by William S. LIND
The Swedish government is currently trying to convince Swedes to abandon their historic neutrality–a policy dating to 1814–and join NATO. Is this a good idea? No.
On the surface, the proposal seems to make sense. Sweden’s historic enemy is Russia (Denmark too, but that’s forgotten). Sweden and Russia fought numerous wars in the 17th and 18th centuries. Sweden almost joined both world wars on the German side because Germany was fighting Russia. Sweden gave covert support to Finland when Russia invaded that country in 1939. Now, with President Putin’s Russia resuming its long-standing role as a Great Power, Sweden is nervous. NATO appears to offer security against any future Russian threat.
In reality, Russia is unlikely to offer any serious threat to Sweden, and indeed is unable to do so, unless it were to use nuclear weapons. Russia is focused on re-establishing her position in her “near abroad”, countries that were once part of the Soviet Union. Sweden was not.
The Russian government is made up of realists, and realists know that any Russian aggression against Sweden would be counter-productive. It would mean Russia had gone from behaving like a normal Great Power, seeking the same sort of position in her periphery that the United States maintains in the Caribbean, and had become an aggressive Power. That would push the rest of the world into an alliance against Russia, something Moscow does not want.
Nor can the Russian military easily defeat Sweden. The Swedish armed forces are large for a country of Sweden’s size, well-equipped and highly competent. Russia’s armed forces are small compared to those of the Soviet Union, and only a fraction of the forces Russia still possesses are sufficiently well trained to take on the Swedes. At most, Russia could engage Sweden in the air and at sea, and even there the Swedes would probably win. A land threat is almost impossible given the geography and the fact that most of the Russian army is still made up of conscripts who are not well enough trained to fight Swedes.
On the other hand, by joining NATO Sweden would create a danger for itself that it currently does not face. That danger is getting dragged into a war with Russia started by an idiot in the White House.
I’m not talking about Donald Trump, but Hillary Clinton. Trump wants to make a deal with Putin, which would benefit both the U.S. and Russia. Hillary, in contrast, is a wild-eyed interventionist who believes every other country in the world must bend to whatever America desires. She is backed against Mr. Trump by the neo-cons, the morons who created the war with Iraq and who now call openly in some cases for war with Russia. Knowing nothing militarily, they think they can send an American armored brigade or division into Ukraine and then dictate to Moscow. Relatively weak though they are, the Russian armed forces are still strong enough to win a contest in eastern Europe. Any U.S. force sent into Ukraine would quickly find itself encircled. Unlike the U.S. Army, the Russian army does understand operational art.
Anyone who thinks this impossible does not know the Clintons. They are ignorant adventurers, as Bill Clinton showed in the Balkans and Hillary in Libya. They think they have a right to whatever they want, and they live for getting back at anyone they consider an enemy. President Putin is on that list.
More fundamentally, in a world where the threat to states from non-state entities such as ISIS is growing, including both in Russia and in Sweden, alliances by one group of states against another state are obsolete. They perpetuate state vs. state conflict, where the big winners will usually be non-state elements. If the state system itself is to survive the 21st century, we need an alliance of all states against non-state entities that wage armed conflict.
If Sweden wants to assure her security in the world we now face, rather than joining NATO against Russia she would seek to bring Russia into an alliance of all states. NATO is an artifact from another era.
If the Swedish government feels it must designate another state as Sweden’s enemy, there’s always Denmark.