It’s cold in Kiev. No, this is not a weather report, though it is freezing here. Rather, it is a reflection on the current political turmoil since the Ukrainian President, Viktor Yanukovitch, did not sign an accession agreement with the European Union (EU) at the end of November in Vilnius. Protesters are braving the weather to gather in squares in the center of the city to express their clear desire to have Ukraine become an official part of Europe rather than join a customs union with Russia. European Union flags are being sold by street vendors, Ukrainian flags on cars are another sign of support, although the manifestations are very limited to a specific area in downtown Kiev.
The recent bombings in Boston have unleashed a torrent of commentaries. While investigations are ongoing concerning the backgrounds of the suspects with no definitive answers yet about motivations and affiliations, the fact that the brothers were from Chechnya and Muslim has opened a Pandora’s Box of speculation. One simple point can be made at this point beyond the specifics of this case: There has been a fundamental shift in the nature of deadly attacks, often attributed to “terror.”
Following September 11, the United States declared a “war” on terror. Without a clear definition of terror, the focus of the war narrowed down to one organization, Al Qaeda. The organization and its leaders, we were told, were based in Afghanistan and neighboring Pakistan. There was an enemy; there was a location for its headquarters (Bin Laden’s cave). As in all traditional wars, the opponents were identified, their location fixed. The battle lines were drawn, and the soldiers sent to eliminate the foe.
Security is a major if not the major topic of conversation in Geneva. Citizens are worried about their basic safety, from unexplained violence to robberies to excessive noise. Security will certainly be a major item in the forthcoming cantonal elections. Newspaper headlines scream that Geneva has become the Bronx, although as a resident of the Bronx, I find this comparison outdated and imprecise. Is it reasonable to compare a canton of 400,000 people with a borough of approximately 1,500,000?
There is another comparison that crops up that I find equally disturbing. Rudy Giuliani, the Mayor of New York from 1994-2002, is often credited for cracking down on crime in New York City.