The 25th anniversary marking the fall of the Berlin Wall was an occasion to propagandise the past simultaneously with the present. US President Barack Obama in reference to the defunct wall said that the crisis in Ukraine showed that «Europe’s freedom» was still unfinished business. Thus Obama was neatly, if mendaciously, conflating the conventional Western notion of the Berlin Wall representing past Soviet oppression with the ongoing Western claim that conflict in Ukraine is due to Russian expansionism.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, speaking in the capital as hundreds of illuminated balloons rose into the night sky, said that the fall of the Berlin Wall was «an inspiration» for oppressed people everywhere, and she singled out Iraq, Syria and Ukraine for special mention. «Dreams can come true,» said Merkel, without a credible explanation.
An obvious and strange omission from Merkel’s list of oppressed people were those in the Occupied Palestinian territories who live in the shadow of the Israeli concrete separation wall. This barrier, which violates international law, is taller and longer by hundreds of kilometres than the Berlin Wall ever was. Fitted with armed observation towers, Palestinians are a living embodiment of people oppressed by a contemporary Berlin Wall – yet Chancellor Merkel chose to ignore that and instead made reference to Ukraine.
This glaring anomaly in Merkel’s words belies the propagandised nature of the 25th anniversary marking the fall of the Berlin Wall and more generally the Cold War between West and East. The complete disconnect in Western leaders’ words with contemporary events is a telltale contradiction.
While the official celebrations were underway in Berlin, elsewhere in eastern Ukraine the Western-backed Kiev regime was continuing its military onslaught against the civilian population there. Western news media would report that the city of Donetsk was bombarded in the worst shelling for over a month, as if that violence was merely an unfortunate, hazardous occurrence without precedence. What the Western media omitted to tell was that this indiscriminate shelling of civilian areas by the Western-backed Kiev regime is a blatant war crime and is in violation of a ceasefire that was brokered in Minsk on September 5.
The Western media also fail to highlight that it was Washington and Berlin in particular who were instrumental in bringing the Kiev regime to power in an illegal coup against the elected government of Ukraine back in February. And that because the mainly Russian-speaking people of the eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk refused to recognise the reactionary anti-Russian regime in Kiev the latter then launched a military offensive to crush this popular dissent – all with full Western support, including the supply of American military materiel and advisors to expedite this onslaught.
That offensive has been going on for more than seven months, with a death toll of over 4,000, mainly civilians, with up to one million turned into refugees. Last week, two children were killed when Kiev forces shelled a school in Donetsk city. A follow-up report by observers from the neutral Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) found that the school playing field where the children were blown to pieces bore at least 10 craters from the barrage. This was no accidental «collateral» damage. It was the usual criminal targeting of civilians by this regime.
Yet this week Washington reiterated a warning to Russia, for it to withdraw its alleged forces from eastern Ukraine and to honour commitments to the Minsk ceasefire. Russia denies that it has military forces inside eastern Ukraine or that it is supplying weapons to the pro-independence militia in Donetsk and Luhansk. Even if Russia were, it could be argued as legal and legitimate support to an oppressed population under fire from a foreign-backed illegal junta masquerading as a government in Kiev.
Western sanctimonious lecturing is repugnant and ironic given that it was Moscow’s diplomacy that largely facilitated the Minsk truce talks in the first place, between the Kiev regime and the separatist militia; and given the stark fact that it is the Western-backed regime that is not honouring the terms of the ceasefire, as well as persisting in committing gross crimes against humanity.
Obama and Merkel’s bracketing of the present conflict in Ukraine with the collapse of the Berlin Wall is obscene. It is a travesty of history and an odious attempt to conceal the very real crimes and cause of current conflict in Ukraine.
However, this propagandising of the past and present is paradoxically consistent.
Ukraine has been thrown into crisis by the Western powers for the covert purpose of aggravating Russia and instigating a cleavage between Moscow and the rest of the European continent. The object of Ukraine as a penetration point against neighbouring Russia has been spelled out by Western geopolitical planners, such as Zbigniew Brzezinski, since the collapse of the Soviet Union and the presumed end of the Cold War in 1991.
The main beneficiary of this new furtive conflict was always going to be Washington, from its renewed sway over Europe through executive control of the NATO military alliance, the continued pumping of America’s military-industrial complex, the breaking up of the strategic Russian-European energy trade, and the suppression of Russia as an emerging alternative pole in a multipolar global economy, with the concomitant demise of the US dollar as the world’s de facto monopoly exchange currency and, as a result, the nemesis of America’s chronic fiscal debt.
That European governing parties would perversely go along with this self-damaging geopolitical scheme only shows the vassal nature of their relationship with Washington.
It is also consistent with how the Cold War and the Berlin Wall first came into existence.
As American historian William Blum has pointed out, the Berlin Wall was built in 1961 not simply because of Soviet desire for reclusive isolation or internal oppression. It came about after a concerted campaign by the US and its Western allies to sabotage and destabilise the newly formed socialist German Democratic Republic. Western agents operating from American and British-occupied West Berlin were assiduous in carrying out acts of terrorism and industrial sabotage against East Berlin over several years following the end of the Second World War. The wall was seen as a necessary measure for security and protection by the GDR authorities in the face of this covert Western aggression.
