Yugoslavia has reacted with sharp and vigorous protests against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. The invasion strikes at the very basis of nonalignment, on which President Tito has built his country's security.
To accept the Kremlin's "justifications" for its action, the Yugoslav official newspaper Borba commented editorially Jan 6, would in effect legalize the subordination of independent but small and weak nations to the whim of the big powers. For the Russians to claim that they were "helping" a threatened Afghan regime against "counterrevolution" was "a dangerous return to the Stalinist approach of trampling other countries' sovereignty underfoot."
It has been a long time since even the Yugoslavs, who never reconciled their 1948 break with Moscow, have used such blunt language in public.
An earlier major confrontation between Moscow and Belgrade arose over the Soviet onslaught on Czechoslovakia in 1968. The breach lasted acrimoniously until 1976, when a conference of all European parties was finally assembled to adopt a declaration on independence and other principles governing relations between Communist parties and states.
Subsequently the Soviet Union has frequently been accused of turning and interpreting the declaration to suit its own ends and its continued claim for recognition of its "senior" role in the movement. Its intervention in Afghanistan has brought these principles and the specious doctrine of Moscow's "right to defend socialism" into open dispute again. In addition, Yugoslavia has felt an affinity with Afghanistan as an early adherent of nonalignment and as one of the score of participants in what was in effect the movement's inauguration in Belgrade in 1961.
Borba said in Sunday's editorial that any assertion that Russia's national interests were at stake in Afghanistan was "unacceptable, unjust, undemocratic, and very dangerous for peace." A new anxiety also in evident in the caution shown by Romania's President Nicolae Ceausescu. In 1968 he refused to take part in the Warsaw Pact move against czechoslovakia -- and said openly why -- and frequently has differed just as openly on major aspects of Soviet foreign policy ever since. On this occasion, however, he was content in a New Year speech to diplomats to make only an indirect allusion of disapproval of what was afoot in Afghanistan without mentioning either the country or the USSR.
Elsewhere in Eastern Europe the "hardliners" quite predictably back the Russian case. The "moderates" do also, but less outrightly and with some hint of their uneasy concern.