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High North

Tom Stevenson

On 18 May, Finland and Sweden applied to join Nato. There are very few countries in the world that can plausibly claim to have tried to conduct a principled form of foreign policy. Two of them are now seeking to join a military alliance composed of states with long histories of aggression and war crimes. If completed, the Nordic expansion of Nato would leave only three states of any size – Ireland, Austria and Switzerland – to keep up the tradition of European neutrality.

The reaction from Russia has so far been limited. At first Vladimir Putin said the expansion poses ‘no direct threat for Russia’. But there has been vague talk of retaliation. On 20 May the defence minister, Sergei Shoigu, said Russia would increase the military presence in its western regions in response to the Finnish and Swedish applications, as well as to US strategic bomber flights over Europe.

Before this year, the chances of either Finland or Sweden joining Nato seemed remote. Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine it is now the clear preference of the majority of the Finnish population. The prime minister, Sanna Marin, opposed joining Nato in her 2019 election campaign, though she claims to have changed her mind even before the Russian invasion. With the war’s cruelties on display, even left-wing politicians such as Erkki Tuomioja and Li Andersson have moved towards favouring Nato membership, with reservations. This is a remarkable volte face. Asked what the Russians would make of it, President Sauli Niinistö said they should ‘look in the mirror’.

In Sweden the situation is not so clear. As recently as early February, the foreign minister, Ann Linde, had said that ‘Sweden’s interests are already well served being outside of Nato’ and ‘this issue is just not on the table right now.’ Two weeks into the invasion, the prime minister, Magdalena Andersson, was saying a Swedish Nato application would ‘further destabilise this area of Europe and increase tensions’. Polls conducted by the public broadcaster SVT after the Russian invasion found that only 41 per cent of Swedish citizens supported joining the alliance.

Evidence of Russian war crimes in Bucha and elsewhere didn’t make much difference. A few days before the governing Social Democratic Party decided to apply for membership, Dagens Nyheter was reporting ‘no stable majority for Sweden to join Nato’. The Swedish elite, however, are in favour. In Dagens Nyheter, the veteran journalist Bengt Lindroth put the case for joining. He said it would serve the wider goal of European integration, and, bizarrely, that it would ‘reduce dependence on the US’.

Through the Cold War, Sweden and Finland’s studied neutrality was seen as an important part of their defence policy. Non-alignment never meant taking a position equidistant between the US-dominated west and the Soviet Union, but it wasn’t empty rhetoric either. When the 1958 Finnish parliamentary election produced a coalition government that discomfited Soviet leaders, the withdrawal of the Soviet ambassador contributed to the dissolution of the cabinet. A new government was formed that was more to Moscow’s liking.

In the mid-1990s Finland and Sweden joined Nato’s Partnership for Peace programme as well as the European Union. There has been increased military co-operation over the past decade. Sweden made modest contributions to American-directed training missions in Iraq. Both countries signed Host Nation Support agreements with Nato in 2014. Both joined the UK-led Joint Expeditionary Force and have participated in the Nato military training exercise Cold Response in Norway alongside US forces. In January, Finnish F-18s conducted refuelling exercises with US Stratotankers.

The US has been interested in a Nordic expansion for some time, but to satisfy American planners Finland and Sweden will have to show they are not net burdens to the alliance, given Finland’s long land border with Russia. Finland’s most recent military budget was much larger than usual, perhaps above the minimum levels desired by the US. But over the past twenty years it has averaged about 1.4 per cent of GDP. The Swedish average is around 1.2 per cent. For Finland, the fact that a large part of the male population goes through conscript infantry training, and is therefore available as a reserve, changes the picture. But the US will want more from both countries to free its hand for projects further east.

Should Finland and Sweden join Nato, there will be more purchases of American military equipment, larger military budgets and probably less social spending. This has already started. In December, Biden praised Finland’s decision to buy 64 F-35 fighter jets and said the $11 billion deal would pave the way for closer US-Finnish ties.

