TALLINN - In his address marking the anniversary of the end of World War II, Estonian Minister of Defense Kalle Laanet noted that although the act of capitulation signed by Germany 76 years ago brought joy and relief to war-weary Europeans and Americans, freedom remained only a dream for those nations left in the grasp of their so-called Soviet liberators.
Laanet said that the member states of the European Union and the North Atlantic Alliance are marking the end of World War II in Europe by commemorating the tens of millions of war victims.
"Most of the victims were civilians, allied defenders and ordinary soldiers who were simply following the orders given by the aggressors. War is unfair, as it is led by the blind anger and ambition of a select few people, but countless innocent people suffer," Laanet said.
He added that World War II and the ensuing Cold War that followed has taught Estonia plenty of lessons, for example, that Estonia needs strong allies and allied relations in the same way as it needs oxygen -- in order to defend its independence and democracy.
"The threat from the east will not disappear as long as the Kremlin fights aggressively against the Western world and stifles democracy in Russia. Totalitarian superpowers never respect international law, nor the love of peace and independence of small countries," Laanet stated.
The minister of defense explained how British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill, in his prophetic speech "The Sinews of Peace" on March 3, 1946, warned of the rise of an Iron Curtain stretching from the Baltic to the Mediterranean Sea.
"Today, we are doing everything we can to ensure that the blanket of freedom covers Europe, from the Baltic to the Mediterranean Sea, forever," he said.
Laanet noted that May 8 is a day of remembrance for Europeans and North Americans for those people who lost their lives and health, not a celebration of victory in World War II through a demonstration of brute military force. However, May 9 is Europe Day.
"Keeping the peace is the main goal of Estonia and its NATO allies," Laanet concluded.
On Saturday morning, in memory of all those who died in World War II, the chaplains of the defense forces, on behalf of the Government of the Republic, laid wreaths at the memorial to those who took part in defensive battles in Estonia, the graves of German soldiers and the Red Army memorial at Maarjamae Memorial Square, the memorial to the victims of World War II at defense forces cemetery, and the memorial to the victims of Nazism at Rahumae Jewish Cemetery.
On May 7, 1945, representatives of the Allied Forces and the German Armed Forces signed the German Capitulation Act in Reims, France, which ended the military conflict in Europe on May 8.
On Nov. 22, 2004, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution on the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II, declaring May 8 and 9 as Days of Remembrance and Reconciliation. The resolution called for one or both days each year to be celebrated in an appropriate way and to pay tribute to all those who lost their lives in World War II.