April 24, 2013

Swedish Defacement

According to one definition, defacement is a type of vandalism that involves damaging the appearance or surface of something. The object of damage may be architecture, books, paintings, sculpture or other forms of art. It may also be a nation.

According to one definition, defacement is a type of vandalism that involves damaging the appearance or surface of something. The object of damage may be architecture, books, paintings, sculpture or other forms of art. It may also be a nation.

Swedish newspapers reported on 22 April that two Russian Tu-22 bombers, escorted by four Su-27 fighter aircraft, had simulated attacks against two high-value targets in the Stockholm area and in southern Sweden on Good Friday. No Swedish fighters were available to intercept the Russian aircraft in the middle of the night. Only NATO scrambled two F-16s from Lithuania to follow the exercise. NATO’s air-policing mission in the Baltics now also has to take on the responsibility for its Scandinavian, officially non-aligned, partner.

This incident should be seen as part of a growing tendency for the Kremlin to flex its military muscles in the post-Cold War era. Over the last years, Russian aircraft have frequently tested Western response times, both in Europe and recently also in the Pacific. British, US, Dutch and Norwegian fighters regularly scramble to shadow Russian long-range aircraft.

Like many other nations, Sweden has slashed its defence budget and this has apparently led to a situation where its very symbolic first line of defence is operational only from 9 to 5, leaving it unable to react to safeguard its borders 24/7. This inability is due to recent weak defence ministers who have been hampered by a strong finance minister, all serving under a prime minister who has not shown any noticeable interest in regional security. Opponents to this ignorance have been met with accusations labelling them as ‘Cold War dinosaurs’.

Today’s reality sees Germany as an integrated part of Europe. It is a member of both the EU and NATO, a democracy among other democracies. There is no trace of its former authoritarian regime that suppressed its neighbours 70 years ago. The other party to the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, the Soviet Union, has also changed its shape and name, but its successor has chosen to stay clear of any closer cooperation with the EU and NATO. Russia’s behaviour towards its neighbouring nations could at best be described as reserved. Modern Germany and Russia are not comparable in this respect. Russia’s acts, such as the recent bomber exercise near Sweden, speak for themselves and they are part of today’s reality. Any failure to recognise this is tantamount to the misjudgement by British Prime Minister Chamberlain which he expressed so eloquently in 1938. Today is 2013. The security situation in Europe can no longer be viewed through the prism of legacy from 1992.

Defacement has become a common phenomenon in cyber space where hackers harass and humiliate nations, companies and organisations by posting obscenities on their victims’ websites. Due to its own passivity, Sweden has become a victim of similar defacement attacks as demonstrated by the exercise on Good Friday and the parody shown recently on Russian television (Channel One Russia). If the Swedish government is not willing to adapt to today’s realities, it will only continue to be humiliated but at a considerable political cost.

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