Recap: December 2019 Meetings

Dear Members,

We had 2 SECWAC events in December: Sarah Wiliarty from Wesleyan University spoke to us on December 12 on the ever-evolving situation of “The Rise of Populism in Europe”, while on December 20 th SECWAC member Dick Shriver led a Lunch Meeting discussion on “Corruption in
Ukraine”.

Professor Wiliarty delivered a fascinating review of recent political developments in Europe, combining theoretical aspects with information on specific cases of the rise of radical right wing political parties. She focused on the sources and causes of recent developments in Western Europe (primarily France and Germany), providing insights into the role of electoral systems and internal factors in these parties, as well as external influences such as immigration and global economic factors. A demand by voters for alternatives to the standard political party options, in addition to a general societal anxiety as a factor driving change in Europe rang bells for our experience in the 2016 US Presidential Election. Ironically, her presentation took place as votes were being counted in the UK to elect a government, with the Conservative Party being led by Boris Johnson who ran on a very populist single issue of “getting Brexit done”! The consequences of these populist developments in “old Europe” remain to be seen – they will surely be the subject of future SECWAC meetings!

Our SECWAC Lunch Meeting (only the second one we have hosted) on December 20 was very well-attended – in fact, we filled the dining porch at the Old Lyme Country Club! SECWAC member Dick Shriver described his experiences living and working in the former Soviet Union
and in Ukraine before and after the fall of the Berlin Wall. He highlighted the difficulties in getting business done without having to bribe officials, a problem that has been documented in the Press and by NGOs, and one that has resulted in Ukraine being considered one of the most corrupt countries in Europe. Dick outlined his thoughts on the underlying driving forces of this corruption, squarely blaming the deleterious influence of the Soviet Union and now Russian policy on its neighbor. George Kennan’s famous “Long Telegram” of 1946 (cited by Dick) and the follow-up article in Foreign Affairs “The Sources of Soviet Conduct” never seemed so relevant as we head into the third decade of the 21st century.

We hope to see you at the next SECWAC meeting on January 23rd at the First Congregational Church in Old Lyme, when Megan O’Neill of Imagine Scholar, will speak on “A Different Look at Rural African Education”.

Sincerely,
Paul Nugent
Executive Director & Program Committee Chair
Southeast Connecticut World Affairs Council

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Mission Statement

The mission of the Southeast Connecticut World Affairs Council (SECWAC) is to foster an understanding of issues of foreign policy and international affairs by study, debate, and educational programming, primarily through a Speakers Series of 8 to 10 monthly meetings.