4 March 2015 **** Front Page

Ukraine, Finland and "Western family of nations"

By Tapani Lausti

Boris Nemtsov's murder in Moscow happened at a time when the world's focus is on the Kremlin. Reports of Russian meddling in Ukraine — whether they are exaggerated or not — has led to a frenzy of vilification against Vladimir Putin in the Western media. In Russia Putin still enjoys quite remarkable popularity. But the demonstrations after Nemtsov's murder reflected the uneasiness about the country's future that many Russians feel. One banner in St. Petersburg cited Nemtsov: “Putin means crisis and war.”

The Moscow Times quoted one Russian analyst, Alexei Makarkin, who accused state media of fostering “mutual hatred” in society. This could lead to volatile confrontations. Makarkin specifically pointed to emotive and incendiary media coverage of the Ukraine conflict, saying it had separated society into "patriots" and "enemies."

The West's attitudes have not helped to calm the situation. Washington uses constantly inflammatory language against Moscow. The economic sanctions have angered Russians. European business people don't like what's going on. Neither do the farmers whose exports have been hurt. The hypocrisy of the West sickens many people in Western Europe as well as in Russia. In spite of its bloody aggressions around the world, the United States is celebrated in European elite circles as a beacon of freedom.

Look at the Finnish debate about Ukraine. Many political commentators accuse Russia of using force in its geopolitical interests, as if the US wasn't doing this on a much bigger scale. The impression is created that only Russia ignores international law. At the Munich conference on the Ukrainian crisis in February Finnish President Sauli Niinistö said “that Russia could not be allowed to break international law without consequences.” Ex-President Martti Ahtisaari recently denied that the EU and other Western countries had provoked Russia during its current involvement in Ukraine and Crimea. In Ahtisaari's view NATO is the best peace-keeping organisation in the world.

Compare this to how the American professor of history Alfred W. McCoy sees the international scene: “Washington, more than any other power, created the modern international community of laws and treaties, yet it now reserves the right to defy those same laws with impunity.” According to McCoy, the United States as the planet's last superpower “has in these years repeatedly ignored international law, following instead its own unwritten rules of the road for the exercise of world power.” (The Unwritten American Rules of the Road, TomDispatch.com, 24 February 2015

The US's illegal aggressions around the world have not led to calls for sanctions or “consequences”. Saying this is not to excuse aspects of Russian behaviour. But turning a blind eye to American geopolitical interests creates an unrealistic world view. Rightwing politicians celebrate “Western values” as if it was crystal clear what they are. In his New Year speech President Niinistö emphasised that Finland is part of the Western family of nations. He said that this had been evident in the country's response to the Ukraine crisis. He also urged greater defence spending in an effort to maintain a credible military deterrent, while lauding the EU as a vital plank of Finland 's security. He reiterated Finland's line that advanced co-operation with NATO has improved Finnish security, and said that Finland can always apply to join the alliance in the future. (President emphasises western outlook in New Year speech, YLE News, 1 January 2015)

Admittedly living next door to a big, potentially unstable country can create fears for the future. But to start leaning on the Western superpower and its military support creates false sense of security. Washington is after its own interests. History shows that any principles or promises are soon discarded if they do not serve US self-interests.

The opportunism can be seen in Ukraine. The democratic pretenses disappear if the extreme right-wing policies of the new Kiev regime serve US interests. The democratic aspirations of the Maidan protests mean absolutely nothing to the US elites. The economic welfare of the Ukrainians and Russians are meaningless to them. In his State of the Nation address in January President Barack Obama seemed happy to declare that the Russian economy is “in tatters.” Never mind that ordinary Russians suffer.'

People in many European countries are wondering what sense it makes to hurt Europe's own economic interests by following the US 's provocative line. In the Finnish government this line is supported by the Prime Minister Alexander Stubb and Defence Minister Carl Haglund. They want an eventual Finnish membership in NATO and a close military cooperation with it. Both politicians seem to have a very shallow understanding of world realities. This applies to the mainstream media as well. It pays hardly any attention to US and EU meddling in Ukraine. A Ukrainian person living in Helsinki was shocked when he compared Finnish media reports to what his relatives in Eastern Ukraine told him. The media has been only interested in the views of the new regime in Kiev, he complained. He contacted some journalists and editors at foreign desks asking for more impartial and objective reports. He received no replies.


The archive: Russia and Ukraine, United States, European Union, International Affairs, Tariq Ali, Noam Chomsky. Henry A. Giroux, Glenn Greenwald, Edwatd S. Herman, Diana Johnstone


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