The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

Sweden and Finland Sell Their Souls For NATO Membership

I live (for at least a little longer) in a house full of Turks. I’ve heard the refugee stories, and I know what it takes to be called a “terrorist” (and not be one, at all.) So I can read between the lines here:

Extraditing terror suspects means “people who Sweden and Finland would otherwise judge were not terrorists will be extradited to Turkey, where they will be imprisoned and often tortured.”

This goes beyond Kurds; the secular opposition is treated savagely, and intellectuals and academics are particularly at risk.

Perhaps they’ll get the safety they sold their principle for from NATO, I have my doubts, but there is a strong case for it.

But they did sell their souls.



Spring of Down, By Stirling Newberry, Chapters X-XII


Open Thread


  1. StewartM

    They sold their souls for *nothing*. Despite all the histrionics about “Putin is Hitler!”, Putin is definitely NOT Hitler–the very worst his critics have accused him of doing is wanting to put back together the territories of the old USSR. Which doesn’t include either Sweden or Finland.

    And despite Putin being a horrible man and his regime being a horrible one that loots Russia, putting back together the old USSR I believe is something that would be in the best interests of all its former citizens. The real reason that US foreign policy elites are so anti-Russian is not that they recoil at Putin’s barbarisms–oh no, their fine with our “friends” who do such things, it’s not wanting to see anything but a unipolar world. They don’t want any strong powers arising that can block US actions.

    (But at the same time, they stupidly allow the export of US industry and know-how to China and elsewhere, all to make our elites richer, which means that means that the US *will* continue to decline, just in a less-obvious fashion. Which is dangerous, as we might find out in a real shooting war against a capable opponent that our military is just as overrated and over-hyped as Russia’s and all of a sudden too. Wars have a way of revealing emperors with no clothes).

  2. Soredemos

    Well, two things. 1. NATO is a hostile military alliance aimed at Russia. It isn’t for defense. Sweden doesn’t matter (in more ways than one) because it isn’t on Russia’s border so isn’t a Russian redline. But Finland has just made itself a target.

    And 2. NATO has turned out to be staggeringly inept as a military force (Russia is effectively in indirect warfare with all of NATO in Ukraine. Its kicking their asses and destroying vast amounts of their ‘donated’ equipment). If Finland thinks joining NATO will give I reliable protection it’s going to be disappointed (well, hopefully not. Because any shooting war goes nuclear and we all die).

  3. Ché Pasa

    Their souls?

    Or something else?

  4. different clue


    My understanding of how some people interpret the near-immediately pre-invasion speech is not about Putin wanting to put back together the USSR. But rather about wanting to restore the old Czarist Empire borders. If so, Finland would be within those borders, and so would much of Poland.

    I don’t know if Putin’s speech in question should be taken as meaning literally going that far, or not.

  5. Eric Anderson

    You know, this isn’t surprising anymore. So many things (like this) make sense when viewed from a new Cold War perspective, which, I believe the U.S. is already fully committed to. Which, the U.S. is making very clear, you’re either in or you’re out. The rich countries are banding together to hunker out a 20 yr crisis that the U.S. is intent on causing.

    The reasoning? Wealth. Same playbook as the original Cold War. They think the other non-aligned countries need our economic/technological input or else their economies will crash back to the Stone Age. And that is precisely what elite are going to attempt. Human rights? Piffle … this is war. The U.S. is going to crash it all, and on the theory that we’re the wealthiest country in the world, that it’ll be the last man standing and thus be able to reap the rewards. I believe this is a total world control gambit. If you’re not on “our side” the risk is too great. Thus, the neutral countries are falling like dominoes.

    The clock is ticking. The U.S. will not permit the BRICs to rally around Russia and china to create their own currency system. They’ll act first. Act I Ukraine. If that doesn’t bring the world crashing to it’s economic knees … what is Act II do you suspect?

    The U.S. played its industrial policy cards poorly, but its water under the bridge now. We’re cornered geopolitically to fall as the lone hegemon. But do you really think the PTB will let that happen? No. Cornered animals fight. And the U.S. is still an extremely powerful, and wealthy, cornered animal.

  6. Eric Anderson

    And think of it from the lens of the Iron Law of Institutions:
    ““the people who control institutions care first and foremost about their power within the institution rather than the power of the institution itself. Thus, they would rather the institution ‘fail’ while they remain in power within the institution than for the institution to ‘succeed’ if that requires them to lose power within the institution.”

    The U.S. is the Institution. It’s billionaires are it’s institutions. They will not cede that power. They’ll tear it all to the ground to maintain the privileges of power.

