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“An outbreak anywhere is an outbreak everywhere”

A wide view of Grand Central Terminal with an unusually sparse crowd during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak in New York City. UN Photo/Evan Schneider

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New York governor Andrew Cuomo has become the articulate, compassionate political face of government competence in fighting a pandemic.

That’s quite an achievement for a man who as late as early March 2020 trumpeted: “Excuse our arrogance as New Yorkers… We think we have the best healthcare system on the planet right here in New York. So, when you’re saying what happened in other countries versus what happened here, we don’t even think it’s going to be as bad as it was in other countries. We are fully coordinated; we are fully mobilized.”

New York was neither fully coordinated, nor was it fully mobilized.

In fact, it became the pandemic’s prime hotspot in the United States, accounting for the highest number of infection cases and the highest mortality rate. Its hospitals were overwhelmed, its stockpiles depleted, its frontline workers perilously exposed to risk of contagion. Many of the deaths could have been prevented had Mr. Cuomo opted to lock down the Big Apple earlier.

For now, that recent history has largely been forgotten. Mr. Cuomo thrives in his element, a rising star on America’s political ferment. His sober but empathetic, fact-based daily briefings project him as a man in command with a mission to ensure the health, safety, and wellbeing of his state.

If Mr. Cuomo, a veteran of dealing with the aftermaths of disasters like Hurricane Sandy, learnt anything from his delayed response to the coronavirus pandemic, it was that “an outbreak anywhere is an outbreak everywhere.”

Unlike other epidemics in recent years such as the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome or SARS in the early 2000s, the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) in 2012 or the eruption of Ebola in West Africa in 2014, the coronavirus, dubbed COVID-19, left no corner of the globe untouched.

It is a lesson that goes to the heart of all that is wrong with global, regional, and national healthcare governance. It is a lesson that calls into question social and economic policies that have shaped the world for decades irrespective of political system.

It is also a lesson that goes to the core of the relationship between government and the people. It positions social trust as a pillar of an effective healthcare policy in a time of crisis.

In an era of defiance and dissent as a result of a breakdown in confidence in political systems and political leadership that kicked off with Occupy Wall Street and the 2011 Arab popular revolts and led to the rise of populists, mass anti-government demonstrations and in 2019 the toppling of leaders in Algeria, Sudan, Lebanon and Iraq, lack of trust complicated government efforts to counter the virus.

Distrust persuaded many Iranians to initially refuse to heed public health warnings to maintain social distancing, stay at home and install an Android app designed to help people self-diagnose and avoid rushing to hospital.

Pakistanis put their faith in religious leaders who rejected government demands for a halt to congregational prayers. So did many Russians as bans on mass gatherings split the clergy and threatened to undermine the Russian Orthodox Church’s key support for President Vladimir Putin.

Post-mortems of governments’ handling of the crisis once the coronavirus has been contained could increase the trust deficit.

Moreover, in an indication of pent-up anger and frustration that could explode, the imposition of curfews and stay-at-home orders failed to prevent incidental outbursts, including protests in mid-American states, quarantined Egyptian villages and poorer Tunisian and Moroccan hamlets.

In an echo of the Tunisian vendor who sparked the 2011 Arab revolts, 32-year-old unemployed and physically disabled Hammadi Chalbi set himself alight in a town 160 kilometres southwest of Tunis after authorities’ refused to license him as a fruit seller. In Lebanon, a taxi driver set his vehicle on fire while fruit vendors dumped their goods in the streets in expressions of mounting discontent. The protests suggest a universal corollary with the pandemic: an outbreak anywhere is an outbreak everywhere.

Protesters in 2019 went beyond demanding the fall of a leader. They sought the fall of political elites and radical overhaul of failed political systems. The pandemic called an abrupt halt to the protests. Protesters like the rest of the population went into temporary hibernation.

When they re-emerge, they are likely to put government leaders who prioritized political advantage above their health and economical well-being at a cost that surpasses that of the 1929 Great Depression on par with crimes committed against humanity during times of war.

Social, economic, ethnic, and sectarian fault lines are likely to be hardened in countries like Pakistan and Iraq where militants stepped in with healthcare and other social services to fill voids created by lack of government capacity.

