It’s a question I have been asked several times, even going back to when we moved here in 2016. From time to time folks still ask me. Recently in one of our regular phone conversations my mother asked the question in a very serious tone. The next day another relative asked me. I guess they had been talking about it. I usually try to give an honest but generic answer: I don’t know the future. I’ve lived long enough to realize that life can change in an instant because of many different and unforeseen reasons. Nevertheless, I felt bad about evading my mom’s question. And it started me to thinking about the things that would be very problematic if we thought about returning to America. I’ll divide them into political and personal, although the division is a bit artificial for us.
POLITICAL. Not long after my conversation with mom, the House Impeachment Inquiry about Trump’s conversation with the Ukrainian president started. I feel when you are an American living in Russia, it is a good idea to keep up with international politics. Still, I had no intention of getting absorbed in it since I don’t live in Ukraine, and I honestly felt it was “much ado about nothing,” especially given the Biden family’s long and twisted history with Ukraine. Nevertheless, it wasn’t long before I realized the telephone conversation was not actually the focus of the first witnesses’ testimonies, The fact is they did not even hear the conversation.
Suddenly Russia was the “front and center” topic of the so-called testimonies. George Kent and William Taylor were the first two witnesses I saw. I could not believe the bald faced lies in the first “testimony.” According to Kent Russia had invaded Ukraine, and the loss of 13,000 Ukrainian lives resulted from evil Russia’s aggression. No, thousands of Ukrainians in eastern Ukraine were killed by other Ukrainians armed with weapons they got from the U.S. I could go on, but I think a couple of paragraphs on Kent and Taylor from Robert Merry’s article in “The American Conservative” sum it up well.
>>But these men embrace a geopolitical outlook that is simplistic, foolhardy, and dangerous. Perhaps no serious blame should accrue to them, since it is the same geopolitical outlook embraced and enforced by pretty much the entire foreign policy establishment, of which these men are mere loyal apparatchiks. And yet they are playing their part in pushing a foreign policy that is directing America towards a very possible disaster.
Neither man manifested even an inkling of an understanding of what kind of game the United States is playing with Ukraine. Neither gave even a nod to the long, complex relationship between Ukraine and Russia. Neither seemed to understand either the substance or the intensity of Russia’s geopolitical interests along its own borders or the likely consequences of increasing U.S. meddling in what for centuries has been part of Russia’s sphere of influence.<<
As more “experts” were called the lies continued. I posted an article on Facebook from “Consortium News” by one of the “greybeards” left over from the Reagan years (and before), Ray McGovern. There are actually two recent articles by him I recommend. First, on the lying by Fiona Hill during the inquiry see, https://consortiumnews.com/2019/11/22/ray-mcgovern-the-pitfalls-of-a-pit-bull-russophobe/?fbclid=IwAR1z1lxEXaTwX1td8qZ3TvIw4vKnoff_goL4DLUJZ1zFMVUToH20mrt1ctU. I have mentioned before understanding the history of Ukraine is very difficult. It’s not that Ukraine has a long history as a “state.” It doesn’t. The difficulty is sorting through the many and varied influences on its development over the years. I have read books on Ukrainian history, but I still get confused over the interplay between the different factions. McGovern, a long time REAL expert on that part of the world, wrote a very helpful and relatively brief article that summarized Ukraine and its history, including Crimea, that I hope many will read: It is aptly called “Ukraine for Dummies.” See https://consortiumnews.com/2019/11/14/ray-mcgovern-ukraine-for-dummies/
I finally decided it was not in the interest of my emotional health to continue watching whatever this impeachment inquiry actually was. My main question was left unanswered. I realize a House Inquiry is not a trial as it will be if it goes to the Senate. Still, why did they start by calling as “witnesses” those who could not testify as to having any direct knowledge of the conversation which was ostensibly what motivated them to call for impeachment? Second, how did they go from the topic of Trump’s conversation with Volodymyr Zelensky to broad ranging (and deceptive) testimonies about Russia and Vladimir Putin? How was Russia even involved in this conversation let alone the subject of long rambling statements by these people who are considered experts but apparently have no knowledge of the dismantling of the USSR? Do they realize Ukraine was part of the USSR? The Democrats I saw beforehand talked of impeaching Trump because of the “quid pro quo” linkage of demanding Ukraine investigate the Biden family’s financial and political interests in Ukraine before we (the U.S.) would send weapons to them. The witnesses seemed to know nothing about that.
