Between Three Summits: Brussels, England, Helsinki
EDITORIAL, 16 Jul 2018
This TMS issue comes in the middle of three summit conferences of significance: a NATO summit held in Brussels, and two bilateral summits: US-UK and US-Russia.
Albert Einstein was often quoted saying that the A-Bomb had changed everything except our way of thinking. We can say somewhat the same thing about the end of the Cold War in 1990 with the Treaty on the New Europe in Paris. Some hoped that the A-Bomb would indicate clearly that the type of international organization which was the League of Nations was inadequate. The United Nations should be stronger – a form of real collective security. “One World or None” was the cry. In practice, the structure of the U.N. had been drawn up before the A-Bomb attacks, and the U.N. is the reincarnation of the League with the names of the organs changed.
Thus also, 1990 gave rise to the hope of a “Common European Home” – structured by the values of the Helsinki process and embodied in the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe. The violent breakup of the federations of Yugoslavia and the USSR showed that there were weaknesses in the foundations of the Common European Home.
During the 1945-1990 Cold War, there were hopes that summit conferences among “The Big Four” could produce fundamental changes. They never did though there was a short-lived Spirit of Geneva after the 1955 summit there.
The summits grew smaller. I recall the 1985 Reagan- Gorbachev summit in Geneva where some of us had drafted a “wish list” of arms control-tension reduction steps that were presented to the two leaders. We also had a procession in the streets along the Lake of Geneva wishing the two men well – not really a “carnival of resistance” on the London model of these days.
There is probably enough of a common nationalist mindset in both Presidents Trump and Putin for the two men to find some common interests. Both also have an interest in finding photo opportunities of good fellowship as was the case for the American and French Presidents.
The US-Russia summit can have value to prevent things from getting worse. The Middle East, in particular Syria and Iran, provides tensions that can “slip out of control”. Certain guidelines need to be put into place. The status quo in Europe, especially concerning the Ukraine, is likely to be confirmed without necessarily saying so.
For those of us concerned with the reduction of tensions and the creation of a more harmonious world society, we must consider what has been called in contrast to summits “foothills meetings”. For us, there are two specific but related issues. The first is to help create a vision of a cooperative world society largely built around the United Nations. There are current efforts for a 2020 review-reform of the U.N. which can provide a time-sensitive focus.
The second specific task is to work for the resolution of geographic-specific armed conflicts. I see the Middle East as the most unstable area. The Middle East should provide our primary focus. However, there are other armed conflicts such as those in Africa or Myanmar on which we have been working and on which we can build on previous experience and contacts with protagonists.
Thus while we send our best wishes to the US and Russian Presidents, we need to organize among ourselves.
René Wadlow is a member of the Fellowship of Reconciliation’s Task Force on the Middle East, president and U.N. representative (Geneva) of the Association of World Citizens, and editor of Transnational Perspectives. He is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace Development Environment.
This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 16 Jul 2018.
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