The Next Yalta?
This article is from the archive of The New York Sun before the launch of its new website in 2022. The Sun has neither altered nor updated such articles but will seek to correct any errors, mis-categorizations or other problems introduced during transfer.
Is the Biden administration hoping for a “new Yalta” in Europe? That’s the question raised by a European Union official in this morning’s edition of Nikkei’s London-based Financial Times. “We are no longer in Yalta times,” Josep Borrell, who heads up security and foreign policy for the EU, is quoted by the FT as suggesting on a visit Wednesday to Ukraine. “Spheres of influence for two big powers do not belong,” he said, in 2022.
Yalta was the pact FDR struck with Marshal Stalin in 1945, essentially giving the Soviet Union a free hand in Eastern Europe after World War II. It consigned millions of Poles, Hungarians, Czechoslovaks, and others to decades of tyranny under Communist rule. Yet Roosevelt, it is believed, deemed it a necessary agreement to ensure a war-weary Russia would help America finish its fight against Japan.
Could President Biden be contemplating something similar in Eastern Europe today? No one is predicting the revival of the Warsaw Pact. Yet with three parleys scheduled next week among America, NATO, and Russia, the FT notes that Moscow “has demanded the US and Nato agree to security pledges that would ban former Soviet states from joining the western military alliance.” They also want to curb our GIs in Eastern Europe.
Left out in these talks is the European Union itself. Hence Mr. Borrell’s lament: “In this dialogue there are not two actors alone, not just the US and Russia,” he cavils. Yet Europe’s failure to develop its own coherent foreign policy — and a potent military force of its own — stands in the way of its aspirations of influence. Europe’s “absence from direct talks with Moscow,” the FT reports, “is a reflection of its lack of foreign policy clout.”
That impotence doesn’t sit too well with President Macron, the new EU president. All his life he has had a certain idea of Europe. His mantra, as the New York Times reports, is “relaunch, power and belonging.” The Times reckons that Mr. Macron envisions — however improbably, we would add — “a powerful Europe active in the world, fully sovereign, free in its choices and master of its own destiny.”
Olaf Scholz, the new German chancellor, paid lip service to Monsieur Macron’s vision in a December meeting where he endorsed “enhancing European capacity to act.” Yet Mr. Scholz has already shown signs of pursuing his own course with Russia, as our Aleksandra Gadzala-Tirziu reported Tuesday. Herr Scholz has a meeting of his own scheduled with President Putin later in the month.
Mr. Scholz has also called for a “qualified new beginning” in relations with Russia, the Sun reports. Absent any commitment from the Biden administration to defend Ukraine militarily, it’s little wonder the Europeans are getting jittery. The EU, lacking a military force, bombards the theater with mere words. “If Russia is really willing to talk about security in Europe, then Europeans have to be part of it,” Mr. Borrell says. Read ’em and weep.