Helsinki’s vision of peace failed
BSSB.BE http://www.worldreview.info/ 06.07.2015
THE CRISIS in east Ukraine is escalating, throwing doubts on the shaky peace accord – Minsk II, agreed in February 2015 – which has, for all intents and purposes, broken down, writes World Review expert Professor Stefan Hedlund.
This comes as the 40th anniversary of the 1975 Helsinki Final Act approaches. And the West would do well to use this time to reflect on what little is left of the Helsinki vision: an era of peace, democracy and unity in Europe.
Some of the most basic premises of the security order which was so laboriously built and which would later conclude the Cold War have now proved to be hollow, if not false.
The crisis in Ukraine has not only brought yet another war to the European continent, it has also revealed faults in the Helsinki vision.
Western thinking has been blind to values of other nations and its claim to the moral high ground has been the undoing for peace between Russia and West.
While the Ukraine economy faces depression and sovereign default with fears of a second uprising, relations between Russia and the West show no sign of thawing. The Kremlin has made it clear it will no longer accept being treated as irrelevant, and the West has made it equally clear it has no answer to this challenge.
Further confrontation is likely in an atmosphere where Russian military rhetoric is playing fast and loose with the use of nuclear weapons.
An increasing number of military analysts say they have never been so fearful of war between the big powers. As the West stares into dangerous times ahead, the time would seem to be ripe to reassess the basic rules of the game.
July 10, 2015, will mark 40 years since the Helsinki Final Act was signed. The day concluded the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE), during which the Soviet Union and the Western powers had jointly attempted to outline a new security order for Europe.
The key feature was cooperation based on common values – these ranged from democracy and human rights to national sovereignty and the inviolability of borders. It was arguably one of the most important events of the Cold War.
On November 21, 1990, the signatories reconvened in Paris, to sign the Charter of Paris for a New Europe. That document reaffirmed the commitment of the Helsinki Accords to common values. And it set a pattern for European cooperation.
The EU has been similarly committed to the promotion of common values since the agreement on the Treaty on European Union signed in Maastricht in February 1992. Brussels has pronounced that all nations which adhere to those common values have a right to become members.
As late as November 2013, when the EU held a Summit Meeting in Vilnius to consummate its Eastern Partnership with key countries of Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine, the vision was still alive. It was still believed that the promotion of common values by means of soft power would ensure success in building what the Paris Charter refers to as ‘a Europe whole and free’.
As the anniversary of the Helsinki Final Act approaches, there is little left of the visionary optimism.
It is somehow symptomatic that the CSCE, which once produced the Helsinki Accords, is still around. Known today as the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), it plays a key role as custodian of the Minsk II accord which some believed would provide a roadmap for peace and reconciliation in Ukraine.
Although the few handfuls of OSCE inspectors who monitor the Ukraine ceasefire do a good job with the resources they have, there is simply no credible deterrence involved. The accord produced a ceasefire which lasted for as long as the sides needed to rest, regroup and re-arm.
The main problem with accords, charters and treaties of the kind mentioned above is that they represent fair weather arrangements. They work well as long as the sun is shining. But when thunder breaks, as it did in Ukraine, it becomes obvious there is no Plan B. And policies based on values and morality offer no room for compromise.
It is now high time the West started thinking of its interests and the interests of others.
Russia is clear in its mind on where its interests lie, and it plays a deliberate game to secure those interests.
The West, in contrast, has become so preoccupied with upholding its increasingly hollow values that it has lost sight of its interests. It is this very contradiction which has produced disaster in Ukraine.
It cannot be in the common interest of the West to risk escalation into war simply because our sense of morality calls for Russia to be punished.
Author: STEFAN Hedlund is Professor and Research Director at the Centre for Russian and Eurasian Studies, at Uppsala University, Sweden.He trained as an economist and has specialised in Russian affairs since the final days of Leonid Brezhnev in the early 1980s. His research interests have branched far beyond economics over the years but have, above all, included a devouring interest in Russian history.