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Turning our political radar north

The countries of the Baltic Sea. Source: Global International Waters Assessment via Wikimedia Commons.

Today, Sweden and Finland formally applied for membership in NATO. (Washington Post story here.) This is a very big deal. Remember when the Neocon war hawks of the Bush-Cheney administration tried to teach us that diplomacy no longer matters and strove to establish an American empire armed to the teeth, fueled by oil, and aligned with authoritarian oil countries? And then, eight years after the Bush-Cheney administration, Putin’s friend Donald Trump wanted to destroy NATO with a U.S. withdrawal, and, like Bush-Cheney, sucked up to the oil countries (that includes Russia) rather than looking north. That kind of foolishness might have been weakly arguable then. But now, after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the exposure of Russia’s weakness and Putin’s misjudgments, and a rapid realignment of the Western democracies, the Republican madness — oil and authoritarianism — is obvious.

It may seem surprising that this realignment happened so quickly — in a matter of weeks, really. Partly, of course, that was the product of diplomacy. (One of the miracles of the Biden administration is how quickly Biden re-professionalized the State Department after Trump turned it over to hacks with conflicts of interest.) But in fact the situation was changing before Russia invaded Ukraine. This short report from the RAND Corporation, dated September 15, 2021, is about how three key Nordic countries — Norway, Sweden, and Finland — had in recent years become increasingly concerned about deteriorating relations with Russia:

“Overall, Norway, Sweden, and Finland have dramatically shifted their plans and actions in response to Russian threats in the European Arctic. For the United States, this change could represent an opportunity to further strengthen cooperation with its key allies and partners, helping to enhance security in the region and better counter Russian challenges in the northernmost reaches of Europe.”

If Republicans had remained in control, the consequences for the West would have been disastrous as the strategic and economic opportunities were lost and as the U.S. acted in favor of the Russia kleptocracy rather than our allies, the European democracies.

Norway has been a member of NATO since its beginning, in 1949. The admission of Sweden and Finland probably would be almost automatic, but Turkey has thrown some sand into the gears. Turkey’s reservations (mentioned in the Washington Post story above) seem rather silly, but it’s easy to suspect that Turkey’s underlying gripe (other than blowing a kiss at Putin) is that, as the Arctic becomes more and more important in a warming climate and as the world turns away from oil, Mediterranean countries such as Turkey become less and less important. One of the great advances from making oil obsolete will be making the oil countries obsolete. The Baltic Sea will become the new Mediterranean.

It was a book about the economic future of Scotland that first got me thinking about how important the Arctic will become as the climate warms, as ice melts, and as a navigable sea route to Asia opens up through the Baltic Sea. Russia and the Baltic countries are already preparing for the economic changes this will bring. Sweden and Finland joining NATO, I would think, will have economic consequences for the West far beyond its consequences for mutual security and defense.

The old kleptocratic order based on oil created billionaires literally by the thousands. Many of those billionaires are oligarchs like Putin who also have countries to rule and interests to protect. They won’t go down easily, no matter how many yachts we confiscate. This is what is behind much of the geopolitical drama through which we are living at present. Trump, a puppet of that old order, did everything he could to swing the United States away from a new order and toward the old. But four years under Trump wasn’t enough to convert the institutions of democracy into the tools of an autocrat (drain the swamp!) and turn the United States into Russia. If Republicans gain full control of the government again, it’s hard to imagine any result other than geopolitical disaster. If there is a next time, they’ll move faster and more ruthlessly.

I don’t mean to sound pessimistic. As long as the Republican Party — the clueless tool of the .1 percent — can be kept out of power, and as long as the .1 percent who own their own countries don’t start using their nukes (big if’s unfortunately), then the immense military and economic power of the U.S. can help lead the progress toward a new order — more democratic, more sustainable, more fair, and with a prosperity more equally shared. The alternative is a United States fleeced of its wealth by kleptocrats and beaten down by a white Christian police state.


  1. Malinda wrote:

    Hi David 🙂

    It’s long overdue to get Sweden & Finland into NATO, isn’t it?

