All the Tsar’s Men
Why Mobilization Can’t Save Putin’s War
When I was asked to express my views on developments in the sphere of present-day international relations, I was sure that I was not expected to write something in which I did not believe merely for the sake of giving pleasure to anyone. I must say what I really have in mind and what I think the American public might usefully be acquainted with. Naturally I can make no pretense at giving an exhaustive analysis of current international problems or of providing a blueprint for their solution. I think I can, however, lay some claim to not having been mistaken as regards the causes of many of today’s difficulties and of the adverse trends which it now is essential to do away with. At the same time new mistakes must be avoided and thus even more dangerous consequences prevented from arising. The main point I wish to emphasize is that it would be unforgivable if responsible statesmen neglected to learn from past experience and failed to take bold steps to establish the kind of international relations which mankind requires at the present stage of history—relations based on comprehensive coöperation and a determination to settle all outstanding problems by peaceful means.
The atmosphere in the world today is disquieting. Never before, perhaps, has there been so much talk of war or peace. At the same time, means of destruction unparalleled in military history, such as atomic and hydrogen weapons and other modern instruments of war, are being feverishly created. It is indeed hard to comprehend that there are people in the world today—people, moreover, in positions of the greatest responsibility—who not only hold the view that international differences can be settled by force, i.e. through war, but are actually making preparations to this end, while at the same time failing to consider the consequences that would be bound to ensue. Even if they are inclined to forget the millions of lives lost and the tremendous devastation and misery wrought by World War I, they should at least remember the terrible consequences of World War II. The world has not recovered from those unprecedented human and material losses, and will not for a long time to come.
Nor is it hard to visualize the effects of a third world war where the contestants used the means of destruction now available and being menacingly flaunted. Could the initiator of a war—the aggressor—be at all sure that he would be spared devastation from atomic and hydrogen weapons? Certainly not. To start such a war would indeed be a hazardous venture, because I am convinced that the people of no country would willingly permit themselves to be destroyed through such irresponsibility on the part of their leaders but would do everything necessary to halt them on that desperate course. For it should be borne in mind that even if certain statesmen have forgotten the lessons of World War II, the people certainly have not; it is they who bore the brunt of war and suffered from its consequences; it is peace that they therefore desire above all. It may also be useful to recall the significant and instructive fact that the outcome of both world wars was considerably different from what was desired by those who prepared and started them.
If recent history has a lesson to offer, therefore, it is simply that war no longer pays. Achievements in the field of science have reached a stage where they can bring either happiness or destruction to mankind. The statesmen of the world bear the responsibility before the nations and before history to elect the first of the two alternatives. And here it is necessary to have the courage to face realities and see where the causes of existing international tensions lie. They are not the result of some elementary force, but have arisen from the errors of men, and of precisely those men whose duty it was to assure peace and security to suffering mankind after the victory over the reactionary aggressor Powers.
The origin of the tensions plaguing the world today may be traced back to the time of Tehran, Yalta and the other international conferences and to the mistaken views of the protagonists at those conferences on certain international problems such as the division of the world into spheres of influence. For them, the world consisted of three Great Powers; all the other nations were looked upon as wards and their aspirations and interests were ignored.
It was precisely through this division of the world into spheres of influence that the strivings of both large and small nations towards genuine independence were to be thwarted, both in principle and in practice. Today certain countries in the West frequently invoke the principle of independence for propaganda purposes, while their actual practice runs in quite the opposite direction. This, however, does not prevent them from accusing others of violating the principle of independence. Until the principle of independence is adopted in practice by all states, and particularly by the Great Powers, this issue will be a constant element of conflict.
Furthermore, some of the principal Western Powers were highly dissatisfied with the outcome and the results of the war. In other words, they were and still are dissatisfied because events took a different turn from the one they had expected when they were deciding the fate of other nations, in the absence of these and without their consent. They have watched with particular displeasure as the new power of the people emerged from the ruins of the Fascist and reactionary régimes. This power may have certain temporary weaknesses, but it is developing towards the achievement of socialism and socialist democracy. In them the people perceive the possibility of realizing their aspirations for a better life and a peaceful development.
