I admit at the threshold of the new year 2017 it`s not surprising to feel fear and anxiety.
President elect of the USA is Donald Trump, a man who says climate change is a hoax and who thinks of a new nuclear weapon race. A president who says, the US must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capacity, that would be the way world comes to it senses.
At the same time Vladimir Putin, the president of Russia has reasons to feel triumphant: His years of supporting anti-establishment movements in the West, mostly on the right, by hacking and leaking private information, spreading fake news and financing parties and individuals ready to do the Kremlin’s bidding all seem to be paying off.
On July 9, 2014, in a meeting with public leaders at the Kremlin, Mr. Putin referred to Joseph Goebbels, the notorious Nazi minister of propaganda, as “a talented man who knew that the more incredible the lies, the quicker people believe them.” The quote, which he was using to condemn the West’s supposed misrepresentation of Russian history, was in fact the best indication of Mr. Putin’s own creed.
Now, in addition to undermining the legitimacy of the American presidential election campaign, Russia has been a frequent source of fake news that targeted the Italian prime minister, Matteo Renzi, during a recent referendum and muddled a Swedish debate last summer about joining NATO.
Throughout Eastern Europe, Moscow has been implicated in cyberattacks and election interference from Estonia to Bulgaria. Germany, which will hold elections in September, is experiencing cyberattacks and fake news.
Even more surprising than Russia’s aggressive behavior has been the timid response of the West, which has let Moscow engage in cyberwarfare with impunity. President Obama said this month that during their meeting last September, he told Mr. Putin “to cut it out.” Only President Obama`s latest response shows real teeth, but Vladimir Putin doesn`t seem to be impressed. He obviously looks to the new government in Washington.
In Italy, Mr. Renzi’s campaign privately complained about Russia’s interference but declined to go public. And when Germany’s chancellor, Angela Merkel, was asked on Nov. 27 about Russian meddling in Germany’s electoral campaign, she replied, “We just have to learn to live with it.” The attitude of Western politicians seems under the line rather timid.
At the same time the humanitarian situation in Syria is becoming worse and the further development seems mainly to be controlled by Russia, Iran and Turkey. The Israel/Palestine conflict seems further away from a solution than ever. A balancing influence of the US cannot be expected, as Netanyahu makes Donald Trump his chump. Gloomy signs everywhere. Are we in a similar situation as in the 1930ies ?
I don`t think so. Germany felt humiliated after WWI and in 1933 Hitler came to power, he promised to make Germany great again. He was a narcissist and more insane man. Maybe Russia felt humiliated in a similar way after the collapse of the Soviet Union. But Vladimir Putin is surely no narcissist and insane man. He is a rationally calculating power politician. If I think of a narcissist and a madman, I focus my thoughts on Washington. But Donald Trump has to do with the oldest and most experienced democracy in modern history. And I see a big movement in the USA for democracy and peace against racism and bigotry. And I see broad majorities for democracy and tolerance in most European countries too. This is the decisive factor. We are the decisive factor. The Nazis were 1933 in Germany not the main problem – sure they were bad enough- the main problem was, there were far to few people standing publicly for democracy and against racism. Today I put all my hope not on politicians but on the people of the free world. In this sense I wish you in spite of everything a year of peace love freedom and democracy.