samedi, 22 août 2015
The Eurasian Idea from a Swedish Perspective
The Eurasian Idea from a Swedish Perspective
By Tommy Rydén
Sweden is at the outskirts of the Eurasian geographical area, as it has been presented to us. For historical and practical reasons, Russia is in any case what comes to our minds when we talk about Eurasia from a Swedish viewpoint, since we are almost next door neighbours. It has been said that ”In the broader sense, Eurasianism can be considered as a form of continentalism for the project of the creation of a European-Russian common space — the Greater Europe stretching from Lisbon to Vladivostok”. Sweden could play an important part in this, if she chooses to.Known historically for its neutrality, or at least some form of independence from other nations war agendas, and with an enthusiasm for international diplomacy, Sweden was initially oriented towards German culture during the first half of the 20th century. With the outcome of the second World War this changed to USA and the United Kingdom. The German language was replaced by the English language as the primary second language in the school system, and with that followed that people tends to orientate more towards that culture than anything else, especially in popular culture. Yet, Sweden is in no way a carbon copy of the Anglo-Saxon mindset.
There is nevertheless a cultural and political obstacle in our way. Advancing the idea of an expanded friendship with the Russian federation and Eurasia must, in order to fully develop and survive in the long run, be done through presenting the idea relentlessly, by trade and cultural exchange: step by step.
For this long-term change to take place we must first and foremost plant the idea that it even could take place, among key decision makers, and above all in the minds of the younger generation who share an interest in business and politics and will be our future leaders and decision makers. We need think-tanks, we need young bold politicians who dare to question the status quo, various educational associations, the use of social media and anything else that will put this idea into the mainstream in a responsible manner. There is no need for any great popular movement, only that influential individuals and groups connect and gets the word out. Quality is more important than numbers in getting the work done.
The Swedish tradition, even if not without faults and lately quite sabotaged, of diplomacy and until recently also in its avoidance of any open military alliances, could play an important role in the coming new world, as a liaison between Eurasia and the ”lands of the sea”.
There are some problems that must be dealt with in connections with this, one is about the NATO-partnership and another one is the incorrect image of Russia.
Sweden has unfortunately since the end of the Cold War in the 90ś, increasingly abandoned its honorable tradition of neutrality and true diplomacy, and the governments of late have oriented even further towards the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Even European Union mutual agreements is seen by Sweden to include possible military assistance, if a member state who perhaps because of membership in NATO is subjected to an act of war.. The Swedish Minister of Defense concluded in a speech five years ago that Sweden no longer, practically speaking, could be regarded as military nonaligned.
During the end of 2014 there was a sudden comeback in Sweden of the submarine hysteria from the 1980ś, when the defense department once again, this time in coalition with NATO-friendly politicians, made claims about hostile submarines in the coastal area. They failed in actually finding a submarine of any kind, and did not produce any other proof that would stand up in court.
Yet, a survey in 2014 showed that 75% of the Swedes questioned believed the submarine stories as told by the media, certain politicians and the defense ministry. Only 11% percent said flatly no to the presentation . Consequently, the public support for NATO membership increased from 28% to 37% in 2014. Although never proven, the underlying message was that these submarines were Russian. Fredrik Bynander, Associate Professor of Political Science at the National Defence University, commented it somewhat critical by saying “media coverage has been very positive for how the defense presented it. It was a lineup of politicians who supported the Armed Forces version of what had happened.”
For myself, who served as a conscript in the Swedish Army at Revingehed in the 1980ś this sounds all so familiar. I remember how our commanding officer, a former Swedish volunteer in the American Rangers during the Vietnam war, spoke to us about sightings of “divers running across a small island” and “jumping into the sea at the other end”(!), indications of “submarines” or “suspicious sounds” in the coastal area, and we watched informational films where “enemy soldiers” we all understood were the Russians although this was not said openly, in a fictional scenario cut the throats of Swedish key people, like fighter jet pilots at their doorstep. In preparation for an invasion of Sweden. But back then we thought we had valid reasons to oppose the Communist ideology as a real threat, and this made it difficult not to believe any and all bad news coming from that part of the world.
