University of Akureyri, March 19, 2016
Those who know his work will recognize here my debt to John Pilger, journalist and documentary film-maker, who has both informed and inspired me.
On December 7, 2005, sixty-four years to the day after the Japanese attack on the American at Pearl Harbor, Harold Pinter, recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature, gave his Nobel Lecture, ” Art, Truth & Politics”. Here is an excerpt from that speech. “In 1958,” Pinter said, “I wrote the following:”
‘There are no hard distinctions between what is real and what is unreal, nor between what is true and what is false. A thing is not necessarily either true or false; it can be both true and false.’
“I believe that these assertions still make sense,” Pinter continued, “and do still apply to the exploration of reality through art. So as a writer I stand by them but as a citizen I cannot. As a citizen I must ask: What is true? What is false?“
Pinter went on to say this:
… language in art remains a highly ambiguous transaction, a quicksand, a trampoline, a frozen pool which might give way under you, the author, at any time.
But … the search for the truth can never stop. It cannot be adjourned, it cannot be postponed. It has to be faced, right there, on the spot.
Political language, as used by politicians, does not venture into any of this territory since the majority of politicians, on the evidence available to us, are interested not in truth but in power and in the maintenance of that power. To maintain that power it is essential that people remain in ignorance, that they live in ignorance of the truth, even the truth of their own lives. What surrounds us therefore is a vast tapestry of lies, upon which we feed.
As every single person here knows, the justification for the invasion of Iraq was that Saddam Hussein possessed a highly dangerous body of weapons of mass destruction, some of which could be fired in 45 minutes, bringing about appalling devastation. We were assured that was true. It was not true. We were told that Iraq had a relationship with Al Quaeda and shared responsibility for the atrocity in New York of September 11th 2001. We were assured that this was true. It was not true. We were told that Iraq threatened the security of the world. We were assured it was true. It was not true.
The truth is something entirely different. The truth is to do with how the United States understands its role in the world and how it chooses to embody it.
I spoke earlier about ‘a tapestry of lies’ which surrounds us. President Reagan commonly described Nicaragua as a ‘totalitarian dungeon’. This was taken generally by the media, and certainly by the British government, as accurate and fair comment. But there was in fact no record of death squads under the Sandinista government. There was no record of torture. There was no record of systematic or official military brutality. No priests were ever murdered in Nicaragua. There were in fact three priests in the government, two Jesuits and a Maryknoll missionary. The totalitarian dungeons were actually next door, in El Salvador and Guatemala. The United States had brought down the democratically elected government of Guatemala in 1954 and it is estimated that over 200,000 people had been victims of successive military dictatorships.
Six of the most distinguished Jesuits in the world were viciously murdered at the Central American University in San Salvador in 1989 by a battalion of the Alcatl regiment trained at Fort Benning, Georgia, USA. That extremely brave man Archbishop Romero was assassinated while saying mass. It is estimated that 75,000 people died. Why were they killed? They were killed because they believed a better life was possible and should be achieved. That belief immediately qualified them as communists. They died because they dared to question the status quo, the endless plateau of poverty, disease, degradation and oppression, which had been their birthright.
The United States finally brought down the Sandinista government. It took some years and considerable resistance but relentless economic persecution and 30,000 dead finally undermined the spirit of the Nicaraguan people. They were exhausted and poverty stricken once again. The casinos moved back into the country. Free health and free education were over. Big business returned with a vengeance. ‘Democracy’ had prevailed.
But this ‘policy’ was by no means restricted to Central America. It was conducted throughout the world. It was never-ending. And it is as if it never happened.
The United States supported and in many cases engendered every right wing military dictatorship in the world after the end of the Second World War. I refer to Indonesia, Greece, Uruguay, Brazil, Paraguay, Haiti, Turkey, the Philippines, Guatemala, El Salvador, and, of course, Chile. The horror the United States inflicted upon Chile in 1973 can never be purged and can never be forgiven.
Hundreds of thousands of deaths took place throughout these countries. Did they take place? And are they in all cases attributable to US foreign policy? The answer is yes they did take place and they are attributable to American foreign policy. But you wouldn’t know it.
It never happened. Nothing ever happened. Even while it was happening it wasn’t happening. It didn’t matter. It was of no interest. The crimes of the United States have been systematic, constant, vicious, remorseless, but very few people have actually talked about them. You have to hand it to America. It has exercised a quite clinical manipulation of power worldwide while masquerading as a force for universal good. It’s a brilliant, even witty, highly successful act of hypnosis.
What Pinter was talking about is nothing new. In December, 1917, between David Lloyd George, Britain’s prime minister during much of the first world war said to C. P. Scott, editor of the Manchester Guardian, “If people really knew the truth,” the prime minister said, “the war would be stopped tomorrow. But of course they don’t know, and can’t know.” And if you investigate war reporting, at least from the nineteenth century to the present, you will find that insofar as any country engaged in war has a public that can be reached by what we now refer to as “mass media”, that public has been lied to about war: cynically, deliberately, and over and over again.
In weaving this tapestry of lies, the mass media—from Pravda, to the New York Times, to London’s Mirror to Þjóðviljinn (now deceased) and Morgunblaðið—have, over time and considering different examples, variously complicit. (I mention only newspapers here; but radio and television have been equally complicit. A major vector for complicity is the so-called “news services”, such as the Associated Press and Reuters, upon which other mass media largely rely for content.) Each new war provides politicians and managers with new lessons about how potential embarrassment (i.e. the revelation of truth to the public) in the media can be avoided and the media rendered complicit in weaving the tapestry of lies. In some places, as we know, the media are simply controlled by governments. But, in general, the Western media, treasuring their “press freedom” or “freedom of information”, largely control themselves and may easily be granted their freedom as they present little danger. The public is equally complicit being for the most part thoroughly uncritical insofar as it can rise above its boredom with the news: Pinter speaks of the “vast tapestry of lies, upon which we feed.” For this purpose, the public, by various devices, must be kept moronized, and this effort seems to have thoroughly succeeded in the United States. It has succeeded less well in Europe, and less effort has been directed to it, politicians being aware that there are limits to how far you can moronize an educated population a significant part of which consist of the still-living remnants of nations that were all-too-recently decimated by war. Yet, it goes surprisingly well, and politicians can afford to wait until enough of those for whom the destruction of their nations is still a living memory to die off and let the powers that be get on with their business.
My audience here might ask, “OK, but what does this have to do with us? Our politicians have kept us out of wars, not pushed us into them. We do not live in a police state. We have freedom of speech here, and no one is hounded, persecuted or punished for saying whatever they want. Some of our news is censored, or self-censored, by our government or by our media themselves, but this is only light censorship, done for reasons that most of us agree with, and there are no signs that this is eroding press freedom. We don’t swallow American propaganda—or Russian, or British or Qatari—whole, as you can see from the widespread opposition here to the latest murderous suppression in Palestine and the widespread support here for a ‘yes’ vote in Scotland. Our public is pretty well educated and not entirely uncritical.”
All of this is true, dear friends; and it is to be hoped that we Icelanders sincerely appreciate the fact that, as far as these matters go, we live in a paradise as compared with most of the world. Yet we have not kept ourselves far enough distanced from the tapestry of lies and are vulnerable—and complicit. For we unfortunately have a weak Fourth Estate. Our media are docile, politically subservient and thus manipulated—perhaps most of all self-manipulated—and are not dedicated to what is required, at least in a supposedly democratic nation, in the way of getting truth to the public of the sort that is needed in order for the electorate to exercise rationally the power that is supposedly vested in it.
Although technological developments are rapidly changing things, mass media—ours and others—are, broadly speaking, conduits for four different kinds of things: news, opinion (including especially editorial opinion), entertainment, and advertising. Upon entertainment I will not comment here, although such comment would be relevant.
Advertising is mainly for the purpose of selling goods and services, although politicians and policies are also “sold” through advertising—witness the recent Scottish independence election. In this case, if we are to have a vigilant and independent Fourth Estate, two things must be secured: first, that advertising must not be allowed to be false, misleading or disingenuous, and second, those who advertise—and thus support the media financially, the new generation of “free” newspapers surviving entirely upon this—must not be allowed to influence news reporting. If we want a free press, or free media, these two things must be policed by the media themselves, but self-policing and self-regulation are notoriously weak in most areas where it is spoken of. In any case, Icelandic media have in no way come close to meeting their responsibilities in these matters. Most of them serve particular political parties and particular lobbies and are therefore compromised in advance with regard to the policing of advertising; but in fact party-independent media do not do much better. To the extent that these two requirements are not met, media are complicit in weaving the tapestry of lies spoken of by Pinter.
Opinion is the area in which media are entitled to be partial to some particular set of views or mouthpieces for party politics. Yet, again, there are two things that are necessary if we are to have the kind of responsible Fourth Estate needed to serve a democracy. First, such opinion as is channeled to the public by the media may not be built upon falsehoods, misrepresentations or even upon deliberate omissions. There are many matters, even in the sciences, that are controversial or uncertain; and where opinion builds upon it, it will take on the uncertainty or controversial nature of the foundation upon which it is built. Opinion that has no foundation should not be transmitted by the media, and I do not see that freedom of opinion or freedom of expression extend inherently to it although we may choose to grant them. But more pertinently, opinion whose foundation is uncertain or controversial should not be transmitted by the media under the pretense that its foundation is firm and may be taken for granted. For example, if an editor or politician speaks in favor of certain political actions or policies on the basis of the idea that “markets are self-regulating”, it should at least be made clear that this idea is not established. And if someone supports imposing sanctions on the Russian Federation in response to the shooting down of Malaysian flight MH 17, it should be made clear that has not been established that the Russians had anything to do with that tragic incident. Otherwise, the opinions transmitted are fraudulent, and the media become again complicit in weaving the tapestry of lies. In this connection, we should keep in mind that Iceland’s descent into financial crisis was in large part a media failure; and its possibility of being drawn, one way or another, into the American-NATO agenda for a European war is not negligible (a matter of which most Icelanders seem blissfully unaware.) The responsibility for not transmitting fraudulent opinion rests with the media themselves, and if they cannot control it—noting that such fraudulent opinion may come from their advertisers, political associates, editors or owners—then that invites external control. The freedom of opinion or of expression that I am sure we all support may extend to false or stupid opinion, as John Stuart Mill argued, but I cannot see that it inherently extends to fraudulent opinion.
The second demand is that despite the fact that the media are entitled to be partial as regards opinion, there must—if we are to have a Fourth Estate that serves a democracy as it should—be a forum in the mass media for a suitable variety of opinions in controversial matters. The mass media are the vehicle through which various relevant opinions reach the public, and the publication of opinion is meant to be influential upon policymakers, legislators and the electorate. This is perfectly legitimate—indeed, required in a democracy—insofar as the influence comes from the content of the opinion laid before the public for consideration. But if the influence simply comes from the exclusion of serious contrary opinion, or from the public’s being barraged by one kind of view while opposing views are, or by using other tricks of “public relations”—terrorizing the public is currently a popular one—then this is not legitimate. It is perhaps all right for one medium to be thoroughly one-sided, but it is not all right if the national media, taken together, are thoroughly one-sided. Otherwise, national media become complicit in weaving the tapestry of lies. They certainly were in the recent Scottish independence referendum, where the views and arguments of the “yes” group were given little media presence, while the “no” group enjoyed a media barrage and a studied, anti-“yes” terror campaign conducted by leading politicians. In my judgment, the Icelandic media do practically nothing to meet the first of these two demands, while the second demand is served haphazardly and superficially—the “alternatives” are generally restricted to the rather simplistic positions advanced by the political parties. Certainly, there is no systematic effort made by the Icelandic media to secure collectively what is known as “balance”, never mind intelligent balance.
Finally, but most importantly, nothing that is not conscientiously verified should be transmitted as news—or at least the sources and degree of verification must always be made clear. Furthermore, it is the responsibility of news media to obtain and transmit the information that “the public needs to know” in order to exercise the power that is said to reside in it in a democratic polity. Freedom of the press is not the freedom to misrepresent or distort what is reported as fact, whether by falsification, irresponsibility as to verification, by selectivity or by omission. In many jurisdictions, witnesses in cases before a court are made to swear to tell “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth”, and news reporting that is not dedicated to exactly that is the principle loom on which the tapestry of lies is woven, even when the lies themselves originate from outside of the media. The American President Obama gave a speech to the United Nations General Assembly the other day that as far as I can see consisted of little more than a mass of egregious lies and misrepresentations. I think personally that politicians and officials should be forbidden by law to lie to the public. For serious lies, including lies of omission and misrepresentation, they should be driven, by law, from office and perhaps even imprisoned, for it is through such lies that the greatest harms to individuals, nations, and mankind come about.
There is of course no chance at all that legislators—our dear politicians—will ever make laws that take politicians to task for lying, but one can dream. If anyone asks whether this would be a violation of the principle of free speech, my answer is no. Let us consider for a moment some of the more important limitations on the freedom of speech. It does not license perjury. It does not license libel or slander. It does not license academic misconduct, that is, the falsification or fabrication of data or results in a scientific or scholarly report. It does not license false advertising. It does not license falsification of a tax return, application for insurance, or mortgage application; indeed it does not license any sort of fraudulent misrepresentation. It does not license identity theft. It does not license expert testimony that is purposely false or misleading or in reckless disregard of the truth (as for example the infamous report of Frederick Mishkin and Icelandic collaborators on the stability of Icelandic banks). And so I maintain that it does not license political lying. Thus, in terms of “rights”, the way is open, I believe, to insist that politicians not lie (and to do something about it if they do).
As things stand, however, our mass media are our only protection from the lies, concealments and distortions peddled by our politicians, and the media can only protect us by exposing those lies for what they are, not by transmitting them as news. It is perfectly straightforward news to report Obama’s speech—he did give that speech—and even to reproduce it verbatim. But this is only part of that news; it needs also to be reported, and explicitly documented, that the speech consisted of lies, if it did. Politicians should not be able to transmit lies to the public—sometimes the global public—through the laziness, gullibility, incompetence or complicity of either newsmen or the media that employ them. This has to do with the ethics not only of newsmen but of the mass media as such. And it, too, could be, in principle, rightly backed up by law (as it is partially by the laws of libel). Freedom of the press does not extent to fraudulent news reporting any more than the freedom of speech extends to political lying.
