Helsinki -The Play – Chpt 3

Photo by Aaron Kittredge on Pexels.com

Trump is finishing addressing a huge rally, standing room only. A multitude of American flags are waving in the crowd. The noise dies down just so…

Trump (into the mike) – You know… I am here because of you… because you love me…and together… you and me… will MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!

The crowd explodes in thunderous cries of USA! USA! Long live Trump! Long live the king! Streams of multicolored confetti shoot out into the arena below from contraptions set up high above and rousing music blares out from the loudspeakers.

He raises his arms and waves back, beaming with satisfaction, exulting in the crowd’s adoration. Then the room goes completely dark and the music stops.

Trump finds himself alone in a barely lit, rectangular room. There are no windows. He’s seated in a chair at one end of the room. He looks around warily but it’s very dark. He’s not sure where he is or what he’s doing there. He feels something on his head, so he reaches up and removes it. He pulls it close to his eyes so he can examine it.

He smiles.

Trump – A crown… ah… finally…

Just then a tall, slender and shadowy figure appears at the other end of the room. The Man is dressed in a black suit with a hood over his head. Trump is puzzled because he didn’t see the Man enter. The Man glances at him. With a wave of his hand the Man creates a chair for himself and sits facing Trump. In the darkness, Trump cannot discern the Man’s features. The Man calmly crosses his legs.

Man – You and me… working together… will make America great again.

The Man speaks with a deep voice. Trump listens attentively.

Man – So, if your supporters had had a greater role in the conduct of the nation’s affairs… the country would not have slipped from greatness?

Trump eyes the Man suspiciously.

The Man – But how is that possible… that such a vital section of the nation allowed itself to be pushed aside… and by whom?

Trump – The immigrants, the undocumented, the illegals.

The Man (shakes his head slowly) – They have all that much political power?

Trump (chuckles) – Who are you?

Man – You’re running a scam in broad daylight, aren’t you…?

Trump (laughs) – Who are you?

Man – … transferring blame to an important, productive and enterprising segment of the nation… to exonerate… excuse your base.

Trump – Watch your words, buddy. You’d get lynched if you said something like that at one of my rallies.

Man – I say exonerate and excuse because it’s not the immigrants and minorities that’s pushing your base down… and you know it… no… instead, it’s been your base’s affluent and politically powerful brothers and sisters… white also… who did not reach out to them and said… ‘come, rise and walk with me’.

Trump – They needed a leader.

Man – You?

Trump – Yes, me… to lead them out of the wilderness and to the promised land. And if I have to blame some groups to stir them up, so be it.

Man – So you picked the easier target… rather than the class that has been deaf to their cries…

Trump, his anger smoldering, stares at the Man.

Man – … the class to which you belong.

Trump (impatiently) – Look, I’d love to chat but I’m a busy guy, I’ve got a country to run.

Man – So your base shares blame for not examining themselves… and waiting too long.

Trump – They’ve been waiting for me.

Man – Dear man … you’re a choice of desperation… and not a good one.

Trump – I’ve had enough of this.

He tries to get up but can’t.

Trump – What the hell?

There are no visible ties to bind him but he cannot get out of the chair. He struggles frantically but cannot free himself.

Man – The crowds at your rallies… do you promise them anything?

Trump – Why, yeah… sure, I tell them they can have… we can have… anything we want if we stick together.

Man – I see the salesman in you.

Trump – As a matter of fact, I am. New York City salesman. Ever been to New York City? Ever heard of Trump Tower… I mean, where have you been? You’ve never heard of me?

The Man says nothing.

Trump – Look buddy, I don’t know what game you’re playing but you can’t just hold me down like this… I’m the president of the United States.

Man – I’m not holding you down.

Trump (still trying in vain to free himself) – You’ve no idea who you’re messing with.

(bursting in anger)

Goddammit, are you deaf? I command you to let me the hell out of here!

The Man is unmoved.

Trump bows his head, gathering his strengths. Again, he thrusts forward trying to pull out of the chair but cannot.

Trump – Let me out!

The Man stares at Trump. Frustrated, Trump tries another tack.

Trump – Say, friend… I didn’t mean to get ornery… what’s your name?

The Man rises slowly, starts to leave but then stops, all the while looking at Trump.

Trump – Who are you? (exasperated) What do you want from me?

The Man turns and vanishes.

Trump – Hey, you!

Trump wakes up with a startle, sitting up in bed, restless. Melania is asleep next to him.

He then rises, puts on his robe and crosses to the window. He pulls up a chair and sits, looking out into the night.

Oscar Valdes.    Oscarvaldes.net.  Also available in anchor.fm, apple podcasts, Google podcasts and buzzsprout.

