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Self-Determination: Right or Privilege?

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In 1968, the Soviet Union along with several Warsaw Pact allies invaded Czechoslovakia with the intention of re-establishing a full communist government. The reason for the invasion was mainly due to "Prague Spring" - the period of great hope for the Czech people led by the reform movement against the hard-line policies of the Czech and Soviet governments. The main justification given by Soviet Premier Brezhnev regarding the attack was that the USSR, a communist nation itself, had an obligation to stop anything that poses a threat to established communism in any country. This came to be known as the "Brezhnev Doctrine", and was seen as a clear warning to other eastern European countries. This example is one of many in history that has raised the issue of whether or not great nations are justified in exerting influence over the affairs of lesser states.

The issue of whether or not great nations are justified in exerting influence over the affairs of lesser states is extremely complex. Some people believe that powerful nations are not only justified but obligated to play an important role in the affairs of states that do not measure up in status or power. The main reason being that these states do not have the capabilities to handle their domestic and foreign policies without external influence of some kind. Others believe that every nation has the sovereign right to formulate domestic and foreign policies without external influence. Both groups of people are right to an extent. I do not think that the power of a nation justifies their interference in the affairs of other countries unless they influence the country for the better. Basically, great nations should never attempt to influence the affairs of lesser states if they are only looking out for their own self-interests.

In the 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia, the Soviet Union was not truly threatened by the reform movement. The USSR was just not prepared to take risks with a country bordering on the West. Their main concerns were their sphere of influence as well as Czechoslovakia being one of their satellite states that provided them with a buffer zone against an attack from NATO. Therefore, Czechoslovakia played an important role for political, economic, and strategic military reasons. It was imperative that it remained under Soviet influence because if not, the balance of power would be in favour of the U.S. and NATO. Therefore, I do not consider the Soviet Union justified in their invasion because their intent was to protect themselves. The Soviet government was not concerned with how the Czech people felt because they were much more concerned about their own country and maintaining mutual assured destruction. Basically, the Soviet government did not want Czechoslovakia to become a better state but rather a strategic tool to use in the Cold War struggle against the U.S.

Between the years of 1945 to 1948, Marshall Tito had established a communist government for Yugoslavia. The foundation of this government was Titoism - belief in the purity of Marxist-Leninist ideology while encouraging relations with the democratic capitalistic West. His goals were to pursue a policy of nonalignment as well as create a Balkan federation of states after the war. Stalin was extremely suspicious of Tito which led to him rejecting the plans for the Balkan federation as well as attempting to control the economy and the internal security of the country which was resisted by the Yugoslavs. Stalin then proceeded to expel Yugoslavia from the Cominform and thereby withdrew economic aid to the country. This is the perfect example of interference that cannot be justified. The Soviet Union attempted to control Yugoslavia and when it couldn't, they withdrew economic aid as well as rejected the plans for the Balkan federation of states. Lesser states, like Yugoslavia, should not have to follow a greater nation's rules when the greater nation is only looking out for it's own self-interests.

When greater nations attempt to exert influence on lesser states, it should be the nation's intention to make that state better. However, greater nations should not abuse their power and reject the ideas and methods of thinking that the people of that state have. Every nation is different. There is no one ideology that can suit every single nation. For instance, the U.S.A. invaded Iraq in 2001 with the purpose of making it a democratic state. However, the people of Iraq resisted. Yet the Americans insisted that democracy is the only way Iraq can be a peaceful state and



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