The pandemic further painfully illustrated the economic cost of not only failing to confront a health crisis in a timely fashion but also the risk inherent in policies that do not ensure proper healthcare infrastructure in every corner of the globe, guarantee equal access to healthcare, make sure that people irrespective of income have proper housing and nutrition, turn a blind eye to the destruction of healthcare facilities in conflict situations like Syria, Yemen, Libya, Ukraine, Nagorno-Karabakh, Myanmar, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, tolerate millions of refugees existing in sub-standard living and hygiene conditions, and disregard environmental degradation and climate change.

The pandemic casts a spotlight on the deprivation of populations of proper healthcare as a result of politically motivated discriminatory social and economic policies.

The non-discriminatory nature of the coronavirus forced the Israeli government to ramp up testing in communities of Israeli Palestinians which had been described by public health experts as a ticking time bomb.

The experts warned that Israeli Palestinians, who figured prominently among frontline doctors and nurses treating Jews and Palestinians alike, were an at-risk group, many of whom suffer from chronic diseases, live in crowded conditions, and are socially and economically disadvantaged.

Ramping up testing to prevent the spread of COVID-19 constitutes an immediate effort to stem the tide but does little to structurally prepare Israeli and Palestinian society for the next pandemic.

Pre-dominantly Palestinian “East Jerusalem is gravely neglected in every possible way in terms of the infrastructure. Most neighbourhoods of East Jerusalem don’t have sewage systems. Just about every possible public service you can think of is underbudgeted and lacking in East Jerusalem. The only thing they get a lot of is parking fines and (punitive) housing demolition orders, said”  left-wing member of the Jerusalem municipal council Laura Wharton.

A Monopoly board centred on Jerusalem given to her by Moshe Lion, the city’s mayor and a former economic advisor and director general of prime minister Benyamin Netanyahu’s office, illustrates the political calculus that potentially puts not only Jews and Palestinians but populations elsewhere at risk in a future pandemic.

“You have here the City of David, the Mount of Olives, the Knesset (the Israeli parliament), the Montefiore windmill, the markets, (the ultra-orthodox Jewish neighbourhood of) Mea She’arim. Al Aqsa (the third holiest Muslim site) is not here, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is not here. Basically what you have is a bunch of Jewish sites and various illusions to other things. It’s not a very balanced picture of Jerusalem,” Ms. Wharton noted pointing at various landmarks on the board.

African Americans, Hispanics and native Americans tell the story, They have fallen disproportionately victim in the United States to the coronavirus.

US surgeon general Dr. Jerome Adams, a 45-year old African American vice admiral in the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, one of America’s eight uniformed services, pulled out his inhaler at a White House press briefing in April 2020, saying he’s carried it around for 40 years, “out of fear of having a fatal asthma attack.”

Looking fit and trim in his dark uniform, Mr. Adams said he also had a heart condition and high blood pressure. “I represent that legacy of growing up poor and black in America. And I, and many black Americans, are at higher risk for COVID.”

The surgeon general said that “its alarming but not surprising that people of colour have a greater burden of chronic health conditions. African Americans and native Americans develop high blood pressure at much younger ages… and (the virus) does greater harm to their organs. Puerto Ricans have higher rates of asthma and black boys are three times (more) likely to die of asthma than their white counterparts…. People of colour are more likely to live in densely packed areas and multi-generational housing, situations which create higher risk for the spread of a highly contagious disease like COVID-19. We tell people to wash their hands, but a study shows that 30 percent of homes of the Navajo nation don’t have running water, so how are they going to do that?”

What goes for one of the wealthiest nations on earth goes for the rest of the world too, particularly with the last two decades suggesting that pandemics occur more frequently and are likely to do so going forward.

What started in Wuhan in China in December 2019 had by April 2020 brought the world to a virtual standstill. Millions across the globe were infected, tens of thousands did not survive, economies shut down and the prospects for recovery and return to what was normal seemed a mere hope in a distant future.

Andrew Cuomo may be the exception that confirms the rule. There is little in the response of leaders from China’s Xi Jingping to Russia’s Vladimir Putin, Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan and US President Donald J. Trump that suggests that the lesson that an outbreak anywhere is an outbreak everywhere has persuaded them to think in terms of structural change.