The Icelandic media do not come out well on this score. Since most of them are in cahoots with, or manipulated by, one or another political party, they are uncritical of political lies, at least of their crony politicians. And they devote little effort to insuring non-fraudulent news reporting in any case. They are not assiduous at providing the public with the truths that it needs to know in order for Icelandic democracy to function as any kind of genuine democracy, and they are complacent in the face of all of the tricks that are pulled on the public in order to keep it in ignorance. For instance, when some “scandal” erupts in the news, as happens with upsetting frequency, the first thing that a critical reader should ask herself is, “What is going on that they don’t want me to pay attention to?” Scandal-mongering is one of the standard ways in which the reporting of news is rendered fraudulent, a diversion. Our politicians, and many of our economists, declare that “they didn’t see our financial crisis coming”, and sometimes add that no one could have done so. But even if we believe that they didn’t see it coming (which I don’t), we would all have seen it coming if the news media had done the job that they must be expected to do in a democracy. Does anyone remember the legislation that was passed from 1985 onward in order to allow the “asset stripping” of our savings banks (a project that succeeded, by the way)? Did anyone ever know about it in the first place? Was it reported? Was it discussed? Do you think that it was too complex for the average person to understand? Do you think that this kind of omission supports the democratic control of policy or is in the public interest? Thus are our news media complicit in the weaving of the tapestry of lies.
Most of the media exist as private corporations, engaged in news reporting, opinion, advertising and entertainment with the aim of turning a profit. There are of course also state media, but they are run in much the same way as private media, not least because they draw upon the same pool of personnel. This situation may be as it should be, but the way in which the media have come to function in society and politics needs to be squarely faced and better taken into account. Like hospitals, insurance companies and courts, there are certain standards that the media must be made to meet, despite (and not least on account of) temptations that may lead them in other directions.
The institutional framework of the media must also be regulated so as not to undermine the demands of their meeting those standards. For instance, the media corporations should not wind up in too few hands. In Italy, Silvio Berlusconi is the controlling owner of most of the major Italian media corporations and is doubtless for that reason Italy’s most powerful politician. The U.S. media have concentrated in very few hands, and international media moguls, like Rupert Murdoch, own a large number of large media corporations globally. The few controlling owners of mass media all have their own personal and political agendas and become the non-elected controllers of national policies. The idea of a media-controlled democracy doesn’t pass the laugh test, especially when the media are themselves controlled by parties whose interests do not run with those of the public (although they can perhaps cozen the public into thinking otherwise in the short run). What I am saying here must be familiar to everyone in my audience and almost banal. Yet, nothing is done about this and the concentration of the media into an ever-smaller number of hands continues. This may seem to be less of a problem in Iceland than in some other places, but we must consider the utter dependence of the Icelandic media on a small number of outlets for all foreign news; and there is nothing in place that would prevent Rupert Murdoch from buying up all of the Icelandic private media before the end of this week.
In particular in Iceland, news reporting must be made to conform to the standards of truth, rather than to the interests of party politicians or to any other interests than those of supplying the public in a democratic society with the truths it needs to know in order to make up its mind and exert its influence in our struggle with the present and our course through the future. For, as George Orwell pronounced: “Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.” It would be nice to think that our media will autonomously with these standards, through a respect for democracy and an ambition for professionalism. But at any rate, we, the public, should demand this, whatever our particular political persuasions may be.
As far as budding journalists are concerned, I’ll close with a quotation from the famous American news anchorman, Dan Rather, when explaining in an interview taken by John Pilger why he had failed in his role as a journalist in the case of the Iraq war (the last one, now there’s a new one):
. . . I have said, whether those of us in journalism want to admit it or not, then, at least in some small way, fear is present in every news room in the country. A fear of losing your job, a fear of your institution – the company you work for – going out of business, the fear of being stuck with some label, “unpatriotic” or otherwise that you will have with you to your grave and beyond, the fear that there’s so much at stake for the country, that by doing what you deeply feel is your job will sometime be interference; all these things go into the mix. But it’s very important for me to say, because I firmly believe it: I’m not the Vice-President in Charge of Excuses, and we shouldn’t have excuses. What we should do is take a really good look at that period and learn from it. And, you know, suck up our courage.
 Emphasis added.
 These are the most powerful lines in Pinter’s speech and have been frequently quoted, not least by John Pilger.
 The full text of Pinter’s speech may be read at:
 For this history, see the film by John Pilger mentioned in footnote 17, below.
 Some of these people, particularly the Germans, actually learned something from the Second World War, but, as I go on to indicate, the now-up-coming generations seem to be as clueless as their pre-war ancestors.
 Some instances in which the media have “policed” themselves have been as abusive and repressive as any government would be. See, for example, Paula Cruickshank, “42 Seconds That Sullied Helen Thomas—and New Media”, that can be found at:
This article, incidentally, quotes several interesting clauses from the (U.S.) Society of Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethics, the content of which I believe it would be wise for our own journalists to incorporate into their ethical code. Birgir Guðmundsson informs me that some such has been proposed but that Icelandic journalists have not been willing to adopt.
 In the sequel, I call this “fraudulent opinion”.
 There is a difference between what is false and what is falsified, or what is unsubstantiated but pretends to be substantiated.
 The use of media terror campaigns is well known and a standard device of politicians, as Hermann Göring famously pointed out. In an interview in his cell in Nuremberg on January 3rd, 1946, Göring said “. . . the common people don’t want war; neither in Russia nor in England nor in America, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy or a fascist dictatorship or a Parliament or a Communist dictatorship. . . .?[T]he people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country.” (emphasis added). In Scotland recently, the threat was that of financial ruin; in the Cold War, the threat was the awful, lurking Russian hordes. Today, people in California are apparently terrified of being beheaded by militant Muslims. In short, Göring knew what he was talking about. Of course, as I indicate below, the media should warn the public of genuine threats, as they often do not (as for example, the obvious and verifiable threat of the collapse of the Icelandic banks in 2008, or, earlier, the riskiness of buying DeCode stock); but they should not uncritically communicate the threats manufactured for mass consumption by politicians and demagogues.
 In this paper, as the reader should easily understand, I use the term “lie” as an abbreviation for all of these sorts of misrepresentation.
 It is perhaps important to emphasize that it is often not possible to discern the truth; and in certain cases there may be no truth to discern, although I draw the reader’s attention to the opening passages of Pinter’s Nobel speech. Obviously, the media cannot be expected to arrive at the truth in such cases. But what it can do is to inform its audience either that the truth cannot be discerned or that there may be no truth to discern. The important thing is not to represent things to be more or less evident than they are and to educate the public.
 Speech of 24 September 2014; full text available here: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/barackobama/11119048/Full-text-of-Barack-Obamas-speech-to-the-UN-General-Assembly.html
The then-Secretary-of-State, Colin Powell, delivered an even more egregious fabrication to a plenary session of the UN Security Council on February 5, 2003, concerning Saddam Hussein’s supposed collection of “weapons of mass destruction”. The media did not do their job—it would have been easy enough to expose this fraud for what it was—and Powell’s ploy worked so well that it was doubtless an inspiration to Obama. The fraudulence of Powell’s performance has been richly documented. As for Obama’s speech, one has to assess the few kernels of information about current events that may be considered reliable, or tentatively reliable, in a morass of propaganda, channeled by the media, the like of which has been rarely seen. These few items reveal Obama’s speech to be thoroughly fraudulent.
 Frederic S. Mishkin and Tryggvi T. Herbertsson, “Financial Stability in Iceland” (Reykjavík: Icelandic Chamber of Commerce, 2006). The report is available at: http://www.vi.is/files/555877819Financial%20Stability%20in%20Iceland%20Screen%20Version.pdf
Warnings from competent sources—including Fitch, Merrill Lynch (rather ironically) and the Danske Bank—were coming from all directions at the time. But without having to understand any technicalities, it was clear that the banks were so highly leveraged (i.e. had issued loans that far surpassed their assets) that any small contraction in the interbank credit market (practically inevitable) would cause them instantly to collapse.
 The first real analysis of this process that I know of appeared not in the media but in an MA thesis in sociology by Þorvaldur Logason, Valdselítur og spilling: um spillingarorsakir hrunsins á Íslandi 2008 (University of Iceland, 2011). The Icelandic National Broadcast (RÚV) ran a short program in 2013 about the projected publication of a book (yet to be published) based upon the thesis, which is how I learned about the matter. Þorvaldur says that there was some minor media coverage around 2001-2002, which certainly passed me by. But this dangerous attempt to appropriate the assets of the savings banks should have received intensive, analytical coverage. Suppose someone thinks that Þorvaldur’s analysis and critique was mistaken. The point remains: there should have been detailed coverage and a public discussion. By 2008, it was far too late.
 George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-four, Part 3, Chapter 2. This book, originally published in 1949, is available in many editions and is in the process of entering the public domain.
 Transcribed from the sound track of John Pilger’s documentary film, “The War You Don’t See” (2011). The film (along with most of Pilger’s other films) can be viewed at http://johnpilger.com/videos and is highly recommended for anyone interested in the responsibility that attaches to the freedom of the media.
In fact, one more US-directed violent overthrow of an elected government has carved off the biggest country of Europe from next-door Russia. Yet Russia gets all the blame for “brute force” in reclaiming Crimea – although 96% of a voluntary turnout of 82% voted to rejoin its traditional mother country. While denounced as “violation of international law”, the Crimea referendum choice expresses the “self-determination” of a society guaranteed under Article 2 of the United Nations Charter. Ukraine’s coup government, in contrast, has prohibited any referendum on its rule – especially the Eastern regions where popular uprisings with no mass deaths or beatings (as in the Kiev coup) call for self-determination against illegal rule from Kiev.
The uprising cities of East Ukraine – beginning with Donetsk, then Kharkiv, Luhansk, Slavyansk (the Slav has been removed from the Westernized Sloviansk), Kramatorsk and other centers and villages – all demand a democratic referendum for their future status as equal citizens in a Ukraine federation. Integration with Russia is not favoured by Russia, but the dominant popular feeling unreported in the media is peaceful and pragmatic. Ukraine’s government has been broken by the US-led coup and cannot provide what people need in jobs, healthcare, income security and pensions. Certainly “the Greek model” planned for Ukraine is not in its people’s common life interests. Under the coup government of prime minister Arseniuy Yatsenyuk, a banker who is already prescribing mass dispossession by austerity programs, what will happen to Ukraine is foretold by has happened in Greece.
The EU’s financial rule by banker mechanisms has already been almost as great a failure as the oligarch-marketization of Russia after 1990. It is a complex system of one-way powers of life deprivation and social ruin which I define in The Cancer Stage of Capitalism: From Crisis to Cure (1999, 2013). Elected governments lose all control to the new absolute and overriding imperative of European rule – to grow and multiply private transnational money sequences. In accord with the ruling formulae, the Greek economy has been slashed by 25 per cent, unemployment is an official 28 per cent excluding the unpaid, the public health system is dismantled to pay foreign banks, wages are cut by a quarter, the public sector is sacked and privatized, and jobless youth rises to 60 per cent even with mass emigration. These outcomes now await Ukraine.
Those in Ukraine who are not under the spell of its father cult, oligarch riches, and post-1991 dispossession know better. Outside of Kiev they have had enough, and that is why the election and presidency of the Party of Regions and its allies whose popular support lies outside Kiev have been repeatedly overturned. It is also why their decentralized federal alternative has been removed from the table. The murderous insurrection in Kiev and violent coup of elected government reveals how far the Kiev oligarchy and plotters are prepared to go backed by the US. Yet this time Russia has drawn a red line. With near-unanimous support of the Crimean people and the uprising of the Eastern cities and villages as I write, Russia has stopped the US-led transnational corporate-machine and NATO from further expansion for the first time in 25 years.
It is true that Ukraine – the biggest country and bread basket of Europe – has now been pried wide open for transnational Western banks, agribusiness, Big Oil and NATO to feed on. And it is true that all talk of “land grab” has been projected onto Russia even as US Greystone and Blackwater mercenaries – now called “Academi” in the Big Lie lexicon – move on the ground in Ukraine as the US and NATO propagate ever more threats of force and embargo against “Russia’s aggression”. Reverse blame is always the US geostrategic game. “Russia’s designs to take the whole of Ukraine” is again US projection of its own objective, as in the old days when “world rule plot” was attributed to the former USSR. Yet a line has been drawn at Crimea, and drawn again in Eastern Ukraine, and it is backed by a country that cannot be arm-twisted, propaganda invaded, or air-bombed with impunity. That is why the one-way threats never stop. It is the first line yet drawn by an historical power outside of China against the exponentially multiplying US-led private transnational money sequences devouring the world.
People now have a chance to reflect on who is the aggressor and who stands for democratic choice as events unfold. They can observe the patterns of Orwellian distortion day to day. Never is the other side presented. The US and NATO alone continuously denounce, lie and threaten. Financial contracts and assets are violated by one side alone. Hate campaigns without evidence go one way. Uprisings have been mass murderous from the US-coup side and without harm from the resisting side. Russia is behind its own borders, and the US deploys threats, covert operations and mercenaries from thousands of miles away. But this time US-NATO-led corporate globalization cannot destroy nations at will. Sometimes history can happen as it should.
The Mechanisms of Reverse Blame to Justify Destroying Societies
Reversal of blame is always the US method of pretext and justification. This is why Russia is pervasively vilified in the mass media, and another significant Arctic actor, Canada’s big-oil regime, joins in along with the UK. As always, denunciation rules without reasoned understanding. As always, the US-led financial and military forces of private money-power expansion move behind the abomination of designated enemies. Any nation or leader not serving transnational corporate control of resources and markets across borders is always the villain. This is the ruling meta program.
