Sunday 12 March 2023

The wisdom of cab drivers in Bucharest

I asked my taxi driver a few moments ago who was to blame for the Ukrainian war, Russia or America. America he said, without hesitation, because of their expansionism. 'Ukraine should be a tampon protecting Russia from Nato.' 

I don't take a lot of taxis these days. The cabbie on Christmas Eve strongly blamed America and said (in this he was certainly right) that had Trump still been President the war would not have happened. When I got to where I was going I knew the woman I was going to meet would agree. She smiled serenely but said nothing. Her two friends were furious with the taxi driver and started talking about Hitler. 

They spoke about Hitler not in the matter-of-fact way Romanians used to speak of the second world war but in the way Manichean terms Westerners do.

The drivers of the 6 or 7 taxis I took this year this year divided the blame between the Russia and America. One, a few nights ago, thought Russia was much more to blame. 

One was a Moldovan who returns to Chisinau once a month. He gave me a very lucid, informed and nuanced explanation for the war I wish I could remember it in detail. He said Ukraine was an artificial state containing many Russians. 

Will Moldova rejoin Romania, I asked him. 'Yes, if Russia loses, no if Putin wins.'

In my experience, taxi drivers and hairdressers know everything. They talk to everyone, hear confessions like a priest and have time to think. 

In the United Kingdom I am told that they always like Trump and Brexit. The taxi rides I took bore this out. 

The clever men supported the invasion of Iraq. They all preferred Hillary, whose top priority was regime change in Syria, and Biden to Trump. They advocated lockdowns and masks and supported Black Lives Matter, decolonisation and gender transition for autistic teenagers. 

The taxi drivers knew better.

I hope Moldova does join Romania in a federal state - and thereby join the EU and Nato, of course. Transnistria can be cut loose. It was never part of Romania and is de facto a separate country.


  1. My cab drivers loved Brexit but had no strong opinion on Farage. They were pleased he helped bring Brexit about but that was it.

  2. I know my opinion is heretic and probably a minority opinion in Romania but I hope Moldova never reunites with Romania. We'd import about 300,000 Russians, Russia's fifth column that would be a huge security risk. We'd merge with Europe's poorest country, and we're not Western Germany or South Korea to be able to invest and absorb the shock. But more importantly, the identity and cultural centre would shift to the east, closer to post-Soviet realities and preoccupations, a world with which we should have nothing in common. Half of Romania (Transylvania) has no shared history with the region. The lingua franca among the educated people in cities is probably Russian, teenagers speak a sort of patois of Romanian sprinkled with Russian words.

    And what for? For 30,000 square kilometers of land with a cheaper labour force whose loyalty is questionable?

    Even if it happened -- God forbid --, it won't be a federal structure. There's no tradition of federalism in Romania. Moreover federalism is regarded with suspicion because of the compact Hungarian minority in Central and Eastern Transylvania. Bucharest would be too afraid that if it grants some autonomy to Chișinău, the Hungarian minority would ask for it too.

    I hope that a referendum would fail in Moldova or that one is organized in Romania and the Hungarians and other skeptics defeat it or that Moldova joins the EU first and the prospect of union with Romania loses its attractiveness for the Moldovans. (Unfortunately the Romanian constitution does not define the territory of the country but says that it is defined by an "organic law". Thus it could be changed without changing the constitution, avoiding thus a referendum.)

    1. If the Republic of Moldova is admitted into Romania without self rule in a federal system, Romania would be importing millions of people with very different (more socialist) voting patterns, either impoverishing the entire country or pushing the more prosperous regions to seek their own autonomy. I hope the countries can reunite but only if they have the ability to maintain self rule. And people who cannot speak Romanian should not be granted citizenship, otherwise I am afraid you are right about a potential fifth column sabotaging the best aspects of Romania (its gentle nature, peacefulness, and religiosity).

    2. A federal system would be a sine qua non and that would open up the Hungarian question, a question most Romanians think must never be asked. Yes you have a very good point but, of course, all Moldovans would become Romanian citizens - a quarter or more already are to get EU passports.

  3. I also hope that Moldovia and Romania unite as one country.

  4. "Every inch that Putin took from Ukraine must be returned" - that is the position of the government of the United Kingdom. Remember we are in a de facto state of war with Russia. At least one British Army Engineer expects to be fighting in the Crimea at some point.

    "The Crimea must be returned to Ukraine" is actually the moderate position. There are very many lunatics in Britain who openly say they want Russia (not Mr Putin - Russia) to be destroyed. They show maps with Russia broken up and so on - they are mad, and are pushing us towards nuclear war.

  5. Plenty of clever people opposed the Iraq war. They were overruled by George Bush, a signally stupid person.

    1. He wasn't stupid. His policies certainly were, but that's something else. He did not do much less well in tests at university than Gore but what a shame the hanging chads hung the way they did. Nor are Trump or Obama stupid. Biden isn't at all clever but knows how to schmooze. He may be as unintelligent as Ford or more so, but Ford was in retrospect a good president.

    2. 'In 2015, as a member of the House, DeSantis sided with those in his party in criticizing the Obama administration for not providing military aid to Ukraine after Russia invaded Crimea. “We in the Congress have been urging [President Obama], I’ve been, to provide arms to Ukraine. They want to fight their good fight. They’re not asking us to fight it for them. And the president has steadfastly refused. And I think that that’s a mistake,” DeSantis said to conservative radio host Bill Bennett at the time.'

  6. Nikki Haley has given up the hope of appealing to Trump supporters, it seems. 'In a statement to JI on Tuesday, Haley defended her own approach to the war in Ukraine and suggested that DeSantis’ position would exacerbate tensions not just in Europe but in the Middle East and beyond. “America should always have the backs of our allies and friends, like Israel and Ukraine, and we should expect them to have our back,”