If the first six months of the coronavirus are anything to go by, the name of the game has been jockeying for political positions, ideology trumps science, and everyone for him or herself in a race to the bottom rather than apolitical banding together globally, regionally and nationally to fight a dangerous and debilitating common enemy.

The response to the pandemic reflected the crumbling of the post-World War Two international order that is in the grips of a struggle by big and medium-sized powers to shape global governance in the 21st century.

The struggle has already crippled the United Nations and politicization of the coronavirus and healthcare threatens to undermine the World Health Organization, the one, albeit flawed, structure capable of coordinating a global response.

Complicating the response, was the rise of civilizationalists like Mr. Xi, Indian prime minister Narendra Modi, Hungarian prime minister Victor Orban and Mr. Trump who think in civilizational rather than national terms.

They conceive of their nations as civilizations in which Hans, Hindus or Christians rule supreme and there is no equal place for minorities rather than nation states defined by legally recognized borders, population, and language.

Theirs is a world of neglect for international law, increased conflict, political violence, and mass migration that promises to be even less prepared for the next pandemic. It is also a world in which early warning systems are weakened by muzzling of a free press.

Former US president Barak Obama, in his opening blast against Trump in the run-up to the November presidential election, put his finger on the pulse.

“What we are fighting against is these long-term trends in which being selfish, being tribal, being divided and seeing others an enemy, that that has become a stronger impulse in American life. And by the way, you know, we are seeing that internationally as well. And it’s part of the reason why the response to this global crisis has been so anaemic and spotty… It has been an absolute chaotic disaster when that mindset of what’s in it for me and to heck with everybody else – when that mindset is operationalized in our government,” Mr. Obama told a virtual gathering of his former staffers.

The pandemic demonstrates the need for coordinated policies ranging from global, regional, and national stock piling, international cooperation in medical research and development, conflict mediation, protection of minority rights, environment, absorption of refugees and robust but diversified supply chains.

It also highlights the importance to healthcare of eradication of poverty and proper social security nets, housing, hygiene, and access to water in a world in which an outbreak anywhere is an outbreak everywhere.

The pandemic positions an approach towards healthcare that is integrated into sustainable social and economic policies as a matter of global and national security on par with regional and national defense and security policies and investments.

It also raises the question of what role major non-governmental institutions like the Clinton Initiative, George Soros and the Gates Foundation can play.

Dr. James M. Dorsey is a senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, co-director of the University of Würzburg’s Institute for Fan Culture, and the author of The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer blog, a book with the same title, Comparative Political Transitions between Southeast Asia and the Middle East and North Africa, co-authored with Dr. Teresita Cruz-Del Rosario and three forthcoming books, Shifting Sands, Essays on Sports and Politics in the Middle East and North Africaas well as Creating Frankenstein: The Saudi Export of Ultra-conservatism and China and the Middle East: Venturing into the Maelstrom.

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Americas

How ‘Democracies’ Degenerate Into Minoritarian Right-Wing Governments (Aristocracies)

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In America, a woman’s right to an abortion of a pre-conscious (earlier than 20 weeks) fetus is no longer recognized by its federal Government, though, by a 59% to 41% margin (and 67% to 33% among American women, who are the people directly affected), the American people want it to be. That’s one example of America’s dictatorship (minority-rule). (This statement about it isn’t a commentary on the ethics of abortion, but on the polling on abortion, in America.) But there are many other examples of America’s being now a minority-rule nation. 

For example: in February of 2008, a U.S. Gallup poll had asked Americans “Would you like to see gun laws in this country made more strict, less strict, or remain as they are?” and 49% said “More Strict,” 11% said “Less Strict,” and 38% said “Remain as Are.” But, then, the U.S. Supreme Court, in June 2008, reversed that Court’s prior rulings, ever since 1939, and they made America’s gun laws far less strict than the gun-laws ever had been before; and, thus, the 5 ruling judges in this 2008 decision imposed upon the nation what were the policy-preferences of actually a mere 11% of Americans. 

