Scandinavia and the World
Scandinavia and the World

Comments #9703847:

Do you smell that? 26 11, 11:04pm


Well actually I don't assume anything about you - I wrote very generally about Russian media because I simply don't know how much free media you have access to.
I know there is no true freedom of the press in Russia today, but I don't know if your internet access is also restricted or monitored, so I don't know how much free press ordinary Russians can actually access.

Reporter Without Borders ranks Russia as 148th out of 180 countries, in freedom of the media:

But some of the things you wrote seems very informed by Russian state propaganda, and I felt I had to correct those things.
Also, while I don't want to get you or any other Russian in trouble, it's still the case that I have yet to speak to any Russian online who have ever expressed any criticism towards Putin what so ever.
Maybe you don't dare too online if you're afraid you're being monitored - of maybe you just all really like Putin - I don't know and as I said I don't want to get anyone in trouble, so you don't have to tell me how you feel - but I nonetheless felt I needed to express certain basic facts.
Not only to you, but also to anyone else that might read this.

Regarding Putin retiring I'll believe that when it happens. As I mention he's already trade places with Medvedev once and still retained all actual power in his own hands regardless of his actual title, so what's to say he doesn't do the same even if he's replaced by some other figure head?

I don't think a man like Putin will ever voluntarily relinquish power. Especially not now, when the Magnitsky Act means that the money he and his cronies has hidden abroad are no longer accessible to them.
I'm sure he still has some billions tucked away somewhere, or can steal some new ones from the Russian treasury - but he's also not really welcome in many countries any longer.

Russian oligarchs have bought up real estate all over the west in the most luxurious addresses in major cities. New York, Paris, London - but they won't be able to live there as long as the Magnitsky Act is in effect. Sure - they could probably bribe their way into Saudi Arabia or some country like that - but that's not how they expected to spend their retirement.
And as I said - a man like Putin, with the love of power he has - I don't think he ever plans to really retire.

It's true I of course don't have the close, first hand knowledge, of everything that happens in Russia that you do.
But Russia is a big and important country, and all western media have reporters covering Russia. And your Russian opposition and dissidents aren't afraid to speak to western media, so I do think we get rather a good picture of the over all situation.
And according to the Russian dissidents I've read interviews with recently, they don't express as much optimism about the situation as you do.
They are hopeful and they still work for a more democratic Russia in the long term of course, but they've also been through a lot of setbacks and seen things take a turn for the worse, so it's not like they're confident everything will be better soon.
Regarding the LGBT march in St Petersburg it's positive that people are able to express their opinions at all of course - but "more then a hundred people" being the largest Pride parade ever isn't exactly a great sign for Russian democracy, considering there is obviously millions of homosexuals in a country as large as Russia.

I don't wish to be condescending or mean at all - I really don't - but the fact is that Russia obviously still isn't a very democratic country. It's better then during the Cold War of course, but in many ways it's also actually worse then some years ago according to the dissident's I've read interviews with.
There where some years after the Soviet Union collapsed when anything seemed possible, but now Putin has been tightening the states control over the media and ordinary citizens freedoms, unfortunately.

I don't wish to minimize the contribution of any of the tremendously brave Russians who stand up to all of this - be they LGBT-activists or journalists or political dissidents. I'm in awe of all of them for their courage in the face of tyranny and oppression.
But I also don't want to paint a rosy picture of how democratic Russia is - because it really, really isn't - no matter what the state propaganda tells the people.

You're quite right I misspoke when I wrote "You can tell me how democracy works the day Putin is removed from power in a democratic election." - that was a bad way of expressing my point, sorry for that.
What I should have written was that "Russia will be a true democracy the day Putin - and men like him - can be removed from power in democratic elections".
And by that I mean - as I've said before - actually removed from all power and influence, not just voluntary changing places for a time, while still retaining all actual power. Because that's not democracy of course - that's just theatre.

And as I said before - of course all countries have their own problems, and I've never claimed Russian intelligence can invent those.
But what they can and are doing is inflaming those problems, divisions and tensions that are always there in any society. And since the west are open, democratic societies, it's very easy to do. Especially now with the internet that lets Russian intelligence spam propaganda straight to western citizens while pretending to be other ewestern citizens, and without ever having to pass through western media.

Regarding the reinstated Swedish military service - which I think you're referring too - you've not really understood how that's seen or works in Sweden.

We had universal military service for all young men in this country from 1901-2010.
In the first part of the 20th century it wasn't a very democratic institution, with the upper classes making up the vast majority of the officer corps - just like in the rest of Europe.
We also had an incident in 1931 where troops fired of protesting workers, killing 5, which didn't improve the military's standing in the eyes of most citizens.

