By David Aikman, Editor in Chief
Sometimes a casual comment in a conversation by telephone can alert you to something profoundly serious going on in a country.
I was talking to a friend in Moscow whom I have known for more than two decades. We never mention the word (Russian President Vladimir) Putin because I assume his international calls are all eavesdropped, but what he said shocked me, nonetheless.
‘A Colossal Threat to Free Speech in Russia’
He said the atmosphere in Russia was now “more north than North Korea.”
Specifically, he said that mere conversations by phone could be simply interrupted if one of the eavesdropping security services did not like what was being said. This is a colossal threat to free speech in Russia.
The recent decision of Russian jailed oppositionist Alexei Navalny to discontinue his hunger strike is a wise move. He could have died, or even worse, they could have force-fed him. That would have been the cruelty equivalent to torture.
In any event it does seem that Russia’s domestic political situation is becoming more extreme and when domestic politics become more extreme the national policies of the nation involved also become more aggressive.
We don’t know yet whether Russian troops will be intervening in the Ukrainian border areas, but currently they have been withdrawn and Russia is emphasizing that the military exercises have been completed.
This principle of aggressive domestic policies leading to bellicose international policies applies to North Korea itself and to China.
North Korea’s Aggressive Approach to South Korea
North Korea’s public invitation to President Joe Biden to meet for talks is less important than North Korea’s aggressive approach to South Korea.
North Korea will remain a serious danger in the world for as long as it continues to be hostile and bellicose towards its neighboring state.
China itself continues to be verbally aggressive toward countries that criticize its internal behavior.
The recent meeting between U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Alaska was ridiculed by the Chinese and described disparagingly by officials close to the Biden administration.
Meanwhile, the situation in Myanmar continues to be disturbing. At some point international sanctions by both the United States and the European Union could threaten the regime into even more aggressive policies toward people who protest the coup d’état implemented by the military.
Sporadic Global Unrest Amid COVID-19 Restrictions
Meanwhile, sporadic global unrest in the face of continuing COVID-19 restrictions on people is likely to continue.
Poor India is suffering an explosive increase in cases of the virus, and evidence is that future variants of COVID-19 will be even more harmful than existing ones.
The lockdowns imposed on France and Spain by their governments have elicited violent protests ,and in the case of Spain, domestic political unrest.
Meanwhile, there seem to be international controversies provoked by significant anniversaries.
France is going through its version of Black Lives Matter unrest because many French are unwilling to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the death of French emperor Napoléon Bonaparte because he reimposed slavery on France after it was abolished by the French Revolution.
In China, the more than one century anniversary of the May 4 movement of 1919 could give rise to protests in Hong Kong and other Chinese citizens against government repression of opposition.
GODSPEED Magazine's Editor in Chief, David Aikman, began his reporting career with TIME Magazine in 1971. In the 23 years that followed, he reported from five continents and more than 55 countries, and wrote three consecutive Man of the Year cover stories. As a TIME Magazine Senior Correspondent and foreign correspondent, he interviewed numerous major world figures, from Mother Teresa to Manuel Noriega, from Alexander Solzhenitsyn to Pham Van Dong, from Boris Yeltsin to Billy Graham. Dr. Aikman was assigned to bureaus in Hong Kong, from where he covered the entire Asian region; in Beijing, China; in Berlin, Germany, where he covered all of Eastern Europe; and in Jerusalem, Israel, where he covered the entire Middle East. He was bureau chief in Berlin, Jerusalem and Beijing before returning to the United States to cover the State Department until his departure in 1994 to devote his time to writing books. Dr. Aikman is the author of ten published books on a wide range of topics, and the editor or co-author of four others. His 2004 biography, A Man of Faith: The Spiritual Journey of George W. Bush (W Group), was a bestseller and was translated into Chinese and published – entirely uncensored – in China. The presidential biography has also been released in Norwegian. Jesus in Beijing has been translated into several languages, including Korean and Swedish, and been published worldwide. The most comprehensive book-length report on Christianity in China, it is considered a must-read for anyone interested in the Chinese church. “Being a reporter is like being a fly on the mixing bowl of history,” Aikman said. “I did not want to be a journalist, that is no secret, but I always wanted to be close to the events happening and I have been. There’s no way I could have predicted that this would happen, but I suppose that’s all of life. You take a leap of faith and from there you just go.”
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