Sunday, 9 March 2014

In these New Times of International Tension out of Ukraine: Remember the Military Industrial Complex!

I suppose no one has missed the turbulent events in Ukraine the last couple of weeks and there are, of course, many things one might say about those. At the moment, there appears to be a stalemate, where sympathies are allocated according to (i) what leadership orientation is preferred, and (ii) how one assesses the legality of the initial shift of power in Kiev, when the 2010 democratically elected president Yanukovych was replaced by the current provisional rule. If (ii) is assessed as illegal, it follows that Yanukovych is still legitimate president and then the presence of, if nothing else, Russian supported (but this charade is believed by no one, so let's say Russian, shall we?) troops on Crimea is perfectly in accord with international law, as a legitimate country leader may of course request foreign military assistance in times of national crisis. If (ii) is assessed as legal, the opposite conclusion follows and, in fact, we have a case of an aggressive invasion. Similarly, if (i) is assessed so that the new Kiev regime is judged as more desirable than the old, the shift of power is seen as desirable (for instance by pointing to the knee-deep corruption), and the Russian military activities as undesirable. If (i) is assessed differently (for instance by pointing to the strong presence of the neo-nazi party Svoboda in the provisional Kiev government, the national prosecution office, as well as the militia currently upholding order in absence of a defunct police organisation). However, I want to highlight another aspect of the Ukrainian crisis, linked more the way it's been spun in the surrounding world – especially that of Europe and, not least, Scandinavia.

In Sweden, there's been an immediate collective official political panic (see, for instance, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here) connected to the fact that it might look like a real "Russian threat" akin to the cold war era is back on the European menu. And, for instance, Poland and some Baltic countries have made some pretty strong calls for NATO to beef up its eastern Europe readiness and presence. On the Russian side of the fence, the rhetoric is no less tough, as you all know, and may be said to mirror perfectly that of the Western European stance.

Now, I'm no expert on foreign policy or international security analysis (although I'm on record as being quite skeptical to all claims to such expertise), but it would seem to me that there's a general tendency of all of these developments taken together that needs to be taken into the equation. This is no innovation of mine, but was in fact eloquently formulated by the at the time exiting U.S. president Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1961. What he pointed to was the close institutionalised alliance between political forces of whatever colour or brand desiring armed conflict for whatever reason and the vested interests of the wide variety of business and industry making money on such ventures and thriving in the atmosphere of increased international political tension. In these times of general hollering for more of military action, presence, visibility and readiness, this is a crucial factor to consider and what better way to remind about it than simple listening to Eisenhower's words once more, after which you may ask yourself who – unwittingly or not – those on all sides making the pitch of violence are servants of.