The causes of existing tensions are also to be sought in the erroneous foreign policy of Stalin and in the rigidity of Molotov, whose offensive and aggressive attitudes in postwar international affairs aroused a growing measure of suspicion and apprehension regarding the intentions of the Soviet Union. Stalin was wont to indulge in all sorts of threats and in violence, and this had anything but the desired effect on the countries concerned. Let me recall only how he applied every conceivable kind of pressure against Jugoslavia, ranging from an unprecedented propaganda campaign and an economic blockade to a cold war which showed increasing signs of developing into an armed conflict on the frontiers of our country. He did this to an ally and a socialist country. How he felt about other countries, small or large, I do not wish to recount here. Indeed it would take too much space to cite all the negative features of Stalin’s policies, which brought the Soviet Union into a state of isolation and led to the loss of the tremendous prestige which it had won through the sacrifice of millions of its sons in World War II.
It is understandable that these policies of Stalin should have provoked growing mistrust and met with a mounting resistance and that his threats should have led to a series of measures, some of them of a military character, on the part of the Western Powers. It is difficult, however, to understand that even now, four years after Stalin’s death, this mistrust not only persists but actually is increasing in certain circles in the West, regardless of the efforts which are being made by the present-day Soviet leaders to correct Stalin’s mistakes. Why is every move on the part of the Soviet leaders looked upon even now with suspicion? Has not the time come for the steps which the Soviet Government is taking towards an alleviation of international tension to be viewed with more realism and with greater confidence? The other side should now show its willingness to settle some of the problems which still constitute a constant threat to peace and international coöperation, such as the question of disarmament and of the cessation of atomic and hydrogen bomb tests.
It will be objected, I know, that the views I have just expressed are one-sided. I am, however, profoundly convinced of their truth. If prior to Stalin’s death it was his policy which constituted the main element of cold war, fear and uncertainty, the responsibility for a continuation of such a state of affairs has been shifting during the last few years more and more to those in the West who persist in the view that the different outstanding questions should be tackled from positions of strength. I shall not be revealing any secret when I say here that persistence in establishing military bases in Europe, the Middle East and Asia involves a constant danger to peace, because it leads to legitimate apprehension and mistrust on the other side, i.e. among the Soviet leaders. The Soviet leaders look upon this, rightly in my opinion, as a policy of encirclement, a threat of war and an aggressive attempt to isolate the Soviet Union.
Such, then, are the roots of the distrust which now prevails in the Soviet Union with regard to Western intentions, much the same as Stalin’s aggressive policies had led to suspicion in the West and to the creation of the North Atlantic Treaty Alliance. If the setting up of NATO did have some justification at the time, there can be no justification today for the continuing existence, development and extension of the Alliance, which undoubtedly contributes to the widening rift and the growing lack of confidence between East and West. I shall, at this point, probably be asked: what about the Warsaw Pact? One should take into account the time when this pact came into being and the reasons for it. I am opposed to the division of the world into military blocs, and to blocs in general. I nevertheless must point out that the Warsaw Pact appeared subsequent to, and as a result of, the creation of NATO and for the purpose of counterbalancing it. I am deeply convinced that the Warsaw Pact would cease to exist as soon as NATO had disappeared.
The question arises as to what should come in lieu of these pacts, which in my view are not what Western circles claim them to be but instruments and elements of international tension which increase the danger of war. The answer is simple: they should be replaced by a collective security agreement, which would provide peace and stability and aid powerfully in establishing confidence amongst states and nations and also in helping toward the settlement of other outstanding problems outside Europe.
A problem that looms large in Europe is the problem of the unification of Germany. But it is a problem which is the concern of the German people; they alone have the right to solve it and they have the right to solve it as they think best. What are required here are time and patience. Any interference from outside can only make unification on a practicable basis more difficult. One should be realistic and take into account the fact that, whether we like it or not, there are today two Germanys with different social systems. This is a result of the historical conditions prevailing in the war and postwar periods; in other words, the existing situation in Germany is a consequence of the negotiations conducted during the war and afterwards at conferences where the fate of the world was shaped in a somewhat unfelicitous manner.
Are we now, because of this, to fall into even graver errors and plunge the world into renewed chaos and a new catastrophe? That would be a most disastrous mistake. What we should do is to assist the German people to find a way out of this situation and to achieve unity within a peace-loving and democratic Germany. The possibility should be created for the peoples of East and West Germany to come closer together. I am certain that they have so many things in common that they will one day find ways of living together regardless of their different social systems. That would be the best solution. It would also offer the best assurance against the emergence in Germany of forces which might one day again pose a threat to the world. This has happened twice within a short space of time, and is naturally the source of the greatest apprehension for the nations that have been the most direct sufferers.
