Russian President Dmitri Medvedev warns that the possibility of another world war is real and says Russia “must be ready for this.”
He also charged that “Hollywood” was perpetuating ugly “Cold War” stereotypes about Russia and its history, especially its role in World War II.
Last week, the president gave a lengthy video-taped interview to the Russian newspaper Izvestia as the country prepared to mark Victory Day, the May 9 anniversary of the Soviet Union’s defeat of Nazi Germany.
He was asked about the possibility of a new military conflict “similar to World War II in scale.”
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“After all, accidents will happen. So we must be prepared. We must be ready for this. We must be strong.”
Medvedev said that despite the end of the Cold War, vestiges linger due to “stereotypes,” and some in the United States and Europe still view Russia with suspicion.
“People in Russia too are suspicious of America and other NATO members and even other countries that are major players in the international arena.
Why? Because of our history, the way we used to perceive each other.
“In the Soviet Union we had a set of stereotypes concerning [the West]. We recall what they used to tell us in school about Americans and Europeans. This position was totally based on ideology. It pursued obvious goals to make us consider people who lived there as our enemies. They had the same thing.
“Many stereotypes of the past are still here today more or less. Perhaps it is particularly true in the West because, frankly speaking, many of our people wanted a new life in the late 1980s, early 1990s, and there was a kind of romantic period in our relations with the West.
“We thought they would welcome us as an open, modern country that no longer threatened anybody. We thought we would quickly and easily” be integrated “with other civilized developed nations. Something different followed, though. They were not ready to give up their stereotypes.”
Stereotypes about Russia are still being perpetuated by Hollywood, Medvedev charged.
“The way Hollywood portrays Russia today is just a bunch of absurd, ludicrous ideas. Russia is a country where it is always raining or snowing, where everything is bad. People are mean. All they can do is drink vodka all the time. They’re aggressive. They like to fight. They can attack you at any moment.
“It’s not like [filmmakers] want to create a conflict between our countries. But these stereotypes prevent us from understanding each other and poison the atmosphere on our planet.”
Medvedev said Hollywood also perpetuates a mistaken view of World War II, depicting it as basically a victory by the Allies with participation from the Soviet Union.
“Three quarters of Nazi losses were suffered on the Eastern front, against the Soviet Union,” he asserted.
“Of course you can make movies about that” and “make everyone think the victory was won in the west, and ‘Saving Private Ryan’ would be regarded as the ultimate authority on the issue. It’s a pretty good movie, but that doesn’t mean it tells the truth.”
Medvedev stated that Nazi Germany began the war, but he conveniently ignored the fact that the Soviet Union’s Stalin had allied with German when the two nation’s attacked Poland in September 1939, beginning the world war.
He did admit that the Soviet Union was “definitely totalitarian,” and said that while some Russians may view Stalin as a hero for leading the nation to victory during the war, “we cannot pardon him for what he did to his people.”
But he claimed that if the Soviet Union hadn’t defeated the Nazis and “liberated” much of Europe, today Europe would be “one big concentration camp serving the interests of one nation.”
Asked why the standard of living after the war was worse in Soviet Union than in the countries it defeated or liberated, Medvedev acknowledged: “I do not believe the economic system and political system we had after the war were fit for normal development, hence the difference in living standards.
“Had the Soviet Union been more competitive and had conditions for economic development based on modern principles, everything could have been different. The Soviet Union could have been more appealing to our people, and we could have avoided those dramatic events of the late 1980s and early 1990s that led to its disintegration.”
Medvedev feels strongly that those guilty of committing war crimes in World War II should be punished no matter how much time has elapsed since then.
He said there is “no statute of limitations on crimes against humanity,” and mentioned John Demjanjuk by name.
Demjanjuk is an American citizen deported first to Israel and then to Germany to face charges stemming from his service at several Nazi extermination camps. He is currently on trial in Germany.
Medvedev supports a European security treaty, but not the creation of a bloc to counter NATO, and said the START agreement to reduce American and Russian nuclear weapons is the “best way” to protect the interest of the two nations.
He also discussed the ongoing dispute with Japan over the Kuril Islands. Russia and Japan have not signed a peace treaty because Japan insists that Russia must first return the southern Kuril Islands, which the Soviet Union occupied at the end of World War 2.
“It’s a very complex problem but that does not mean we should not address it,” he told Izvestia.
“We have our own ideas about how it could be resolved taking, into account first and foremost the interests of the Russian federation.
“I believe if we abandon extreme positions, this problem may be resolved at some point.”
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