United for freedom and prosperity against Russian aggression
It’s the end of an era. The long peace since 1945 has ended. The two largest countries in Europe are at war—Ukraine and Russia. Ukraine is a young democracy, inspired by American dreams of prosperity, safety, and democracy inside the Western Alliance. Russia is a brutal dictatorship, whose population is ridden hard by a paranoid KGB hand with his thumb twitching on the nuke button. Europe and North America are threatened by the Russian dream of restoring the Russian Empire. The threat is acute to Europe. But soon an unchecked Russia will strike at the heart of American safety and prosperity if not stopped. Our democracies are slow to mobilize but are unstoppable when they do.
NATO is at the heart of European and American security. The United States and Europe are each other’s most important economic and security partners. We need each other. In the ideal case, we would be standing back to back: the United States facing China in the West, and Europe facing Russia. For over a century, the prosperity and safety of the Western democracies have acted as a self-reinforcing dominant attractor, propelling resources and people into an unbeatable democratic alliance. Without safety, there can be no prosperity.
Authoritarian states have always been manageable at the edges but never a new credible alternative. Russia has thrown down the gauntlet, with China soon to follow. They have put the boot firmly on Ukraine’s throat: surrender your Western aspirations and your children’s future! This is a naked unprovoked war of aggression, based on straight out lies to the world and to their own people. Vladimir Putin has threatened to nuke any country that frustrates its ambitions. Millions of Ukrainian refugees are expected.
Nobody believes Putin will stop with a ruined Ukraine—he is a thief who will take anything that is not nailed down firmly. If not stopped, he will occupy all the former Soviet Union and Russian Empire: first the Baltics, then Poland, then our Nordic neighbor Finland. Norway will likely lose its unsinkable aircraft carrier, the island archipelago of Svalbard, which is a vital outpost for Arctic safety and climate change. Northern bits of Norway and Sweden are also potentially at risk. There’s always the enticing prospect of corrupting Norway’s sovereign wealth fund, the largest in the world. Some Russian politicians have even been making noises about having Alaska returned to them, including one of the largest parties in the Russian parliament.
NATO is partly about the North Atlantic that is in its name. Norway is key. Whoever controls the icy North Atlantic shapes the trans-Atlantic relationship. Sea lines along the long Norwegian coast control logistics and reinforcement of Europe. From the above, you would expect a frosty relationship between Norway and Russia. But Norway has a working relationship with Russia, with limited cooperation in ship safety and fishing. For what it’s worth, Russia has left Norway alone. I have met too many naive Norwegian military officers and diplomats. In my assessment, they have simply left us alone because North Atlantic access is critical to their safety.
For nearly a decade, I and many others have been warning Europe to re-arm. Norway is not bad. Norway has the second highest military spending per person in NATO. Brave Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania are pulling above their weight. But this is not enough when Germany, the richest, has a pitiful army and its politics are soaked with Russian money. London is jokingly called Londongrad, as the favorite destination of the Russians laundering dirty cash. Germany and others have made themselves dependent on Russian gas. Germany foolishly closed most carbon-free nuclear power stations only months ago.
Expecting the United States to yet again save Europe’s bacon after two world wars is stretching credulity. Thankfully, Europe has a large potential to defend itself before large U.S. reinforcements are needed. Russia is small compared to the rest of Europe, if only they could work together. The Biden administration has performed masterfully and inexpensively in mobilizing world opinion and cohesion among allies. The United States has once again been the leader in mobilizing political leadership, financial aid and weapons to Ukraine.
If the war stays conventional and limited to Ukraine, the war in Europe will hit your pocketbook and your heart only. But some red flags indicate that Putin is not quite of a sound mind. Putin has animosity against us, the prosperous and free winners of the Cold War. If this erupts into a white-hot rage, he may want to trigger nuclear war to “win” at any cost. In that case, buckle up. For your children’s future, the murderous dictator must then be stopped at almost any cost.
Special to The Norwegian American. The opinions expressed on our Opinion pages are not necessarily those of The Norwegian American, and our publication of those views is not an endorsement of them. Comments, suggestions, and complaints about the opinions expressed by the paper’s editorials should be directed to the editor.