"Sometimes democracy allows the will of the people to become state policy:
this eventful weekend on Capitol Hill in Washington and in Slovakia"
By Gilbert Doctorow, gilbertdoctorow.com (October 1, 2023)
It may be premature to speak of the end of the Ukraine war coming thanks to Western governments withdrawing support from the corrupt, autocratic regime in Kiev, so that its military collapses in the space of weeks. However, two key political developments yesterday, two exercises in representative democracy by which majority views in the broad electorate took control of the number one foreign affairs issue, suggest that the end of the ignorant, cynical and self-destructive policies crafted by our governing elites may be coming sooner than many of us had dared to hope.
I begin with the parliamentary elections in Slovakia which saw the qualified victory of Robert Fico, former prime minister, who has vowed to oppose NATO support for Ukraine and, using words that caught public attention, “not to send one bullet more to Ukraine.” He also has been a vocal critic of the sanctions imposed on Russia by the EU, seeking a return to normal state to state relations. His key opponent in the race, Michal Šimečka, heads the Progressive Slovakia party and is a Member of the European Parliament, where he sits in the Renew Europe bloc. For those who do not follow EP politics closely, Renew Europe is a grouping of the MEPs from France who had been swept to power by Emanuel Macron’s first presidential victory together with viciously anti-Russian MEPs known as the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE), headed by former Belgian prime minister Guy Verhofstadt. . Šimečka’s political platform was strongly pro-EU, pro-sanctions, and pro NATO, that is to say demanding more military and financial support to Kiev.
I say that Mr. Fico has made a “qualified” victory, because his party, Smer, won just under 23% of the vote. Šimečka’s party captured 18% of the vote. The remaining votes went to an array of still smaller parties. This result gives Fico the opportunity as front runner to forge deals with a number of the smaller parties and form a governing coalition.
While the formation of a Fico government and its implementation of the policies that won him voter support cannot be taken for granted, his first place position following the vote has shaken the major media defenders of the present world order. Raphael Minder, Central Europe correspondent of The Financial Times, tells us in an article published this morning:
“Slovakia’s snap election had raised alarm bells in Washington and Brussels, which feared that Fico’s return to power would bring another anti-Ukraine voice into the EU alongside Hungary’s prime minister Viktor Orban. Fico has opposed sanctions against Russia and also claims that Nato-led support for Ukraine undermines national sovereignty.”
Those alarm bells were surely ringing in the editorial offices of his newspaper at still higher decibels judging by their string of articles in days before the balloting hoping against hope that Fico would lose.
So far there is not a word about the Slovak election in The New York Times. Editors there are probably still considering what spin to put on this bad news.
The other key development yesterday with respect to Ukraine was the passage and signing into law of a bill on temporary funding for the U.S. federal government that jettisoned provisions for further aid to Ukraine. By the time the agreement was reached on this final redaction of the bill, just hours remained before a federal shutdown would be declared, leading to possible serious impairment of U.S. standing as a stable democracy that honors its financial obligations. And such impairment has material consequences in terms of the marketability of government debt and interest to be paid.
Accordingly, the pressure to achieve a compromise between seemingly irreconcilable positions of the parties in both houses of Congress was enormous. On the one side, there were the Republicans who sought swinging cutbacks in government programs generally to keep the deficit under tighter control, with rejection of further aid to Ukraine as a sub-issue. On the other side were the big-spending Democrats who follow Biden’s line on giving aid to Ukraine ‘for as long as it takes.’ The 12th hour settlement they reached provides for a 45 day extension of government operations at the current budgetary levels but removes aid to Ukraine.
It bears mention that the denial of aid to Ukraine went directly against the wishes of the pro-war Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell. That is to say, Republican party leaders are determined supporters of Zelensky. The removal of Ukraine aid was a bottom-up victory of the Republican Senators who listen to their voters.
We have witnessed that rare moment when the people influence what their politicians do. The poll figures with respect to further military and financial aid to Ukraine have been known for weeks. Fifty-five percent of voter-age Americans opposes further aid. But more than 70% of registered Republicans oppose aid to Ukraine. In the end, their voices were heard.
Why is this a rare event? Because foreign policy is traditionally the prerogative of the Executive and the Senate’s constitutional obligation to give its advice and consent has been dead letter for decades.
Of course, it would be unwise to celebrate this victory just yet. The backers of Ukraine in Congress, who constitute a majority in both houses, will definitely try again in coming days to pass a separate bill for the several billion dollars in assistance was deleted from the budget yesterday. However, it may be less easy to steamroll the oppositional Republicans than it appears. After all, the extension of financing for federal operations was only for 45 days and the stubborn minority that won yesterday’s showdown may threaten the same or worse at the expiry of this period of reprieve. Moreover, over the past year the Administration has had to resort to subterfuge to keep on funding Ukraine. Partly this has been done by reference to “accounting errors” at the Pentagon which opened up new envelopes of money and weapons for Kiev. Partly this has been done by burying the issue within omnibus legislation so that the Ukraine issue by itself does not come to a vote. That cat and mouse game is coming to an end.
©Gilbert Doctorow, 2023
Postscript: the issues of the Slovak elections and the Congressional compromise on the budget were the subject of a discussion on Press TV (Iran) today in which I participated.
Depending on your location this broadcaster may be inaccessible
October 1, 2023 at 3:43 pm
You are correct that it is too early to celebrate, but I’m hopeful that, at the very least, the House Republicans can put and end to omnibus legislation packages through which so much pork is rolled up. Hoping for an actual debate on Ukraine funding is a lot to hope, but with continued pressure by voters, we can maybe make an influence and kick the War Party while it’s down.
October 1, 2023 at 3:53 pm
Thank You for doing this blog. The information is extremely valuable for insight into the minds and thoughts of other cultures outside of the United States
As a traditional values American I make two observations.
The young and old Russian men volunteering and being drafted remind me of the Americans of the 1950’s. You hear the words of “duty” , respect and “honor”. If true, for me, in the west, that is amazing. I thought all those type of men were extreme rare.
The other comment is concerning the article” “Russian news holds up a Picture”
Its a picture, alright and not a good one.
Yes, you have two Americas and one still looks ok, but the other…..You hold up the Portrait of Dorian Gray.
October 1, 2023 at 4:59 pm
I think, regarding the US congress, it is important to point out a couple of things. The first is that both parties like to spend money. Democrats do not have a monopoly on this behavior. Not only that, but both parties like to spend money in ways that harm not only the US populace, but the entire planet. I won’t get into the deficit issue.
The second thing that I would like to point out is that those opposing sending resources to Ukraine are not doing so out of some principled anti-war stance, or because they represent the will of the people. They oppose sending resources to Ukraine because they think those resources are needed to instead attack China.
There is not a single ethical member of congress. They are all corrupt trash who believe they have a right to use the government as a patronage system, and to use their power to enrich their friends in the business community (which, let us be honest, is the community that has diligently been working to ruin the US to enrich themselves since about 1787 or so).
October 1, 2023 at 8:01 pm
Another avenue for subterfuge is illegal (according to their own statutes) support through international agencies controlled by the US, such as the IMF.
In the end, the propaganda is failing.
The typical war base in the US are conservative (often small town) Republicans who have been trained for generations to support any fight for “democracy & freedom”. Their traditional support of the military has been waning due to the woking of the military and being designated domestic terrorist deplorables by the establishment. It is increasingly difficult with regards to UA that democracy & freedom are in fact at stake, and without the Pavlovian conditioning for this turn of phrase, no support.