The cost for the hysteria in 2014, with hundreds of Swedish navy personnel and several battleships involved in a futile search, was at least 20 million SEK and no submarine whatsoever was found. But facts have become irrelevant, the stories told now have their own lives, like folk tales, and with bits and pieces not related to the actual submarine search, are added as “proof” of the evil intentions of the Russian Federation and especially its supposed mastermind Vladimir Putin.
The most recent agreement between Sweden and NATO, which was forced upon the population without any public debate (many are even unaware about its existence), will allow NATO to deploy troops on the ground in case of an ”emergency”, although we are promised this is to be finally determined by the Swedish government in a case-to-case scenario. This whole deal would have to be rejected since this kind of agreement do not serve any Swedish national interests but only the geopolitical agenda of Washington and makes us a pawn in their man-made conflicts with others. In fact, it makes the peaceful country of Sweden a possible target for a military attack if there is an international conflict. The opponent would have to target their missiles on the non-Swedish NATO forces on Swedish soil in order to prevent these from taking off for their final destination.
Prior to this dilemma Sweden moved from regarding itself ”neutral” to officially labeling itself ”military nonaligned”, so this shift has been gradual, but by purpose. Nonaligned meant that we were supposed to not enter into any mutual defense guarantees and that Sweden was responsible for its own defense.
The European Union leadership, not to mention Washington, will most likely resist our plan for a greater openness towards Russia. The very idea of the European Union since start was to simplify trade within the European Union, to form a bloc. But over time it has also unofficially come to serve as a proxy for the interests of Washington in this geographical area, due to some major member states close relationship with that country. There were also early warnings about EU changing from a free market economy into the creation of a super state that could end up serving other masters. Yet, ”Binding together the EU as a whole is not only the self-interest of its national components but also the reality that no feasible alternative exists in the absence of a willingness to relinquish European identity as a distinct civilization.”
Nevertheless the marketing of business ventures in Eastern Europe, Russia and after that its neighboring countries will attract a growing interest among the many entrepreneurs who always want to explore new areas and escape the status quo of their own world. Not to mention tourism. We must not let the current political landscape lure us into believing this current situation will be for forever. There are signs that EU could implode in due time if changes are not made. ”It’s nothing at all to do with Europe, it’s to do with the political construct that is the Union. An unnecessary, inefficient and disposable layer of government. So, let us dispose of it. There’s absolutely nothing at all wrong with Europe or any aspect of it. It’s the political system of the European Union that is the problem” as one European writer formulates it. In any case Sweden needs to see to its own best interests.
We have to expect many citizens in Sweden to react with distrust at first to this idea. Even for some considerable time. This is because of how they have been conditioned by the media and ruling political class. In Sweden there is an old distrust of the ”Russian bear” which is of a much older date than the Cold War era, although the stated reasons for this stance has varied over time.
The Russophobia in Sweden, which clearly exist, is not easily explained. It is used from time to time by politicians who wants Sweden to move closer to NATO, or used by other interest groups who for an example dislike the Russian rejection of postmodernism and wants the latter to adopt so-called modern European values. Old tales and even prejudice have been inherited and passed on to new generations. Presumed conflicts of interest are over time then added to the mixture as to prove that the original distrust of Russians is indeed called for. Very often one really don’t know why we have to distrust Russians, only that we should.
Replace Russian with ”Jews” or for that matter ”witches” and there would be a public outcry or laughter. But to demonize Russians, who for some reason are expected to be millions of exact replicas of the current political leadership in the Russian Federation and with no individual ability to think and arrive at their own conclusions, is regarded as more or less accepted behavior. Among minor curiosities this has also generated appeals in numerous charismatic Christian groups, who for years have traveled to the border areas but even into Russia, with copies of the Bible, in order to make those of Russian ancestry, and others, into “Christians”. Which proves their lack of historical and cultural knowledge as far as the old church and Eastern Orthodoxy is concerned.
