Paul Greenberg

It was at Yalta that it was decided the continent would be carved up -- like a prize turkey -- into different spheres of influence. And so it was -- despite all the talk about free elections, which would prove only talk. For once the Red Army took over, directly or through sudden coups or stage-managed elections, all Europe east of the Elbe would become a collection of captive nations, Soviet satellites where there would be no more chance of a free choice than in today's supposedly post-Soviet Russia.

In an historic speech the next year, at a small college in the heart of the heart of America, Westminster College in little Fulton, Missouri (population 7,000), it was Winston Churchill who would sum up what had been decreed at Yalta, even giving the world a name for it: "From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the continent."

Now that iron curtain descends again as the Voice of America is banned in Russia along with so many Russian voices. And the Russian bear prowls again, snatching a slice of Georgia one year, the Crimean peninsula the next, and the world wonders which country will fall prey next -- Moldova, Azerbaijan? More of Ukraine? One of the Baltic republics, or all of them? And all the while, the West stands by and mainly watches, issuing a paper protest now and then. Yes, sometimes a single shaft of light will illuminate what is happening in the all-enveloping dark. This is such a moment of illumination. Call it Yalta II.

Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.