Posts Tagged ‘Leonid Brezhnev’

REPRISE: August 20, 1968 — “Dubček, Svoboda!”

Tuesday, August 19th, 2014

From August 20, 2011

On this date, 43 years ago, the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact allies invaded Czechoslovakia, putting down with its tanks what its own broken ideology could no longer extinguish–ideals of freedom of the press and personal liberty free from the oppressive weight of a totalitarian state.

Those ideals and dreams survived, and triumphed.

See The Trenchant Observer,
“August 20, 1968 — “Dubček, Svoboda!” (Personal Takes)”
August 20, 2010

The original article, from 2010, is reproduced below.

***

Alexander Dubcek

Personal Takes

I had a picture of Alexander Dubček on my wall when I was a student studying international law. He represented the hope of many in Czechoslovakia and beyond that the communist party might evolve from within. He and the President of Czechoslovakia, Ludvik Svoboda (whose last name meant “freedom” in Czech), were for a brief moment during “the Prague Spring” the team that stood for the triumph of the human spirit, of freedom, within a communist party and under a communist government.

The threat was too great for the leaders of the Soviet Union, and after a summer of feints and betrayals and illusions, they sent their tanks across the frontier into the sovereign territory of Czechoslovakia, on August 20, 1968.

29 years earlier, Adolph Hitler had sent his tanks into Prague, following the betrayal of Chamberlain at Munich which recognized the annexation of the Sudetenland, an area of Czechoslovakia settled by ethnic Germans.

In March 1938, the linking together or annexation (“Anschluss”) of Austria was consummated at the barrel of a gun. The infamous Munich Pact followed on September 30, ceding the Sudetenland to Germany. On March 15, 1939 Germany invaded and took direct control of the rest of Czechoslovakia. The invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939, followed months later, setting off World War II.

These events, for a young international lawyer, seemed together to define the core values of the structure and body of international law and institutions, which had begun following a terrible “world war” in the 17th century, the Thirty Years War (1618-1648), which at the Peace of Westphalia and through the pen of Hugo Grotius gave birth to the modern system of nation states and to the basic framework of principles and norms of international law.

The devastation and suffering that took place during The Thirty Years’ War underlined the need for rules governing the relations of princes and states. Three centuries later Hitler’s Anschluss and the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia defined, in a sense, the core values of international law.

Those core values, which had become clear by the 20th century, included the sanctity of the human person and the principle prohibiting the threat or use of force against the political independence or territorial integrity of any state, except in self-defense.

These values were defined by their utter violation, in much the same way that Albert Camus found that moral values were created by their brutal violation by Hitler’s armies and the Gestapo before and during World War II. Camus, who as editor of the French resistance newspaper Libération was a leader in the French resistance, articulated–particularly in “The Rebel” and his novel “The Plague”—a vision of how values acquired their substance and contours not through abstract logic, but more directly through the experience of the horrors of their violation.

So today, on August 20, 2010, let us salute the courage of Dubček and Svoboda in their struggle to put “a human face” on socialism. Years later, their countryman, Václav Havel, gave expression to the dream of freedom of the Prague Spring generation in a voice that resonated through Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, and throughout the world. Havel became President of Czechoslovakia as a result of “the Velvet Revolution” in 1989.

I remember how in 1968, after the Soviet tanks had crushed the Prague Spring and the autonomous government of Alexander Dubček, it occurred to me that if there were ever a reform from within the Communist party led by a Soviet Dubček, there would be no Soviet tanks to crush the reform. As it turned out, I was only half right. Twenty years later, Mikhail Gorbachev, introducing glasnost and perestroika, led such a reform. Boris Yeltsin put down the reaction by overcoming tanks in 1991, leading to the breakup of the Soviet Union.

For insight into the Prague Spring, see Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being (1984), and the 1988 American movie of the same title, starring Daniel Day-Lewis, Lena Olin, and Juliette Binoche.

The Trenchant Observer

UKRAINE: Russia military intervention underway in Crimea, in flagrant violation of international law

Friday, February 28th, 2014

Developing

Background

“Ukraine: Russian military interventiom underway or likely, as Putin follows Hitler’s playbook in the Crimea,” The Trenchant Observer, February 27, 2014.

“U.S. should revoke MFN status and impose sanctions on Putin and Moscow if Russia intervenes in Ukraine,” The Trenchant Observer, February 25, 2014.

“Russia’s Prime Minister Medvedev claims direct threat to Russian citizens, laying basis for Russian military intervention in Ukraine,” The Trenchant Observer, February 24, 2014.

Russia is currently carrying out a military intervention in the Crimea, in an open act of aggression against the territorial integrity and political independence of the Ukraine, thereby violating the bedrock principle prohibiting the threat or use of force contained in Article 2(4) of the U.N. Charter.

The lies and subterfuges being employed by Vladimir Putin and Russia hark back to the lies and subterfuges of Adolf Hitler when he secured the annexation of the Sudetenland through the threat of military intervention, scheduled to occur a day after the infamous Munich Pact was signed on September 29-30, 1938.

