Quotes: Judged by every standard,,.the Soviet Government of Russia is one of the worst tyrannies…It accords no political rights. It rules by terror. It punishes political opinions. It suppresses free speech. It tolerates no newspapers but its own…It is engaged at this moment in trampling down the peoples of Georgia and executing their leaders by the hundreds. (Winston Churchill, Missouri, Iron Curtain Speech, 1946)
Nothing has changed in Russian policy. Her methods, her tactics, her maneuvers may change but the polestar of world domination is immutable (Karl Marx, London speech, 1887)
So long as man remains free he strives for nothing so incessantly and so painfully as to find someone to worship (Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov, 1880)
In the news: Poll fraud in Hungary/Communists’ swoop (The Sydney Morning Herald, 9.02.47)
1956: Soviet troops overrun Hungary (BBC, on this day, 11.04.56)
Berlin Wall Tumbles. “Beginning of the End” for Communism (London Herald, 9.11.89)
Gorbachev, Last Soviet Leader, resigns; US recognizes Republics’ Independence (New York Times, 12.25.91)
The Perils of Trump’s meeting with Putin (LA Times, 7.05.17)
Vladimir Putin talks ruling the world, future wars and life on Mars (Newsweek, 9.01.17)
In context: Only about ten years ago with 20 years of United Nations experience under my belt did it occur to this Hungarian-American to ask her mother a question that had always puzzled me. How was Russia able to dominate half of Europe after the Second World War? “They installed national leaders and moved in with heavy artillery to put down opposition.”
Fifty-odd years passed before this seven-year-old child processed the experience of losing the world as she knew it overnight when parents whisked her and her brother out of harm’s way during the dead of a 1956 winter after the Hungarian revolution against Soviet domination collapsed. Losing the known world in the impressionable early years leaves scars. New languages are learned, adaptation to a better life is certainly an up-side, but early memories haunt and are passed down through generations.
That legacy of receiving needy new peoples with open arms and easing their adjustment to new conditions so as to contribute to society is at the very heart of America. It has been the hallmark of the geographically blessed United States ever since native Americans relieved sea-weary voyagers from the Mayflower that turned out to be a Trojan horse. Openness is a big part of the US genetic make-up, which has been ever since then the gold standard for national benevolence regardless of misfires. By now, that reputation for good-will is on par with the equally prized gold-standard of the American currency. It is a unique marriage of spirit and cash that has readied the country for an info-based global world complete with misinformation, the hazards of naive short-sightedness and outside interference.
The recent crackdown on immigration under President Trump has stirred deep-seated memories in this long-time United States citizen. They are dark forgotten images of a pre-seven year old child huddling with her brother during midnight AVO police raids where parents scrambled to hide photos and letters from relatives out in the west, of a parent being hauled out for interrogation in the dead of night, of whispered scared-child exchanges at school the next day about fathers or mothers who disappeared and about how children could help the family cope.
That was Hungary in the early 1950’s under the Soviet-backed Hungarian Communist party. and all memories of that young child are not bad. Waiting in bread lines on the way to school with a guardian was rather fun and chicken from the black market once a month turned the usual meal of sugar-sprinkled bread into a downright feast. Even the 40-km trek across no-man’s land between Hungary and Austria in December 1956 was an adventure to a child totally secure with parents nearby after they were mere ghosts while they played out parts in the five- and ten-year Soviet plans for making Hungary profitable for them, the only source of security in a rigidly controlled and isolated world suffering scarcity in a post-war Europe in shambles.
That Iron-Curtain world was cut off from the global mainland through propaganda, parade-level theatrics and restrictions on information flow. It took dogged, zealous effort on the part of those both behind and beyond the Curtain to dodge those restrictions.. Letters in both directions were written in code to shield identities and anticipate censorship. Incoming packages from the West were torn open and no one questioned the obviously missing content. More formal information inflow was downright deadly to access. If caught, listeners to The Voice of America, for example, were imprisoned or “disappeared.” Scarce short-wave radios served as foundations for basement community centers where neighbors huddled for news and encouragement despite uneasy fears that the desperate and/or greedy among them would “inform” to authorities.
The Soviet domination of Eastern Europe between 1946 and the 1989 fall of the Iron Curtain now seems unreal in easy-going blessed America, but it is still very real to Europeans sliced in half during that period. It is very real to former Soviet Republics like Georgia still experiencing first-hand the iron-fisted grip of Russia beyond even its Soviet period. It is apparent in the present global world with its shifting geopolitics encompassing all basic human social elements from economics to ideologies, from gender matters to traditions, and most acutely, historical hierarchy and racial dominance..
