23 March 2014 **** Front Page
By Tapani Lausti
The Ukrainian and Crimean crisis has triggered furious arguments in Finland about the impact for a country which has unpleasant historical memories about relations with its Eastern neighbour. Although Finnish-Russian relations have recently been reasonably good, dark suspicions of Russia's intentions in its neighbouring areas immediately appeared.
Most comments, though, ignored the wider context of East-West confrontation. Very few had anything to say about the provocative push to the Russian border by NATO. On the contrary, many commentators, especially on the political right, wanted Finland to join the organization in order "not to be alone" as was the case when the Soviet Union attacked Finland in 1939. Thus they are willing to bring a major international crisis to the Finnish-Russian border. They have not noticed the destabilising role of US foreign policy and NATO's operations.
In the parliamentary debate about Ukraine, international law was constantly evoked. Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen repeated his mantra of "a community of shared values", i.e. the Western world. With the annexation of Crimea the tone of much of the debate was that Russia had thus broken international law and created chaos in the international system. These commentators have obviously been asleep when the US with its allies has been launching illegal invasions in one country after another causing massive number of deaths and misery. International relations have consequently been in a state of "might is right". This gave Vladimir Putin a good excuse to sarcastically remind the West of the existance of such thing as international law. Obviously Putin also is ready to do whatever he thinks serves Russsian security interests best as long as he can get away with it.
So we are in a state of international hypocrisy. Take the events in Kiev which forced Viktor Yanukovich to flee the country. Before that happened, American politicians had mixed enthusiastically with the crowds in the streets of the city. They didn't seem to mind that in the end the extreme right-wingers came out on top. The libertarian-minded demonstrators were the kind of people whom the American police force would have gladly attacked as viciously as they fought the occupy movement in the US. In Kiev these democrats were attacked by neo-nazi thugs. After all, the socialists and anarchists wanted real democracy, not a change of guard of oligarchs.
The nationalist hysteria in both Ukraine and Russia is bad news for anyone who wants to dismantle the extremely undemocratic systems which have allowed wealth to be stolen by money elites. They have taken billions out of both countries. Putin obviously uses the Crimean annexation to bolster his own popularity and weaken the opposition. He also seems to be giving up the hope of having normal working relations with the West. In this sense it can be said that the world order is changing.
In the Finnish debate many participants have emphasised the support Finland would get from other EU countries if the country's security is threatened by Russia. Here again the idea of a "communiity of shared values" ignores the fact that many EU members couldn't care less about international law. No European sanctions were imposed on U.S. officials when the U.S. illegally invaded Iraq. No European sanctions have been imposed on Israeli officials for Israel's illegal occupation of the West Bank.
Not many anti-NATO Finns like Vladimir Putin (his bloody role in Chechnya is well remembered) but neither do they see the point of exaggerating the security threat coming from the East. Many people who seem to be so shocked by Russia's behaviour in Crimea have shown no revulsion about the US's aggressive behaviour around the world. Without much complaint from pro-NATO comentators probably more than a million people died in Iraq after the US-UK invasion. In Afghanistan tens of thousands of innocent people have died in what the Finnish government naively describes as "crisis management".
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