Putin publicly calls for a de-escalation of tensions in the Crimea, as Russian helicopters cross into Ukraine and Russian troop transports land at airports secured by Russian soldiers wearing unmarked uniforms. The president of the regional parliament is replaced by a Russian citizen following the seizure and occupation of the parliament building by similarly disguised Russian soldiers wearing military uniforms with no insignia. Meanwhile, Putin is conducting large-scale military exercises in western Russia including areas adjacent to the border with the Ukraine.

International law is absolutely clear in its prohibition of the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any country. This is a principle of jus cogens or mandatory law from which there can be no exception by way of agreement. Even if treaties between Ukraine and Russia granted Russia a right of military intervention, which they do not, their provisions would be void under the jus cogens principle contained in Article 2(4) of the U.N. Charter.

The use of Russian military personnel who are in the Crimea pursuant to treaties between Ukraine and Russia does not authorize them to act outside of the specific terms of the treaties, and any such actions such as those currently underway constitute acts of aggression.

Russia cannot come to the assistance of Russians in the Crimea to protect them against illusory threats whch have no basis in reality, and when the only threats in the Crimea are those that are being made by the Russians themselves.

The Russians, under international law, cannot intervene militarily to restore order in the Crimea, especially when it is they who have disturbed and are disturbing law and order on the Crimean peninsula.

No seizure of the Crimea by Russian military forces will ever be recognized under international law. Putin might well recall the cases of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, which were invaded by the Soviet Union in 1940 but were never recognized as part of the Soviet Union under international law.

The Russian threat is not likely to subside in a matter of days or weeks, absent Putin’s recognition that he has made a enormous geopolitical mistake and absent a decision by him to quickly back down. In Czecholslovakia, it will be recalled, the Soviet Union made a number of thrusts and feints over several months, before finally invading the country on August 20, 1968.

If Putin does not desist from his present couse of action, he will become the Leonid Brezhnev of our times. He should also bear in mind that actions such as military intervention in the Ukraine, whatever their short-term popularity in Russia, will only hasten the day that the Maidan comes to Red Square.

For information on the latest developments, see the following articles (list will be updated):

(1) “+++ Minutenprotokoll zur Krise in der Ukraine +++: Grenzposten verschanzen sich vor russischen Marinesoldaten,” Der Spiegel, 28. februar 2014 (12:59 Uhr).

Äußerstt angespannte Lage am Freitag auf der Krim: Über Nacht haben unbekannte Bewaffnete zwei Flughäfen besetzt. Russische Militärhelikopter kreuzten die Grenze zur Ukraine – und Marinesoldaten umstellen einen ukrainischen Grenzposten. Die Ereignisse des Tages im Minutenprotokoll.

(2) Julia Smirnova (Sewastopol), “‘Jetzt kämpfe ich auch gegen den Faschismus!’” Die Welt, 28. februar 2014 (17:09 Uhr).

In Sewastopol auf der Krim ist ein gewaltiges russisches Militärpotenzial versammelt. Es kam zu ersten Besetzungen durch ethnische Russen. Sie fühlen sich bedroht. Unsere Reporterin hat sie getroffen. Von Julia Smirnova, Sewastopol

(3) “Konflikt auf Halbinsel Krim: Ukraine protestiert gegen “Verletzung des Luftraums”, Süddeutsche Zeitung, 28. Februar 2014 (21:11). [outstanding overview of latest developments]

+++ Angeblich mehr als 2000 russische Soldaten auf der Krim gelandet +++ Ukraine fordert Russland zur Einhaltung bilateraler Verträge auf +++ Gestürzter Präsident: Russland soll “Chaos und Terror” unterbinden, aber nicht militärisch eingreifen +++ UN-Sicherheitsrat tritt zusammen +++

.
In response to the Russian military intervention in the Crimea, President Obama went on TV at 6:00 p.m. EST to state that if Russia intervenes in Ukraine there will be “costs”. Coming from the weakest foreign policy leader of the U.S. since before World War II, those words are hardly likely to make Putin flinch.

“Costs” and consequences that can be initiated immediately, in the U.S. House and Senate, include drafting legislation that would repeal the most-favord-nation treatment given to Russia in 2012, and the drafting of legislation imposing stiff sanctions on Russia and high Russian officials responsible for the military intervention in the Ukraine.

Secondly, the EU can draft stiff sanctions legislation against Russia and Ruusian leaders.

Third, diplomats representing their countries at the U.N. can begin drafting a General Assembly resolution condemning Russia for its military intervention in Ukraine, and lobbying delegations from different countries for their support. To be sure, a Security Council resolution should be drafted and put to a vote. However, given the certainty that Russia will veto any such resolution (no reason not to put it to public discussion and a vote), it will be useful now to work on generating support for the General Assembly resolution, which should follow as soon ss possible following a Russian veto of the Security Council draft resolution.

The naivete of the Obama administration in dealing with Russia has been underlined in recent days by the inability of any officials as late as yesterday to imagine a Russian military intervention in Ukraine.