Helsinki – The Play – Chapt 2

Photo by Aaron Kittredge on Pexels.com

Trump strolls by himself in the White House lawn. It’s already dark. After a while he goes back inside and into the Oval Office. He sits at his desk.

Trump – I could’ve been more forceful. Melania’s right. Why wasn’t I? That’s my ghosts coming back to haunt me. Moral beacon, she says. Hmm. How do you do that? There’s no way in hell that I’ll ever fill those shoes. I don’t see it. I can make us some money, that I can do, but moral beacon?

Pause

I think I can win this trade war, I’m pretty sure about that. And I’m sure I can get most NATO members to pay up their share of defense spending. And then there’s the tax cut. That’s made a lot of people happy. And tax receipts may be even higher because of it, it’s happened before. Not that I haven’t pissed off a good share of folks, too, but that’s part of my shtick.

He now looks at the portrait of Andrew Jackson on the wall to his left. He gets up and goes to stand before it. After a moment, he crosses to sit on one of the chairs by the fireplace.

Trump – Not everyone has been a great president. I’m sure I won’t be the worst.

Do I like Putin? He’s a smooth operator, so I do like him. But Melania’s point is that, in the clutch, I blinked. And she’s right. Being the president, I can be bossy with everyone under me. I can say whatever I want and get away with it. From here on out, and for the rest of my days, I’ll have a security detail protecting me and I’ll be able to say what I damn well please. Not that that’s ever stopped me.

Laughs.

So why did I hold back when the reporter asked the question in Helsinki? Did I want to be nice to Putin? Yes. Does he have something on me? No. He does not. But my deepest fear is that the hacking was more extensive than it’s been determined. And if that is so, then the argument that Putin swayed the election becomes stronger. Even if it can’t be proven. And he could say that he put me in the White House.

He shifts his weight on his seat.

My failing has been to not have been willing to publicly accept that possibility. If Mueller ever came out with evidence of larger scale Russian machinations, then my election, and that of all Republican office holders, would be tarnished with the stain of illegitimacy. Cries would rise for me to surrender my post to Hillary. Of course, I wouldn’t do that because there would be no proof. But I would go down in the history books as the interloper president.

He gets up and returns to his seat behind his desk.

Trump – I’ve liked it up here. It’s been stressful but it’s been a lot of fun. Deep down I’ve always felt that I got in on a fluke. Lost the popular vote by a good margin… which I’ve tried to blame on the undocumented.

Laughs.

I can come up with some good ones, can’t I? I’m feeling comfortable in the gig and wouldn’t want to give it up. They’ll have to kick me out. I don’t see how.

He pivots his chair to look out the window.

I can see why Putin wouldn’t want to show his hand. He knows I’m insecure in my position… yep… he knows that… and he would like to work it to his advantage. He can just keep denying he knew anything and, in the meantime, do all he can to cover up the evidence so Mueller can’t get to it. Whatever that might be. But he could bring it out at any moment, if he so wished. He wouldn’t dare show it to me, though… no, he’s too smooth for that. But who knows what he’s capable of.

He sits back and runs his fingers through his hair.

Trump – Would everything I’ve done be invalidated? Good question. Everything I’ve done being erased. Wow. As if I’d never done anything. The legal battles would be long and arduous, since every election would be contested. The whole country would be thrust into a crisis.

He leans forward, elbows on knees, lacing his hands. He’s tired. He looks at his watch. It’s 10 pm. He gets up and stands by the window, looking out.

Putin had never interfered with an American election as he did in mine. Not that we know of… not on this scale. But he saw the debates, the chaos and free for all, and he saw his opportunity. He must’ve said, ‘I can fish in troubled waters’… and he threw in his hook. I suspect it had my name on it.

He crosses his arms.

I could do what Melania is saying, do a complete turn around and embrace the Mueller probe. But I’m scared. Scared they will find something… and I can’t get that monkey off my back.

A knock at the door.

Trump – Who is it?

Melania – It’s me.

Trump – Come on in.

She steps in and goes to his side. She circles his waist with her arm and leans against his shoulder. They both stare out the window.

Melania – Pretty night.

Trump – Yes.

He puts his arm around her shoulders, presses her to him.

Melania – What have you been thinking?

Trump – Legitimacy.

She says nothing, then rubs gently the back of his neck.

Trump – I got in, somehow, but something is missing.

They remain standing for a moment.

Melania – Let’s go to bed. It’s late.

Oscar Valdes.      Oscarvaldes.net.  available on anchor.fm, apple podcasts and buzzsprout.

