encouragement…||Those actions should not have been encouraged – then it wouldn’t turn out that way. After all (I already spoke about this), former Ukrainian President Yanukovych signed everything, agreed with everything. ...|
|...on the grounds that would be also acceptable for Germany.||Nobody wanted to listen to us and nobody wanted to talk. They simply told us: this is none of your business, point, end of discussion...|
|...from that moment on to start a wave of horrible terror against the million and a half of Germans, living in Poland under the cover of this document||When people in southeast Ukraine did not like it,… they were arrested and taken to prison in Kiev at night. Then, when people saw this happening and took to arms, instead of stopping and finally resorting to peaceful dialogue, they sent troops there, with tanks and aircraft.|
|Atrocities that have taken place since in that country are horrible for the victims and intolerable for such a great power as Germany, which should not be expected to passively watch these events… German authorities… can’t passively accept such course of events.||In some regions people were frightened…
Does this mean that some can ignore everything, while we cannot protect the basic interests of the Russian-speaking and Russian population of Crimea? This will not happen.
|Poland was guilty of multiple breaches of its lawful obligations towards the Free City of Danzig. It presented its claims in the form of an ultimatum and started the process of economic strangulation.||...the key problem is that we do not see the desire on the part of our partners in Kiev, primarily the authorities, to resolve the issue of relations with the country’s southeast peacefully, through negotiations. We keep seeing the same thing in various forms: suppression by force.|
|...of the million and a half of Germans who live in Poland...the problem of the Corridor and Danzig must be solved and they will be solved.||...the basic interests of the Russian and Russian-speaking population... there was essentially a single region with its centre in Novorossiisk, and that was how it came to be called Novorossiya. This land included Kharkov, Luhansk, Donetsk, Nikolayev, Kherson and Odessa Region. In 1921-22, when the Soviet Union was formed, these lands were transferred from Russia to Ukraine.|
|I take your statement into consideration but I assure you that in no way can it change the determination of the German Government to protect the interests of Germany...||But let me stress that Russia is not going to get all worked up, get offended or come begging at anyone’s door. Russia is a self-sufficient country.|
|If assaulted by England, Germany will find itself prepared and resolved. I have already assured the German people and the whole world many times that there can be absolutely no doubt about the new German state’s determination to rather submit to any calamity and hardship for as long as it may take rather than sacrifice its national interests or to relinquish its honor.||We will work within the foreign economic environment that has taken shape, develop domestic production and technology and act more decisively to carry out transformation. Pressure from outside, as has been the case on past occasions, will only consolidate our society, keep us alert and make us concentrate on our main development goals.|
|The question of a peaceful resolution of the European problems lies not with Germany, but mostly with those who ever since the times of the criminal dictate of the Versailles Treaty have been stubbornly and consistently opposing any peaceful revision.||What we needed to do was to carry out a rational reconstruction and adapt it to the new realities in the system of international relations. But the United States, having declared itself the winner of the Cold War, saw no need for this.|
|Any real change in the English-German relations is possible only after the responsible states change their attitude.
All my life I have sought English-German understanding. However, the stance taken by the British diplomatic circles, at least until this moment, convinced me of the futility of such an attempt.
|I did not say that the United States represent a threat to us. President Obama, as you said, consider Russia as a threat, I don’t think that the United States pose a threat to us. I think that the policy of the ruling circles, sorry for using a cliché, is misguided… I’d ask you to bring to our partners – and to the President of the United States, and to the Secretary of State and to other decision-makers – that we do not want do not seek any confrontation.|
|If this situation changes any time in the future I would be the happiest person alive.||As for the question of taking our interests into account, we would love to see people like you in charge at the State Department. Perhaps this would do something to help turn the situation around.|
|The Fuhrer would be ready to accept any reasonable limitations of armaments which would conform to the new political realities and would be economically tolerable.||We insist on continuing talks; we are not only in favor of talks, but insist on continuing talks to reduce nuclear arsenals. The less nuclear weapon we have in the world, the better. And we are ready for the most serious, concrete discussions on nuclear disarmament.|
|Unlike the last war Germany will not have to fight at two fronts simultaneously. Our agreement with Russia is unconditional and it signifies a change in our foreign policy for a long time to come. Russia and Germany will never wage war against each other anymore. Besides, the agreement with Russia provides Germany with economic security in the course of the longest possible course of war.||Our active policy in the Asian-Pacific region began not just yesterday and not in response to sanctions, but is a policy that we have been following for a good many years now. Like many other countries, including Western countries, we saw that East is playing an ever greater role in the world, in the economy and in politics, and there is simply no way we can afford to overlook these developments… Building economic ties with these countries, joint economic projects – this is a serious incentive for our internal development.|
|It is laughable to state that Germany intends to conquer the whole world.||The allegations and statements that Russia is trying to establish some sort of empire, encroaching on the sovereignty of its neighbors, are groundless.|
|The Fuhrer has always sought an understanding between England and Germany. The Fuhrer stated that the German-Polish problem must be resolved and it will be resolved. Afterwards, however, he is prepared and resolved to address England with a grand and all-embracing offer. He is a man of great determination and he can demonstrate the greatness of his deeds in this case as well.||We will never forget how Russia helped the United States to obtain independence, and we will never forget our cooperation and alliance during World War I and World War II. I think that the American and Russian peoples have many deep strategic interests in common, and it is on these mutual interests that we need to build our foundations.|
|If the British government considers these ideas favorably, great good may ensue both for Germany and for the British Empire. If it rejects these ideas, war is inevitable. Under no other circumstances can the British Empire be stronger; the last war has proven that.||I think that, to use a hackneyed term, the ruling establishment’s policies are misguided. I believe that these policies are not in our interests and undermine trust to the United States, and in this sense they damage the United States’ own interests by eroding confidence in the country as a global economic and political leader.|
|He (the Fuhrer) accepts the British Empire and is prepared to provide his personal consent to its further existence and place at its disposal the entire might of the German state, provided that:
His colonial demands which are limited and may be discussed peacefully will be fulfilled, for which the longest terms may be established….
|First of all, I did not say that we perceive the United States as a threat… ...what can become a risk factor... it’s inner destabilization of certain countries especially when these countries are located at the very juncture of the geopolitical interests of large states or at the border of cultural, historical economic and civilizational “continents”... The bear will not even bother to ask permission. Here we consider him the master of the taiga…He will not let anyone in his taiga. I believe this must be clear.|
It is unlikely that Putin himself or his speechwriters were familiar with Hitler’s Berchtesgaden texts. It seems even less likely that they consciously tried to achieve similarity with these texts. All the more significant these similarities appear when we consider the parallels in the way of thinking, in the style and in the arguments, presented by these two authors. .
The Berchtesgaden letters were the Fuhrer’s last communication to the world before he started World War II on September 1, 1939.