Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, puts it bluntly.
“As people see unaccountable rulers (those not empowered in free elections) prioritize their own interests over that of their publics,” he contends, “a popular demand for rights-respecting democracy remains strong.”
The second week of 2022 appears to have been crucial in determining whether or not Mr. Roth’s theory might have helped avert a serious international crisis following Vienna talks between Western supporters of democracy in Ukraine and Moscow.
The United States and European Union agree that it is essential to protect an independent Ukraine from invasion by 100,000 Russian troops hovering on its eastern borders.
After four days of U.S.-Russia talks on Ukraine ended January 13, no progress was reported. Instead, New York Times reporters in Kiev, Brussels, and Washington quoted United States National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan as saying that America had intelligence that Russia was preparing to fabricate claims of an imminent Ukrainian attack on Russian forces as a pretext for invasion.
Times correspondents in all three cities, Jennifer Rankin in Brussels, Luke Harding in Kiev, and Julian Berger in Washington reported that no dates had been set for any further talks.
Poland warned after failure of the U.S.-Russia talks on Ukraine that Europe is now closer to war than at any point since the Cold War ended in 1990.
In Kiev, Pavlo Klimkin — until recently Ukraine’s foreign minister— said that despite the events of the week, this week’s separate bilateral talks with the Kremlin in Geneva, Brussels, and Vienna had “eased tensions.”
However, as talks continue,” Mr. Klimkin adds, “the threat of immediate escalation, or other provocation, remains extremely high — especially in late winter or early spring.”
A catastrophic East-West conflict may yet be avoidable because of general 21st-century reforms. As Human Rights Watch executive director Kenneth Roth reminds us: “In country after country — Belarus, Kazakhstan, Nicaragua, Poland, Uganda and even Russia — large numbers of people have taken to the streets in pro-democracy protests. This is even at the risk of being arrested or shot. There are few rallies for autocratic rule.”
Isn’t this a growing consensus in our generation, globally? One that Moscow must consider as a new year dawns?
As a 36-year veteran of the Voice of America (VOA), Alan Heil traveled to more than 40 countries a foreign correspondent in the Middle East, and later as director of News and Current Affairs, deputy director of programs, and deputy director of the nation’s largest publicly-funded overseas multimedia network. Today, VOA reaches more than 275 million people around the world each week via radio, television and online media. Read More