From 1961 until its dismantling in 1989, some 150 people were killed for trying to traverse the wall from the GDR. But tens of thousands of others were allowed to migrate officially from East to West. Many thousands of Germans were also allowed to cross from the capitalist West to settle in the socialist East, an important countervailing detail that Western Cold War propaganda conveniently neglects.
The Berlin Wall as a symbol of presumed Soviet despotism is largely a Western ideological construct that obscures crucial factors in how the Cold War came into being, and why.
It was the Western powers led by the US and Britain that moved treacherously to alienate their Second World War Russian ally. At the Yalta conference in February 1945, Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin had agreed on a post-war demarcation of Europe following the anticipated defeat of Nazi Germany in May.
But by the next wartime summit, held in Potsdam in July-August 1945, the Western allies had abruptly moved to a hostile stance toward the Soviet Union. A major factor was that the deceased Roosevelt had been succeeded by Harry S Truman as American president, who shared Churchill’s visceral antipathy towards communism, and who was more amenable to US corporate interests.
On the eve of the Potsdam conference, on July 16, the US carried out its first successful atomic bomb explosion in the desert of New Mexico. The secret news of this new terrifying weapon had a dramatic effect on Truman adopting a much more adversarial attitude to the Soviets. Within a month, Truman ordered the dropping of the A-bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This new threshold of annihilation used unilaterally by the Americans had a freezing impact on relations with the Soviet Union, which did not obtain its own A-bomb until 1949.
Less than a year after the defeat of Nazi Germany, in March 1946, Winston Churchill made his famous Sinews of Peace speech in Truman’s native Missouri. In that address, the former British war leader warned about «an Iron Curtain» descending across Soviet Eastern Europe. It was another calculated moment in alienating the Soviet Union.
In 1943, Nazi propaganda minister Josef Goebbels used the same formulation as Churchill when he also warned about a Soviet Iron Curtain across Europe if the Third Reich were defeated. Thus the significance of Churchill’s words were not lost on the Russians, who had lost 27 million people in Hitler’s war of aggression, beginning with Operation Barbarossa in June 1941.
Churchill’s speech drew an angry response from Moscow. Joseph Stalin denounced it as warmongering and an attempt to destabilise Russian relations with Eastern Europe. For Russia, Eastern Europe was seen as a vital defensive corridor to prevent another devastating assault in the future emanating from Western Europe.
Russia also knew that Hitler’s Nazi war machine had been in part politically engineered by covert British and American financier and industrial support during the 1930s, with the tacit remit of attacking the Soviet Union and liquidating socialism as a competing ideology to crisis-stricken capitalism.
With the rogue Nazi regime out of the way in 1945, it would have seemed to the Soviet Union that the Western powers were resuming their previous hostile policy towards Moscow as had been extant during the rise of Nazi Germany in the 1930s. The recruitment of thousands of Nazi agents, military officers and scientists by the West in the aftermath of the Second World War to wage a clandestine war against the Soviet Union sent an unmistakable signal of Western strategic objectives.
The acquisition of the atomic bomb and the willingness to use it unilaterally against the Soviet Union by Western leaders, including Winston Churchill, adds to the foreboding context of how the Cold War and the Berlin Wall came into being.
Also, it should be noted that within four years of the Second World War’s end, the US, Britain and other European states formed the NATO military alliance, in 1949, with the pointed exclusion of the Soviet Union – the former ally that could rightly claim to have been the main victim of Nazi aggression and mass extermination, and eventually to be the main victor against this huge evil. Yet the Western powers were now turning treacherously to ostracise Moscow as a global pariah.
In the early postwar years, the Western public were well aware of Russia’s immense sacrifices and courage. There was also a groundswell of Western public support for socialist politics and a repudiation of warmongering capitalism, which was, at least subliminally in the public mind, associated with the origins of the Second World War – as it was too with the First World War less than three decades prior. Both wars had resulted in a total of 80 million dead – the worst combined cataclysm in human history.
For the American capitalist ruling class and its European allies, the Cold War was a necessary bulwark against an ascendant Russia. This new war cleaved Europe in a frozen ideological conflict that lasted for nearly half a century and continually threatened humanity with nuclear conflagration.
The Berlin Wall may have come down 25 years ago. But the Washington-led Western axis has been busy ever since constructing new barriers to peaceful international relations and to embark on a new Cold War in order to falsely polarise nations. From this divide-and-rule policy of polarisation, the US-led West can impose its hegemony. The relentless eastward expansion of NATO to the borders of Russia over the past two decades – in spite of post-Cold War vows during the early 1990s not to do so – is a corollary of the belligerent intention.
Far from serving as an inspiration to liberate people, the Berlin Wall is a symbol of continuing Western-imposed division and conflict. The Ukraine crisis and the contrived belligerent chasm that it has opened up across Europe is proof that the West’s long war against Russia has merely taken on a new form. No matter that millions of ordinary European citizens may suffer the consequences.
Western responsibility can also be invoked in other ongoing conflicts in Palestine, Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. So much for Merkel’s inspiration to these wretched peoples.
The rise of Nazi fascism during the 1930s, the Second World War, the Cold War and the present new Cold War are all part of a continuum of conflict directed by the Western capitalist powers against its perceived main global rival – Russia. The Berlin Wall is only one of many belligerent barriers that arise and will continue to arise from this Western imperialist aggression.
Let’s not just bring down all the walls; let’s bring down the system behind them. For, as the Pink Floyd song goes, the Berlin Wall is just another brick in the wall – the much bigger ideological wall that is Western capitalism.