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Reality Check: Is Russia planning to invade Sweden or is UK media spreading more baseless hysteria?

Bryan MacDonald
Bryan MacDonald is an Irish journalist based in Russia.
Reality Check: Is Russia planning to invade Sweden or is UK media spreading more baseless hysteria?
Two of Britain’s leading newspapers have run delirious headlines this week, warning of a potential Russian assault on neutral Sweden.

“Sweden’s first new conscripts prepare to repel Russian invaders”the Telegraph.

“First Swedish conscripts in a decade begin training to defeat a Russian invasion”Daily Mail

Sounds scary, doesn’t it? Poor Sweden (population over 9 million) getting ready to repel an attack from big, bad Russia (population 145 million).

Furthermore, to make things even worse, the “aggressor” is a military superpower and the “victim” stands alone, without even NATO to protect it. And that bit is really relevant here, as you will soon see.

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Mamma Mia

Anyway, rest easy: Never mind the bollocks, here’s the British media. Armed with its particular brand of hysteria, mendacity, and click-bait calumny.

The Telegraph, which isn’t even pretending to be a newspaper anymore, bases its “Russian invasion” warning on the testimony of a Colonel Stennabb. He highlights how “Russia is prepared to use military means to accomplish political objectives, not just in Crimea but in Syria.”

Hardly a radical concept, even in Europe where many countries, most notably, France (Libya, Ivory Coast, CAR, Chad, etc.) and the UK (Iraq, Syria, Sierra Leone, Kosovo, etc.) aren’t exactly shy about backing up words with firepower.

At no point does Stennabb explain why Russia would want to invade Sweden. Nor does the Telegraph. Which fails to note Sweden doesn’t even border mainland Russia, although it does sit across the Baltic Sea from the tiny Russian exclave of Kaliningrad.
After all, Sweden has few resources useful to Moscow and IKEA already has plenty of stores around Russia. 

That said, Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, did mention last year that the president is partial to ABBA. But, surely there are easier ways of encouraging them to reform?

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Super Trouper

The Mail piece largely amounts to a rewrite of the Telegraph’s scaremongering. But they do pad it out a bit, mentioning how “Russia has also been launching incursions into European airspace.”

For illustration, it explains “just last week, a Russian Su-27 fighter was filmed ‘pushing’ an American F-15 out of the way as they patrolled over the Baltic Sea.” Adding how, in a separate incident, “the (US) Pentagon said that a Russian jet came dangerously close to one of its fighters over the Black Sea on Monday.”

So, here we have two American aircraft operating in Europe and this British newspaper is accusing Russia of “launching incursions into European airspace.”

Meaning either the Mail is unaware that Russia is in Europe but the United States is not, or it thinks its readers are stupid.

Anyway, the last major conflict between Sweden and Russia ended in 1790, following a failed Swedish attack two years earlier. Famously, the conflict was started by King Gustav III of Sweden for domestic political reasons.

This present UK media hysteria serves similar ends. Because, in this time of austerity, British Armed Forces spending is squeezed. And what better way to keep the moolah coming than to create a plausible enemy?

Plus, there’s a small, but vocal, bunch both within and without Sweden who hope to drag the traditionally neutral country into NATO. Go figure.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

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