The bitter conflict in Ukraine and elsewhere underlines the urgent need for the UN to return to its traditional peacekeeping role and “full international” dialogue. That is the keynote message to emerge from an international meeting to mark the 70th anniversary of the historic Yalta conference.
“Yalta-45: Past, Present, Future” was dedicated to the landmark meeting of the leaders of the “anti-Hitler coalition” – Joseph Stalin, Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill.
It was held to coincide with the conference when the “Big Three” met from February 4-11,1945 to map out Europe’s post WW2 future.
Once again, the Crimean resort of Yalta and the Livadiya Palace, the old summer palace of the tsars, was the venue.
Over the course of that seven day meeting 70 years ago the three war leaders made plans for the final defeat and fate of Germany, making key decisions which would shape world history for rest of the 20th century and beyond.
Peace and reconciliation was also the theme of the 2015 conference, organised by the International Association of Peace Funds, Civil Society Development Foundation and Foundation for Historical Outlook.
The two-day international forum was attended by 130 political scientists, politicians and civil leaders from 23 countries and covered 25 presentations, provoking lively and evidence-based debates.
Sergey Naryshkin, Speaker of the Russian parliamentary lower house, urged the West to “stop using Crimea as a cause for confrontation” adding, “I hope international discussions like this will contribute to a better mutual understanding and our Western partners will finally stop using Crimea as a cause for confrontation.”
Naryshkin, also head of the Russian Historical Society, said only an “open and fair” dialogue could bring the current “spiral of mistrust” in Europe to an end and “stop provocations and unilateral actions.”
He said, “The only way out of this spiral of mistrust is to launch an open and fair dialogue on the true pressing problems and real rather than alleged threats to European security and also stop provocations and unilateral actions.”
Other speakers at the scientific conference included Tatjana Zdanoka, a Latvian MEP for the Greens Party, who said, “The postwar generation must fight for the historical truth although I have to say that this struggle is becoming more and more tough.”
Further contribution came from Alain Guyot, of French civil society group Le Roue-Europe who cautioned that, with “war at the doors of Europe” the “valuable” contribution of such events “must not stop here”.
His call for an international “conference for peace” was partly echoed in the wording of a resolution overwhelmingly adopted by participants.
This states that the far reaching decisions reached seven decades ago by Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin had established a “reliable and robust architecture”, based on the leading world powers’ influence.
This accord had become an important landmark in diplomatic history and the “ultimate point” of the allies’ cooperation during WW2.
Tellingly, it goes on to add, however, that the post-WW2 system of international relations, as well as European security structure, had since been “destroyed.”
The focus of the forum was on those processes that had “stimulated” this collapse and “overall tension in international relations.”
In light of this, the resolution therefore calls for a return to the “dominant peacekeeping role of the United Nations, full international dialogue and rejection of a unipolar world model.”
It also condemns “attempts to revive ideas of Nazism of any kind”, underlines the “timeliness and significance” of the post war alliance and calls for an annual international “Day of Honour” in recognition of this, possibly on 25 April,the day, in 1945, when Soviet and American troops met at the River Elbe, near Torgau in Germany marking an important step toward the end of the war.
This contact between the Soviets, advancing from the East, and the Americans, advancing from the West, meant that the two powers had effectively cut Germany in two.
The international community, says the resolution, should “in the spirit of Yalta” additionally strive for “earnest collaboration and constructive dialogue.”
Before the meeting in 1945, it had already been decided that Germany would be divided up into zones to be occupied and administered by the Soviet Union, the United States, Britain and France. It had also been agreed that once the Allied forces entered Germany, the German war machine and military would be disassembled.
At their historic meeting, the Allied leaders agreed that their only obligation to Germany was to provide the bare minimum to ensure the country’s population could survive following the defeat. These provisions seemed to reflect that important lessons had been learnt from the end of the First World War – that defeating, punishing and then abandoning Germany would likely lead to long term resentment and reprisals.
Prior to the conference, Roosevelt and Churchill agreed to meet in Malta for preliminary discussions, and as Churchill famously declared in his message to the U.S President “No more let us falter! From Malta to Yalta! Let nobody alter!”
Anatoly Karpov, President of the International Peace Foundations Association (IPFA), said that, given the 70th anniversary, last week’s conference in Yalta was particularly timely, adding, “The agreements of 1945 became a good example of interaction between the three great powers in pursuing peaceful coexistence.”
He added, “‘The world has experienced a lot of changes since then, including the growth of nationalism and disruption of national states.”
The 1945 Yalta conference probably represented the high-water mark of Allied wartime collaboration and, in recognition of this, a monument to the three world leaders was unveiled front of the Livadia Palace at the close of “Yalta-45: Past, Present, Future.”
The monument, entitled ‘The Big Three’, is a ten-ton statue and the work of Russian sculptor Zurab Tsereteli.
It is a fitting memorial to those highly historic events back in February 1945.
By Martin Banks