The changes which have occurred in a number of countries of Eastern Europe in the aftermath of the war, and which resulted in the replacement of the previous Fascist or capitalist forms of social organization by socialist forms of organization, cannot be reversed by anyone; and it would of course be a mistake even to consider any such possibility. A new social system has struck deep roots in practically all these countries. A social process creating a system of tremendous vitality is now making headway regardless of temporary weaknesses of either a subjective or objective nature. Interference from outside can only fetter and retard the development of the democratic forms of the system without in any way changing the system itself. I therefore consider that propaganda conducted from abroad, and with foreign aid, by persons who have fled their own countries can only feed international tension. There is no prospect of restoring the former system: it is merely an attempt to turn the clock back, and it will not work.
What then? Is there to be war in order to bring discarded forms back into being? The answer of the people, clearly and naturally, can only be no. To engage in an armaments race in order to be able to negotiate from positions of force for the restoration of old and obsolete forms or organization is both senseless and useless. I am convinced that not one of the countries involved would permit this to happen; they would resist any such attempt. It seems to me, therefore, that all such harmful propaganda against the countries of socialism, as well as against my own country, should cease —in the interest of decreasing international tension, in the interest of promoting peace and international coöperation, in the interest of establishing sincere confidence between states and nations. Responsible statesmen the world around should, I feel, approach all these questions with a greater measure of realism. They should take things as they are, seeking to establish such relations among nations as would permit people to live without fear for their future.
What then remains, if we reject war as a method of settling international differences? The only alternative is, of course, coexistence among states and nations irrespective of their different social systems. There are two main and distinctive systems in the world today, the socialist and the capitalist. Within each there exist certain nuances. Should the countries with different social systems decide to settle by war which of the two systems is to triumph, in other words, attempt to impose their system on others by force? That would be absurd and would bring a new catastrophe to the whole of mankind. The internal social system of any country is a matter for the people of that country to decide; they have the right to shape their own destiny and no one is entitled to interfere in this from outside. At the present stage of human history, problems between countries cannot be solved through war, and this method should therefore be discarded. The only alternative is peaceful and active coexistence among states and nations.
When I speak of active coexistence I do not mean that states with different social systems should merely vegetate alongside one another, but that they should actively coöperate on all questions of mutual interest and settle differences regarding them by peaceful means. Rather than interfere in each other’s internal affairs, states should engage in an exchange of the positive and useful results they have obtained through their labor, through raising the standard of living of each and through promoting progress in general. This approach is not utopian. It merely reflects a universal need, if the world is to be spared further shocks, if we are to establish international relations that will permit the world to cease living in fear.
Only recently an event occurred in the Middle East—an aggression against an independent country—which might have had incalculable consequences had it not been for the determined efforts of the United Nations to put an end to it. In these United Nations efforts, the Soviet Union and the United States played a decisive rôle. How did these events in the Middle East come about? As a result of the attitude of the leading statesmen of certain countries who apparently felt that nothing in the world had changed. Their views were heavily tainted with old-style colonialism. They ignored world public opinion. They considered that the world would, from fear of a broader conflagration, close its eyes to this local war. Fortunately, however, events took quite a different course. The world’s reaction through the United Nations was swift and resolute. We are left with a realization, however, of how much the line of thinking of statesmen who hope to obtain a favorable (from their point of view) solution of problems like that of the Suez Canal by aggressive means is fraught with danger to peace.
Have the necessary lessons been learned from an event which might well have led to a new world conflagration? I think not. Current developments in the Middle East indicate as much. The situation there is still extremely troubled. There is a renewed danger of conflict owing to a mistaken policy of interference in the internal affairs of the Arab countries. The young and still insufficiently developed Arab countries are being divided by the application of a doctrine which can hardly be considered beneficial for them. It is claimed that what is being done is in the interests of peace and stability in that part of the world. I shall be only too happy if events prove me wrong. But would it not have been better if a different approach had been adopted, not one based on an alleged need of “filling a vacuum”—a “vacuum” which had come into being as the positive result of the removal of colonial influence and exploitation by certain colonial Powers?
