• Sweden edition
 
Opinion
US-Sweden today: The ties that Carl built
'Obama's visit to Sweden a big win for Carl Bildt'

US-Sweden today: The ties that Carl built

Published: 08 Aug 2013 15:32 GMT+02:00
Updated: 08 Aug 2013 15:32 GMT+02:00

Obama will skip a summit with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in September and instead visit Stockholm. For Sweden, this is both great and historic news.

It will be the first truly bilateral visit in Sweden by a sitting US president and Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt proudly announced that this would be an opportunity “to put forward the Swedish view” on world affairs. This phrase has been used many times in the past when Swedish PMs have travelled to Washington. But this time, it actually carries some meaning. Put simply, there is a major difference between hosting the US president in your own country, and having been slotted a brief meeting and a press conference by a protective scheduling secretary in the White House.

With this arrangement, Reinfeldt has sealed his place in the history of Swedish-US relations, a history that goes back to Swedish mercenaries fighting alongside American colonist revolutionaries during the War of Independence. Few Swedes and Americans know, for example, that the 18th century Swedish Count Axel von Fersen participated in the battle of Yorktown and that there was a Swedish member of the Society of the Cincinnati, a society founded by the original contributors to the American Revolution.

But although this visit is a triumph for Reinfeldt, it is even a greater triumph for Foreign Minister Carl Bildt. His aristocratic heritage, intelligence and swag (or arrogance, depending who you ask) makes him a popular guest on both sides of the Atlantic. Bildt has had a career within the Swedish Moderate Party spanning more than four decades and has been closely associated with the not always friendly US-Swedish relationship.

During the height of the Cold War, when Soviet submarines were thought to have illegally entered Swedish waters, a parliamentary commission of which Bildt was a member investigated the suspected intrusion. But before the committee's conclusions were made public, Bildt travelled to Washington where he discussed the findings with members of the Pentagon and State Department. It became a Swedish political scandal and made his name as an international politician. When then Vice President George H. W. Bush was in Stockholm, he knew all about it, according to former Moderate Party leader Ulf Adelsohn.

And so Bildt found himself on the radar of the Reagan White House.

In 1986, he became leader of the Moderate Party and in 1991 he formed a non-socialist minority government. As prime minister, he travelled to Washington twice to see both Bush and Bill Clinton, to whom he also sent an email in 1994, making history with a few key strokes in what was the first email exchanged between two government leaders (although Clinton had an assistant writing his).

In one of the US diplomatic cables published by WikiLeaks, Bildt was described as a "medium-sized dog with a big dog attitude". It is a good description. Bildt is a man who dares to take chances and many American politicians like that. After he lost the 1994 Swedish elections, he became peace negotiator during the war in the former Yugoslavia. It is telling that his appointment was supported by the Clinton administration. Bildt has himself described that he realized that the "interview" took place when he had some beers with friends at the Georgetown Inn in Washington, DC.

With Obama now heading to Sweden, it's safe to assume that Bildt has been negotiating with the White House for quite some time about having the US president pay a visit. And when it happens, Bildt will extend his record as the Swedish politician who has met the most sitting US presidents and played perhaps the most pivotal role in keeping relations between the two countries so strong.

David Lindén is a PhD student in history at King's College London and is currently a political commentator for Borås Tidning (BT). Previously he was a visiting scholar at University of North Carolina on the topic of Swedish-US relations during the Cold War. Follow him on Twitter here.

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
National
King Carl XVI Gustaf opens parliament
King Carl XVI Gustaf arriving on Tuesday afternoon. Photo: TT

King Carl XVI Gustaf opens parliament

BREAKING: Sweden's post-election parliament is meeting for the first time following a fanfare opening from King Carl XVI Gustaf. READ  

Opinion
Should Sweden's school age be raised?
A high school in Stockholm. Photo: TT

Should Sweden's school age be raised?

After the new coalition announced plans to extend Sweden's compulsory schooling until the age of 18, The Local asked two Swedes at high school if they agreed with the idea. READ  

International
Sweden slammed for ecological footprint
Sweden should increase its renewable energy according to WWF. Photo:TT

Sweden slammed for ecological footprint

Sweden is among the world's top ten polluters according to one of the largest scientific studies looking at the impact of humans on earth, produced by the WWF. READ  

Society
Swede's necklace found after 52 years in lake
Ing-Marie Olofsson whose necklace was found. Photo: Private

Swede's necklace found after 52 years in lake

A 66-year-old Swedish woman got the surprise of her life when a fisherman returned the necklace she dropped in a lake at the age of 14. READ  

