By Steven G. Traylor
TODAY’S times have changed; or have they really?
The world, and especially eastern Europe, is familiar with the famous photograph of the Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev kissing Communist East German President and ally Erich Honecker. In 1979, Brezhnev visited East Germany on the anniversary of the founding of the Communist nation, for some normal political and trade talks. Along the way, love blossomed.
During the signing of a ten-year agreement of mutual support for “machinery and chemical equipment” to be supply to the Soviet Union, East Germany would receive “nuclear equipment” in return – the deal was cut between the two Commie powers. And like all successful business conclusions, vodka toasts and good cheer were exchanged between all ‘making the deal’.
Apparently, a simple contract is not enough in order to show support for each other – way back then. A file photo of a loving embrace between the two eventually became a mural that found its way onto the Berlin Wall that separated East from West Germany – depicting that important historical moment. The mural was only on the West Berlin side of the divide, however. East Germany was not interested in humour, back in those days.
In former eastern bloc and now EU and NATO member Lithuania, a street graffiti artist was commissioned in the capital Vilnius depicting Donald Trump passionately locking lips with Russian President Vladimir Putin that went viral on social media, showing a Trump and Putin love fest – like back in 1979. Business and love cannot be far away for Mr. Trump if he fails to win the necessary votes in November, which could be a message of things to come for the self-proclaimed multi-billionaire. Or more important, a reminder of the past that could be part of the future.
“It seems we have a new Cold War, and America may have a (possible) president who seeks friendship with Russia,” Dominykas Ceckauskas, who commissioned the giant mural on the outside wall of his burger restaurant, told AFP.
“We see many similarities between these two ‘heroes’ (Putin and Trump). They both have huge egos, and it’s amusing to see they are getting along well,” Dominykas said.
While relations between Washington and Moscow have been strained in recent years, Trump has befriended Putin, calling him “a powerful leader”. Putin in turn has hailed the “tremendous” Trump as “talented without any doubt.” Russian polls show Trump ‘’very well liked’’ by the Russian people, as a strong leader for the US. Putin’s approval ratings are above 85 percent.
For Lithuania and some eastern European nations – once behind the Iron Curtain, there are growing concerns about the criticism of NATO by the presumptive Republican presidential nominee. The western alliance is regarded as a key security guarantee, especially in the small Baltic States once under Moscow’s iron fist of Communist domination.
Today, the three Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia are protected as members of NATO, despite the fact that each EU county today has an ethnic population of over 30 percent Russians.
Trump is on record for telling NATO, “hey need to pay more” in order to meet the potential US Republican nominees’ policy of increased revenue from NATO member states; as the US is the largest financial contributor to the North American Treaty Organisation.
Putin has always been fearful of losing his “sphere of influence” especially countries boarding Russia – the Baltic States – and has called over the years for a breakup of the western security alliance. Revolution and bloody skirmishes have taken place in Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova, and most recently Armenia, where Russian influence is still a daily topic of discussion among the locals – EU and western world leaders too.
Putin has also said, “the breakup of the Soviet Union was the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century”, himself, a former East Germany spy – who speaks fluent German – and in Russian political power first as Prime Minister and currently President since 31 December, 1999. Putin’s current term last until 2018.
In the meantime, the die is being cast, as to whom some of the international friends and foes are of potential Republican candidate Donald Trump. US elections are now only six months away.
Prime Minister David Cameron has been quoted as saying about the American businessman turned politician, he is “divisive, stupid and wrong” in Trump’s criticism of banning Muslims from entering the United States. In turn, Trump has said that he might not have a “very good relationship” with Cameron after the prime minister described Trump’s proposal (now just “a suggestion” says Trump) to ban Muslims.
The US presidential hopeful also took a jab at the new London mayor, Sadiq Khan, for comments he made after being elected and warned: “I will remember those statements.” He challenged Khan to “take an IQ test” after the mayor called him “ignorant”.
He – Trump, famous for his book “The Art of the Deal” – will have to put all that he thinks he knows into his presidential run if he expects to be the next leader of the United States.
In the meantime, many see Trump’s presidential efforts simply an extension of his egotistical self-promotion – much to the determent of the US political process, on both sides of the political divide.
If not elected POTUS, many business opportunities could await ‘The Donald’ in Russia, but probably not Ukraine, a foe of Russia – especially following the Euro songfest outcome this past week and a political revolution in 2013, plus Russia’s annexation of the Crimea – don’t forget.
21st century creativity has been reincarnated in Lithuania, and for the world to see – the future will be part of the past.
Steven Traylor is a political contributor