By Tapani Lausti
A furious debate is going on in Finland about the implications of the Ukrainian conflict. Anyone unwilling to join the hysteria about Russia’s intentions in Europe is labelled as Putin’s boot-licker. Anyone who points out the destabilizing role of the West, and the US in particular, has to endure personal abuse, as this writer has experienced.
It has been troubling to observe the strength of anti-Russian sentiments in Finland. Of course, this is not surprising in the light of the history of Finnish-Russian relations, but the lack of rational analysis is worrying. One need not approve realpolitik as the basis of a big nation’s foreign policy but it would seem reasonable to understand that the Kremlin feels itself to have been provoked by the eastwards push of NATO just as the US in the past has not accepted Russian bases near its borders. Remember the Cuban crisis in 1962?
Today’s Russia is a troubled country with deep economic and social problems. Its oligarch-based economy is nobody’s dream society. In the new Cold Warriors’ propaganda it is also depicted as an aggressive country ready to send its tanks to the West. The West, of course, is seen in this scenario as a morally spotless world with high ideals. However, many US and European politicians who pretend to be utterly shocked about the Russian annexation of Crimea showed no shock at the destruction of Iraq with hundreds of thousands innocent victims. Lately the guardians of Western “morality” have showed no repugnance at the massacres of innocent civilians in Gaza and Eastern Ukraine (by Kiev forces)..
As to the “values” exercised in Western societies, the reality has long ago left the ideologues of capitalism behind. I have quoted on these pages the Finnish EU bureaucrat Olli Rehn who rhapsodized: “For Europeans and Americans the belief in democracy, constitutional state and freedom is intrinsic. The foundation stone of our societies is the belief in equality for all and the basic rights of every person. The principles of the European and American way of life are based on these values.” (The Finns debate “Western values”, 16 July 2013))
This kind of day dreaming is ridiculous.The American writer Henry A. Giroux describes the reality of his country’s politics like this: “What is missing in the recurring debates that dominate Washington politics is the recognition that the real issue at stake is neither the debt ceiling nor the state of the economy, but a powerful form of authoritarianism that poses a threat to the very idea of democracy and the institutions, public values, formative cultures, and public spheres that nourish it. The United States nears a critical juncture in its history, one in which the rising forces of market extremism – left unchecked – will recalibrate modes of governance, ideology, and policy to provide fantastic wealth and legal immunity to an untouchable elite.” (The New Authoritarianism in an Age of Manufactured Crises, Truthout, 24 August 2014)
As to the other pillar of Anglo-American “morality”, the UK has been going through crises of the legitimacy of its ruling elites. In his book Against Austerity, Richard Seymour notes how the misuse of public funds by many MPs linked the political class to “a general aura of corruption”. Thus Seymour: “It gave the impression that that far from being a benign deliverer of services and protection, parliament was an increasingly authoritarian, distant and undemocratic haven for spivs.” (p. 139)
Whatever Russia’s intentions may be in Eastern Ukraine, NATO’s alarming talk about stopping Russia is intentionally provocative. The alliance’s leading country, the US, considers iself to be above all international rules. The American commentator Paul Craig Roberts writes: “No laws, domestic or international, restrain the US from torture. Laws do not prevent the US from attacking sovereign countries or from conducting military operations within the borders of sovereign countries. Constitutional protections and due process do not prevent the US from detaining citizens indefinitely or from murdering them on suspicion or accusation alone.” (The Leninist in the White House, Information Clearing House, 28 August 2014)
Russia probably does not want to annex Eastern Ukraine or invade the Baltic countries. It has enough economic and social problems without beginning to destabilize the whole continent. The US, on the other hand, seems to be willing to destabilize much of the world. The Brazilian roving journalist Pepe Escobar calls it “The Empire of Chaos” (From Minsk to Wales, Germany is the key, RT, 28 August 2014)
The pro-NATO camp in Finland is totally ignorant of this reality. They are drawing Finland closer to NATO by pushing through “a host nation support agreement” which allows assistance from alliance troops in Finland in emergency situations. They imagine that aligning the country with the US guarantees security in the face of the “Russian threat”. They accuse Russia of breaking international law. In the view of the annexation of Crimea this can be seen as a just accusation, although experts differ in the matter. The US, however, has long ago declared itself to be above international law. The epithet “Empire of Chaos” is well earned. (See Making the world more dangerous, 1 November 2007).