by Askold S. Lozynskyj
May 14, 2023
Dealing with Rogue Allies and Making Friends
The word politics comes from the Greek word “polis” which refers to “city”. Politics would refer to affairs of the city in its widest scope. Inasmuch as the Greeks ruled city-states, the term applies in fact to countries or states. А person in today’s structured society is an integral part of some city or state. Almost everything in one’s life can be deemed political.
U.S. Speaker of the House of Representatives in the 1980’s Tip O’Neill coined the phrase, “all politics is local”. Ukrainians have a similar sentiment that the shirt is closer than the coat. In any event politics means anything and everything which affects a person, his family, his home, his community. So in sports a fan is a political animal. An often misused statement that there should be no politics in sports is one of the more nonsensical yet ubiquitous statements. The Olympics are an obvious example. I root for the United States or Ukraine today. Irrespective I always root against Russia or Russian athletes. In American sports I root for the Mets, Jets, Knicks and Rangers because I was born and raised in New York. Enough!
Why is this topic relevant today? Because Indian Prime Minister Modi was recently scheduled in Washington for a state visit in June. A state visit is a big deal. It is not accorded to everyone. If politics had a strong moral component Modi would have been shunned or even assailed. Sure he is popular in India. There are 1.3 billion people in India. There are many immigrants from India in the United States. That is one solid justification for a state visit – to make a billion people our allies. Still Modi is an autocrat, chauvinist and a killer. In the name of his version of God he murders people particularly those within India of the Islamic faith. India and China are the world’s largest importers of Russian gas.
Several years ago I travelled to Bulgaria to visit the Ukrainian community there. One of the highlights of my visit was a conversation I had with a nondescript. Bulgarian, an every-man. When he learned that I was from America he offered a bit of philosophical humor. He stated that Bulgaria, having joined NATO, is now an ally of the United States. However, in the past, he pointed out, Bulgarians were aligned with the Roman empire, the Ottoman empire, the Reich of Nazi Germany and lastly the Soviet empire. These empires no longer exist, he pointed out, so we Americans better be careful. We both laughed. In all fairness Bulgaria finally stepped up to help Ukraine in the war as late as December 2022.
Bulgaria is not an aberration. The words “politics makes strange bedfellows” come to mind. Perhaps more disturbing is Hungary under Prime minister Victor Orban. In modern history Hungary has always been on the wrong side, in World War I, in World War 2. Hungary is a member of NATO. Yet Victor Orban appears closer to Vladmir Putin than he is to the United States. More importantly, because of the rules of international organizational governance like NATO, Hungary, a negligible country by population, might and general wherewithal, run by a madman carries a decisive voice on Ukraine’s future.
Several years back I had an opportunity to travel with a Hungarian delegation from the city of Lviv to Ivano Frankivsk where a monument had been erected to a preeminent Hungarian poet. The delegation included the Ambassador of Hungary to Ukraine, some lesser diplomats but also the vice speaker of the Hungarian Parliament. These were all Orban’s people. The vice speaker was particularly loquacious. They behaved as if they were doing Ukraine a favor by participating in the event. Naturally, that did not sit well with me, but that is another story. We did some wining and dining and there were some words exchanged. By the way, the vice speaker like his boss was a big Trump supporter. I often wonder where these people come from. God should have simply broken the mold. Hungary is not a total NATO roque state as it has accepted almost 200,000 Ukrainian migrants.
The Polish parliament recently voted to support Ukraine’s imminent NATO accession. Poland has been in the forefront throughout the war and has been a paragon NATO member in supporting
Ukraine and this despite a troubled Ukraine Poland history. Questions may be posed such as what are two Western, in essence, belligerents such as Bulgaria and Hungary doing in NATO. They certainly have not helped much in the war effort.
On second thought, ultimately, it is better that they are within the civilized European community and exposed to Western values and culture, most importantly a democratic form of government, respect for human rights and the like. Orban has been prime minister far too long The same applies to Prime Minister Modi. It seems that there are significant issues of xenophobia and chauvinism. Working with these questionable persons and/or countries may bring them closer to us. But there must be some accountability. Politics while not affording principles or moral integrity does fashion a quid pro quo.