…. Happy Holidays ahead…..!!! November 22, 2013

Author: us-russia
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…. Happy Holidays ahead…..!!! November 22, 2013
Published 25-11-2013, 07:36
…. Happy Holidays ahead…..!!! November 22, 2013Dear CCI Friends and Colleagues,

Has 2013 been a blur for you also? Time has sped up, events have happened so rapidly it's hard to keep up––and here we are nearly ready to start yet another year. My best wishes to you as we move toward the Holiday Season and into 2014!

The passing year has been very rewarding––the book tours have been so inspiring! I've gotten to know thousands of you in corners of our country (and Russia) who have really enriched my life this during these months. I've scheduled civic clubs, international groups, etc., but also have begun requesting meetings with University students and high school classes. I wish there was time to share some of our youths' perceptive questions and genuine concerns. What gives me a modicum of hope these days, is the vibrancy and serious intentions of our grassroots youth and middle-class American citizens. While our nation's top politicians are in disarray, wherever I go in America there are honest, committed, good-spirited people with heart-warming projects that are meeting critical needs locally. Perhaps this will be our saving grace in the challenging years just ahead!

Our September trip to Russia

…. included StPetersburg, Ekaterinburg, Chelyabinsk and Perm; the latter three cities are far from Moscow and StPetersburg, being out in the Ural Mountain region relatively close to where Siberia begins. St.Petersburg looks the same as it has since 2003 when renovation of the palaces, museums, 19th century buildings, imperial parks and boulevards were all but completed. The city sparkles day and night. Some of the old Soviet buildings still exist including apartment complexes, but for the most part, classy high-rise residential buildings have been built with others in stages of completion––they are within affordable range (some young singles are purchasing studio apartments in them). Many old Soviet buildings have been refaced with renovated interiors. Amazing that most of this has all happened in the past dozen years.

Ekaterinburg, Chelyabinsk and Perm were the cities that stunned me most. Below are a few of the 1500 photos taken by Jim Aneff, CCI's former National Field Director, who traveled with me to do long-term PEP evaluations in these regions. I had not traveled to these cities in four years. Changes there were astounding. I was told that Tyumen, Novosibirsk, Krasnoyarsk and other Siberian cities are at about the same level of development––I hope to go there next for evaluations. In the cities Jim and I were individually home hosted by separate Russian entrepreneurs' families. Jim, who hadn't been to Russia in seven years was stunned by the architecture and vibrancy of the Russian people and their cities. We visited with dynamic Rotary Clubs in Ekaterinburg and Perm. We traveled by air, train and cars and got a look at multiple levels of life, including villages. I wish the NYT would give me equal space that they devoted to their Russia reporter, Ellen Barry last month, when she wrote a long and putrid magazine article on "The Russia Left Behind" regarding Russia's villages. I wanted to rebut nearly every paragraph––and may yet. Here is a fraction of the new construction we saw in the Urals regions, including the largest food market we have ever seen anywhere, even in Texas! Note the stop sign in English.

Still Russia is reported in U.S. print and TV media as a backward, failing and suspicious country. The same with Putin; there is a complete inability to write anything good about Russia or Putin. During the book tours, I get the strangest questions re Russia; many are still locked into Cold War stereotypes––not because they aren't reading or watching the news, but because US media concentrates on the negative and apparently never registers anything positive.

-----------------------------

As I look over the spectrum of where we have come today as a nation and as a world, I'd like to mention what has become increasingly clear to me in 2013. For starters

I and all of us in America need to adjust to the fact that we are no longer living in a unipolar world; we are already living in a multi-polar world.

Other nations are coming up fairly quickly at a time when we are doing less well. It seems to me that major shifts starting in 2008 began to portend of future dynamics unlike anything that had been experienced since after WWII. The largest (and still all-consuming) shift came when the U.S. financial crisis became an abrupt fact -- and soon bled out into nearly every country in the world, thus destabilizing the banking systems, governments, and populations in other countries––and putting into question whether our U.S. system could be trusted in the future. Second in 2008 was America's rather covert test of Russia's military readiness, when Georgia (where sufficient U.S. military armaments and advisors were on ground) invaded the tiny breakaway republic of South Ossetia where Russia had been the UN-designated Peacekeeping Force since 1994. Russia moved quickly and pushed the invading Georgian force back to well within its borders. But unfortunate for our credibility rating, for two months Washington and U.S. mainstream media reported this five-day war as "Russia's invasion of Georgia"; European nations didn't choose to go along––they set up a European Commission to examine the facts. Within months they methodically showed the evidence that Georgia had indeed invaded South Ossetia. Open dishonesty was on display, and again it brought into question whether other countries in the future will be able to trust America. These and other less obvious international events have affected our reliability across the planet. Wikileaks created more doubt, then the NSA revelations seem to be endless––and are leaving America in a rather indefensible moral position. eBay's youthful billionaire owner just announced he's funding a new major "news network" to support top-end investigative journalists who have been denied access to America's mainstream media to date.It seems that everything that has been hidden will be out in the open in the near future.

Where does Russia and the U.S.-Russia policy fit into all of this?

