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Dick Baynton: Uniting States

Dick Baynton

The title of today’s column refers to several efforts to unite a consortium of nations in our troubled world. The United States of America has existed since 1776 and may have found the key to perpetuity as a nation state.

Arising from the Paris Peace Conference of 1919, the League of Nations was created on January 10, 1920 and was joined by 42 nations with goals of disarmament, and settling disputes between nations; the Soviet Union was expelled in 1939 following their invasion of Finland. The assets and responsibilities of The League of Nations were transferred on April 18, 1946 to the United Nations, a new world alliance that was organized in 1945.

The roots of the UN go back to January 1, 1942 when representatives of 26 nations pledged to continue the fight against axis powers. The United Nations was officially formed on October 24, 1945 with 51 member nations. Currently the UN has 193 members employing 40,000 people. UN headquarters have been located in NYC since the building went operational on January 9, 1951; agency branches are located in Geneva, Nairobi, The Hague, Vienna, and other locations. The 2017 total UN budget amounted to about $13 billion while the U.S. contributed $3.3 or about $25% of the total.

The Russian state was born in 1917 when the Bolsheviks overthrew the Russian czar. By 1922, Russia formed the USSR by uniting Russia with many of its neighboring countries.  Joseph Stalin came to power over the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics in 1924 remaining until his death in 1953. For the next 32 years the USSR was ruled by a succession of leaders until 1985 when Mikhail Gorbachev took the reins of leadership.

Gorbachev developed two new concepts; one was called ‘glasnost’ meaning a more open society as political prisoners were released and newspapers could openly criticize government without consequences. The other concept introduced was ‘perestroika’ that meant economic restructuring, making it easier for citizens to form enterprises outside the grip of Communist government. However, a few days before Christmas in 1991, representatives of 11 republics of the USSR withdrew and formed the ‘Commonwealth of Independent States.’ Included were Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. Gorbachev resigned.

The Baltic states of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia had already formed their own alliance and for the time being, Georgia stayed with the Russian state. Consensus indicated that the breakup of the USSR was the result of Gorbachev’s policies that placed more authority and responsibility in the hands of citizens during his six years of ‘liberating’ leadership.

The ‘seed’ of the European Union was planted in 1952 with the creation of the ‘The European Coal and Steel Industry.’ Now with 28 members, 19 have adopted the EU currency. The EU encompasses about 1.7 million acres of land, more than 500 million citizens, annual GDP of about $19.7 trillion engaging 24 official languages and 32,000 employees. The annual EU budget for 2017 amounted to €157.86B ($184.2B).

These four ‘uniting’ efforts; the League of Nations, the USSR, the USA and the EU all exist(ed) for the years the members could be kept happy with the economy, freedom of thought and action, peace and their interchange of ideas for growth of all members. In the case of ‘The League of Nations’ international participation and positive actions were probably too languid. When Gorbachev opened the door of fresh thought and freedom, member ‘republics’ took the opportunity to establish their own sovereign states in 1991. The UN bureaucracy and outreach has grown to be a burden on member states who may eventually determine that the cost is unworthy of the benefits delivered.

With a huge budget and thousands of employees, the EU is saddled with budgetary needs that are mostly paid by members. Perhaps the partial loss of sovereignty was part of the many reasons that the UK voted to withdraw their membership on June 23, 2016. In addition there may have been instances where immigration rules and other conflicting decisions originated in Brussels. The Brits wisely preserved their venerable currency. The British Monarchy has existed in some form for about 1,000 years and will continue to flourish despite their loss by the European Union; and the EU will survive and thrive.

Dick Baynton

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