Thus too in Ukraine. When Europe tried to broker a peace deal between the opposition and elected government of Ukraine, the US Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland continued to court the neo-Nazi coup leaders to overthrow the state, instructing “Yats” (appointed PM Yatsenyuk) to consult with the main putsch leader Oleh Tyahnybok “at least four times a week”. When she is reminded of the EU peace talks and agreement to stop the bloodshed, her response is telling, “Fuck the EU”. The coup peaked after three days of murder by the neo-Nazi faction. When former “Orange revolutionary” and gas oligarch leader of the Fatherland Party, Yulia Tymoshenko, then got out of jail for criminal embezzlement of state property, she expressed the logic of power shared with the US regarding Russia. She says without denial of the words: “take up arms and go and wipe out these damn katsaps” [Russian minority] – – – so that not even scorched earth would be left of Russia.” Yet in every Western media of record, it is Russia who remains “the aggressor”, “the growing threat”, “the source of the rising crisis”, and “the out-of-control power that must be stopped”.
There are exact thought governors at work throughout. I have analysed these structures of delusion in learned journals as ‘the ruling group-mind’ (collectively regulating assumptions that are false but taken for granted) and, sustaining it, the ‘argumentum ad adversarium’ (the diversion of all issues to a common adversary). The “escalating crisis in Ukraine” expresses these fallacious operations in paradigm form. So does the false claim of “Syrian use of chemical weapons” which almost led to US bombing of Syria’s civilian infrastructures a few months earlier. The mind mechanics at work form the inner logic of the lies which never stop. The grossest operations go back to the Reagan regime naming Nicaragua as “a clear and present danger to the United States” to justify US war crimes against it which in turn fed the ever- growing corporate-military complex and murderous covert operations. Always the mind-stopping mendacity and criminal aggressions are justified through the ruling group-mind and enemy-hate switch which form the deep grammar of this thought system.
At the most general level, the “Russian threat to Ukraine” diverts public attention from the really fatal problems of the world and their global causal mechanism – transnational money sequencing – which is metastasising further in Ukraine. The air, soil and water cumulatively degrade from its transnational corporate looting and polluting. The climates and oceans destabilize from the same cause at the same time. Species too become extinct at a spasm rate, and the world’s forests, meadows and fisheries are cumulatively destroyed. The global food system produces more and more disabling junk as commodity diseases multiply. The vocational future of the next generations is eliminated for a growing majority of people. All these trends and more are one-way, degenerate, and undeniable. All are driven by US-led private and transnational money-sequence multiplication which now moves into and through Ukraine. Without Russia’s past financial and energy assistance worth tens of billions of dollars and completely destabilized by the US-led violent coup, Ukraine verges towards collapse. That is where the Greek model comes in – the stripping of Ukraine to pay for what it has lost from Russia by the US-led coup which further enables military advance to Russia’s borders.
As usual, such geostrategic intervention is life destructive at every level of its consequences, but the underlying causal mechanism is unspeakable in official culture. From Africa to Europe to the Middle East to Latin America, the unspoken master trend is systematic society destruction. Look, for example, forward and backward from the last manufactured crises geared to enable US-led destabilization to bombing – the “weapons of mass destruction of Iraq”, the “genocidal plans of the dictator Gadaffi”, “Assad’s chemical weapons used on his own people”, or, across the ocean, Venezuela’s “despotism” which prioritizes the elimination of public education, healthcare and poverty elimination. Always the victim society has more developed social programs than its neighbours. The ultimate enemy is social life bases themselves.
Observe the common pattern of social destruction. It begins with US covert forces sponsoring opposition forces in the society featuring fascist and jihadist terrorists, mounting global media campaigns against the targeted leader, murders committed by snipers pretending to be state agents, growing civil division and hate towards civil war, and absolutely one-sided reporting of the US point of view, and reverse-moral justifications for what ends as society destruction. The US bombing stage has not yet been reached in Syria because Russia led the alternative of UN chemical-weapons destruction, even though Syria had never used the weapon. Not long after destroying Iraq and Libya on known false pretexts, the US proclaimed again and again the mass-murderous gas used in Syria was by “Assad the war criminal” although the evidence kept disconfirming the big lie mega-phoned by John Kerry. It went all the way to a White House plan to bomb civilian infrastructures as in Iraq and Libya. In revealing contrast, Russia “the world bully” has never bombed a city. Yet US reverse projection rules. As for Assad’s “war crime”, the truth found by multiple analysis was that “kitchen sarin” manufactured in Turkey and crude-missile lobbed by the al Nusra jihadists allied with the US and funded by Saudi Arabia and Qatar was the source of the gas massacre (as Seymour Hersh has finally made public).
Much the same generic script of engineered civil conflict and war combined with false threat and crimes of the constructed foreign enemy has been used over and over again against Iran and its “nuclear threat” with no evidence, while Israel has an illegal stockpile of them threatening to use them to stop Iran’s “nuclear threat”. In all, the reverse-projection tactic has become the signature of everything the US and its allies allege of others to ruin them.
Ukraine in Motion as Another Paradigm Example of US-led Society Destruction
Serial false allegations and pretexts thus unfold again against Russia in regard to Ukraine. The US-led mayhem and violence varies widely, but the dots have not yet been joined on what is always achieved beneath the political-ideological shows – the tearing apart and dispossession of one society after another by US-led financial and armed means. Here it is Ukraine and the set-up of Russia at once. Not only is the society decapitated, as in Ukraine or Libya or Iraq or as demanded in Syria. That is the official script. Much more deeply the society’s civil bonds are rent asunder, its productive base is sabotaged, its social life supports are stripped, its environment and resources looted and its future despoiled. Always. There is no objective fulfilled except social life-system destruction. But the connections still go unmade. As General Rick Hillier, commander of Canada’s forces helping to bomb Libya said afterwards: “We did it because we could”. As CIA executive director Buzzy Krongard acknowledges about the permanent US war, but still without the consequence named: “It will be won by forces you do not know about, in actions you will not see, and in ways you may not want to know about”.
The supremely evil truth becomes testable by its continuous repetition. Dismantling or destroying society’s very life bases is the innermost meaning of US-led “freedom” and “globalization”. It includes even US society itself by ever more monstrous misallocation of public resources away from what serves life bases to what deprives them. If one reviews the post-1980 trajectory of ruin of nations, the objectively evil pattern becomes clear. No other actually working goal has been achieved since the Reagan-Thatcher turn. It is the DNA of the global cancer system. Try to think of exception. Since the war-criminal destruction of poverty-ridden Nicaragua’s new schools and clinics by the signature method of covertly US funded and armed forces within, the society-destruction method has only grown and multiplied by terrorist as well as financial means. When Obama says “every society must chart its own course”, he follows the reverse moral syntax at work. The deliberate mass-diseasing of 500,000 children in the first manufactured crisis of Iraq as the nearby Soviet Union collapsed revealed what we could expect from the US without another superpower to contain it. In all cases, there has been one underlying principle of outcome – US-led civil disintegration of societies across the world. That is how a cancer works at the transnational level of life organization.
Engineering civil war is the favored method with effective genocide the long consequence. This is true not only in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Lebanon, and Syria, but Somalia, Sudan and the Congo. Direct US invasion may lose the war from Vietnam to Afghanistan, but its defeat is, more deeply, another US-led success at destroying another society. The Wall Street metastasis to EU banker-run Europe has worked without invasion or even proxy uprising, but society destruction is still achieved by the small print of corporate treaties and bank powers people never see. Greece, Spain and Italy are effectively ruined, and behind the dismantling of these and all victim societies is the same transnational corporate system multiplying itself through societies. Big Banks, Oil, Military Contracting, Big Agri-Food and Pharma are themselves only vehicles of the one underlying economic disease of transnational money sequences self-multiplying across all borders without life limits or functions. They feed on ruined societies as their carrion.
Ukraine follows this macro pattern. It comes into the fold of the EU through a US-led fascist coup posing as “freedom” and “revolution”, but in fact hollowing out the society’s lifeblood and bases as the US-led coup and EU financial straitjacket suck it dry. This is the unseen law of transnational money-demand multiplication to the top. In Ukraine the method features similar tools – increasingly armed and destructive oppositional forces on the ground, US bankrolling and direction of the opposition’s factions in orchestrated destruction ($5 billion under aid guises, $20 million for the street reported by Secretary Nuland in a speech to business), and pervasive transnational corporate propaganda about the constructed civil war as a “struggle for Ukraine’s freedom” – decoded, transnational corporate and bank freedom to loot and pollute. As always, inside allies include fascist and terrorist forces – the Svoboda and Pravy Sektor factions in Ukraine which now have key executive posts in the coup government and trace their history back to the Ukraine Insurgent Army (UPA) led by their hero Stephen Bandera who allied with the Nazi invasion of Ukraine in 1941 and helped to round up Jews.
The worst is yet to come. Never is there any US building of the victim society’s economy and life support systems, and so too Ukraine. Again we might compare Russia here to the US in Afghanistan over 14 years. The self-multiplying corporate money sequences which reap all gains have no committed life function or obligation including to the imperial state itself. They pay ever fewer taxes to it, and bleed ever more public money and resources from it. There is only one pattern of consequence and Ukraine too is now almost occupied by its ruling mechanism to impoverish the people further to feed the rich. As always, society’s common life capital bases will be further defunded, privatized for profit, and saddled by unpayable transnational bank debts. The real economy will be flooded with more junk foods, media products and social-dumping commodities, and bred to a violence culture already hatched by the coup. Collective life capital bases will be further laid waste for multiplying private money fortunes across borders.
The Life-Blind Thought System Behind Global Society Destruction
Since using the spectacular 9-11 event as pretext for the new PNAC plan of “full-spectrum domination”, falling on the anniversary of the destruction of Chile’s society in 1973, the U.S. has been on a non-stop crusade of destroying societies across the world. The hollowing out of social bonds and bases includes the US itself. Its impoverishment grows as non-productive riches multiply at the top, middle classes fall to ever new levels of debt, the growing majority of youth is without a future, public squalor spreads across the land, and over 2000 million dollars a day is spent on armed force threat and operations with no real enemy to justify them.
It all goes back to first principles. “There is no such thing as society” declared the fanatic Friedrich von Hayek who was mouth-pieced by his disciple Margaret Thatcher. “We owe our very lives to capitalism”. But deeper than words, the principle of no-society is built into the ruling economic paradigm. Without notice, every life coordinate is erased from account. There are no life needs, no environment, no society, no children, no relations with others, and no history in this life model. All unpriced life goods from water and sewer infrastructures and services to universal public education, culture and healthcare to social security support in age, unemployment, and disability are blinkered out except as “cost burdens”. The very terrestrial biosphere on which everything depends is ruled out of this moronic frame of reference. Demand itself is never people’s needs or necessity. It is private money demand minted by private banks without the legal tender to back it to indebt the great majority and to gamble on their future means of life. ‘Supply’ is not the life means people require. It is ever more priced commodities for profit promoting more human and ecological ill-being as far as corporate globalization extends. Ukraine can look forward to this US-led thought system ruling over it from within the financialized European Union which is now as banker-run as America.
The ruling value mechanism can be crystallized into natural language equations: Freedom = freedom for private money demand = in proportion to the amount controlled = ever less freedom for those with less of it = no right to life for those without it. Even more generally, the underlying master equations of the globalizing system now moving to rule Ukraine into Russia can be defined as follows: Rationality = Self-Maximizing Choice = Always More Money-Value for Self is Good = Self-Multiplying Sequences of Ever More Money to the Top = All Else is Disposable Means to this Pathogenic Growth. This is the innermost value logic of the US-led global system and it has no limit of dispossession and ruin if not stopped. It is perhaps emblematic irony that the favorite for Ukraine’s post-coup President is a billionaire sugar-commodity maker producing no food value, but more and more obesity and diabetes.
World Empire or Globalizing Disease?
Left critics coalesce around “US imperialism” as the common cause of the global meltdown on organic, social and ecological levels. Yet it is strange to call a system an “empire” whose imperial center is increasingly hollowed out on every plane; whose interventions and wars destroy productive forces at every level; and whose outcome is not more amenities for the poor, as apologists like Leo Strauss claim, but ever more societies as black holes with life support systems cumulatively devoured. “Sometimes I think they feel like they’re in a lab and they’re running experiments on rats and not understanding the consequences of what they are doing,” Vladimir Putin wonders in partial sense of the derangement at work.
More clearly, the states which the US planned to destroy in 2001 (as reported by General Wesley Clark in his memoirs) – Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Iran and Syria – are now in fact destroyed societies. All but Iran are left with civil war and majority destitution where once they had been relatively prosperous and life secure. For example, before Western bombing of Iraq under the usual blame-the-enemy diversion to its leader (a paid CIA agent implanted in office by the US), Iraq led the Middle East in free public healthcare and higher education, and Libya provided free downpayments for young couples’ housing as well prior to its bombing. U.S.-led interventions and aerial bombing have destroyed the social life-organization of both nations without even the electricity and water back on. Syria was also a middle-income quasi-socialist nation, but was independent, friendly with Russia, and capable of fighting an expanding Israel. So Syria too was marked for destabilization. Its internal protests received US-Israel covert support, and turned quickly into civil war with US special operation forces and orchestrated funding of rival camps including jihadists still incinerating the country. As usual the national leader is blamed for everything. All the while, Iran is periodically threatened with annihilation while Venezuela across the ocean is subjected to US-led destabilization too as in Ukraine, Syria, and Libya.