U.S.-Russia relations are going through a period of adjustment as the year ends. It appears now with the approaching softening of attitudes toward Iran and Syria on the US side, meaningful change in the relationship and indeed cooperation may take place. Russia is coming up in the world––which many in power in Washington don't see as a positive outcome (since they fear something like the USSR may be created again––which is impossible), but nonetheless it stokes fires that get in the way of normal communications. On the positive side, the US and Russia have much in common and could be extremely helpful to each other in areas like working cooperatively to defeat terrorism, easing global warming, and addressing global food trends and shortages, etc. However, an overarching "cultural mediator" of sorts needs to be identified to work with these two nations to help them to understand the other's deeply-seated conditionings and unconscious responses and reactions, which produces aberrant surface logic and behaviors when they work together on issues. Americans and Russians come from centuries of totally opposite conditionings. As a result it is something like "Russia comes from Venus, and the US comes from Mars," and each side continues bullishly to think that the other needs to change! I deeply believe that there is no logic …no necessity…. to remain adversarial with Russia––that this relationship CAN BECOME COOPERATIVE! As with any relationship with different cultural conditioning; each side has to learn to understand and accept the other's background conditioning––there has to be give and take on both sides. For instance, I'm quite sure that Russia will respond positively on a number of issues, if we in America permanently back off from putting advanced missile systems near their borders(for which they have warned against for years now -- and which are scheduled to be installed soon). Would we permit Russia to put the equivalent in Canada or Mexico???

There are many aggravations between the two nations that need something like Rotary's FOUR WAY TEST (Is it the TRUTH, is it FAIR, does it create GOODWILL and FRIENDSHIP, and is it BENEFICIAL TO ALL CONCERNED) applied to them. For instance: How to sort out the the differing rationales behind dealing with issues like Syria? HAVE THEY BEEN TRUTHFUL WITH EACH OTHER? Another, allow free trade zones for both nations rather than creating "blocs" of nations to force the other to have fewer trading capacities. IS THIS FAIR? Accusing each other of assassinations, murders, mismanaging protesters, etc.; DOES THIS CREATE GOODWILL? Holding one country to expectations not held to by other ally countries: IS THIS BENEFICIAL TO ALL? In cases like Ukraine, where both the US and Russia are pressuring hard to convince Ukraine to join their regional trade coalitions; WHY CAN'T THE US and RUSSIA BOTH HELP UKRAINE TO GET THEIR ECONOMY AND PRODUCTIVITY TOGETHER? Within Ukraine, this pressuring is doomed to failure. A possible solution? That Ukraine could be divided: East Ukraine and West Ukraine––each with their own autonomy, borders, politics, religions, and persuasions. They are strikingly different from each other in mentality. Western Ukraine, which was formerly a part of Poland and Catholic by religion, legitimately desires to realign with Europe; Eastern Ukrainians are basically Russian extraction, take pride in their Russian heritage and souls––and are Russian Orthodox, so they naturally are comfortable allying with Russia. Keeping these two populations together, in my opinion, is asking for constant strife, both nationally and internationally (since the larger nations, Russia and the U.S., have their own agendas in this game). Each of these tit-for-tat situations between the US and Russia needs interventions or mediation experts––to insist that each must deal openly with honesty, fairness, and goodwill, and get to a compromise that is beneficial to both sides––and to the world. Do we have any global cultural mediators???? The world needs a fleet of them! The day of blocs and dividing the world up into camps should be over by now.

Russia has quite a few assets going for them now that their country has become fairly stable:

Russia is being recognized for having a fleet of young to mid-aged leaders who are long-term planners and global thinkers. They get quite a bit attention from international media for respecting other countries' sovereignty along with their political processes. This results from the new Russians' deep visceral disgust re the USSR's grabbing of other countries and holding them captive for decades––also remembering the USSR's devastating incursion into Afghanistan and their crushing defeat there. An indicator of Russia's current acceptance internationally, is that Forbes, Inc. gave their 2013's Most Powerful Leader in the World Award to President Putin; President Obama occupied this title for the past couple of years. Another is that China's new leader, Xi Jinping, made his "symbolic first visit to a foreign power," by going to Moscow this year to meet with President Putin (a first for China I hear). They signed multiple protocols. Last month it was Putin who brokered the deal between the U.S. and Syria, which halted the possibility of expanding another war in the Middle East powder keg. Further, he is determined to get Syria's biological weapons under the IACA. These are not small events internationally. As for Russia's top leaders, Sergei Lavrov, Russia's Minister of Foreign Affairs since 2004, is highly respected in international circles. Alexei Kudrin, Russia's Minister of Finances until 2011, has been recognized as one of the top financial heads in the world. He was awarded Finance Minister of Year in 2010 by the Europeans for his role in paying off Russia's huge foreign debt from the Yeltsin years, keeping Russia solvent, and negotiating Russia relatively safely through the 2008 financial crisis. Kudrin left his post in 2011 due to differences with President Medvedev, but is returning this month to serve in a new economic role in the Putin administration.

This brings me to final over-arching thoughts:

Since obviously our world is undergoing gargantuan and cataclysmic changes that we would have never expected in our lifetimes,

How can you and I work positively with the massive transition that appears to be afoot across our world today?

How can we shift our personal priorities and consuming to be in sync with the new reality we are all facing on the planet?

Since our American lifestyle has contributed significantly more than other countries to the adverse challenges facing the planet today,

It seems we need to ponder this situation quite seriously.

If we continue living as we have lived in the past years …. can anything change? Can catastrophes be avoided?

I've been asking myself, what am I willing to sacrifice in 2014 to support the changes needed for our country's and our planet's survival?

I think there is much we can do if we put our minds and hearts into creating solutions and drawing down our consumption levels.

So let's ponder these possibilities as we end this year––and challenge each other in new exciting directions as we begin 2014!

Happy Thanksgiving to you!!!

Sharon

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