Russia-New Zealand Ties: Two Looming Milestones: Ian McGibbon Notes Several Anniversaries in Relations between New Zealand and Russia That Will Occur in August 2014

By McGibbon, Ian | New Zealand International Review, July-August 2014 | Go to article overview

Russia-New Zealand Ties: Two Looming Milestones: Ian McGibbon Notes Several Anniversaries in Relations between New Zealand and Russia That Will Occur in August 2014


McGibbon, Ian, New Zealand International Review


This year Russia's actions have raised the spectre of war in Europe 70 years after the Second World War reached its climax. President Putin's concern for ethnic Russians in neighbouring Ukraine and illegal annexation of the Crimea have awakened unpleasant memories of Hider's depredations in the 1930s, not least his use of the Sudeten Germans to undermine the state of Czechoslovakia. Sadly Russia would ultimately prove to be Hider's greatest victim.

The fall out from these events has included a cooling of relations between New Zealand and Russia. In particular, it has adversely impacted on efforts to achieve a free trade agreement between the two countries. Ironically these events have happened at a time when we are approaching, in August, two significant anniversaries of events that brought them together.

On 4 August it will be a hundred years since New Zealand and Russia became allies for the first time. Of course, this was an event that happened completely independently of any action on New Zealand's part. The Russian Empire, once the bogey of 19th century New Zealanders, had become an ally of France as they responded to the challenge posed by the Prussian-dominated German Empire. When the British Empire entered the First World War on the Franco-Russian side, New Zealand, as part of that empire, was automatically involved.

In 1914-18 New Zealanders and Russians generally fought on separate fronts, though they occasionally became aware of each other. Both countries were soon involved in war with the Ottoman Empire as well as Germany, and a Russian warship was present at Gallipoli in 1915. Several New Zealanders served in a Royal Navy armoured car column that operated in Russia in 1916-17. But the Bolshevik coup d'etat in November 1917 eventually brought Russia's involvement in the war to an end.

Another world war 25 years later would bring New Zealand and Russia (now the Soviet Union) together more directly. In the Second World War, in which New Zealand took part as a result of its own decision to declare war on Germany in September 1939, New Zealand and Russia once again became allies when Hitler made his ultimately fatal mistake of launching an invasion of the Soviet Union on 21 June 1941. A common enemy once again proved the catalyst.

In the defeat of Nazi Germany the Soviet Unions role was absolutely vital. After horrendous defeats in the early stages of the German invasion, the Red Army revived and wore down the Germans in a series of great battles--at Moscow, Stalingrad and Kursk. …

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