LITHUANIAN QUARTERLY JOURNAL OF ARTS AND SCIENCES
Volume 37, No.2 - Summer 1991
Editor of this issue: Violeta Kelertas, Univ. of Illinois at Chicago
Copyright © 1990 LITUANUS Foundation, Inc.
ON THE INFLUENCE OF BALTIC POLICY ON THE PROCESS OF
DEMOCRATIZATION IN THE U.S.S.R. — THE ETHICAL ASPECT
Tartu University /Notre Dame University
People's Deputy of the USSR
1. Great changes in the sphere of policy and social relations are usually carried out by strong and numerous political and social forces. But where there is a certain situation of unstable equilibrium even relatively small political impacts may change the situation in a fairly radical way or at least influence the large-scale processes to a fairly considerable extent. This is the case if we look at the Baltic influence on the political situation in the Soviet Union in the late 1980s.
2. Popular movements in the Baltic States brought new political figures into the sphere of politics. They were intellectuals, university teachers, academicians, artists, technical intelligentsia, skilled workers and farmers, who before this had stood in the background of political life. This new wave of politicians brought a new understanding of political standards and rules, of political responsibility and of the ways of political activity. It cannot be said that this new wave of politicians was able to create some new standards of political ethics in every particular case, but it recognized the moral content of politics at least as it can be shown in the examples of Andrei Sakharov, Vaclav Havel or Vytautas Landsbergis. These new political morals are not very sound yet, but they firmly include devotion to the principles of democracy that have already formed a solid foundation for active cooperation between democratic parties in the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe and the Baltic States.
3. The conservative-communist opponents have tried to undermine this new political and moral unity by labeling these new political forces nationalist as groups concerned only with a struggle for power. This is a criticism of popular movements and popular governments by the measures of old communist political standards.
4. The moral influence of Baltic policy has been evidenced not so much by the setting of new standards of political behavior (from this perspective neither the actions of new political parties nor of individual politicians stand above the average) but rather by the raising of political problems with considerable ethical content. To mention only the disclosing of the real meaning of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact of 1939; the problems connected with the rights of people to be the masters of their natural resources, to determine their political status, the right to be recognized as full-scale members of the international community.
The problem of recognition of the new independence of Lithuania and the transition to the independence of Latvia and Estonia pose an ethical problem for the world community. It consists of the correlation between political pragmatism and realism, between the ideals of achieving immediate goals and essentially a new world order based on freedom and respect for the rights of nations.
5. The further course of events (the Gulf Crisis of 1990) has shown that the preference given to the former created a tolerance for the economic blockade, an act of aggression against Lithuania in the spring of 1990, and may contribute to other aggressive acts as a sign of the reversed order of political values.
6. When elementary political pragmatism meets the moral tests of political situations ,in the Baltic area, it must inevitably create some double standards of political conduct: the actual recognition of the results of aggression in one case, and the denying of them in the other; the recognition of certain rights for one group of people and ignoring of them for the other. It is enough to compare pragmatic attitudes toward Kuwait and Lithuania, toward Germany and Latvia, toward Namibia and Estonia. The Baltic challenge today is to restore the classical liberal understanding of indivisibility and the unconditional character of basic principles of freedom — for men and peoples. The government that ignores the basic rights of other peoples may not be respectful toward the rights of its own people, and vice versa. The ideal of Gorbachev's new ,,European home" and Bush's "Europe whole and free" is achieved only through accepting this mutual influence and interdependence.
7. The ethical value of a policy is not measured only by its aims but also by the means used to achieve them. In spite of all the political, national and social tensions so strongly concentrated in the Baltic area and around it, the Baltic popular movements and governments have managed to preserve the peaceful and non-violent path of their political activities, i.e. the maximally available respect for the freedom of man, for his social and personal safety. In spite of the radical content of the political course of restoring independence, the means used to achieve it have been purely parliamentary and peaceful ones. In spite of the large numbers of people (sometimes millions of them) involved in mass rallies and the emotions embodied in them, there have never been any acts of violating individual freedom and safety. It has been said by the leaders of the Baltic popular movements: "It is better to have fighting within the parliament and in its lobby and to have peace on the streets, than vice versa". The moral level of Baltic policy has been tested several times by the provocative actions of Soviet-federalist groups and military units, but until today the popular policy has met these tests in the proper way — by ignoring them.
8. Being fortunately deprived of other means of policy-making, except civilian and peaceful ones and of any forms of strong economic and commercial influence, the consent of Baltic policy has always been strongly oriented to arguments of a legal and political character. For the international community, the Baltic challenge includes such fundamental problems of international law as the existence/non-existence of the terms of expiration for the results of aggressions, the actual legal validity of formally valid international laws and treatises adopted before World War II, the practical realization of general humanitarian documents, the problems of state recognition according to international law. It may be considered that legality as a principle itself contains important ethical values and that the evaluation of legality is among the means to create a firm foundation for new relations in the world community. To abandon this foundation will mean returning international relations to an era of unpredictability, instability and lack of security for all nations. For the Baltic states that would mean even more — the total failure of their policies and the destruction of their last chance to restore their proper place on the map of the world.
9. Deputies from the Baltic states acting in parliamentary bodies and the parliaments in the Baltic states themselves (especially after the elections of 1990) have raised questions concerning the principles that lie behind the composition of the Soviet federation itself. They are the questions connected with the nature of republican sovereignity in the U.S.S.R., the real freedom to express the political will of nations, the importance of disclosing the real content of the statements of the Soviet constitution. Being forced to abstain from voting on issues connected with the recognition of the supremacy of the legal power of the Soviet Union on Baltic territories, the Baltic policy has included the most active participation in matters of radical reform and basic human rights and freedoms.
6 October 1990