Jun 282022

I’ve learnt a new word this week. Actually, the difference between an enclave and an exclave still isn’t clear to me, nor do I think it is all that important. (See definitions and examples in Wikipedia as at 27 June 2022). Oddly, the Wikipedia article doesn’t mention the exclave Gibraltar. I wonder why.

Kaliningrad is a Russian exclave bordered on the South by Poland and on the North by Lithuania. A railroad connects Kaliningrad with the rest of Russia and ensures supplies to the city.

On the other hand, a 100 km long so-called Suwalki Corridor lies between Kaliningrad and Belarus. The Suwalki corridor is subject to much NATO hand-wringing, since the three Baltic states would be pretty helpless if Russia/Belarus takes control of it.

Nonetheless, Lithuania proudly announced the other day that they would hereafter block rail transport of goods between Russia and Kaliningrad (see a discussion on the matter in Foreign Policy) effectively creating a blockade.

This step on the part of Lithuania, which is merely implementing sanctions imposed by the EU, is pretty reckless, I’d say. Obviously, if Russia feels pressured into taking belligerent action against a NATO country to supply its city, all hell will be lose (i.e. WWIII).

Of course, when the day comes, nobody will remember that we, the NATO countries, almost forced Russia to attack in order to supply the roughly half million people living in Kaliningrad. We will have forgotten, for the simple reason that most of us never knew; our press barely murmured something about the exclave in a subordinate clause.

I find myself asking what the heck is the matter with Warmonger Stoltenberg. (His name, by the way, means proud rock, so why not call him Rocky?) Had I asked him personally, he would of course have replied that fear of death should not prevent us from defending Democracy, or something to that effect. I would have retaliated with dramatic gestures that Russia has never threatened my country’s democracy (or non-aligned Sweden’s or Finland’s), that Ukraine never was a democracy and that every country the US and/or NATO has touched since 1950 has been reduced to rubble. I never argue well with people I passionately despise.

For Mr Stoltenberg, who grew up in the lap of luxury, “death” is just a word. More importantly, though, he has never ever had to be anything but Norwegian. For Norwegians a number of modern values are self-evident. Anybody or any country that does not share and understand those values is “wrong” and subject to kind but firm conversion efforts or, at worst, defamation. That is, of course, unless the person or country in question is an ally, like apartheid Israel. And now, at last, Norway is proudly and ridiculously carrying the banner together with the big guys — UK and France and Germany — determined to fight for global Democracy. We are going to “save” China, Afghanistan, Iran… etc. First, though, we must crush Russia. Of course, we are not alone. At the head of this crusade is USA.

USA’s national assembly has just, we are jubilantly told here in Norway, managed to agree on some gun control. The infinitesimal gun control agreed upon has, however, been offset by a gargantuan gun liberation ruling passed by the Supreme Court. See the New York Times for details. You might not have noticed this decision, at least if you live in Norway, where negative references to USA tend to be shied away from these days. Is the press grooming us to rally around our dear leader, President Biden and his lieutenant NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg?

Jun 202022

The UK Government is capitalising on the conflict between Russia and the US-led alliance, to try to push a National Security Bill through Parliament. If enacted, the legislation in question will make it a criminal offence for anybody to report “restricted” information if that person – say a journalist or his/her organisation – has received funding from abroad. Investigative journalists and whistle blowers will risk ending up in jail for life.

In my country, the press is pusillanimous these days, now that our former folksy prime minister is the warmongering Secretary General of NATO. So on Monday, the UK Government’s decision to sign Julian Assange’s extradition order was only mentioned on pages 14 and 18 respectively in two of the country’s leading dailies [Dagsavisen and Aftenposten]. Admittedly the heading in both papers was “A dark day for press freedom”. When questioned about the extradition order, the Norwegian Foreign Minister was quoted as blithely “confident that the British authorities adhered fully to their international human rights obligations in this matter.” [Aftenposten, 18/02.22, p. 14]

Not in any Norwegian paper do I find a word about the United Kingdom’s proposed National Security Bill. Russia is ahead of us, of course, as far as persecution of journalists is concerned, but we’re learning, and we’re learning fast:

Allow me to Introduce Section I of the bill:

  1. Obtaining or disclosing protected information
    1. A person commits an offence if—
      • (a) the person—
        • (i) obtains, copies, records or retains protected information, or
        • (ii) discloses or provides access to protected information,
      • (b) the person’s conduct is for a purpose that they know, or ought reasonably to know, is prejudicial to the safety or interests of the United Kingdom, and
      • (c) the foreign power condition is met in relation to the person’s conduct (see section 24).
    2. In this section “protected information” means any information, document or other article where, for the purpose of protecting the safety or interests of the United Kingdom—
      • (a) access to the information, document or other article is restricted in any way, or
      • (b) it is reasonable to expect that access to the information, document or other article would be restricted in any way.
    3. Subsection (1) applies whether the person’s conduct takes place in the United Kingdom or elsewhere.
    4. A person who commits an offence under this section is liable on conviction on indictment to imprisonment for life or a fine (or both).
    5. For the purposes of this section—
      • (a) a person retains protected information if the person retains it in their possession or under their control;
      • (b) disclosure includes parting with possession.

Notice the expression in subsection 2: ” safety or interests of the United Kingdom”. The “interests” of UK could be defined as anything, at the discretion of the powers that be. Obviously.

