By Rostislav Ishchenko
Translated by Ollie Richardson and Angelina Siard
cross posted with https://www.stalkerzone.org/rostislav-ishchenko-the-1945-yalta-conference-the-last-formal-partition-of-the-world/
On February 4th-11th 1945 the second (of three) conference of the “big three” took place in Yalta (leaders of the USSR, US, and Great Britain) during which the basic principles of the future post-war world order were defined.
Politicians, characterising the modern world, often use the term “Washington consensus”, meaning that after the collapse of the USSR the so-called Yalta or Yalta-Potsdam world order ended its existence, having given way to a new political organisation of the planet characterised by the absolute hegemony of the US. However, it is necessary to say that the US never reached absolute individual control over the planet, although it was very close to it. It especially didn’t manage to officially register its domination legally. The world of the “Washington consensus” can be called the world of spontaneously developed relations that all participants of the process try to revise in their own favour.
Ultimately, today, after the US’ hegemony has been consigned to the past without having definitively taken shape politically and not being recorded legally, the “Washington consensus” can’t even theoretically be used as the term describing the actual state of international relations any more. People speak about a state of “new cold war” or “hybrid war” between the leading powers, but once again this is a process that can theoretically lead to certain changes and to the creation of a new world order. But in the meantime we, legally speaking, live in the Yalta world.
Exactly in the same way, before the end of World War II and the shaping of new rules of international life, legally speaking the world lived within the framework of the Versailles system, although its rules were flagrantly violated and the system itself was destroyed during war.
The Yalta system was more lucky. It still hasn’t been definitively dismantled. Even the legitimacy of the existing European borders is guided by precisely Yalta decisions. In Helsinki in 1975 only their inviolability was confirmed, which up of the present moment has been repeatedly trampled on, but the rules that draw these borders were determined by precisely Yalta. The legitimation of the sovereignty of Russia over the Kuril Islands originates from the Yalta conference. It is exactly there that a decision was made according to which the USSR pledged to enter the war against Japan 2-3 months after the end of war in Europe (against Germany and its allies) in exchange for returning the southern Sakhalin and transferring the Kuril Islands to the USSR. So if in Europe the Yalta borders partially died, then in the Far East the Yalta world continues to be preserved.
The Yalta conference is noteworthy also because informally, by the fact of its carrying out, it approved the concept of the existence of superpowers — world hegemons, who establish the rules of the game in accordance with their own arbitrariness.
In Tehran (in 1943) the “big three” discussed the issue of war against Germany and Japan. Potsdam was mostly devoted to the order of post-war Germany. Yalta decisions were simply confirmed there. But spheres of interests and the prevailing influence of superpowers were determined in precisely Yalta.
Unlike the Paris peace conference, which came to an end with the signing of several peace treaties (the most known being Versailles, which the post-war system was named after) and established the rules of the game after World War I, and where all winner countries were present (even Haiti, Honduras, Hijaz, and other exotic places) except Russia (the allies didn’t recognise the Bolsheviks), in Yalta the fate of the world was determined by the “big three” — the superpowers of that time (the USSR, the US, and Great Britain).
Later Great Britain lost its status of a superpower, but the principle by which the superpowers decide the fate of the world – each of them representing the part of the world assigned to them and being responsible for the actions of their satellites – was de facto established in precisely Yalta. It is in effect even now. We address to the US and EU concerning our complaints about the actions of their client regime in Ukraine. The US demands from China to influence North Korea, and from Russia — to influence Iran and Syria. Despite the fact that in today’s world many satellites became equal allies or quickly move towards this status and superpowers no longer have the previous leverage on their policies, the principle of concluding agreements in a narrow circle and their formulation as being obligatory for the rest of the world or a part of it is still applied, although it’s not always effective.
The Yalta system is West-centric. It was based on the American-European consensus and the standoff of the collective West with the USSR and Russia. After the center of world production, finance, and trade moved to Asia, after the US lost the status of the world hegemon, and the continuation of its military-political and economic weakening, with the beginning of the ousting of the US dollar from the position of the world currency, the mechanisms of the Yalta system started to idly turn even more often.
The creation of BRICS, the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, and the G20 is an attempt to respond to the challenges of the time and the first test formation of international structures that could correspond to the new financial-economic and military-political reality. Continuous talk about the need to reform the UN, including its Security Council, demonstrates that politicians of the leading countries of the world understand an unbiased fact — after the weight of different states defining their place in world rankings changes, the mechanism of world governance and the adoption of key political decisions possessing a global character must change too. This can be both the reform of the UN and the replacement of the UN with other organisation (like how the UN after World War II replaced the League of Nations, which arose after World War I).
But as was said above, the “third world war” (hybrid, the second cold war, etc.) still hasn’t finished. The US can’t win it and keep its position of world hegemon any more, but it still fights for a stalemate. It is precisely the US, as the last superpower from those that were born in Yalta, that is now the most interested in preserving the rudiments of the Yalta system. At the peak of their power they tried to transform this system into the “Washington consensus”, which supposed the simple spreading of American domination in the spheres of influence of superpowers that were consigned to the past (Great Britain and the USSR). However now, when de facto the status of a superpower was obtained by Russia and China; when the EU fluctuates between transforming into a superpower and disintegrating; when India voices serious ambitions; when the quick reformatting of the Middle East – the result of which still aren’t clear – is ongoing, the US needs to preserve the pseudo-Yalta system (which was initially transformed into a Washington one, and then a post-Washington one) as long as possible because they have serious advantages within the framework of the operating international law and the developed tradition.
Russia, in the person of its president, repeatedly declared that a multipolar world order must come and replace the Yalta world order (which initially was bipolar, and then unipolar). De facto we already live in a multipolar world, but it hasn’t yet entered the stage of its Paris or Yalta conference — it hasn’t been registered legally. The rules of the game are still being probed intuitively and ensured by current political weight. The US doesn’t yet see itself as a loser enough to agree to a new peace conference that would seriously limit its rights and possibilities, and the rest of the world still doesn’t feel victorious enough to coerce the US into doing what Germany was coerced into doing twice.
As a result the Yalta legal practice diverges from the demands of the actual present situation. Hence all impudent and brazen violations of the allegedly operating international law, and the continuous mutual accusations of double standards.
“All warfare is based on deception”, wrote Sun Tzu. Rules don’t work during war, even hand-written laws of war are always broken, although responsibility for their violation is always born by the loser. But the winner writes the laws of the “brave new world”, which work exactly until they (or the coalition of winners) are capable of ensuring via force the action of these laws.