  7. Eric Anderson

    Concluding thought.
    Perhaps the U.S. actually played it’s cards correctly from a pure power politics perspective. The interregnum between the last Cold War and now may have served as nothing more than the opportunity to plant billionaire seeds. You know, those powerful, cunning, sociopaths who have no conscience, no loyalty, to anything but global power and wealth. The communist countries let the foxes in the hen house. The institution that is the United States IS billionaires. Whose side will the foreign billionaires take when the chips really, truly, hit the table? And how well will those countries do in a fight if their billionaires turn on them Ayn Rand style? Are they going to side with the countries who “abide” billionaires? Or will they choose the countries that defend and nurture billionaires.

    I think we know the answer.

  8. different clue

    @ Eric Anderson,

    If the DC PermaGov FedRegime operatives and their upper class owners think they can still use the US to do what you describe, their thinking is out of date. Thanks to the International Free Trade Conspiracy, China is now the workshop of the world. And Russia is the mineable pumpable resource treasure chest.

    So if this is what the DC FedRegime PermaGov thinks it will achieve, it will find that it has only voted itself off the island, and us prisoners below-decks with it.

    I actually have a somewhat different view. I think the Overclass has already decided to close the books on America and liquidate the enterprise. They are pulling out all the pit props and preparing to let the mine collapse on all the miners here in America.

    They have already been preparing their Next Historical Cycle retreats far away from America. Silicon scum like Peter Thiel have their luxury fortress bunkers in New Zealand and such places. George W. Bush long ago bought 200,000 acres of land above one of the largest aquifers in the world . . . in Paraguay.

    So maybe the mainstream rich are planning what you think for the reasons you say, and will try their best to execute. But the very highest have already tip-toed the fuck out of Dodge.

  9. Eric Anderson

    Perhaps, DC. I’m not picking winners. Just calling the horses as I see them. My gut tells me though that (without going into conspiracy land) the billionaire chips lie with the U.S. because we turn ourselves inside out to cater to them.
    We’ve had no problem in the past harvesting foreign resources and labor from afar.
    The west wrote the book on predatory capitalism. The nascent upstarts have yet to even begin to experience what it’s fully aligned wrath can conjure.

  10. someofparts

    Long, but very eye-opening talk with Michael Hudson. Along with talking about many other ominous things, he mentioned that the Americans have, for some time now, have been planting neo-liberals in the left-wing European parties.

  11. Astrid

    Capitalism/imperialism didn’t just defeat Communism because of access to greater resources and the internal contradictions/frictions of Communist governments, it also literally beheaded any left opposition that cropped up.

    I used to think that China was being authoritarian by blocking Western influences and still running everything through a dual control system. It might be that but it’s also absolutely necessary to prevent a decapitation attack. This isn’t paranoia, it’s borne out by 80 years of history.

    Look at China and Russia today, or even Nicaragua and Iran and Vietnam, and think of the possibilities lost through Western instigated coups, killings, civil wars, etc., in the global South and in Southern Europe. Nobody in the 50s and 60s would think we’d end up in the mindless cul-de-sac we are currently in. It happened because there other possibilities were suppressed and undermined. If Western liberalism and capitalism can be truly rooted out, maybe a better world is possible even with the numerous crises ahead.

    Also-Liberals can talk a good game, but they always revert to their class loyalties. (Says this highly privileged member of the Western liberal class.)

  12. StewartM


    My understanding of how some people interpret the near-immediately pre-invasion speech is not about Putin wanting to put back together the USSR. But rather about wanting to restore the old Czarist Empire borders. If so, Finland would be within those borders, and so would much of Poland.

    Putin’s reaction to Sweden and Finland joining NATO is the same as it was for Poland/Slovakia/Rumania, etc–Russia will accept it as long as these countries don’t also host military infrastructure hostile to Russia:

    From that I would conclude that “no, Putin doesn’t want Finland or Sweden in his re-united USSR/Russia”. Heck, he doesn’t appear want Poland, which is a far better land route to an invasion than either of those two (and to be honest, Stalin could have conquered all of Finland if he had really wanted to in 1944; but he didn’t, as controlling Poland he saw as far more vital to Soviet security). Putin quite understandably wants a neutral buffer zone between Russia and an alliance that, even if he accomplishes his re-united “USSR”, where just the European part of the alliance (let alone the American part) would outnumber him both in economic resources and in population.

    What, exactly, about that is so hard for Westerners to fathom, especially for a country that suffered something similar to the effects of a low-grade nuclear war in WWII?

    I think that re-uniting the former USSR would be a good thing. I just don’t like the idea of Putin or his regime being the ones who do it. Gorbachev had the right idea (keep the USSR together but as a social democracy), but maybe at the wrong time. I think of lot of Russians c. 1990 were infatuated with Western capitalism and believed its propaganda, not realizing that its benefits accrue to only a minority of the population. The old USSR made sure that everyone had access to homes, health care, and jobs; at the cost of personal freedoms, and at the cost of “nice” consumer goods. Now Russians have learned the reality of capitalism; that being able to buy IPhones and lattes for the relative few means much more mass suffering by the many. Nor are they any more “free” (though Putin lets anyone who wants to leave, leave).