Then, in 2014, there was finally the first scientific answer to the question of whether America is a democracy or instead a dictatorship, when the first-ever comprehensive political-science study that was ever published on whether the U.S. Government reflects the policy-preferences of the American public or instead of only the very richest Americans found that, “the preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy”; and, so, “Clearly, when one holds constant net interest-group alignments and the preferences of affluent Americans, it makes very little difference what the general public thinks.” 

In other words: America, which nominally is a (limited) democracy, is actually an aristocracy, NOT a democracy at all. Each one of the ways in which America’s laws and their enforcement reflect what the country’s billionaires want, but NOT what the country’s public want, those proposed pieces of legislation have become laws just as much, as happens when the billionaires and the public have the same policy-references regarding the given policy-matter, as when they don’t. This means that the aristocracy always get policies that are acceptable to them, but the public often do not. The result is conservative government regardless of what the public wants. No aristocrat is progressive (for majority-rule — “democracy”); all are instead either overtly conservative (for “fascism,” another term for which is “corporationism”), or else noblesse oblige or hypocritically conservative (“liberals”), people who are pretending to care about the public as being something more than merely their markets (consumers they sell to) or else their workers (their employees or other agents, such as lobbyists). When the public are conservative or “right wing,” (not progressive or “left wing”), they are elitist, not populist — and, especially, they are not left-wing populist (or progressive). Donald Trump was a right-wing populist (which is another form of aristocratic policy-fakery, besides the liberal type — either type is mere pretense to being non-fascist). But no aristocrat is progressive, and this means that in a corrupt ‘democracy’, all of the policy-proposals that become enacted into laws are elitist even if of the noblesse-oblige or “liberal” form of that. The Government, in such a nation, always serves its billionaires, regardless of what the public wants. That’s what makes the country an aristocracy instead of a democracy.

As the former U.S. President Jimmy Carter had said in 2015, commenting upon the profound corruption in America:

It violates the essence of what made America a great country in its political system. Now it’s just an oligarchy with unlimited political bribery being the essence of getting the nominations for president or being elected president. And the same thing applies to governors, and U.S. Senators and congress members. So, now we’ve just seen a subversion of our political system as a payoff to major contributors, who want and expect, and sometimes get, favors for themselves after the election is over. … At the present time the incumbents, Democrats and Republicans, look upon this unlimited money as a great benefit to themselves. Somebody that is already in Congress has a great deal more to sell.

In France, one of the primary sources of the dictatorship is the dictatorship’s intensification in 2008 from a new Constitutional provision, Section Three of Article 49, which facilitates rule-by-decree (“executive decree”) from the President, when the Parliament is opposed to his policy-preferences. This Section gives the aristocracy an opportunity to override Parliament if the other methods of corruption (mainly by France’s having no “ban on donors to political parties/candidates participating in public tender/procurement processes” — predominantly arms-manufacturers who are donors) are insufficient to meet the desires of the aristocracy, but, otherwise, France has remarkably strict laws against corruption — far stricter than in Germany, and in Russia — and thus the French Government represents mainly corporations that sell directly to the Government. Consequently, when “all else fails,” and the Parliament turns out to be inadequate (insufficiently imperialistic) in the view of France’s billionaires, Section 49-3 is applied by the President. (America, like France, has strict laws against corruption, but they are loaded with loopholes, and, so, America has almost unlimited corruption. America’s legislature is even more corrupt than is France’s.) Ever since France’s Tony Blairite Socialist Party (neoliberal-neoconservative) Prime Minister Manuel Valls started in 2016 to allow French Presidents to use the 2008-minted 49-3 Section to rule by decree and ignore Parliament, France has increasingly become ruled-by-decree, and the Parliament is more frequently overridden.

After the recent French Parliamentary elections, the current French President, Emmanuel Macron, who has often been ruling by decree, will do so even more than before. As the Iranian journalist in Paris, Ramin Mazaheri, recently said: “Elections at just 46% turnout are a hair’s breadth away from not having democratic credibility, but that must be added with [to] the constant use of the 49-3 executive decree and the certainty of a Brussels’ veto for any legislation they don’t like. It combines to modern autocracy – rule by an oligarchical elite.”

