History, politics can’t keep Putin away from D-Day observance
Observances for D-Day have always been part memorial, part politics.
Charles de Gaulle, France’s wartime leader-in-exile and postwar president, boycotted Normandy ceremonies because he was kept out of the 1944 invasion; Ronald Reagan turned the 40th anniversary, in 1984, into a Cold War morality play.
As a dwindling cast of veterans make their way to France for the 70th commemoration Friday, the semi-welcome guest is Russian President Vladimir Putin, representing a World War II ally, Cold War foe, post-Cold war friend-in-the-making and latter-day nemesis in the struggle over Ukraine.
Russia’s leader made his first Normandy cameo in 2004, in the spirit of East-West reconciliation. France reinvited him to this year’s beachhead ceremony and gave no thought to disinviting him after he annexed Crimea and massed forces on Ukraine’s border, evoking the land grabs of yesteryear and European wars that ensued.
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