This article appeared in the May 01, 2020 edition of the Monitor Daily.

Read 05/01 edition

In a time of social distance, remembering handshake between nations

AP/File
American (left) and Soviet troops shake hands on the wrecked bridge over the Elbe River at Torgau, Germany, April 25, 1945.

For millennia, the handshake has been a gesture of peaceful intentions, perhaps even a way to ensure the other person isn’t carrying a weapon. 

In modern times, the handshake has usually stood for a simple “hello.” But it could also carry deep significance. Last weekend was the 75th anniversary of a historic World War II handshake: the moment when allied American and Soviet soldiers met on a bridge over the Elbe River – effectively cutting Germany in two and signaling the Nazis’ imminent defeat.

Sadly, the global pandemic forced the cancellation of in-person commemorations of the Elbe handshake. But that doesn’t mean the United States and Russia can’t still work together on matters of existential importance as my friend, retired Brig. Gen. Peter Zwack, wrote in The Hill newspaper. 

Extending the New START treaty, the last strategic U.S.-Russia nuclear weapons accord, is Exhibit A. The urgency of this idea was made clear last December at a U.S.-Russia forum that General Zwack and I both attended, as I wrote

There were plenty of handshakes at that meeting. Another participant, Robert Michler, a top surgeon in New York City doing his part to battle COVID-19, says he now “yearns for the days of a handshake.” Alas, that simple gesture is likely a thing of the past. But new customs will spring up. It’s the expression of goodwill that counts. 

Share this article


This article appeared in the May 01, 2020 edition of the Monitor Daily.

Read 05/01 edition
of stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Unlimited digital access $11/month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.