May 7, 2005

Regretting Yalta

George Bush didn't exactly apologize for the 1945 Yalta Agreement but he took the occasion of a speech in Riga, Latvia today to say "We will not repeat the mistakes of other generations, appeasing or excusing tyranny, and sacrificing freedom in the vain pursuit of stability". It's classic Bush Doctrine stuff, but it goes where previous Presidents have declined to go, that is to take some of the blame for 45 years of subjugation of Eastern Europe by the Soviet Union. From the Washington Times coverage:

Second-guessing Franklin D. Roosevelt, President Bush said Saturday the United States played a role in Europe's painful division after World War II - a decision that helped cause "one of the greatest wrongs of history" when the Soviet Union imposed its harsh rule across Central and Eastern Europe...

...Bush singled out the 1945 Yalta agreement signed by Roosevelt in a speech opening a four-day trip focused on Monday's celebration in Moscow of the 60th anniversary of Nazi Germany's defeat.

...In recent days Bush has urged Russia to own up to its wartime past. It appeared he decided to do the same, himself, to set an example for Vladimir Putin, the Russian president...

..."Once again, when powerful governments negotiated, the freedom of small nations was somehow expendable," the president said. "Yet this attempt to sacrifice freedom for the sake of stability left a continent divided and unstable."

Bush said the United States and its allies eventually recognized they could not be satisfied with the liberation of half of Europe and decided "we would not forget our friends behind an Iron Curtain."

The United States never forgot the Baltic peoples, Bush said, and flew the flags of free Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania over diplomatic missions in Washington.

"And when you joined hands in protest and the empire fell away," the president said, "the legacy of Yalta was finally buried, once and for all."

Putin had to love this stuff.

UPDATE: 5/10: Jacob Heilbrunn rips Bush for what he calls "an old right-wing canard", that blames Roosevelt and Churchill's Yalta negotiations for Soviet domination of Eastern and Central Europe, which he says was a done deal by the time Yalta took place.

Mikheil Saakashvili, the President of the Republic of Georgia has a different view.

UPDATE 5/11: More on the topic from Pejman, writing at Red State.

UPDATE 5/12: More from Anne Applebaum.

Posted by dan at May 7, 2005 3:08 PM