In the Baltic Sea, formal alliances with Finland and Sweden might be useful to American power. A 2019 RAND Corporation report commissioned by the Department of Defense noted ‘the potential to entice Russia into costly investments’ in the Baltic. Finnish and Swedish corvettes and fast-attack craft outnumber Russia’s small Baltic surface fleet. They also have more submarines there. For its part, the UK would welcome more enthusiastic partners in what British security planners refer to as ‘high north’. At Nato’s summit in Madrid on 15 May, Liz Truss spoke of the alliance taking ‘a global outlook protecting Indo-Pacific as well as Euro-Atlantic security’.

Russia has inflicted many strategic defeats on itself during its adventure in Ukraine. The taste for co-operating with American designs has never been greater among European elites. Disputes between the European Commission and Poland have been shelved. The US can again describe itself as the ‘arsenal of democracy’ even though, in the Middle East at least, it would be better described as ‘the arsenal of military dictatorship’. Finland and Sweden joining Nato might be another blow to Russia. But the expansion is by no means assured.

New members must be approved by existing members, including Turkey, that noted defender of democracy. Sweden in particular has attracted Turkey’s displeasure by opposing its brutal campaign of oppression in the majority-Kurdish south-east, where as recently as 2016 the Turkish army was destroying historic cities. Turkish diplomats are demanding that Sweden change its policies towards Kurdish political movements, and that it extradite thirty members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which Turkey calls a terrorist organisation. The US is trying to finesse the dispute but Nato’s structure allows Erdoğan to hold up the Nordic expansion indefinitely.

An irony of the Finnish/Swedish decision is that, while ostensibly based on the need to defend against Russian aggression, their applications have been made just when the threat from Russia appears diminished. During the Cold War, when the threat from Moscow was indisputably greater, real protection demanded neutrality. It is only after the Russian army has demonstrated its incompetence in Ukraine that Swedish and Finnish leaders feel secure enough to join an apparently defensive Nato.


Comments


  • 24 May 2022 at 4:58pm
    Lexa Hypatia says:
    This interesting article raises a number of significant points that bear some further analysis.

    Firstly, I do not think we should be too hasty in writing off the Russian military on account of their performance in Ukraine. The Red Army 'demonstrated its incompetence' multiple times after the Nazi invasion, but it learned from its mistakes and came back stronger than ever. Russia has hardly begun to devote the resources in men and industrial effort to war, of which it is capable if the decision is made to do that.

    I suggest that the rational argument for Sweden and Finland to join NATO is that Russia has demonstrated, besides its incompetence (probably temporary), its willingness to stage an unexpected and unprovoked attack on its neighbours (reflecting a mind set that is probably long lasting). If anyone had suggested to the Finns a year ago that they should join NATO because Russia was going to invade Ukraine and they might be next, they would probably have laughed at you. At the present time, if I were Finnish I would be recalling that Finland was part of Russia from 1809 to 1914: the Grand Duchy of Finland to be precise. And during the latter part of that period 'Russification' was pursued with a degree of ruthlessness. I would also remember Russian involvement in the Finnish Civil War of 1918, the Winter War of 1939-40 and the Continuation War of 41-44.

    Vladimir Putin has written an essay on 'The Historical Unity of the Russians and Ukrainians', and we have seen the outcome of that. Putin or his successor could with almost equal justification write a piece on the historical unity of the Russians and Finns, and we can imagine how that would end. Far from being a pointless exercise, I think for the Finns at least, joining NATO might be a most sensible precaution.

    • 25 May 2022 at 2:15am
      Clive says: @ Lexa Hypatia
      I’m not sure that the invasion was unprovoked.

