Staying neutral

I hate these filthy Neutrals, Kif. With enemies, you know where they stand but with Neutrals, who knows? It sickens me.

Back in the day this quote from Futurama could be seen only at its face value: something only a paranoid jingoistic moron would say. Nowadays we see how the organisations and countries with neutral status use it mostly as an excuse to avoid responsibility for their acts.

Let’s start with various international organisations. Various international sports federations and the IOC say they’re outside politics and welcome money participants from all countries. All while forgetting that accepting participants from the countries that violate their principles of fair sportsmanship is going against those principles (“to oppose any political or commercial abuse of sport” from the Olympic Charter sounds especially ironic). And we have the ICRC that is in theory should act as a neutral mediator between fighting parties. In practice it has destroyed its reputation by not willing to organise anything for Ukraine (I can understand that they could not organise green corridors for Ukrainians because russians were against that but not performing their duties by visiting Ukrainian POWs in russia and essentially participating in war crimes by supporting russian deportation centres—that I cannot neither understand nor forgive). I suspect than in both cases corruption is at play: a dictatorship can always offer money or “gifts” that law-abiding democratic countries can’t.

And of course there’s Useless Nations organisation (still officially called United Nations by mistake). Considering how russia ignores its General Assembly decisions without any repercussions one should wonder about its usefulness already. And then they (as well as certain other international organisations “for all good against everything bad”) release reports blaming both parties: russia for aggression and Ukraine for defending itself. Including the latest scandal with russian “orthodox” church (FSB patriarchy)—it does not matter that in every church and monastery in Ukraine they occupy (in both senses) there were found stashes of russian propaganda, weapons and often russian agents in hiding; it does not matter how the church officials and lower clergy still repeat russian propaganda theses and act against Ukraine—the church is obviously a neutral organisation and should be treated as such.

On the same note, even individuals who repeat the same things about how both parties are wrong and you should stay neutral invoke only disgust in me. In the best case they’re idiots who listen to russian propaganda, in the worst case they’re narcissists who believe only they can be right and the rest of the world is stupid and wrong (place the current Pope into a category you see fit).

Now to the countries with neutral or “neutral” status. Often such country stays neutral because it is too small and cannot afford to anger its neighbours. The classic example of that would be Switzerland (just ignore its army regularly invading Liechtenstein during trainings), Sweden or Israel. Finland remained neutral for a sadder reason: it found out how useless were those alliances for defending it against Soviet aggression (similarly there was a joke in the beginning on 2022 that if russia would invade Poland or Estonia then NATO would react by excluding that country from the alliance). And we also see “neutral” Hungary and China. Let’s take a closer look at all those countries.

Switzerland started out as a small poor country that had fears of being invaded by its stronger neighbours—which happened only once, in Napoleon times (and because of their connections Swiss ended up with more territory when the war was over; those who try to mention Austrian invasion should look first who those Habsburgs were). Nevertheless they decided to remain heavily armed neutrals so that they don’t get involved in wars themselves and when an invader comes a good deal of the population will fight those armies in the mountains (having mountains is a good bonus to defence indeed). That’s why they have the law against transferring their weapons and munitions to the countries in the state of war (I can respect that. Update: after reading this article I’m inclined to re-evaluate their neutrality as to “do whatever we want as long as it does not anger powerful countries much”). In the same time they used their neutral status to conduct unscrupulous trade with all countries of the world (especially during WWII) and to get a reputation of a banking safe haven. But thanks to the pressure from the USA and various data leaks from its own banks it is no longer so. Hopefully in the future the country will survive and prosper on its high-tech chocolate industry and other respectable businesses instead of keeping stolen goods and money from dictators all around the world (just see this list to understand why one of their major banks went belly-up and may take another one with it).

