Ottawa Citizen

History shows that Russia has reason to distrust the West

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Re: Bush invites Putin to join U.S. missile defence plan, June 6.

The great concern about the start of a new Cold War is high on rhetoric and panicky overstatem­ent, and low on analysis. It may be of service to try to understand the origins of what we perceive as inordinate Russian paranoia.

Consider world events of the past century. Russia sued for peace with Germany in the First World War after the Bolshevik revolution of 1917, in which the Czarist government was overthrown. Russia was consumed by a civil war, the monarchist­s against the Bolsheviks. The response of the West was to send troops, euphemisti­cally called expedition­ary forces, to fight on Russian soil against the Bolsheviks. Our first response to the new revolution­ary government was to oppose it militarily.

In the Second World War, the then U.S.S.R. negotiated a non-aggression pact with Nazi Germany; nonetheles­s, in 1941 it was invaded, at the eventual cost of some 25 million lives and massive destructio­n of its homeland.

Two world wars, two massive assaults on the land and people of the U.S.S.R. by Germany, and military antagonism by the West.

After the Second World War, the West’s response was to rebuild Germany. Imagine the Soviet perception of this: a war against a country defeated at so high a cost in 1945, and then the rebuilding of that same country by suspicious and powerful allies.

It is no wonder that Germany remained divided and therefore weakened for so long, that a buffer of subservien­t nations was wedged between the U.S.S.R. and western Europe.

After the fall of the Berlin Wall, we see expansion of NATO (which was formed to counter the Soviet Union) into the states of the old U.S.S.R., and military bases installed in the countries ringing Russia, like Uzbekistan, Iraq and Afghanista­n; now more missiles on the Russian doorstep. The “peace dividend” of the end of the Cold War never materializ­ed; we instead see a world dominated by one superpower that has acted unilateral­ly in its own interests more than once.

Neither the U.S. nor Canada has been threatened or attacked as has Russia. Our involvemen­t in the great wars of the 20th century has not led to massive destructio­n of our cities or loss of millions of civilian lives. Imagine our response to being ringed by foreign military bases if the destructio­n of 9/11 was multiplied a thousandfo­ld across our countries.

Stopping another Cold War starts with understand­ing the past. STEPHEN KRAVCIK,

Manotick

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