Will Sweden Join NATO?
Plus, why Russia doesn't need trolls this time.
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THOMAS LASSI: Will Sweden Join NATO?
The balance of power in the Swedish parliament means that the decision of whether Sweden will formally apply for NATO membership currently rests with the Social Democratic party, the governing party of Sweden for most of the past hundred years that currently holds the premiership. That the Social Democrats are even debating NATO membership as a realistic option reveals an historic shift in Swedish politics. Since 1992, the cornerstone of Swedish security policy has been the rejection of military alliances in favor of a firm belief in the United Nations and multilateral dialogue to resolve international crises. In the unlikely scenario of an attack by a foreign aggressor, there has long been an assumption that someone else (most likely NATO, in which Sweden participates in through the Partnership for Peace program) would rush to aid the defense of the nation. Ten years ago, the former Supreme Commander of the Swedish Armed Forces, Sverker Göranson, stated that Sweden would be able to defend itself for approximately a week.
The recent assault by Russia on Ukraine appears to have thrown conventional Swedish wisdom aside in favor of a serious debate about NATO membership. Just a few months ago, this would have been unthinkable. Could Sweden actually join a military alliance that, for all intents and purposes, is governed by the United States?
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AMANDA CARPENTER: Russia Doesn’t Need Trolls This Time.
It didn’t happen overnight. Recall how the Russia-sympathizing, Q-adjacent, Trump-loving MAGA media machine first railed against Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s election meddling. Russia wasn’t responsible, they said—a computer server in Ukraine ran the operation. Then, in 2020, they accused Ukrainian officials of withholding dirt on Joe Biden’s family. Now they allege that the United States is funding bioweapons laboratories in Ukraine and our government is covering it up.
Make a Venn Diagram of the people pushing each of those three narratives and you’ll find they overlap almost completely. It’s all the same people: fringe Internet figures, Fox News hosts, Steve Bannon and his acolytes, Marjorie Taylor Greene caucus members, and the millions of people who love them.
Most of these people claim to be free-thinking contrarians. But their accusations, questions, and conclusions about the United States, Russia, and Ukraine always seem to go one way: The United States and Ukraine are somehow wrong, and the Russians have their reasons for waging war. If you don’t believe that, it’s only because all the Democrats are lying to you. (Well, all the Democrats except for 2022 CPAC special guest Tulsi Gabbard, anyway.)
When my family finally left in February 1980—we were lucky enough to get our exit visa days after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and days before the door slammed shut on Jewish emigration—my father’s prediction certainly seemed to be coming true. Arrests of dissidents were becoming more frequent; Andrei Sakharov, the great physicist and human rights activist, had been forcibly confined to Gorky, a city closed off to foreigners. The Soviet leviathan seemed more implacable than ever. The level of fear was such that after we arrived in the United States, most of my parents’ and grandmother’s friends and relatives were afraid to correspond with them. One friend whose daughter was starting her career as a ballerina was horrified when she found out that another mutual friend had sent my mother a program for the daughter’s debut stage appearance: Everyone knew that they opened and read the mail, and what if they figured out that the program had been sent for its listing of this particular dancer?
By the time we had been gone for seven years, the usually bleak-and-bleaker reports from the Soviet Union began to show glimmers of hope. Sakharov was returned to Moscow with honors; political prisoners were getting released. The words glasnost (openness) and perestroika (restructuring) were suddenly all the rage. A slow trickle of heretical content in Soviet newspapers and magazines grew and swelled to a torrent. From exposés of Stalin-era Soviet crimes, it was but a step to articles that questioned communism itself and even suggested that Vladimir Lenin, the hallowed leader of the Bolshevik Revolution, may not have been the greatest man who ever lived. The old taboos fell like dominoes; crime, homelessness, hunger, child abuse, and other social problems that were once supposed to exist only “over there” were suddenly acknowledged. Religion and sex, both of which had to keep a low profile under the Soviet system, came out of the closet. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s The Gulag Archipelago was serialized in a leading magazine. Formerly banned books such as Mikhail Bulgakov’s Heart of a Dog, a 1925 short novel that savagely satirized the communist project of creating a “new man,” were not only published but adapted for the screen.
HANNAH YOEST: When Is It Okay to Laugh During War?
While clearly an early collective coping mechanism that went viral before the invasion began, as Russian aggression turned from uncertain assumption to cruel reality, reporting from Buzzfeed and others on the meme-ification of diplomacy was vilified by those insisting that making jokes is inappropriate while there are people dying in Ukraine. But while it’s bad to callously make light of human suffering, it’s also important to realize that humor plays a role in the way people adapt and deal with suffering.
Images of road signs with directions for Russia to “Fuck off” and political satire memes have been a small part of Ukraine’s success in dominating the information war—giving Western audiences accessible and relatable material to latch on to. It is also telling that the person who has risen to the occasion and demonstrated unfathomable courage and leadership in the face of near-certain death and the decimation of his country is a former comedian.
RIP. A pregnant Ukrainian woman, who was accused of being a “crisis actor” by pro-Russian Americans, has died. As has her child.
How Ukraine keeps the trains running… CNN has a fascinating look at how the vital railways persist during the Russian invasion. NPR also has a great story about how Poles are rebuilding a century-old railway between Poland and Ukraine to help get more refugees to safety.
Your feel good video of the day… Refugees arrived at school in Italy, and this is how they were greeted.
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Russia is basically stealing planes. To evade the sanctions on their airliners’ leased jets.
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Putin’s worsening problems… A thread.
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