Helsinki. Chapter 1

Photo by Aaron Kittredge on Pexels.com

Trump and Melania are sitting in their White House suite. At the table.

Melania – What happened?

Trump – Nothing. The press, as usual, is making much too much of it.

Melania – I was watching. I felt like I had been punched in the stomach.

Trump – Why?

Melania – Because in front of Putin, of all people, you devalue our intelligence services.

Trump – Didn’t I come right back and correct myself?

Melania – ‘I don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t be Russia. Sort of a double negative,’ you add casually. Sorry, that won’t do. And then you go right back into your old rant that there was no collusion.

Trump – Rant?

Melania – What else am I supposed to call it?

He gets up and walks over to the window.

Trump – It was a bad moment, I’ll agree.

Melania – it is the beginning of the end.

He crosses his arms as he looks out into the evening light.

Melania – That video clip will haunt you for the rest of your life.

Trump – Right. And you see me shaking in my boots, don’t you?

Melania – All the worse.

She rises and steps over to join him.

Trump – I thought you believed me when I said there was no collusion.

Melania – Still do, but your contempt for the Mueller investigation undermines your case. And you’ve been stuck in that position.

Trump – It’s all politics. They’re after my head and I won’t hand it over.

Melania – If you’re innocent, what is there to fear?

Trump – You’re being naïve. They have a way of setting up traps.

They look at each other.

Melania – Putin, who annexed the Crimea and invaded the Ukraine, Putin, whose people shot down the Malaysian airliner…

Trump – It didn’t happen on my watch.

Melania – You think he’s holding back because of you?

Trump – He hasn’t annexed more territory.

Melania – Not yet.

She shakes her head disapprovingly.

Melania – As president, you stand for something far larger than yourself…

Trump – It’ll blow over, like everything else.

Melania – Not this. In Helsinki, you failed.

He crosses his arms.

Trump – You really think this is all that damaging?

Melania – It is the beginning of the end.

Trump – Well, then, my lady, it will bring me great pleasure to prove you wrong.

Melania – Do you really not believe that Russian hackers interfered with the election?

Trump – They set up some fake accounts but their impact didn’t affect the outcome.

Melania – The electoral votes of three states where you won by less than 80 thousand votes made the difference.

Trump – You cannot prove that those fake accounts changed their minds.

Melania – You cannot disprove it, either.

Trump – The point is then moot.

Melania – How could that large scale operation go on in Russia without Putin’s consent?

Trump – There’s always rogue operators.

Melania – Rogue operators?

Trump – Yes, of course. Look, I don’t know everything that goes on in this country.

She looks at him, incredulous.

Melania – You don’t think Putin is a dictator, with complete control of his country?

Trump – There are different kinds of dictators, some likeable and some not. Russians like Putin. For the most part.

Melania – And you do, too.

Trump – Do I like Putin? Personally? Yes. I do. What’s wrong with that?

Melania – What’s wrong with that is that when you were elected president you became the moral beacon of the nation, and when you like Putin you’re letting him off the hook.

Trump – I said I like him personally, that does not mean I approve of his actions.

Melania – But you believe his denials. That’s where the liking comes in.

Trump – It’s tactical. My greater aim is to negotiate with him, to keep world peace. And to do that I need to have a common bond.

Melania – You’re giving him a free pass.

Trump (angrily) – I’m not giving him a free pass!

Melania – That’s not what the clip showed. It showed you fooling yourself, and because you’re our president, you’re fooling us too.

He turns and takes a few steps into the room.

Trump – Where does it say that when I became president, I became the moral beacon of the nation?

Melania – It’s implicit.

Trump – I’m a deal maker. I was elected to solve problems and that’s what I’m doing. I was elected to put more money in people’s pockets, to cut back on regulations, to cut back taxes. I was elected to raise tariffs so I can protect the wellbeing of my fellow Americans. I was elected to stanch the flow of immigrants into this country because we have enough already and they’re taking advantage of us. I was elected to make America great again. To do that, I have to deal with a lot of folks. And it helps if you like them. It’s easier to do business and you get more done. Anyway, the voters must’ve been fed up with moral beacons that they chose me.

Melania – They are already regretting it.

Trump – Really? Well, here’s my answer to you. I’m going to get reelected in 2020. I know that. I already have a lot of money coming in in political contributions and there’s no one – no one – who will come even close to matching my campaign treasure. Money talks.

Melania – Put another way, Money Trumps Morality.

Trump (chuckling) – I live in the real world, Melania, not in a purity bubble. I may not have been moral, according to you, but I have been successful.

Melania – Will Vladimir be in the stands cheering you on when you get reelected?

