Much can be said about Dan Sten Olsson’s statements about Russia in the DN interview. Opinions must stand before him. But he makes some claims that these would be the indisputable facts. They are not.
It may seem strange that a Swedish business manager finds reason to talk about geopolitics and international law. Even more striking is the fact that he completely bought the Kremlin’s propaganda, both about Russian history and Russia’s ongoing interventions in the “near abroad”.
Not even his first The statement – that Crimea “always belonged to Russia” – stands up to further scrutiny. A little over two hundred years may be a long time, but it is much less “always” than the nearly five hundred years that the Crimean Tatars ruled the peninsula – until Catherine II conquered the peninsula in the 1770s.
In defense of Russia’s new annexation of Crimea, Dan Sten Olsson argues that NATO broke a pledge not to expand eastward, after Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev “conceded”. The connection is blurry to say the least. Moreover, Gorby did not give in: the imprisoned peoples of the “Eastern Bloc” simply wanted to escape Moscow’s power.
The decisive contribution of the last Soviet leader was that he made it clear that he had no intention of thwarting the liberation efforts by sending tanks to Berlin, Warsaw and Budapest.
The goal of the Stena bossThis is what happened during the dramatic months after the fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989. The discussion centered on the future of a united Germany, which Gorbachev also realized would inevitably be part of NATO.
It is true that in the early 1990s, Western leaders such as Helmut Kohl promised the Soviet leader that the Western Defense Alliance would not be extended to the Eastern states that would soon be free from Soviet occupation.
But when the former “people’s democracies” Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic joined NATO in 1999, the geopolitical context changed completely. Most important of all, the Soviet Union ceased to exist for nearly a decade.
It will also be a long shot at the moment Dan Sten Olsson presents it as trauma to Russians that NATO forces will take over a military base in Romania in 2020 that was – possibly – manned by Soviet armies until 1958.
So why is it important for Dan Sten Olsson to come out as a Putin hugger?
In the DN interview he appears as an enthusiastic “Russian versteher”, the German term for people who have a good understanding of what Russia and Putin are doing.
The concept became relevant in the spring of 2014 in connection with the Russian conquest of the Ukrainian Crimea peninsula. Then Putin gained strong sympathy from many leading figures in Germany’s political and economic elite.
This included former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder (SPD), a member of the board of the gas company Nord Stream and a personal friend of Putin, as well as his fellow party member Helmut Schmidt, also a former Chancellor.
However, the understanding existed not just on the left, but the anti-EU Alternative für Deutschland party on the far right wing was on the same page. In addition, a number of civilian profiles have joined the two SPD veterans. Several CDU politicians have defended Russian aggression. Particularly strong was the support of parts of Germany’s large-scale industry, which is highly energy-dependent on Russian gas and exports a lot to the Russian market.
There are deep historical roots of German-Russian fame, one of the more difficult examples of which is the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact.
In Sweden there is no equivalent and understanding of Russian intervention in Ukraine is limited. At least until now.
Read the full interview with Dan Sten Olsson here.