Thursday, 24 July 2014

The Iron Curtain

For my generation, growing up, the Cold war was a fact. There was "us": the Americans, and the Atlantic Alliance, and there were the Soviets. And there was a line through Europe that was called the Iron Curtain.

I was born in 1977. I remember the Gerontocrats of the Soviet Union dying off. Breznhev, Andropov and Chernenko. I mainly remember it in the form of a Spitting Image skit, in which a queue of elderly men on gurneys with drips in, waiting their turn to be soviet leader. I remember my Father's plan for WW3, which given we lived close to the Radio masts used to control Britain's Polaris, later, Trident fleet, was to grab the best brandy and whatever wine we thought suitable from the Cellar, go to the top of Honey Hill, and watch the fireworks.

Then, As a young teenager, I remember the Berlin Wall coming down, and feeling optimistic about the world. We, the free west, had defeated tyranny. Again. This was a time of Francis Fukuyama's "end of history", in which a liberal, free-market democracy became the universal form of Government.

Buoyed by confidence of the times, I remember devouring the news of the first Gulf war. Having seen even their top-flight kit swept aside with contemptuous ease in the desert by the United States, UK, France and others, the Soviet Union had a crisis of will. Or rather the Crisis of will that was the logic of Gorbachev's Perestroika and Glasnost came to a head with the realisation that they no longer had conventional superiority in the European theatre. They'd long lost nuclear supremacy. It was over, the Soviet Empire crumbled, and their enslaved peoples of Central and Eastern Europe clamoured to be free. They joined NATO, and they Joined the EU. Thanks to the former they were safe from the Russians, and thanks to the latter they got rich and comfortable, From Estonia to the Black sea.

Finland shares an Iron Curtain Border with Russia, as do Lithuania and Poland (with Kaliningrad), but the rest of the Iron Curtain consists of undefended and unpoliced borders. Some people think the EU is useless, but it has entrenched and enforced democratic norms in central Europe, and set people free to move about Europe for trade and cultural exchange at will. While we need NATO to provide a credible defence against a wounded Russian Bear, it will be the EU's soft power that finally brings the conflict to a close.

Kiev will be an EU city within a decade. Putin will not last much longer as Russian leader, so completely has he flown the plane into the god-damn mountain. And whoever succeeds him will need to deliver prosperity to the Russian people. And the best way for a Russian leader to deliver prosperity will be closer economic co-operation with the rich countries to the West. Perhaps Francis Fukuyama was right, but just a bit early.

Some people think the world isn't getting better. What was the Iron Curtain, is now a cycle path.



4 comments:

Anonymous said...

It is the EU's 'soft power' that has caused the conflict in the Ukraine. The EU is NOT a peacemaker.

How about collecting up all the bikes in the EU and welding them together to make a real 'iron-curtain'?

Jackart said...

There is no view I regard as more disgusting than the idea the EU caused the Ukraine crisis by stepping on Russia's "right" to interfere in sovereign nation's borders.

I assume, Anon, that you're a 'KIPper, in which case, you're a despicable quisling wanker, with shit for brains.

English Pensioner said...

I think that too few people are prepared to look at the situation from the Russian point of view. They were invaded by the Germans in WW2 and when you visit the country, as I have on several occasions, you realise how the Germans treated them, and the suffering of the people of western Russia. You can understand their concern when the EU wants to get "too close". We in Britain have never been invaded since the Norman conquest and probably can't understand the feelings of a people whose country was invaded by Hitler, and a hundred or so years previously by Bonaparte. (Don't tell me that's gone and forgotten, the Irish still remember Cromwell)

Since the wall came down, the old east bloc countries, which once formed a buffer zone, are now in the EU. The Ukraine, which was once part of the Russian Federation is, in Russian eyes, under threat. So there is soon likely to be nothing in between Russia and its old enemies Germany and France which are now acting together. I believe Putin is acting logically in response to the fears of the average Russian, he wants to ensure that Ukraine and the other ex-Russian Federation states remain on his side.
I too believe that the EU started the present crisis by badly underestimating the strength of Russian feelings. Too few people when looking at any situation think about the effects of what they are proposing from any other point of view than their own.

Luke said...

English Pensioner, I agree that we should try to look at it from a Russian perspective. But when you talk about the suffering of "the people of western Russia" in WW2, you are basically talking about Ukrainians and Belorussians. They also did most of the fighting.

You might also want to think about the mass starvation caused in Ukraine by Stalin. So fine, try to understand Russia's POV, but don't forget the Ukrainian POV.

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