March 1, 1988; Oct. 28, 1992; April 19, 2002.

March 1, 1988: Gorbachev and an Unthinkable Candor.

Perhaps the most significant of the changes that have taken place in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe since 1985 is that people now speak openly and honestly about their situations and about the East’s relationship to the West.

This writer has in the past year, in public or in private circumstances, spoken with or listened to Soviet and East European political and academic figures including a member of the Supreme Soviet, an economic advisor to Mikhail Gorbachev, editors of party newspapers in Eastern Europe and officials of the international relations or economic research institutions of Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Poland. Nearly all spoke with a candor that was inconceivable as recently as three years ago, when wooden ideological language and sterile formulations still dominated official Soviet and East European discourse.

They speak as intelligent men and women, prepared to listen to what others say and to make constructive responses. These people, members of the Soviet and East European “nomenklatura,” now say openly that their system is in a crisis, or at least in a pre-crisis condition.

Even the individuals who deny this will add the revealing remark that, therefore, “we still have some time.” Mr. Gorbachev himself has spoken of the Soviet Union as “on the brink,” and of its “last chance.”

Most importantly, people from the East are behaving like intelligent human beings, rather than the puppets of political power and doctrine they too often seemed in the past. At the same time, though, the fact that some of these people are the same ones who in the past spoke in the dead formulas of Soviet orthodoxy is a very sobering consideration.

They were afraid then. There is nothing Orwellian about it: they were caught up in a system of fear and obscurantism. They could become afraid again — as we could be made afraid. The honesty of the moment is more fragile than we may wish to think. The opportunity, which it provides, should not be wasted.

William Pfaff is a political commentator who frequently writes about international relations and U.S. policy. Visit his website for more on his latest book, The Irony of Manifest Destiny: The Tragedy of America’s Foreign Policy at www.williampfaff.com.

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Oct. 28, 1992: In a Europe Still Divided, West Can Stabilize East.

A new divide separates the two parts of Europe, which had hoped that the end of the Cold War would at last restore the old Continent’s unity. The Western part enjoys unprecedented prosperity, functioning democracies and a somewhat tumultuous but ultimately effective system of conducting interstate affairs on a secure and peaceful basis. The Eastern part, with Poland and Hungary as an intermediate zone of semi-success, recedes into a state of growing anarchy, collapse of political authority, economic misery, and even the horrors of civil and interstate wars and re-enactment of extermination programs in the guise of “ethnic cleansing.”

Europe remains split and a new challenge emerges: To protect the achievements of the West against the return of a savage past in the East, and to mobilize the resources of the West to slow down and reverse the degradation in the East.

Beyond the crisis of the international system, there is the crisis of the state as an institution in the West. It is no longer the function of the state to protect its citizens against a well-defined single threat — the prospect of Soviet tanks rolling over Europe. The uncertainties of the present situation are multiple, diffuse. In this sense the state, too, is an orphan of the Soviet Union.

Deprived of its regal Hobbesian security mission, it seems incapable of finding solutions to the economic crisis and powerless to confront unemployment and monetary turmoil. The globalization of financial markets has deprived the state of its ability to control monetary flows, which can seem to obey an erratic invisible hand. And the Keynesian function of the state as regulatory force behind the economy has to be shared with the power that national governments have bestowed on the European Commission in Brussels.

More deeply, politicians and political parties are rejected because their language seems inadequate, their actions inept. They give the impression — largely exaggerated — of serving themselves before the common good.

In this uncertain context, the European Community should be the logical answer. All the reasons that more than 40 years ago justified the process of West European construction are still present — minus one, the Communist threat. In fact, Europe and its fundamental principles — tolerance, peaceful cooperation, sharing of power — are more necessary today than ever.

As Eastern Europe’s crises deepen and become ever more bloody, a strengthening of integration becomes necessary to withstand their potentially negative impact and to maintain the Community as a model for a peaceful handling of ethnic and state diversity and as a force of stability and assistance for the Eastern part.

Karl Kaiser, a former director of the German Council on Foreign Relations, an adjunct professor at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School, and Director of the Program on Transatlantic Relations at the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs. Cesare Merlini,a nonresident senior fellow with the Center on the United States and Europe at Brookingsand. Dominique Moisi, Senior Adviser at The French Institute for International Affairs (IFRI) and a professor at L’Institut d’études politiques de Paris (Sciences Po). He is the author of The Geopolitics of Emotion: How Cultures of Fear, Humiliation, and Hope are Reshaping the World.

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April 19, 2002: Knitting the World Together.

The present era of globalization began with the collapse of communism. For the first time since 1914, there was a truly global economy. Since then globalization’s shifts and transformations have produced the confusion and conflict that results when thinking and institutions fail to keep up with change.

The rapid pace of globalization in all its dimensions requires new rules of the game — to harmonize existing systems, ensure efficient functioning of the marketplace, reduce risk and provide legitimacy and confidence.

Yet because there are so many different interests within and among nations, the process of forming a consensus on new rules can be very contentious. It is made all the more complicated because we live in a world composed at one and the same time of a global marketplace and of sovereign nation-states.

Every day seems to bring yet another battle over trade. But the overall principle of an expanding world economy is one that will serve the cause of reducing world poverty. Right at the top of the agenda is improving access of developing countries to the markets of industrial countries.

The Doha trade summit last November picked up from the failed 1999 Seattle trade summit. At Doha, the developing countries came together to say that they needed expanded trade and investment to raise standards of living. They also need the capability and the will to ensure that they have the educational, health and social safety nets — along with the legal foundations and property rights — that will enable them to benefit from improved access.

At the same time, the new rules need to provide adjustment mechanisms to help industries and workers that are adversely affected by the reducing of trade barriers.

It is important to recognize that this process of a more knit-together world is only one of the things going on. There are powerful countercurrents. The end of the Cold War led to what turned out to be an exaggerated sense of confidence about the extent of security. That is gone, and prospects are more uncertain today.

A world riven by more conflict would end up a fractured world in which the positive benefits of a more open global economy are diminished or even lost. In that case, the losers would be many and varied, including the world’s poorest, who would see their opportunity to exit from poverty constrained or even closed off altogether.

Daniel Yergin, is a Pulitzer Prize-winning American author, speaker, and economic researcher.

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