While gas bombs have been thrown freely in Venezuela and Ukraine with US support against democratically elected states, Venezuela’s government serves the poor while Ukraine’s has been oligarchic on both sides. Putin thus understands Ukraine’s protestors as “tired of seeing one set of crooks replacing another”. In contrast, no common life interest at all exists for the US. When bribes of officials, street gangs and press slander are not enough, US-led destabilization by financial system levers, covert operatives and civil war follow behind reverse-projection cover stories. One can imagine if Molotov cocktails were thrown during the Wall Street uprising as in US-financed protests in Ukraine and Venezuela. “Violence-threatening protestors” is all they can say about peaceful demonstrations at home however just the cause. Concern about people’s lives, in short, never arises except as a media mask. This is why the US-led coup in Ukraine murdered people and usurped democratic process and legal warrant without a pause. It is also why it demanded the sieg-heiling violent thug Oleh Tyanybok of the Svoboda Party to be a chief advisor to the coup government although he blamed a “Muscovite/Jew mafia” for Ukraine’s problems and “Germans, Kikes and other scum” who want to “take away our Ukrainian state”. He is a symptom of the deep-structural derangement of US rule. In all cases – from Honduras to Paraguay, Egypt to Mali – covert funding, forces of destabilization and chaos are the modus operandi with US special operations leading the repertoire of financial destabilization, demonization of resistance, and armed civil-war training. Unlike classic imperialism, the system spreads by greed and fear, never by productive force development and universalizing rights and laws.
Invasive war in 2014 is not so acceptable to the world after the obliteration of the societies and life infrastructures of Iraq and Libya. So drones, suitcases of money, special operations, propaganda campaigns and whatever else can sabotage resistance are deployed to pry societies open for competitively self-multiplying transnational corporations to exploit foreign resources, labor and forced markets. This is known as “the free movement of private capital and commodities”. Until 1991, the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was still the biggest block and resource treasure of all to US-led global financialization. Thus military encirclement, pervasive international slander, ruinous armaments races and illegal embargoes followed for 50 years. It eventually worked to cause the intended collapse of the Soviet Union by spending it bankrupt on the armaments race, and forcing repression by perpetual war threats from richer societies. But US market magic and miracles for the world’s biggest country and its neighbours did not work at all. So the GDP’s of the Soviet republics fell by 60%, and polls today show that 56% of Ukrainians would prefer to be governed as before. Social priorities and universal life necessities matter more to them than majority dispossession and glitz for the rich. But no Western journalist dares say it. And so the spectacularly failed global capitalist experiment has passed without a word of notice from “the free world”. It remains unspeakable to name.
Yet reality catches up. The US-led empire was itself unravelling in historical time without recognition. Its most gigantic failure has come back to haunt it – running the once relatively well-off societies of the USSR into productive and cultural ruin. “Well and good”, one is taught to think. “The Soviet Union repressed free speech”. But like Cuba today, a state which is continuously threatened with war, plague, assassination and hate by richer states reverts to tight control. But if one considers all the universal sciences, arts, pensions, education, and health-care provision of the Union of Socialist Republics which have been systematically destroyed, the meaning takes on a different complexion. It remains unspeakable but lies at the heart of the Ukraine-Russia crisis today. Nothing is better but only worse in collective life capital evolution.
Many prefer the language of the imperial past. In this way reality is categorized as familiar, not mutant, backward and chaotic. The repetitions are not from “tragedy” to “farce”, as Karl Marx memorably observed in the case of Louis Bonaparte III of France. Today there is nothing but tragedy. It may all seem to be about oil and imperialism, what opponents focus on. Yet possessing others’ oil and territory are comparatively rational objectives compared to the actual performance of metastasising destruction. Far more is spent on unproductive technologies of killing and terror than has been won in new oil and territory. Both land and energy sources have been largely despoiled and wasted. The oil produced in Iraq, for example, is not close to pre-1990 levels and the oil in Libya is the site of unending civil war. The pattern is destroying not producing through generational time. Corruption and insecurity are universalized, not life as human. Ukraine’s coup now binds it in the pathological direction – more civil strife towards war, more mountains of bank debt, more lack of affordable energy, more ethnic hatred, more mass homicidal weapons, and more rot of dysfunctional wealth inequality.
Can this be an advance of empire? Or is it the next sign of morbid overreach, corruption and fall? An empire has a unified center, a state in control of its subjects and private enterprises, a productive capacity that leads the societies within its imperial reach, an historical civilization of architecture, art, and culture, and most of all enduring public infrastructures and great works across its domains of command. The US global system has ever less of any of these. Its imperial center is divided into gridlock, its productive powers have been increasingly exported or surpassed elsewhere, its architecture, arts and culture are increasingly mindless and violence-ridden, its capacities of civilization and public infrastructures are defunded and collapse at every turn. The US now leads only in monopoly of world currency issue, capacities to destroy life and life conditions, and mass propaganda methods. Its transnational corporations are no longer subservient to any imperial center or purpose but multiply their private money sequences on the back of monopolies of force and money-issue paid for by increasingly impoverished citizens.
The collapsing US civilization cannot comprehend its derangement. Its money-party leaders can only see more opportunity for transnational corporate profits – the moral DNA of the cancer system. This is why the destruction of Russia has been long planned by the geostrategist Zbigniew Brzezinski – first in Afghanistan where he rallied the original jihadists to fight the Soviet Union along with tens of billions in US cash and weapons which developed into 9-11 and the 9-11 wars. In Ukraine the US continues the strategy. In Afghanistan the route to the ex-Soviet oilfields, the US funding was the beginning of the Taliban and al Qaeda forces whose US-manipulated function was and remains destroying societies by armed civil war to complement financial bleeding. This same method bled Yugoslavia and then the USSR dry and has worked from Afghanistan through Iraq and Serbian-Kosovo wars to Syria to Somalia, Mali and Nigeria under many names, but almost always it turns out the terror is manipulated by US money, arms and connections. Today Brzezinski has former Harvard graduate students who strategically game for the Obama administration to smash Russia into ungovernable pieces – the long game.
This is not an exaggerated sense of danger, but a long track record. Wrecking the society in crisis is the testable generalization of all US interventions. More exactly, the unseen law of the ruling system across borders including those of the US is: Ever more public money is hemorrhaged into private money sequences with ever more ruined societies the result.
Consider Ukraine with this diagnostic principle in mind. We can predict from this system law that only more disintegration of society and mutual life support systems will occur in Ukraine with more US-EU bank and corporate feeding on the post-coup remains. US and EU countries themselves will come apart more in the process, and the US will bleed vastly more public resources to keep metastasising the unrecognized fatal disorder while 90% of its own people and the world grow poorer, more malnourished and life insecure.
US Script of Democracy and Freedom versus Facts of Violence and Society Destruction
To put the matter in one sentence, the collapse and overthrow of Ukraine’s elected government has been financed and directed by the U.S, cored in violence by the Nazi roots of the uprising linked with the US-selected coup leaders now in power, and after the swift take-back of Crimea by Russia fanned into hysteria by the corporate media. Revealingly, the Bandera-loving Nazis on the street leading the chaotic terror of Feb 22-24 caused the overthrow of the legitimate government exactly when the civil battle had already been won. The elected President Yanukovych made concessions on everything – his PM was fired, the new protest laws against helmets, metal shields, and masks were revoked (even although banned everywhere else), with legitimate democratic turnover of government plainly in sight and further brokered by the EU in presidential succession. But there was no assurance of electoral victory of the US-allied Kiev forces. They had already lost two elections to the federalist Party of Regions and its alliance governments. It was then the US-led violent overthrow happened in bloodshed return of the Nazi past proclaimed as “freedom” and “revolution”. The violent coup was instantly validated by the US state, but the EU paused for days before diverting blame to Russia too. No media of record appeared to notice that the US had criminally led the coup, and selected and instructed the new coup-government leaders with no vote, no election, and no public discussion. All the while the democratic referendum so abused in Crimea was never imagined for Ukraine by “the free press” and “leaders of the democratic world” even when eastern Ukraine popular uprisings demanded it.
The coup was precisely rushed ahead to avoid any election. The US-backed forces had already lost two in a row. No reports mentioned this in the Free World. The track-switch of attention was instead to Russia. How could the strategy fail? If Putin draws the line at Crimea, he forwards the plan of blaming Russia. If he does not, the long game to dismantle Russia moves faster. If Putin calls a sudden referendum in Crimea to show its citizens’ overwhelming support, he can be ridiculed for “the farce”, “the region under military occupation”, “the gun to the head”. If almost all the people of Crimea want in fact to join the historic mother country in a peaceful vote, just keep repeating “Russia’s annexation of Crimea”, “brute force”, “Russian aggression”. The violent putsch in Ukraine is thus erased from view. It disappears into reverse projection. The most basic reality test is always blocked – Does the society rise or fall in life means available and produced, social life infrastructures and services, employment levels, youth life purpose, and ecological integrity after US-induced “regime change”. It always falls. Is there any exception?
Crimea joining historic Russia again after it was won from the Ottoman Empire centuries ago revealingly goes the opposite way. Bridges, roads and tunnels are promised and planned in immediately in the wake of the Olympic building spree. Pensions, minimum wages and healthcare are invested in to “raise life standards”. Exposure of the world to Crimea’s historical treasure begins. In contrast, the opposing US-led forces silence the EU agreement for presidential succession in Ukraine, lead coup of the elected government with neo-Nazi snipers and violent chaos, direct IMF austerity and social dispossession for the people’s collapsing life support systems, set the main languages, cultures and identifications of citizens into irreparable division and civil war footing, and proclaim virulently against Russia taking an opposite path.
Dividing society from within with no common or productive goal but only more tearing apart is the generic meaning – as in Yugoslavia before it, Libya and Syria in between, Honduras, Paraguay, where does it stop? Direct the destabilizing in the street with billions for the purpose, play on real and invented problems, insert special forces to lead the mounting violence, bribe the people with dollars and bananas, divide classes and cultures to the death, proclaim freedom and prosperity, and run the country into the ground with no life construction undertaken nor any life base any longer secure for 90% of the people. The special forces at work here incredibly included Israelis trained in Gaza allying with the legacy of Ukraine Nazism. But the stakes are large and undiscussed. Ukraine is the biggest land mass of Europe, a leading global grain producer, and home to newly found gas-reserves of possibly trillions of cubic feet. The US-led lockdown on all of it is clear in the new coup state. A neo-liberal banker is Prime Minister, a violence script-writer and chief aide to the Fatherland Party is President, and various neo-fascists are in cabinet positions with none elected. To complete the destruction of democratic legitimacy of Ukraine took only a few hours. But public panic and appointing banker presidents has already been managed in Italy and Greece, why not here too? With no mass media noticing the growing reversal of democracy and freedom in their name, Putin-bashing is the corporate-press game.
Media Censorship and the Violation of International Law
Crimea joining Russia was the lightning rod for the defining US operation of reverse projection, always blaming the other side for what one is doing oneself as the reason for attacking it. Since the Reagan regime made this the signature operation of US propaganda which is always repeated by the media as fact , an Orwellian rule of big lies has been normalized. Reverse projection combines with the earlier defined ad adversarium fallacy and ruling group-mind to overwhelm all reasoned understanding with cartoon-like masks of good (US) and evil (Them) where fact never interferes. Media-conditioned publics are in this way stampeded through one US-led war and civil war after another with official oppositions rationalizing the same belligerent stupefaction. With only the point of view of the US or its allies reported, only the US story line and point of view can be seen or heard by the great majority.
So too in “the Ukraine crisis”. That Russia “invaded Crimea and annexed it against international law” has been the basic story for global denunciation of Russia. In fact over 80% of Crimeans voted, over three times the electorate participation in the US, and almost all of them for integration with Russia not “annexation by it”. The striking fact is that given the accuracy of these figures which is not denied, it is far more than could enable Quebec to legally secede from Canada even with universal language rights lacking in Ukraine. By mathematical deduction, the referendum also included the great majority of the nearly 40% identified as Ukrainians and Tatars. How is it that all you ever heard or saw in the mass media were selected opposing voices from Ukrainian and Tatar minorities? This is the ruling censorship by unseen means – selecting out of public view all facts that are not consistent with the ruling script. More exactly, the corporate media select for public showing only what sells the transnational money-sequence system. This is why we never hear of the US placing itself above all international laws as it enforces this ruling program. Its entire record here is blinkered out a-priori. So blame of others easily enters the ruling group-mind internalized by mass media audiences
This point is worth pausing on because the US is the very “rogue state”, “international outlaw”, “criminal violator of human rights” and, above all, perpetrator of “war crimes” and “crimes against humanity” which it is always projecting onto other states. It has refused to ratify the International Criminal Court to uphold the law against war crimes and crimes against humanity, and publicly repudiated the Court’s right to investigate US criminal violations including the “supreme crime” of a war of aggression. While it is always invoking international laws to falsely blame others of violating them (e.g., Syria’s use of chemical weapons), the US has systematically undermined virtually all international laws to protect human life – treaties and conventions against landmines, against biological weapons, against international ballistic missiles, against small arms, against torture, against racism, against arbitrary seizure and imprisonment, against military weather distortions, against biodiversity loss, and against climate destabilization. Even international agreements on the rights of children and of women have been sabotaged. Yet this unrelenting profile of lawless US right to terror and destruction is nowhere published. This is how censorship by selection works without people knowing it.
What then are we to say about “Russia’s brutal invasion and seizure of Crimea”? In fact the number of Russian soldiers in Crimea were fewer than agreed by contract with Ukraine long prior to the referendum. Crimea is and was also an historic Russian port and strategic peninsula even under Ukraine’s interregnum, and its place in Ukraine occurred only by a 1954 decree of the now-defunct Soviet Union. All of these facts are selected out by corporate media and states which only repeat “Russian brute force”, “illegal seizure of territory”, “war of invasion”, and even “what Hitler did back in the 1930’s” (Hilary Clinton). There is no limit to the absurd hypocrisy of accusation. Thus attention is diverted again and again onto the latest enemy as lawless and the US as law-abiding in contradiction to the facts.