International
Apology for Swedish model's stolen photos
Malin Sahlén during a Top Model shoot. Photo: TV3/Nina Holma

Apology for Swedish model's stolen photos

A British newspaper has apologised after a freelance journalist stole a Sweden's Next Top Model contestant's photo and created a fake Twitter account used to trick a UK minister. READ  

Brand stories
Johanna N: beautiful jewellery with a story

Johanna N: beautiful jewellery with a story

Aged just 27 and already living off of her own designs, some may consider Johanna Nilsson lucky. But she doesn't believe in luck. She's the founder of a jewellery line blending sustainability, subtle style, and Scandinavian simplicity - and it's taking the world by storm. READ  

Sport
Heel injury sidelines Zlatan in Barcelona clash
Photo: AP

Heel injury sidelines Zlatan in Barcelona clash

Paris Saint-Germain star Zlatan Ibrahimovic will miss Tuesday's Champions League clash with Barcelona at the Parc des Princes due to a nagging heel problem, the French club have confirmed. READ  

National
Stockholm patient tests negative after Ebola fears
The Infection Clinic at the Karolinska University Hospital in Huddinge. Photo: TT

Stockholm patient tests negative after Ebola fears

A patient in a Stockholm hospital who was suspected of having contracted the Ebola virus was given the all clear on Tuesday morning. READ  

Elections 2014
New coalition agrees on defence and migration
A Jas Gripen. Photo: TT

New coalition agrees on defence and migration

UPDATED: The Green Party has committed itself to expanding Sweden's defence force, while the Social Democrats have compromised on work permits for migrants. READ  

National
Fresh Ebola case investigated in Sweden
The patient is being treated at the Karolinska University Hospital. Photo: TT

Fresh Ebola case investigated in Sweden

Doctors in Stockholm are checking a patient suspected of having contracted the Ebola virus. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Fastighetsbyrån
Gallery
Property of the week: Botkyrka
Education
New government to make school compulsory to 18
Politics
Sweden Democrat wins Deputy Speaker spot
National
Swedish scientists sneak Bob Dylan lyrics into articles
Lifestyle
The five best Swedish songs of the month
Blog updates

28 September

Spoiled Doyle (Blogweiser) »

"What you gotta watch out for in Sweden is the good stuff. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Re_EzUe6xpI In Sweden, it’s the good things you have to watch out for. Video on @TheLocalSweden http://t.co/rAb8eGFdTD pic.twitter.com/w37YYwMXy1 — Joel Sherwood (@joeldsherwood) September 29, 2014 " READ »

 

26 September

 (The Local Sweden) »

"Hi readers, Autumn swept into Sweden at the start of this week with snow in the north of the country and flooding in the south. As well as a change in the weather, Sweden’s change in political direction became clearer, with Social Democrat leader Stefan Lofven formally announcing his party would work with the Greens as..." READ »

 
 
 
Gallery
People-watching: September 28th
National
When Italian style meets Swedish simplicity
Lifestyle
Review: Sweden's first alcohol-free nightclub
Gallery
In Pictures: The MS Estonia disaster
Lifestyle
Ten things expat women notice in Sweden
Politics
What's next on Sweden's political stage?
Gallery
Sweden's 2014 election: Most memorable moments
Society
What's on in Sweden
Gallery
People-watching: September 24th
Seaman Oliver Gee with his first lobster
Lifestyle
How to catch the first lobster of the year
Gallery
In Pictures: Fredrik Reinfeldt through the years.
Society
Plucked out of Canada for love and guitars
Politics
How Sweden Democrats went mainstream
Politics
Scandinavia and Scotland: closer links?
Sponsored Article
How to start a business in Stockholm
Society
Why is Stockholm's Södermalm so cool?
Politics
Sweden elections: Who's who?
Sponsored Article
Introducing… Insurance in Stockholm
Gallery
Princess Estelle through the years
Business & Money
Five golden rules for the Swedish job hunt
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

877
jobs available
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions is an innovative business company which provides valuable assistance with the Swedish Authorities, Swedish language practice and general communications. Call 073-100 47 81 or visit:
www.swedishdowntown.com
PSD Media
PSD Media is marketing company that offers innovative solutions for online retailers. We provide modern solutions that help increase traffic and raise conversion. Visit our site at:
http://psdmedia.se
If you want to drink, that’s your business.
If you want to stop, we can help.

Learn more about English-language Alcoholics Anonymous in Sweden. No dues. No fees. Confidentiality assured.
AA-EUROPE.ORG/SWEDEN