Editorial: With the Heart in a Squeeze Between East and West

Why do Putin and Trump undermine the international consensus knowledge that their national academic and governmental milieus have been so central to building? (Trump photo: Michael Vadon)
2017 became the year when the USA turned its back on Europe and our relationship with Russia returned to square one, High North News Editor-in-Chief Arne O. Holm writes in this editorial.

2017 turned into the year when the USA turned its back on Europe and our relations with Russia went back to square one. Apparently, the only normal thing was the will to turn High North policies into a battle between Bodø and Tromsø.

Though normal.

When did it become normal for political scientists and editors to act as specialists in a professional fight over how to best operate and heal hearts in a region stretching across more than 1,500 kilometers, from Bindal in the south to Kirkenes in the north?

Living with the heart

I am referring, of course, to the infamous PCI fight, a fight that formally ended a few days ago. No one would have guessed that percutaneous coronary intervention would become the ‘word of the year’ up north. For those who do not remember; the question was whether PCI should be conducted in Tromsø or in both Bodø and Tromsø.

A few people have had strong opinions on this.

Normalcy, or the familiarity, of this conflict lies in the arguments for or against different solutions to this issue balance on the boundary between Nordland and Troms Counties. There is an absurd logic in the fact that medical arguments with minute precision are decided by the debaters’ home address.

It is the kind of debate where you really do not need medical competence to participate. Strong opinions and registered residency in one of the two counties suffice. Such a way of belonging eliminates  insight and knowledge requirements.

Residential addresses also matter, albeit not in a crucial manner, when we lift our eyes from the narrow-minded micro logic to the major changes in the High North.

Living with Russia

Our historic experience with Russia as our neighbor obviously influences our view on what happens at our big eastern neighbor. It may not have concrete political consequences, such as in the view on sanctions, however, it opens up for a broader understanding of the international play between the great powers.

It is exactly that kind of historic ballast that makes it easier to accept for instance the argument that the Russia we see today is closer to normal than what we experienced when Mikhail Gorbachev attempted reform politics, perestrojka, towards the end of the 1980s. Simply put, that ended with the dissolution of the Soviet Union a few years later.

Many on the western side believed that Russia was ideologically approaching the West. It is our own disappointment, our own liberal disappointment, that is put to the test when Russia is returning to its historically more familiar regime.

I believe that is something we will have to learn to live with. Something we will have to handle. That will also reduce the threat. It is not about fear of the unknown, but about recognizing Russia as it was and in all likelihood will be also following the March 2018 election.

Living with the USA

Greater insecurity, however, characterizes the development of the USA under President Donald Trump. We simply are not able to analyze a president without the rationality that we normally connect with statesmen. One thing is facing the globalization opposition’s conspiracy in a brownish demonstration parade. It is quite another thing to have one of them living in the White House.

American nationalism does not under any circumstances contribute to making the Arctic a safer place.

The signals are all the more ominous when we as a nation join the trumpian strategy through closing our own borders for people on the run. We construct impenetrable obstacles through political decisions. We let disaster play out in inhumane refugee camps in Libya and save ourselves the sight of suffering that the West has contributed to elsewhere in the world.

We do it just as easily as we put up mosquito nets in the summer to keep mosquitos away during summer nights. The mosquito does not go away, it just has to find someone else to bite.

Living with ourselves

Based on all these reasons, the strategic political and business initiatives in the High North are of invaluable significance, both domestically as well as internationally.

Continuity in the Arctic community will not grow less important in 2018.

It may even reduce the need for percutaneous coronary intervention.

A merry Christmas and a happy New Year to all our readers!  

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