But we've also had socialists, or Social Democrats as they're called here, in power for very much of the time since we became a democracy in 1921.
And the Social Democrats wanted to retain the universal military service - both because that was needed for the defence of the nation, but also as a democratic institution.
The principle that every young man in the nation was treated equally and all called for military service was seen as important for the building of a strong, democratic society.

Officers where no longer selected because of family ties or wealth, but based on competence and as a consequence the officer corps gradually became a better representation of the nation as a whole.
In the lower ranks young men from all background was also mixed, so the rich spoilt kids who had grown up with servants had to serve with the kids from poor working class families, doing the same things.
I didn't matter if your family was rich or poor - you where treated equally.
Also the rules regarding officers treatment of solders where tightened considerably and soldiers given representation in councils in the same way as you have in trade unions in the regular job market.

The Social Democrats deliberately did this with all of society, trying to build a more democratic and fair society for all citizens. In fact, the word "ombudsman" you mentioned in your previous post is Swedish that position is such an invention. Since then the word has now been adopted into English - because there where no such positions before other countries started to adopt the Swedish method of representing peoples interest like this.

Any way - all of this meant that doing your military service in Sweden hasn't been seen as an especially burdensome thing to do in decades.
Those that don't want to learn killing could chose other ways to serve (like firemen or ambulance staff), the food was excellent, the treatment fair, living accommodations usually good except some weeks in the field living in tents. You were paid a small sum each day - enough for cigarettes and such, and you usually had time off most weekends.
Since the 70's it's basically been seen as the boy scouts with guns. You get to play soldier for some months in your youth - it's not that bad at all, actually.
Also, conscripts could never be forced to serve abroad in the peace-keeping missions Sweden have done for the FN - so there was never any real danger of war, as we've been lucky enough to avoid that for 200 years.

Then the Soviet Union collapsed and there wasn't really any need for a large army, so less and less young men where called to serve.
In 2008 less then 7000 where even called up - and those where basically all volunteers as the military had so many to chose from that they didn't need to force anyone to serve. Just say you didn't want to do it and you didn't have to.

So in 2010 our government at the time (who happened to be a right-wing government) decides to let the military conscription "rest" as it was called.
Basically, the laws where left in place to be able to call up young people to serve (by then it was upgrades so both sexes could be called up) if ever needed, but no one was called up - because they weren't needed.

This was party because we reduced our military as the threat from Russia no longer was as big, and party because our right-wing parties idolizes the US. And since they have a professional army our right-wing parties all thought that was much cooler and we should have that too.
Many on the left weren't so happy about that, as we felt it important from a democratic perspective that the Swedish military didn't become some right-wing club of gun lovers - which is often the case in provisional armies.
But either way, they did it.

But, being right-wing, they are also very cheap people as they only want to lower taxes and don't want to pay what anything actually costs.
So the salaries they where offering for these new jobs as professional soldiers where so ridiculously low that the military could never find enough applicants to fill all the positions they needed to fill.
A contributing factor was also that as professional soldiers, these men (and women) no longer could refuse to be sent abroad to serve in Swedish peace-keeping missions.
Meaning they for very bad pay could be shipped to Afghanistan or some other hell-hole - so completely unsurprisingly people didn't flock to those jobs.

So the Swedish military hasn't been able to fill all the positions they have for the last couple of years now and the politicians have been arguing over what to do about it.
Then Trump was elected and started talking about how maybe the US shouldn't come to the defence of their NATO allies if they didn't spend more on defence.
And that, combined with his ties to Putin, and the Russian invasions of Crimea and the Ukraine, made Swedish politicians decide it was time to fill those positions in the military again.

So they decided to activate the universal military service again - after having "rested" it for only 7 years.
But it won't actually be universal at all - I looked it up online now.

Apparently now every 18 year old in Sweden get's to fill out an online form (including the question if you want to serve at all), and then the military selects some of them to be called to muster, and only a few of those will eventually then be called up.

So it's even more relaxed then in the late 90's when I mustered. Back then every young man was called to muster, but they where already calling so few up to serve back then you could basically just say you didn't want to serve and they let you go.

I was however excluded at the muster for a slight hearing loss I've had since birth probably on one ear. It's never ever effected me in any way accept for that muster - they just found a notation about it from some school physician way back and said "Well that's that - you can't serve".
Seemed like they were looking for reasons to cull people as many as possibly, basically.

Also, the time of service nis now apparently nine or eleven moths, depending on position.

And probably all of those that will eventually be called up will probably want to do it. There is no reason forcing people that's not really keen when they have so few positions to fill and so many to chose from. Better to just let the one's that want to play soldier go do that for some months and let the rest go - like it worked before.

So I've seen no public opposition against this reintroduction of the "universal" military service at all actually - people seem totally OK with it.