The day of 6 June 2014 will certainly remain in post-Cold War history. On one hand, because it was a large-scale commemoration bearing the historical symbols of ‘D-Day’, of the day in 1944 when, along with launching the ‘Overlord’ operation, the landing of western allies in Normandy, the final blow was dealt to the Reich constructed by Hitler in Europe. On the other hand, because it represented a real “Diplomacy Day” for the Euro-Atlantic community which meant the beginning of finding a solution to the Ukrainian crisis, the most serious crisis of the Euro-Atlantic space since the end of the Cold War.
First, the historic symbolism. 70 years ago, the launching of the ‘crusade in Europe’ operation – the name given to the operation by its supreme commander, the American general D. Eisenhower – accelerated the end of the war waged by the United Nations against the Germany led by Hitler.
It became evident, from a military point of view, that when hundreds of thousands of American, British, Canadian, Australian, Polish, French, Czech, Greek troops landed on the beaches of NW Europe, Germany was no longer capable to resist for long, despite the mobilisation of its resources and those of the continent it was dominating. Dealing terrible blows to the allies, yes (as it happened in “the battle of the Ardennes” at the end of 1944), but winning the war became illusory since 6 June 1944. Placed under the imperative of a war on two fronts – even three, if we consider the one that had started the previous autumn in Italy – Hitler’s Germany only had one end – the unconditional surrender already established as the goal of the war by Roosevelt several months before. In the East, the military capabilities of Germany were subject to a continuous assault by the Red Army, which rolled through Eastern Europe, the first foreign country reached by the Soviet forces, at the end of March 1944, being Romania. In April, Germany was forced to abandon the Crimean peninsula and start a huge effort of preserving the “festung Europe”. A war on two fronts was – as demonstrated by World War One – more than Germany could endure. Two historic events that occurred right after 6 June 1944 proved that this was the dominant narration of the evolution of events in the world war. First, on 20 July 1944, high commanders of the German army organised a coup against Hitler with the purpose to topple him from power and make peace with the allies. The coup failed, lengthening the agony of Hitler’s regime. The second event refers to Romania. The landing of Normandy consolidated the conviction of the democratic elite of Romania that exiting the war waged alongside Hitler was the only way of national salvation. Political, military and diplomatic preparations began immediately for “turning the fronts” that materialised on 23 August 1944, which connected Bucharest to its natural allies of the United Nations. The celebration of the Normandy landing has the signification of victory of democracy on the old continent, of the common effort of the transatlantic coalition to break its enemies and to construct Europe as it is today.
The contemporary significance of the ‘D Day’ celebration is equally important, given the large-scale crisis experienced today by Europe and the security of the Euro-Atlantic space. At its core lies the Ukrainian crisis, which generated at the end of November last year by the sudden change by the Kiev leaders of the country’s connection to Europe gradually became bloody and unpredictable threatening to ravage the whole continent with a terrible confrontation. The annexing of Crimea by Russia at the end of March 2014 in the context of this crisis, also the bloody destabilisation of Eastern Ukraine, transformed the dossier of this crisis into the most explosive episode of post-Cold War continental history.
Before getting into the “Diplomacy-Day”, as 6 June 2014 will probably be known in history, we must mention two events that immediately preceded it. The Warsaw reunion on June 4 of American president Barack Obama with the leaders of 12 states from the continental “inter-amrium” space, situated between the Baltic Sea and the Black Sea (the Baltic States, Poland, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Croatia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Ukraine and Moldova), and the next day the meeting of the G-7 Group in Brussels. At Warsaw, the American president assured the states of this sensitive geopolitical zone of Europe of the support of NATO and USA against any threat to their security. At the same time, he explained that “We will not accept Russia’s occupation of Crimea or its violations of Ukraine’s sovereignty”. In the communique issued during the latter aforementioned meeting – of the G-7 leaders (5-6 June 2014), which initially was scheduled to be held at Sochi, Russia, but was relocated to Brussels when Moscow was expelled from this forum after the events in Ukraine – it is clearly stated that “We are united in condemning the Russian Federation’s continuing violation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine”. And the chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel, on the same occasion mentioned that “We can’t afford a further destabilisation of Ukraine” and “We have made clear that we want to continue with our three-step approach – support Ukraine in economic issues, talks with Russia, and should there no progress on all those issues… the possibility of sanctions, tougher sanctions, remains on the table.”
Although the reactions in Moscow to these statements were tough – the Russian Premier Dmitry Medvedev accused the leaders of G-7, of “cynicism without limit” when they called the offensive of the Ukrainian troops against the separatists from the East of the country as “measured action” – the fact that the solemn events on the coast of the Channel organised for the celebration of 70 years since the start of the allied operation codenamed “Overlord” were attended by the president of Russia, Vladimir Putin has ample significance in present politics. Vladimir Putin had separate meetings with the leaders of France, Germany, Great Britain, Ukraine, even a ‘tete-a tete’ that lasted about one quarter of an hour with President Obama, and even these details are significant for the course of the events in Ukraine, at European scale. First, Russia obviously recognised the legitimacy of the new Ukrainian president – formally installed on Saturday – then recent measures – like the order given by Vladimir Putin to strictly control the Russian-Ukrainian border – reveal that we are in an obvious reduction of the tensions in the Ukrainian crisis.
Which way will this detensioning of the crisis go, where will head the compromises that will intervene in such diplomatic evolutions? These are things we will learn in the near or not so near future. It is clear however that the West talks with Russia and that these talks are only beginning.