Last Thursday, Russia’s separatist Ukrainian allies shot down Malyasia Airways Flight 17. My personal response was simply to say ‘that’s it’. Putin went too far, 298 innocent people are dead – an event reminiscent of sinking of passenger ships in our last global conflict, (although even more unexpected). For me, its easy to envision myself or others I know on that flight. This is a deeper representation of our new age: The re-establishment of dictatorships, bad leaders and the emergence of ‘national’ interests over all other costs.
The prominence of the nation is the most important value to fight for, regardless of the costs. Arming and supporting Russian separatists for the annexation of eastern Ukraine, by Russia, represents the extension of the Russian nation over internationally recognized borders -which provide international stability.
In Budapest Saturday night (literally at midnight), Hungary’s Prime Minister finished erecting, the much nationally and internationally protested, monument to German occupation. The fact that 100 police had to protect the finishing parts of the statue demonstrates the cowardice of the regime and the virulent public opposition. Even the OECD recognizes the PM’s Fidesz party 2014 two-thirds parliamentary majority as ill-gotten gain from electoral engineering. Orban takes all steps necessary to protect his rule and his party in power.
The tying together of Orban and Putin is clear. Orban has clearly chosen Putin’s Russia over the EU. This includes signing Hungary up to an awkward nuclear power deal – which essentially let’s Russia determine the price tag for Hungary to pay. Orban is also fully behind Russia’s South Stream gas pipeline project – overall solidifying Russia’s ‘favored’ energy supplier status. The result, Hungarian ratepayers will be paying more and more for their energy – either in terms of their electricity and gas rates (which cannot increase for Orban to stay in power) or in the political allegiance toward Russia (or both in a bad year). If Hungary steps away from Russia now – it will be punished in higher costs for nuclear power or gas. Orban has firmly tied himself to Putin and his energy resources.
As Putin rages his national and international campaign of national interest, Orban’s own fight for what he perceives as his own national interest will continue unabated. Orban now has no choice but to continue his allegiance to Putin. Thus the death of 298 citizens, met with a confused international response – allows nationalist leaders like Putin or Orban to continue their nation building to the detriment of democratic values. Democracy is subservient to the nation.
The quandary is not how to ‘reform’ these leaders, but to understand we (quiet pro-democracy supporters) are responsible for the erosion of once internationally respected notions of democracy. The rise of new nationalistic power centers will continue to grow until countries whom proclaim democracy as a central tenet act in a unified and forceful manner. Unfortunately, as the mixed response, including the lack of distancing from Russia shows, the downing of Flight 17 won’t be enough. The question really is, what will be the event that sparks the backlash against nationalist regimes? The answer will have to be the next great big tragedy.
[ Post-script: I wrote this post after returning from a fantastic weekend of biking down the Danube in Hungary. I left Friday after reading about Flight 17 and thought I really needed to ‘live’. Forget a typical weekend of normal boring routines. I rode my bike over 200 km and my fondness of Hungary and its people got a power shot. Living here is great. And the great thing, is everyone knows politics in Hungary is shit. Orban has to just keep playing with the laws to stay in power – and the great thing, is he knows it too! I look forward to a day in Hungary when I don’t ride from Mosonmagyarovar to Budapest and see ads with atoms for the national power company MVM along the whole route. I want Hungary’s great natural beauty to be obscured by privately financed ads for consumer goods – and not government paid ads for Hungricum products, MVM and national development programs.]