The Geneva accords [onnAfghanistan], whosenfundamental and practicalnsignificance has been praisednthroughout the world, providedna possibility for completing thenprocess of settlement evennbefore the end of this year.nThat did not happen. Thisnunfortunate fact reminds usnagain of the political, legal andnmoral significance of the Romannmaxim; Pacta sunt servanda—nTreaties must be observed.nThe crucial phrase is the Latin one.nThat “Treaties must be observed” isnone of the first principles of internationalnlaw. Without strict adherence toninternational commitments, there cannbe no international law.nInternational morality being what itnis, and journalistic knowledge, especiallynabout Soviet history, being rather limited,nthere was little concern that at thenmoment of Gorbachev’s UN addressnthe Soviets were in violation of then1988 Geneva accords on Afghanistan.nNor was Gorbachev ever asked justnwhat the USSR was doing in Afghanistannin the first place. Or why Sovietntreaties that guaranteed the independencenof the three Baltic countries, ornthe Ukraine, or Georgia, were not beingnobserved. Instead, a New York Timesneditorial (December 8, 1988) wentnbananas about President Gorbachev’snUN speech:nPerhaps not since WoodrownWilson presented his fourteennpoints in 1918 or since FranklinnRoosevelt and WinstonnGhurchill promulgated thenAtlantic Charter in 1941 has anworid figure demonstrated thenvision Mikhail Gorbachevndisplayed yesterday at the UnitednNations . . . Breathtaking. Risky.nBold. Naive. Diversionary.nHeroic. All fit.nWe come now to May 13, 1989. Onnthat day, Soviet Foreign Minister Shevardnadzenannounced that the SovietnUnion was proposing Soviet violation ofna treaty with the US. (The treaty hadngone into effect in June 1988. It providednfor elimination of Soviet and Americannnuclear missiles in the 300-to-3,500nmile range.) With no advance notice,nShevardnadze blustered that if the USndared to modernize its vestigial Lancenshort-range missiles, which the INFntreaty allows, the Soviet Union would,ndespite its solemn obligation, quit dismantlingnits SS-23 missiles.nShevardnadze’s threat of Sovietnnoncompliance with a just concludednarms agreement, said former AssistantnDefense Sefcretary Richard Perle, wasn”the unscrupulous tactic of unilaterallynrevising the terms of an agreement byndeliberately violating one of its obligations—na tactic easy for the Kremlin,nwhich is unburdened by coalition politicsnor public opinion, but unthinkablenfor any Western democracy.” WilliamnSafire laid it on the line by describingnShevardnadze’s threat as the same oldnSoviet “duplicity.” He said that “whilenthe US considers treaties to carry thenforce of law, Mr. Gorbachev has justnvividly dernonstrated that he does notnconsider his nation bound by treaty anynnnmore than did his predecessors.”nOne could well ask, at hearingnShevardnadze’s threat, whatever happenednto President Gorbachev’s cryn”Pacta sunt servanda”? Dan Ratherndidn’t ask. Peter Jennings didn’t ask..nTom Brokaw didn’t ask. And now, likenother Soviet outrages which have occurrednin the era of Gorbachev thenGood, it’s all forgotten and forgiven.nImagine how the nightly news wouldnhave denounced President Bush hadnhe issued a treaty-breaking ultimatumnsimilar to Shevardnadze’s. Yet today’snSoviet threat to violate the agreementnis long forgotten and/or forgiven, in theninterest of world peace.nThe Western reception of the GorbachevnUN sermon was another documentedncase of credence given bynWestern political elites to Soviet rhetoric—anotherncase of the collectivenamnesia that afflicts the West and thenAmerican media.nJANUARY 1990/9n