Swedish People, Parties Polarised Over Joining NATO Amid Russia Scaremongering
As a result of what the Russian Embassy has described as an "incomparable propaganda campaign", a majority of Swedes are now afraid of Russia as a superpower – to the point that the nation's embassy there has even had to soothe ordinary Swedes and assure them that Moscow doesn't plan to attack the Scandinavian country.
As the perennial NATO debate has flared up anew in Sweden a poll has indicated that the population is split over accession to the alliance.
In a survey conducted by pollster Novus, just over a third, 37 percent of respondents, said yes to the prospect of NATO membership. Slightly fewer, 35 percent, said no. As many as 28 percent were undecided.
While somewhat more people in the survey were in favour of joining the alliance, the difference was statistically insignificant. Yet, compared to a previous survey in 2017, the shift is considerable. At that time, 32 percent said yes to NATO, whereas the negative side was much larger at 43 percent.
"The yes side has progressed strongly compared to 2017, so now there are about as many who are for NATO membership as against. But about a third cannot answer the question, that is really where this question is decided", Novus CEO Torbjörn Sjöström told national broadcaster SVT.
A majority of the nation's parliamentary parties are now in favour of the theoretical NATO option, but are equally divided for and against actual membership. While the Moderates, the Centre, the Christian Democrats, and the Liberals are in favour of NATO, the ruling Social Democrats, the Left, the Greens, and the national-conservative Sweden Democrats are against.
"Sweden should not join NATO, but the most important thing Sweden should do is to invest more resources in the total defence. However, Sweden should continue to cooperate with NATO", the Sweden Democrats said.
The recent round in the NATO debate comes amid unprecedented scaremongering of a war with Russia, regardless of how absurd it may sound. While Russia is being painted as an "aggressor" in the media, top-ranking politicians and members of the military, including Defence Minister Peter Hultqvist and Supreme Commander Micael Byden, have made hawkish statements identifying Russia as a "threat". Furthermore, Hultqvist said earlier this week that an attack against Sweden couldn't be ruled out.
14 January 2022, 08:06 GMT
Among other things, Russia's recent movement of ships in the neutral waters of the Baltic Sea was named as the chief reason behind the appearance of armoured troops on the streets of Gotland, Sweden's largest island. This comes on top of the "Russian threat" perennially floated in the media, including the mini-series "When the War Comes", where Moscow is featured as an adversary.
As a result of this scaremongering tactic, a clear majority, 59 percent, said in the Novus poll they are afraid of Russia as a superpower. By contrast, only a third, 29 percent, were afraid of the US.
"If we go back a few years, about a third were afraid of Russia as a great power. Now it is a clear majority", Torbjörn Sjöström noted.
As the anti-Russian hysteria peaked, the country's embassy in Stockholm even had to assure
ordinary Swedes that Moscow has no plans to attack the Scandinavian nation. The embassy explained that it had received "numerous inquiries from Swedish citizens, mainly from children and the elderly".
"We regard these fears as a direct result of an incomparable propaganda campaign that unfolded in the Swedish media at the initiative of local politicians to inflate an unfounded Russian terror", the embassy wrote.
According to the embassy, allegations that Russia would like to fight Sweden are aimed at "convincing ordinary taxpayers that they need to invest more money for military needs and obediently follow instructions from across the Atlantic".
By contrast, the embassy assured Russia would like to develop "good neighbourly relations" and develop a "mutually beneficial dialogue".
18 January 2022, 06:46 GMT