    As a Russian saying goes: “Everything the communists told us about communism was a lie, but everything they told us about capitalism was TRUE”.

  13. Art

    I’m not so swift to judge harshly. They made some compromises for what they see as a substantial benefit.

    It doesn’t matter is Putin is ‘Hitler’, or just a greedy, asshole neighbor with a garage full of rusting nukes. Putin has said he sees himself as Peter the Great. There is an established and substantial fascist movement in Russia. Complete with oligarch funding, think tanks, and philosophical underpinning. They are ready to ‘make Russia great again’ independent of Putin so this issue is a long term problem. Collective defense is a reasonable response.

    As for the compromises, well, as we all know there are always nuances, bureaucracies, conflicting authorities, contradicting agreements an, as always, multiple jurisdictions and courts ready to offer an opinion. In example: Nordic countries are known for their human rights policies. The policy they they might hand over a person based on a hearsay claim seems contradictory. It might take the courts ten years to figure it out. In the mean time the person may, or may not, be in custody. And a shift in venue may have to start the process over again.

    Turkey may have received far less then they think. The view from a quasi-democratic autocracy and nominally Islamic state is slightly different from a liberal western democracy. It is not impossible to think both parties might be relatively happy.

    They didn’t so much “sell their soul” as evidence trust in their courts to do the right thing.

    As with most things, if the two sides agree wholeheartedly as to who is a terrorist extradition is likely to be swift and sure. Where they disagree it is likely to take longer, much longer.

  14. bruce wilder

    @ Eric — what is your interpretation of the billionaire-sanctioning policy that began the “Collective West’s” response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine — the chasing of yachts and the seizure or freezing of Oligarch assets?

    It seems to me that rather than pressure on Putin, it tends to help Russia, cutting of the big Russian current account outflows that have funded Russia’s expatriate / globalist Oligarchs and cementing Putin’s domestic brand as anti-Oligarch. ymmv of course, but genuinely curious about other interpretations of this curious policy.

  15. bruce wilder

    Sweden and Finland seeking NATO membership immediately after NATO’s ill-advised eastern expansion finally provoked Russia into a shooting war in Ukraine demonstrates the power of the neoliberal narrative, if nothing else. That their first encounter with NATO’s darkside was with Turkey’s authoritarian politics and that did not dissuade them shows that the narrative still has them in their grip.

    Sweden could very well fall suddenly into a deep pit of conservative reactionary authoritarianism — they have a lot of fairly severe political problems with their failed COVID policy, crime rates, a fragile monetary policy regime, and more.

  16. bruce wilder

    @ Art

    Sweden’s role in the Assange persecution doesn’t lead me to believe Sweden will be benign defenders of freedom — probably really good NATO “allies” though.

  17. Art

    “Sweden’s role in the Assange persecution doesn’t lead me to believe Sweden will be benign defenders of freedom”

    I don’t see it that way.

    Assange, IMHO, is not a freedom fighter. He looks to me to be a tool for Russia. He allowed himself to be an outlet for information, carefully curated to smear the Democrats and advance the cause of Putin’s man, Trump. Assange seems to have been motivated by a personal dislike of Hillary Clinton. She said some unkind things. Putin also hated HC , and every other strong female. He felt she failed to give him the respect he deserved. She saw him as a blustering bully.

    Freedom has nothing to do with what Assange in any but his earliest days.. His claim that ‘information should be free’ is contradicted by his quick and easy release of information detrimental to his preferred targets while withholding information that might be detrimental to himself, his Russian handlers, and his false reputation as a ‘freedom fighter’.

    At one point earlier in his career Assange tried to filter releases to try to keep people out of immediate danger. The abstract value of information freedom was measured against the very real-world fact that people could die. The attempt to filter the information wasn’t perfect but they tried. Over time Assange, and friends, got lazy and spent less effort to keep people from immediate danger. Eventually Assange stopped caring and simply transmitted unaltered whatever the Russian agents presented him with.

  18. StewartM


    It doesn’t matter is Putin is ‘Hitler’, or just a greedy, asshole neighbor with a garage full of rusting nukes.

    It does matter if you’re Sweden, Finland if nothing else. Why make any concession to get into NATO, be it selling your souls not not, for “protection” against something that is not a threat at all to you? The Western narrative is to try to “sell” Putin as a Hitler in order to divert eyes away from their own history of aggressive eastward expansion.

