Courtesy Reuters

Human Rights and East-West Relations

The need to respect human rights has lately become the focus of public attention and debate. Such a development is clearly a reflection of rising popular expectations which in some cases have led to a growing tension between governments and the governed. We can discern a worldwide trend to assert individual and collective aspirations and to bring about changes in governmental processes at all levels in order to make them more responsive to these aspirations. This trend shows up in many forms-from movements of national independence to devolution and demands for worker codetermination. In the United States and Western Europe a growing interest in "the human dimension" of world politics is seen by many as a natural and healthy reaction to an overemphasis on great power diplomacy, elitist cynicism, and to excessive secretiveness during the recent past.

This trend also has significant implications for East-West relations. In the compass of this brief essay, our analysis will be limited to two developments which are liable to affect fundamental premises of Western policies toward the Warsaw Pact countries: (1) the more assertive mood of human rights movements in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe; and (2) the articulate stand adopted by the new Administration in Washington on the issue of human rights, implying a distinct departure from the position of the preceding Administration.


The advocacy of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in the widest sense has a double implication. First and foremost, it implies an insistence on effective guarantees to safeguard the position of the individual citizen in the society to which he belongs and particularly to protect him against infringement of basic civil rights and liberties, such as freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and freedom of movement-liberties which are inscribed in practically all modern constitutions, including those of the Soviet Union and the East European countries. Second, to champion human rights involves supporting a long-established principle of international relations, reconfirmed in the Final Act of the Conference on Security and

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