This election year has been so peculiar that it is easy to overlook some unusual events.
At the United Nations, a prominent official lambasted a U.S. major party presidential nominee and he was in turn told to shut up by the Russian ambassador to the U.N.
In September, Prince Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, gave a speech attacking Donald Trump and the leaders of ethno-nationalist far right parties of Europe.
Zeid denounced the racial and religious bigoted language of Trump, Geert Wilders (the Dutch politician who has promised to close mosques and ban the Koran if elected), Viktor Orban (the Hungarian prime minister), Marine Le Pen (the far-right candidate for president of France) and Nigel Farage, (who led the Brexit campaign in the U.K.).
The prince said the rhetoric of these politicians is a mirror image of the xenophobic Islamic State terrorists. “All seek in varying degrees to recover a past, halcyon and so pure in form, where sunlit fields are settled by peoples united by ethnicity or religion — living peacefully in isolation, pilots of their fate, free of crime, foreign influence and war,” he said. “A past that most certainly, in reality, did not exist anywhere, ever.”
Zeid, who is a member of the Jordanian royal family born to a Swedish mother, also remarked: “I am a Muslim, who is, confusingly to racists, also white-skinned; whose mother is European and father, Arab.”
Zeid first referred to Trump as a threat in April during an address to the Case Western Reserve University School of Law in Cleveland.
“Less than 150 miles away from where I speak, a front-running candidate to be president of this country declared, just a few months ago, his enthusiastic support for torture,” the human rights chief said. “We have heard hateful slander of foreigners, and multiple candidates declaring their support for extensive and intrusive surveillance of people based on their religious beliefs — vast and discriminatory systems to single out and discriminate against Muslims.”
“We have seen a full-frontal attack — disguised as courageous taboo-busting,” he added, “on some fundamental, hard-won tenets of decency and social cohesion that have come to be accepted by American society.”
In response to Zeid’s remarks, Russia’s ambassador to the U.N., Vitaly Churkin, delivered a démarche — a form of diplomatic protest — to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon last month. “Prince Zeid is overstepping his limits from time to time and we’re unhappy about it,” he said. An unnamed senior U.N. diplomat told The Associated Press that Churkin specifically “condemned the fact that Zeid mentioned Trump.”
What’s going on? Relations between the U.S. and Russia have rapidly deteriorated due to a number of issues such as competing military operations in Syria, disagreements about Eastern European independence and charges of computer hacking. The U.S. government has officially accused the Russian government of meddling in the election.
Vladimir Putin has suddenly walked away from an agreement on the disposal of weapons-grade plutonium, has deployed sophisticated anti-aircraft weapons to Syria and redeployed long-range ballistic missiles to Russia’s Baltic enclave of Kaliningrad.
New Yorker Moscow correspondent Joshua Yaffa reported October 14 on a pumped-up war hysteria in Russia: “A viewer of Russian television this week could be forgiven for thinking that the end of the world was imminent, and that it would arrive in the form of grand superpower war with the United States, culminating in a suicidal exchange of nuclear weapons.”
One day, there were three separate test firings of intercontinental ballistic missiles broadcast on state media. On another TV channel under effective state control, a story was aired on emergency preparedness that included a tour of a Cold War-era bomb shelter, fortified in case of atomic war, and a mention of city loudspeakers that will sound upon the arrival of “Hour X.”
The New York Times reports that recently the Russian government conducted civil defense exercises involving about 40 million people including 200,000 rescue workers and 50,000 specialized vehicles.
What’s going on? Russian journalist Alexander Golts told Yaffa that “Russia entered into this new Cold War without the resources the Soviet Union once had. But what does Russia have? It has nuclear weapons. So it must constantly convince the United States, and the West as a whole, that it is a little crazy.”
Yaffa and New York Times correspondent Neil MacFarquhar suggest that Putin is creating new facts on the ground in Syria and the Baltics before the next U.S. president is sworn into office.
We are living in an increasingly multi-polar world where U.S. power is being challenged. After Putin massively intervened in Syria, he met with leaders of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, Turkey and Israel. If Trump becomes president, he will soon find out that Putin’s first priority is to Make Russia Great Again. If Trump finds out that Putin thinks he’s sort of a doofus, he might nuke Moscow.
This opinion column does not necessarily reflect the views of Boulder Weekly.