Notice too, the “foreign power condition”. Just like Russia. Putin must be beaming with pride.

A bill is considered drab reading and rarely makes much headlines. Legalese is a near incomprehensible jargon, and there tends to be introductory assuaging references to “public interest … safety… security” and “protection of the general public”. By the time you get to the crux of the matter, you’ve fallen asleep. But this is a matter of freedom of the press! Have mainstream news outlets ceased to care (unless, of course, the press in question is Russian)? Have they simply given up already?

Please note that many, or maybe even most, humanitarian NGOs apply for and receive aid from numerous countries other than their own. Most worthwhile news publications, including the Guardian, depend on donors from all over the world. Many investigative journalists – those that still dare to operate as such – devote their efforts to exposing corruption. (One of the key characteristics of corruption is that it involves national or local government officials.) The bill in question would threaten them all.

I’m not British. But the British courts have so blatantly disregarded due process on a number of counts in the Assange case, and the frivolous British head of state is so quite obviously not to be trusted and, moreover, not accountable , either to the public or to the prosecuting authority, that I find myself doubting that the British Parliament is any better. If the UK enacts the National Security bill, I fear the rest of Europe will sooner or later follow suit. After all, in all of Europe, a lot of very powerful people have plenty to hide.

A number of prominent foreign affairs experts, historians and diplomats have suggested that Biden and most of his immediate predecessors have orchestrated the Ukraine war. Their articles and warnings are not being printed in the mainstream press, which is why some of them are turning to non-mainstream outlets, such as https://consortiumnews.com, while others just shut up. You’re welcome to believe that what they are saying is “Putin propaganda”, but I put to you that we are all, on both sides of the divide, bombarded with propaganda. Meanwhile, the fate of Assange does not invite out-spoken critique of the Western narrative.

If https://consortiumnews.com were based in Russia, its editor in chief would no doubt be prosecuted. What I fear is that in the not too distant future, his freedom might be threatened, also in the West. At any rate, the fate of Assange demonstrates that “freedom of the press” is already very limited.

Jun 142022

Now that the costs of this war are starting to stand out from all the dust and smoke, we are hearing a lot of semantic exercising. I quote N.Y. Times today: “Mr. Scholz, who has been criticized for not supplying more arms, faster, to Ukraine, says that Russia must not win — but has never said that Ukraine must achieve victory.” A growing number of people are belatedly finding it opportune to remind us of Neville Chamberlain’s adage: “In war, whichever side may call itself the victor, there are no winners, but all are losers.”

Russia will most certainly have lost the battle against Ukrainian fascism. Opposing fascism with fascism rarely ends fascism. (War is, after all, fascism, seen from the perspective of the attacked party.) Russia will have won the eternal hatred of most Ukrainians, the fierce loathing of an enormous swathe of Europe’s previously neutral population – if you consider such an achievement a victory – and the addition of two countries into the enemy alliance NATO.

Most analysts finally agree, however, that the greatest loser will be Ukraine, both in terms of casualties and material damage and in terms of trauma. It will take years to rebuild the country economically and to heal emotional wounds. Fascism and Neo-Nazism will be alive and thriving, there will be political discord, and entry into the EU will be totally unrealistic for years to come.

Russia will probably have won some territory. It will not have been weakened economically. It will have consolidated its nationalism and Putin’s grip. It will have seen demonstrated even further how economically and politically feeble the US is, and it will have strengthened the case for geopolitical multi-polarity.

Ever since Navalnyj started looming too large for his personal comfort, Putin has become very much more of a hard-liner, more willing to brazenly demonstrate his fear of losing personal power. Nevertheless, having virtually lifted Russia out of the rubble when he took over, he still enjoys the unequivocal support of his compatriots. Moreover, the West has completely failed to understand Russians’ historic ties to Ukraine, and has disclosed appalling hubris, if you ask me. Russians won’t readily pardon western hubris.

Yet, much as Russians are used to keeping their mouths shut in public – they are not willing to shut down their brains. Disaffection about Putin’s refusal to accept opposition will probably grow, but only in the long term. After all, we’re increasingly seeing insidious restrictions of and even outright attacks on free speech/press also in the Western world. The Russians recognize hypocrites a mile off. (They’ve been breast-fed by their own 19th century novelists, for whom hypocrisy was a primary topic.)

The sad part is that those who clamoured loudest for military support to Ukraine have for once been not so much neocons as those who normally vociferously oppose neocons. In the name of “justice”, “fairness”, and all things good, they have been bamboozled. This is the case not least in my own country. Very sad. And here we are: Bear Market in the US, severe inflation everywhere, growing shortages of food, energy and spare parts … all inevitably to be followed by rising despair among mortgage holders and low-income households everywhere. (Despair, remember, equals havoc.)

My point being, once again: Yes, we must strive for “justice for all”, for fairness; we must oppose injustice, fascism, apartheid, BUT we must also bring our heads down from the clouds. Putin is arguably a dictator, but he is far, far from the worst of the lot. The Arabian prince, for instance, a long-term buddy of the US, is infinitely much worse.

As for winners and bamboozlers, I mean losers, Neville Chamberlain was not entirely right: Not all are losers. There will always be some people who know how to make astronomic profits from war.