What Is To Be Done?
Moving From the Imperial Monopole to a Democratic Global Community
By Don DeBar
September 28, 2014
"It's been a terrible year for principles of the UN Charter..."
So began the opening comments by the UN Secretary General at the UN General Assembly this past Wednesday.
Secretary Ban Ki-Moon then noted some of the most obvious ailments currently plaguing humanity in various parts of our world:
"From barrel bombs to beheadings, from the deliberate starvation of civilians to the assault on hospitals, UN shelters and aid convoys, human rights and the rule of law are under attack."
The Secretary General listed some of the recent and current theaters of mass bloodshed, including Gaza, Ukraine, South Sudan, Central African Republic, Mali, Somalia, Nigeria and, of course, Iraq and Syria. He reported that there are now more refugees than at any time since World War II, a rather remarkable development in and of itself.
An even more disturbing development during the year was the marked increase in overt US and EU hostility towards Russia, signaling what many have called the beginnings of a new Cold War. In that context, an even more frightening prospect was actualized - a hot war involving US military support for a conflict being conducted by a US proxy government, established by a US-backed coup, on Russia's borders.
Many around the world, and - for those who don't know because it simply isn't covered by US media - many in the US, understand that the primary common instigating factor underlying these many brutal military conflicts is US interference, direct and/or by proxy, in the domestic affairs of other nations. Those truly seeking a solution to the condition complained of by the Secretary General must, of practical necessity, begin there.
During his speech at the UN this past Saturday (28 Sept 14), Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov referenced a set of historical documents from 1933 (commonly known as "The Litvinov Letters") that I had been previously ignorant of, creating in the aggregate an agreement between the US and the USSR, apparently reached at the instigation of the US Administration of Franklin D. Roosevelt, wherein both parties agreed not to interfere in the internal affairs of the other. The US interest in this was clearly based in the fears of the ruling elites in the US of the huge popularity of socialist and communist theory and political activity during the Depression.
The outreach occurred at a time when the US was the sole major power holdout regarding recognition of the USSR. In a series of letters by and between President Roosevelt and Maxim Litvinov, People's Commissar for Foreign Affairs of the USSR, the US recognized the USSR and the two parties agreed not to interfere in the internal affairs of the other, providing mechanisms for settling claims between the two, and more, thus:
"It will be the fixed policy of the Government of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics:
"1. To respect scrupulously the indisputable right of the United States to order its own life within its own jurisdiction in its own way and to refrain from interfering in any manner in the internal affairs of the United States, its territories or possessions.
"2. To refrain, and to restrain all persons in Government service and all organizations of the Government or under its direct or indirect control, including organizations in receipt of any financial assistance from it, from any act overt or covert liable in any way whatsoever to injure the tranquillity, prosperity, order, or security of the whole or any part of the United States, its territories or possessions, and, in particular, from any act tending to incite or encourage armed intervention, or any agitation or propaganda having as an aim, the violation of the territorial integrity of the United States, its territories or possessions, or the bringing about by force of a change in the political or social order of the whole or any part of the United States, its territories or possessions.
"3. Not to permit the formation or residence on its territory of any organization or group--and to prevent the activity on its territory of any organization or group, or of representatives or officials of any organization or group--which makes claim to be the Government of, or makes attempt upon the territorial integrity of, the United States, its territories or possessions; not to form, subsidize, support or permit on its territory military organizations or groups having the aim of armed struggle against the United States, its territories or possessions, and to prevent any recruiting on behalf of such organizations and groups.
"4. Not to permit the formation or residence on its territory of any organization or group--and to prevent the activity on its territory of any organization or group, or of representatives or officials of any organization or group--which has as an aim the overthrow or the preparation for the overthrow of, or the bringing about by force of a change in, the political or social order of the whole or any part of the United States, its territories or possessions.
"It will be the fixed policy of the Executive of the United States within the limits of the powers conferred by the Constitution and the laws of the United States to adhere reciprocally to the engagements above expressed."
In a Facebook conversation with some colleagues, one wrote "The US never honoured it and would, in any case, take the position that with the fall of the USSR and emergence of the Russian Federation, the parties have changed." I suspect they might be inclined to take that position, but also suspect that the precedent has likely been established, at least as to presumption, with a myriad of other agreements between the two parties of which the US would strongly favor continuing recognition and enforceability. Although I haven't yet researched the particulars, I believe there were some ratifications of Russia (and some other former republics) as successor(s) with continuing force and effect regarding a number of agreements - e.g., if memory serves, arms control agreements. If true, that likely militates against the presumption; I also suspect the presumption was asserted, if not invoked, to induce those ratifications.
It appears that the so-called Litvinov letters were never ratified by the Senate, and, thus, are not treaties, per se, under US law. However, I did find that there are cases (dealing with property owned by US interests that was nationalized by the USSR) where the US Supreme Court ruled favorably on the enforceability of some of the provisions. Since the precept of non-interference is also enshrined in the UN Charter, I suspect a thorough review of the applicable law and practice would support Foreign Minister Lavrov's claim. I also suspect, given the outright serial violations of just about every precept of generally accepted standards of international law, that any actual expectation that the US will honor the 1933 terms at this point is, in a word, optimistic.
Nevertheless, the Foreign Minister was absolutely correct to cite the agreement; it is up to the rest of us to force our government to give it life.