D-Day anniversary at Normandy and Ukraine - GulfToday

D-Day anniversary at Normandy and Ukraine

A World War II reenactor plants roses on Omaha Beach in Saint-Laurent-sur-Mer, Normandy, France. AP

A World War II reenactor plants roses on Omaha Beach in Saint-Laurent-sur-Mer, Normandy, France. AP

The 80th anniversary of D-Day invasion on the beaches of Normandy in France was observed on Thursday. As the event that turned the tide against Nazi Germany in 1944 recedes into history – most of the veterans 200 or so who were part of the D-Day landings on the beaches of France are now in their nineties, and some of them over 100 – US President Joe Biden and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky tried to connect it with the ongoing war between Ukraine and Russia.

Biden said that the Americans who fought the Second World War to save democracy in Europe would want Americans to fight once again for democracy by supporting Ukraine against Russia. Zelensky too described Ukraine’s war against Russia as a fight for democracy in Europe. It was only France’s President Emmanuel Macron who remembered his history well and praised the role of the Red Army of the then Soviet Union in winning the battle against the Nazis. The Soviet Union, Great Britain and the United States, along with France, were part of the anti-Nazi alliance in the Second World War. There was however a short time when the Soviet Union and Germany had an alliance but broke in June, 1941.

It can only be said that the attempt of Biden and Zelensky to connect the D-Day with the war in Ukraine is a well-intended ploy, and there is no denying the fact that the two leaders believe in their rhetoric of democracy – it is a matter of life and death for Zelensky and the Ukrainians and for Biden it is a way of keeping the US an active player on the global stage – but it may not resonate much in America nor in the rest of Europe.

Most Western leaders agree that Russia under President Vladimir Putin is not the liberal democracy that the West wants to see, but it is doubtful whether they are willing to fight a war to defend Ukraine’s freedom and its sovereignty. The NATO members of Europe are willing to extend military support to Ukraine but they are not willing to put their soldiers on the ground to fight Russia the way they did on D-Day 80 years ago. Even America is only willing to extend financial and military aid to Ukraine, but it is not willing to send in American troops as it had done in the Second World War.

President Biden has been for the last two years and more trying to pitch the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the ensuing war as an ideological fight between democracy and dictatorship, an ideological tussle. It might make sense to give the Ukraine-Russia conflict an ideological and moral twist, but it has to be seen whether people are willing to die for a people and a country they have no idea of. 

The moral fervour that should have marked the support for the Ukrainians is generally missing. The people in Europe and America are distracted by daily issues of bread and butter, jobs, inflation and the crisis of cost of living, and they are not able to focus on the issue of the war in Ukraine.

The American politicians do understand the importance of the war in Ukraine for the global standing of America, and the NATO countries are also worried that if they do not support Ukraine in its war against Russia then the military alliance would lose its raison d’etre.

The Israeli invasion of Gaza has touched a raw nerve of the students in America, but Ukraine seems to remain a realpolitik issue. France has been looking at the Ukraine crisis as much more complicated than a straightforward ideological issue. President Macron has been cautious of turning Russia’s Putin into a demon with whom Europe cannot negotiate. Macron wants to keep the door open for Russia.


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