    And yes, you could consider Putin’s regime to be a form of fascism. But the Ukrainians have their fascists too, in powerful places. There is no good guy in this war.

  19. Eric Anderson

    @bruce —
    The first step in negotiations, possibly.

  20. Ché Pasa

    We’ve heard predictions of the End of Neo-liberalism for ages, and it never quite happens. No, in fact the error and disease of Neo-liberalism spreads and mutates, metastasizes. The grip of the Overclass is stronger, not weaker; the exploitation and oppression increases.

    Russia and its allies are conducting operations — not solely militarily in Ukraine — to curb the power of Western Neo-liberalism (aka: Nazi-ism) before its dominance is total. I see Sweden and Finland applications to join Nato now — as opposed to during Soviet times — as a kind of last ditch effort by their Overclass to protect themselves (bugger the People) in case Russia is successful. It’s not so much for military purposes. Russia is not going to invade Sweden or Finland (or Poland or Latvia, etc.) I say confidently, but if they show the hollowness and worse of the Neo-liberal ideology and the harm that it does to nations and empires, while thoroughly crushing Ukrainian fascism and resistance, it would be terrifying to the various Overclasses of Europe and the United States. So they band together for mutual protection of their ruling classes and their exploitative and oppressive way of life.

    I suggest Sweden and Finland have no “soul” in the mix. Purely pragmatism. Their rulers must feel the threat is real now. Whereas during Soviet times, it wasn’t. Ponder that for a bit.

  21. bruce wilder

    @ Eric

    A “rules-based” neoliberal order with sanctions against individuals and corporate enterprises seems to be designed to close off the possibility of negotiation. There is no acknowledment of a legitimate party with interests — just rules that must be complied with. Or the badly behaved are excluded from the game.

  22. Ian Welsh

    One can hardly take “rules based international order” seriously when some countries are sanctioned for doing the exact same thing other countries have done without being sanctioned.

    It’s just a word salad phrase, it means nothing.

  23. Eric Anderson


    I’m a licensed mediator as well as an attorney. I know a few things about negotiation. Rule #1 is to open with an offer you know will never be accepted. It’s difficult to get what you want when that’s your opening position. When I’m advocating as an attorney for my client, I speak softly and carry a big stick. Meaning, I show my hand as to the evidence I’ll be bringing to beat the opposing party over the head in court if they don’t negotiate.
    Pretty standard stuff. Seems to apply here in re foreign oligarchs. I’ll note, the sanctions on them could be a lot worse.

  24. Eric Anderson

    Seems Bjarne and I are largely on the same page here:
    An illuminating read.

  25. Purple Library Guy

    Sweden didn’t sell their soul for this. Fairly definitely sold that off, for a song, years ago–see also Assange, Julian.

    Not that we Canadians have much to say on the topic of continued soul-retention.

  26. bruce wilder

    One can hardly take “rules based international order” seriously when some countries are sanctioned for doing the exact same thing other countries have done without being sanctioned.

    Reading the phrase as an idealist, I can not see past the rank hypocrisy, but this is not the slogan of idealists, it is a slogan of neo-cons and neoliberals engaged in extending a unipolar hegemonic order — the privileged exemption of the hegemonic group from rules and justice is a feature not a bug.

    I have been exposed recently to the rhetoric and storytelling of an Australian historian who is deeply embedded in the world of “defense analysts” and international relations academics who staff the apparatus of NATO and AUKUS and the EU, IMF, World Bank and all the rest. He introduced me to the way Russia could be turned away from negotiating European security and how sanctions to reinforce Russia’s middle income trap could be justified and Ukraine’s divisive internal politics exacerbated without apology.

    The powerful faction leading the world toward nuclear confrontation live in an echo chamber of aligned voices where the hypocrisy of that “word salad” is not acknowledged.

    Eric comes from a place where conflicts of interest are negotiated because negotiation is the frame. It is not the frame the Collective West wants to operate.

  27. Eric Anderson

    Bruce, you read that link I posted above from Bjarne Knausgard? Place your comment in the context of the article and see what you find. I’m not saying you’re wrong, in general. But does it hold up under a Cold War analysis where players are ‘forced’ to choose sides, or be branded as traitors by both sides.

    That’s what I’m saying. The U.S. wants this bipolar world right now b/c it’s out of other options to maintain it’s hegemony. It’ll take it over multi-polar because there’s no ‘winning’ scenario in a multipolar world. Power concedes nothing.

  28. Soredemos

    @Ian Welsh

    It means ‘whatever the US wants at that particular moment in time’. The implication is always that the titular rules are international law, but that’s not actually the case. They’re usually not even adjacent to the law. The rules are what the US says they are, and it reserves the right to always say they’re suddenly something else in a week.

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