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Will a Red-Green Sweden really take aim at US military might?

Will a Red-Green Sweden really take aim at US military might?

Published: 07 Sep 2010 16:56 GMT+02:00
Updated: 07 Sep 2010 16:56 GMT+02:00

There are approximately 300,000 US military personnel stationed at bases scattered across thirty-something nations worldwide. Many states rely on international cooperation to ensure stability and defend their sovereignty, and more often than not, these measures include some sort of agreement with the United States of America.

Nations with a history of conflict, nations without a strong defense of their own, nations with neighbors who can’t be trusted – they all lean on the presence and promises of a United States which accepts responsibility for defending territories far beyond American borders. The list includes Japan, South Korea, Germany and Turkey – to name a few.

It is the bases in these countries – and others – that the Swedish left wants to close down have the soldiers sent home. Which begs the question, what exactly is the security policy analysis behind such an idea?

Mike Winnerstig, head of research at the Swedish Defence Research Agency (FOI), refused to speculate on what lay behind the suggestion, but says it would be unfortunate if the proposal became reality.

“If the US left Europe, trouble would be on its way. Surrounding nations don’t trust Germany and Russia, and the American presence has an important function,” he explains.

“If the US left Asia, that would be even worse. Nations like Japan, Australia and South Korea – currently protected by the US nuclear umbrella – would be pushed into an arms race, possibly acquiring nuclear weapons of their own. This is the opposite of a policy of peace and stability.”

If not primarily a measure of security policy, what then could explain the urge to call for America’s retreat? Ulf Bjereld, professor of political science at Gothenburg University, points to differences among the three parties of the Red-Green coalition.

“You have to consider that the phrase means different things for different parties,” he says.

“For the Green Party and the Left Party, this is the idea of disarmament and a belief that a superpower can take the lead. For the Social Democrats, and this is my personal opinion, there’s no thought at all. More likely, this is a mishap during the negotiation leading up to the coalition, a choice of words that slipped by negligently.”

Negligent or not, can a nation require the disarmament of another?

After all, the nations under American protection requested outside help and the US met their demand. If Sweden were to object, could they do so without violating international law? Mark Klamberg, a PhD candidate in international law at Stockholm University, provides some insights.

“There are two relevant principles of international law. One is the principle of sovereignty and the other is the non-intervention principle: one state should not interfere in the internal affairs of another,” Klamberg explains.

“Since we’re dealing with states that have given their consent to an American presence, sovereignty is not an issue. Would it then be an unlawful intervention if Sweden were to comment on the placement of military bases? No, I think not. But if it’s politically appropriate is still questionable.”

In practical terms, what should we Swedes do if we wish to tell the US that we no longer accept their military presence around the world? Do we contact their embassy here? Will we use our embassy there or will Social Democratic party leader Mona Sahlin, the presumable prime minister under a Red-Green government, phone Barack Obama?

Perhaps the press service of the Swedish Foreign Ministry has some ideas.

“Well… You’ll have to ask those behind this proposal, how they plan to do it. There are many ways, but which one to choose is up to them,” a foreign ministry spokesperson explains.

Anyway, we need to get in touch. How would the US react when we do? At the US Department of State, the press center spokesperson offers a long silence upon hearing the content of the red-green agreement.

“So, if they win the election ...?”

Yes.

“They will demand that the United States ...?”

Yes.

“…close down its bases overseas? All bases?”

Yes.

The third "yes" is followed by an even longer silence. Eventually, the press office asks for contact details and promises to get back with an official response. Half an hour later, they do.

“It's a hypothetical situation we can’t comment on. We prefer to keep out of the Swedish election campaign.”

At the German Embassy in Stockholm, press attaché Conradin Weindl also turns quiet when confronted with questions about the proposal. He asks for time to consider an answer and after a few hours he responds that Germany will not comment on the Swedish election campaign, but also that Germany is an ally to the United States of America.

“We are pleased with, and grateful for, the American presence in Europe. Including Germany.”

South Korea's representation in Sweden is of the same opinion. First they seem to have difficulties absorbing the idea, then they ask for some time to think about it, and finally they come back with an official statement:

“We do not want to interfere in Sweden's domestic affairs, but we will continue to enlist the help of the United States to defend our borders.”

But not everyone rejects the proposal. At the North Korean Embassy in Stockholm, Mr. Pek explains that the American presence is the main cause of the tensions between the North and South of Korea. He welcomes the Red-Green initiative.

“Of course this would be a good solution to the situation on the Korean peninsula!” says Mr. Pek.

“The presence of foreign forces in the southern part of Korea is contrary to the will of the Korean people. If the US were to withdraw, it would be for the benefit of peace, freedom and the reunification of an independent Korea.”

