I Putins skygge

Christian Egander Skov

Skt. Hans nærmer sig. Dermed nærmer også stunden sig for Holger Drachmanns midsommervise med de stærke og sande ord om det danske folk, der med sværdet i hånd skal møde den udenvælts fjende.

Allerede da Drachmann skrev ordene var de et postulat, for vi har alle dage – eller i hvert fald siden 1864 – været mere indstillet på at lade sværdet ruste fast i skeden, eller endog støbe det om til plovjern.

Men vi lever i farlige og foruroligende tider. Vesten er truet. Fra øst af et autoritært regime, der skaber politisk legitimitet ved at eskalere udenrigspolitiske konflikter, men også inde fra af gnavende isolationisme og vestligt selvhad. Men pessimisme er ikke en luksus, vi kan tillade os. Vi har ikke råd til at svælge i vores egen afmagt, men må lade sværdet smede påny.

Baltikum i Putins skygge

Har vi glemt betydningen af det, behøver vi blot kaste et blik over Østersøen til vores baltiske nabostater, hvis blodige historie vidner om, hvad det vil sige at være overmagten prisgivet. Efter et århundrede, der har budt på såvel frihed som underkastelse, flerfoldige invasioner, systematisk kulturel og politisk undertrykkelse og til sidst atter frihed, står de baltiske stater, Estland, Letland og Litauen, atter over for en aggressiv nabo, Putins Rusland. Og den alvorlige situation, de står i, er også vores.

Den amerikanske militærhistoriker og udenrigspolitiske analytiker Max Boot har skrevet en artikel i det konservative The Weekly Standard om Baltikums udfordringer, der er særdeles relevant i et land som vores, hvor vi ikke diskuterer, hvordan vi kan opruste for at imødegå truslen, men om hvordan vi kan leve videre på fredsrenten. 

Boot skriver om de baltiske landes situation:

“Ever since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2014, the fear has been that the Baltics could be next. Given Putin’s proclivity for posturing as a defender of supposedly oppressed ethnic Russians, Latvia and Estonia especially have reason to be nervous. They both have large Russian-speaking minorities—numbering more than 550,000 people in Latvia (28 percent of the population) and more than 320,000 in Estonia (25 percent). By contrast Lithuania has only 175,000 Russians—6 percent of the population. The good news is that most of these Russian-speakers know they are better off where they are than under Putin’s kleptocracy. The bad news is that local sentiments may not matter if Putin decides, as he did in eastern Ukraine, to manufacture an insurgency out of whole cloth.

Putin is making his intentions clear on a regular basis. His Russian-language TV channels broadcast a steady diet of propaganda into the Baltics, playing up Russian grievances and accusing the democratically elected leaders of those states of being fascists and Nazis—the same nonsense that was used to justify Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Russia is also rumored to be providing funding to Russian political parties in Estonia and Latvia, and mysterious calls are circulating online to recognize “people’s republics” among the Russian minorities. NATO generals believe that we are already seeing “Phase One” of a Russian “hybrid war” against the Baltics, playing out primarily in the realm of information warfare and cyberwar for the time being.

Trump og den nye isolationisme

Der er endnu dem – også herhjemme – der undervurderer Ruslands styrke og det russiske regimes vilje til at anvende denne styrke i åben eller indirekte konfrontation med Vesten, men dette er fatalt. Ruslands militære styrke er stor og voksende, og de ugunstige økonomiske og politiske forhold i landet kunne meget vel pege i retning af yderligere russisk aggression.

Derfor råder Boot de baltiske lande til at afskrække russisk aggression gennem oprustning, ligesom han opfordrer Vesten til at vise Putin, at aggression ikke betaler sig. Og dette kan kun vises gennem styrke.

Desværre blæser der andre vinde i Vesten. I Europa udbygger Putin et netværk af sympatisører og støtter højrepopulistiske partier, som dermed lader sig spænde for en antivestlig dagsorden.
Max Boot peger dog især på Donald Trump og hans neo-isolationisme som en alvorlig udfordring for Vesten. Her må man føje til, at dette i særlig grad gælder for et Europa, der har glemt at bidrage til sit eget forsvar. Ironisk nok er netop dette europæiske svigt et af Trumps og de amerikanske isolationisters vigtigste argumenter for at tage et opgør med USA’s rolle i verden.
Selvom isolationisternes logik er farlig – ikke mindst for os – understreger den, hvorfor vi må opruste: Den der må forlade sig på andre velvilje er i sidste ende afmægtig og helt prisgivet udviklinger, der står uden for ens kontrol. Trump må kort sagt få alarmklokkerne til at ringe i de Europæiske lande.

Om Trump og den nye isolationisme skriver Boot:

“A Trump victory in November would deal an even more severe blow to the future of the Baltics. An isolationist and a protectionist, Trump has spoken fondly of Vladimir Putin, a man with whom he imagines he could make great deals, while speaking harshly of America’s traditional allies. Trump has said that NATO is “obsolete” and has promised to withdraw U.S. troops from any countries that don’t pay enough for the privilege of being defended—which in his estimation includes pretty much every country where U.S. troops are currently deployed. “Why are we always paying the bills to protect other people?” Trump demands to know.

The answer is that we have seen what happens when we don’t. The isolationism of the 1930s led directly to World War II, a conflict that proved to be the second-most costly in American history. The rise of Nazi Germany, Imperial Japan, and Fascist Italy might have been avoided, and war averted, if Washington had made a concerted commitment to security in Europe and Asia after 1918. Learning its lesson, the Greatest Generation did not pull U.S. troops out after 1945. As a result, another world war was averted, liberty was expanded, the Soviet Union was contained, and the Cold War was ultimately won.

No doubt if Trump had heard of the Baltics (which all too many Americans confuse with the Balkans), he would demand to know why we should risk a single American soldier in order to preserve their freedom. Because we promised to do just that in 2004 when these states were admitted to NATO, and if NATO does not honor its commitments, it will be kaput. Indeed, that is precisely why Putin may be tempted to move into the Baltics: He knows that a successful incursion could lead to the end of the Atlantic Alliance.

Should collective security collapse, there is no reason to imagine that Putin would end his aggression in the Baltics. If history has shown anything, it is that dictators keep going until they are stopped. Russian domination of Eastern Europe, much less of Western Europe, is a risk that the United States cannot afford to run, given the economic and strategic importance of the continent. (Trade between the United States and EU in goods and services amounts to more than $1 trillion a year.) It would be immoral as well as just plain stupid for the United States to abandon these close allies. But in order to protect them properly, the next president will need to do more than the current one has done.”

Ja, det er i sandhed farlige og foruroligende tider. Det er ingen ønskeværdig position at leve i skyggen af Putin og Trump.

Lad os bruge Drachmanns ord i til at minde os om det.