Thirty years since the end of the Cold War… what went so wrong?
On August 5 this year, 103 US bipartisan foreign policy experts signed an Open Letter entitled, “It’s Time to Rethink Our Russia Policy,” which begins:
US-Russian relations are at a dangerous dead end… The risk of a military confrontation that could go nuclear is again real.
‘Dead end,’ in this context, could mean just that, the deaths of millions – and irreparable climate breakdown – caused by “two countries with the power to destroy each other and, in 30 minutes, to end civilization as we know it.”
Thirty Novembers ago, leaders of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) met in Paris to inaugurate a post-Cold War order of peace and prosperity. The Conference – encompassing North America and Soviet Asia as well as Europe – had convened at Summit level only once before, in Helsinki in 1975, adopting a ‘Final Act’ enshrining respect for two sometimes contradictory principles – state sovereignty and human rights – as the basis of détente between capitalist West and communist East. Helsinki helped set the stage for the final acts of the Cold War, inspiring dissident movements in Eastern Europe and, from 1985, providing the basic frame for the radical democratizing reforms of Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, who saw in the CSCE an opportunity to build a ‘Common European Home,’ free of military rivalry and the threat of nuclear war.
Here then, absurdly, we stand: 30 years after the Paris Charter, 30 minutes from Armageddon! What the hell happened – and needs to happen now?