Perhaps low voter-turnout is an indication that the nation will have a revolution. After all, both America and France did that, once, and it could happen again, in order to overthrow the aristocracy that has since emerged after the prior one was overthrown. Someone should therefore tabulate how low the voter-turnout has to go in order for a revolution to result. The post-1945 American Government has perpetrated incredibly many coups against foreign governments, but perhaps the time will soon come when dictatorships such as in America and France become, themselves, democratically overthrown. Both countries have degenerated into minoritarian right-wing governments. At least in France, the public seem to be becoming aware of this fact. Neither Government now has authentic democratic legitimacy.

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Striking Down Roe vs. Wade in Nonmoral America

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As a conditional  pro-life American, to me,the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision to strike down  Roe vs. Wade handed down 50 years ago ,symbolizes much more than  what meets the eye. That is, this precedent violating high court decision means  much more than making a girl’s or  woman’s right to choose whether to give birth or not,  a matter of  each  of our  52 states’ and other jurisdictions’ decisions rather than a  constitutional human right, thus for all girls and  women no matter where they reside in the United States of America. 

This  precedent violating Supreme Court decision ,basically putting females back into the kitchen under the thumbs of men in image if not in reality, also says much about how  traditional gender roles   thinking in the United States remains about  girls and women and about child bearing and other sexual behavior matters. After all, this is one of the few developed nations in the world which has yet to  elect a woman President,  Chief Justice, or Leader in the upper legislative chamber. The majority of heads of American  elite corporations,  universities,  faith communities, and media are  men. Digital technologies,  like sciences and technologies in general, are still very much in men’s hands.  Especially white women  ,moreso than their nonwhite sisters,may have progressed in becoming better educated  and becoming professionals,  but studies show childrearing and household  chores are still done by women in general  than with  a spouse or an otherwise male companion let alone a son or grandson  assisting.

All of these facts of life regarding sustaining patriarchy  since colonial days ,with spurts of

female human rights improvements  now and again ,are well hidden through an elite East-West coasts  media which paints an exaggerated picture of progress in  girls and women  human rights which simply is not  here in reality. The greatest example in American politics of  most white women supporting traditional gender roles    is in 2016, 53 % of the white women electorate voted for Trump and in 2020  slightly  more at 55% and  remain amongst his most loyal political defenders in public life. This is despite Trump’s and Trumpism’s  well known misogynistic views. 

It  has been claimed  much white women support  for Trump and Trumpism has to do with efforts to maintain white supremacy including the fervent need for the  reproduction of the declining  dominant white population. True or not, it can also be said more than likely  much of Trumpland women support  regardless of their ethnicity or economic  class, stems from embracing  traditional values about the place of women in enduring patriarchal America. This is said realizing even the trickle of black and other non- white women who voted for Trump increased from 2016 to 2020 Presidential election years.

Besides the Supreme Court’s affirmation of  patriarchal traditional national views about  girls and women making  abortion decisions  through tossing it to states to decide  now varying from state to state ranging from bans to exceptions to legal status, there is much more disturbing news to consider. First, as well claimed in the highest public places , the now scattered  state’s rights mapping of where abortions can and cannot take place has still in another way polarized our deeply divided nation. And it discriminates against poor women, especially those who are non-whites in banned states unable to afford to travel  out of state also making them moreso victims of illegal abortion doctors and  engaging in high risk  self aborting,  including with pills easily purchased through the internet legally.

Second, The Supreme Court’s striking down of Roe vs. Wade , engineered  by right wing zealots exacerbated the continued problem of abortion in America as a taboo topic  be it a constitutional federal or state’s rights issue. Unless public awareness interventions are skilfully designed, implemented, monitored, and evaluated as required nation wide  federal policies,American males and females will  remain disturbingly naive about the long term psychological and socioeconomic consequences of having or not having an abortion. This is because  the mainstream  elite media ,our leaders  in all levels of education ,and  our medical and mental health let alone  non- profit and faith leaders remain mum or stigmatized about  soberly discussing abortion matters in public spaces where such information is so desperately needed in this still very much Victorian society.

