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Transition in Europe explored at Berlin symposium
STANFORD -- The implications of the dissolution of the Soviet Union were explored by Stanford University scholars and others at the second "Stanford Berlin Symposium on Transition in Europe," held at the campus in Germany on May 23.
In her opening remarks, Karen Kramer, director of Stanford in Berlin, noted that holding a symposium on a topic as complex as the collapse of the Soviet Union at a time when its effects were only beginning to be felt internationally was like trying to "hit a moving target."
Even so, those taking part felt that provocative discussion on the subject was necessary to gain national and international insight into the ambiguous issues at hand.
The symposium was supported by Lufthansa, Deutsche Bank and the Stanford Alumni Club of Germany, and jointly hosted by the Stanford Institute for International Studies and the Stanford Berlin center.
Co-chairs were Thomas C. Heller, deputy director of the Institute for International Studies; Hans-Dieter Jacobson, chair of the political science department at the Free University, Berlin; and Kramer.
Igor F. Maximychev of the Russian Embassy in Berlin opened the symposium with an introductory report on the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Maximychev stressed that compensation for the Soviet Union's withdrawal from the international arena was vital if global stability was to be maintained.
He suggested that with international support, particularly that of the West and more specifically the European Community, the new Russian state could become the necessary stabilizing force, filling the vacuum left by the breakup of the Soviet Union.
That suggestion initiated the debate that was to become the focus of the symposium: the extent to which the states of the former Soviet Union, especially Russia, are globally significant, particularly in regard to the new Germany, the United States and the European Community.
Implications for Germany
The first session dealt with the implications the dissolution of the Soviet Union holds for the newly reunified Germany. Speakers Jens Reich and Peter Schneider, both Berlin authors, and Stanford Prof. Russell Berman, German studies, offered distinct perspectives on the issue.
Reich, who was unable to attend but submitted a speech, advocated German aid to the nations of the former Soviet Union so that cooperative use of their populations' creative potential could be made; Schneider complained of German reluctance to take on such international responsibility.
Berman, on the other hand, labeled developments in what used to be the Soviet Union as "paradigmatic" of late-20th century decentralization tendencies and questioned the feasibility of German unification in a time when regionalism, even within the European Community, is growing.
Another session focused on the economic implications of Soviet dissolution and sparked the most heated debate of the symposium.
Heinrich Machowski of the German Institute for Economics Research, who recently took an extended research tour of the former Soviet Union, described a condition of total economic crisis, in which there appear to be no policies or scenarios of how to proceed.
Machowski accused the West of being interested in Russia only to selfishly protect itself from a nuclear holocaust, while remaining unwilling to give the republic the assistance it needs and warrants.
Heller, however, insisted that the role of Russia in the global economy, which belongs neither to the industrial centers nor their near periphery, is marginal. He compared it to that of India or Brazil.
During the ensuing discussion, other participants contended that Russia's significant natural resources, especially oil, and the permeability of today's borders to pollution, disease and labor, demonstrated that the economic stability of the West could be markedly affected by developments in Russia.
During the third session, "The Dissolution of the Soviet Union -- Implications for Europe," the role of the United States also was discussed. Prof. Hans Weiler, political science and education, chaired.
Klaus Schneider, commission member of the European Community, discussed the policy of the EC in regard to the Commonwealth of Independent States. Commentator Angela Stent of Georgetown University focused on the unwillingness of the United States to become involved with that commonwealth on anything other than a military level.
Schneider said the eventual goal of the European Community should be to make Russia a member of the European Economic Area, but admitted there had been no discussion to that end. Many participants from both the East and West expressed skepticism about the EC's ambiguity toward Eastern Europe; Hans-Peter Kruger, a former Stanford in Berlin lecturer, was critical of what he called Russia's "irrational" expectations for community aid.
Stent said that because members of the European Community continue to pursue bilateral policies with the United States, a limited American role in Europe still exists. She urged Europe and the United States to support the former Soviet states in converting their economies, not only in managing their decline.
Whither the Warsaw Pact?
The Eastern European view of the dissolution of the Soviet Union was explored in the final session, chaired by Prof. Stephen Krasner, Stanford chair of political science.
Speaker Karol Szyndzielorz, Polish editor of Nowa Europa in Warsaw and a Stanford alumnus, said relations between Poland and the former Soviet states were strained by communication problems and a deeply ingrained mutual distrust and suspicion.
Szyndzielorz said the possibility exists for improvement in those relations, but stressed that economic reforms will not engender such cooperation unless they take political ramifications into consideration.
Prof. Norman Naimark, director of the Center for Russian and East European Studies at Stanford, warned of the dangers of bestowing privileges on Russia over the other former Soviet states. He also insisted that the "nostalgia" for a divided world, in which the Soviet Union is simply redefined as Russia, or as the Commonwealth of Independente States, must be abandoned in favor of an awareness of the 15 states that are now evolving.
The session concluded with a plea from Elemer Hankiss, president of Hungarian Television, for nations to recognize the complex "human dimensions of the transition" in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union.
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