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[History Lessons] The Helsinki Accords

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  • robert-blau@webtv.net
    Any lessons here for Barack Obama re Iran? . . . From: bruce@historylessons.net(Bruce Kauffmann) The Helsinki Accords The conference that produced the famous
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 1, 2009
      Any lessons here for Barack Obama re Iran? . . .

      From: bruce@...(Bruce Kauffmann)

      The Helsinki Accords

      The conference that produced the famous "Helsinki agreement" convened
      this week (July 30) in 1975, and I can just hear many of you muttering,
      "The what agreement?"

      The Helsinki agreement -- formally known as the Helsinki Accords --
      began the process that destroyed the Soviet Union and ended the Cold

      And the irony is, the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe
      that produced this agreement was the Soviets' idea. Soviet leader Leonid
      Brezhnev's goal in proposing the conference (held in Helsinki, Finland)
      was two-fold: First, to reaffirm détente, the arrangement by which the
      U.S. and the U.S.S.R. acknowledged each other's sphere of influence;
      and, second, to get the world to publicly recognize that Soviet control
      of Eastern Europe was unalterable.

      But to get that "carrot" the Soviets had to swallow a "stick." Language
      in the Helsinki agreement also required all signatories to recognize
      "the universal significance of human rights and fundamental freedoms" as
      spelled out in the Charter of the United Nations.

      Given the Soviet Union's human rights record, its leaders were
      understandably nervous about that language, but they finally decided the
      trade-off was worth it, especially since Soviet leaders would be the
      ones determining how such "rights and freedoms" would be defined.

      Or so they thought. But when the Helsinki agreement was published in the
      Soviet's official newspaper, Pravda, including the language on human
      rights and freedoms, it sent shock waves through the dissident community
      in both the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. Slowly, but with increasing
      regularity, what became known as "Helsinki Groups" began sprouting up,
      asserting their rights to criticize the state and resist its attempts to
      control their lives. What had begun as a few courageous loners such as
      Andrei Sakharov and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn mushroomed into tens of
      thousands of protestors, emboldened not only by the language in the
      Helsinki agreement, but also by the support of a growing number of
      international humans rights groups -- with names such as the Public
      Group to Promote the Observance of the Helsinki Accords -- that
      themselves were using Helsinki to monitor Soviet behavior.

      Soviet leaders found themselves caught between a rock and a hard place.
      The emboldened behavior of the protestors was becoming increasingly
      intolerable, but no longer could the Soviets quietly detain and
      incarcerate troublemakers. There were just too many of them and there
      were too many people watching.
      The inevitable result, of course, was Lech Walesa and Solidarity in
      Poland, Vaclav Havel and the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia, and
      other dissident movements in Eastern Europe and throughout the republics
      that made up the U.S.S.R. After that came the end of the Berlin Wall,
      the end of the Soviet empire and the end of the Soviet Union.

      "Oh, that agreement!"

      © Kauffmann 2009

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