Bernie is often attacked for having taken a trip to the USSR in the late 1980’s. This attack is as ancient and outdated as it is erroneous.
Firstly, this is a very old smear and was used against Bernie in his earlier campaigns, back wen the USSR was still in existence! And given the fact that the USSR no longer exists, it’s surprising that people still use it. But then again, we have seen Democrats and others refer to today’s Russia as “Soviets” and “Communists”, so it is not surprising that the most ignorant will still pull this chestnut out of the bag.
Here’s the real story:
In 1988, when Sanders was mayor of Burlington, the city formed a “twin” city relationship with a Russian city called Yaroslavl — Remember, this was one year before the Berlin Wall fell, at the height of Gorby’s Perestroika and the thawing of East-West relations. The sister-city program was a total success and is still going on today — see http://burlingtonyaroslavl.com. Burlington has sister city programs with other cities around the world, in France, Japan, Nicaragua, Israel and Palestine.
Sanders traveled on an official trip to meet his counterpart, the mayor of Yaroslavl. The trip, which was made with 10 other people, including prominent business people and city officials, was scheduled for the day after his wedding, so he invited his wife to come along. Now, you can say that maybe he should not have taken his wife on a trip for official city business, but you cannot make any more out of it than that.
The video itself is of poor quality, but it is still possible to see that Bernie is not drinking vodka, and he is not singing Soviet songs – unless you consider Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land” to be a communist hymn.
So Why Did He Do It?
The 1980’s was a time of great tension between the US and the USSR, whom then President Ronald Reagan openly called,”the Empire of Evil.” Bernie opposed Reagan in almost every way, and especially on the aggressive and bellicose attotude Reagan took toward the Soviet Union. As Holly Otterbein wrote in POLITICO:
As mayor, Sanders worried about a potential nuclear war and railed against the bloated military budgets of both the United States and the Soviet Union. A year before the trip, he laid out his vision for a sister-city relationship. “By encouraging citizen-to-citizen exchanges — of young people, artists and musicians, business people, public officials, and just plain ordinary citizens,” he said in a speech, “we can break down the barriers and stereotypes which exist between the Soviet Union and the United States.”
It is not wonder, then, that Bernie Sanders is the President we need to reduce tensions and seek diplomatic resolutions rather tan go to war. His philosophy of peace and understanding extends beyond the confines of the USA, and he will use this ecumenical worldview to power everything from his peace initiative to a truly global Green New Deal.
EuroYankee is a dual citizen, US-EU. He travels around Europe, writing on politics, culture and such. He pays his US taxes so he gets to weigh in on what is happening in the States.