Trump – I hadn’t thought of that but now that you mention it, I just might invite him.

He returns to the window and stands next to her.

Melania – Does viewing the video clip of Helsinki not make you sick?

Trump – It does not. I’m not squeamish.

Melania – Then there’s something wrong with you. Deeply wrong.

Trump – Have you not known that for a while?

She looks at him.

Melania – I have.

Trump – And still you stayed.

Melania – Yes.

Trump – You’ve enjoyed the accommodations?

Melania – I suppose.

Trump – Having my child?

Melania (testily) – Our child.

Trump – Enjoyed being in the limelight?

Melania – Nothing of what you’re saying discredits me.

Trump – If you think I’m morally corrupt, then you are too.

Melania – You’re in such a rush to put me down, aren’t you? But you overlook that I’ve been willing to work with you. You, who unlike me does not view marriage as a commitment to improve each other, no matter what the circumstances, known and unknown.

She walks off a few paces then turns to face him again.

Melania – Have I enjoyed the trappings of power? I have. But I am not cheering you on, am I? No, I am taking you to task as I should. As usual, though, you have trouble sorting out your personal discomfort.

He lowers his head as he joins his hands in front of him.

Trump – We’re cut from the same cloth, dear, and we might as well have fun with it.

She smiles wryly at him.

Melania – There’s a difference.

Trump – What would that be?

Melania – I’m going to do something about it.

He looks at her distrustfully.

Melania – That video clip that did not make you sick but did me and millions of Americans, showed you desperately wanting to be liked by Putin, and that goes well beyond allowing oneself to like someone because it might help transact business. What the clip showed was that, for some reason, you need to be liked by Putin.

Trump (irritated) – I don’t need to be liked by Putin!

Melania – Go back and watch the clip.

He closes his eyes and quiet follows.

Trump – You are wrong. Very wrong.

He goes back into the room at sits at the table. He leans forward, rubbing his face, then sits back.

Trump – I would never betray my country.

Melania – I know you wouldn’t. But Neville Chamberlain, in 1938, didn’t set out to betray England when he let Hitler talk him into trading part of Czechoslovakia for a promise of peace.

She returns to the table to join him. She takes a seat.

Trump – Why has there not been more of an uproar about what the clip showed?

Melania – There has been an uproar, you’re just growing deaf to public outcries. You prefer to listen to Fox News and talk to their commentators who tell you what you want to hear. And so, slowly, you’ve been slipping into a cocoon that others are too eager to provide.

You want a glass of cider?

He nods.

She goes into the closet and gets a bottle of cider and some low calorie crackers. She opens the bottle and serves the crackers. He pours the cider.

Trump – You want to have sex?

Melania – No.

Trump – Why not?

Melania – It would be a distraction. 

He sips from his glass.

Trump – Did you want to talk about Stormy Daniels?

Melania – We’ll get to that. We need to talk about your legitimacy as president.

Trump – My legitimacy?

Melania – Yes. We have reason to question it.

Trump – There’s no way of proving that the interference made a difference. It’s a witch hunt.

She picks up her glass and holds it up high.

Melania – ‘Please, carry on folks, as fast as you can, let’s clear the air. Do make haste, for the sake of the country, for there are many other things that need our attention and are being neglected.’

(then turning to Trump)

Will you ever be able to say that about the Mueller probe?

He shrugs dismissively.

Trump – We should talk about Stormy.

Melania – Stormy can wait. And Karen and whoever else.

Trump – Melania… I’m a flawed man and you’ve known it all along. And dammit, I’m innocent! I did not collude with Putin!

Melania – Then start acting like it!

They say nothing for a moment.

Melania – Openly criticizing staunch allies like Theresa May and Angela Merkel is harmful… and so is starting a needless trade war.

Trump – I need my war.

Melania -Sure you do. And you do to distract us from addressing your legitimacy. Bluster and blarney.

He rises and walk off a few paces.

Trump – Mueller will try and set me up.

Melania – You just don’t trust our institutions, do you?

Trump – Maybe I don’t.

Melania – And you do not trust yourself with Putin.

He turns around.

Melania – If you had trusted yourself, when the reporter asked the pointed question about Russian interference, you would’ve calmly turned to Putin, looked him in the eye, and said, ‘my intelligence services have established that there was interference from your nation in our elections, and it is them whom I believe.’

He shakes his head in disagreement.

Melania – And when the reporter pressed you for an answer to his second question, demanding you publicly warn Putin never to do it again, you could simply have replied, ‘the time and place for that is my prerogative. I make my choices. Thank you. Next question?’ And you could’ve done so with dignity because with your first answer you had taken the reins.

