Jim Beam column: Worldwide events important

Published 6:50 am Saturday, November 25, 2023

Three stories from other parts of the world caught my attention this week and it’s easy to explain why. Here are the stories:

Argentina elected populist Javier Milei as president. The Associated Press reported Milei is a right-wing economist who has promised a dramatic shakeup for many institutions and who welcomed frequent comparisons of him to former President Donald Trump.

Anti-Islam populist Geert Wilders won a major victory in Dutch elections. The AP said the result would send shockwaves through Europe, where far-right ideology is on the rise, and that Wilders in the past has been labeled a Dutch version of Donald Trump.

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Wilders said, “The Dutch will be No. 1 again. The people must get their nation back.”

Does that sound familiar?

The third story involved the European Union and Finland. The EU was created as a post-war cooperation in Europe to ensure peace, prosperity, and stability on the continent. It sounds much like NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

The AP said the EU’s border agency would send dozens of officers and equipment as reinforcements to Finland to help  police its borders amid suspicion that Russia is behind an influx of migrants arriving in the country.

The Finnish prime minister called the situation a serious disruption of border security that affects the national security of Finland, whose population is 5.6 million. Finland has nine crossing points on the border with Russia, which runs 830 miles and serves as the EU’s easternmost frontier and part of NATO’s northeastern flank.

The minister said, “Finland cannot be influenced, Finland cannot be destabilized. Russia started this, and Russia also can stop it.”

I wrote on Nov. 1 about Russia’s effort to bring the country of Georgia back under Russian influence. The president of Georgia said Russian President Vladimir Putin has launched a quiet invasion of Georgia in an attempt to extend Russia’s reach.

The reasons for the emergence of right-wing governments may be a warning to the U.S. that also has similar problems. Inflation, for example, has soared above 140% and poverty has worsened in Argentina. One citizen said she fears Milei’s victory would risk the return of dictatorship.

Wilders’ election program in The Netherlands calls for a referendum on leaving the EU, which is similar to Trump’s attacks on NATO. Wilders also wants a total halt to accepting asylum-seekers and migrant pushbacks at Dutch borders.

“Voters said, ‘We are sick of it. Sick to our stomachs,” Wilders said.

In another story, The AP said Trump told Argentina’s President-elect Milei that he plans to travel to Argentina. In a video Trump published on social media, he told Milei, “I am very proud of you. You will turn your country around and truly make Argentina great again.”

The AP said the Argentina vote took place amid Milei’s allegations of possible electoral fraud, reminiscent of those from Trump and former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who was once called the “Trump of the Tropics.”

The U.S. cannot afford to ignore developments around the world that could pose problems in this country. The effort of Republican members of Congress to deny military and other aid to Ukraine and Russia’s growing influence in the country of Georgia could spell the end of freedom in both countries.

A citizen of Georgia explained it well when she said, “If Russia wins, it means loss of freedom, loss of everything that we fought for in the past 30 years basically. It’s a fight for values, it’s a fight for where you want to stand in this big fight for democracy.

A commentary by Steve Silverman in U.S. News & World Report back in January said, “FDR’s famous ‘Four Freedoms Speech’ (freedoms of speech, worship, from want and from fear) is as relevant today as it was 82 years ago, delivered on Jan. 6, nearly a century before the U.S. Capitol insurrection.”

Silverman said Roosevelt’s 1941 speech remains “a powerful expression of why democracy matters to Americans,” and added, “It’s a speech that you could see Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky citing as he and his nation show the world what it means to fight for democracy. To put lives on the line. To live and die for freedom.”

We must keep up with worldwide developments that pose dangers to freedom and democracy so as not to forget the tremendous sacrifices Americans have made in many wars to preserve the freedoms we enjoy.