May 01, 2015


just two weeks from today (when this column is being written), on April 25, we celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Meeting on the Elbe River. On that day in 1945, after four years of war, US and Soviet troops linked up in the town of Torgau, in eastern Germany, cutting Nazi Germany in half. The end of the war was near (just two weeks off, in fact), and hopes for a new era loomed large.

In the decades that followed, the Elbe meeting came to symbolize the potential for peaceful, collaborative relations between the US and the Soviet Union, and has been resurrected in films, books and elsewhere, particularly during times of bilateral stress – of which there have been plenty since World War II.

The photo opportunity on the Elbe was a carefully stage-managed event meant to suggest that simple soldiers might be stand-ins for their governments. But nothing could be further from the truth. What the Elbe meeting actually demonstrated is the gaping disparity between what happens between governments and what happens between their people.

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