After decades of resisting Washington’s rapacious advances and drunken pick-up lines, Scandinavia looks ready to sell out their neutrality to NATO before the summer thaw hits the taiga. Both Sweden and Finland’s prime ministers have issued a joint statement on their intentions to officially court the Alliance and polls show a thin majority of both of their citizens supporting the controversial move for the first time in recorded history. That’s another 830 miles for NATO to play nuclear peek-a-boo with on a border close enough to hit the roof of Putin’s dacha with a goddamn reindeer turd. But this isn’t just a tragedy for Russia or for the hoodwinked neighbors they savaged in vain.
This is a tragedy of massive proportions for Scandinavia, especially Sweden, who has steadfastly avoided lynching themselves with a single military alliance for more than 200 years. The last time they even so much as loaned a motherfucker a Mossberg was when they aided Finland in fighting off Stalin back in 1940.
Neutrality is baked into the very foundation of what it even means to be Swedish. It defines the very roots of their democracy. Back in the 17th century, Sweden was a fucking menace just like us. One of the bloodiest empires in Europe. But all this conquest really earned them in the long run was a heaping helping of karma. After King Gustav insisted on sticking his dick into another East-vs-West hornet’s nest by jumping into the Napoleonic Wars, Sweden got stung hard and lost a third of its territory to Russia including the traumatic conquest of their brothers in Finland that would last until 1917. The Swedes said enough. They overthrew Gustav in a coup in 1809 and vowed to never be lured by the siren song of empire ever again. On this rock, Sweden built a society devoted to the Lutheran values of charity and social justice that has made them the envy of American hippies for decades.
Nobody embodied this legacy better than Sweden’s prince of peace, Olof Palme, who served as the nation’s prime minister from 1969 to 1976 and again from 1982 until his death in 1986 as well as serving as the leader of Sweden’s dominant Social Democratic Party for nearly twenty years. Olof wasn’t just a pacifist; he was a fucking pacifist with attitude who wasn’t afraid to flip off both Washington and Moscow at the same damn time. He railed against Brezhnev for crushing the Prague Spring in 1968 and then turned around and pissed off Nixon bad enough to have him recall America’s ambassador in 1972 after the young prime minister marched shoulder to shoulder with North Vietnam’s ambassador against the bombing of Hanoi and publicly compared America’s savagery in Indochina to that of the Nazis in Treblinka.
But Olof Palme didn’t just piss off America and Russia with his antiwar antics. He made mortal enemies among the Champagne socialists in his own party and across Western Europe by calling them out on their privileged bullshit posturing and declaring his solidarity with the oppressed classes of the Third World that they couldn’t be bothered to see in the rearview mirror of their Saabs. He was the only Western European leader of his era to declare solidarity with Palestine. He was the first to call out South Africa’s apartheid regime and he went time zones out of his way to support doomed left-wing populist governments like that of the Sandinistas in Nicaragua and Salvador Allende in Chile.
When NATO thugs helped Augusto Pinochet to crush Chilean democracy in 1973, Palme rescued some thirty thousand refugees from being executed by CIA-trained death squads in the nation’s soccer stadiums by ferreting them through the Swedish consulate in Santiago. He even became the first Western head of state to visit Cuba after the unforgivable revolution, lighting up with Castro and giving a speech praising the Cuban people for their courage to stand tall against the giants in Washington. Olof Palme proved that neutrality had nothing to do with cowardice, quite the contrary, it was about taking a principled stand against empire in any form and I’m not the only one who believes that this may have gotten him killed.
Olof Palme was assassinated on the streets of Stockholm with a single gunshot while walking home with his wife from the cinema one chilly Friday evening in February 1986. He wasn’t accompanied by a single bodyguard and his killer has never been captured. A local junkie and ex-convict was convicted for the murder in 1988 but he was acquitted a year later due to a lack of evidence. The case was only formally closed in 2020 when the prosecutor in charge of the 34-year-old investigation declared a longtime witness, Stig Engstrom, who had conveniently died in 2000, to be the killer, again without a lick of solid evidence.
Detectives and lawyers who had slaved for decades over the case were beside themselves. It almost seems like some very powerful people in Sweden don’t even want to investigate the assassination of a dearly beloved national hero and perhaps that’s because his blood may be on the hands of some people shockingly close to home. His blood may also stain the jackboots of the very alliance that Sweden now drags their pride across Olof’s grave to be a part of.
- For the Love of Olof Palme, Don’t Let Swedish Neutrality Die in Vain by Nicky Reid – counterpunch.org, 6 may 2022.