The explanation that it was essential to fill the “vacuum” because of the alleged danger of Communist infiltration does not hold water. The countries involved are mainly young countries with strong national feelings, striving towards independence, seeking to achieve democracy by doing away with the remnants of feudalism and with feudalism in general. Is it not a mistake to oppose these strivings and to denounce them as the fruit of Communist influence and of Communism in general? Why should the people of these countries be denied rights which other nations have long enjoyed, above all the right to decide their own fate? Why should there be interference in their internal affairs? It is my considered opinion that such a policy in the Middle East has yielded no good results. It would have been better if after the Suez crisis an effort had been made gradually to remove past errors and existing antagonisms and to assist these nations materially to emerge from their backwardness. Assistance of this kind, with no strings attached, would be far more conducive to the establishment of conditions of peace and stability in that part of the world.
In general, I consider that the present policies of the colonial Powers towards the peoples of Africa and Asia are mistaken and are pregnant with a latent danger of armed conflicts. The bloody Algerian tragedy is an example of the resistance of the colonial Powers to the liberation strivings of the enslaved colonial peoples. These problems must remain one of the main concerns of the United Nations.
Speaking of the United Nations, I must point out that I consider incorrect any kind of discriminatory policy towards certain states still outside the organization. I have China in mind in the first place, a country with one-fourth of the world’s population. I do not think anybody now really believes that such a state of affairs can persist. It seems strange indeed that a settlement of the question of Chinese representation in the United Nations is still being delayed; as is the question of the admission of certain other countries to the organization.
The question is frequently asked in the West: Where does Jugoslavia now stand, and where will she stand in the future? Various conjectures are indulged in. This speculation stems from the fact that Jugoslavia is a socialist country and is building socialism; hence it is supposed that her goal is the same as that of the Soviet Union and of the other Eastern European countries. This is how Western thinking runs. Yes, it is quite true that our goal is the same, although we differ with regard to certain questions of internal development, i.e. with regard to our respective methods of building socialism. We also differ at certain points in our interpretation of the science of Marxism-Leninism, in assessing the correctness of our respective roads to socialism. All these are not such weighty matters that they should lead to tension in our mutual relations. The future will provide the best answer, I think, as to who was more nearly correct and who was less so. The one who is proved less correct will be the one to suffer and will have only himself to blame.
The Belgrade and Moscow Declarations of June 1955 and July 1956 contain the principles upon which the relations and the coöperation between the Soviet Union and Jugoslavia should be based. Considerable progress has been achieved, I feel, in improving our relations. This gives us assurance that the principles set forth in the Declarations will be put even more speedily into effect in our mutual relations in the future.
Any move on our part to improve relations with the Soviet Union and the other people’s democracies usually gives rise to misgivings and to all kinds of speculation in the West. Some even seek to derive tangible benefits from this fact, alleging that “Jugoslavia is lost to the West.” I fail to see why such conjectures should arise. We have never given anybody reason to hope that we would join the Western bloc, or any other bloc for that matter. To do so would be contrary to the principles on which our foreign policy rests. Our foreign policy is based on the clearly expressed principle of coexistence, on peaceful and equal coöperation with all countries, small or large. If one takes the trouble to examine the line to which our foreign policy has adhered hitherto it will be realized that it is only natural for us to seek to have as good relations as possible with the Soviet Union and with the other people’s democracies, and not only with the Western countries.
Our good relations with the West stem from the times when our country had been brought into a dangerous state of isolation and was subjected to pressure from all the states which followed Stalin’s policy. While we had not been solely to blame for our unsatisfactory relations with the Western Powers in the early postwar years, we have nevertheless learned the lesson from that period. We have learned that it is not advisable to conduct a too one-sided policy in a world where a growing number of elements of common interest are at work—particularly elements making for economic integration and linking the world more and more into a whole. The process continues notwithstanding the powerful resistance offered by certain subjective factors. It is interesting, though hardly comforting, to note that people have the most difficulty in perceiving the importance of the very social laws of which they are themselves creating the elements and in the development of which they are themselves participating.
There is nothing out of the way in the fact that, in establishing good relations with the U.S.S.R. and the other Eastern European countries, we have not the slightest intention of impairing our relations with the Western countries. The reason is that we consider that our coöperation with the West on questions of common interest is extremely advantageous for our country and that in addition it contributes both to the easing of international tensions and to the strengthening of peace.