We hear daily burbling in the western media about ‘Russian Aggression’.
Western hacks make themselves busy each day diligently reworking US State Department propaganda about threats to the Baltic states.
As with many things, many people take these things at face value, without actually trying to ascertain if a threat actually exists or was ever made.
Many in the west misunderstand the Ukrainian situation, and use what the western media regurgitates, to extrapolate from it that Russia is some aggressive, acquisitive behemoth that must be stopped before they gobble up the Baltic states.
It simply isn’t the case.
The Ukrainian crisis didn’t happen because of any single element. Rather, a collection of domestic circumstances, the interests of some local oligarchs, coupled with much outside intervention and interference created a civil war.
Russia’s role in the Ukrainian crisis has been mostly reactive.
The reunification with Crimea was not the first acquisition on a Hitleresque march across Europe as many will have you believe. Crimea was as a result of a very specific set of historical circumstances coupled with the will of the people. It is highly unlikely to be repeated anywhere else. Ever.
If you really want to learn what is behind the Ukraine crisis, it cannot be summed up in any one article. A read of >>this book<< by Richard Sakwa is an excellent primer (I must give credit to the journalist Danielle Ryan who suggested I read it).
We are led to believe that the build up of American and NATO armed forces in the Baltic region is a necessary thing to ‘protect’ the beleaguered Baltic states.
Before we delve into some realism, I will note that I am not simply an armchair critic when it comes to the Baltic States. I have been a regular visitor there since 1998 (pre-EU), Estonia in particular. I have done business there, lived and loved there. I am well-acquainted with the region. I still travel there. Its a place I like to spend time in.
When we refer to the Baltic states, we are referring specifically to Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.
Not Finland and not any Scandinavian country (much of the American media seems to get confused about that).
Lithuania has always been the poor cousin in the Baltics. It never enjoyed the success Poland enjoyed. It is a place people mostly drive thorough on the way to somewhere else. Rather like Birmingham. Think of it as spaghetti junction; the intersection of the other Baltic countries, Russia, Poland and Belarus.
Although an EU member, it brings nothing to the EU party. When travelling to the region by road, it is the outer edge of the former Soviet Union. Important enough that all the road signs point to other countries.
Latvia is another country that brings very little to the EU party. They have very much enjoyed lots of EU money to build roads. The EU gravy train has also helped fund lots of police cars and speed traps. After eleven years in the EU, the cops are still corrupt, and outside of Riga and the Baltic highway, its hard to see where all the EU money went.
Estonia was always the diamond of the Baltic, and since joining the EU they had a boom and bust caused by EU fever and property speculation. Everyone expected to transition from driving a Lada Riva to tooling around in a turbo Audi overnight, and felt entitled to do so (using borrowed money). Inflation happened. Wages didn’t keep up. Much de-Russification went on, and in recent years they have mostly been pretending to be part of Scandinavia. But nowadays, the country works OK, internet is fast, water is clean, roads are good, food is tasty, girls are pretty and there are worse places to be.
Something you may want to know about Estonia: The president, a chap called Toomas Ilves, is very pro US and pro-Neocon. He was brought up in the US, so despite mixed Scandinavian/Baltic/Russian heritage, the bloke was brought up an American. He was once Estonia’s ambassador to the US. He was also a former head of the Estonian desk for the CIA-financed Radio Free Europe. Have that in mind when Estonia is recycling Nuland and Kerry propaganda in the media.
What the three Baltic countries have in common is many ethnic Russians.
How many is debatable as it is hard to define. Some years back, residents could all get a local passport if they wanted one. But to do so you had to pass a language test. Many Russian speakers from Russian areas couldn’t do that or didn’t want to, so they ended up with what is known as a grey passport. Effectively stateless.
That was supposed to end when these countries joined the EU, but it didn’t. Many ethnic Russians – mostly old folk – are still technically stateless living in the EU on a grey passport. Some hold Russian or other passports, some – mostly younger people – did the tests and got a local passport in order to be able to travel Europe and the US freely.
Are some of these shiny new EU passport holders still ethnic Russians? Of course they are. They speak Russian at home and among friends; they feel Russian. They speak Estonian or Latvian or whatever when they have to – which is usually any dealings with the government. What is a person born in the Baltics of Russian parents? Who knows? They will self identify.
Its probably safe to say between 20-40% of people across the region might be called ethnic Russians. 30% is probably a fair guess.