In reality, no injury occurred in the peaceful and overwhelmingly popular integration of Crimea with Russia. Ukrainian troops yielded in peaceful transition and were extended offers to stay. There was no bloodshed with one exception – a soldier in Sebastopol murdered by two men at night in masks and a getaway car tied back to the Ukraine coup leaders. They called it “the entry into the stage of military conflict” and the corporate media reported it without evidence or question. But the sniper murders of 21 people in the Kiev uprising by US-led coup agent was already diplomatically registered by March 4. Predictably, every detail was gagged in ‘the free press’ and the official ‘Free World’. Even the EU’s Foreign Minister Catherine Ashton to whom the facts of the mass murder were communicated by a fellow Foreign Minister, Urmas Paet of Estonia, remained silent. He reported that in fact the medical and forensic evidence proved all 21 murders were by “the same type of bullets” and from “the same handwriting” which could only be from “the new coalition” [of the coup government]. “The new coalition”, concluded Foreign Minister Paet in English, “don’t want to investigate what exactly happened. So that there is now stronger and stronger understanding that behind the snipers, it was not Yanukovich, but it was somebody from the new coalition.”
Such mass murder is grounds for prosecution of war crimes and crimes against humanity under international law and prosecution by the International Court. But due process of law and criminal prosecution are repressed at the same time as the known diplomatic evidence is silenced in the public sphere. Group-mind, reverse projection and blame-the-enemy operations have become so automatic that the most important historical facts and heinous crimes do no register through their prism. Thus Russia goes on being accused of the “violations of law” and “international law” with John Kerry bawling loudest against the evidence. That the violent coup itself was propelled by mass murder of protestors perpetrated by the US-led insurrection to blame on the elected government has thus never made the news. The murderous logic was again evident in microcosm when troops of the coup state opened fire on unarmed citizens approaching their barracks to talk on the Easter eve of the Geneva agreement to repudiate armed violence. The day after the Geneva accord a worse attack exploded in Slavyansk with gunmen (named as Right Sector, the fascist armed group behind the coup whose activities the accord banned) racing up in jeeps to a checkpoint killing at least three people including a bus-driver before disappearing. As always the US-orchestrated government in Kiev projected all attacks onto Russia with no evidence.
All the while heavy Ukraine armed forces moved into eastern Ukraine blocked by citizens while Kiev’s own central street still remains occupied by coup forces. “Putin’s threats” continue to be manufactured along with “Russia’s forcible annexation of Crimea” despite the inhabitants voting peacefully and overwhelmingly for re-unification with Russia in affirmation of a relationship over two centuries old. Altogether erased from reports are the facts that the Supreme Council of Crimea referred to the United Nations Charter and “the right of nations to self-determination” (Article 2, Chapter 1), the very right Ukraine invoked in seceding from the USSR in 1991, and the same right invoked for the separation of Kosovo from Serbia. Also erased is the UN International Court ruling in July 2010 that “general international law contains no prohibition on declarations of independence” Once again we find on closer inspection that what is proclaimed as fact and law by US leaders and allied states is yet another level of a big lie system.
The Ukraine crisis is another variation on the great crisis of the world – the undeclared global war of transnational corporate money sequences to multiply themselves through human societies and life on earth in the diagnosable form of an invasive cancer. Yet what is different in Ukraine is that eastern Ukrainian citizens and the world’s largest nation have stood against the new metastasis across traditional borders and cultural regions. Activists with weapons and massive local support across Donetsk region hoist their own flag and demand referendum for constitutional independence from the fascist-led coup state. The elected Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation, the equivalent of the US Congress, has given unanimous approval for defense of eastern Ukraine protestors against armed assault from the coup government, already underway with NATO flexing armed power all around. Yet this time the resistance cannot be just overrun or bombed. And this time the system DNA begins to be recognized – US-led destruction of societies to ensure their servile dependency and open borders for hollowing out.
The very words “Russia” and “Putin” may provoke ruling group-mind reactions pro or con, so analysis here sticks to track records, trends and policy directions – the defining past, present and future lines of system decision on both sides. What is clear now are set-point differences and shifts towards recognition of the society-destroying forces. The most visible shift has been set into motion by the overthrow of Ukraine’s elected government, big-lie pretexts and serial murders in another US-made civil chaos. But Russia has moved decisively to stop it in the historical process still unfolding. The never-named enemy behind the coup and behind the collapse of evolved social and natural life systems across the planet has been blocked on the ground. Neither Putin nor Russia are a model, but like Venezuela and much of Latin America, they now stand against the invasive disorder overrunning life bases and needs in every region. The deepest issue is the US money-cancer system. In murderously destabilizing and overthrowing Ukraine’s elected government and advancing towards Russia’s borders in the latest metastasis, the pathogenic forces are now confronted by the world’s largest country, the longest-tested army and once socialist superpower. All the lies in the world cannot overwhelm this resistance. Everywhere the US-led collapse of world life security is being decoded outside corporate states and media. The Ukraine crisis, perhaps linked to Russia-China movement from the US oil-dollar, could be a new turning point against the Great Sickness of our world.
N.B. This contribution is based largely on an essay by John McMurtry published previously on GlobalResearch.ca.
Since the end of the 20th century the notion of security has evolved considerably. The very concept has been extended in several dimensions: from security of a state to security of a group or individual (downwards); and from security of a state to security of the whole international system (upwards). Moreover, the understanding of security has gained political, social, environmental and many other perspectives. Redirected from “hard” military issues to “soft” civilian matters, security has become more human-oriented, which made its understanding more holistic and comprehensive.
Indeed, the international security political agenda has become far more diverse. In 1970s the security concept had already included international economics, as it became clear that the U.S. economy was no longer the independent force that it had been before; on the contrary, it became powerfully affected by economic policies in dozens of other countries. The 1973 embargo of Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) on oil export dramatically affected the hydrocarbons market prices and, after that, energy security became an issue of a day. By the 1990s climate change has shifted its status from optional discussions at conferences towards the higher agenda of international affairs.
Contemporary global developments like globalisation and the opening of borders suggest the need for another analogous broadening definition of national security that would include and give a greater priority to energy security issues and environmental threats as well as demographic issues, drugs, public health and many other problems. Nowadays there are very few states in the world that are actually experiencing an imminent threat posed by another state’s military forces. Therefore, the “hard” or military security agenda is not dominating over “soft” security challenges any longer. Maintaining internal order against the threat of insurgency and/or contributing to regional or global order and justice is more the issue of the day.
The security challenges relevant to the Arctic Region are naturally linked to climate change processes, in particular, global warming. In the High North most of the threats are of a non-military character. Furthermore, a great part of security challenges are on the agenda of international cooperation institutions. Except one, it is military security concerns that were emasculated from the table of negations at the very birth of the Arctic Council, a major international entity when it comes to Arctic affairs. The discussions on traditional security matters are very limited, only some of them take place bilaterally in less institutionalised frameworks. However, avoiding a dialogue does not necessarily produce a more stable strategic environment.
Being a very sensitive topic, hard security is less discussed in academic circles compared to environmental risks, maritime transportation, fishery, hydrocarbons exploitation, legal regimes and international cooperation. It is the mass media that covers the topic, and very often it inadequately labels the political situation with such tags as “the scramble for territory and resources”, “remilitarisation of the Arctic” (see, for example, the Guardian 13 May 2009; Rusnet 31 March 2009; Reuters UK 13 May 2009; Barents Observer 29 March 2009, etc.).
The Arctic is an area in which military security, economic security, and environmental security overlap. In fact, it is an example of a postmodern arena of world politics, where short-term national interests clash with long-term global objectives. The question is whether the national interests can be reined in so that they will not jeopardise the overriding global objective, i.e. the maintenance of security and stability in the Arctic.
The multi-level web of institutionalisation that deals with soft security matters is in place and is effectively managed so far, nevertheless, the Arctic Region is still experiencing geopolitical tensions emerging from conflicts of overlapping interests in sovereignty claims (e.g. Beaufort Sea, Lomonosov Ridge), differences in perceptions of scientific data (e.g. viability of fish stocks, the prognosis on natural resources reserves) and diametrical approaches to some legal regimes (e.g. The Fisheries Protection Zone around Svalbard, navigation via Northern Sea Route (NSR) and Northwest Passage (NWP).
All the Arctic States refer to international law in their national strategies and policies for the development of their respective northern territories. From the legal perspective, bilateral negotiations and provisions of Law of the Sea Convention (UNCLOS) are meant to be the only and overarching international instruments designed to solve any possible conflict of national interests. However, in practice, the stability of the region, a commitment to the rule of law, as well as transparency and accountability are in the hands of national governments and their goodwill.
Nowadays the Arctic Region attracts a lot of international attention due to significant environmental changes as well as vigorous political developments. This article is devoted to security issues and the evolution of the definition of security from the geopolitical perspective of the Arctic. The author will discuss historical perspectives on the presence of North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) and the current role and status of the Alliance in the Arctic Region. The author will also analyse the position of the Arctic States on NATO’s involvement into the Circumpolar Region and the new Strategic Concept of the Alliance. This paper is not meant to be a final word on the subject, but a part of Master’s thesis research. This article is meant as a springboard that can open up a very complex discussion.
The Arctic as a Geopolitical Pivot
The term “geopolitics” reflects the connection between political powers, national interests, strategic decision-making and geographical space in international relations. Geopolitics is closely related to the political school of “realism”, which focuses on the concept that states must pursue their objective interests. The existential threats to their sovereignty are considered of the highest importance.
In the beginning of the 20th century, long before the arms race between East and West started, two American geostrategists, Halford J. Mackinder and Nicholas J. Spykman, laid the groundwork for the most enduring perspective on the conflict of a century: land power versus sea power. The natural conflict of landlocked the Euroasian Heartland and Western maritime nations became a core geopolitical doctrine in Western strategy regarding the containment of the Soviet Union, which later became a raison d’être for NATO.
Traditionally, Northern America is defined as a sea power due to its open and free access to the high seas: to the Pacific Ocean in the West and the Atlantic Ocean in the East, not to mention navy forces. Although Soviet Union had, and now Russia has, four fleets, still it is a land-based and continental state, since all of its navies would have to overcome considerable geographical barriers to participate fully on the warfare theatre. The Black Sea Fleet needs to pass the straits of Bosporus, Dardanelles and later Gibraltar, while the Baltic Sea Fleet needs to pass the Gulf of Finland and the Danish Straits to enter the waters of the Atlantic Ocean. As for the Far East Fleet, it has a direct access to the Pacific Ocean, but its remoteness from Moscow’s strategic centre should be perceived as a geographical obstacle. The only exception is the Northern Fleet, which is more mobile and faster in any response.
The Heartland theory by Mackinder says that the world is divided into “Inner”, “Outer Crescents” and the “World-Island”, with “Heartland” in its centre. Even though geographically this area has been shifting a little bit on the map, traditionally this theoretical concept includes Russian Siberia, which is rich in hydrocarbons and minerals. Mackinder postulates: “[He] who rules the Heartland commands the World-Island; [he] who rules the World-Island controls the world.”
As for Spykman’s “Rimland”, this concept describes the maritime fringe of the World-Island as a key to control the whole Eurasian continent. Rimland as a geographical line has also been continuously moving and changing frontier. Today it is the Arctic that is often called the last frontier. To some extent, Mackinder’s dictum was reformulated into the following: “He who controls Heartland, controls Rimland; he who controls Rimland controls the world.”
Even though none of geostrategists addressed the Arctic region directly, that was mostly due to the reason of its geographical remoteness and harsh climate conditions, the ice-covered Arctic Ocean being perceived as a natural containment wall. Nevertheless, Spykman was addressing the crucial role of the port of Murmansk as the eastern terminus for supplies from the western allies in World War II, as well as the establishment of the Soviet Northern Fleet in 1933 and the growing importance of sea routes linking ports along the Eurasian Arctic coast to the Soviet Union. Nowadays the Heartland and Rimland doctrines are being adapted to the diversification of state and non-state actors in international relations, the widening of securitization issues, as well as climate change.
Looking at the map of sea ice extent initiated by the US National Snow and Ice Data Centre, we can see how fast the Arctic Region with the thawing icecap is turning into a coastal Rimland, through with the relative strategic insignificance of an Outer Crescent. On the other hand, looking at the same map, it is possible to approach the Arctic more like an Inner Crescent region enclosed in the Heartland, through still far away because of its enduring ice and cold climate. Thus, the Arctic is “outer” in spirit though “inner” in geographical continuity.
The following table of represents levels of awareness regarding main Arctic issues and the thawing icecap in the Arctic:
Source: The New Geopolitics of the High North. (Claes, Osterund, Harsem 2010)
The area North of the Arctic Circle has an estimated 90 billion barrels of undiscovered, technically recoverable oil, 1,670 trillion cubic feet of technically recoverable natural gas, and 44 billion barrels of technically recoverable natural gas liquids in 25 geologically defined areas thought to have potential for petroleum. These resources account for about 22 percent of the undiscovered, technically recoverable resources in the world. The Arctic accounts for about 13 percent of the undiscovered oil, 30 percent of the undiscovered natural gas, and 20 percent of the undiscovered natural gas liquids in the world. About 84 percent of the estimated resources are expected to occur offshore. More than 70 percent of the undiscovered natural gas is estimated to occur in three provinces: the West Siberian Basin, the East Barents Basins, and Arctic Alaska. Technically recoverable resources are those resources that can be extracted using currently available technology and industry practices. In addition to that, there should count in significant deposits of gold, lead, copper, silver, zinc, tin, iron and diamonds that are experiencing strong market demand and can be important for the future developments in the High North. Apart from hydrocarbons and mineral recourses, there is also an opportunity to utilise alternative wind and river flow energy sources. Not to mention Arctic sea waters rich in market-valuable fish stocks and sea fruits. Moreover, trans-Arctic navigation can contribute a lot to the economy of a state, which is able to change the world trade routes. To sum up, Heartland together with the attached icy sea of the Arctic are perceived as “an immense reservoir of resources” of all kinds. Today the world’s leading economies are looking at the High North, its opportunities and challenges.