Two world leaders now represent the old order standing staunch against a radical shift in the values of a global reality. Vladimir Putin of Russia and Donald Trump of the United States are both macho white men, the former playing geoglobal 3D chess with the world’s other near-200 countries and the latter a lightweight entertainer playing at being president. They seem linked by a symbiotic affinity. Donald Trump does not seem to care about leading his country. His interests seem to lie in making money and magnifying a reputation as a business deal-maker wizard. Vladimir Putin provides the ideal environment for Donald Trump. Russia’s lax legal infrastructure maintained that way by Putin allows oligarchs to flourish and provide opportunities for Trump. That structure seems to work well for Putin playing chess with global geopolitics while Trump distracts the pesky American free press informing national and international publics and their law-makers.
This Hungarian-American has become a global citizen thanks to warm memories of Kraft American Cheese that the Red Cross delivered by five-pound cartons to Hungarian refugees in Austria. She has a lifelong soft spot for refugees the world over regardless of whatever intolerable cause got them running and abandoning the only life and culture ever known. America, the land of opportunity, is safe harbor to those suffering from the political oppression or extreme poverty afflicting much of the world today due to geographical and cultural history.
The US Constitution and the infrastructure based on it makes the country a stable landing field for the world’s dispossessed. A history of serving as such a base has created a country where new arrivals are not just received but integrated. They become part of their communities rather than becoming ethnic enclaves as they do in more established cultures. The process is certainly fraught with complications but it is grounded in a legal foundation that makes the country hospitable to the ambitious wanting to take advantage of opportunities in accordance with law. That is the way forward, according to data on millennials and the silicon valley projections toward the future. Those seeking gain through good old-fashioned strong-arm techniques are better off in Vladimir Putin’s Russia. There, a judiciary entrenched in central politics makes the country an incubator for opportunists without impunity.
The US is far from free of crooks but they are held accountable by law and by cultural genetics. The land of opportunity allows for the daring of outlaw tactics, but it also provides sheriffs to maintain order and a judicial system to oversee the sheriffs. In Putin’s Russia, big-time crooks run free and carry a lot of clout. In the US, Trump supporters who would indeed back the president if he shot someone in plain sight may indeed be better off in Russia.
Like most immigrants, this one loves and appreciates the new home she found as a child with a depth of ardor singular to immigrants . And with that love based on personal experience, this American immigrant feels a protective dread that good-hearted America is naive in a global world.
To date, America has been spared the annihilation of world war but Europe along with Japan has learned first-hand the lesson of two world wars. Russia, too, has learned its lessons from historical vampirism, brutally clearing out the traditional tsars to make way for the Soviet Marx/Engels experiment until it failed dramatically. Then it shifted 180 degrees, allowing the rise of oligarchs to infiltrate and bleed dry vulnerable targets in a drive to dominate and subjugate the world.
Russia empowers underworld oligarchs because its legislative framework allows for collusion between governmental entities and wheeler-dealers bringing in money and laundering it when necessary to comply with international standards. America’s legislative infrastructure based on the Constitution prohibits malfeasance and provides penalties for infractions. The United States is a rule-of-law country. The rule of law may not always be followed but its intent is in the right direction of providing the maximum play between freedom and social security. Mafia cartels in the United States are brought down by legislative and judicial actions. In Russia, they thrive and are partners with the government.
The third part of government dealing with rule of law is the executive., the person in charge and those carrying out executive decisions. In Russia, that person is Vladimir Putin, in power now for 17 years and still running strong with brutal actions against opponents. In the United States, the executive head of the country is Donald J. Trump, a business huckster seemingly hand-in-glove with Russia’s Putin.
The near-200 countries of the world have their own personalities just like individual people and they have their own codes of conduct. Some countries are liberal, some are restrictive in favor of preserving social order. But another character of global countries today is that also found in individuals. Some are benevolent, nurturing. and constructive. Others are misanthropic, belligerent, predatory, greedy and destructive.
Russia may have given up on Communism because it didn’t work and it still may be fanning leftover pockets for its own benefit, but the real pay-off in today’s global world is in getting the free-for-all Russian Oligarchs to huddle with freewheeling biz-whizzes like Trump. It’s a global mafia underworld in a 3- chess game where all players have divergent rules for dealing with transgressors.
The United States forgives and forgets. Russia imprisons, poisons or otherwise quiets the opponents of its supreme power-loving ruler. China stifles and Arabic countries dismember according to Shariah law. In the absence of American world leadership at present, Europe is the force holding the world steady. It is the parental forebear of America, the child of Europe made even more robust than the parent by its receptivity to new blood.