      In the article below former NATO advisor Jacques Baud tells us :

      “… the intensification of the artillery shelling of the Donbas starting on the 16th of February, and this increase in the shelling was observed, in fact, by the [Border] Observer Mission of the OSCE [Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe], and they recorded this increase of violation, and it’s a massive violation. I mean, we are talking about something that is about 30 times more than what it used to be, because the last eight years you had a lot of violations from both sides, by the way. But suddenly on the 16th of February you had a massive increase of violation on the Ukrainian side. So, for the Russians, Vladimir Putin in particular, that was the sign that the operation—the Ukrainian operation—was about to start.“

      Not to justify the invasion, but if what Baud says is correct and Russia was provoked by a dramatic intensification of the Ukrainian attacks on predominantly ethnic-Russian areas of the Donbas region, does that change how we view this conflict? Do we think that Russia has behaved in a way qualitatively different to the way that Western nations behave in similar circumstances? Why is it that we had US

      https://mronline.org/2022/04/16/u-s-eu-sacrificing-ukraine-to-weaken-russia-fmr-nato-adviser/

    • 25 May 2022 at 1:14pm
      Reader says: @ Clive
      Let me get this right, Clive. You are suggesting that the Russian invasion was provoked by Ukrainian 'violations'.

      Now let us take a reality check. For the last 8 years separatists, backed by Russian troops, have been attempting to establish a separate state carved out from Eastern Ukraine. The Ukrainians have been resisting this.

      So these 'violations' consisted of Ukraine trying to take back their own territory, from attacks actively supported by the Russian military. And this attempt amounts to a provocation sufficient to justify the Russian invasion, or perhaps I should say the full scale Russian invasion, of 24 February 2022.

      Suppose France were to support separatists from the Isle of Wight and occupy the island. Britain attempts to retake it, and this justifies a full scale assault by France on Southern England. That is the logical conclusion of your argument.

      To quote from Belloc's poem "Matilda told such Dreadful Lies, It made one Gasp and Stretch one's Eyes."

    • 25 May 2022 at 1:58pm
      Clive says: @ Reader
      Let me start with what I think is beyond dispute (correct me if I’m wrong):

      There was a coup in 2014 which led to the democratically elected, albeit corrupt (although our democratic leaders are no strangers to corruption either, hello Biden family), leader of Ukraine fleeing the country
      This coup was nasty and bloody, and strongly supported by ultra-right wing Ukrainians
      This coup resulted in massacres of ethnic Russians (as well as other ethnic minorities such as Roma) in Odessa and elsewhere, by these ultra-right Ukrainians
      This coup was “encouraged”, if not fully orchestrated, by the West, who ultimately picked the resulting leadership, who were perturbed by the democratically elected leader’s relationship to the Kremlin
      In the eight years since that coup, ethnic Russians (and other minorities) in the Donbas region have resisted the new regime. Rightfully so, one might imagine. Since when do we support coups against democracies?
      As a result of this resistance, particularly in the two self-declared autonomous regions, there has been a pretty brutal oppression of ethnic Russians in the East of the country (who have surely not been entirely blameless, either)
      It was a dramatic intensification of the shelling of these regions (per former NATO advisor Baud, that is his claim) that was the reason for Putin to embark on his “Special Military Operation”

      If the above is indeed true, I think a better analogy than your Isle of Wight one would be this:

      A pro-US leader in Mexico is ousted as a result of a coup
      There is a strong suspicion that an untrusted Nation (say China) was heavily influential in fomenting that coup
      The New Mexican leader is very pro-China, and wants to join a military alliance with them
      Some people living near the US border, with strong ties to the US, are not thrilled by this result, and set up a resistance, even claiming autonomy
      This resistance is brutally repressed for several years (this part admittedly is not believable given the amount of restraint required), until at a certain point in time the repression increases rapidly, approximately 30-fold

      What does the US do, in this situation?

    • 25 May 2022 at 2:06pm
      Lexa Hypatia says: @ Clive
      If we suppose for the sake of argument that the Ukrainian escalation of 16 February was responsible for the Russian invasion of six days later, this must have been the quickest planning cycle for a major military operation ever recorded.

