Thursday, September 14, 2006

Ahtisaari: Patron of the SS?

I've long considered Martti Ahtisaari of Finland a Serbophobe simply because he was an agent of the Empire in 1999 and subsequently a Board member of the International Crisis Group. His statement that Serbs bore collective guilt for what (allegedly) happened in 1999 - and, by obvious implication, that Albanians bore no guilt whatsoever, collective or individual, for what has happened since - did not surprise me much.

According to Carl Savich of, however, there's another reason Ahtisaari is a Serbophobe: during his presidency, the Finnish government wanted to sponsor a monument to Nazis! Savich writes that Ahtisaari's government wanted to bankroll a monument to the Finnish Waffen-SS volunteers, some 1400 members of the Waffen-SS division "Wiking." (This is in addition to the Finnish troops who fought against the Soviet Union between 1940 and 1945, as allies of Nazi Germany.)

Retired NY Times reporter David Binder wrote that Ahtisaari was one of the Finns displaced by the Soviet invasion of Karelia during the 1940 Winter War. So, it stands to reason he would have anti-Soviet (and anti-Russian, by extension) sentiments. A lot of the early 1990s Serbophobic propaganda played on leftover Cold War stereotypes, endeavoring to portray the Serbs as "Communists" and "Russians lite." Ahtisaari would have absorbed this propaganda when he was involved in the early EU efforts to mediate the conflict between Yugoslav republics - efforts that failed miserably when Germany strong-armed the rest of EU countries into recognizing the unilateral secession of Slovenia and Croatia.

So, Ahtisaari has a family history of being displaced by Russians; his country was allied with Hitler in WW2; he sponsored a monument to the Waffen-SS during his presidency, and he was in position to acquire anti-Serb bias as a diplomat involved in Yugoslav affairs in the early 1990s. I'm no psychologist, but I can see how all that would predispose him towards, say, Kosovo Albanians - who were actually allied with Hitler themselves, but claimed they were victims of "Serb Nazis," and came up with horror stories accusing the Serbian authorities of Hitleresque crimes. Although these stories have never been substantiated, they served as the propaganda justification for NATO's invasion, so anyone involved in that enterprise cannot afford to disavow them. And Ahtisaari was very much involved.

But the issue here isn't whether Ahtisaari is biased. That's been obvious even without these background details that have recently emerged. The issue is what to do about him? Would his inclination towards the Waffen-SS be enough of a political tarnish to have him removed? Or are charges of sympathy for the Nazis taken seriously only when their target is an enemy of the Empire, not its agent?

(Edited on September 18 for clarity)

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