Given the weakness and incompetence of Obama and his administration, we can only hope that countries like Poland, Germany and France can help Europe take the lead in resolving the current crisis. Financial support from the U.S. will in any event be required as part of any solution to the conflict.

While Obama shows disdain for international law through his actions and his inability to articulate its norms even in support of vital U.S. objectives abd interests, the situation is different in Europe. There, politicians are not afraid to say the words “international law”. Indeed, the entire EU is built on international law. Moreover, the prohibition against the threat or use of force was born from the horrors which followed the experience of the annexation of the Sudetenland in 1938 and the invasion of Poland in 1939.

What hangs in the balance with the Russian military intervention in the Ukraine, now, is nothing less than the prohibition of the threat or use of force contained in Article 2(4). To seek a resolution to the current crisis without building every argument on that central fact, would be to miss the entire point. To allow the Russian intervention to stand would be to open the doors to countless new conflicts and wars in the future.

The Trenchant Observer
(Der Scharfsinniger Beobachter)
(l’Observeur Incisif)
(El Observador Incisivo)

August 20, 1968 — “Dubček, Svoboda!”

Saturday, August 20th, 2011

On this date, 43 years ago, the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact allies invaded Czechoslovakia, putting down with its tanks what its own broken ideology could no longer extinguish–ideals of freedom of the press and personal liberty free from the oppressive weight of a totalitarian state.

Those ideals and dreams survived, and triumphed.

See The Trenchant Observer,
“August 20, 1968 — “Dubček, Svoboda!” (Personal Takes)”
August 20, 2010

The Trenchant Observer

August 20, 1968 — “Dubček, Svoboda!”

Friday, August 20th, 2010

Alexander DubcekPersonal Takes

I had a picture of Alexander Dubček on my wall when I was a student studying international law. He represented the hope of many in Czechoslovakia and beyond that the communist party might evolve from within. He and the President of Czechoslovakia, Ludvik Svoboda (whose last name meant “freedom” in Czech), were for a brief moment during “the Prague Spring” the team that stood for the triumph of the human spirit, of freedom, within a communist party and under a communist government.

The threat was too great for the leaders of the Soviet Union, and after a summer of feints and betrayals and illusions, they sent their tanks across the frontier into the sovereign territory of Czechoslovakia, on August 20, 1968.

29 years earlier, Adolph Hitler had sent his tanks into Prague, following the betrayal of Chamberlain at Munich which recognized the annexation of the Sudetenland, an area of Czechoslovakia settled by ethnic Germans.

In March 1938, the linking together or annexation (“Anschluss”) of Austria was consummated at the barrel of a gun. The infamous Munich Pact followed on September 30, ceding the Sudetenland to Germany. On March 15, 1939 Germany invaded and took direct control of the rest of Czechoslovakia. The invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939, followed months later, setting off World War II.

These events, for a young international lawyer, seemed together to define the core values of the structure and body of international law and institutions, which had begun following a terrible “world war” in the 17th century, the Thirty Years War (1618-1648), which at the Peace of Westphalia and through the pen of Hugo Grotius gave birth to the modern system of nation states and to the basic framework of principles and norms of international law.

The devastation and suffering that took place during The Thirty Years’ War underlined the need for rules governing the relations of princes and states. Three centuries later Hitler’s Anschluss and the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia defined, in a sense, the core values of international law.

Those core values, which had become clear by the 20th century, included the sanctity of the human person and the principle prohibiting the threat or use of force against the political independence or territorial integrity of any state, except in self defense.

These values were defined by their utter violation, in much the same way that Albert Camus found that moral values were created by their brutal violation by Hitler’s armies and the Gestapo before and during World War II. Camus, who as editor of the French resistance newspaper Libération was a leader in the French resistance, articulated–particularly in “The Rebel” and his novel “The Plague”—a vision of how values acquired their substance and contours not through abstract logic, but more directly through the experience of the horrors of their violation.

So today, on August 20, 2010, let us salute the courage of Dubček and Svoboda in their struggle to put “a human face” on socialism. Years later, their countryman, Václav Havel, gave expression to the dream of freedom of the Prague Spring generation in a voice that resonated through Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, and throughout the world. Havel became President of Czechoslovakia as a result of “the Velvet Revolution” in 1989.

I remember how in 1968, after the Soviet tanks had crushed the Prague Spring and the autonomous government of Alexander Dubček, it occurred to me that if there were ever a reform from within the Communist party led by a Soviet Dubček, there would be no Soviet tanks to crush the reform. As it turned out, I was only half right. Twenty years later, Mikhail Gorbachev, introducing glasnost and perestroika, led such a reform. Boris Yeltsin put down the reaction by overcoming tanks in 1991, leading to the breakup of the Soviet Union.

For insight into the Prague Spring, see Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being (1984), and the 1988 American movie of the same title, starring Daniel Day-Lewis, Lena Olin, and Juliette Binoche.

The Trenchant Observer

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