Tuesday 4 April 2023

'If you want to understand politics speak to a man who reads a paper once a year. He understands what is happening.' Talking to taxi drivers about the war


I took two taxis today and asked both the taxi drivers who was to blame for the Ukrainian war, Russia or America. 

Both said both were to blame. 

All the taxi drivers I have asked starting on Christmas Eve said the same, except one who blamed Russia and two who thought America wholly to blame. 

The first driver today blamed "in the first phase America". He said it was as if one person repeatedly said 'Don't come so close' and the other (America) continued to come close. 

He said he had had a number of customers who were Ukrainian refugees who spoke Romanian. All of them, with one exception, execrated Zelensky and said he had caused the war. 

That is very interesting. 

I think the Ukrainians are largely right.

The driver talked about how Romanian language teaching in schools had been stopped, unlike Hungarian teaching in schools in Hungarian areas of Romania. 

A fair point, I thought.

The second said it was all about financial interests and Ukraine's economic assets and especially gas. He execrated Zelensky, 'who is a marionette' (of the Americans).

I said the problem with the world is that the people who know how to run it are too busy driving cabs. He enjoyed that joke. He said had Donald Trump still been president this war would not have happened. 

He said Mr Trump was an intelligent man and he praised the way he negotiated with Kim Il Sung, something no other president had done. Mr Trump is no extremist. People like Joe Biden and George W Bush were the extremists.

It reminded me of a conversation I had years ago with Silviu Alexandru Alexe. I said that in the 1980s I read the papers cover to cover, read many books about Margaret Thatcher and yet feel I understood nothing. 

He said that that was because I knew far too much. 'If you want to understand politics speak to a man who reads a paper once a year. He understands what is happening.'

For readers who don't know Romania, I ought to explain that Romanians, unlike for example Bulgarians or Serbs, are rarely fond of Russia, though some unreconstructed Communists are. 

What do the ones who think well of the pre-war fascist Iron Guard think? They might be conflicted, though the only one I know backs Russia.

When I got to my lunch with a distinguished American lawyer, he was hopeful the Russians would be driven out of the Crimea.


  1. Putin has likened his military operation to Mrs Thatcher’s war in the Falklands. Certainly, Russia’s intervention has more moral justification than any of Britain’s military interventions since 1982.

  2. At least they're not giving the CIA exclusive credit.

  3. It's a pity that the countries whose populations are going to starve or freeze, for lack of Ukrainian grain and Russian fuel, can't knock heads together and force them to the negotiating table.

  4. Loved it Paul!

  5. 'What do the ones who think well of the pre-war fascist Iron Guard think?'

    Nu fi trist!
    Garda merge inainte
    Prin partidul comunist!

    Alexandru Osvald Teodoreanu

  6. The Communists were never pro-Russia...

    As for the Romanian communists: before 1953, they were pro Stalin, after that pro Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej, and all the way to the end pro Ceaușescu. Nowdays they are pro EU... See the pattern?

  7. " I ought to explain that Romanians, unlike for example Bulgarians or Serbs, are rarely fond of Russia"

    That's because Romanians are fond of Russian Saints not of Russian politicians.

  8. Trump wouldn't have done anything to stop Putin's folly. Putin owns Trump.

  9. Glamorizing ignorance is a very Russian mentality. I say this as someone who knows their society really well. It could stem from an ingrained fear of upsetting the powerful, so being ignorant became sort of "cool" or trendy in the former Soviet Union. Romania is the opposite, and people often are derided for not knowing so e reference (whether it's pop culture or general history or geography), even in uneducated circles. Even construction workers from the provinces knew about Generalissimo Franco, as a random example. (One guy told me: if Romania had had a Franco instead of Spain, today Spaniards would be picking strawberries in Romania as opposed to the other way around). Even if they don't know much, Romanians greatly fear being seen as ignorant, whereas Russians revel in that. It explains behavior in both societies.

    1. Interesting. Of course Franco was very much better than the Communist dictatorship that so many Communists fighting on the Red side in Spain wanted, including Walter Roman, father of Petre Roman

    2. "I say this as someone who knows their society really well"

      Prostul nu e prost destul dacă nu e și fudul.

    3. Toma, what prompted your nasty comment? I'm married into a Soviet family, and I've spent time in 3 different republics (for work, pleasure, and family, respectively), so I know their mentalities. Have you spent any significant time in any ex Soviet republic, and really got to know people from there? (And no, reading and parroting Kremlin propaganda doesn't count).

    4. 'what prompted your nasty comment?'

      Your bragging.

    5. 'Kremlin propaganda doesn't count'

      It counts as much, or as little, as any other.

  10. And including the powerful British trade union leader of the 1970s, Jack Jones.

  11. If Zelensky is a puppet of Washington, which it seems clear he is, then the Ukrainians who blame him for the war should be blaming the US.

    Zelensky-Washington can’t have wanted to end the Donbas war and avoid a wider war. If it had, it should have stopped Poroshenko‘s mistreatment of ethnic Russians and implemented the Minsk agreements, including the Minsk II constitutional reforms. Instead, Zelensky-Washington worked to get more certainty about future NATO membership, knowing that was an existential threat to Russia, and went on building a huge Ukrainian military, the only purpose of which was to fight Russia. Zelensky-Washington had unrealistic aims and made the permanent separation of Donetsk and Luhansk inevitable. By provoking Russia into starting the present war and fighting it to the bitter end, it will end up with having to give not only the Donbas to Russia but also Zaporizhzhia and Kherson. And at that point I rather think Zelensky-Washington will turn into Zelensky, a very convenient scapegoat.