    Since you mentioned the nasty Neocons and their legacy — did you happen to catch W. make the Freudian slip heard round the world at that speech he gave at his Institute in Dallas? He tried artlessly to Jedi-mind-trick-joke it off to being ’75.’

    Here it is with a great take on it:

    Also, I don’t mean to swerve off your well presented topic above, but I was waiting curiously to see if you might ever give an assessment of some kind on another scandalous GOP court jester in the mix — the Rep from your state, NC — Madison Cawthorn. He did just lose his primary and I can’t say I’m sorry. That guy has been on my radar of irritation for a long time now and I’ve noted that his shtick as ‘youngest congressman,’ shameless Trumper, and over-comer of physical adversity had more than enough appeal to young voters not paying attention to his scandalous lies (even about his accident).

    I was going to comment on your ‘Heartstopper’ post previously: I almost couldn’t resist cracking a joke in reaction to your pun of old Republicans’ hearts seizing up at the idea of young people’s unapologetic advances in humanity (i.e. living their lives). A joke from me going something like: ‘You mean the kind of ‘heartstopping’ Madison Cawthorn alluded to when he loudly vociferated that old gross GOP colleagues had tried to entice him/invite him to sex orgies? Was he more offended at the orgies invite or the ages of his colleagues? Lolll.’

    — But truthfully, I’m glad I didn’t get around to it because of what I just read today: another bombshell of controversy that apparently outs Cawthorn as a closeted member of LGBTQ — except he’s the worst of the worst hypocritical kind so it’s been unfortunately weaponized against him. I agree it’s ethically repugnant to ‘gay-shame’ anyone, but I do also understand the PAC people who released the video being candid saying, ‘It’s not about his sexuality, it’s about his glaring hypocrisy.’ Then . . . I feel slightly less bad for his plight immediately after, when I see in the very next article that he’s writing on his social media: ‘. . . it’s time for Dark MAGA to take back command’ and he swears he’s going to do whatever dirty business required of him to reinstate the Darth Empire. He’s batty, but wow, has he been spending his time handling scandals. What are the chances he goes away and he’s never re-elected? — It’s a radical error politically that that edge of the GOP has to gay bash and hate because if he was open about his status rather than hiding it, what might they gain with young people? Then again, young people have to show up and vote and they historically don’t routinely as they should.

    I’m glad I didn’t pollute your ‘Heartstopper’ post with jokes about Cawthorn after all — it is such a sweetheart of a show, and thoughtful, and I like so much whenever they enunciate a scene by adding those little bursts of animations that remind you of its graphic novel origin. My Gen Z daughter was waiting a long time for it to come out because she’s an artist and a fan who’d been following it on Webtoon. She says there will definitely be more seasons if they keep along with the creator’s story.

    Friday, May 20, 2022 at 10:33 pm | Permalink
  2. daltoni wrote:

    Hi Malinda: I did read about Bush’s Freudian slip. Truest thing he ever said. The fact that Trump was so much worse shouldn’t lead us to overlook just how horrible Bush-Cheney were. Their lying campaign to privatize Social Security was almost as bad as Iraq.

    I was saying in an email to a friend yesterday that I almost feel sorry for Madison Cawthorn now. In some ways, he is an example of the social and cultural failures of red America. Cawthorn was home schooled. Lord knows what he was taught. What if he had grown up, say, in Marin or Sonoma county and had gotten a proper education in a civilized social environment? He probably would have been an altogether different human being. I certainly don’t believe that people are born blank slates. But it’s true that culture has a great deal to do with what people become. Cawthorn is a product of a sick, decomposing culture. Cawthorn’s revenge talk notwithstanding, I don’t expect him to make a comeback. And he’s too stupid to get a job at one of the right-wing propaganda tanks.

    It seems no one expected Heartstopper to become such a hit. I’m hoping we can count on another season. It’s good to hear that the story in the graphic novel (novels?) continues.

    Did you perhaps use a different email address for this comment? It didn’t approve automatically as your comments usually do. I apologize for the delay.

    Sunday, May 22, 2022 at 7:34 am | Permalink

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