USA, Europe and NATO

Description: Article in Arbetet/Nyheterna in 1998

Arbetet / Nyheterna, 1998
Translated into English by Jörgen Modin

I belong to a generation who never seriously had to think about where we would flee if Sweden became occupied or taken over by extremists.

My father was an anti-nazi journalist. My mother is Jewish. One of the Swedish nazi organisations that was active during the war published in the early 1940s a list of who were first going to be arrested when they got to power (and the Germans arrived). My parents were ranked number three on this list.

This may seem an honourable rank today. Back then it probably felt differently. Occasionally they reasoned, as did my mother’s parents, over where they would flee if they had to. The answer was rather obvious: The United States!

As I mentioned earlier, I’ve never needed to think that thought. In the beginning of the 1970s it happened that I ran into marxists (some of who today call themselves ”leftists”) who told me they would execute me or at least incarcerate me if I would prevail with liberalism even after the proleteriat had installed its dictatorship. They seemed a bit sad they would need to do this; after all I seemed a nice bloke. But still.

I slept well at night in spite of them. The marxist left – who is right now celebrating some kind of bizarre, nostalgic jubilee – have never had any popular foundation and was far removed from the potential of a power take-over . They did not have the capacity for a coup d’etat. However, I do not doubt that their practice of power would be a bloody one had thay ever got the opportunity. This happened everywhere else where communists took power.

If the communists had come to power I would have had to flee. Where? Of course to the U.S.

I think the same thing would be valid for almost all Swedes today. Norway is the country closest to us, geographically and culturally. Great Britain is Europe’s freest state in it’s mentality and democratic tradition. Without Great Britain Sweden would today probably be an enslaved German province. Maybe the Tornedal Finns and the Sconish would opt for Finland and Denmark, respectively. Immigrants coming from countries that now are free may want to return to those countries. But he who wanted to build a new life after being forced away from Sweden, would surely choose the U.S.. For its infallable democratic tradition, its openness, pluralism and tolerance.

There is an anti-Americanism joining extremes in the Swedish debate. The old upper class in the beginning of the century were often biased against the US. The vulgar yankee, the materialism. What it was all about was a fear of folksyness, and when ordinary people strive for riches it’s always been labelled as ”materialism” by those who already have.

Today we can see a reminiscence of this critique in those who frown at Harmageddon and Archive X. It takes its political expression in EU’s attempts at setting quotas in TV, i. e. fight the ”cultural imperialism” through limiting the number of American films shown in European TV channels.

Up to the second world war many of the snobby anti-Americans were also pro-German.

The criticism of the US by the marxist left is of a newer model, and had – up to the end of 80s – other idol states: the communist. The neomarxists did not see the democracy and vitality of the USA. They saw class rifts, racial problems and self-sufficiency, taken to its most extreme manifestation in the Vietnam war.

Today we have another kind of US hostility, common among the most EU fanatic. EU must, they mean, become a counterweight of the US. One senses Charles de Gaulle’s old vision of a Europe ”from the Atlantic to the Urals”, a new European super power.

The Swedish politician coming closest to this opinion is Carl Bildt. In the book ”Uppdrag Fred” (Mission Peace) 1997 he wants a stronger Europe that ”counter-weighs” the US. He thinks that EU and the US should be able to cooperate on ”similar terms”. This is the image of two super powers, EU and the US. Bildt wants to avoid ”A too dominant American influence in NATO”.

Even clearer this becomes when Bildt gives an interview in Dagens Industri [leading Swedish Industry Newspaper, Translator’s note]: ” For me it was apparent that a decisive European voice was needed. Europe’s role is not to be backing vocals to the U.S.” Bildt outlines further steps to be taken: ”In the future, there must be a fusion of an American and a European perspective, but this will not happen until we have a united Europe that dares to stand on its own two feet also in the fields of foreign and security policy.”

The actions of Europe ”standing on its own two feet” is not all too encouraging. German industry provided Iran and Iraq with components for weapons of mass destruction. France has run a shameless weapons export to even the most gruesome of governments. There is a cynical tradition in European foreign policy. There are certainly American companies who have exported e.g. nuclear know-how to Iraq, and the policy on China has been inconsequential, but in American policy there is sometimes an almost naive element of freedom-thinking. We should be very happy for that.

The spring of 1993 EU said no to air attacks on Serbian artillery positions around Sarajevo. The Bosnians were thus abandoned and defenseless. First when the U.S. bombed the Serbian positions in 1995, the Dayton negotiations, and peace, became possible.

The Swedish NATO debate has not since the 1950s been based on our opinion on the U.S., or our kinship with other western democracies. Instead it’s been lurking in the outskirts of the political discussions, tabooed and muted. When it now has reappeared it’s more because of the poor economy of the Swedish defense. In a way the NATO debate has become akin to the Swedish way of discussing the EU.

Few Swedish political dogmas seem to be more stuck than that of ”freedom of alliance”. 70 percent of the Swedes are still proponents of the ”freedom of alliance” dogma. As recently as 1998 Lena Hjelm-Wallén [the Swedish foreign minister at the time] spoke of the freedom of alliance as a goal in itself. Only outside NATO Sweden could act as an arbitrator and ”dialogue partner”. Lately the defence minister Björn von Sydow has started preparations for a more open attitude towards NATO.

To some analysts a reinforced cooperation inside the WEU appears as an alternative to NATO, and as a way to solve the Swedish lock-up concerning the principle of freedom of alliance. This workaround would correspond well with ambitions also present in many European countries and political parties.

With regards to security policy there is a historical background. In 1957, when France and England were forced to retreat from the Suez after strong American pressure the German chancellor Konrad Adenauer said to the French foreing minister Christian Peneau that the only possibility for Europe to stand up to the U.S. is to be united: ”Europe can become your revenge”.

Germany and France have declared that they want Europe to have it’s own military capacity that can operate without American cooperation or approval. In march 1997, when the Rome treaty celebrated its 40th anniversary, France and Germany expressed their will to to strengthen the European military coordination by uniting the WEU and the EU.
And it’s here we have the hidden agenda of European politics: A Europe that is not part of a unit spanning the Atlantic, but self-sufficient. Because of this it must for Sweden be of central importance to acquire itself a policy on the EU’s relationship with the U.S. , and how security policy should develop in the EU. This means that we need to swiftly get a public debate going about NATO and security policy without ending up in the old stale rethoric of ”freedom of alliance”. It also means that Sweden seriously must participate in the discussion of democratisation and supranationality in Europe and stop acting like a brake pad.

First and foremost Sweden must act against any attempts of European protectionism. Sweden has a free trade tradition we must bring into the EU. We should strengthen and accelerate efforts to get a north atlantic free trade area. This would be beneficial for European consumers and would tie EU and the U.S. closer together economically. The road is long. Therefore the initiative should be taken now, when the White House is so clearly free trade-oriented. The possibilities [for Sweden to push in this direction] would have been greater if Sweden had decided to join the EMU.

For he who sees the democratic United States as the obvious refuge, it would be bitter to see the EU built up in opposition to it. Sweden should therefore not see the WEU as a way of entering into a military alliance with NATO, but should rather join NATO directly and within the EU work for a strengthening of the Atlantic cooperation.

If I had to flee it would be to the U.S. I think this simple conclusion is the best starting point for a discussion on Europe and western security policy. The point in this makes me see it as central that the EU does not do policy in such a way as to turn Europe away from the United States.