Global Analysis from the European Perspective. Preparing for the world of tomorrow

Whither is fled the visionary gleam? Where is it now, the glory and the dream?*

   His aide comes up to him and (confidentially) repeats what has already been agreed upon and mentally rehearsed: “Mr President, we are flying over Germany. In a couple of hours we’ll be landing in Poland and then changing for the train. Within hours we arrive in Kiev, where you will have talks with President Zelensky.”

   They are on board Air Force One. Below, Europe: a gathering of nations that his country may always rely on, a gathering of countries whose governments habitually swear allegiance to him and his predecessors and his successors. Sometimes they strain at the leash they are held on, but then they are quickly brought to toe the line.

   “In Kiev?” the President expresses his doubts out loud though he has long given his consent to the whole plan. It may be he doesn’t remember.

   ”No need to worry,” reassures him one of his aides. “The Russians have been notified of your visit to Ukraine’s capital. The skies will be as clear as on day one after the Creation. President Zelensky will wear his usual khaki costume to show that he is a tough soldier and shares the hard life of the citizens he represents. That’s something we’ve all been accustomed to..”

   The President has some vague recollections. Who was it who said he would not don ordinary clothes till the war was won? He cannot recall, but he feels somehow ill at ease.

   “Do the Poles know that rather than in Warsaw I will first arrive in Kiev?” he asks.

   “The Poles?” His aide is puzzled. Why the heck should they know in advance? They are not to be reckoned with. “No, Mr President,” the aide answers. “They will be informed in the last moment. The fewer people know, the better.”

   Still, the Russians have been notified. Isn’t it weird! thinks the President.

   “Will the Poles not take offence?” the President voices his doubts.

   His aide cannot help smiling. Offence? The Poles? At Americans?

   “No, Mr President. They owe us too much. We guarantee their sovereignty and security, as you know. They want more troops from us, more military lethal equipment. How could they take offence?”

   True, how could they? thinks that president and peeks through the oval window.

   “One more thing, Mr President,” he hears his aide. “Remember, while in Kiev,” the aide stops in mid-sentence, obviously searching for appropriate words, “we will hear an air-raid siren.”

   The President suddenly remembers. Yes, that’s what they have agreed upon!

   “Is that necessary?” he asks. 

   “Yeah, it will make a very powerful impression on the whole free world. A beleaguered city,” the aide waxes lyrical, “and the undaunted leader of the democratic world sort of trapped in it by the world’s top villain. It will strike a chord with the people around the globe and raise your popularity. Besides, when Poland’s president or Germany’s chancellor paid their visit to Ukraine, they, too,” the aide cannot help sneering at the mental image of the event that he is describing, “were subjected to an unexpected,” he sneers at the word unexpected, “air-raid. From one day to the next they were catapulted to national heroes!”

   “I guess they were,” agrees the President and pictures to himself the questions the journalists will be asking after he has returned from Ukraine’s capital, unscathed and yet heroic. The leader of the free world with a beacon of freedom and democracy in his hand, on the barricades in an eastern outpost of civilization beyond which barbarity and autocracy reign supreme. Still, he has his fears:

   “The Poles believe Russians downed their airplane with their president, ministers, generals and top officials a couple of years ago…”

   His aide is quick to soothe him: “That’s what they! say. The minds of the majority of Poles are very much receptive to such news. It’s bred in their bones to loathe Russians. Yet, no proof whatsoever has been offered, so…”

   The aide hopes he sounds reassuring. The aide understands why his boss is a bit nervous. It was not so long ago that the American President called his Russian counterpart a killer. It was by proxy – through a journalist’s mouth – but still. Who knows? The “killer” may want his revenge: not in word, but in kind. No, that’s crazy nonsense! It’s one thing to call someone names, quite another to credit the other person with the qualities we assign him for the public consumption!

   “Where is the text of my Warsaw speech?” the President changes the subject matter of the talk. He wants to prepare himself.

   “Here you are,” says the aide and hands him over a few sheets of paper with extra large-size characters. “Everything will be all right,” the aide goes on reassuring his boss. “We’ve had hostilities in Korea, Vietnam, Serbia, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria and now Ukraine. Every president has had his war, and regardless, one received a Nobel Peace Prize!” The aide grins and tries hard not to wink at the President. That would be too disrespectful.

   “Yeah…” smiles the President and immerses himself in thought. A Nobel Prize! He has a sudden idea: “Why should Zelensky not get one?”