The role of NATO in historic perspective
If we look at the Arctic map, we will see 8 Arctic Council member-states 5 of which are founding members of the Alliance: USA, Canada, Denmark (Greenland and the Faroes), Iceland and Norway signed the North Atlantic Treaty, also known as the Washington Treaty, which brought NATO, the political but mostly military alliance, into existence in 1949. The bedrock of the organisation and the establishing treaty is Article 5, confirming mutual solidarity and protection:
“The Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all and consequently they agree that, if such an armed attack occurs, each of them, in exercise of the right of individual or collective self-defence recognised by Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations, will assist the Party or Parties so attacked by taking forthwith, individually and in concert with the other Parties, such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force, to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area.”
NATO as such has been present in the Arctic since its establishment and now it is the only intergovernmental organisation and security community in the High North. NATO remains to be a forum where Europe and North America organise their collective defence, and it remains one of the key actors through which they do crisis management and cooperative security. It means that hard military security will still retain its importance in the Circumpolar North in foreseeable future. The question is how will the Alliance define and respond to new security challenges?
Historically, being a border region, the Arctic has experienced a heavy military presence as a measure to endorse and control the state’s sovereignty and national borders. Being one of the warfare theatres in World War II, the Arctic demonstrated its strategic importance having lease convoys transported from the USA via Icelandic and Norwegian coastlines to Murmansk and Archangelsk in Russia. After World War II, political system competition gave carte blanche to a bipolar model of world politics. NATO and then-Soviet Union became immediate neighbours sharing a territorial border with Norway in the West and a marine border with Alaska in the East. The shortest air route between the USA and the USSR was, and still would be, across the Arctic Ocean. Thick polar pack ice was and is a perfect screen for submerged submarines. The ambient noise of the pack and marginal ice was and is severely limiting for any acoustic tracking. Naval vessels as a major counter-measure to submarines efforts were and are unable to operate and patrol the icy Arctic waters. These environmental conditions shaped and are still shaping the strategic importance of the region from a military security perspective. These geographical opportunities were vigorously exploited by the military. During the Cold War the Arctic had been characterised by heavy militarisation and development in offensive/defensive systems. The geopolitical competition was based on possibility of nuclear exchange over the Arctic Ocean, ad in practice it involved an arms race of intercontinental ballistic missiles and long-range bombers deployed over the Arctic airspace, while nuclear submarines (SSBNs) and submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) plied up in North Atlantic and Arctic waters.
The Early Warning System installed on the territory of NATO parties in the 1950s could serve as another example. It included 26 radar stations comprising the Aleutians (Adak), Point Lay in Alaska, Cape Dyer on Baffin Island in Canada, plus a chain formed by the Faroe Islands, Greenland (Thule, Søndre Strømfjord, Kulusuk, Qaqqatoqaq, Andissoq and two more on the Ice cap), Iceland, as well as Rockville in England, Fylingdales and Vardø in Norway. In 1958 the North American Aerospace Defence Agreement (NORAD) was signed by the USA and Canada in order to monitor the airspace and aerospace above North America, including the Arctic, to provide warning and possible response to threatening nuclear activities. Later in the 1980s the DEW line was upgraded to the North Warning System. The DEW line in Greenland was decommissioned, whilst Søndre Strømfjord station was evacuated, and then replaced in the late 1980s, as well as Rockville in the early 1990s.
Thus, traditional defence and territorial security were on the highest priority during the Cold War period. A game of cat-and-mouse between NATO and the Soviet Union unfolded. The Arctic States that were also NATO members participated in a web of numerous national, bilateral and multilateral defence agreements, and not always strictly within the NATO milieu only. For example, the Thule airbase project was based on a secret agreement between the USA and Denmark in 1953.
But there was also another model of behaviour among Arctic NATO member-states: I would like to focus upon the Norwegian perspective on relations with the Soviet Union. Norway was the only country that had an actual territorial border with the Soviets and due to its geographical proximity, the northern territories of Norway became a concentration area of electronic surveillance and intelligence directed towards the Soviets strait soon after Norway joined NATO. Nevertheless, the tensions between the two states, such as maritime disputes in the Barents Sea and the status of waters around the Svalbard/Spitsbergen archipelago, were kept at a low level. The key-reason was the remoteness of the Arctic from the major political frontline of the Eastern opposition to the West. The USA/NATO strongly believed in the idea that the concrete military threat was located in central Europe, presumably in the form of a conventional attack from the East. Norway was considered as vulnerable and a “forgotten flank of NATO” dispensable to Soviet exposure.
The way the Norwegians perceived the threat from the Soviets in the North was with no doubt more sensitive and more serious that the attitude of the Alliance in general, especially during the outbreak of Korean and Afghani wars in the early 1950s and late 1970s respectively. The invasion in Afghanistan particularly sharpened the Norwegian perception of threat, because Afghanistan and Norway were both neighbour countries of the Soviet Union. By joining and contributing to NATO, Norway had sought security in the common lap of the allies, and crucially, under the American nuclear umbrella. Yet it is interesting that at the same time Norway introduced the following restrictions to its membership in the Alliance:
- 1.Refusal to station allied forces on the Norwegian territory, or the so-called “base policy”;
- 2.Refusal to store nuclear warheads or building missile bases on its soil;
- 3.Ban on foreign vessels calling at Norwegian ports with nuclear armaments onboard;
- 4.Establishing a “no-go” area of 250 km from the Soviet border for NATO forces, for example, aircrafts or warships.
The explanation of such a line was a clear understanding among Norwegian authorities that the co-operation and membership in NATO could be interpreted as provocative by then existing Soviet Union. Moreover, all NATO installations, airports and other intelligence and surveillance infrastructures located on the Norwegian territory could become a potential target for the Soviet nuclear and conventional arms. That is why Norway limited its integration to the Alliance by self-imposed restraints applied during peacetime “as long as Norway is not attacked or threatened with the aggression.”
NATO’s strategic concepts during the Cold War
The emergence of nuclear-armed long-distance strategic missiles as the main Cold War weapon made offensive military installations located geographically close to the adversary largely redundant. Although NATO has been in the Arctic since its establishment, it took decades for the Alliance to enter the region from this strategic point of view.
First of all the, geographical perception of where the North was, got relocated to higher latitudes only around the end of the 1960s. The “northern flank” was associated with the southern part of the Scandinavian Peninsula, the Baltic Sea and its straits. The area was considered to be a potential attack corridor in a Central European Front, i.e. the main potential theatre of the Cold War for the central organisation of NATO. At the same time, Scandinavia was a buffer between transatlantic Lanes of Communication (SLOCs) and the Soviet bases on the Kola Peninsula. Moreover, it served as a barrier for the Soviets to access temperate waters, whilst the bases located there could be used most effectively for counter-offensive operations due to favourable geographical conditions for detection and early warning installations. That is why the headquarters of the northern flank had already been placed in Oslo in 1951.
Second of all, the shift in perception of strategic posture of the region took place also in the late 1960s. Being just a tactical flank of the Central Front the High North turned into a possible independent theatre of war. This evolution in approach followed several specific political events in international relations that boosted or, on the contrary, hampered the strategic reorientation.
From the beginning, one of NATO’s pillars was to have large conventional forces easily available along its central borders. However, European member-states, economically exhausted after World War II, could not afford their maintenance. Besides, nuclear weapons of mass destruction had been actively developing at that time, both in numbers and scale. Thus, it became a cheaper and more effective alternative to balance the rising military numerical and material capacity of the Soviet Union, which leaped forward also in rocket technology. Therefore, NATO officially adopted its strategy of Massive Retaliation by the end of 1956, as of the Military Committee document MC 14/2.
However, soon after the Cuban missile crisis, controversies detonated over the very rationality of the nuclear policy as a security strategy. Being on the verge of the nuclear exchange, US president John F. Kennedy introduced a new doctrine of Flexible Response, which was a new strategy for both the United States and NATO. It primarily made a stake on limited conventional war; it also suggested a nuclear exchange on condition that conventional forces should fail. However, Kennedy’s assassination in 1963 hampered discussions on implementing Flexible Response in the Alliance’s strategy until late 1967.
There was another attempt to shift a solid NATO’s strategy of Massive Retaliation by the Allied Commander Atlantic (SACLANT) which became increasingly aware of the Soviet naval build-up in the Barents Sea after World War II, while the general circles of NATO had hardly had these developments on the agenda in the early 1960s. In 1965, SACLANT issued two maritime studies called “Contingency Study for Northern Norway” and the “NATO Maritime Strategy”. It highlighted how the Soviets were focusing on the use of the open seas as a theatre of war as the submarine fleet became capable of a strategic strike while remaining undetected. To be able to counter-balance this power, the studies suggested two new concepts, that is, standing naval forces and maritime contingency forces, which would be more a flexible counter-power relying on nuclear attack as a very last measure. The three stages of response were then developed. The “Direct Defence” was about seeking out the enemy to defeat him at a conventional level. Had it failed, “Deliberate Escalation” would start. At this level, tactical nuclear weapons were to be used to force the attacker to cease the conflict and withdraw from NATO territory. Finally, the last resort was to go to a “General Nuclear Response”.
These suggestions were shelved, though, until the Brosio Study was published in 1969. The document was named after NATO’s Secretary-General, who was strongly supporting SACLANT’s views and initiatives. The main focuses of the research were: firstly, the relative strength of the maritime forces of the NATO members and the Warsaw Pact; secondly, an analysis of their respective maritime strategic doctrines; thirdly and most importantly, it included only one main scenario of military clash, which was of naval powers in and around the Norwegian Sea. At the same time, the relations between the two blocks turned towards the policy of détente, relaxation, as the US withdrew a considerable part of their contingents in Europe in order to reach positive agreements with Soviet Union with regards to Vietnam. Thus, an alternative area of power accumulation seemed needed.
As a result, the high Arctic waters became of strategic importance and at the heart of the Alliance’s attention. The region was no longer viewed as just a subordinate tactical flank of the European Central Front, but an independent theatre of war. By the late 1960s, NATO had dramatically altered its perceptions on the strategic importance of the High North and the Brosio Study remained remarkably topical in the NATO’s strategy till the end of the Cold War
After the Cold War
The collapse of the Soviet Union and, accordingly, the end of the Cold War changed significantly the political atmosphere in the Arctic Region. The Circumpolar North experienced a demilitarisation process due to both political and economic reasons, but nowadays NATO’s presence is being shown through once more, for example, the Integrated Air Defence System (NATINADS), including fighters on Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) and regular AWAC airborne early-warning fights and military exercises. It could be argued that, being the only intergovernmental organisation and security community up in the North, NATO has some qualifications to undertake the dialogue on military security matter. The question is whether the Alliance is capable to implement them without endangering stability and prosperity in the Arctic Region with regard to relations with Russia, which is very sensitive to any NATO activity.
Relations between NATO countries experienced a crucial transformation over recent decades. In 1991 formal cooperation between Russia and NATO started within the framework of the North Atlantic Cooperation Council. In 1994 Russia joined the Partnership for Peace programme. In 1997 NATO-Russia relations were institutionalised in a Permanent Joint Council forum, which evolved in the Russia–NATO council created in 2002 for handling security issues and joint projects. A number of issues identified after 2002 by the NATO–Russia Council as suitable to be addressed jointly are particularly relevant to the Arctic. These include the struggle against terrorism, counter-narcotics, airspace management, military-to-military cooperation, submarine-crew search and rescue, crisis management, logistics and civil emergencies.
At the same time, there were also political shifts in other dimensions of the High North: Finland initiated its Arctic Environmental Protection Strategy, Norway introduced the idea of the Barents Region Cooperation in 1993, and with the Canadian initiative the Arctic Council was established in order “to promote cooperation, coordination and interaction among the Arctic States.
most military installations and units were either reduced or dismantled in the region. Nevertheless, shaping the Arctic coastline as an arena to play “nuclear muscles” during the Cold War has brought long-lasting effects. NATO–Russian relations are still characterised as strained due to many factors originated outside of the Arctic context: possible enlargement of the Alliance, the Georgian crises, the Syrian question, etc. Nowadays Arctic coastal states are continuing maintenance of military facilities, conventional and nuclear, albeit reduced in numbers, such as: navies, submarines, air forces, radar system, new weapon testing, military applications, training and exercises, intelligence strategies making the world move as though by inertia. It seems likely that NATO will remain engaged in the Arctic for a very long time. 
However, the major geo-strategic significance context changed too. There is no more the risk of a larger interstate conflict between two military blocks that was in place during the Cold War. Nowadays, the Arctic is politically stable, surrounded by states with robust governmental systems and there are relatively harmonious relations between these states.
In the 21st century, the strategic importance of the region is defined by its untapped economic potential: offshore and onshore hydrocarbons exploitation and to be more specific, by energy security.
So far the major political framework on NATO’s role in the Arctic Region is very modest and limited to conferences and meetings. For example, the Chairman’s conclusions at the NATO Conference on “Security Prospects in the High North”, held at Reykjavik, Iceland, in January 2009 and the seminar of NATO’s Parliamentary Assembly entitled “Changes in the High North: Implications for NATO and Beyond”, held in Tromsø, Norway, in June 2011. But NATO’s concern about regional security in the Arctic is growing.
The following issues were addressed during both roundtables: the increased attention paid to Arctic development strategies; emerging opportunities and challenges of northern economies; navigation, energy and mineral explorations; as well as claims on continental shelf and existing institutional and legal framework. The question of energy security is particularly an important one for the alliance, a point agreed in 2008 during the NATO summit at Bucharest. With increasing Arctic oil and gas production North of Norway and Russia, and continued exploration above Canada and the United States, the Arctic is an obvious location to exercise that mandate.
NATO’s Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer acknowledged in his 2009 speech in Iceland that increasing accessibility will lead to more human activity in the region, with positive and negative consequences, and highlighted “what is very clear is that the High North is going to require even more of the Alliance’s attention in the coming years.” Alliance spokesman James Appathurai labelled the Arctic “a region of enduring strategic interest to NATO and allied security.” By 2010 the Sub-Committee on Transatlantic Defence and Security Cooperation had issued a report calling for “proactive engagement” and cited increasing desire from within the alliance’s Arctic members (particularly Norway, Denmark and Iceland) for increased attention to the region.