Daniel Uppström of the Swedish-Korean Society agrees:

“A US withdrawal would mean a military detente and disarmament on the Korean peninsula. The Swedish-Korean Society is part of the anti-imperialist movement, and thus we are of the perception that all the imperialist countries, particularly the US, should be forced to withdraw its military forces from other nations. We are in favor of the Red-Green proposal.”

So far, everyone, no matter what they think of the idea of American retreat, have been gracious (courteous, even) during conversations on the issue.

But that streak of good humour ends when Peder Palmstierna, press secretary of the of the Social Democratic foreign policy spokesman Urban Ahlin, is asked to comment. In fact, he actually gets angry as soon as the case is presented.

“There is no such proposal. The debate about this is idiotic, a hype from the center-right alliance,” he says.

But in your manifesto…

“That’s half a sentence, taken out of context.”

But according to the Left Party...

“Read the article Urban Ahlin wrote on [the political debate forum] Newsmill and write whatever you want to write. You can continue down this route if you feel like it, but it is a bit hypocritical. Our stance is that it’s natural for the US to take the lead for disarmament. We of course have the same requirements of other major powers.”

The Red-Green position is (in one complete sentence):

A Red-Green government will demand that the US dismantle its nuclear weapons and military bases outside its own borders.

Ahlin says (in Newsmill) that this should be interpreted as a requirement that the US "dismantle its nuclear weapons and reduce the number of bases ".

In other words, a Red-Green government in Sweden will demand that US military bases around the world are abandoned.

Neither security experts nor the nations enjoying American patronage think it would be wise to withdraw US military forces. The US sees this as a hypothetical situation, but it would be both practically and legally possible for Sweden to demand a US withdrawal.

Should this happen, North Korea and their Swedish friendship club will applaud. That’s a summary of the foreign policy situation ahead of the elections. And Peder Palmstierna won’t be happy to read it.

By Fredrik Westerlund

Editor's Note: This article first appeared in the September 2010 issue of Neo magazine, a "classically liberal magazine focusing on politics, society and the future".

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Paul Rapacioli (paul.rapacioli@thelocal.com)

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Your comments about this article

21:43 September 7, 2010 by Kevin Harris
Thanks for reprinting this TL. A really good piece of work Fredrik Westerlund.

The poor Social Democrats are stuck with this nonsense in their manifesto,it will cost them tens of thousands of votes in a couple of weeks, and they know it.

If the Social Democrats can't keep the Left Party under control even now, what hope do they have after an election victory? This sort of stuff is fun to watch when presented by some loony party that has no hope of influencing government, but if the Red/Greens actualy win, the Left Party will have a significant say, and we are all going to have to get used to this rubbish.
21:47 September 7, 2010 by here for the summer
Great article . Nice example using the North Korean Embassy.
23:38 September 7, 2010 by Venturisection
Red/Greens have loads of idiotic posting posing whilst walking they look ridiculous. The idea that they will demand the US should close bases is an unrealistic joke they should be ashamed of their stupidity.
03:38 September 8, 2010 by Doug.Eklund
Interesting topic, well written, much appreciated on my part. I can sympathize with the ideals of disarmament, however I know the problems that can be associated the the worldly applications of various ideals. In this case my views are best presented by the Credence Clearwater Revival in that old American Classic, "Bad Moon Rising". I urge listening to this classic if your are not familiar with it.
09:29 September 8, 2010 by americanska
Great article - the Red Greens are living in a dream world and stuck in the past. Maybe they should all move to the USSR....oh wait. Better make it North Korea.
12:13 September 8, 2010 by Kevtravels
Wow, now that's just comical through well written.
13:45 September 8, 2010 by rumcajs
ok, you all keep saying that it's stupid, but none of you actually says why.

Nothing againts Americans, but US impose their social political and economic model in the whole world, doesn't respect UN, invades countries that haven't done anything to them, etc.... and that's fine. But if a country like SE demands the closure of US bases abroad, it's stupid. Why? SE doen't have the right to get in the whole world busyness? Ok, cool...... neither the USA.

Ah, americanska ..... the USSR hasn't existed for more than 20 years.
14:40 September 8, 2010 by LeoKinmann
@rumcajs

It's not about who has the right to criticise. It's about the reaction one can expect from such a radical and provocative proposal. The game of foreign policy is played mostly through power and profit, not solidarity or ethics. Sweden being a small and powerless country simply can't expect US to listen to anything like this. There are better things to do than exclaiming mindless political slogans. How about shaping the economy and making Sweden a stronger nation, so we come closer to make others listen to us? The Red-Greens are perhaps not smart enough to handle the truth.
18:02 September 8, 2010 by here for the summer
@rum

Sorry I thought i was obvious but .. here it goes. North Korea is perhaps the worst place on earth by almost any measure . Freedom, poverty etc etc .. they are shot by guards still trying to flee to the poorest part of relatively poor china .. The stalinist leader is now passing his dictatorship to his son.

