Lens 1 – 1 FC Copenhagen. Yay.
Well, given the choice I would prefer living in Berlin to living in London for the reasons given in the linked post.
On the other hand, given the choice I would prefer working at a British university to working at a German university.
Not that any of these choices are on my agenda, though.
The Swedish parliamentary year opened yesterday with the Prime Minister’s annual programme speech. It is perhaps symptomatic that Aktuellt 21 – that’s the Nine o’Clock News on SvT2 – didn’t lead with the speech and when it finally got to the speech, the main story was something Fredrik Reinfeldt didn’t say.
What Reinfeldt didn’t say was that Sweden is a non-allied country. (Sweden is not a “neutral” country, Sweden is a “non-allied“ country).
Big deal. Sweden hasn’t been in any military alliance since – well – time immemorial and joining an alliance has been a complete no-no in Swedish politics since 1945. As a leading politician, you’re not even supposed to declare that you are not considering joining NATO because just making such a statement would endanger Sweden’s non-aligned status. On the other hand, according to critics and political opponents, failing to make the ritual confession to non-alliance amounts to endorsing some kind of military cooperation with – the horror, the horror – NATO.
What is going on here?
After all, the regional political implications of a Swedish membership of NATO would be zero these days: Norway and Denmark are NATO countries. So is Germany. And Poland. And Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. (I’ll grant you that Finland isn’t a member of NATO – there is an issue with Finnish-Russian/Soviet relationships as you may know – and to the best of my knowledge Finland isn’t contemplating NATO membership). Sweden is hardly a front-line state in the global battle between East and West these days and I’m pretty certain that the U.S. couldn’t care less if Sweden was a member of NATO or not.
Swedish non-alignment has a long history. The last time Sweden proper was the scene of a war was in 1809 when Sweden fought Russia and lost. The last battle on Swedish soil was at Sävar, a village some 10 kilometres north of Umeå. The cease-fire agreement which also meant that Sweden was forced to cede Finland to Russia was signed at Sävargården – a building which was later moved to Umeå and now serves as Umeå University’s formal reception house. (I’m sure Stalin during WW2 cursed his czarist predecessors for not annexing Norrbotten now they were at it). In 1814 the Norwegians didn’t accept being transferred from Danish to Swedish sovereignty peacefully but had to bow to Swedish forces combined with lack of international support.
Since 1814, Sweden has kept out of armed hostilities in a way which at various times has led to some animosity against the country from its Nordic neighbours. Denmark felt let down in 1864 when Sweden failed to support the Danes in their fight against the Prussian-Austrian coalition – a war which nearly meant the end of Denmark as a sovereign state. During WW2, the (German-leaning) Finns and (British-leaning) Norwegians also felt the lack of Swedish support fighting for their independence. The Swedes, on the other hand, were happy to sell iron ore to the Germans during most of the war (Norrbotten. Remember? Joe S. probably did). They were less happy to allow the German forces to transport troops bound for Norway through Sweden but obliged and tried their best to keep silent about the issue.
When the winds of war changed in 1943-1944, so did the Swedish policy towards Germany. And after 1945 the inscrutability of Swedish defence policy continued. To make a long story short: From the 1940s to the 1990s Sweden was a heavily militarised country and all signs are that the Swedish armed forces weren’t exactly preparing for a Norwegian invasion during this time. And there have been stories of a – very informal and very hush-hush – intelligence cooperation between Sweden and – erm – the "non-Warsaw Pact Organisation" during the Cold War.
Or to put it in another way: Sweden is not a member of NATO in the same way that Denmark doesn’t accept nuclear weapons on Danish soil during peacetime. m’kay?
Cynic historians have a word for this: It’s called ”the false tune“ and the point is that the tune is played by the defence and foreign policy establishment to the general public which would rather not imagine that their government and country is involved in military confrontations and cooperation.
In the Swedish case, the false tune has been embellished by consecutive Social Democratic governments’ very vocal support for a moral foreign policy, various forms of thiersmondisme and the like.
If you feel that the Swedes come across as a bit self-righteous in international affairs, then yes. When you consider that Swedish governments have also been busy hawking artillery systems and even jet fighters, then you may also feel that the self-righteousness rings a little hollow.
But back to the alliance question.
Sweden isn’t a member of NATO and in the real world, NATO membership isn’t even a non-issue on the political agenda. But Sweden is a member of the European Union and even though many Social Democrats would dearly like to forget about it, Sweden – unlike Denmark – does not have an opt-out of the Common Foreign and Security Policy.
Or in other words: Sweden is an allied country although the EU hasn’t got an operative military structure (well, there’s always … you-know-what …). Reinfeldt’s – and any other Swedish Prime Minister’s – problem is that he cannot possibly admit this.
Should we be morally enraged by the Swedish tradition of double-dealing in foreign and security policy? Yes and no. The goal of successive Swedish governments has been to secure Swedish sovereignty and the choice between a policy that secured Swedish sovereignty by acquiescing to, say, the Germans while alienating the Norwegians and a policy supporting the Norwegians while alienating the Germans and potentially inviting a German or a Soviet invasion would have been a no-brainer.
On the other hand, the Swedes would look better and more honest if they appeared a bit less self-righteous and a bit more realistic (in the IR theory sense of the word) on the international scene.
PS: The main part – as in 90 per cent – of the PM’s speech addressed labour market, health and education policy. I may get back to this.
Brad deLong publishes some advice – based on personal experience – about how to deal with post-modernism.
The climax is here (My emphasis added):
Adam Smith is the founder of economics because he has a great and extraordinary insight: that the competitive market system is a remarkably powerful social calculating and organizing mechanism, and that the sophisticated division of labor to which a competitive market system backed up by secure and honest enforcement of property rights give rise is the key to the wealth of nations. Some others before had had this insight in part: Richard Cantillon writing of how once you have specified demands the market does by itself all the heavy lifting that a central planner would need to do; Bernard de Mandeville that dextrous management by a statesman can use the power of private greed to produce the benefit of public utility. But it is Smith who sees what the power of the “system of natural liberty” that is the market could be–and who follows the argument through to the conclusion that it forever upsets and overturns the previous intellectual moves made in and conclusions reached by the discursive formation of Political Oeconomy.
No, no skeletons, no heaps of bodies, no ashes and definitively no starved prisoners. Just ordinary photos of ordinary people leading (seemingly) ordinary lives. There’s even a photo of an officer playing with a German sheep dog. And hey, why not join the sing-a-long?Very scary, indeed. Especially when you consider what later research has had to say about the dynamics behind genocide, torture and many other forms of abuse: We’re looking at … us.
To the best of my knowledge, the present Belgian political crisis – the Belgians haven’t been able to form a government more than three months after the general elections – hasn’t been the subject of more substantial reports in Scandinavian media.Hence, I direct you to Ingrid Robeyns who has tried to summarize the main issues, actors and developments in a lengthy post at Crooked Timber.My immediate reaction: Brother, what a complete mess. (Belgium, that is, not the post)
The “embedded” capitalism of Joseph Schumpeter and John Kenneth Galbraith