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Sweden one step closer to NATO membership

NATO FLIRT / The dust from NATO's Trident Juncture drill has barely stopped before the Northern Wind military exercise is held in Sweden. Frustrated Swedish peace workers see the exercise as another step towards enrolling in NATO.


Neither Sweden nor Finland is a member of NATO, but has host country agreements with the organization, and participated in the Trident Juncture in Norway. In March, about 10 soldiers are in Norrbotten in Sweden to play out the following scenario: A fictitious enemy is attacking Sweden. The Swedish army receives Finnish help in the fight against a three-leaf clover consisting of the Norwegian Brigade North, a battalion from the US Marine Corps and a company from the British Royal Marines. The exercise starts in Bardufoss and continues across the border to Sweden, past Kiruna and down to Haparanda on the Baltic Sea, near Sweden's border with Finland. The Swedish Armed Forces states on its website that this is not a NATO exercise: "No. (…) It is led by Sweden, under Swedish principles. Foreign unions are invited to participate. " But none of the participating nations is outside NATO.

Olof Palme's philosophy

Former Prime Minister Olof Palme's stance on cooperation and dialogue are ideals they want to return to.

The Swedes have a long and proud tradition of being neutral and alliance-free, and Sweden remained neutral even through the Cold War. The Swedish government took part in the work to put in place the UN agreement banning nuclear weapons, but when Sweden itself had to sign the agreement, the United States was quickly on the ground and scared the country not to. (More on this at www.kvinnorforfred.se/brev-till-margot-wallstrom/) Being NATO's alliance partner, as Sweden is today, means that one may have to say yes to storing nuclear weapons on a national basis if NATO so requests.

For the No to NATO organization in Luleå, this exercise is a signal that the Swedish government is approaching NATO membership. A number of older Social Democrats criticize NATO's approach. Former Prime Minister Olof Palme's stance on cooperation and dialogue are ideals they want to return to.

There is no debate. Hultqvist wants to get us into NATO as cattle.

"Social Democrats such as former Defense Minister Thage G. Peterson (85), former Minister of State and diplomat Pierre Schori (80) and former UN Ambassador Maj Britt Theorin (86), have been active in the debate both internally in the party and in public," said Bertil Bartholdson in the Left Party Luleå to New Time.

Barbro Midbjer, a member of NATO out of Norrbotten, quotes former diplomat Sven Hirdman, who has good knowledge of Russia, among other things, having been an ambassador there: "Sven Hirdman thinks Russia does not want to go back to war because of the great loss under others world war, ”says Midbjer.

In 2018, Sven Hirdman wrote a debate in the VLT newspaper that "it is not an isolated attack on Sweden from Russia that is dangerous, but rather the tense security policy situation in Northern Europe". Hirdman suggests that Sweden should work to reduce tensions between the great powers and not join forces with the United States, which could help increase it.

The sky over Kiruna


North of Kiruna is the Esrange Space Center. In 1983, Edla Lantto was here and was inspired by Esrange's then chief Jan Englund, who spoke passionately about climate issues. Lantto has since made a number of headlines with his involvement as a peace and environmental activist, often with Gun-Britt Mäkitalo. Both are now in their 70s and have been active in the Kvinnor for Peace in Norrbotten for over 30 years. Several times they have been jailed and fined for civil disobedience. They do not want Sweden to join NATO.

Mäkitalo says that Esrange has restricted access for interested parties. A request from her to the Aerospace Center asking if we can get into the area for an interview is rejected. We are only welcome in the Visitor Center, where Esrange states that the foundation of their space research is to provide science and humanity with access to advanced space services as well as global satellite communications services.

Militant battle

The peace activists Ny Tid met in Luleå and Kiruna, miss the debate about Swedish NATO membership.

"This is where we try to shake off any debate," says Gunnel Nilsson in No to NATO. "As soon as you say something and question the military exercises, you are accused of being a Russian agent and going to the enemy's errand."

If one does not listen to people, civil disobedience arises. Enlightened people will not find themselves in this.

"This is an extremely critical time for Sweden to support the United States in," says Barbro Midbjer. "I've never been to anything like it, it's absurd. The United States has over 800 bases around the world and has started a number of wars. There is no debate. Hultqvist wants to get us into NATO as cattle. "

Lars Nilsson is also clear: “NATO is led by the world's worst armed and imperial power, the United States. I don't want anything to do with it at all. "

Should a permanent military base be planned in Norrbotten, No to NATO is open to resort to civil disobedience. "Before that happens, the militant fight begins," he says.

- How will such a militant fight appear?

"Yes, you start sabotaging NATO here in Norrbotten. It can happen, ”Nilsson replies.

- Do you want to listen?

"If you do not listen to people, civil disobedience arises. Enlightened people will not find themselves in this, ”says Midbjer. In October she traveled to Trondheim to demonstrate against Trident Juncture. Her impression is that the few Norwegians know what the radars in Vadsø, Vardø and Andøya are used for. Or the Svalsat satellite on Svalbard. She encourages us to read NRK journalist and author Bård Wormdal's books Satellite War. Norway's militarization of the polar regions and space (2011) and Spy Base. The unknown history of the CIA and NSA in Norway

Bartholdson points out: "Esrange uses satellites to photograph climate change, but not only that. They are also commercial and sell to the customer who pays. Customers include the US military, NATO and Israel. This is how Esrange becomes involved in the military-industrial complex. "Satellite images used during the Libya war come from Esrange," says Bartholdson.

The north bottom is militarized

The peace activists in northern Sweden have seen the region change significantly over the past two decades. The vast wilderness and older communities with Sami culture have had to give up for military purposes.

Bertil Bartholdson: “The military test operations marketing base markets its services to both foreign military forces and companies producing weapons systems. A look at their website shows what I mean. Testing is offered to the war industry and military forces without moral reservations. Our Swedish government invests hundreds of millions to increase operations at the Vidsel base and is supported by some regional and local politicians because it provides employment and 'growth' in the region. I find it very uncomfortable that the region is thus embedded in NATO's business economically and politically. "

Vidsel is Western Europe's largest military land-based test area and lies 15 miles northwest of Luleå. The Vidsel Test Range area was established in 1958 and is 1650 km2, with an airspace for flight of 24 km2 – corresponding to the size of
Belgium. During the Northern Wind this March, an air force exercise is underway where the Vidsel base is used.

“In the future, war will not look like before; now it is being fought up there, ”says
Midbear, pointing to the sky: "The sky is no longer free."

Also read: Northern Wind – an exercise on NATO's terms?

avatar photos
Kaisa Ytterhaug
Ytterhaug is a freelancer in Ny Tid.

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