The importance of the Helsinki Accords: The last time the West respected Russia

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of this site. This site does not give financial, investment or medical advice.

In 1991 at a dacha in the middle of Belavezha Forest, three men conspired to end the Soviet Union in contravention not only of Soviet law, but against the stated wishes of the majority of Soviet citizens who just months earlier, voted in a referendum in which they expressed their desire to live together in a single state, the Soviet Union.

The three men who conspired against the Soviet Union, Soviet Russian leader Boris Yeltsin, Soviet Ukrainian leader and later Ukrainian President Leonid Kravchuk and Belarusian leader Stanislav Shushkevich, betrayed the wishes of their own people and those of other Soviet republics who were not invited to the dacha in Belavezha Forest.

Throughout the 1990s, the Belavezha Accords continued to haunt Russia and other states. Many who found themselves impoverished, in ill health without access to good medical care and others yet who were made refugees by the accords, asked ‘why’?

Under the leadership of President and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, Russia has been able to internally and to a small degree, geo-politically, right the many wrongs unleashed by the Belavezha Accords.

As Russia and her allies continue to march back to the sunlit uplands of superpower status and internal self-sufficiency and prosperity, hindsight might dictate that another accord, one signed legally by not only the Soviet Union but by most of Europe and the United States, will have a bigger psychological impact on the future of the Russian Federation than the treachery in Belavezha.

A recent Russian poll found that since 1917, the two eras most cherished by ordinary Russians are the eras of Putin and Brezhnev.

The 1970s was Brezhnev’s decade not only at home but also abroad. It was at this time that the Soviet Union achieved a maximum amount of success in terms of military capability, internal peace and prosperity, respect in the wider world and diplomatic clarity.

At the same time, the US was reeling in the throes of a poor economy, the aftermath of Watergate, the humiliation in Vietnam and the public exposure of corruption in what we now call the deep state.

It was in 1975, that these two divergent trends, converged in Helsinki where the Soviet Union,  America, Canada, Turkey, the US allied western European states, members of the Warsaw Pact and Yugoslavia came together to sign the Helsinki accords.

The accords affirmed that once and future imperialist powers would respect the borders and sovereignty of existing states, including that of the Soviet Union and her allies. It affirmed a renunciation of violence as a means of settling disputes and forced signatories to respect the right of self-determination among peoples.

The Helsinki Accords were not popular among the hawkish Cold Warriors of the west. They felt, with some degree of truth, that it meant an end to their ambitions of weakening the Soviet Union and meddling in the affairs of Soviet allies, namely the Warsaw Pact states.

The Belavezha Accords gave the western powers an opportunity to violate the Helsinki agreements, expanding NATO into former parts of the Soviet Union and throughout the wider former Warsaw Pact states. This was done in contravention of a personal agreement that US President George H.W. Bush made to the last Soviet President, Mikhail Gorbachev in the early 1990s.

Today, the rights of self-determination are spat on by the west, when it involves Russian people seeking to re-unite with Russia. Crimea and Donbass are the two most strident examples of this.

But geo-politics remains in flux. Russia is slowly but surely shaking off the shock and demoralisation wrought by the Belavezha Accords.

The same Russians who look fondly to the Brezhnev era, would be well instructed to re-examine the Helsinki Accords and remember a time when the west came to the Soviet Union with an olive branch. They did so because the Soviet Union was at her most powerful. When the USSR and Russia were at her most weak in the 1990s, the NATO bloc pounced and they are still pouncing.

The world is in need of a new Helsinki Accord, but one which Russia must be vigilant in safeguarding. The naïveté of Gorbachev and his right hand man Alexander Yakovlev, led the west to de-facto discard the Helsinki Accords, violating every promise they made.

This part of the story must not be repeated.


The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of this site. This site does not give financial, investment or medical advice.

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