      Surely the most likely explanation for the Russian invasion is that it was planned months in advance, and indeed open source reports suggested a major troop concentration being prepared as early as November 2021. The idea that it was caused - or even triggered - by Ukrainian actions on 16 February strikes me as implausible, military ignoramus though I am.

    • 25 May 2022 at 4:03pm
      Lexa Hypatia says: @ Reader
      One can never win this sort of argument. Your 'violation' is my 'legitimate self defence' just as your 'terrorist' is my 'freedom fighter'. Thinking that one can decide on these judgements on the basis of some objective criteria is what a philosopher friend of mine used to call, irritatingly, a 'category error' (irritating, because it was her response to any point I made that contradicted her set opinions).

    • 26 May 2022 at 11:55am
      Clive says: @ Lexa Hypatia
      I don’t claim any military knowledge either, but I did notice that Baud writes, on the things that led to the decision to invade:

      The first is the decision and the law adopted by [Volodymyr] Zelenskyy in March 2021—that means last year—to reconquer Crimea by force, and that started a build-up of the Russian armored for…not the Russian, [rather] the Ukrainian armored forces in the southern parts of the country. And so, I think the Russians were perfectly aware of this build-up. They were aware that an operation was to be launched against the Republics of the Donbas, but they did not know when, and, of course, they were just observing that, and then came the real trigger.

      So on his account they would have had about a year to prepare, and the claim seems to be only that the exact timing of it was determined by the big increase in shelling in February of this year.

      On your reply to Reader below, I don’t disagree with anything that you say.
      What I object to in general is the idea that Putin has done anything that his counterparts in the West wouldn’t have done under similar circumstances. That doesn’t stop it from being a terrible thing with horrific consequences for innocent civilians.

      But the idea that we in the West, and the US in particular, are in any position to pontificate about it, or cast Putin as some kind of uniquely evil master-villain, is what I find jarring.

      George W Bush (to pick one example among many) started a war that caused hundreds of thousands of people to die violent deaths, without the provocation that Putin arguably had, or the sense of encirclement by a powerful foreign foe that Russians justifiably do have. Indeed he and his cronies lied and manipulated evidence in order to be able to carry out their plan. We all know this. Where were the sanctions against the US? A silly question, of course.

      Yes, this is “whataboutism.” But what about it? How can we be expect to be taken seriously when this is our recent history, and nothing is done about it?
      I’m all for Putin to have his day in court for the things he’s done wrong, but can we please start at the beginning?

    • 27 May 2022 at 11:53am
      Rory Allen says: @ Clive
      Of course it was unprovoked unless you are using the word in a sense known only to the propagandists of the Soviet era.

    • 27 May 2022 at 12:18pm
      Lexa Hypatia says: @ Clive
      'Brutal massacres': Vladimir Putin claims so, but is it true?

    • 27 May 2022 at 12:39pm
      Lexa Hypatia says: @ Clive
      A plague on both their houses.

    • 27 May 2022 at 8:09pm
      Clive says: @ Lexa Hypatia
      I don’t trust that I’ll get the truth from Putin or from our governments, who clearly have their own hawkish agenda. What I know is that journalists that I respect like Aaron Maté seem convinced that there is at least some veracity to the claims made on the Russian side.

    • 27 May 2022 at 8:13pm
      Clive says: @ Rory Allen
      Is that what Baud is doing? It seems to me he makes a compelling case that there was indeed provocation, and understandable exasperation on the Russian side that they would be able to achieve anything by diplomacy.

