Hello. Time for the Chief Editor’s Periscope to rise above the ever-turbulent waters and survey the scene, near and far.
As always, I'm watching the news come in. And there’s never a dull moment. So, in reporting, I need to be discerning as fits a captain’s perspective.
To my surprise and undisguised satisfaction, I see that this week even the French parliament has recognized the Holodomor as an act of genocide against the Ukrainian people by the Soviet regime.
This is all the more significant given that leading French politicians and intellectuals like Edouard Herriot, Maurice Thorez, Romain Rolland and Henri Barbusse went to the Soviet Union in the first half of the 1930s and claimed not to see, or be aware of, the enormous crimes against humanity being committed by the Stalinist system. They praised Soviet efforts supposedly to build a new more progressive and humane society.
We know of course that some were duped while others lied, as in the case of the New York Times Pulitzer Prize Winner and its correspondent in Moscow at the time, the notorious Walter Duranty. Just as occurred with British and other intellectuals who visited the Soviet Union at that time. such as Bernard Shaw and H.G. Wells.
We also recall with disgust that a year after the Holodomor in 1932-33, when the Stalinist regime had killed millions of Ukrainians by starving them to death through a politically motivated artificial famine, the League of Nations, so preoccupied with the growing Nazi threat from Germany, nevertheless welcomed the Soviet Union as a member of the League of Nations.
After Nazi Germany had withdrawn from this proto-United Nations in late 1933 because of predominating reservations about the nature of Hitler’s proclaimed policies, the League of Nations nevertheless invited the totalitarian USSR to become a member. Incredible, but true!
39 members of the League voted for the acceptance of the USSR; 3 of them (Netherlands, Portugal and Switzerland) were against, and 7 member states abstained from the vote. The U.S had not joined the League and so did not voice an opinion.
To add injury to insult, there was not a single vote against the inclusion of the Soviet Union in the Council of the League. Yes, representatives of ten countries abstained. But, nevertheless, the Soviet Union not only was encouraged to join the League of Nations, but became a permanent member of the Council.
In December 1939, very late in the day and almost at the very end of its sad history, the “toothless” League expelled the Soviet Union because of its war of aggression against Finland. And even this was after Moscow had signed a non-aggression pact with Nazi Germany in August 1939, become its accomplice in dismembering Poland in September 1939, and had subsequently assumed the role of its complicit de facto ally. Still, symbolically, as they say, better late than never.
So, enough said. Bravo to the French parliament, along with the many other states, including Germany, who have now accepted the truth about what the Soviet system represented, and what it meant in terms of its totalitarian regimentation and repression of the diverse and large populations over which it held political sway, and Ukraine in particular.
Otherwise, there are plenty of other things going on, understandably, some more positive than others.
For one, the West is continuing to retain its unity and stand its ground having finally recognized the realities of of the threat from Russia, and its autocratic allies, not only as regards Ukraine, but also the democratic world as a whole.
It is encouraging to see that the first sophisticated modern Western tanks have been delivered to Ukraine and that agreement has been reached within the EU and in the US to provide the beleaguered European outpost of democracy with more munitions and sophisticated weaponry. It is increasingly understood that this is necessary not only for Ukraine in order to hold the line against Russian expansionism in the east, but for it to prevail in the name of the entire democratic world.
For there are indeed dark clouds gathering on part of the horizon. The crystallizing-Russia-China axis, with the smaller docile fry thrown in, such as Belarus, Iran, Syria and North Korea, is menacing and cannot be ignored. Remember how the Nazi-German-Japanese axis took shape in the 1930s, and how others, such as Italy, Hungary, Romania, and Bulgaria naively found it expedient to align themselves with it.
And reacall how it all ended, with Bulgaria, Romania, Finland and eventually Italy, abandoning Nazi Germany and Japan before it was too late and their idols were crushed. Today, ironically, Germany and Japan are models of Western democracy and staunch supporters of Ukraine. Hungary once again seems to have lost its way.
China, a former victim of Japanese imperialism (Tokyo also withdrew from the League of Nations in 1933 because of its aggression towards China), has not heeded the lesson and is effectively allied with a revanchist and imperialist Russia. It may have its own devious long-term considerations of self-interest for siding with an expansionist neighbor that thrives on brandishing its nuclear weapons, but for now it is not a mediator on the international scene, as it pretends, but an accomplice to a warmonger and war criminal.
There are many other points of reference providing lessons that should have been learned: the Korean war, Vietnam, Afghanistan, former Yugoslavia, Iraq, Syria, and others. But first and foremost the distasteful compromise that was reached in Yalta, Crimea, in 1945, between the soon to be victors over Nazi Germany and Japan - the US, UK and the totalitarian Stalinist Soviet Union. It not only sealed the fate of Europe for half a century, conceding to Moscow the right to impose its domination over half of Europe, but also provided the basis on which the United Nations was to be founded – democratic states coexisting with autocratic ones and, as a result, decision-making by this supposedly war preventing and peace making institution severely curtailed.
So, as I look through the periscope, I see something that is a throwback to those unsettled, stormy, times requiring compromises, but what in its afterlife, almost 80 years later, makes a mockery of the international order we claim to have built since then.
By that I mean, that the Russian Federation, having violated the basic norms of the UN Charter with its barbaric, and many believe genocidal war, against Ukraine, and its leader branded as a war criminal, is on April 1 to assume the presidency of the UN Security Council.
Can you imagine Nazi Germany in 1939 being allowed to preside over the League of Nations? For the German-Japanese axis to be allowed to hold the world hostage then, as Russia and China seem intent on doing today?
Will this be the last nail in the UN’s virtually extinguished political credibility, and in the reputation of its feeble Secretary General and inded of its declaratory peace-making mission, or has the moment arrived when enough will finally say that this farce cannot continue?
I will be watching through my periscope, navigating and reporting further.
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