“Azerbaijan and Latvia Struggle for Identity”
Several years ago I participated in an economic development trip to the country of Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan was a Soviet Republic until being freed in 1992. In a meeting with several members of the Azeri Parliament, the leader of the group pointed out that they live in a very rough neighborhood. Their northern border is Russia. Their southern border is Iran. To their west is Armenia which occupies 15% of their country and with whom they are technically at war. He went on to ask us to please tell our fellow citizens in the U.S. that they are outspoken that their 3 strongest allies are Turkey, Israel and the USA. And of course this does not make their neighbors happy at all. But, I am not sure that our Federal Government does much to foster or protect this outspoken friendship in a region where we need friends.
And now I have just returned from a Rotary project trip to the country of Latvia. They too were a Soviet Republic until perestroika in 1992 — a term they use all the time and that I had essentially forgotten. The Rotary Club of OKC joined with other Rotary Clubs from Sweden and Hungary to help provide important medical equipment for the Children’s Hospital of Riga — the country’s Capitol city. Latvia is struggling to find its way from under Russian dominance still today. And again, I am not sure what our Federal Government is doing to help them.
Both of these counties still struggle for autonomy and their own identity. Both have embraced Democracy. Both want to be our friends. It causes me to question the wisdom with which the U.S. pursues our foreign policy and how we spend our international resources. Would we better off to pull out of some of these international hotspot in which we annually “hemorrhage cash” and where the people do not like us. Would we be better off spending more money and effort trying to help those who want to be our friends? Hope this is at least food for thought.