    • 30 May 2022 at 11:09am
      James Meek says: @ Clive
      Paul Mason debunks the claims of the former Swiss intelligence officer Jacques Baud here https://www.newstatesman.com/comment/2022/05/the-left-should-lead-the-fight-against-russian-disinformation-not-hinder-it


    • 30 May 2022 at 2:49pm
      bikethru says: @ Clive
      In the spirit of @Clive's list of facts beyond dispute, is it accepted that in early 2013 the Ukrainian parliament voted, by a large majority, that the Ukraine should align with the EU?
      And that President Yanukovych agreed to implement this vote but delayed?
      That he then, without notice or parliamentary endorsement, signed an agreement to align with Russia?
      That he did so under pressure from President Putin?
      If these things are not in dispute, can we conclude that the immediate cause of Yanukovych's overthrow was not a "coup against democracy", nor US machinations, but Putin's impatience, not only to prevent the Ukraine aligning with the EU, but to coerce it into aligning with Russia?
      It's true that those who condemn Putin's aggression against the Ukraine now, but do not condemn the US-led aggression against Iraq in 2003, are not in a morally convincing position. That does not absolve Putin, or make it wrong to resist him.

    • 1 June 2022 at 11:16am
      Lexa Hypatia says: @ Clive
      By 'achieve anything' you mean 'annexe Eastern Ukraine'.
      Provocation is the bully's excuse. Meanwhile my own feeling that the Russians would find a method that would work for them in Ukraine after initial failures has been borne out by events. Their motto seems to be adapted from Zuckerberg: "move slowly and break things". They are in the course of creating a wilderness in Luhansk and Donetsk and will no doubt call it peace.

    • 1 June 2022 at 11:26am
      Lexa Hypatia says: @ James Meek
      Thank you. And please contribute another piece soon, as the voice of sanity on this website.

    • 1 June 2022 at 5:23pm
      Lexa Hypatia says: @ bikethru
      Despite objections on this site to the 'naivete' of believing in the possible future existence of a true and honest account of our times, I retain a belief in objective truth, and your points will I hope be reflected in such an account.

    • 1 June 2022 at 11:59pm
      Clive says: @ James Meek
      Did Paul Mason debunk the OSCE reports, which seem to me to bear out Baud’s claims?

      https://reliefweb.int/report/ukraine/osce-special-monitoring-mission-ukraine-smm-daily-report-422022-issued-23-february

  • 24 May 2022 at 5:29pm
    Rory Allen says:
    The implication of the article seems to be that it is rather pointless for Sweden and Finland to join NATO, just at the point where it appears least necessary. And yet - reportedly (last word heavily underlined) - in late 2021, a certain Colonel Igor Korotchenko appeared on the Russian state channel Rossiya 1 outlining a plan whereby “On the Swedish island Gotland, Russian military planes land, delivering S-400 anti-aircraft missile systems, and Bastion coastal anti-ship systems." This would provide cover for a Russian attack across the Baltic States to link Kaliningrad with the rest of Russia. According to this report: "The scenario ends with the new Baltic states governments pledging allegiance to Moscow while Sweden agrees to perpetual neutrality and a 99 year lease on Gotland."

    The report is backed up with stills allegedly from the programme. I would treat this with scepticism until it can be confirmed, but surely someone somewhere will have recorded the existence of this extraordinary event, if it took place.

    Suppose for a moment it is genuine. Of course, you will say, the Russians would never announce their intentions in advance in this blatant manner. How absurd. But given what has happened in Ukraine, who would be willing to bet the mortgage on it any more? If you were a Swedish politician, how would you feel about the suggestion? Historically, Russia has captured Gotland once already, in 1808, and could do so again. I would like to believe Mr Stevenson's article, I really would, but somehow the anxiety will not go away, that maybe the Russians mean exactly what they say.

  • 25 May 2022 at 4:16pm
    MattG says:
    the long term gain for Europe is that Sweden and Finnland have pro-EU and pro-democracy governments and oppositions.
    In Nato that is not a given anymore.
    Their entry is further good news after the defeat of right wing populists in the US, Czech Republic, Slovenia, France. It strengthens the pro-EU faction against the likes of Johnson, Kaczyński, Orban and their followers.

    • 27 May 2022 at 12:07pm
      Rory Allen says: @ MattG
      Unless Trump returns in 2024. Then we are sunk.