Now the good part they have nukes and threaten invasion of the democratic south almost daily. If the US pulled out then they would certainly attack .
18:17 September 8, 2010 by Internuncio
The demands of the Red-Green parties are closely in line with what many of the listeners to non-lamestream media in the United States voice.
19:46 September 8, 2010 by here for the summer
@internuncio you are sadly mistaken. As this article points out perhaps the only people who really think this is a good idea is the North Korean government ,, You can't ask the North Korean people but they probably just want food and freedom.
19:58 September 8, 2010 by wxman
Here's the short answer: It's none of your f**king business.
22:27 September 8, 2010 by here for the summer
why is is not my business . I own property in Sweden I have children with Swedish citizenship and I care about sweden and the world . My question to you is why you or anyone for that matter would really want a world where for one bad example North Korea would invade South Korea ? This is just one example of the crazy left parties ideas ..
22:55 September 8, 2010 by glamelixir
@ LeoKinmann

Sweden is "such a small country" but it happens to be one of the countries who sells the most armament... so, why should the states listen to Sweden... because the are OUR COSTUMERS and we can cut supplies.

And I totally agree, I am tired of the US thinking that the entire world should dance around them when they are not even able to provide medical care or education to their individuals, the average american shouldn't be speaking in public so the entire world wouldn't notice the truth about their country.

@Here for the summer

the summer is over, are you still here? When does your visa expire? I would love to send you back :)
23:05 September 8, 2010 by Internuncio
Thank you "here for the summer" for bothering to take time to comment on my posting.

I listen to The Genesis Communications Network, The Republic Broadcasting Network and Liberty News Radio almost every day and hear Americans who call in wondering why so much money is spent by the DoD on maintaining so many military installations throughout the world while at the same time the infrastructure of the United States is collapsing. I know what I hear.
05:32 September 9, 2010 by mkvgtired
@glamelixir, "not even able to provide medical care or education to their individuals, the average american shouldn't be speaking in public so the entire world wouldn't notice the truth about their country."

According to OCED the US has the 4th highest percentage of college educated individuals behind Japan, Canada, and New Zealand. You would think that the progressive European countries that offer "free" education would surpass the US in this measure. You talk about the average American but you spout very typical "European" sentiments.

I agree with the Red Green party. I would love to see the US close many of its overseas bases, starting with Europe. It would save US taxpayers money and transfer the liability where it should be, with the European taxpayer.
07:58 September 9, 2010 by Marley420
Well written article. Perhaps this is the time for this discussion to take place. There is without a doubt that the U.S. military has influenced internal policies of sovereign nations.
09:13 September 9, 2010 by americanska
@glamlixir - you guys do sells a lot of weapons - but only second rate counties buy them. The USA makes their own weapons.

Besides that point - even if you did stop producing weapons your country would cripple.
11:43 September 9, 2010 by samwise
useful idiots strike again.

communist mass murderer Lenin calls them useful idiots.

most people would agree with him on the latter part, arrogant all-knowing self-righteous enlightened lefties are certified idiots. unfortunately they are only useful to the worst kind of thugs like the one rules north korea.

the scary thing is, they win quite some votes.
13:46 September 9, 2010 by rumcajs
@LeoKinmann, I respect your opinion, but still don't agree with it. The fact that SE is powerless compared to US doesn't mean that they can't say anything against it. I am powerless compared to many people and still tell them what I think. They might not listen, but they will know at least. So yeah, it might be useless, but not stupid.

@here for the summer, I've NEVER IN MY WHOLE LIFE said that N.Korea is a cool country. Read what I said mate and then answer. We can talk about red vs blue for a life time. I was talking about "to say vs not to say". Anyway, do you think US has bases all around cos they are so nice and feel sorry for these hopeless countries in danger? Or why did they have a base in Franco's Spain for example? I thought it was obious. Most of those bases are not the same as Korea's one. Most of them have very different reasons to be there. In fact, the Korea case is an exeption.
04:10 September 10, 2010 by bbryan29
once again im here, as an american whi is slowly feeling ive been lied too by my goverment, if the swedish govermemt can get the USA out of these countrys , please for the wolrds sake do it.
09:53 September 10, 2010 by cogito
@mkvgtired

Me, too, would love to see the U.S. close first its bases in whiny Europe.

The reason Europe has "free" medical care is because it was subsidized by Americans who paid for their defense.