Thirdly, the court decision  in question has deeply troubling symbolism of a morally broken highest court in a nation with a deepening nonmoral political leadership and a growing nonchalant electorate increasingly willing to vote against their own interests and that of their nation as a plural democracy going through massive gender and racialized  ethnic demographic changes. The decision was orchestrated  behind the scenes by the senior  Associate  Justice who has much less clean hands in how he entered the  highest court with a colleague  sexual harassment and pornograohy charge cloud  over his head which has yet to be resolved.  His fellow justice supporters were the actual  decision writer and as well  three justices who lied to Senators privately and in their hearings about their belief in precedent preservation with one of them entering the court with verified sexual misconduct charges.

 There is something immorally smelly  about this because  moral rot is the real case of a Supreme Court going down hill since 2000. Namely, since in 2000,  when the Republican driven Supreme Court majority, while breaking their own usual judicial rules  of non-federal interference, gave George W. Bush the Presidency, the moral authority of our highest court  has been downspiraling in a  deepening nonmoral society.

Through more or less  skillful  media  and otherwise  political spin gurus,  nonmorality not only in the highest court and the other two branches of federal and not a few state governments  has been   justified and said to be ok as the American electorate in Midterm 2022 and Presidential 2024 elections prepares to go to the polls . Unless we are astutely  mindful,  we will more than likely vote for the same nonmoral leaders  again or new ones to assure right wing Republican majorities in all three  government branches– Executive( President),  Judiciary Supreme and other federal courts),  and Legislative ( Congress). Such nonmoral leaders who are supposed to be doing right moral things after we elect them  or are appointed, are more intune to  making bad decisions through listening to lies and liars pedaling to legal and  dark money interests than  standing up for the truth and voting for what is best for their voting constituencies and for our country.  And then once they are betrayed, such as the Senators who voted for the 3 Trump Supreme Court justices  who lied to them and went on to  form the Supreme Court bloc which struck down Roe vs. Wade, they plead their innocence while we the people  will suffer the consequences of their bad nonmoral decision-making for years to come, in this case girls and women and their families and communities. All of us.

All of this has made the American coins and dollars declaring ” In  God we trust”  to be such a grotesque hollow ring so clearly seen abroad and at home by those no longer afraid to speak truth about us as a nonmoral nation with a morally broken higher court ; a morally inept Congress  which years ago could have passed legislation to more deeply sustain girls and  women human rights  in a coherent comprehensive way but except with piecemal fragments over the years, indeed decades, has yet to bother to pass,  no matter which party is  in control;and  a Presidency  no matter the party in charge, which just drifts here and there with a nonmorality rooted in damage control , photo ops, and warmongering interests  than coherent and sustaining moral leadership of a deeply troubled polarized  nation of  excluding women like others except wealthy white men  since our colonial days.

Lest we  Americans awaken quickly from our nonmoral slumber, the striking down of Roe vs. Wade  is the tip of the nonmorality iceberg of things to come since  nonmortality knows no limits let alone cares about the whole of humanity. None of us will be safe or saved.

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Is It Time for Helsinki Two?

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In an effort to reduce tensions in Europe during the height of the Cold War, a major power conference was held in Helsinki, Finland.  The understanding which was called the Helsinki Accords, or the Helsinki Final Act was signed on August 1, 1975.

The then Soviet Union had proposed such a conference in the 1950s, but did not receive a positive response from the West until after an invitation by the Warsaw Pact in 1966.  It was not until 1972 that preparatory talks got underway.  The preparatory talks finalized an agenda for the conference itself.

The agenda consisted of 4 general topics, or baskets.

  1. Questions on European security
  2. Cooperation in economics, science, and technology, and the environment.
  3. Humanitarian and cultural cooperation
  4. A follow up  procedure to the conference itself.

Foreign Minister’s from the interested countries met in Helsinki in 1973 to accept this agenda, and their staffs began meeting in Geneva.  The committee finished its work in July of 1975.

The primary interest of the then Soviet Union was to certify its Hegemon status in Eastern Europe, while the West was concerned in advancing human rights, expansion of contacts, freedom to travel, and the free flow of information across borders.