    • 28 May 2022 at 5:42pm
      Clive says: @ Rory Allen
      Trump will win in 2024, no question.

      The Democrats just make it so easy by taking absurd positions. Case in point:

      https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-61614782

  • 25 May 2022 at 6:40pm
    RegPresley says:
    Just a couple of points that struck me as I read this. First, it's not really bizarre for Sweden to think its reliance on the US is reduced by joining NATO. I haven't read what Lindroth actually wrote but I imagine he was thinking that being in a multilateral organisation dominated by NATO gives a sense of being less exposed to US whims than if you are only bilaterally dependent.

    Secondly, I wouldn't be so sure that the threat from 'Moscow' was indisputably greater in the Cold War. The term 'Moscow' here slightly obscures the fact that it was the Soviet Union posing the threat then. Even leaving aside the fact that there was an uneasy superpower balance that made 'limited' incursions unlikely, the threat in those days was overwhelmingly perceived as being to Germany/NATO, not to Sweden/Finland. That cannot be said for the current situation, in which Russia is acting like a rogue state in respect of all its neighbours.

    • 27 May 2022 at 12:20pm
      Lexa Hypatia says: @ RegPresley
      There are no precedents for what is happening now. That is what is so scary.

    • 27 May 2022 at 12:36pm
      Lexa Hypatia says: @ RegPresley
      Agreed. It makes one long for the days of the USSR, when post-Stalin at least, leadership was collective.

  • 25 May 2022 at 7:18pm
    Tom Wengraf says:
    Lex Hypatia throws in the crucial little word “unprovoked”, so crucial to the mobilization of people of goodwill in the West. I think that the coup in Ukraine, the declaration by the West much earlier (2008?) that the Ukraine and Georgia (I think) “will join NATO”, and (after the 2014) Rapid modernization, heavy funding, and alignment for inter-operability between the Ukrainian army and NATO armies, to me that suggests that the West was the one preparing for a war that they could “provoke” at whatever time they wished by intensifying the bombardment of the Donbas region, as they did. When Putin asked for “security talks about Russia’s security, and the Americans point-blank refused to even consider such talks, this ensured that Putin was 99% likely to invade at a time of the American’s own choosing. The US had been in my preparing for the ‘proxy war’ with Russia (and then China) from at least the beginning of the 21st century.....
    So “unprovoked” - that little word so frequently and innocently thrown in explicitly or just operating implicitly in the West - seems pretty unjustified.

    • 26 May 2022 at 11:29am
      Rory Allen says: @ Tom Wengraf
      Maybe my ageing brain is missing something here, but I cannot see why Ukraine's attempt to regain its territory in Donbas is provocative. And to go back to Lexa's point on timing, Russia's invasion plans must have been months in the making. So trying to shift the blame onto Ukraine for some provocation in February is a bit of a stretch.

    • 27 May 2022 at 12:40pm
      Lexa Hypatia says: @ Rory Allen
      If provocation there was.

  • 26 May 2022 at 12:23am
    John Perry says:
    In Stevenson's article, what caught my eye was that "there will be more purchases of American military equipment" as a result of the two countries joining NATO. Shouldn't we all be collectively alarmed about the way the US war machine grows and grows? Putin was clearly a threat to Ukraine, but the US is a threat to all of us, whether it is by further provoking Russia or China and risking a much bigger war, ignoring massive food shortages that are already beginning to affect the poorest, or delaying and diverting resources from the real global challenge - climate change. In the larger scheme of things, Biden's behaviour worries me far more than Putin's.

    • 27 May 2022 at 11:16am
      Rory Allen says: @ John Perry
      Up to a point, Lord Copper. I agree with you about climate change, and Biden seems to be doing little about it. But what worries me even more is if we have a Republican dominated Congress from this November and a Republican POTUS from 2024, possibly, in the worst case, Donald Trump. In that case we can forget about any US action on climate change. At least with the Democrats there is some hope.

