Yalta, Potsdam, Helsinki, Belgrade. How can we build a more secure world order?
This was the backdrop of events to last week’s major international conference on peace, security and co-operation in Belgrade, Serbia.
Speakers from over 20 countries - myself included- addressed the key question: how can we build a more secure world order, where countries - large and small- respect national sovereignty and international law and where dialogue and diplomacy replaces war and the threat of war?
The International Public and Scientific Conference, held in the same Sava Centre building in Belgrade where the Non-Aligned movement was founded in 1961, commemorated three significant anniversaries. The 70th anniversaries of the Yalta and Potsdam conferences, (between the leaders of the USSR, US and Britain), and the 40th anniversary of the Helsinki Accords, which established the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. The conference preceded the OSCE Ministerial Council meeting that will be held in Belgrade in December.
Valery Giscard d’Estaing is the last surviving leader of those who signed the Helsinki Accords in 1975, and so it was fitting that proceedings began with a video address from the former French President. D’Estaing shared his recollections of Helsinki, which marked the high point of post-war détente between East and West. He reminded the audience that the countries agreed to non-interference in the affairs of sovereign states - which included ideological pressure. The former French president said that while the UN had undoubtedly served the cause of peace it had not done as much as it could have done. He concluded by calling for a lifting of European sanctions on Russia and said that relations between Europe and Russia must be “warm and friendly”.
James Bissett, the former Canadian Ambassador to Yugoslavia, said that the message from Yalta and Helsinki was “simple and clear” – “sovereignty cannot be violated without UN Security Council approval.”
He went on “Now, seventy years after Yalta it is alarmingly clear that world peace and security are under serious threat and that the principles and obligations of the UN Charter and the spirit and intentions of the Helsinki final Act are being either ignored or criminally violated. The responsibility with this rests primarily with the United States.”
Ambassador Bissett read out a list of countries around the globe where there has been US military intervention. “The use of military force for so-called ’humanitarian’ reasons to interfere in the affairs of other sovereign states has proven disastrous; causing untold death and destruction in the countries concerned.” Bissett warned that there was “an urgent need” for a reaffirmation of Yalta and Helsinki “because time may be running out”.
The current OSCE chairman, Ivica Dacic, the first Deputy Prime Minister of Serbia and the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Serbia, said that the Helsinki accords were an example of collaboration replacing confrontation.
He said that unfortunately now there were “no principles, only political interests.” He gave as an example, US double standards on Kosovo and Palestine. When Palestine applied to join UNESCO, the US opposed the move, but they supported Kosovo joining. We must return to a situation where principles are applied consistently, Dacic said.
Andrey Kelin, from the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said that while NATO was meant to protect peace, it had in fact become the biggest threat to world peace and was a major destabilizing force in the world today. He pointed out that NATO’s illegal bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999 - which took place without UNSC approval, was not only a breach of international law, but a clear violation of the Helsinki accords.
Vladimir I. Yakunin, the founding President of the World Public Forum, gave a powerful speech listing the failings of the current neoliberal world order- where endless war and increasing inequality have become the norms.
Youth unemployment figures in Europe - sometimes as high as 60 percent - were an absolute scandal. The social state which existed at the time of Helsinki had been replaced by a “corporatocracy”. We needed to move back to the more equitable and stable model we had in the post-war world, a call which was reiterated by other speakers.
From Germany, Willy Wimmer, veteran CDU politician and former Vice-Chair of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, talked of how US strategy was to separate Europe from Russia. He said it was important that Russia’s attempts to bring peace to Syria succeeded.
Belgian author and activist Michel Collon warned that we should not fall for the “clash of civilizations” narrative being pushed by Western neocons. What we have been witnessing in the last twenty-five years, Collon said, has nothing to do with religion but is the “re-colonization of the world” by Western elites following the fall of the Soviet Union. These “gangsters” have been following the maxim - what you cannot control, you destroy. But before the destruction come the lies. Collon identified five principles of Western war propaganda. 1 - you hide the economic motives for the ’intervention’. 2 - you hide the history surrounding the target country. 3 - you demonize the enemy and, in particular, the target country’s leader. 4 - you say you are intervening to help the ‘victims’. 5 - you monopolize the debate. This pattern Collon pointed out has been used repeatedly in Western interventions since 1990.
Zivadin Jovanovic, President of the Belgrade Forum for the World of Equals and Foreign Minister of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia at the time of the illegal NATO bombing of the country in 1999, highlighted Western double standards in the so-called war on terror, shown by the hidden support for Islamic State by Western allies. ”We must have equal standards - we cannot have a situation of our ‘good’ terrorists.” As Mr. Jovanovic said this I thought of the terrible terrorist atrocities committed by so-called ‘moderate rebels’ in Syria and how Western leaders had failed to condemn them.
In my speech - entitled ‘Back to the Future- towards a new global consensus’ - I described the progressive achievements in Europe- and indeed in many other parts of the world, during the period from Potsdam to Helsinki, i.e. from 1945 to 1975. Economies were restructured to suit the majority. In many countries there was full employment and major extensions of public/social ownership. It was a time of narrowing inequalities: at the time of the Helsinki Accords, the gap between rich and poor in Britain was the lowest in its history. Foreign policy was, not coincidentally, more peaceful at this time: forty years ago, the only foreign ’war’ Britain was involved with was the so-called ‘Cod War’ over fishing limits with Iceland.
Sadly, most of the achievements of the ‘Les Trente Glorieuses’ have been destroyed.
Starting from 1979 in Britain, a new, more aggressive neo-liberal economic order came to the fore, one which was designed to suit minority financial and corporate interests. As states in the West were gradually captured by a sociopathic neocon warmongering elite, so our foreign policies changed. In order to stop the endless warmongering we’ve seen since the fall of the Soviet Union we need to recapture our states so that once again they act in the interests of the majority as they did in the post-WWII period. That means working for fundamental economic and democratic reform. A more egalitarian, democratic world order can only be achieved if we have egalitarianism and genuine democracy at home, too.
The need for deep economic and democratic changes in warmongering Western countries was also stressed in a very thought-provoking speech by Dr. Eva-Maria Follmer-Mueller, head of the association Mut zur Ethik from Switzerland.
Cooperation and not competition was the key. Man was a social being, but in many countries there was increasing atomization and as a result fewer people were able to achieve life fulfillment. We need to increase social connectedness and focus on the personal concept of man. A shift to a more cooperative economy and society, one in which direct democracy operates, is the key to building more peaceful societies - and as a consequence a more peaceful world.
The two day conference had started with us looking at treaties, accords and international law and ended with discussions of economics, psychology, sociology and philosophy.
It was clear that if we are to get the changes in the world order that are urgently needed; the campaign must be fought on several fronts. It was exhilarating to hear so many great speeches from people from different countries and cultures, the speakers all united by their good will and their desire to build a more secure world where once again the human spirit can soar.
At the end of the event, as we bid our farewells, a speaker from the Western Europe said something which I thought was particularly profound - namely that in order to speak their minds freely nowadays, critics of Western foreign policy have to go to somewhere like Serbia - a country which is not in the EU or NATO.
Free speech in the West is threatened as never before due to the odious activities of the Russophobic neocon ‘McCarthyite Thought Police’ and their pro-war faux-left allies, but at least in the Sava Centre in Belgrade we can still speak our minds.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.