Sweden’s Armed neutrality

Sweden has had a policy of armed neutrality for the last 200 years since it was introduced by Jean Baptiste Bernadotte, a Napoleonic marshal who became King of Sweden and whose line is still extant. The present King of Sweden is a direct descendent, the House of Bernadotte, a dynasty like the House of Windsor in the UK, founded at around the same time as the Bernadotte Dynasty.

Now, of course, this does not play any politically important role. More important for Sweden is its Armed Neutrality. For the first time there is the possibility of a split over the unified and agreed view that Swedish armed neutrality is the best policy for Sweden. The two largest bourgeois parties in the Government, the Moderate Party and the Liberal Party would now want Sweden to join NATO, as do the Christian Democrats. So far, the Social Democrats are saying no. They argue that Sweden anyway co-operates with NATO, which it does, so there is no reason to join NATO. I think this is a sensible view.

Sweden also has a strong peace research think tank: Stockholm International Peace Research Institute as well as Swedish Peace and Arbitration Society (Svenska Freds for short) the newsletter of which I receive regularly and which is the oldest of its kind in the world, having been founded in 1883. It is also Sweden’s biggest with 8,500 members (see Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swedish_Peace_and_Arbitration_Society).

Under the minority Persson Government of 1996-2006 Göran Persson worked closely with the Greens and as a result agreed to cut back on military forces. We need to remember that this was a time of detente following the decline of the USSR after the Chernobyl disaster of 1986 in Ukraine under Mikhail Gorbachev. Cuts were made to Sweden’s defences, particularly in the Baltic. For example, the island of Gotland lost its military base.

I have always believed that this war I would term fair weather armed neutrality was a major strategic error. Armed neutrality cannot be run on this basis. It demands constant vigilance and preparedness, so as not to be caught out by changing circumstances. So now a renewed expenditure is required to belatedly regain the balanced defence required. How much re-armament that should be is still unclear, but in any event it is wasteful of resources to enter into a disarmament-re-armament see-saw.

I personally don’t believe there is any threat from Russia, but that is not relevant to any decision to re-arm. Armed Neutrality demands constant neutrality. Hopefully, this is a lesson that will be learned for the future.

One of the problems in the EU is that members with either large minority populations of Russians or that have a traditionally difficult relationship with Russia can all clamour for more military expenditure from its NATO allies: countries like the three Baltic States and Poland. I quite simply can’t see Russia stirring trouble in the Baltic, especially in view of the embroilment brewing in Ukraine, an embroilment that was originally stirred by the EU with its proposal that Ukraine have associated status, an association that the US Government supports but Russia opposes. What might change things is if the EU makes overtures to Belarus, whose government is just as corrupt and dictatorial as Ukraine.

It is worth noting that Russia and China are planning joint military exercises. See http://thediplomat.com/2014/05/china-russia-military-ties-deepen-with-naval-drill-in-east-china-sea/. It is quite likely that China will replace Russia as the main challenger to US global hegemony, but that US policy is too focussed on Russia for the time being.

This is an EU problem, not a Russian problem. The EU, as a child of 1930s US policy, is a sort of neoliberal alliance of European states, and will be bound to reflect this. The Bourgeois Alliance Government of Sweden is also neoliberal in its policies, more so even than the  Social Democrats. There is a danger that the new Social Democrat leader has a position close to the bourgeois alliance parties to such an extent that this might change. If it does, I will have to reconsider my position. But the Armed Neutrality issue remains unchanged until the next Swedish election results are known, elections due to be held on 14 September 2014.

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