   His aide is agreeably surprised. “That’s quite a suggestion!” he agrees and chips in: “The prize might be given to Mr Zelensky or the Ukrainian nation, for that matter.”

   The President agrees with a nod of his head and looks down through the plane window. Germany! Its leader did not raise his eyebrows when the pipeline connecting his country with Russia was cut through. The German chancellor did nothing: we have raised the German nation the way we wanted it to be and we have always put at the helm – first in Bonn, now in Berlin – our minions. Be it Germany or France, there is no real opposition to our policy-making on the Old Continent.

   Scanning Europe from above the clouds, the President is self-satisfied. This self-satisfaction manifests itself on his face. His aide would swear that he could see somewhat faint, somewhat beatific smile. His boss is in his dreamworld.

   The President scans the text of his Warsaw speech. He’s read it already a few times. The usual clap-trap about freedom, democracy and the like. The usual verbal attacks on Putin, the usual praise lavished on heroic Ukrainians and hospitable Poles, the usual reassurance of NATO’s strength and the alliance’s unwavering resolve.

   “Do they love me in Warsaw?” asks the President.

   What a question!

   “Sure they do!” answers his aide. “The Poles love America and Americans and everything American. Every extended family has a member in our country and they all dream about America. I’d venture to say their love for the      United States is directly proportional to their hate for Russia.”

   The President is pleased. He gives the text one more look and asks:

   “The verbal part of my show is OK. What will we support it with in terms of symbolism? Could you remind me, please?”

   “After you’ve delivered your speech, a group of kids, waving American, Ukrainian and Polish flags, will arrive on the scene and surround you, Mr President. Some have been instructed to embrace you affectionately. You know, an archetypal image of a grandpa and grandchildren surrounding him.”

   “That’s fine! I love having children come up to me!”

   The President is apparently pleased.

   “You will give some of them a hug, the TV and newspaper reporters will take snapshots.”


   Leaders of nations and children! Religious leaders and children! This image has been repeated a thousand times and yet has never failed to make the audiences believe in the goodness of the leader who has children around! 

   The President looks out of the plane window. Europe! Till roughly 1991 it was only its western part that bound its fate with that of the United States, after 1991 – its central part. Successive presidents strengthened American presence on the Old Continent. The time has come to expand to its eastern part: Belarus and Ukraine! The 2020 coup d’état in Minsk failed. Why? The 2014 coup d’état in Kiev was successful. In the following years Ukraine was primed to sever its ethnic and cultural connection with Russia altogether. American businessmen (also my son Hunter) in league with the likes of Ihor Kolomoyskyi and Rustem Umerov have had a time of their lives! Why then did the whole Ukrainian business slip out of our hands? The President frowns. Slip it will not! We must never let it happen! The President clenches his jaws.

   Again he takes a look at the text of his Warsaw speech. He spots a fragment that pleases him especially. He smiles as he reads: “Putin wanted the sort of the Finlandization of NATO. He got the NATO-ization of Finland, instead.” I like it! I like it, indeed! Which of my ghost-writers coined this phrase? He must get a bonus, really! People like such tropes, they do!

   The President again looks out of the plane window. But for Russia and China, he thinks, the world would be such a beautiful place to live in! But for Putin and Xi Jinping! If we only could expunge them from the face of the earth! They are spoiling our party, they are throwing a monkey-wrench into our efforts to build back better! Why can’t they do business with us the way other leaders do? President Yeltsin did business with us and he reaped benefits from it. Just like his aides, the likes of Yegor Gaidar and Anatoly Chubais. The CIA guys reassure me we still have such people at the top levels in Russia. We only need to bide our time… The President smiles almost imperceptibly.

   Then a sudden change of mood! His face becomes serious. A disturbing thought torments him, a recollection, a realization of something unpleasant.

   Everything in my turf is under control but for Turkey! What game is Erdoğan playing? Is he with us or against us? The coup d’état that he had a few years ago does not seem to have taught him a lesson. Contrarily. Does he need another earthquake on his hands to sober up? We have so much to do in Ukraine, in Belarus, in Georgia, in Kazakhstan, in, in, in… WE need to install democracy there and impose human rights. We need to have a stable backyard, for goodness’ sake! The Poles have been lured by the British to rebuild their Commonwealth in the east, just as the Turks have been lured to rebuild their Ottoman Empire. The Poles rose to the bait: why won’t the Turks go along just as the Poles do? What scenario does Ankara play out? What card does Erdoğan have up his sleeve?

* William Wordsworth, Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood.

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