As far as allegiances for and against Putin and Russia, Ukrainians have been simplistically, albeit helpfully, divided between “left bank” and “right bank.” If you imagine yourself standing on the northern border of Ukraine and looking south down its longest river that winds roughly through the center of the country, the Dnieper River, you could do a generalized division of the cultures as they pertain to Russia. Those on the “left bank” (to the east) would probably speak Russian as their first language, would worship in the Russian Orthodox Church if they are religious, and would basically live life as most Russians do. They would also probably wish for good relations with Russia. On the other hand, those on the right bank (and to the western border) would probably speak Ukrainian or one of the other languages spoken there. They may have Ukrainian, German, Polish or other ancestry, but they would be less likely to have positive impressions of Russia.
For quite some time the U.S. has had positive relations with those in power in Ukraine who oppose “Russian aggression.” This is changing as it is becoming clear to many astute observers on this side of the Atlantic that while the U.S. may seem that it is trying to be helpful and wants to supply money, arms, etc., in order to spread democracy, it “ain’t necessarily so.” From Libya, Iraq and the fact Ukraine’s economy is now the lowest in Europe since American began “helping out,” many have learned America may have its own self-serving agenda. The United States supported a coup in Ukraine with the convoluted explanation that they were helping spread democracy. A country who helps overthrow a duly elected president is not trying to spread democracy, no matter how loud they proclaim said president is corrupt. Is there any politician more corrupt than Victor Poroshenko—or the United States’ all time favorite Russian leader Boris Yeltsin?
In an article that appeared in “The NY Times” (November 13, 2019), Ukrainian billionaire, Igor Kolomoisky, a long time supporter of the new president, Zelensky, and long time adversary of Vladimir Putin, announced he now advocates a Warsaw type pact between Russia and Ukraine. This guy has said really nasty things about Putin in the past and poured millions into opposing Russia, but now he wants a joint treaty with them. I had read an earlier interview with him just after the Ukrainian election of Zelensky wherein I was surprised Kolomoisky sounded so anti-American. Now, he openly states that it is in Ukraine’s best interest to work with Russia—not the United States. This guy is very rich and very influential. That interview was not mentioned in the Trump impeachment hearings.
On the other hand, while I think Trump is not nearly as pro-war and anti-diplomacy as the current leading Democratic candidates, I cannot in good conscience put on a MAGA hat. On Nov. 9 his Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, was in Berlin. His speech was more of the same Russia-bashing one hears from the Democrats in the impeachment inquiry.
>>Today, Russia – led by a former KGB officer stationed in Dresden ‒ invades its neighbors and slays political opponents. It suppresses the independence of the Orthodox Church in Ukraine. Russian authorities, even as we speak, use police raids and torture against Crimean Tatars and Ukrainians who are working in opposition to Russian aggression. In Chechnya, anyone considered “undesirable” by the authorities simply disappears.<<
Remember: This is from the man who recently boasted of learning how to lie and teach others how to lie when he was in the CIA. So the fact that he is openly lying in Germany should not surprise. Nora Muller asked him after his speech about what she had been told in Syria—that many are saying it is better to seek good relations with Russia than the United States. Pompeo angrily dismissed this view as “irrational.” He was being as nasty as possible about Russia because the United States has tried in every possible way to stop Nord Stream 2. Nord Stream 2 is a pipeline that would double the amount of natural gas Russia could supply to Germany and then other EU countries. The U.S. fears good trade relationships between Western Europe and Russia will destroy the “narrative” about evil Russia, and these nations will be less dependent on America and more dependent on Russia. Pompeo’s anti-Russian rant fell on deaf ears. Nord Stream 2 is still on track to open in a few weeks.
Last month Denmark gave official permission for the last segment to be completed across their “territory” under the Baltic Sea. The pipeline should be completed by the end of the year. Now Western Europe will get high quality natural gas from Russia at affordable pricing. Further, Russia will not be forced to put up with Ukraine siphoning off its gas as it goes through Ukraine to Europe. Ukraine is now no longer necessary to move the gas. Ukraine will be obsolete and will have to deal honestly with Russia and pay its bills. So even anti-Russian oligarchs are saying Ukraine should link up with Russia. Rather than diplomacy, which seems beyond Pompeo’s intellectual grasp, he continues the fall back position of ranting about the evils of Russia. Europe is no longer falling for it, and it’s getting old.