He turns and heads back to stand by the window, looking out.

Melania – But who knows what you said to him when you met in private, with only the translators.

They say nothing for a moment.

Melania – It’s a problem Dee… a big problem. If you don’t trust yourself, they why should we trust you?

He crosses to the foot of the bed where his jacket lies, picks it up and walks toward the door.

Trump – I’m going for a walk. Need to clear my head.

He exits.

Oscar Valdes.     Oscarvaldes.net.   Available in anchor.fm – apple podcasts and buzzsprout

Helsinki – The Play. Preface.

Photo by Gu Bra on Pexels.com

This play was written and published in 2018, soon after Trump and Putin’s conference in Helsinki. I will make it public in consecutive blogs and also in podcasts, anchor.fm, apple podcasts, buzzsprout etc.

Dear Mr Trump,

There is still time, dear sir,

For you to spark the dialogue

That will unleash the creativity

Now locked in bitter acrimony.

Still time, dear sir,

Not too late,

For you to govern from the center

And marshal the forces of the nation.

Nature loves diversity,

It experiments ceaselessly with difference,

Giving to each something unique,

And challenging us with each gift

To join forces in pursuit of a common,

Higher,

And transcendent good.

7/16/2018

Helsinki, Finland

Early in the day

Trump tweets – Our relationship with Russia has NEVER been worse, thanks to many years of US foolishness and stupidity and now, the Rigged Witch Hunt!

(the ‘rigged witch hunt’ is the president’s term for the Mueller probe – a US dept of Justice investigation assigned with the task of finding evidence of Russia’s interference with the 2016 election and if any obstruction by the Trump administration. It has been in progress since May 2017)

At the press conference following Trump and Putin’s meeting:

Reporter – (to president Trump) – … Do you hold Russia at all accountable for anything in particular? And if so, what would you, what would you consider them, that they are responsible for?

Trump – Yes, I do. I hold both countries responsible. I think that the United States has been foolish. We should’ve had this dialogue a long time ago, a long time, frankly, before I got to office. And I think we’re all to blame. I think that the United States now has stepped forward along with Russia, and we’re getting together and we have a chance to do some great things, whether it’s nuclear proliferation in terms of stopping – you have to do it, ultimately that’s probably the most important thing that we could be working on. But I do feel that we have both made some mistakes. I think that the… probe is a disaster for our country. I think it’s kept us apart, it’s kept us separated. There was no collusion at all….

Moments later, in response to a separate question, Vladimir Putin denies having anything to do with the election interference of 2016.

Reporter Jonathan Lemire then asks President Trump – Every US Intelligence has concluded that Russia did interfere. Who do you believe? Would you now, with the whole world watching, tell president Putin, would you denounce what happened in 2016 and would you warn him to never do it again.

Trump -… my people came to me, Dan Coats came to me and others, they said they think it’s Russia… I have president Putin… he just said it’s not Russia. I will say this… I don’t see any reason why it would be… I have confidence in both parties… I have great confidence in my intelligence people… but I will tell you that president Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today.

Questions and answers above as reported by the New York Times and The Washington Post.

The next day. The White House.

In response to criticism that he went easy on Putin, Trump says, “The sentence should have been, ‘I don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t be Russia’, sort of a double negative. So you can put that in and that probably clarifies things pretty good.’

Oscar Valdes.     Oscarvaldes.net.     

Lukashenko, the Belarusian Dictator, Talks to Roman Protasevich

Photo by Artem Podrez on Pexels.com

Aleksandr Lukashenko leads Protasevich to a private room, just the two of them, so he can have a face to face talk with the activist. They sit across each other, the moment tense. 

‘I forced your plane down… to have you make the confessions that you started mass unrest here in Minsk. I could do it and I did… but that doesn’t mean that I don’t admire you.’

Protasevich is surprised by the statement.

‘Yes, admire you,’ says Lukashenko. 

‘I admire… that when you were only 17 you started being an activist against my regime. At that young age, you had a strong belief that Belarus should be a free nation… not under the influence of Putin.’

Protasevich is surprised by Lukashenko’s candor. He lowers his head, not sure what to say. He now looks up at Lukashenko. ‘Do you want to stay under Putin’s influence?’

Lukashenko looks off, uncertain. 

‘I’ve not felt free as a leader… not felt like I could do what was right for Belarus.’

‘Why not?’ presses Protasevich. ‘What is stopping you?’

‘I’ve made mistakes… have not had advisers with independent minds… but that’s my fault.’

Sensing an opening, Protasevich leans forward, and as he eyes Lukashenko says, ‘You feel trapped?’

