It has been reported that Sweden has become increasingly anxious about a possible threat of Russian attack.
This alongside rising tensions between the US and Russia over allegations of interference in the recent election could be cause for some concern.
The Telegraph: Swedish towns told to ‘make preparations regarding the threat of war and conflict’ with Russia
Sweden’s towns and villages have been ordered to make preparations for a possible military attack in the latest sign of the country’s growing anxiety at its newly belligerent Russian neighbour.
The country’s Civil Contingency Agency (MSB) last week sent a letter to local authorities across the country asking them to maintain operations centres in underground bunkers, ensure that a system of emergency sirens is in place, and to be open to cooperating on war exercises with the Swedish Armed Forces.
“In a state of war, civil defence for municipalities is no different from any of the other services they should provide,” the letter read, instructing local governments to “ensure their ability to maintain their functions during disturbed situations, and at the most extreme, in a war scenario.”
The dramatic call comes as Sweden returns to the Total Defence Strategy it maintained during the Cold War, reconstituting its old coastal anti-ship missile system, placing an armoured division on the exposed Baltic island of Gotland, and making plans to restart compulsory conscription as early as 2018.
“This strategy is not new. We used it during the Cold War and we are going to now strengthen coordination regarding civil defence,” Magnus Dyberg-Ek, who is leading the civil defence operation for MSB, told the Svenska Dagbladet newspaper.
“What is new is that the security situation in our neighbourhood has worsened, and that we must therefore make preparations regarding the threat of war and conflict.”
This must be quite concerning for people in Sweden and Scandinavia.
“There is nothing to suggest that war is likely, but we have been given an order from the government to plan for it,” Svante Werger, the press officer for MSB, told the Sydsvenskan newspaper.
That sounds a bit contradictory.
In 2013, the Russian air force conducted a mock nuclear strike against Sweden during war games which saw a contingent of Russian aircraft approach Swedish airspace after crossing the Gulf of Finland.
This was one of several examples of dummy nuclear attacks against Nato and its allies in recent years, according to a Nato report.
During the election Trump suggested the US under his rule may not support NATO countries if they became involved in conflict.
Does Russia see an opportunities in expanding it’s influence with Donald Trump’s rise to power in the US? Maybe there is no threat to Sweden there could be a few countries in eastern Europe with increasing apprehension.
After the US election Time asked Can NATO Survive a Donald Trump Presidency?
Throughout his campaign for the presidency, Trump has suggested that the world’s most powerful military alliance should be run like an insurance scheme or a protection racket. In a typical remark on the issue this summer, he said allies that don’t “reasonably reimburse” the U.S. for the costs of defense should expect to be told, “Congratulations, you will be defending yourself.”
An emerging consensus in Europe has called Trump’s remarks the beginning of the end of the global order that has kept the West united since World War II. At best they mark the start of a bruising renegotiation of the transatlantic friendship. But it’s hard to tell which is closer to Trump’s true intention, because like so many of his policy positions, the statements he has made on NATO have come with plenty of caveats and room for retreat.
During the primary race this spring, he repeatedly called the alliance “obsolete.” But after winning the Republican nomination, he told the New York Times in July that he would like to preserve it, adding that only “fools and haters” would suggest Trump does not want to protect U.S. allies.
The ambiguity has left some room for optimism, at least among the defense experts who are willing to discount Trump’s apparent disdain for the idea of mutual defense. “I think this was politicking,” says Lord David Richards, the former head of the British Armed Forces. “I have every confidence that he will be as resolute on this issue as all U.S. presidents have since the formation of NATO,” he tells TIME.
I think that it’s too soon to have confidence in what Trump may or may not do.
Perhaps more importantly, what Putin may do, taking advantage of Trump’s ambiguity and possible lack of resolve in helping allies in NATO.
If Russia made any more military moves in Europe it’s difficult to guess whether Trump would try to stay uninvolved, or play tough guy and risk escalation, or shock the world with strong, principled and careful standing up to any Russian aggression.
If Trump continues to push the notion that NATO is a commercial enterprise – reliant less on the mutual trust and commitment of its members than on the question of who is picking up the check – he could alienate his European partners so completely that they will have no alliance left to defend. “Everybody will be so frustrated and disappointed with the other side that they will not feel a desire to continue,” says Shapiro. “NATO will become a hollow shell, because nobody will be contributing.”
A lot of that frustration has already begun to show. Even Europe’s typically cautious and understated officials have begun warning that NATO could split down the middle. “It might be that [Trump’s] policy priorities will lead America far away from some of the European basic principles or interests,” Federica Mogherini, the European Union’s top official for foreign and security policy, said in an interview televised last week.
International relations are complex and difficult enough in better times. Superpower uncertainty under Trump’s presidency may be opportunistically exploited, and history has proven, escalations can quickly get out of hand.
Especially perhaps when you have egos like Putin’s and Trump’s involved.
Back to Sweden versus Russia – war between them may seem unlikely in the modern world, but in the last Millennium there have been twelve major conflicts between Sweden and Russia.