On this International Workers Holiday in my small town of 10 thousand people there will be a march with perhaps a dozen participants, and a speech by some local Social Democrat. Itâ€™s an old ritual carried out of habit, more or less. But the enthusiasm for May 1st has changed over the years. Some day we may have a revival of the kind we saw in the 1960s.
The daily topic in our papers is still Ukraine, or rather the dictatorial Putin with his insidious plans to revive Russian greatness from the Soviet era by enlarging his territory. No arguments are shallow or stupid enough not to find their way to the printed pages or web editions. For instance: the annexation of Crimea is equivalent to Nazi occupation of Sudetenland and must thus be rescinded to prevent Putin from conquering the rest of Europe.
The propaganda to prepare for war seems epidemic. Sweden must increase its military budget substantially, everyone here says. The Baltic States, with their Russian speaking minorities, should fear Putinâ€™s next step. Itâ€™s naturally claimed that uprisings in eastern Ukraine are instigated by Putin, while the corresponding riots in Kiev, strongly exacerbated by pure Nazi groups (some of them wearing the armlets of a Ukrainian Nazi division serving Germany in WWII), were legitimate protests against a corrupt regime. And so on.
Letâ€™s assume that we seriously believe Russia capable to go on willfully conquering countries. The question is then only if itâ€™s we or Putin who suffer from insanity. One fact suffices to consider: the Russian military expenditures are a fraction of NATOâ€™s, only some single-digit percent. If the Russian leadership was collectively suicidal, yes, then it would be plausible to expect any substantial challenge to NATO power.
We seem to be back in the old Cold War era with its nonsensical propaganda arguments. True to that tradition most manifestations of real knowledge are banned from discussion. In a small, provincial country like Sweden this reaches parodical heights. In times like these itâ€™s a relief to have access to US media on the Internet. Due to unrivalled freedom of speech in the US we can read and listen to clever and savvy people (not always in mainstream media, but still).
One distinguished voice on Russian issues is Professor Stephen Cohen, who has spent a professional lifetime studying his subject. He is a contributor to The Nation and is often interviewed in other media. He has some important things to say.
First of all Ukraine is not one country, itâ€™s at least two; one leaning towards the western world and one towards Russia. When EU approached Ukraine with a proposition for cooperation it was attached with an ultimatum that no agreement with Russia would be allowed. Putin on the other hand proposed a three-party settlement including EU for supporting Ukraine. Faced with the EU ultimatum Yanukovych choose an agreement with Russia, and there it all started.
In the thousand pages thick EU proposition one could read that Ukraineâ€™s future rapprochement with EU and NATO would lie in the pipeline. This would only be in style with the continuous advancement of NATO ever closer to Russiaâ€™s borders since 1989 (in shameless violation of pledges given to Gorbachev, by the way). Ukraine as a part of NATO would have meant US control over Russiaâ€™s important naval base in Sevastopol! What did EU officials think?! Were they so presumptuous and so blinded by power that they didnâ€™t see any problems with that?
With this background itâ€™s practically inevitable that Russia had to annex Crimea. No other country in the same position would have acted differently (if not US had bombed Kiev). Itâ€™s a basic moral principle that we submit to ourselves the same standards we apply on others. But, of course, moral has no place in political propaganda and brain-washing.