LETTER: ‘We have much work to do’
My wife and I just returned from a cruise (to celebrate our 45th wedding anniversary) in the Baltic's. One of the ports was St. Petersburg, Russia, where we spent two days.
Prior to taking the cruise, we searched the internet for a suitable guide and decided on a 30 year old student/teacher who was just finishing up her doctoral thesis on Russian History. "Katia" proved to be a good choice.
After tiring of the palaces and museums, we asked her to take us to the suburbs of St. Petersburg so we could see how average Russians were doing. She obliged and we were soon checking out several neighborhoods, eating at an out of the way restaurant, visiting a couple of grocery stores a version of Home Depot as we as a small neighborhood Orthodox Chapel. After two afternoons of this, we came to the following conclusions.
Russia is one if the cleanest countries we visited, including Germany. No trash anywhere, no graffiti no junk lying around.
Russia is booming economically. New and reconstruction is everywhere. The shoddy construction of the ‘50s and ‘60s is all but gone. The Stalin-era buildings are being renovated and modernized. Whole new (very modern) neighborhoods are being built for Russia's growing middle class.
High-end cars are commonplace. Mercedes, BMW's, Range Rovers, Audi's, Lexus, and others fill the streets. Sure, not everyone drives a high end vehicle, but there are few, if any, clunkers to be seen.
The Russian people like Americans. Most speak at least some English. Many are fluent, especially if they are under 40. A large number have visited or studied in America. They consider themselves Western in much of their culture and way of life.
Some are openly critical of Putin and proudly state they didn't vote for him in the last election. That said, almost everyone we spoke with said the absolutely believe Putin loves Russia and is doing all he can to improve things for all the Russian people. They trust him, even if they don't agree with everything he does.
I could go on and on, but you get the picture. When I asked about Obama, things quieted down a bit. They see him as an incompetent at best. The question I heard over and over again was "why won't Obama have his best people sit down with Russia's best folks and map out a plan for both economic as well as political interests that would work for everyone? Why does he make threats that he obviously has no intention of making good on? Why did he get re-elected after so many failures in his first term?
The Russian folks are pretty savvy when it comes to world affairs.
Now, here's the point. We are being passed over for strategic alliances and partnerships and seen as incompetent, lazy and stupid by much of the Western World. America, under Obama is viewed as weak and devoid of direction. Few take us seriously any longer when it comes to influence or competence on substantive issues.
Most of the Western World no longer trusts us.
We have much work too do before November of this year and before November of 2016. If Hillary succeeds Obama, America will go down in flames.