The international role of the Circumpolar North is shifting, as well as security matters in the region. Security in the Arctic is not about state-centric traditional security only. Driven by climate change, it is beyond a fear-based, military-as-solution conception. It involves many actors and “soft” issues. Unsurprisingly, the Alliance’s perspective on security is also gradually changing. Since 2001, NATO has reframed its entire concept of security. The Alliance’s operational agenda has shifted towards dealing with non-traditional, transnational threats such as terrorism, nuclear proliferation and weak states. At the Lisbon Summit held in November 2010, the 6th Strategic Concept in NATO’s sixty-year-long history was adopted. The official document outlines NATO’s enduring purpose and nature and its security tasks. It also identifies the central features of the new security environment, therefore acknowledging the comprehensive and extensive approach towards contemporary understanding of security: “Any security issue of interest to any Ally can be brought to the NATO table, to share information, exchange views and, where appropriate, forge common approaches”, such as, inter alia, “the key environmental and resource constraints, including health risks, climate change, water scarcity and increasing energy needs will further shape the future security environment in areas of concern to NATO and have the potential to significantly affect NATO planning and operations.”
The Strategic Concept also specifies the core tasks of the Alliance:
1.The collective defence principle establishes obligation of assistance among member states in case of attack according to the Article 5 of the Washington Treaty.
2.The crisis management principle refers to the conflict situations that have the potential to affect Alliance’s security. It includes political, civil and military instruments to manage and prevent crises from escalation; to stop ongoing conflicts where they affect Alliance security; and to restore and maintain stability after a conflict.
3.The collective security principle means engagement in international security affairs, through partnership with countries and international organisations; contribution to arms control, non-proliferation and disarmament issues; and promoting membership in the organisation.
In sum, its Strategic Concept equips the Alliance for security challenges and guides its future political and military development. A new Strategic Concept is reflecting an evolving security environment and an evolving Alliance. But is NATO capable indeed to adequately respond to emerging security issues? Climate change, energy scarcity, global economic and financial governance, the role of the emerging powers, are these threats, entailing use of military force or rather political action? Such matters as energy security, cyber-security, or even terrorism, are not best tackled by a holistic foreign and security policy, including police and justice dimensions, within which the military instrument is a very last resort? Once one starts to add other types of contingencies than an armed attack, such as energy or cyber-security, a grey zone quickly emerges, making it more difficult to decide what constitutes sufficient ground to invoke Article 5.
So far, there is no consensus within the Alliance that NATO has any role to play in the Arctic. While Norway is fully supportive of the Alliance’s commitment, Canada strongly opposes any NATO involvement on sovereignty grounds and awareness of the likely negative reactions from the Russian side.
Norway. As an initiator of the Barents cooperation, on the one hand, and an active NATO member on the other, Norway’s policy is aimed at equilibrium between the value of military concerns and civilian ones, including human-oriented collaboration with bordering countries, such as Russia. Its High North strategy of 2007 refers only to cooperation with “allies” and to the need to keep up cooperative “allied operations” in the North rather than mentioning NATO as an organization. Nevertheless, the Norwegian goverment is pushing for the formilised role of the Alliance in the High North. It should be noted that Norway was the first country that moved its military headquarters to the Arctic region: from Stavanger up above the Polar Circle in Bodø.
Denmark’s bid in the Arctic is Greenland. The involvement of Denmark into NATO affairs was established in 1951 by signing the Defence Agreement with the US. The main military installation in Greenland is the Thule airbase, founded by another treaty signed secretly by the Danish and American governments in 1953. The base is still functioning, while the missile defence station of the BMEWS radar is being now upgraded to scan the relevant area of potential threat, though the Danish strategy mentions NATO only in connection with the status of the Thule base.
Iceland’s contribution to the Alliance is represented by radar systems that are part of NATO’s Alliance-wide Integrated Air Defence System, comprising sensors, command and control facilities, and NATO Air Surveillance operations from Iceland’s territory. However, another example should be mentioned: in 2006 the U.S Maritime Patrol Aircraft, rescue helicopters and fighter aircraft operating in the far North Atlantic withdrew from the base in Keflavik after 55 years of stationing there. After that Iceland has asked NATO for more frequent exercises and military visits as now its membership in the Alliance is seen as a cornerstone of national security.
Canada appears to have one of the most individualistic visions of its own role in the Polar region. This is due possibly to unresolved conflicts in the Beaufort region with the USA and the Lincoln Sea with Denmark over the Hans Island, as well as the legal regime of the NWP. Though the Canadian forces regularly practise together with American and Danish forces in the Arctic and have staged several large joint exercises, the Canadian diplomats are eager to emphasise that these exercises are conducted outside of NATO’s framework and are bilateral.
The US as well as other Arctic States has its own document regarding the Arctic, but this region is relatively low in the general political agenda. Talking about military aspects in 2009, the Navy Arctic Roadmap was issued to cover aims and goals for the Navy forces in the High North until 2014. The primary policy guidance statements influencing this roadmap are the National Arctic Policy as defined in National Security Presidential Directive 66/Homeland Security Presidential Directive 25 (NSPD 66/HSPD 25) and the Cooperative Strategy for XXI Century Sea power (CS21). Several administrations have reaffirmed that NATO is and should remain a foundational pillar of the Arctic’s security architecture.
Although Arctic nations follow some kind of an individualistic approach when building their national strategies, still they recognise the Alliance as a backbone of its security and defence. Sovereignty and national security are among the strategic priorities, or priority areas of the Unites States, Canada, and Denmark, NATO is appreciated as an instrument to sustain the regional stability that serves the countries’ political and even economic interests in the Arctic.
Nuclear Containment in the Arctic.
When the Cold War was over, the Iron Curtain fell down together with the Berlin Wall. Both were borders dividing politically and ideologically the world into a capitalist West and a communist East. That division vanished and “the end of History” was claimed to have come about. The Arctic ice cap that used to be a geographical factor of containment used to separate two nuclear superpowers. Now this natural border is rapidly melting away, opening an area that is rich in resources and opportunities. None of the states wears a status of a superpower anymore; nevertheless, nuclear potential remains the same and is still there. The new Strategic Concept of NATO says:“as long as there are nuclear weapons in the world, NATO will remain a nuclear Alliance.” So, probably as Nye suggests, perhaps the end of the Cold War has heralded not so much the “end of history” as the “return to history”.
The process of restraining from nuclear armaments started with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty signed in 1968/1970 and the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test Ban Treaty of 1996/2007. But the world entered the 21st century still nuclear-armed, although the numerical amount of these weapons in general has decreased. However, it should be said that nowadays the military industrial sector is aimed not at the quantity but at the quality of production.
World Nuclear forces
Source: All estimates are approximate and are as for January 2011 (SIPRI 2011)
Today the Russian Northern Fleet possesses 22 nuclear-powered submarines, 7 of which carry ballistic missile nuclear warheads, and 1 aircraft carrier. The marine aviation has around 100 aircrafts, including 30 missile carrying bombers. The USA have 25 multipurpose nuclear-powered submarines and 6 strategic submarines that make together around 580 nuclear warheads, plus 4 aircraft carriers with 360 aircrafts. The allied forces of the UK and France can add 4 SSBMs each (350-450 warheads) to the marine strategic forces and 15 nuclear-powered submarines and 6 aircraft-carriers with 200 aircrafts.
The main factor that prevents the states to use their nuclear weapons is a concept of mutual nuclear containment and strategic stability inherited from the Cold War era. The concept of strategic stability means a balance of military forces. A first nuclear attack from any side would be tactically impossible, because it could not prevent the adequate response from the other side. The paradox of mutual nuclear containment is that this security concept does not respond to any contemporary problems such as international terrorism or trans-border organised crime. It is absolutely ineffective in halting the production and trade of other weapons of mass destruction. Nuclear containment does not promote the military cooperation either, for example in ballistic missile defence.
Still, the Senate of the US, in its Resolution Of Advice And Consent To Ratification of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) in 2010, mentioned the following: “policies based on mutual assured destruction or intentional vulnerability can be contrary to the safety and security of both countries, and the United States and the Russian Federation share a common interest in moving cooperatively as soon as possible away from a strategic relationship based on mutual assured destruction.”
Irrespective to what is mentioned above, the concept of mutual nuclear containment is still shaping defensive capacity and weapon-based security. And new military installations or facilities hosted by any region in the Northern Hemisphere can be a threat to nuclear containment. This issue has a vital importance for the High North due to the geographical proximity of the states. Critical situations in the Arctic might directly influence the military relations between Russia and NATO on a global scale. For example, one of the latest events in international politics was the Russian counter-measures announced in November 2011 by the Russian president concerning the European missile defence shield being shaped in Europe by NATO. For the Russians, establishing ABM facilities close to its borders constitutes a threat to the current military strategic balance.
The Arctic community is aware of new nuclear arm race. Environmental degradation on Novaya Zemlya because of nuclear testing, or the crash of a nuclear bomb carrier in the Thule are not the only examples. Nowadays, discussions on security matters take place bilaterally in less institutionalised milieus. But institutionalisation of such dialogues and the opening up of discussions regarding possible routes to collective security and non-proliferation could have far more positive effects on regional security. There is a clear correlation between such a high degree of institutionalisation and a low or declining level of violence both within and between states. Simply avoiding talking about difficult developments in power politics might not be the best approach to the Arctic peace project. Talking about military security does not in itself produce negative outcomes. While all NATO member-states have been actively developing their national strategies for the Arctic development, for the moment the Alliance itself performed in relatively modest way. However, as security organisation it follows the major trend of evolution of the security per se by expanding its programme agenda with non-military threats.
Nevertheless, the idea to involve NATO in the Arctic agenda as a forum for discussion has been introduced already in the aforementioned Reykjavik seminar. It could include itself several additional dimensions of dialogue: with Sweden and Finland, for instance, with Russia, and probably with China. Secondly, it could become a platform to address civil emergencies and large-scale search and rescue operations, ecological relief and maritime security issues conjointly with Russia in the NRC framework. Thirdly, NATO could exercise a détente policy, or relaxation of tensions with an adversary in the Arctic, such as the renewal of arms control or disarmament.
The Arctic Region has a history of great military strain between two political alliances, i.e. NATO and the Warsaw Pact, but it should be said that today the Arctic is transforming into a territory of dialogue. While scientists and especially environmentalists are investigating primarily negative consequences of climate change, politicians issue countries’ strategies to adjust to the new reality and benefit from global-warming impacts. The speech by Danish Minister of Defence Søren Gade at the 2009 NATO seminar on “Security Prospects in the High North” included the following motto: “From yesterday’s problems to tomorrow’s opportunities.”
On the other hand, it is becoming clear that in terms of military security both global warming and the thawing icecap make the rear of all Arctic states insecure. Not only because the geographical ice-wall is diminishing, but also because new resources and economic facilities are opening up and attracting global stakeholders. The key to the military strategic balance of mutual nuclear containment is turning out to be out of date. It cannot respond adequately and effectively to the security challenges of the 21st century. It cannot prevent such problems as international terrorism or proliferation of weapons of mass distraction. On the contrary, very often it appears to be a stimulating factor of these challenges. What is more, mutual nuclear containment does not promote a cooperative spirit among the Arctic countries as much as the environment, civilian or topics related to economic development would sometimes do.
The NATO parties and Russia can hardly become full military partners in the nearest future, perhaps unless they redirect their potential against extremist violence, including terrorist activities. Furthermore, nuclear weapons play no useful role in the challenges of the rapidly evolving Arctic itself.
The current geopolitical threat level is nebulous and low. But remilitarisation of the High North must be prevented. For example, “High North – low tension” is the dictum that the Norwegian Arctic police promotes. There is enough room for cooperation on a Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone and more comprehensive and holistic approaches to security. Rather than preparing for battle, the Arctic states should commit themselves towards increasing diplomatic resources, harmonising regulations, multilateral efforts to deal with nuclear waste, scientific cooperation, economic integration and search and rescue.
Emma Rothschild, “What Is Security?” The Quest for World Order, Vol.124, No.3 (Daedalus,1995), pp.53-98
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Caitlyn L. Antrim, The Next Geographical Pivot. The Russian Arctic in the Twenty-first Century, Naval War College Review,Vol. 63, No. 3, (Newport, Rhode Island, 2010) p.15
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Jørgen Taagholt, Jens Claus Hansen, Greenland Security Perspective (Arctic Research Consortium of the United States, 2001) p.36 Available from: http://www.arcus.org/publications/downloads/greenland.pdf, Accessed on 10/12/11
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Rob Huebert, Heather Exner-Pirot, Adam Lajuenesse, Jay Gulledge, Climate change & international security: The Arctic as a Bellwether (Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, 2012) p. 21 Available at: http://www.c2es.org/publications/climate-change-international-arctic-security/ Accessed on 01/11/12
Kjetil Skogrand, “The Arctic in a geo-strategic perspective” Emerging from the Frost. Security in the 21st century Arctic,” Oslo files on defence and security, No. 2 (Norwegian Institute for Defence Studies, 2008) pp.9-17
Supranote 26 pp. 37-38
Scheffer, J.D.H. NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer on Security Prospects in the High North. Reykjavik, Iceland. 2010 Available from: http://www.nato.int/cps/en/natolive/opinion_50077.htm Accessed on 28/11/11
James Appathurai, NATO Spokesman,“NATO weekly press briefing.” November 14, 2009.Avaliable from http://www.nato.int/docu/speech/2009/s090114a.html, Accessed on 28/11/11
Gunhild Hoogensen Gjørv, “Security by any other name: negative security, positive security, and a multi-actor security approach,” Review of International Studies,Vol. 38, No. 4, (Cambridge, 2012) pp 835-859.