To begin with, this approach towards Russia began even before the Russian defeat of the Swedish forces at Poltava 1709 although Sweden was humiliated for a considerable time with the defeat at Poltava. The German aristocrat Sigmund von Herberstein published a book named ”Rerum moscoviticarum commentarii” already in 1549, after visiting Russia twice, This book was translated into several languages and was read by the political elite in Sweden. In the book ”Mosvovites” were described as more or less puppets in the hands of their ruler, with no mental ability to question anything. Human robots who could be a threat to all of Europe, or just anyone, in case they were ordered by their ruler to act. This image of the Russian man and woman is broadcasted very much the same today.
To Swedish minds an expansive Russia was viewed as possible geopolitical threat or at least a problem when the following tzars made Russia a greater and more unified country. Although there were from time to time intermarriages and good relations. But too be a friend of the Russian Federation or a friend of a country like Serbia, who acts as a bridge already between these two worlds, is in this authors opinion not to be anti-European, or subversive to our cultural heritage, but to reconnect with the God of the old church, core values and even various cultural expressions Europe lost due to its divisive Protestantism and today’s post-modernism. Gems that were preserved in Eastern Europe and Russia in spite of atheist rule.
Oddly enough, Sweden has been trading with Russia since the time of the Vikings and was by year 2013 one of ten largest direct investors in Russia. Participating in the Eurasian vision would be to take part in a project with a future, with all its resources and vast areas, where growth is to take place. Instead of merely as a pawn or outside player used by the western powers in their own scheme of divide and conquer.
An official partnership, similar to the one existing right now between Sweden and NATO, with the Russian Federation is too big a leap for the average man, and would not be workable at this time and age, perhaps not even beneficial to us or the Eurasian project at all if it was a mirror image of the kind of agreements we have made with USA and need to get out of. Sweden’s traditional role of neutrality and diplomacy should be emphasized in my opinion. We can however take small but important baby steps in a direction that will build trust and friendship and make Sweden a neutral ground were the business world and politicians can meet up.
Do we, the Swedes and peoples of Eastern Europe and Russia, share any common cultural values of today or have we lost it all to post-modernism? Are we too different?
I dare say we do have a lot in common, and it was recently manifested in the political life of this nation. In the election of 2014 the self-described socially conservative political party, the Sweden Democrats (SD), became the country’s third largest party with 13% of the vote. In a strength of power they voted down the new Socialist government's budget, forcing the prime minister to declare a snap election. Surveys showed SD could gain 16-20% in the upcoming snap election. However, this made the center parties, who lost the general election to the minority coalition of Social Democrats and the Environmental Party, cut an eight year deal with the government, promising to support the ruling Social Democrat/partner government in order to sidestep the elections results and prevent the possibility of SD getting even more support in a new election.
Swedes, at heart and generally speaking, don’t like to be bullied or manipulated by outside powers, we prefer to chose our own path. So do the Russians.
The party SD is described by the establishment media and various opponents as harboring people with negative feelings about immigrants, due to their opposition to liberal immigration policies, while the SD party leadership itself has promised to take action against anyone who promote a racist agenda. They view themselves as nationalists or lately preferably as socially conservative, and have gained considerable support among disappointed Conservative Party members and voters, since the latter party has moved to the center and can hardly be viewed as even traditionally conservative anymore. In this authors opinion it would benefit us all if they moved even more from a tendency of ethnic nationalism to a focus on values and aspirations shared not only by Swedes.
Despite decades of Swedish presumably Social Democratic or liberal governments trying to impose ”equality” and dictating how parents should live their family lives, with women forced to work outside of the home as much as possible, they have not succeeded and have nowadays resorted to making threats to enact laws that will force women to leave home early and dad to stay home in the name of total gender equality. No matter if this is the best solution or not for the specific family. These ideas are shared by the leaderships of the center parties, with the exception of the Christian Democrats who still try to attract the more culturally conservative voters. Once again, these centrist politics can be seen as an expression for the Swedish habit of trying to achieve consensus, which now has ended up with the almost all the parties looking very much the same.