Lukashenko stares back at him.

‘I don’t even know why I’m having this conversation with you. I don’t have to. Do you understand?’

Lukashenko’s cold stare sends a wave of fear through Protasevich, but the activist holds his gaze. 

‘Maybe I do feel trapped…’ continues Lukashenko, ‘no way out for me… maybe life in a dacha near Moscow while Putin is alive. After that, who knows what.’

‘You could…’ begins Protasevich, tentatively… ‘decide to change course…’

Lukashenko frowns.

‘I mean…’ continues Protasevich, making bold, ‘you could ask to meet with the opposition’s representatives… and begin talks for a transition to democracy.’

Lukashenko pauses, reflecting, then leans forward with a hint of interest. ‘I’ve thought about it.’

Protasevich pushes on, ‘You worried about what Putin might say… or do?’

‘I suppose…’ answers Lukashenko.

‘What if… we guaranteed your safety.’

Lukashenko laughs as he sits back. ‘You can’t do that. Putin has long tentacles.’

The men stare at each other for a moment.

‘No… there is another way…’ restarts Lukashenko. ‘What I’d like to do is send word to the resistance… that I will begin to be more lenient… little by little… and maybe… in two years… we can have another election… but this next time… whatever happens, happens… I will not interfere… and if I lose, I’ll step down… but I’d like to have assurances that I won’t be sent to prison.’

Protasevich sits back.

‘What will Putin say?’

‘I’ll have to deal with him. There are risks, of course. But let that be my contribution to the process.’

Protasevich clasps his hands in front of him, conscious that he is witnessing a special moment.

‘I would like to speak only to you… only you will be my contact with the opposition,’ says Lukashenko.

Protasevich nods, intrigued by why he’s been chosen.

Lukashenko reads him accurately and says, ‘Why you? Because you have shown uncommon courage… and you love Belarus.’

Protasevich looks down at the ground, then, ‘Why now?’

Lukashenko stares at his strong hands as he pauses. ‘I don’t want to go down in history as Putin’s puppet.’

Then he extends his hand to Protasevich. ‘Do you accept?’

‘I do.’

The two men shake hands.

‘A security force will drive you and your girlfriend to the border with Lithuania tomorrow morning. We’ll be in touch. This conversation is to be kept secret, to be shared only with your top people. Or I will deny it.’

‘I understand,’ replies Protasevich.

Lukashenko rises and exits.

It could happen, couldn’t? Maybe it has. Maybe it will. We can only hope.

Oscar valdes     oscarvaldes.net

Available in apple and google podcasts, spotify, anchor.fm, buzzsprout.com and others.

Are We Letting Putin Get Away With It, Again?

Photo by Artem Podrez on Pexels.com

Earlier today, Sunday, a jet fighter from Belarus forced a Ryanair commercial plane flying over the country to redirect to Minsk, the Belarus capital. The commercial flight had departed from Athens, Greece and was en route to Vilnius in Lithuania. 

The Belarus regime, surely with the consent of Vladimir Putin, set up the ruse that a bomb was aboard the commercial flight and so needed to land immediately at the closest airport. 

But the whole thing was nothing more than a plot to capture 26 y/o Roman Protasevich, a Belarusian activist who had helped set up a Telegram channel with 1.5 million subscribers in his country, so that people could continue protesting the fraudulent reelection of Alexander Lukashenko in 2020.

It is a profound failure of European Union intelligence to not have protected Mr Protasevich, to not have warned him of the possibilities of flying over Belarus.

Officials in the EU have raised their voices in protest and so has Antony Blinken, America’s Secretary of State, who demanded the immediate release of Mr Protasevich, but watch how Putin, emboldened by the manner in which he has handled Alexei Navalny’s poisoning and imprisonment, will dance around the issue claiming no knowledge of the affair and state that Lukashenko acted independently in an effort to protect the passengers from the alleged bomb.

And the strong likelihood is that he will get away with it.

Immediate and strong punitive measures are in order, both against Lukashenko and Putin.

The European Union has to step up and see this blatant attack on civil liberties as what it is and not find ways to delay action.

Something about the efficacy of the West’s response against Putin’s transgressions has been fractured since Mr Trump’s election in America.

The cracks continue to widen. 

I can hear Putin in his palace saying, ‘here’s to you, Donald. If you could launch an attack on the US Capitol, surely I can snatch a dissident from the skies. Good luck in the midterms. And count on me for the next election.’

Will the European Union muster the courage to stand up to Putin?

