[OUTLOOK]Destiny and pawns of historyYalta died in May.
In February 1945, near the end of World War II, the leaders of the nearly victorious countries, Franklin Roosevelt of the United States, Winston Churchill of England and Josef Stalin of the Soviet Union, agreed on post-war issues at the coastal resort of Yalta on the Black Sea.
As a result of the Yalta Conference, Europe and Germany were divided into east and west and Korea was divided into north and south. Almost 60 years after that day, on May 1, 2004, the historical end of Yalta came when the European Union decided to accept as new members 10 Eastern European countries that had been tied to the Soviet Union under the Yalta agreement.
That was a historic reunion of western and eastern Europe.
Fifteen years after the Berlin Wall fell, Poland perhaps welcomed the reunion of eastern and western Europe the most. Not only is Poland the largest country of the 10 to join the European Union, it has an unusually sad history of national ordeals.
There have been many prominent Poles over the years, including Copernicus, Chopin, Madame Curie and Pope John Paul II. But Poland has endured massive suffering and frequent invasions because it is situated between strong countries.
Poland still has unhealed wounds from the 100-year period that began at the end of the 18th century and ran through World War I, when it was divided into three parts, ruled by Russia, Germany and Austria. It achieved independence in 1918, but lost it when Germany again went to war in 1939 and Hitler shortly thereafter scrapped his non-aggression pact with the Soviet Union. Poland again became a pawn in the hands of stronger powers.
Therefore, it is understandable that Poland was first overjoyed at regaining its traditions and pride as a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and now of the European Union.
Zbigniew Brzezinski’s dinner speech at the North America-Europe-Asia Cooperation Committee, held in a festive atmosphere in Warsaw, was very impressive. Mr. Brzezinski, who left the war clouds hovering over Poland for the United States when he was a young boy, has shown exceptional insight into world affairs as an international scholar and presidential national security advisor.
He reminded people of the heroic 63-day resistance struggle that Warsaw’s citizens mounted against German occupation forces in 1944, and warned the people of Poland, who dream of becoming the center of Europe, that they must look back on history and learn from it rather than be overly optimistic.
Poland’s membership in the European Union does not “end history,” guaranteeing them eternal peace, he said. It rather indicates a new start, with countless uncertain factors.
Mr. Brzezinski asked that above all, people should not forget that Russia, which shares a border with Poland, still has strong traditional roots of authoritarianism and imperialism. He also stressed that national security in a time of globalization could only be assured when a nation shows an appropriate appreciation of not only its strong neighbors but also to threats on a global level.
Of all the threats to global security that Mr. Brzezinski mentioned, the one that stood out most was that what he called the “Global Balkans,” from Suez to Xinjiang, would become the most dangerous area for international politics in the future.
If the international community fails in solving the problems in Afghanistan, Iran and Palestine quickly, a disaster would be unavoidable, he said.
The next important thing, he said, was that the gap between social pluralism, that comes with China’s rapid development, and the lack of support for political reform will not only be a threatening factor for China’s own stability but for all of East Asia.
The pain of being divided due to the Yalta Conference has not yet ended in the Korean Peninsula, so it is hard for us to hide the envy we have for Poland. We can only hope that there will be some luck for us too sometime soon.
Having a destiny of being located between stronger powers, as Poland and Korea are, makes one realize that consistent attention to national security is just as important as the dream of peace and reform.
A country cannot move to another place, nor can all its people emigrate to another nation.
It is our duty to construct a united homeland on this peninsula that the heavens chose and our ancestors took care of.
* The writer, a former prime minister, is an advisor to the JoongAng Ilbo. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.
by Lee Hong-koo