Alyson J.K. Bailes, “NATO and the EU in the North: What is at Stake in Current Strategy Development?” Lithuanian Foreign Policy Review, No. 23 (Lithuanian Foreign Policy Review, 2010) pp.8-28
NATO. Strategic Concept For the Defence and Security of The Members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. (adopted by Heads of State and Government in Lisbon, 2010.) para 5, Available from: http://www.nato.int/lisbon2010/strategic-concept-2010-eng.pdf Accessed on 10/12/11
Ibd para 15
Sven Biscop, “From Lisbon to Lisbon: Squaring theCircle of EU and NATO Future Roles,” Security Policy Brief No.( EGMONT Royal Institute for International Relations, 2011) p.3
Alison J.K. Bailes, “Potential Roles of NATO and the EU in High Northern Security” The Yearbook of Polar Law, Vol 2 (Martinus Nijhoff, 2010) pp.201-224
Valur Ingimundarson, “Iceland’s security policy and geopolitics in the North,” ” Emerging from the Frost. Security in the 21st century Arctic,” Oslo files on defence and security, No. 2 (Norwegian Institute for Defence Studies, 2008) pp.80-88
Department of the NAVY, U.S. Navy Road Map (Washington D.C., 2009) Available from: http://www.navy.mil/navydata/documents/USN_artic_roadmap.pdf, Accessed on 10/12/11
James B. Steinberg, Arctic region will be next international strategic challenge. (Belfer Center Programs or Projects, 2010) Available from: http://belfercenter.ksg.harvard.edu/publication/20387/us_deputy_secretary _of_state.html Accessed on 10/12/11
Lassi Heininen Arctic Strategies and Policies: Inventory and Comparative Study (The Northern Research Forum & The University of Lapland, 2011) p.72
Josef Nye, Understanding International Conflicts: An Introduction to Theory and History (Longman, 2005) p. 247
A. G.Arbatov, ”Arctika I Strategicheskaya Stabilnost,” Arktika Zona Mira I Sotrudnichestva. IMEMO RAN. Anti Ballistic Missile and Security in the Arctic. “The Arctic and the Strategic Stability”. The Arctic as Zone of Peace and Cooperation. (Institute of World Economy and International Relations Russian Academy of Science, 2011) pp. 59-75
Senate. Text Of Resolution of Advise and Consent to Ratification of the New START Treaty.(Congressional Report2010)
Supranote 5, p.35
Alyson J.K. Bailes, “Options For Closer Cooperation in the High North: What is Needed?” Security Prospects in the High North (NATO Defence College,2009) pp. 28-58
 Gade S. Minister of Defence of Denmark. Speech at the Seminar on Security Prospects in the High North, Reykjavik, Iceland. 2010 Available from: http://www.fmn.dk/gamlesites/Ministeren/Taler%20og%20artikler/Documents/2009/TaleIsland29januar.pdf Accessed on 28/11/11
 Støre, J.G. Minister of Foreign Affairs of Norway. Keynote address at NATO Parliamentary Assembly The 77th Rose-Roth Seminar: Changes in the High North: Implications for NATO and Beyond, Tromsø, Norway. 2011 Available from: http://www.regjeringen.no/en/dep/ud/aktuelt/taler_artikler/utenriksministeren/2011/nato_tromso.html?id=648681 Accessed on 12/12/11
The collection is divided into four distinct sections—Context, Culture, Conflict and Community—each undertaking a thorough examination of the relationships and interactions between the largest immigration populations from Scandinavian to the United States. As the subheadings suggest, a comprehensive study of the relationship between Norwegians and Swedes in the United States cannot be sustained on comparison alone. Indeed, as Donna R. Gabaccia outlines in the very useful foreword to the book, the narrative of this relationship continues to develop new strains due in part to increasing attention to “inter-ethnic perspectives” concerning American immigration history in general and Scandinavian interactions in particular. It is the developing story of Scandinavian “inter-ethnic perspectives” that the collection aims to uncover and narrate and as a whole this aim is successful. As Gabaccia rightly points out, however, the collection downplays the “importance of contention” between the two groups, by choosing to highlight “the Americanization that brought both groups of immigrates closer to each other.”
The first section on context contains two substantial introductory chapters: “Friends and Neighbors? Patterns of Norwegian-Swedish Interaction in the United States” by co-editor Dag Blanck and “Norwegians and Swedes in America: Some Comparisons” by H. Arnold Barton. The opening chapters strive to broadly describe the identities of each group and the patterns of interactions between them. Blanck develops a useful chronology for grappling with the complex issue, dividing recognizable patterns of interaction into three periods. Blanck emphasizes that although there has yet to be a systematic and comprehensive study of the history of the Scandinavians in the United States, certain patterns emerge from the studies that do exist. When division did occur between Norwegian and Swedish immigrants it was along religious lines, more so than national ones. In matters of the heart, however, Norwegians and Swedes found each other the most desirable and within the political sphere they were each others’ closest allies. Barton’s comparative study of the two groups is admittedly more speculative in nature, but no less productive in results by focusing on the differences between the groups. Some of Barton’s findings are less surprising than others. That the Norwegians were the more nationalist of the two immigrant groups makes sense in term of Norway’s political development over the nineteenth century ending with its independence in 1905. That Norwegian Americans wrote more novels than Swedes was unexpected. As was the conclusion that Swedish Americans generally outpaced their Scandinavian neighbors in the sciences and technology, the visual arts and business. As Barton states, differences such as those I have pointed out are compelling and open new lines of investigation for further research. How to assess why these differences occurred, however, is not as easy or apparent.
The second section examines the central position that diverse aspects of culture held in the Norwegian and Swedish immigrant experience. The following three chapters stood out: Odd S. Lovoll’s opening chapter, “Preserving a Cultural Heritage Across Boundaries: A Comparative Perspective on Riksföreningen Sverigekontakt and the Nordmanns-Forbundet” skillfully depicts how even as societies were started in both Norway and Sweden to promote home colonization, the two societies mentioned in the title were founded to cope with expanding populations outside the nation state. Lovoll’s explanation of how each society aimed to create a notion of worldwide nationality founded on the promotion of cultural retention within emigrant populations is thought provoking, particularly regarding the underlying conservative politics at its core, a point I would have liked to see more thoroughly developed. In “Freedom, Identity, and Double Perspectives: Representations of the Migrant Experience in the Novels of Vilhelm Moberg and O.E. Rølvaag,” Ingeborg Kongslien illustrates that although each author penned works of historical fiction and not historical accounts per se, due to the authors’ personal experiences the novels nevertheless provide ample and reliable insights into Scandinavian emigration, including those historical, psychological, sociological and existential. James P. Leary’s “Är Du Svenske?”–”Norsk! Norsk!”: Folk Humor and Cultural Difference in Scandinavian America” is the highlight of the section as it is rich with familiar jokes that become compelling examples of the development of cultural difference between Norwegian and Swedish Americans. Leary convincingly maps how “Scandihoovian” humor is more about negotiating relationships between Norwegians and Swedes in the United States than about any actual reference to the homeland. Indeed, he illustrates that what often appears as insider teasing is in reality a way to communicate cultural difference to the wider, and often undiscerning, American public.
The third section of the collection identifies areas where conflict arose between the Scandinavian immigrant groups. The first two chapters examine how Norwegian independence affected relationships between Norwegian and Swedish Americans, while the second two chapters scrutinize the complex divides, factions and mergers within the varying denominations of the Lutheran Church in the United States. Jørn Brøndal’s “We are Norwegians and Swedes Now, Not Scandinavians”: The Impact of Norwegian Independence on Scandinavian American Politics in the Midwest” and Ulf Jonas Björk’s “An End to Brotherhood?” Swedes and Norwegians in America Discuss the 1905 Union Dissolution” are complimentary chapters that detail the ramifications of Norway’s independence on political and social alignments between Norwegian and Swedish Americans. The conclusions of both chapters reflect back to my earlier statement concerning the collection overall: conflicts were limited and those that arose were short-lived. As each chapter suggests, pan-Scandinavianism seems to have post- dated any animosity, albeit at varying levels across time and place. Kurt W. Peterson’s “A Question of Conscious: Minnesota’s Norwegian American Lutherans and the Teaching of Evolution” is the stand out piece of the collection. Peterson targets the imperative position that Norwegian American Lutherans held in early twentieth century debates concerning the status of evolution in public schools and by doing so, places current discourse on the subject into a new, and nuanced historical context. The chapter is filled with—what was for me at least—compelling insight into how Lutheran history supported the separation of church and state, thus ultimately rendering null the scheme to legislate the exclusion of evolution in Minnesota’s public schools and universities. Peterson asserts that, “many Lutherans wanted nothing to do with [legislation] because they wanted nothing to do with the Reformed tradition. Their fight was not simply over the teaching of evolution; for them, the heart of their Lutheran theological heritage was at stake.” Equally compelling is the way in which Peterson details the close ideological ties between Norwegian American Lutheranism and the broader Evangelical movement.
The closing section of the collection is a fitting bookend to a study that casts a wide net as it examines both distinct features and broad trends within the Norwegian and Swedish American community. That this section is the largest reinforces the collection’s unifying intentions. Each chapter features a case study of a specific cluster of Norwegian and Swedish immigrants within the United States. The section is rich with description and details, demographics and specifics, whether investigating the nontraditional immigrant position held by many Norwegian and Swedish engineers and architects, as in Per-Olof Grönberg’s contribution, or chronicling the narrative of an insulated Scandinavian enclave on the shores of Lake Superior, as in Philip J. Anderson’s piece. All but one chapter, however, focuses on Scandinavian communities in the Midwest. The exception being Jennifer Eastman Atterbery’s “Scandinavian’s in the Rocky Mountain West: Pragmatic and Programmatic.” Atterbery’s very interesting examination of Scandinavian settlements in Montana and LDS Utah (touching only briefly on California) broadens the scope of what is an otherwise very regional-specific section. In fact, the exclusion of the West is one of the shortcomings of the collection as a whole and I would have liked the same rigorous scholarship that pervades the collection applied to Norwegian and Swedish communities in California, Oregon and Washington, or for that matter, to those in New York and the East. One of the most outstanding features in this section is the way in which personal narrative and family history interjects into large-scale and oftentimes characterless demographic statistics. In more than one instance, particularly in Byron J. Nordstrom’s “Norwegians and Swedes in Willmar, Minnesota, in the Early Twentieth Century,” general and sweeping statistical information is transformed from the tedious to the compelling by granting the dates, numbers, and anonymous names on the page, a narrative. By fleshing out both the communities under study and particular individuals within those communities, the closing section is a fitting end to what is a comprehensive, informative and insightful study of Norwegians and Swedes in the United States. The information presented in this study will most certainly fuel and encourage subsequent research and publication in the field.
On the contrary, the ruling political coalitions in the 1980s, centered on the two-prongs of the Christian Democracy and the Socialist parties, got rid of every sense of measure in spoiling public resources and making recourse to inflation and public debt – which, in those years, rocketed from a normal 60% of GNP to more than 100% (so that we, our daughters and sons, and a host of unpredictable future generations are, and will be, paying dearly for the glorious “statemanship” of those years). 1992 marked a turning-point for the old political establishment: the “Mani pulite” (“Clean Hands”) trials, filed by independent public prosecutors in front of an independent judiciary sent a lot of politicians and fellow transactors and businessmen into jail, and even a former prime minister, acclaimed by somebody as one of the greatest Italian politicians of the XXth century, flew abroad to avoid prosecution. After a while, however, old politicians found a way for taking advantage of the wise advice of Fabrizio, the beloved nephew of Prince Salina (“It is necessary that everything does change for everything to stay as usual”). This way was the founding of a new political party by an influential businessman. This businessman won three elections in the last fifteen-years, qualifying as a perfect demagogue (his party is being defined by his followers as a “charismatic party”), and putting his own private interests on the top of governement and parliamentary agendas. The public sphere deteriorated heavily in those years, and is still deteriorating, for the demagogue and his allies proceeded systematically to turn politics from a civil, though sometimes tough, confrontation of opinions among rival parties into a war against internal enemies, while at the same time undermining the foundations of the Republican Constitution.
In such a situation, the selection of eight writings and seventeen letters by Thomas Jefferson translated, edited, and clearly introduced by Alberto Giordano may indeed provide a sample of an ideal, good, politician, to be used as a standard for criticism and improvement in the Italian political life. For instance, Jefferson upheld free public education for all, as a way to provide future citizens with the learning necessary to control politicians and protect democracy; he opposed public debt, arguing that present generations have not the right to bind future generations to pay for it; he opposed religious “fanaticism”, we would now say “foundamentalism”, as one of the most serious dangers for a democracy, while upholding religious freedom and toleration, provided religion is properly considered as a private business of each believer.
Italians should take the Jefferson model, however, with two caveats.
To begin with, Jefferson supported a few, quite unpalatable, views, even for XVIIIth century standards: think about slavery (he was not an uncompromised abolitionist), women (their proper place is home and family management), and native Americans (to be civilized under the protectoship of wasps). But this is a minor drawback, from our point of view and the way society and culture have evolved in the meantime.
Furthermore – a point I consider the most serious flaw in Jefferson’s political thought – he deemed democracy to be capable, by itself, to protect and guarantee to citizens the individual rights he wisely wanted to be ascribed to them in a constitutional Bill of Rights. On this path, we cannot follow him (though we may appreciate his romantic idea of a democracy made up by small businessmen, small farmers, and small manufacturers, with a small government to decide upon). Nay, democracy by itself is prone to become the prey and toy of demagogues; and only a firmly established constitutional democracy, endowed with a sovereign constitution and judicial review, like the one Madison and Marshall cherished, can do the tremendously important trick of a serious protection of individual rights against abusing majorities and the interest-groups pulling its wires. So, to conclude: welcome to Jefferson’s essays, but, as Don Ferrante suggests, con juicio. The book also contains a learned “Preface” by Dino Cofrancesco, where the most recent essays on Jefferson are analyzed and discussed.