Oscar Valdes. Oscarvaldes.net

Alexei Navalny Must End his Hunger Strike

Photo by Hayden Walker on Unsplash

Alexei Navalny, who’s been in prison since January after returning to Russia from Germany – where he was treated for poisoning with the nerve agent Novichok – went on a hunger strike at the end of March after prison authorities did not allow his family to visit him following his reports that he had developed back pain and loss of feeling in his legs.

The prison replied he’s receiving adequate medical care.

But two days ago, the Associated Press reported that a physician who reviewed lab results of Navalny’s brought to him by his family, says his blood levels of potassium and creatinine are elevated and puts the patient in danger of death.

Here’s the problem: Putin would not mind it one bit if Navalny dies.

But the Russian people would lose an important leader.

Supporters of Navalny should insist that he give up the hunger strike immediately.

There are fights that can’t be won and that is one of them.

The Russian people are not ready to go into an uproar if Navalny were to die now.

Much work remains to be done and for that Navalny has to be alive.

Who knows what will bring Russians out of the stupor they find themselves in, allowing a man like Putin to rule them since 1999.

But the movement that Navalny has led has been making progress, slowly confronting Russians with the denial they are stuck in.

His dying in prison won’t help.

Prisons are bad places. Who knows what kind of pressures Navalny is being subjected to by fellow prisoners at the behest of the government, which may have led to the hunger strike.

Navalny has to focus on staying alive, not gamble with his health.

His supporters need to act fast while there is still time.

The New York Times said yesterday that an open letter had been addressed to Putin by prominent personalities asking that Navalny be allowed the care needed immediately.

This morning, the Associated Press stated that demonstrations on Navalny’s behalf are planned for this weekend in Moscow and St Petersburg.

The hope is that Putin will acknowledge the request.

But there is a good chance he’ll drag his feet and, in the meantime, Navalny’s health will worsen.

I can imagine Putin in his private residence, sipping from a glass of fine wine, as he muses over the events, relishing his returning to the spotlight he so enjoyed while Trump was president.

Now Biden is getting all the attention.

‘And to think he dared call me a killer, on national television,’ says Putin to himself, referring to Biden, a feeling of bitterness rising in him. ‘And now they want me to be charitable with my enemies… their Trojan Horse… because that’s all that Navalny is, an American agent.’

He ponders the thought and then, smiling to himself, says ‘Dear Alexei… to think that I feared you would one day dethrone me.’

Putin long ago signed a pact with the Devil. He has aided the brutal repression in Burma, propped up Assad in Syria.

One day soon, the Russian people will awaken. Alexei Navalny has been trying hard to do that.

But he has to stay alive.

For that, he has to quit the hunger strike.

In addition to the letters of prominent people in his support, we must encourage the effort to have Navalny be pushed forward as the choice for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize.

Alexei Navalny, with his enormous courage, walks in the steps of Andrei Sakharov, the Russian physicist and human rights activist who won the same prize in 1975.

That award did much to raise the consciousness of the world and prepare the Russian people for the change that followed when the Soviet Union collapsed on December 26th 1991.

Oscarvaldes.net

Alexei Navalny. The Hope for a New Russia

Photo by Anna Shvets on Pexels.com

A man of enormous courage, who has for years campaigned against the corruption and despotism of the Russian government, deserves the world’s full support.

As of today, he is still in prison. And the sad likelihood is that Putin and his collaborators will make up new charges to prevent him from being released. Ever.

Why? Because Alexei Navalny is too much of a threat.

The mention of Navalny stirs up in Russians the possibility of a new and better world.

Putin cannot accept that.

A nation with a history of great achievements, has lain in a semi dormant state, unable to fully develop its tremendous capabilities, while under the control of Vladimir Putin.

Imagine for a moment, all that the Russian people could be contributing to the world, where they to be living in a political system that allowed for the free expression of ideas.

The arts would then blossom, and so would technology, industry and science.

The lights shining from Russia would be seen by all nations.

So, yes, we need people like Navalny to stir us up.

As we speak, in not far off Myanmar, a dictator is now butchering its people, shooting dissidents in the head. Why? Because he must remain in power.

In Hong Kong, protesters are being put in jail because Xi Jinping is convinced he must mold all Chinese in his own image.

In Xinjian province, the government has been forcibly reeducating Muslims so that they, too, become more Chinese.

Isn’t it amazing how some people can persuade others to remain silent, and surrender their ambitions of personal fulfillment, not just for a little while, but for a lifetime?

Putin could change this for Russians at any time. If he believes that most Russians are with him, then why not hold free elections and let them decide?

But he won’t because he’s afraid Russians will choose Navalny over him.

So he prefers to keep things under his control so he may govern until his death, maybe 20 or 30 years from now.

