The 2020 Election: An Emperor’s Perspective

While in the United States one gets the impression that the country is moving to the Left, more and more people in Europe believe that Russia under Putin might become the savior of the West.

It’s interesting to see that, with the U.S. election approaching, the Democrats seem prepared to accept candidates who, at best, played a humorous supporting role in one or both of the last two elections. There’s Bernie Sanders—who, after visiting Moscow the year the Soviet Union collapsed, said at a press conference that the communist system in Russia was like a paradise on earth, and he hasn’t revised his attitude since. There’s Elizabeth Warren, who is trying to establish the concept of socialism in capitalist America using left-wing ideology. Both candidates are among the front runners of the Democratic Party. Of course, they also benefit greatly from the mistakes of the other candidates—i.e., the colorlessness and loss of capacity of Joe Biden and the inexperience and insubstantiality of Pete Buttigieg.

Given the current composition of the American electorate, it is doubtful whether the first two have a real chance of winning the U.S. presidency. At the moment, it looks like we’re going to see Donald Trump as president for another four years.

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It is certainly noteworthy, however, to observe the tendency that candidates from the extreme leftist camp are becoming more and more acceptable in America. From the current perspective, it cannot be ruled out that a socialist ideologist will be elected President of the United States in four or eight years. (Donald Trump’s erratic government style could certainly contribute to this.)

What would be the general consequences? On the one hand, it would be quite likely that spending on the military would be drastically cut and the United States’ role as a world policeman would come to an end. On the other hand, social spending, and thus personnel and production costs, would increase massively and America’s competitiveness vis-à-vis countries such as China in particular would decrease drastically. The value of the U.S. dollar as a key currency would potentially be called into question.

At the same time, however, we are experiencing the exact opposite in Russia. The powerful oligarchs are following a pseudo-capitalist course, working with both the state and mafia-like, criminal structures. The Russian president is presenting himself as the savior of the West by taking a tough “conservative” course. He supposedly defends values such as family and the Church, referring to the traditions of a tsarist empire. The fact that “trifles” such as human rights, freedom of expression, and personal freedom are left behind seems to be of little importance to him.

If it had been said to my generation of Europeans 20 or 30 years ago that we might see the United States undergo a major change in direction towards a socialist concept, no one would have believed it. The same applies to a change in Russia towards a nationalist and supposedly value-oriented regime. A future with the USA on the Left and Russia (supposedly) on the Right sounds like fiction. Or does it?

But where does this leave those of us who are European? Both ideologies lead to the extreme; we have experienced this for seven decades with the confrontation between NATO and the Warsaw Pact. This can only be a call for an independent European course that must be clearly market-oriented, without neglecting our traditional European values.

If you would ask me today whether I would prefer my grandchildren to study at Princeton or Lomonossov University in 20 years, I would still choose the United States but hope they would choose Rome, Madrid, or Vienna.

Editor’s note: this article was translated by Charles Coulombe. It was originally published at the Archduke’s personal website, and is reprinted here with His Imperial Highness’s gracious permission.

Photo credit: AFP via Getty Images


  • Karl von Habsburg

    His Imperial Highness Archduke Karl of Austria is head of the House of Habsburg-Lorraine. He previously served as a Member of the European Parliament for the Austrian People’s Party.

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