My point is this: From both sides of the proverbial political aisle in America, powerful people continue to sow as much animosity toward Russia as possible. The Mueller report found nothing, despite what had been promised. Trump said he would drain the swamp, but there are some nasty swamp rats in his own circle of advisers. He replaced John Bolton with Robert O’Brien, who is a Bolton cut-out without the tacky mustache and idiotic grin. Trump said late in 2018 we were getting out of Syria. Bolton quickly jumped in and “corrected” this misinformation. This fall Trump again made it very clear we were pulling back and eventually getting out. But then the military establishment jumped in with both feet from both parties. Both Hillary Clinton and Lindsey Graham could not wait to condemn his “abandonment” of the Kurds. Most Americans have no idea who the Kurds are. They are hardly a monolithic group. They range from good people to barbaric terrorists. The way Graham described them as such long time faithful allies of America you would think the Kurds were paddling the boat when George Washington crossed the Delaware River. The Kurds are our “allies” as long as we give them uniforms and weapons. That is their “loyalty” to America.
Nevertheless, Trump backed down. Not only did he back down, he sent our troops to take over Syrian oil wells. He even said he wanted Exxon or another American oil company to come in and manage them. So America gets to take over another country’s oil fields because….oh yeah, we’re spreading democracy. Contrast the views expressed by candidate Donald Trump in 2016. Make sure you watch to the end and see how sweet the CBS folks are to him. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C38toRT3_-0
The U.S. is in Syria against international law. We claim we are protecting the oil wells from ISIS. No, we’re not. Syria and their legally invited ally, Russia, are fully capable of that. Further, ISIS did not exist until Barack Obama sent our troops into Syria. Of course, the 30 day stay Obama promised has turned into 5 years, and now we have decided their oil fields belong in our care. Wonder why they have terrorists over there. Nevertheless, given the massive U.S. media campaign to demonize Assad, the majority of Americans believe we’re justified. There has been no evidence Assad ever tried to “gas” his own people, but the overwhelming majority of Americans will never be informed of that uncomfortable fact. Both political parties and the MSM from all the major networks keep it quiet.
I don’t get my information from Russian news outlets. Oh, I try to keep up with the news here, but that is not where I get my information. I follow reporters—professional and non-professional—who are actually in the countries I try to learn about. I’ve mentioned Janice Kortkamp and Tom Duggan in Syria before. Janice is American; Tom is British. Also, Eva Karene Bartlett has been there, as well as other “hot spots,” and she reports what she sees and hears. I trust Consortium News for analysis, which is basically retired intelligence professionals like Ray McGovern. I also read Philip Giraldi and Lawrence Wilkerson (also a South Carolinian—more reliable than Lindsey Graham for sure). Old politicians like Pat Buchanan and Ron Paul also have good observations. These people, however, are not the people to whom most Americans look for information on international events. Sadly, most Americans do not even know who I am talking about. More unfortunately, the people they look to are lying. Thus, I really don’t fit in with any major political perspectives in America.
THE PERSONAL. The other dimension for our reluctance to ever return permanently to America is more immediate. Our major source of income is my Social Security check. We do a little part time teaching, but that is more to help out the English school than to rake in big bucks. Here we live comfortably. Our house is paid for. We still have some debt on our credit card from extra work we had done on the house, but that should be paid off in no more than a couple months. Living debt free for a family of five (with one son in college) on Social Security would not be possible in America. We don’t splurge much, but we don’t pinch pennies—or rubles—either.
I’ve written so much before about the traditional morals here in contrast to what is going on in America, that I will only mention that continues to be a factor in where we want our children educated and socialized. It has surprised me that when I read what traditional Americans like me are saying about the decline of morals in America, they do so in such a way that indicates the whole world is in moral decline or abdicating traditional morals. No, what is happening in America and Western Europe is not happening everywhere. It is not happening here in Russia. An excerpt from Putin’s speech at the Valdai International Conference a couple of years ago shows what I mean. Putin said:
“We see that many Euro-Atlantic states have taken the way where they deny or reject their own roots, including their own Christian roots which form the basis of Western civilization. In these countries the moral basis and any traditional identity are being denied—national, religious, cultural, and even gender identities are being denied or relativised. There, politics treats a family with many children as juridically equal to a homosexual partnership; faith in God is equal to faith in Satan. The excesses and exaggerations of political correctness in these countries indeed lead to serious consideration for the legitimization of parties that promote the propaganda of pedophilia.”
I realize there are those in America who applaud the changes that have been going on and the move away from traditional values and morals. They certainly have a right to their views and reasons to be joyful about the changes for what they see are better and more open standards. But those who lament the departure of America from traditional values should understand this is not a worldwide phenomenon. These individuals tend to hold on to the “America is the savior of the world” mentality that is not longer tenable. I am not sure how we would fit back into such a culture.
