“We are a world of equals, and we should let nobody take this from us”

“We are a world of equals, and we should let nobody take this from us”

by Willy Wimmer

On 24 and 25 November 2015, an international scientific conference entitled “Yalta, Potsdam, Helsinki, Belgrade. How can we build a more secure world order?” met at the Serbian capital Belgrade. The gathering of scientists, diplomats, politicians and public figures from over 20 countries of Europe and the world was dedicated to the 70th anniversary of the Conferences of Yalta and Potsdam (1945). The organisers were the Belgrade Forum for a World of Equals and two Russian organisations, namely the Center of National Glory and the Fund of Saint Andrew. The following text presents Willy Wimmer’s address to the Conference.

Mr President,

Mr Deputy Prime Minister Dacic,

Gentlemen Co-Chairs,

for the Serbian side, Mr Jovanovic,

for the Russian side, Mr Yakunin

There is no doubt. The world is on the move. Neither is there any doubt that the name of the city of Belgrade is connected to this change. Perhaps Belgrade is even the first signal for this transition which is European and thus visible for us. It was Belgrade that became a target of NATO bombing in the midst of peacetime. Belgrade was chosen to become the key to a unipolar world.
And today? We are meeting in Belgrade. We must ask ourselves whether Belgrade gives us hope or answers to our questions. Or is our meeting in Belgrade only an intermediate step on the way to an even greater disaster for us in Europe and beyond?
It would almost seem as if there was some kind of hope. Whether we like it or not, this hope has something to do with the appearance of the Russian Federation on the scene of the Syrian conflict. For time reasons I shall not go into the causes of this terrible civil war with millions of victims. Before Syria could be completely wiped out as a country, the Russian Federation decided to intervene in the conflict in accordance with all applicable rules of international law. It has intervened on the side of the legitimate government, and for the first time since more than four years the civil war does not seem to be boundless. The powers are talking to each other.
We already saw this resolute Russian approach along the lines of “this far and no further” after the coup in Ukraine, which other powers supported. Looking back at the development in Ukraine of more than two years past we see that the Russian Federation has saved us all, in Europe and perhaps even beyond that, from a great war.
It was obvious that others wanted to take the opportunity of the putsch to further their own targets in relation to the Crimea, also and especially because of the role of the Crimea in connection with the development in Syria. Since this has – in accordance with the applicable rules of international law – led  to a referendum and the subsequent inclusion of Crimea the Russian Federation, we should ask ourselves why Ukraine was driven into the putsch.
In this context we need to keep an eye on Belgrade and we should hope for the Russian Federation’s success in Syria, without which the world will become a very dark place for all of us. It does not only have something to do with the generally accepted rules of international law. Those were to be definitively eliminated with the war against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, in the course of which the United Nations Charter was deliberately targeted with the aim to destroy it, just as the Chinese embassy in Belgrade was deliberately destroyed by an alleged “lone bomber” just before the foreseeable end of the war in Yugoslavia.
That was not just any event. The aim of bombing a peaceful city was to destroy everything – from the United Nations Charter and the Helsinki Final Act right up to the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations – which had made it possible for us to reach the end of the Cold War and – I say this as a German – also the end of the division of our country. At no time in our European history have we had so many rules generally accepted in international law to deal with small and large difficulties. Get rid of them! – was the motto from overseas.
Whereas we could still think of the “common European home” in 1990 and were of the opinion that we would be spared from a war for good, that hope did not last long. With the attack on a founding member of the United Nations and a pillar of the Helsinki movement, war became a bitter reality. If Francois Hollande, Vladimir Putin and Angela Merkel had not been there in connection with Minsk II, we would probably already be involved in a total war. The message is clear. Only respect for the prevailing rules of international law and the peaceful resolution of conflicts will safeguard our survival and give our children a future.
This conference here draws a long line all the way back to Yalta. Thus one is of course tempted to dig deeper, and so come up with places associated with earlier dates like 1914 or 1919. But even that seems to be no solution. We must think of the year 1871 and the founding of the German Empire. We have all heard it this spring: Since that time, it has by all accounts been the goal of American policy to thwart a fruitful cooperation between Russia and Germany. We would all be well advised to think about the end of the Napoleonic wars. After the murderous developments in the Thirty Years’ War and the Napoleonic campaigns in Europe nothing of the sort was to ever happen again. This was the aim of an idea developed by the Russian Czar Alexander and the Austrian Chancellor Metternich, namely to resolve conflicts peacefully on the basis of a “Holy Alliance”. This was an early Helsinki. Of course, I will never forget what was said to me at the White House in 1988, namely that even the Soviet Union’s military build-up in Europe is nothing but the effort of this country to draw the consequences from the proceedings of Napoleon and Hitler.
What is it that prevents us from loving our own country and at the same time respecting our neighbours? Belgrade says it with the motto of the Belgrade Forum: We are a world of equals, and we should let nobody take this from us.    •
(Translation Current Concerns)

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