This is the second of this week's series on the best episode of public diplomacy and the most influential element of soft power. Meet Patricia Kushlis, a retired Foreign Service Officer and specialist in Europe, Asia, the U.S., politics, public diplomacy and national security. She is an adjunct professor of political science at the University of New Mexico and contributes regularly to the world-politics blog WhirledView.--Paul K.
Public Diplomacy Dateline 1975: A Meeting in Helsinki
In 1992, the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) held its first major conference in Helsinki, Finland, a fitting memorial to the Cold War’s end. This 54-nation conference also commemorated CSCE’s 1975 beginning—the initial 35-state conference held in the same city but at a different time in a polarized world. The U.S. had only reluctantly agreed to participate, perhaps simply because the idea of a pan-European security conference had Soviet origins. America’s cold warriors—still smarting from Vietnam—feared wrongly the conference might hurt U.S. interests in Europe, the chief battleground between East and West. Baltic émigré communities also objected because they believed the conference would legalize then-national boundaries, keeping the three small Baltic countries forever in Soviet hands.
The 1975 conference included a human rights “basket” or negotiating group. Its negotiators drafted a declaration of support for individual human rights. The declaration became known as the Helsinki Accords—that first CSCE conference’s most important act. I don’t know why the Soviets agreed but they did—perhaps because they thought no enforcement or verification mechanisms existed, and so assumed the human rights provisions were empty words.
In the end, the Helsinki Accords—unbeknownst to us—provided the chief protection for and inspiration of tiny groups of anti-Communist dissidents from Prague to Moscow. They ultimately inspired the many to challenge the Warsaw Pact and the Soviet Union and to end Communism in Europe.
Yet little did anyone involved in that first conference dream of the soft power the Helsinki Accords would have in ending the Cold War. The U.S. only learned that from East European delegates in 1992—because these same people had been dissidents in those darkest days who had clung to every word.
Note: The CSCE is now the Organization on Security and Cooperation in Europe with a permanent secretariat in Vienna.
[Read the text of the Helsinki Accords at the University of Minnesota’s Human Rights Library. The Accords inspired the formation of Helsinki Watch, an NGO that monitored the USSR’s compliance with the document it had signed. Today it is known as Human Rights Watch. Also, here's what the EU has to say about its own history.--PK]
Soft Power: A United Europe Starts with Coal and Steel
The most influential element of soft power over the centuries? French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman's dream of a united Europe in the wake of World War II's ashes. Although still very much a work in progress, the first stage—the six-nation Coal and Steel Community founded in 1951—began the transformation of this war-torn continent into a cooperative international economic powerhouse with strong political dimensions that, step by step, has raised all boats. U.S. behind-the-scenes support through the Marshall Plan was crucial to its success, but without French and German agreement to make West Europe a better, more peaceful place built upon Schuman's vision, the prosperous Europe of today would not be.
[Those who think tax policy drives everything will be delighted by Schuman’s May 9, 1950 speech, which explicitly links a future united Europe to the tiny first step of coordinating French and German coal and steel tariffs. Here is a transcript of his speech in English. The Fondation Robert Schuman attempts to extend Schuman’s work on democracy and international unity into Eastern Europe.--PK]
Coming Wednesday: USC Center on Public Diplomacy chief Nicholas Cull.