'..We have a revanchist Russia .. And we have a China, which is still Leninist..'

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'Among the worrying trends on today's geopolitical landscape, however, are a "revanchist" Russia, and "Leninist" China, according to Garton Ash.'

'..overall, the good outweighed the bad, according to Garton Ash.

"1989 was the best year in European history so far. A peaceful revolution which ended a nuclear-armed, post-totalitarian empire, and gave us the best Europe we've ever had."

Among the worrying trends on today's geopolitical landscape, however, are a "revanchist" Russia, and "Leninist" China, according to Garton Ash.

"We have a revanchist Russia as we've seen in Crimea and eastern Ukraine. Clearly a response to the collapse of the Russian empire. And we have a China, which is still Leninist, but very rich and very powerful, and which is increasingly dictating the agenda of world politics."

Moreover, although some countries in Eastern Europe -- Garton Ash singles out Ukraine, Moldova, and Belarus -- are still struggling and stumbling along the path to democracy, he's hopeful in the long-term.

"Not the whole of Europe is whole and free. I see very positive changes in Ukraine. And actually, very significant progress in Moldova, and indeed some change in Belarus. And I think there is a lot that can still be done in the current geopolitical context," Garton Ash explains.

'Ghosts Of The Past'

For countries transitioning from communism to democracy, Garton Ash says, the toughest challenge they faced was confronting their dark past.

"It is important to keep former communists and people who were in the apparatus of repression out of various senior positions, that's important. But the most important thing is to have a public reckoning with the difficult past as one had in South Africa with the Truth Commission. So that it's acknowledged the wrongs that have been done, the injustices of repression. We know the facts. Those facts are publicly acknowledged. And that enables us to draw a clear line between the past and the future, because otherwise a new democracy is constantly haunted by the ghosts of the past," Garton Ash explains.

Russia's current "revanchist" bent, Garton Ash says, is directly linked to the collapse of the Soviet empire. While a long-term optimist on Russia, Garton Ash suggests that Russia under President Vladimir Putin presents challenges to European leaders.

"I'm a long-term optimist about Russia. I believe Russia is a great country which has a certain place in the future of Europe. The problem is in the shorter term, so that we have to find a mix of short-term firmness -- because some of the things Putin's Russia has done simply cannot be accepted by the international community -- but make it absolutely clear that strategically, in the long term, we do believe that Russia is a great country which has an important place in Europe and indeed in the world," offers Garton Ash.'

- Tony Wesolowsky, 1989 'Gave Us The Best Europe,' Says Historian Garton Ash, June 16, 2019


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