A great many local residents consider the Gazette’s Last Word segment an open public forum where opinions can be freely expressed.
It is also seen as reflecting the views of ordinary people, not experts, thus providing unfiltered public sentiment.
One writer wrote, “We now know why Donald Trump wanted a private meeting with Putin. It was to thank him for meddling in the election so Trump would win.”
Another wrote: “With 12 indictments of Russian operatives into hacking the Democratic Party and state election computers during the 2016 elections, the ‘witch hunt’ cry, repeated like a parrot in a cage by the president, no longer holds water.”
My own experience with Russian, or more precisely, Soviet Secret Service meddling in elections, goes back to the post World War II years.
As a young reporter, I covered Eastern Europe for Hungarian newspapers. I was in a position to witness the Communist takeover in Hungary and later in Czechoslovakia.
In Hungary, in addition to observing the direct interference of Soviet occupying forces in the political process, I found a valuable source of information in Ferenc Nagy, the first elected prime minister of postwar Hungary. He was the head of the Smallolders Party, which received 76 percent of the vote in the first elections after World War II.
His party won in spite of an all-out effort by the Soviet-supported Hungarian Communist Party to sabotage the election campaign and in spite of intimidating tactics. The essentially Western-oriented country rebuffed the Communists.
As prime minister, Nagy made efforts to build bridges between his party and the Communists and between the East and the West. He went to Moscow to explain Hungary’s situation to Stalin and ask for support. Stalin remained vague about his intentions in Eastern Europe.
Less than a year latter, while Nagy was vacationing in Switzerland with his wife and daughter, he was accused of plotting against the Hungarian government. The Communists demanded his resignation. He refused. His young son, who remained in Hungary, was taken hostage. Finally an agreement was reached.
The boy was taken to the Austrian border and Nagy signed his resignation. The car that delivered the child to the border was given to Nagy as a parting gift from Stalin.
This was the closing chapter of the short-lived, post-war democracy in Hungary. Nagy came to the United States, penniless. He settled in Herndon. There, he later bought a farm with the payment he received for the publishing rights to his memoirs.
In my conversations with Nagy, he often reflected on his experiences. He explained that Stalin’s assurances that Moscow desired nothing more than to see a friendly government established on its Western borders was a sham.
“He turned those countries into helpless satellites, ruled by local Communist dictators trained in Moscow and answerable only to the Kremlin.”
When Vladimir Putin, as a young man, was recruited to be an officer of the KBG, the all powerful Soviet Secret Service, he was obliged not just to read the history of the organization, but to study in detail all the methods it used in the past. No doubt, the methods of how to influence or subvert domestic and foreign elections was part of his training.
Since than, the means may have changed, but the goal remains the same: The Kremlin’s pursuit of making Russia’s power and influence count once again, worldwide.
Although my past observations of Soviet and Russian behavior have been bleak, the ability to conduct real politics as Henry Kissinger did, demands we make efforts to develop cooperation with Russia where mutual interest commands it.
Shatz is a Williamsburg resident. He is the author of “Reports from a Distant Place,” the compilation of his selected columns. The book is available at the Bruton Parish Shop and Amazon.