Adam Michnik Speaks in Phoenix

???????????????????????????????Adam Michnik, editor-in-chief of Poland’s largest newspaper, the Gazeta Wyborcza, spoke October 24 at a Global Forum hosted by Phoenix College on Issues and Challenges to Global Peace in the 21st Century. The total focus was on the Ukraine and Putin.

???????????????????????????????I consider Mr. Michnik the Ben Bradlee of Poland, and his newspaper the equivalent of The Washington Post. Born into a family of communists, he was an ardent leader of anti-communism opposition in Poland in the 1970s and 1980’s and was imprisoned twice for his activities. Since 1990 he’s used the power of the pen as editor of the Warsaw newspaper. In other words, he’s big, really big. And . . . I got to meet him when he signed his latest book for me.

???????????????????????????????The other speakers were equally impressive. There’s sort of a high that comes from being in a room of such, sharp, smart and informed people. Linda Wetzel, a former manager and analyst of the USSR and Russia for the CIA really helped put Putin in perspective from a Russian perspective. She very clearly delineated the difference between intelligence gatherers, and policy makers who act on the intelligence. Mark von Hagen, a professor of History and Global Studies at Arizona State University spoke on a panel discussion. He is considered a leading national authority on Ukraine. Albert Celoza, Liberal Arts Department Chair and full-time faculty for World Religions and Political Sciences courses at Phoenix College rounded out the panel.

My undergraduate degree focused on political science and English literature. After yesterday’s forum I almost want to go back to school. So what are some of the key facts/information I gleaned. Well, Putin is immensely popular in Russia, enjoying over 80% popularity. He plays to the sense of ethnic Russians, Russian pride, and the sense of regaining more world status in the post-Soviet world. One analyst pointed out he is a fan of judo and former KGB. As such one of the strategies of judo is go for the weak point and avoid the strengths of an opponent. I thought it was an interesting twist and way to analyze someone. Do not underestimate the resilience of Russians and remember that Putin has also succeeded in keeping the Ukraine out of both the European Union and NATO.

Panel members agreed that one of the biggest threats to Putin is economic. A high percentage of Russia’s national income is based on oil/petroleum. With sanctions in place, Russia is feeling the pain. Capital flight, e.g. companies and business investments are leaving Russian, the worldwide price for oil and gas is dropping, and in the Crimea, tourism has all but stopped. The economic impact is huge on a country that depends on tourism for its income. A hungry, or unemployed populace loses respect for their leaders.

The Ukraine has significant value to Russia. Kiev, the capital of Ukraine is the ‘heart’ of Russian history. A huge foundry in Ukraine supplies a weaponry to Russia. Or used to. Michnik interviewed Putin in 2002. He considered him suave; but how to filter and assess the information and know if you’re being played or not, well that’s a different issue.


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Tags: Notable Poles, Poland, Polish Current Events

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