@glamelixir: until you know you're talking about maybe it is you who should stop speaking in public.
10:18 September 10, 2010 by d_s
@ cogito

What on earth do you mean by saying: "The reason Europe has "free" medical care is because it was subsidized by Americans who paid for their defense."

Do you mean that the reason medical care in US is in shambles because the money otherwise spent on health care (as a public good, or a basic right of a citizen?) goes to defence?

By the way, have you ever considered the effect of medical services price to the nations' ability to supply (or indiviual's ability to acquire) this good? Like, why Medicare, for example, takes such a slice out of the Federal budget as it does with a very limited result?
10:46 September 10, 2010 by cogito
It's fairly simple: Most of Europe has not been paying for its own defense.

American medical care is not "in shambles," but soon will be under Obamacare.

What "limited result"? Medicare, which you object to, provides excellent healthcare and medicine to millions of people over the age of 65.

Could you substantiate your claim that health care is a "basic right?" Where is that "right" founded (other than in stupid slogans)? And if it is a right, to be funded by the government, what about food? Is that a "basic right?" Housing?
11:08 September 10, 2010 by d_s
My claim that health care is a "basic right"? Now, take a look at all the countries in the world. Most choose that it is not a right for their citizens. What rights exist and not exist is a matter of will, ot taste.

So if I understand correctly, in your opinion health care should not be a right for a citizen, and furthermore, in countries where it is, it is a right that had no justification and thus should be removed? Do we have some other rights that we should get rid of? In your opinion?

How about security? Is that a necessary rigth guaranteed by the state? What do you base that on? Some slogan? Sounds like communism :) Plenty of private corporations can handle that you for.

What is security/defence by the way? Defence against violence to your person? Theft of your property? Against.. disease? By.. some malicious individual (I am not going to say criminal)? A solidier of a foreign power?
12:20 September 10, 2010 by cogito
Now I get it! A "basic right" is whatever you feel should be one.

Sweet. I feel that a Porsche should be my "basic right." I demand that the state provide me with this right. Right now.

FYI, Rights normally have sources-- enshrined in constitutions, the Napoleonic Code and such. A right is not whatever you personally happen to want or wish for.

The rest of your comments are too incoherent to answer. ("Right against disease." huh????)
15:45 September 10, 2010 by GefleFrequentFlyer
Silly swedes. Your opinion is so cute. When swedes complain about the US, especially it's military and foreign policy, it's akin to big brother holding little brother away as his arms are dangling to land a punch.
16:38 September 10, 2010 by here for the summer
@GefleFrequentFlyer and all he others complaining that this is Swedish opinion . It is not and that is the point of the article ( not health care ) . This plank was put in the red-green alliance by the left party which is esssentially the communist party ( really old style Stan thinking ) and gets someone where near 5% of the vote in Sweden. If the US had a parliamentary system and the communist party was legal in the US they might get 5% percent like this in the US.
16:54 September 10, 2010 by RobinHood
@Here for the summer

This proposal began with the Left Party, but it's now in the Red/Green manifesto. That means it's official Red/Green policy and, if the red/Greens win, it can/will be implemented by the next Swedish government.

There are loads of reasons not to vote Red/Green next week, but this proposal in one of the better ones. Vote for another party, and avoid Sweden actually doing this excrutiating embarrassing thing.
19:45 September 12, 2010 by dau tieng 59
"Of course this would be a good solution to the situation on the Korean peninsula!" says Mr. Pek.

"The presence of foreign forces in the southern part of Korea is contrary to the will of the Korean people. If the US were to withdraw, it would be for the benefit of peace, freedom and the reunification of an independent Korea."

Daniel Uppström of the Swedish-Korean Society agrees:

"A US withdrawal would mean a military detente and disarmament on the Korean peninsula. The Swedish-Korean Society is part of the anti-imperialist movement, and thus we are of the perception that all the imperialist countries, particularly the US, should be forced to withdraw its military forces from other nations. We are in favor of the Red-Green proposal."

So which is it? There will be peace, disarmament and detente or there will be reunification?

I think it's a great idea. Then everyone can see exactly how poorly they have be treated under the American umbrella.

As far as healthcare being so poor here in the US, why are people coming here from all over the world to participate in the medical system here? That includes the Canadian PM, who could have had his operation in Canada but had it done in Sarasota, FL, which is not a major medical center.

Healthcare is not a right any more than living in a castle just because some dreamer says it is does not make it so.

Bill Clinton smoked weed but didn't inhale, Barry Obama did coke but evidently the red-greens are still doing ac id.

Sweden also benifits from the American umbrella.

As I said before I think this is a great idea and I'll push for it here and for us to get out of the UN also. Maybe you folks would like to host the UN and have all the crooked pols from all over the world running around your country.
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