A Young Russian’s View of New York and Washington D.C.
Not more than 20 years ago it would have seemed next to impossible for a young boy from Russia to visit the U.S. as the first Scholar of Worldsecuritynetwork. But our world has changed tremendously, and I, Dmitry Udalov, a student of the School for World Politics from Moscow had an opportunity to visit the U.S. for the first time at the age of 19. This Scholarship was organized by the Worldsecuritynetwork and its President and Founder Dr. Hubertus Hoffmann.
Frankly speaking, it had always been my dream to visit the United States. Firstly, it is interesting to see the world’s leading economy, one of the most developed countries with the highest GDP in the world. Secondly, I am very interested in American history. So it was my cherished dream to see the most significant historical sights. But there was one more reason: the U.S. presidential election campaign, which attracts the attention of the whole world. To be in the center of the bid for the presidency was very exciting.
And the whole trip was very fascinating, too. Among my major responsibilities during the Scholarship was taking interviews with outstanding Americans for the Worldsecuritynetwork.
After my first transatlantic flight, I arrived at JFK airport in NYC. I will never forget the foggy view of Manhattan which I admired as the plane was landing. I had arrived in America!
Undoubtedly, New York is a unique place in America and in the world. It is so giant and gorgeous but in some places shabby and untidy, uniting so many cultures and peoples. The city is quite simply a universe in itself. You can’t help being impressed by it.
Once, I doubted whether NYC is the best place for the United Nations headquarters. Personally, I thought it would be better to have the UN headquarters in Switzerland. But when I saw New York, I realized that it was probably the only possible place for the headquarters of this major international organization. New York is so cosmopolitan and international by nature; it has such a great diversity of cultures and civilizations: the Americans and the Latinos, the Italians and the Chinese, the Russians and the Polish, and so on and so forth. It seems that every nation has its Diaspora in New York.
The UN building is great. WSN Vice President Hans Janitschek was a great help in visiting the UN. Upon entering the UN, we passed “Sputnik”—Khrushchev’s present to the UN in 1957. And then a magic thing happened. After five minutes of my first visit to the UN, I met Koffi Annan! He was delivering a speech on the results of a Security Council meeting. I also met many other interesting people who were working at the UN. I saw the UN press center at work, and I met some journalists. They told me about their work in New York and tried to share their professional skills with me.
After my visit to the UN, I kept thinking of the present and the future state of this organization. The idea of the United Nations is universal. We live on one planet, and we have common economic, environmental, and security problems. And undoubtedly they can be solved only by our mutual efforts! Nevertheless, the organization, which was established approximately 60 years ago, reflects the world as it was in 1945. Things have changed tremendously since then! As a result, the UNO cannot effectively deal with contemporary problems. Probably one of the greatest shortcomings of the UN system is that it is not in the least bit flexible. It needs mechanisms for constant adjustment according to the world political situation. But at the same time it has to be stable. There is the paradox: stability and flexibility. I think it can be achieved in the following way: by adding flexibly changing articles to the UN Charter. For example, every 10 years permanent members of the Security Council could be checked for their ability to be “responsible for peace” on the planet. If any permanent member doesn’t cope with their responsibilities, they can be replaced.
In my opinion, the UN has to establish a special antiterrorist permanent armed forces, which would have the right to make preemptive strikes against terrorists.
Of course, something should be done about the UN bureaucracy and some bureaucratic procedures.
We can accuse the United Nations of a lot of things, but the point is that we haven’t created anything better to date. Today, we don’t have any alternative to the UN. We have to make it an up-to-date, efficient, and powerful instrument of international affairs.
Among the things I liked both in New York and in Washington D.C. were the museums. I like American museums, not only for the diversity of rare exhibits, but their approach to the visitors impressed me even more. In the Museum of Natural History, I was greatly surprised to see the notice in one of the halls: “Please touch the exhibits.” This means of presentation is excellent. It helps to learn more and then to remember everything.
Washington D.C. is also a unique city. Built according to a plan which anticipated its future growth, Washington D.C. is so beautiful, and I would say stylish, that you can’t help admiring and enjoying it. Being comprised of so many museums, memorials, and parks, this city can attract anyone. I, for one, felt that I was not in a city, but in one very big and beautiful garden!
