UN diplomats in the eye of the Afghanistan storm

Some West European and third-world diplomats at the United Nations have reacted to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan with more cautious, middle-of-the-road views than their colleagues.

"When you play chess, every move is defensive and offensive at the same time, " one Latin american ambassador says. "In order not to be defeated, you have to defeat your enemy."

He believes that "in Afghanistan the Soviet Union moved in order to save its credibility with Cuba, Vietnam, and Angola. She could not allow a friendly regime to collapse." He sees the Soviet Union as abiding by Yalta: "Only Yalta did not cover the third world," he says.

Another permanent representative from a leading third-world country is convinced that Afghanistan acted defensively. Elsewhere he believes that the United States and the USSR act like two superpowers attempting to snatch pieces on the chess board from the other, with each justifying its actions self-rightiously.

"The United States wants us to believe that all it wants is to promote democracy, when it supports megalomaniac dictators," this diplomat says. "And the Soviet Union pretends to be concerned with communism when she helps bloodthirsty monsters like Idi Amin Dada, Hafizullah Amin, and military men of dubious ideology. Both the Soviet Union and the US are out for wold domination, one through military occupation, the other through economic control," he says.

A West European diplomat who is not sympathetic toward the Soviets, says: "Most of us in Western Europe are embarassed by President Carter's overraction and by Mrs. Thatcher's 'groupie' performance. We do not want to seem lacking in solidarity with the United States, but neither do we believe to be on the threshold of the second cold war."

Detente "never meant status quo" to the Soviets, he says. "The Soviets are convinced that history moves their way and that communism will de disseminated. The transision toward communism may be peaceful and may be carried out by force. There are periods in which the Soviet Union is content to let history run its own course.At other times it feels that it should push history."

The same West European diplomat suggested the Kremlin's present policies could be understood as the result of two perceptions of the West at this time:

"There are no more dividends for the Soviet Union in detente," he says. "The decisions made by NATO last December to install Pershing II missiles in Western Europe will change the balance of power on the European scene. The ever-growing Sino-American alliance is seen as a serious threat by Moscow. SALT II had no chance to be passed this year."

The diplomat continues, "The Soviet Union considers itself to be a great power with the right to intervene like the US the world over. It perceives the United States in a position of military inferiority in the region of the Gulf, much like the US knew the Soviets to be in a position of inferiority in the Caribbean in 1962. Moscow thinks this is a good time to make attempts at encircling China and to position itself near the Middle Eastern oil fields."

But, he says, "Soviet jockeying for power cannot be understood without being linked to American initiative. Indonesia, Egypt, Ghana, and Sudan have been snatched back by the United States. . . . This geopolitical game of monopoly must be put into perspective and, regrettable as it is, the fall of Afghanistan does not constitute 'the greatest threat to peace since World War II.'"

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