Of late, the West and Russia are at daggers drawn while nations traditionally known for conflict resolution expertise have lost considerable credibility in their giveaway silence. Of note is how Denmark was found spying on its own government and leaders of other European leaders whereas Norway partnered with the United States in blasting off the petroleum pipeline from Russia through Germany and elsewhere, which led to soaring prices of consumer goods and other materials. Had the information collected surreptitiously been kept for their own exclusive use, the Danes’ engagement would have been taken as completely normal by those found targeted. Instead, they willingly passed on the secretly collected details to the US. That the Danish intelligence spied upon their own government betrays the unsparing nature of its activity.
Denmark is not an exception in this. Governments that can afford to build foreign espionage networks generally do the same. European Union’s largest economy, Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel was spied upon by the US intelligence. They seemed to take enthusiasm in what they did — and mostly probably continue doing so, even with greater care and secrecy. These days anything to do with Moscow and Beijing is shunned by the core West and its close allies. Hints of praise for either of the two is taboo. At least the media content of the major mainstream media outlets of the capitalist world’s leaders say so in their words, deed and action.
In early September, Norway’s Nobel Foundation withdrew invitation to Russia, Belarus and Iran to attend ceremonies associated with Nobel prizes in different segments. Not that Russia’s war in Ukraine can be termed a right decision, that is, strictly in reference to the United Nations Charter. But then, in the name of “security interests”, the US and its allies have not hesitated to turn belligerent against foreign governments that do not heed the interests they define. Some of the UN Security Council’s veto powers regularly ignore the concerns of weaker nations but pounced upon the vulnerable for hegemony and economic interests over the decades. They are known to have invited toppling of governments, proxy wars, trade sanctions and propaganda blitz, aided by the “patriotic”— not professional—news outlets.
Several Swedish lawmakers threatened to boycott this year’s Nobel Prize award ceremonies, after the foundation that organises the functions invited representatives of the three countries sent invitations to also the eventually banned ones, with the hope that the occasion “promotes opportunities to convey the important messages of the Nobel Prize to everyone”. Some Swedish lawmakers cited Russia’s war on Ukraine and also Iran’s deteriorated human rights conditions as the reasons behind their decision to abstain from programmes attended by representatives of the three countries, including Belarus that supports Russia. Such boycott stances were unheard of in earlier on many occasions.
Political attitude has influenced the organising in making its decisions. Colonists from Europe were invited to such and many other ceremonies of international nature until the 1960s. For several African states fought for and attained their independence only in the 1960s, i.e., more than 15 years after the end of World War II. Individuals and organisations on record expressing ideas and arguments that counter the EU-West views could trigger the cancel culture already seen so forcefully on the political/diplomatic landscape.
The French massacred tens of thousands of people in Algeria where Algerian National Liberation Front fought an eight-year war of independence that was finally accomplished in 1962. The conflict was characterised by, among other things, war crimes that were basically allowed to go with immunity. Estimates put the number of Algerians killed at 1.5 million while also displacing many more. Paris has turned a deaf ear to Algiers’ years of demand that the crimes against the Algerian people be compensated, accompanied by due public apology.
Vietnam saw a horrendous war for more than a decade, in all killing up to three million people under an ideologically capitalist pursuit of the world’s No. 1 superpower. Instigated by the West that pursued a policy of “better Dead than Red”, the Suharto regime in Indonesia was estimated to have killed more than a million people. There are many cases of elected governments being toppled with support from those listed as advanced democracies in the post-World War period. Barack Obama, during the 2008 presidential poll campaign pledged to pull out US troops from Afghanistan at the earliest. However, after some initial pretentious noises, he reversed the promise and stretched the protracted war. Instead, he was given the Nobel Peace award.
A stinging rebuff to Obama is indicated by the fact that it is extremely rare that he gets to be addressed as a Nobel Peace laureate at public functions. The Nobel team skipped India’s Mahatma Gandhi who struggled for his country’s independence through his policy of non-violence. It was actually the Nobel panel that suffered the pain of deliberately overlooking Gandhi. For that matter, South Africa’s dissident leader Nelson Mandela was nowhere close to receiving the Nobel Peace as long as he languished in prison for 28 years in his fight against apartheid before becoming the country’s first president (1994-99) after the end of apartheid rule. It was only in 1993 that the Nobel team’s eyes fell on him, though he had to share the award with the apartheid regime’s last Prime Minister Frederik Willem de Klerk.
China brokered peace between Iran and Saudi Arabia, whose direct positive results enabled the easing of their proxy war in Yemen. But no power expects the Nobel team to award any Chinese leader the Peace prize for 2023. It cannot afford to incur Washington’s wrath or cool stares from fellow Europeans. At worse, the very prestige of the prize itself could risk erosion. Many European capitals’ approach synchs after first reading the lips of their super patron on the other side of the Atlantic. Hence it is certain that no one from any of the three countries banned from the Nobel ceremony will be awarded a Nobel peace prize—unless s/he happens to be a dissident in one of the censored countries.
Whatever their contribution in the areas covered by the Nobel scope, those not proactively standing against the governments seen as anti-West will automatically be ticked off from the list of nominees for the Oslo-Stockholm awards.
(Professor Kharel specialises in political communication.)