As all the lurid and lascivious details slowly seep out about the WikiLeaks whistle-blowers, Julian Assange's sexual exploits in Sweden, the media's attention has focused on a peaceful, supposedly neutral Scandinavian Arcadia: Sweden. The would-be progressive, Calvinist country has a reputation of probity which is the envy in, and of, the world. It is very egalitarian, has a robust social system and its women are apparently strong (or at least the ones I once tussled with, as a student one mid-summer night, while taking all necessary precautions..) and well represented in political life. Swedish women have 47% representation in parliament and hold 52% of ministerial positions.
The Minister of Justice who seeks the prosecution of Mr. Assange, on alleged rape charges is a woman (and possible his extradition as well to America, on what are perhaps trumped up espionage charges, as well), Mrs. Beatrice Ask (whose ministry website has coincidentally come under an cyperattack just recently). Sweden is at the forefront world wide or spearheads campaigns defending women's' rights and organises international conference on the topic. Domestically, however it has one the highest rape rates in Europe ( second only to Britain's).
Sweden a Shangri la no longer?
So, other than some social problems like a chronically high suicide rate, the kingdom is practically an earthly paradise of tolerance and egalitarianism? Well, not exactly, it seems. After decades of Social Democratic policies, the country has slowly but surely shifted to the far right, on the political spectrum. Its conservative government, led by Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt , has formed a coalition with extremist elements or the anti-immigrant party, the Sweden Democrats (the equivalent of the National Party in Britain, or the National Front party of France). The country, appears to be flirting with fascism. The country's defence industry is very active, and corruption allegations involving jet fighters (SAAB corporation, Gripen aircraft) being flogged in several countries including most recently South Africa, have stained Sweden's pristine reputation for irreproachable moral conduct .
Sweden: From champion of neutrality and international objectivity to Uncle Sam's strumpet?
Sweden also had a well-known and until recently , a much admired , policy of neutrality in armed conflicts,since the early 19th century. The policy originated largely as a result of Sweden's involvement in the Napoleonic Wars during which over a third of the country's territory was lost, including the traumatic loss of Finland to Russia. Resentment towards the old king precipitated a coup d'état and the new regime formulated a new foreign policy which became known as The Policy of 1812. Since the time of the Napoleonic Wars, Sweden has not initiated any direct armed combat. Notwithstanding, the country has been involved in major UN peacekeeping actions and other military support functions around the world.
But much has changed since those days. Sweden's neutral stance, it appears on the international scene, exists in name only. As the Wikileaks cables have exposed in an almost too graphic or nearly pornographic or embarrassing manner, Sweden is turning into a transatlantic satellite of the world's 'sole superpower'. Among the many diplomatic documents that the website Wikileaks got hold of, there are hundreds of cables from the U.S. Embassy in Stockholm. The correspondence divulges, or gives an all too close up picture of the very cozy security cooperation between Sweden and the United States, according to the Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet
. The prominent and influential Swedish daily writes as follows:
"In a classified cable from 4 May 2007, on the eve of Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt's visit to the U.S., Michael Wood, then Ambassador to Sweden, writes that Sweden is a "pragmatic and strong" partner.
"And even if Sweden's official security policy is non-participation in military alliances during peacetime and neutrality during wartime, the Swedish active participation in the NATO Partnership for Peace and its role in leading the European Union's 1,500 troops-strong Nordic Battle group give the lie to the official policy,” concludes the newspaper.
Furthermore, back in 1994, Sweden participated in NATO's "antechamber," the "Partnership for Peace" mechanism in the inevitable desired goal of joining the military alliance one day. For its part, the government adamantly maintains that , NATO membership is not in the cards.
Sweden's Minister for Defence, Sten Tolgfors announced in a statement in response to the WikiLeaks' disclosed U.S cables, which emanated from the Swedish capital that: "Sweden is cooperating with NATO in, among else, Kosovo and Afghanistan, as a partner country. It does not mean that a membership is an issue," writes Tolgfors. However, there are circulating reports as of yet unconfirmed that Sweden seeks Washington's support in a possible military engagment, as part of an Afghan mission.
The Swedish extradition is an Inquisition
As for the close cooperation between Stockholm and Washington on other key issues the newspaper adds: "President George W. Bush is advised to speak with Reinfeldt [Swedish PM] privately, if he would like to commend the role of Sweden in cooperation against terrorism, a formulation that suggests that the ambassador did not believe the extent of cooperation is known throughout the government. [U.S. Ambassador]Wood also writes that data from the ´Sweden's military and civil intelligence is an important source for the U.S. to inspect Russian military relations and, maybe more surprising, knowledge about Iran's nuclear program'".
So then when, and if, Wikileaks founder does get extradited to Sweden for his alleged, wayward, sexual misconduct, he may not get a fair hearing, in fact his fate in Sweden at least, may already have been sealed.