A survey in 2013 showed that 4 in 5 Swedes reject this forced gender equality idea when it comes to the family structure and thinks it should be up to the family not the government to decide. This despite the fact that the equality agenda is promoted all the time in media and politics.
Unfortunately the leadership of that party is also somewhat caught up in the ”distrust Russia” hysteria, but there are other more understanding voices in the youth league. Overall it's in any case a positive indicator that something is happening in an otherwise sleepy Sweden. It would be healthy for the sake of cultural preservation, aside of pure economical reasons, to move closer to Russia and Eurasia.
Nevertheless, the electoral success since 2010 for this party is an indicator that a growing percentage of the Swedish population, in spite of a massive almost day and night assault by the media and the older political establishment telling them to vote against SD, likes the idea of preserving the traditional family and promoting other socially conservative ideals in a country where dissident conservative voices are suppressed, ridiculed or labeled in a negative manner. This indicator is important, although a political party should not be seen as a replacement for any long-term work at depth. In order for real changes to take place in a population, and not just end up as a temporary vote, one need to work from the bottom and up, not from the top and down to not dissolve with any temporary political winds in the future. We can do this by involving key people, quality people, who get the message out to their respective groups, churches, associations, newspaper people or other places where they have some influence on their peers. Numbers are less important. Connecting with the right people who can influence others, and get the message out there through them, is far more important than hoping for the masses to wake up by themselves.
If we can convince a large enough percentage of the population, through the work of influential individuals and groups, that the countries who supports cultural preservation and core family values the most, not only in words but in action, are to be found in the East and not in the West, then it will help our cause.
This could be done with or without involvement of the European Union. It should be noted that many Swedes express doubts about the nations membership in EU. ”Swedes in favors of being part of the union came in at 45 percent” in 2013, since the membership has given Sweden no visible benefits aside of making it easier to travel between the member states.
However, in order to make improvements between Sweden and Russia and avoid unnecessary conflicts we need to get rid of a bunker mentality which only our common cultural enemies can benefit from. A recent Russian poll showed that 36% of the Russians wish for Russian to distance itself further from the West. It is understandable and would perhaps even be applauded by those who think there can be nothing good in the West whatsoever. But the problem is this; in for an example Sweden people are made to believe the worst about Russians, and in Russia – due to the ongoing onslaught on that country from Western geopolitical interests – people tend to think the worst about the West, sometimes on valid grounds but also because of cultural and linguistic differences. A more hostile population on any side of this fence will in the long run only benefit those who wish to dismantle Europe as well as Eurasia.
Viewed from the outside, Sweden is an open democracy where everyone can express their opinion. But those who have lived here even a short time has quickly become aware that even if that is the case then there is an expectation that everyone should be in agreement. Anyone who deviates in any matter which the media and establishment determined the limits of, as for an example the message that the Russians want to harm us, will promptly be regarded as strange and deviant. It is not unlikely that in time they will consider those individuals and organizations who question the rapprochement with NATO and oppose the idea that the West is the savior of the East as subversive elements and a threat to national security.
When writing this in the month of February, Swedish TV viewers are bombarded every day with slanted news reports where the Russian Federation is presented in a negative light and repeatedly said to have caused all the problems in Ukraine, adding that the rest of us can ”become the next target” for ”Russian expansion”. They have completely forgotten the West's major responsibility in how this conflict occurred. In the same breath we are told that the United States and Sweden will conduct joint air exercises because of the "growing threat" (from Russia). It is like preparation for a war, where the propaganda has taken over completely and people have lost their ability to think critically. They try to apply simple explanations to complex problems. ”We” and ”them”.
But we cannot let these sometimes dark clouds fence us in.
The core idea with the European Union was to encourage and simplify trade and travel between European countries. This was a noble idea. It's an ever more grandiose idea, and truly more international, to open up for trade and cultural exchange with the Eurasia. Now it's up to Sweden to decide which role to play in this new world, either as a bystander or important participator.