And now to Israel. This is somehow an inverted Switzerland—a unitary state created more or less as a safe haven for a certain nation, it has constant tensions with its neighbours but remains neutral because it does not want its citizens (and potential ones) living in other countries to be harmed (a noble goal really). So in the beginning of the war they remained neutral because they did not want russia to get vengeful and supply a neighbouring terrorist state with something that will harm Israel. russia responded to this with various anti-Semitic statements and actions (read about the Sokhnut court case) and went to arm Iran anyway. Also it helps that the current government is very pro-russian and acts in rather russian ways (see their recent laws and the heavily-opposed legal reform; just another case why you should not have politicians serve indefinitely long terms). Here the neutral status is used to evade certain actions and also to evade responsibility for the other actions. Though the way it goes either the current government will be kicked out or they’ll lose international support.

Let’s move to really neutral countries like Sweden. In XX century it let Norway free after it decided to dissolve the union and the only war-like act during WWI was occupation of Åland that was more of a territorial dispute that was settled more or less peacefully (between Sweden and Finland, the other parties involved were not so nice). During WWII Sweden had to yield to pressure from Germany (like letting its troops pass through Northern Sweden—which those troops regretted doing) but in general it remained neutral because of its usefulness (like the iron ore and products from it) that would be lost in case of occupation. The current war made Sweden reconsider their position and it has finally applied for NATO membership.

And now for another NATO applicant, Finland. It has been suffering from the same problem as Ukraine—bordering with russia. In the first half of XX century it had been constantly struggling to keep its territory and sovereignty from Soviet Union (and the League of Nations proved out to be as useful as UN now, only Sweden and Norway helped it at that time plus some political manoeuvring). That’s why after 1945 it remained neutral but the recent events proved that if you border with russia and you’re not large enough then russia will try to occupy you. So Finland reconsidered its status as well.

Temporarily Occupied West Taiwan (or China for short) is a country that declares itself to be neutral while it semi-openly supports russia (and does not do that in the open because of the fear of sanctions). To which russia repays with its usual ingratitude: just three days after Xi Jinping visited it and had his roadmap for peace accepted there there’s a claim that they’ll go against it by threatening the world with their nukes and nuclear proliferation. This is a poster case of neutrality used as an excuse to do whatever they want since they’re not restricted by some political alliance.

And finally there’s a country that conveniently forgets about its treaties and alliances and proclaims itself neutral to do business with sanctioned countries. Of course I’m talking about Hungary. It’s the country that constantly blocks EU and NATO decisions either because it was paid for that (that’s why the amount of EU sanctions against russian oligarchs and entities is much lower than it should be) or because they want to have a bargaining chip (EU sanctions and other unanimous decisions again and blocking NATO membership for Finland, Sweden and Ukraine are good examples of that). And when I said they forget about previous treaties at their convenience I meant their claims about increasing trade with Iran (despite EU sanctions) or not honouring the indictments from the International Criminal Court because the (signed and ratified) Rome Statute “is not integrated into our legal system”. I believe somebody should help them become truly neutral by kicking them out from both EU and NATO. In the recent news though it’s reported that russia has added them to their list of unfriendly countries. Looks like there’s a common pattern in dealing with russia.

I probably should’ve mentioned Austria here as it was made a neutral country after 1945 but considering how it turned into serving russian interests I don’t see it showing any new aspects of “neutrality” and thus contributing to the discussion.

In conclusion I want to say that there are three different kinds of neutrality that different countries (organisations, people) often mix and pass for another kind: “don’t touch me” neutrality, “I can do whatever I want” neutrality and “you can’t make me do it” neutrality. The first kind is essentially a country staying aside and remaining not involved in any wars so that other countries do not have a reason to invade it either; sadly this works well only for countries with good defence (and not for Ukraine). The second kind is when you claim to be neutral in order not to have any restrictions on dealing with all other possible parties (it works only so well as you can withstand sanctions and pressure i.e. China has better chances doing that than Switzerland). The third kind is complementary to the second kind and the same reasoning applies.

So next time you hear claims about somebody or something staying neutral and not wanting to leave anybody or anything behind, ask yourself about the real goal of that neutrality (hint: there are dirty money involved quite often in this case).

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