What’s lost in that deal? That generations of Russian people will not see their possibilities fulfilled.

But that is not a concern for Putin. Power is.

Just like it is for Xi Jinping. Or General Hlaing in Myanmar.

Putin will not step down from his position unless forced by ill health or the Russian people revolt.

So, yes, Alexey Navalny is a threat.

He is a threat because he has the courage to dream. For himself, for his beloved Russia and for all of us. He has become an inspiration to men and women the world over and so become part of us.

What a distinction. What an honor.

As stated in Wikipedia, ‘Navalny was nominated for the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize by multiple Norwegian members of parliament.[359][360] An Internet petition to the Nobel Committee in support of Mr. Navalny’s candidacy has been signed by over 38,000 people.[361]

I am here adding my name to such petition.

Oscarvaldes.net

Cc Editor of the New York times, the Washington Post, The Economist, Amnesty International.

The Best of Russia is Now in Prison

Alexei Navalny, the courageous political dissenter, was just sentenced to a 3 ½ prison term for not complying with the terms of his probation, which he could not because he was in a German hospital recovering from an attempt to kill him with the poison Novichok, a nerve agent available only to government agencies.

Russian authorities deny any involvement.

Governments across the world have called for his release.

What has Alexei Navalny been asking for?

The freedom for the Russian people to elect who they want.

That is all. And for that he is being punished.

All he has said and fought for, while putting himself in great danger, is that Russians should have a right to choose who is to govern them.

Vladimir Putin, who has been in power since 1999, says No.

No, because he believes he knows what is best for Russians. No, because he likes being president very much – he is now in his 4th term – and he would miss the office if he has to step down. No, because he is convinced he has all the answers for his people and why bother with elections, it is such a waste of time and energy. 

Alexei Navalny has dared to disagree. He says Russians are afraid of Putin and insists there is no way forward for the country but to overcome their fears and challenge him.

Of course, Mr Putin could, at any time, take a different position and say that he is willing to face Mr Navalny in an election, and let all Russians decide. He might even win. Russians may prefer to see him be president for life. But that is not what we’re seeing. What we’re seeing is that he would rather not take the chance.

Is he afraid he might lose?

That Alexei Navalny has faced his fears and started a protest movement shows that he is a special person. People like him are a gift to their people and to the world. A gift because they have dared where others have not. So they ought to be supported because their courage will make for a better life for the rest of us.

While he is in prison, someone else needs to step front and take over the leadership of the movement he’s started.

Russians should not stay quiet. Alexei Navalny lives in every Russian.

And every Russian has to find a way to free the Alexei Navalny that lives in them.

We, in the Free World, must do what we can to stand in solidarity with our Russian brothers and sisters.

We, in the Free World, must do what we can to keep Alexei Navalny alive.

Oscarvaldes.net oscarvaldes.medium.com oscarvaldes@widehumr

Letter writers of the Free World. Speak up!

Open Letter to Vladimir Putin

It is imperative that the life of Alexei Navalny be spared. He has proven himself a man of great courage in daring to expose corruption in your country and in his willingness to challenge you and your party in elections.

Russia is underperforming as a nation and it seems obvious that the restrictions to free speech and enterprise that your government enforces are the direct cause of it. The challenges to development that the world faces need the contribution of all available talent. Russia has a long history of great accomplishment in science, industry and the humanities. The world needs those contributions.

As of today, Mr Navalny remains incarcerated. He should be freed. He should be allowed to lead his political movement and offer alternatives to Russians.

Why is it that you’re afraid of what Mr Navalny represents?

You think he might defeat you in the elections? Then that would be the expression of the will of the Russian people. Why shouldn’t Russians have a right to express themselves freely?

Mr Navalny’s recent poisoning with the chemical Novichok was intended to kill him. It is a miracle that it didn’t. You denied your government’s involvement but why haven’t the guilty parties been found?

Do you think that the world will forget? It will not.

In the minds of the free citizens of the world you stand as a symbol of oppression not of enlightenment.

But it doesn’t have to stay that way. You could change course. You could hold free elections and let Mr Navalny run against you.

Wouldn’t that be truly revolutionary? Putin versus Navalny for the presidency of Russia.

As it is, you are running out of time. Persist in your current course and history will not be kind. It will remember you as a symbol of political backwardness.

But change your approach and your nation will move to a new level.

Dare to open your country politically and what will follow will likely astound the world and we will all be grateful.

Thank you

Oscarvaldes.net / oscarvaldes.medium.com / oscarvaldes@widehumr

Letter writers of the Free World, please join me in writing to Mr Putin in defense of Alexei Navalny.