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October 21, 2021
EDITORIAL

Heading towards a Mega-Yalta? (III)

Perhaps the calculations of Kremlin even include a possible signing of an agreement with the West, establishing “red lines”, that cannot be passed by the other party, with the risk  of a conflict. These kinds of “red lines” have been repeatedly discussed during the Ukrainian crisis, and they were invoked by both Russia and the Western World in general and by NATO in particular. They either mentioned that Ukraine joining NATO was “a red line”, as declared by Russian officials and experts, which made some of the Western experts of the realist theory school to launch the solution of “Finlandization” of the ex-Soviet space, except for the Baltic states. Or, as it may be seen in numerous statements by Western states or NATO leaders, “a red line” is represented for the West by the Eastern frontier of Eastern European EU members. Even American President Obama, by his famous statement granting the security of these states, and mentioning them one by one, hints to such a red line, considered as sacred by the West.

Does this stipulation of “red lines” represent a new technology of separation into spheres of influence? Declarations made by Western leaders, repeated after the Russian – Georgian war of August 2008, are pretty obvious in this matter. Any definition of spheres of influence is harshly rejected and each nation and state have the legitimate right to decide their future. In June 2014, President Obama obviously explained, directly referring to Ukraine and and the rest of Europe: “The days of empire and spheres of influence (emphasis added) are over… Bigger nations must not be allowed to bully the small”. Recent researches upon this concept insist that it was used pejoratively, yet, it persisted in the practice of international relations. A book published last year in Great Britain, at the prestigious Ashgate Publishing House (Susanna Hast, Spheres of Influence in International Relations History, Theory and Politics) is revealing in this matter. In the foreword to the book, the author explains the three reasons that determined her to study this concept: its persistence in political language, its highly complex history, and the third reason deserves to be quoted in its entirety: “sphere of influence has meanings beyond its pejorative senses; I will present these in order to sever the seemingly unavoidable link between (the pejorative pall of) sphere of influence and Russia. The aim is not to relieve Russia of its responsibility in its foreign policies, but to reflect on the value of using the notion”. The author shows that grand powers have adopted responsibilities of managing the fluidity of the system, including promotion of stability by tacit agreements at regional level, but these are usuallt achieved with the price of violating legal rights of smaller states and nations. Such agreements represent an undoubted historical reality. Reputed American analysts do not hesitate in discussing the responsibility of Germany in the stability of the European continent and its surroundings, and this fact is never accompanied by the pejorative meaning that comes with the use of the concept of sphere of influence.

Yalta represents at the level o historical symbolism the moment of cooperation of the “three powers” – the leaders of the USA, USSR and UK, respectively F. Roosevelt, I.V. Stalin and W. Churchill, during WWII, in order to organize the World after the war. Held in February 1945, in the formerly well-known seaside resort in Crimea, located on the shore of the Black Sea, the conference hosted the agreements of the attendants regarding the fate of European nations presently under Nazi occupation, the institutions that were to govern the world after the victory of the United Nations. It is well known that, mostly, the agreements of the three leaders on the organization of free Europe were to be completed after over four decades of the Cold War. No earlier than in 1989, they started to respect the stipulations they legalized at that time, referring to the right of each liberated nation to democratically dispose of their own future. Under this perspective, Yalta is associated in historical mythology with the division of the world in spheres of influence and interests of grand powers. In this context, it must be mentioned that the agreements reached in Yalta, in 1945, redefined by the agreements that were established at the end of the World War and noted in Documents (in 1990, the Paris Charter, in 1994, the Memorandum in Budapest and, in 1997, the Russia – NATO founding document) represent the basis of the present world order, named by experts “Liberal Order 2.0”.

70 years are celebrated this year since that historical reunion that preceded by no more than three months the victorious ending of the war in Europe and, at the initiative of Russia, it was celebrated in an international conference. It explicitly revealed that Moscow was using historical symbolism related to Yalta. The reunion dedicated to the anniversary of 70 years since the conference in Yalta (February 7 – 8, 2015), organized in the same palace where the “three grand politicians” met in 1945 was entitled “Yalta 1945- Past, Present and Future” and was led by former chess champion A. Karpov. As publicly announced (see the Russian publication “Pravda”) “Russian President Putin did not take a direct part in the work of the conference. However, Putin prepared a special address to conference participants.”  In his message, V. Putin mentioned that “despite political differences and different views on current events, the leaders of the USSR, the USA and the UK managed to rise above their ambitions, find constructive approaches to complex problems in the interest of the speedy completion of WWII and the establishment of a global security system.”, but also that “We are witnessing the unfolding campaign to revise the results of the Second World War, to diminish the contribution of the Red Army in the great victory /…/ These circumstances can not leave us indifferent. We must firmly oppose all attempts to falsify historical facts and defend the truth about the war”.

It is true that V. Putin, in his mentioned change of tone towards the West, and especially the USA, noticeable in his declarations of April 18, 2015, admitted that, afterwards, historical evolutions had little to do with the principles stated at Yalta: “In truth, we, or rather our predecessors, gave cause for this. Why? Because after World War II, we tried to impose our own development model on many Eastern European countries, and we did so by force. This has to be admitted. There is nothing good about this and we are feeling the consequences now. Incidentally, this is more or less what the Americans are doing today, as they try to impose their model on practically the entire world, and they will fail as well.”.

The declaration was appreciated as surprising even by Russian analysts. The condemnation by V. Putin of the use of military force in order to create and maintain the Soviet Empire after WWII in Eastern Europe could also represent an engagement of abstaining in the future from using force in order to reach the desired political objectives?

 

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