The final agreement signed in August of 1975 in effect marked the end of World War Two.  The agreement recognized the final political boundaries which had arisen as a result of the end of the war.  Specifically, it recognized the division of Germany into two different nations, West Germany, and East Germany.

The end of the Cold War, and the dissolution of the Soviet Union, made the agreement null and void, as one of the principal signatories to the Agreement was no longer a functional political entity.  Still, the work of the Helsinki Accords in 1975 can serve as a road map to reducing tensions and an end to the Russian-Ukrainian conflict. 

With the war between Russia and Ukraine grinding on, and the possibility of this conflict spiraling out of control, possibly into the use of nuclear weapons, perhaps it is time for a conference of all the concerned European powers modeled on the Helsinki Summit of 1975.

Origins of the Russian-Ukraine Conflict

At the end of the Cold War, and before the dissolution of the Soviet Union, a question arose as to the fate of West and East Germany.  The German people wished to re-unite, and the political elite of Germany on both sides wanted the new united Germany to remain in NATO.  The United States, in order to gain the support of the Soviet Union for this political re-unification, sought to reassure the Soviets that if the Soviet Union would agree to the reunification of Germany, and allow Germany to remain in NATO, the United States could offer a private and 100% guarantee that NATO would not expand any further into Eastern Europe.

The United States broke its word, and helped expand NATO up to the very frontier of Russia.

Given the history of Russia experiences with the West attacking Russia 4 times in the last 225 years, with 3 of those attacks being of an existential nature, it is no wonder that Russia viewed the illegal overthrow of a democratically elected government as a threat to its polity, especially since the Crimean Peninsula is the last natural obstacle to any invading force.  With the Crimean Peninsula in potentially hostile hands, the vast flat steppes of southern Russia are wide open to invasion. 

With the West having openly encouraged the revolt, and overthrow of a legally elected government elected by a majority of the Ukrainian people, Russia could not but view such political behavior as a threat to its very polity. 

In response to this threat, Russia annexed the Crimea.  Historically, the Crimea is Russian.  The Crimea was transferred from the Russian SSR to the Ukraine SSR in the 1950s, as a way for Nikita Khrushchev to gain the political support of the Ukrainian SSR party boss in Khrushchev’s political fight with his rival Georgi Malenkov. 

The current invasion of Ukraine by Russia is a violation of international law, but the primary responsibility of any leader is to protect the polity of his/her country and the safety of the people of his/her country.

What encouraged Vladimir Putin to take this enormous gamble, was the refusal of the West to adequately support Ukraine in recovering the territory lost by Ukraine in 2014.  On top of that, when President Biden publicly said that it would not commit American troops to help defend Ukraine, he practically invited Putin to invade Ukraine.     

With the war in Ukraine grinding on, and neither side able to dominate the other, and neither side being able to win a clear victory in the war, it is time for the major European powers, with attendance by the United States and other interested powers, to convene a summit with the aim of ending the conflict in Ukraine.

Possible Settlement Points to End the War

A series of compromises would be needed from both sides to being an end to hostilities in Ukraine.

  1. That a free and supervised plebiscite be held in the Crimea, as well as in the Donbass region, which would allow the population in these areas to choose which government they wish to belong to.
  2. That Russia offer compensation to Ukraine for the loss of any territory, as well as damage done to the infrastructure of the war.
  3. An independent committee to investigate war crimes committed by both sides in the conflict.
  4. Russia agrees to allow Ukraine to turn her emphasis to the West, without hindrance from Russia.
  5. That a research committee be formed, to be chaired by a neutral power, to investigate possible compromises for the security issues of eastern Europe, and the security of Russia.

Any successful agreement reached by such a conference would not satisfy all the demands of each party.  Any successful outcome to this conflict with demand that each side give up some of its demands, but such a compromise usually will last the test of time.

The West is Losing its Focus on the Greater Threat

The war in Ukraine is a major distraction from the real threat to representative democracy in the world.  The increasingly authoritarian government of China, and its expansionary Wolf Warrior policies, is a real and present danger to not only world peace, but to the very existence of democracy in Asia, and so a threat to the national security interests of every representative government on this planet.

The ending of the conflict in Ukraine is necessary for the democratic world to turn its attention to the real threat posed by China.

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