      If that happens I suspect the decisions on long term mitigation will pass to China, currently the major CO2 emitter but also the largest producer of green energy power sources.

    • 30 May 2022 at 2:15pm
      bikethru says: @ Rory Allen
      Forgive me for being so LRB about this, but "Up to a point, Lord Copper" does not mean "Up to a point." It means "No." It is the strongest expression of disagreement that Lord Copper's minions on The Beast dare to use to their employer. "Let me see, what's the name of the place I mean? Capital of Japan? Yokohama, isn't it?!" "Up to a point, Lord Copper."

  • 26 May 2022 at 3:52pm
    Kanerva Cederström says:
    About the neutrality of Finland , then and now: it was not a neutral state during the Cold War, but bound by the Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance Treaty with Soviet Union from 1948 to 1991. After the collapse of SU, Finland can be said have been neutral for some years before joining the European Union in 1994.
    This May, almost 80 % of Finns voiced their willingness to join NATO, and we can be sure that Finns would have loved to remain unattached to a such military alliance. But our history tells us that with a 1300 km long border with Russia( and two aggressions), we can not speculate about the possible weakness of our neighbor at this moment. The decision to apply for the membership of NATO was was agreed by a broad majority of our Parliament, on the basis of a thorough and democratic preparation in our government and the foreign political decision making institutions.

  • 27 May 2022 at 11:51am
    Rory Allen says:
    Since my description of the Russian invasion of Ukraine as 'unprovoked' seems to have led to a spirited display of competitive silverback chest-pounding, may I remind my learned colleagues of the legal definition of provocation (according to the great oracle Wikipedia): "In law, provocation is when a person is considered to have committed a criminal act partly because of a preceding set of events that might cause a reasonable individual to lose self control. This makes them less morally culpable than if the act was premeditated (pre-planned) and done out of pure malice (malice aforethought)." So there are two questions. Would Ukraine's announcement of its intention to regain lost territories cause a reasonable individual to lose self-control and do something without pre-meditation? And did Vladimir Putin in fact lose self-control and invade Ukraine without pre-meditation? I suggest that the answer to both questions is "no".

    If we are using 'provocation' in a looser sense of an act likely to lead to violence, however indirectly, then perhaps Ukraine's statements were provocative. But in that case, I think we need to take into account Mr Putin's claims in his essay "On the Historical Unity of Russians and Ukrainians", which I suggest everyone should read if they wish to understand all this.

    Putin wrote that "Ukraine is entirely the product of the Soviet era" and in the next paragraph added that "One fact is crystal clear: Russia was robbed, indeed." Towards the end he adds: "I am confident that true sovereignty of Ukraine is possible only in partnership with Russia."

    So in plain language, Ukraine can only be allowed to exist provided it is a puppet state of the Russian Federation. If this is not provocative, then what is it?

    • 27 May 2022 at 12:33pm
      Lexa Hypatia says: @ Rory Allen
      Sorry, bit of plagiarism there on 'unprovoked'.

  • 27 May 2022 at 12:14pm
    Rory Allen says:
    Now that Russia appears to be winning in Donbas, does that change the analysis?

  • 30 May 2022 at 9:42pm
    Kalvin says:
    "If completed, the Nordic expansion of Nato would leave only three states of any size – Ireland, Austria and Switzerland – to keep up the tradition of European neutrality."
    Serbia and Bosnia are not aligned (although there is a NATO presence in Bosnia) and "of any size". Why do you not see them as part of the group to "keep up the tradition of European neutrality"?

  • 4 June 2022 at 4:33pm
    Harriet Friedmann says:
    With your deep understanding of Cold War history, I wonder if you could connect it to your understanding of the present food crisis in the latest LRB (12 May). I have been writing about this for some time, and refer you to my article in New Left Review 197 (1993) and others listed on my website (harrietfriedmann.ca). Happy to engage on the subject.

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