Re-defecting back to her homeland, the daughter of Joseph Stalin gave as one of her major reasons the exclusion of the Soviet Union from the 40th anniversary commemoration of the Allied landings in Normandy. Whether she meant it or not, on June 6, 1944, Soviet forces were undeniably engaging at great cost masses of Nazi troops which otherwise might have confronted the Allies across the English Channel.
For their part, the West Germans are still unhappy about their exclusion. But the hard feelings were overwhelmed by the outpouring of pride and patriotism that made the Normandy ceremonies a dramatic high point of the past year.
It will not be quite the same, or nearly as simple, in 1985. The precedent having been established for "thinking 40," American policy-makers and allied governments are already exchanging views, making preparations and plotting the course through a mine field of observances of the 40th anniversary of victory in World War II. Even the days of final triumph -- V-E Day and V-J Day -- threaten to reopen wounds and inflame passions.
Add Aug. 6 and Aug. 9 (the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki) and 1985 can be counted on to test relations between past and present, allies and adversaries, in ways that should make it a year of opportunity for constructive reflection, or an open season for historical revisionism and the rancid reopening of questions better left closed.
The odds are that there will be a lot of both. The first use of nuclear weapons is nothing to celebrate, unless the nuclear powers take it as an incentive to proceed with arms control negotiations or other measures that increase the chances it will be the last. That's one message you can read into the record of 40 years without a world war.
But the controversy and the commentary will not end there. The arguments will be reopened with a vengeance over whether the Japanese could have been brought to terms without using The Bomb. Vivid reminders that it was an American "first use" are sure to color the world view, if not the content, of any arms control talks that grow out of the forthcoming meeting between Secretary of State George Shultz and Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko.
Those same reminders are as certain to have their effect on Japanese public opinion -- and on Japan's sense of its proper role in its own defense. Any V-J Day observances will require a certain delicacy. And that is all the more true with the far more complicated question of how to deal with remembrances of victory in Europe. That this question is by no means premature is evidenced in the time devoted to it when West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl was in Washington a few weeks ago.
To understand Kohl's concern, you have only to remember that in 1985 the focal point of World War II commemoration in Europe will not be an allied beachhead on a French coast, but a divided Germany and a divided Berlin. The German capitulation, what's more, was to a war alliance of which the Soviet Union was a crucial part.
So while it is not immediately apparent how note can be taken of the occasion with the Soviets as active participants, it is equally unclear, in logic, how the Soviets could not be a part of it this time around. What we do know is that the Soviets are getting ready for their own celebration, playing heavily on the invincibility of their empire and the sanctity of the postwar division of Europe.
The West Germans' fear is that the Soviet V-E Day celebration will play, as well, on German "revanchism," as the Soviets have already been doing in their propaganda. "Revanchism" is their scare word for a German nationalist revival. It is aimed at Western European memories of World War II and at discouraging sentiment for German reunification. Its effect is to aggravate West Germany's longstanding identity crisis: its inner conflicts between the security to be found in alliance with the West and a deep-seated yearning to reach out to East Germany.
Kohl would seek help in the opportunity provided by a coincidence. West Germany's capital, Bonn, is the host city this year for the annual economic summit for the seven Western industrial nations (the other six being the United States, Britain, France, Italy, Canada and Japan). A further coincidence is that their meeting immediately precedes V-E Day. According to reports, he would like the seven to speak forcefully about the end of World War II in a way that would play down the defeat of Nazi Germany and play up the West's postwar reconciliation with a democratic Germany.
The trick will be how to do this in 1985, when the Soviets are the adversary, without taking some note of the Soviet Union's contribution as a wartime ally. The problem, in all of its ramifications, is as old as the German-Soviet role reversals that followed World War II and the onset of the Cold War.
The point is simply that all this will be coming up inescapably in 1985 -- a year whose 40th anniversary will put not only East-West relations but those within the Western alliance to far more interesting and demanding tasks than the observance of D-Day in 1984.