Before my visit, I thought it would take me about four to five days to see all the sites. In fact, three weeks were not enough. I spent a whole day in the Museum of American History and then another day in the Aerospace museum. It was extremely interesting and there was so much to see!
I also had many of fruitful meetings. One of the most unforgettable meetings was with former General and Ambassador Edward Rowny, former U.S. Chief Arms Control Negotiator SALT II in the Reagan Administration. He made a profound impression on me through his outstanding biography.
Another man who helped me greatly was Joseph Schmitz, Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Defense. We spoke at length on human trafficking. It is one of the major problems of our world, but there is a lack of public attention to it. We tend to pay less attention to it than to terrorism or WMD proliferation.
Joe Schmitz, a young American webmaster who works for WSN—helped me greatly to see and understand young Americans, who as it turns out, have the same interests and share basically the same culture as young people in today’s Russia. I didn’t find any significant differences between the views of young Americans and those of young Russians. I think it’s great. I hope it will help my generation of policy makers to be able to establish strong ties and contacts with the U.S.
I also spent a week with Thomas Shelling, a distinguished professor at Maryland University. I had an opportunity to visit the university and talk to some of its postgraduate students who are working on their PhD theses in the field of international security. By the way, some of them use WSN resources in their scientific research. In general, all the Americans whom I met were very friendly, openhearted, easygoing men and women. We could debate and disagree, but it wouldn’t affect our relations. They remained warm and friendly. The Americans are also a very hospitable people. They treat guests as their best friends. In this respect, they have a lot in common with the Russians. I also noticed some other features in which the two nations, in my opinion, are very much alike: both Russians and the Americans have an affinity for things on a large scale. They like big cars, big houses, and they like to eat a lot. This attitude is mainly due to geographical conditions: vast land, a diversity of nature, and rich mineral resources. Of course, the Americans are more economical than the Russians, but not as reasonable as the Europeans.
The Republican Convention
I think I was lucky to stay in New York while it was welcoming delegates to the Republican Convention. Firstly, these elections are very important. The positions of the candidates are more different than they ever have been before. It is the first time since WW II or the Vietnam War that foreign policy issues are probably more important then domestic problems. The Bush administration’s response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks set an absolutely new approach to dealing with global challenges. The American nation has to make a very significant choice which is likely to define the American position in world politics in the 21st century.
Secondly, the convention was held in New York, a city which we will always remember for the most terrible terrorist attack ever, a city where all of civilized humankind met its new enemy, a city where the Statue of Liberty still holds her flame of liberty.
The actual purpose of the convention—choosing a party candidate for the presidential campaign—is not so important. The main goal of the convention is to announce the candidate and his program, his views, ideas, and beliefs. And of course, it has to be done in a most attractive, smart, and eye-catching way. In my opinion, it was a high-quality TV show.
The demonstrations which followed the convention seemed to me massive, but not significant. They were against everything and for the most part didn’t present any acute critiques of the Bush administration. I was also surprised to see representatives of the American Communist Revolutionary Party among those who protested. Radical communists are seldom met, even in Moscow. So, it was quite surprising to see them in New York.
I was glad everything went well without any emergencies. Terrorists could have used this particular moment, but the security services, New York’s Police Department, accomplished the mission of securing the city during the convention. And the fact that the Republican convention was held in New York showed everyone how strong and fearless the Americans are in their fight for freedom against terrorists. I’ll say it again, I think I was lucky to experience that feeling, too.
Trying not to waste a minute, I was in a constant search for new views and experiences. I visited all of the major museums of New York and Washington D.C., the U.S. Capitol and Senate buildings, the Pentagon, the United Nations Headquarters, the Foreign Press Center, the Universities of Maryland, New York and Washington, and many other historical landmarks and national memorials. It was an unforgettable trip, during which I learned much, during which I saw and I understood a great deal.
I would like to express my great thanks to the Worldsecuritynetwork President and Founder Dr. Hubertus Hoffmann for the unique opportunity he granted me!