For three weeks in September 2017, Sweden will be turned into a military training ground. A third of the country, especially the capital Stockholm, the second city Gothenburg and the island of Gotland will be designated training areas. In total there will be about 20.000 soldiers participating, from the United States, Finland, France, Estonia, Norway and Denmark, in addition to soldiers from the host country.
Historically Sweden managed to stay out of war for over 180 years, since 1814, in the Napoleonic era. This neutrality policy was, and still is, hugely popular amongst the working class and the rest of the population of all ages. The same goes for the policy of no nuclear weapons on Swedish soil.
Even though the social-democratic/bourgeois establishment had secret and close military cooperation with NATO during the cold war, the establishment decided it was time to come out in the open about it the 1990s.
Sweden has been member of the NATO-program «Partnership for Peace» since 1994. Since then, it has been one of the most active participants in NATO-missions in Afghanistan and in the Balkans. Recently, the country reintroduced conscription, due to fears the country isn’t able to recruit enough mercenary ‘professional’ forces for every conflict the military wishes to participate in.
Also, since 2009, as part of a commitment to EU, and as another breach of this neutrality, Sweden has promised to «not remain passive if another EU-member is attacked…We expect that these countries will act in the same manner if Sweden is attacked.»
In summer 2016, the country joined Host Country Agreement with NATO, which means that the pact will store equipment in Sweden and be able to use the country for transport of forces if a crisis should occur in the region. The host country agreement does not mention nuclear weapons. Since the NATO nuclear powers as a policy neither confirms or denies if their forces carries nuclear weapons, there are no real guarantees that nuclear weapons will not be brought to Sweden.
Sweden is also a part of NATOs Rapid Reaction Force, even though it is not formally a member. It is part of the joint NATO air transport fleet, which will automatically be used in any conflicts anywhere in the world where NATO needs rapid deployment. This is part of the Swedish establishment’s very determined policy of gradually integrating the country in the nuclear alliance. This air-cooperation consists of 10 NATO-countries, plus Finland and Sweden. It will have Boeing C-17 airplanes that will be able transport 77 tons of weapons and supplies up to 4450 kilometres without refuelling. In addition it will get 180 Airbus A400 for troop transports.
When these NATO-forces will exercise on Swedish ground in ‘Aurora’, it will be the first time the Host Country Agreement has been used. This NATO-alignment has happened steadily and always by denying the final goal, which is full participation in the nuclear alliance.
At the same time there is a massive propaganda offensive for NATO and against Russia in Swedish media. Bought journalists have come back from junket trips paid by NATO, gushing with enthusiasm for deployment of missiles and other closer cooperation. Editorials in all major newspapers and state TV repeat bold statements from Pentagon and the Swedish army command without ever questioning them, showing that they identify with the same class interests. But even with this intense campaign, the majority of the Swedish working class is against this NATO-alignment.
Two senior military officers, Micael Bydén, Supreme Commander of the Swedish Armed Forces, and Chief of Defence Staff Dennis Gyllensporre, recently gave a recommendation to the Swedish government. They want a change the military stance to a ‘treaty-bound’ defence commitments, in effect meaning NATO.
Chairman of the Swedish parliament’s defence committee, Allan Widman, commented approvingly «The fact is that Sweden has been on its way to a NATO-membership for 25 years. Everything that has happened the last 25 years, have been in the direction of NATO. This recommendation is just yet another confirmation of where Sweden really belongs.»
Sweden has been courted by a steady stream of dignitaries from the US/NATO military complex over the last few years; amongst them éminence grise of the military-industrial complex, senator John McCain, chairman of NATO military committee Peter Pavel, NATO chairman Jens Stoltenberg and former NATO commander Philip Breedlove.
US militarists have long set their eyes on the island of Gotland, where a large part of the Aurora exercise will happen. This is part of a long standing plan of encircling Russia as a preparation for a world war, as the WSWS has written extensively about.
Last week general David G Perkins, leader of United States Army Training and Doctrine Command, visited the island accompanied by the leader of the Swedish army, Karl Engelbrektson. Perkins declared «Gotland is an unsinkable ship and a strategic important position in this region». «It is not only important for Sweden to have it well defended. We have a common vision of peace here», continued the veteran commander from the war of aggression against Iraq in 2003. «This is a great opportunity to become closer friends with Sweden.»
The US general himself specifically asked to inspect the strategic island as a part of his visit. The army chief said the visit is a part of the Swedish desire for military cooperation with the US, which he thought was very important.
The leader of the American forces in Europe, general Ben Hodges, has earlier declared his wish for deployment of Patriot air-defence systems on the this ‘unsinkable ship’. If these weapons are deployed, there can be no doubt of who they are directed against: the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad, and if needed, to exclude Russia totally from the Baltic, making it a NATO-lake.
One can also speculate that these missiles will be part of the US missile defence system, part of an integrated nuclear strategy, which Russia has reacted strongly against. Denmark, a NATO-country, has joined the system, with deployment on several frigates, and neighbouring member Norway is in the final phases of agreeing to integrate in this system. This will sharply increase the tensions in the northern part of Europe, and make it a central battlefield for a nuclear war.
The Aurora exercise will fit in with the grand US scheme for the Nordic region. The US Marine Corps has taken possession its first base in Norway, a policy that was seen as too provocative during the last cold war.
As part of this, The United States wants to practice moving a US Marine Corps brigade from Trondheim, on Norway’s west coast, to Sweden. According to media close to NATO, is this scenario part of the backdrop for the arrival of 330 US Marines at a base next to Vaernes Air Station, in the central parts of Norway, with strategic road communications with Sweden.
The US military unit is an advance guard with orders to prepare exercises and sort out other details in cooperation with Sweden. The planned deployment of a US Marine brigade would make use of pre-positioned materiel in US storage depots in Norway’s Trondelag region and potentially also of equipment that may have been stored in Sweden, permitting the unit to move as an armoured, mechanized spearhead.
Even with all these baby steps to NATO, the Aurora exercise will be another sharp notch that will increase the tensions in Europe. Only determined protests from the working class, young people and intellectuals can put a stop to this relentless drive to war which every European country seems so determined to participate in.