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Von Habsburg on Presidents, Monarchs, Dictators

For anyone who thinks of blue bloods as worn out and effete, a chat with Otto Von Habsburg smacks like the backside of a duelist's glove.

Otto Von Habsburg during his Washington visit

Otto Von Habsburg during his Washington visit.

Photo By Kyle Samperton

WASHINGTON — For anyone who thinks of blue bloods as worn out and effete, a chat with Otto Von Habsburg smacks like the backside of a duelist's glove.

At 92, he is a dervish of optimism, energy and savvy, with a global view to make any head of state stop and take note — and he knows almost all of them.

"Aristocracy is created by history. It all depends on where you take your aristocracy from," says Von Habsburg, son of Emperor Charles, the last Austro-Hungarian emperor (1916-1918). Traveling with his family, Von Habsburg recently visited New York City for meetings after spending a week in Washington, where he attended a gala in his honor hosted by the Hungarian-American Coalition, met with former secretary of state Colin Powell and toured Congress.

Packing the same tuxedo he wore on his last U.S. tour 25 years ago, his goal was to rally American support for a united Europe while sounding the alarm against Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Von Habsburg is one of the EU's original architects and a key supporter of EU expansion (although he is a staunch opponent of Turkey joining). His lifelong dream became a reality on May 1, 2004, when 10 central, Eastern and Mediterranean European countries became full members.

His eagerness for greater unity among European nations has hit a bump of sorts, however, since France and the Netherlands last month voted down plans for a European constitution. The rejections have sent the European Union into disarray, heightened further over the last 10 days by bickering over the structure of the EU budget. Countries such as Germany and France are pushing the United Kingdom to give up some of its budget refunds in order to support newer members like Poland.

But Von Habsburg remains a staunch proponent of greater unity throughout Europe and a Cassandra about Putin's increasing political power. The European aristocrat is pro-God and anti-Russian.

After all, Von Habsburg calls those who criticized Ronald Reagan's Star Wars program "asinine," lauding Star Wars as "the first armament program in history to led to peace and not war." He lists Reagan, Pope John Paul II and Germany's Helmut Kohl as "the three men whose decisions led to the downfall of communism."
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