Saturday, August 15, 2015

Movers and Shakers

Stalin and Europe: Imitation and Domination, 1928-1953
AA.VV. (2014-05-30).
Oxford University Press. Kindle Edition.

"By the time of Stalin’s death, Soviet preoccupations were globally dispersed, and the role of Europe had receded. It was the rise of Nazi Germany, first as Soviet partner and then as Soviet enemy, that forced Europe to the center of Soviet preoccupations and defined the second half of Stalin’s rule. With the defeat of Germany, Soviet intellectual geography returned to the norm, which was global."(Kindle Locations 442-445).

Here is an anthology I would like to have read much earlier in my stay here in Ukraine: for what it says about the dynamics behind the attitudes of various peoples toward each other; for the way it presents war data; for its insights or clarification of the status quo on Holocaust studies concerning Ukraine; for what it says about the psychology of top-ranking diplomats, statesmen and dictators, not to mention the way their personal ambitions ride roughshod over a people's right to self-determination.

My impression is that all of the articles in the book demonstrate a healthy reserve and are quite even in terms of all being of high quality. I have no illusions about the picture being complete, but I would recommend the book to you for the simple reason that I would hope it would do for other readers what it has done for me: get me thinking about some issues of relevance for today, especially as regards the reticence of the Western powers to honestly adhere to the principles of international law which form the backbone of the 1945-postwar system ordering relations among states.

One of the things which I have been grappling with in trying to understand the Ukraine crisis, first off, but also what is happening in the Middle East, for what concerns Russia and the U.S. or more broadly with this whole world order crisis thing which seems coterminous with Vladimir Putin's rise to power in Russia, seems to be a presumption that the jaded sort of stuff that the secret protocol signed "Molotov-Ribbentrop" on behalf of Hitler and Stalin or the kind of horse-trading which went on later in WWII and thereafter between emissaries of Stalin, Churchill and Roosevelt/Truman somehow represents the way things ought to be in our world. It would seem to be that over the course of the last couple centuries almost the ultimate question is one of establishing the criteria for who might be called "movers and shakers"; how do you go about agreeing on who gets classed a "big dog" and thereby gains admittance to the "big poker table" where the "big questions" get decided.

I guess I understand the importance of membership in the big clubs, like G7 or whatever, and the dread of being ostracized from such a group or having yourself and your country labelled a pariah. Nonetheless, it would seem high time to find new rules for governing international relations not conditioned by the ability of the actors on the stage to throw their weight around or hornswoggle their unsophisticated or indifferent voters.

No doubt a certain almost unspeakable great amount of travail comes with living this side of heaven. That does not mean we have take it at the hands of movers and shakers who are so at their own admission or by their own cunning.

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