Ever hear of a race riot in the Baltics? No, me neither.
This is because while people socially gravitate towards their own social and cultural group, broadly speaking, they also coexist quite peacefully with others.
You will read nonsense in the western media about how ‘they all hate Russians’, but it really isn’t the case. How do you spot a Russian? They don’t have a sign around their neck.
Think of it like we British who live in what is called a multicultural society. We may have lots of Pakistanis, Africans and Indians living in the UK, we may have the odd one as friends. Many of us will frequent their businesses. However, they generally mix with people from their own cultural background. As do most indigenous folks. We coexist mostly quite agreeably despite that though, don’t we?
Same with people from the Baltics and ethnic Russians. Except that they cannot be differentiated by skin colour, so identification becomes harder and the lines become more blurred.
You may think they can tell each other apart as the Estonian chaps are often skinny little fellows in thin-rimmed spectacles, and many Russian men have necks like a birthday cake with a t-shirt two sizes too small. With horizontal stripes. And a wife clad in leopard skin with nails filed to a point. But over time, the stereotypes mingle, fashions change and the lines become more blurred. You can sometimes spot a ‘Russian’ over what might be termed a local, but it is far from an exact science.
So lets take a look at all these Russian threats to the Baltic states.
Well, there really aren’t any.
Moscow ceded these countries peacefully in the early 90’s. Why do that if you wanted them back, as some now claim? Well, the answer is Russia doesn’t want these places back. It is the largest country in the world and has enough fields and forests already. The idea is preposterous. Putin has even said so. Many times.
The media constantly spews out tales of ‘Russian troops gathering near the border’. Translation: Russian troops in Russia. Big news, eh?
‘Russian warships in the Baltic sea’ they scream. They neglect to mention that the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad just happens to be a Russian military base and is guess where? Yup – the Baltic sea. More non-news.
‘Russian bombers in EU airspace’ is another oft-touted line. What they neglect to say is the Air Force of many countries routinely violate the airspace of others. It has always been thus. Sometimes its training, sometimes it is little more than fun or a playful prod to see how fast they can react. America does this too.
Were any of these headlines indicative of any serious intent, the stories would be not about planes over the sea miles offshore or the odd mountain where nobody lives, the stories would be about laden bombers approaching heavily populated cities. But they are not.
The ‘Russian threats’ to the Baltics are manufactured lies in order that the US and the EU can apply pressure on Russia to counter this threat. They don’t actually exist.
The desire to lean on Russia is very much evident in the EU and the US though. For reasons we have no space to go into here, but some of which are mentioned elsewhere here.
Russia’s Neighbours are Worried!
Are they really?
If the Baltic states are worried, as the hysterical western media and American Neocons claim, shouldn’t Finland be worried too? Like Latvia and Estonia, Finland borders Russia.
The Finns are so terrified of the non-existent Russian aggression that they never even bothered to join NATO. What does that tell you?
To Finns, Russia is a place where alcohol and wives are imported from. It isn’t a place they feel threatened by.
When President Obama visited Estonia recently, one would expect – were the tales true – the grateful people of Tallinn to line the streets doffing their caps at being protected from the big bad bear by good old Uncle Sam.
Watch this two minute video:
That is the road up to President Ilves’s palace in Tallinn. This is a heavily populated area. One might imagine Obama’s motorcade coming by to be a big event, yes?
Did you see how almost nobody is on the street?
Because nobody is interested in the deal to occupy Estonia with the American military that Estonia’s [defacto American] president has done. Obama is not a saviour in Estonia. Not many people were very interested. Because Estonians don’t feel threatened by Russia.
Much of what we read in western media is drivel. Gone are the days of Auntie and others being unbiased news sources.
What we have now are mostly lazy hacks being fed press releases by the likes of Victoria Nuland and John Kerry. Sometimes helpfully recycled by some EU source. They don’t bother to investigate anything or check sources. Some are undoubtedly paid not to do so.
Russia has been positioned as the default bad guy, and Putin in particular has been skillfully crafted as the man you can blame anything on.
This isn’t happening by accident. It is a well-planned manipulation of the media in the attempt to mould popular thought.
The only reason to want to mould popular thought in this way is to get political support from the people for consequences against the ‘bad guy’.
How long will it be before our compliant media accuse Russia of having ‘weapons of mass destruction’?
Now where did I hear that phrase before?
A guest article by Stuart Smith. You can follow him on Twitter @RussianHQ.
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