Health care and finances are another area I have mentioned. Gabriel and Marina Grace have been sick this past week. They came down with bronchitis, which was going around. Oksana took both Gabriel and Marina Grace to the pediatrician. The doctor charged her for Gabriel, but wouldn’t charge her for both of them. Then Oksana took them back for a re-check and to have further tests done because they were fearing pneumonia could have developed. The doctor charged for the tests, but not for the re-check. Her total charge for both office visits was $11.58. The x-rays were $15.00 and the blood tests were about $12.00. Two office visits for two kids, plus x-rays and blood tests for Gabriel would have been an economic disaster right before Christmas if we were living in America. I do not want to go back to the paralysis of living in perpetual debt.
CONCLUSION. I have a concern (fear?) of what life would be like for my Russian-American family in the States given the possible fall out from the political situation. Vladimir Putin is not waiting with bated breath to invade Ukraine or any other country. Why would he want to take over a country with the debt as huge as Ukraine, given Russia has just paid off the lingering “Soviet” debt? I watched the interview with Maria Butina, the Russian lady who was arrested in the United States and kept in solitary confinement for a year and a half. All she was guilty of was being a Russian and a gun rights supporter. https://yandex.ru/video/preview?filmId=1807381273084603644&text=Maria%20Butina%20speaks%20to%20RT&noreask=1&path=wizard&parent-reqid=1574679423112341-185110717466526656300124-sas1-1958&redircnt=1574679434.1 The political clash between Russia and America, a clash that America has initiated and maintains, is very personal and fearful for us.
My kids are becoming more comfortable speaking Russian than English. Sometimes little Marina Grace says things in such a way I know she’s thinking in Russian even when she’s speaking to me in English. She asked me in English last week, “Daddy, what time did I stand this morning?” The verb referring to getting out of bed in the morning is the same verb for “to stand” in Russian. What would she face back in America? We’re not even talking about the “trans” bathroom problems.
For many people the political debates can be put on the proverbial shelf. They either say they don’t know who or what to believe or, more commonly, that I don’t really understand how awful Russia is. They haven’t been here, have never studied it beyond what they see on TV, but they are sure that Rachel Maddow or Mike Pompeo must know so much more than I do about Russia. But their wife and kids don’t carry a Russian passport. And life is good here. There is no dictator. I don’t fear Russia squelching my free speech whether vocal or on the i-net. No one hates me because I’m American. I am not afraid of the Russian police grabbing me. I don’t know if life would go as well if we returned to America.
I’ve stated many times the worst part about living in Russia is missing family and friends. The climate does not bother me; the food is good; I’m getting better at speaking the language. I’m even reading Anna Karenina in Russian now! (Okay, it’s a simplified version with some of the big words translated. And I’m reading it as Oksana tutors me, but I think it still counts!) But Marina will ask if we can go see Mama Freeman today or “Can we go up to Uncle Eddie and Aunt Jean’s house?” (My brother and his wife.) She named her favorite doll, “Anna Kate” after my son’s daughter in America. So, yeah, we all miss America a lot. But not enough to risk a return.
Last week we observed the sad anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. It has been 56 years. When he ran for president it created quite a stir in the American south. South Carolina, like most southern states at the time, had been solidly Democrat. Yet Kennedy, the Democratic nominee, came from very wealthy Massachusetts society. He was “upper crust,” and it was very different from where we lived in rural South Carolina. His accent was, well, different. More importantly than that, for my devoutly Baptist family, he was solidly Roman Catholic. My dad was an open-minded and open-hearted man in many ways. It was when segregation and racism reigned in much of South Carolina. Yet I never heard my dad utter a racial slur or tell a racist joke. I saw him treat black people with the same patience and kindness with which he treated everyone else. But he would not vote for a Catholic. He calmly told me Catholics must follow what the Pope says, and he didn’t think our president should be under the authority of the Pope. He supported Goldwater.
I remember where I was when Kennedy was shot. I was in the 4th grade at Keowee Elementary school. The principal, Miss Holloman, came and told our teacher, Mrs. Kelly, that Kennedy had been shot. We were getting our books packed to go home, and just before the final bell she told us he had died. When I got home my mom and dad were sitting squarely in front of the TV watching the news come in. Mom had tears running down her face. Dad looked like he had been kicked in the stomach. He just kept shaking his head in silence. I was confused. They didn’t vote for Kennedy, but you would have thought a family member had just died. I expressed my confusion to my dad. He said, “Son, he was our President. The President of the United States, our country, was shot down like a dog in the street. It’s just awful.”
I came away believing that what united us as Americans was more important than political parties, votes or what you think of who is in office. Our little Southern Baptist church got together and prayed. Everyone did. It really didn’t matter who you voted for. No one even asked. As I watched the House Inquiry last week I started thinking about Kennedy’s death. As Adam Schiff maneuvered the inquiry, I saw a nation that has lost something. Something very important. It’s just not the same. I fear what has been lost cannot be recovered