Finland knocking on NATO's door. Does this look like winning?
When Putin started this shitty war, I wrote that it was only going to strengthen American imperialism, not stop it. Now it looks like it’s about to be official: Sweden and Finland are knocking on NATO’s door. They’ll be entering a military alliance that’s at this point a textbook definition of “American military imperialism.”
Which means that Putin — in his quest to stop NATO dead in its tracks on Russia’s southern border — is about to get almost 1,000 miles of NATO on its north-western border. And if this deal goes through, NATO will now control both sides of the Baltic Sea and the Gulf of Finland — a strategic naval chokepoint that Peter the Great staked everything to wrest from Sweden three hundred years ago.
Give it to Putin to make NATO relevant again and to help confirm all the propaganda narratives that pro-NATO lobbyists and military contractor-adjacent experts have been hammering for decades about the Slavic Threat from the East. And for what? All so that Russia can grab a bit more territory in Eastern Ukraine? If that’s all Putin wanted he could have done a limited “humanitarian mission” there right from the beginning and avoided his big and failed regime change invasion. He didn’t have to push tanks all the way to Kiev. But he did and failed. And now he’s got everyone riled up and against him, with little to show for it. Even hardcore Russian imperialists, who are far to the right of Putin and really want this war, are highly critical of how badly Putin’s generals have bungled the operation.
I don’t have any special insight here. But from my own limited perspective, this whole “special operation” has been a disaster — even if all of Putin’s now scaled-back war aims can be achieved at some point in the future. It’s pretty obvious
Putin has long cultivated the image of a crafty and careful strategist, someone who’s always multiple moves ahead of his “western partners.” Now he’s shown himself to be just as strategically incompetent and full of bluster as they are, with one major difference: He doesn’t run a global empire that can act with impunity and pass the costs of its mistakes down to the locals it fucks over. He’s smaller and weaker and can be much more effectively isolated.
Anyway, here’s the FT yesterday on the flip that happened in Finland:
Helsinki’s announcement is expected to be quickly followed by neighbouring Sweden, which has been neutral since the Napoleonic wars of the 19th century.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has fuelled a rapid change in public opinion towards membership of Nato in both Nordic countries. The principle of collective defence is enshrined in Article 5 of Nato’s constitution which means that any attack on one of the alliance’s 30 members is an attack on all.
For years, public backing of Nato membership hovered between 20 and 30 per cent in Finland, even after Russia’s incursions into Georgia in 2008 and Ukraine in 2014. But the most recent poll showed 76 per cent of Finns backed joining Nato, and only 12 per cent opposed. Support for Nato membership in Sweden has also grown since the start of the conflict in Ukraine.
Makes me think that maybe it’s not a joke after all. Maybe Putin really is a NATO sleeper agent, secretly brainwashed by NATOists when he was stationed as a KGB agent in East Germany. His handlers had been waiting for the right time to trigger his programming…and now he’s become an unwitting tool in NATO's bloodthirsty conspiracy for global domination. Say hello to Putin, the Saxonian Candidate.
Speaking of Finland…Last time I came close to stone-throwing distance to it, Evgenia and I were living in St. Petersburg and went out for the weekend to Vyborg, a medieval Swedish fort town not far from Russia’s border.
Like a lot of provincial towns in Europe, Vyborg has traded hands quite a bit. It became part of the Russian Empire in 1710, when Peter the Great defeated Charles XII on a battlefield in, of all places, Ukraine. The town became Finnish briefly after Finland declared its independence from the Russian Empire in 1917. Finland ceded it to the Soviet Union after the Winter War, then took it back during World War II just a few years later, only to lose it again to the Soviet Union in 1944. Now it’s in Russia’s hands again…and will probably stay that way — unless the Karelian separatist movement manages to get a foothold!
We were in Vyborg in December 2016. It’s was cold and gray and dreary. Much of the town center was totally dilapidated, with carcasses of ruined buildings all over the place. The city was half-destroyed during both the Winter War and World War II. When we visited some blocks looked like they had never repaired or even touched since then. They were sitting there, reminders of a war that took place over seventy years ago. There was a nice Lenin statute, though. The restored modernist Vyborg Library was spotless and gleaming.
As rundown and destroyed as Vyborg is, I really hope that it, and the rest of us, don’t get nuked totally out of existence.
The Russian government yesterday threatened “military-technical” “retaliatory steps” if Finland enters NATO and accused it of violating a previous treaty the two government signed back in 1992. Sounds ominous. But what the hell are they gonna do? Invade Finland like it’s 1939? My grandfather fought in that Soviet-Finnish “Winter War,” by the way, in which the Soviet Union lost huge numbers at a ratio of something like 10:1, but ultimately won.
Meanwhile, all the political and media and military types here in America are high on what they think is an imminent victory over Russia. They’re openly gloating and thinking they can now push this conflict to its ultimate conclusion: the collapse of the Russian state. I can’t stop thinking of that Lloyd Austin clip, where he — the Secretary of Defense, the head of America’s military — can be seen smugly smirking and telling reporters — on camera and in public — that America’s support for Ukraine is about something much more fundamental than just helping Ukraine repel Russia’s attacks: it’s about crippling Russia. Watch the clip. He keeps getting “them” and “we” mixed up when talking about Ukraine and America. Pretty clear that to him there’s no real difference. This is America’s war. It’s been hoping for it. And Putin’s delivered in a spectacular way.
As I’ve been saying since the start: our collective foreign policy brain bug has been loving this war. They’ve been openly hoping for it for years and years. Putin gave them what they wanted by pursuing his reckless and egoistic regime change invasion. Now that he’s fucking up, they’re giddy as hell, full of fake moral outrage and cackling into their sleeves between their melodramatic outbursts. These people here really think they can escalate this thing and win and make Ukraine do all the fighting, without any spillage — military or economic. Or maybe they really want to go into full military confrontation? Who knows. But they think they smell weakness and they want to push it as far as they can, and Putin’s not about to stop this thing until he can claim some sort of victory. It’s all very scary and messed up.
It really does seem like we are being marched into a global war — and that this path will seem very obvious in hindsight to whoever remains alive in the ruins. Evgenia and I were talking about it the other day. To sit here in California, with people going about their lives like nothing is happening, while Europe is arming up and the United States is sending weapons, keen on fighting about as a direct war with Russia as it can get away with without actually pulling the trigger…it all feels very strange and on the brink. You try to not think about it all the time. Because, really, what can you do? But the unease is always there and seeps into everything.
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