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Maybe the White Walkers?

[ 116 ] February 14, 2013 |

It’s not quite accurate to say that bureaucrats will do anything to protect budgets, as the relationship between turf, autonomy, resources, and organizational behavior is complex. Nevertheless, as a general first guess it’s usually not wrong to believe that bureaucrats will significantly stretch reality in order to defend their access to resources. Senior military officers (bureaucrats in uniform) will consequently say and do all manner of things in order to protect budgets; dramatically withdrawing an aircraft carrier from deployment, making dire warnings about the impact of mild cuts to the biggest defense budget in the history of the world, etc. In general, it’s best not to get too irritated about such things, because it is, after all, part of the job of a bureaucrat to protect his or her organization. In that vein, and to remind us that resource-driven threat inflation is not a peculiarly American phenomenon, I offer this:

Military experts said Sweden was probably unable to defend itself on its own in the event of an invasion, in a report published Thursday, saying the armed forces lacked necessary resources.

“Can We Defend Ourselves For a Week?” the Royal Swedish Academy of War Sciences asked in the title of its report.

Sweden is not a member of NATO and has a policy of military non-alliance, though it does participate in the Alliance’s Partnership for Peace program.

The report echoed comments made by Sweden’s chief of the armed forces, Sverker Goeranson, in the media in early January, when he said the Scandinavian country would be able to hold off an attack for only “about a week” following repeated cuts to the defense budget. Goeranson has been on sick leave for exhaustion since making his remarks.

The academy’s study, conducted in 2011 and 2012, supported his analysis of the situation.

“We think the military does not have a credible ability to defend all of Sweden … In the event of a possible attack against Sweden, we would always need help from abroad,” it wrote. “We think that the authorities should rapidly carry out a study on the conditions and possibilities of obtaining such assistance so that any potential crisis in the Baltic region can quickly be resolved, thereby avoiding any act of war from being undertaken.”

If you’re wondering “who is planning to invade Sweden?”, let me remind you that the Finns are never, ever to be trusted.


Comments (116)

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  1. wjts says:

    Laugh all you want, but even now the Elector of Saxony is marshaling his forces and conspiring with the Brandenburgian Hohenzollerns to wrest Livionia away from its rightful Swedish monarch.

    • Alan Tomlinson says:

      You would be fucking hard-pressed to find a Hohenzollern in Brandenburg today. Other parts of Germany, yes; Brandenburg, I don’t think so.


      Alan Tomlinson

      • I dunno, they still have property in Brandenburg, at least:

        Hohenzollern castle is still privately owned. Two-thirds of the castle belongs to the Brandenburg-Prussian line of the Hohenzollern, while one-third is owned by the Swabian line of the family. Since 1954, the castle has also been used by the Princess Kira of Prussia Foundation to provide a summer camp for needy children from Berlin. Hohenzollern castle has over 300,000 visitors per year, making it one of the most visited castles in Germany.[4]

    • expatchad says:

      Is there a recognized treatment for this condition?

    • Warren Terra says:

      What about the Saxe-Coburg-Gothas? They’ve got one of the biggest militaries in Europe, and their younger son is supposed to be something of a hothead and isn’t currently set to inherit anything of importance.

      • Lurker says:

        Yep. And their family has shown, over times, a tendency to make swift coup-type attacks where you first invade with a small army and then utilise the internal dissension to snatch the throne. Examples include two Williams, one of them a bastard, another a husband of a certain Mary.

        • Halloween Jack says:

          That’s so unfair. Harry just wants to get naked with his buddies at the occasional wild party, or maybe put on a Nazi uniform. Just an average lad, really.

    • John says:

      Man, I love a good seventeenth century diplomacy joke. Well played.

        • John says:

          Right, although the original comment was a bit of a mishmash between the Great Northern War and earlier northern wars (Sweden fought Brandenburg most prominently in the 1670s).

          What the Great Northern War ought to show the Swedes is that a Danish-Polish-Russian alliance to strip them of their outlying territories is a terrifyingly real possibility.

          • rea says:

            Or alternatively, that invading Russia is a bad idea. Although neither Napoleon nor Hitler learned that lesson from the experience of Charles XII, so why should the present Swedish government?

    • rea says:

      Don’t worry-a Swedish Turkish alliance will solve these problems . . .

  2. J. Otto Pohl says:

    I am thinking this is a good opportunity for Africa to get an easy European colony to exploit as reparations. Sweden sound a lot easier to conquer than northern Mali. I already have several projects in mind for Swedish forced labor. ;-)

  3. Marek says:

    I’m pretty sure I have this board game.

  4. Patrick says:

    Speaking of ‘overly dramatic’, from the Seattle Times a few weeks back:

    “Seafair’s Blue Angels air show would be among the casualties of an estimated $4 billion in automatic budget cuts that are scheduled to hit the Navy on March 1, according to a Navy planning document.”

    Hmm, I wonder who pointed them to that line item in the planning document, or if a local paper just digs through those all the time? And I wonder how much the fuel/operations for an air show are going to save out of that $4b. Well, I’m sure this has nothing to do with a hostage taking PR strategy for keeping the Navy budget up.

  5. witless chum says:

    Svalbard, obviously.

  6. Winchester says:

    Maybe some muzzies?

  7. rea says:

    A little googling shows that the Swedish army is roughly twice the size of its Finnish counterpart.

  8. herr doktor bimler says:

    We Danish revanchists do not recognise the skulduggerish Swedish annexation of Skåne.

  9. RhZ says:

    No one noticed the spam at the end of that older post?

  10. cpinva says:

    just wore his ass right out, did it?

    “Goeranson has been on sick leave for exhaustion since making his remarks.”

    i’m guessing next will be an announcement, that he’s retiring, “to spend more time with his family.”

  11. CJColucci says:

    I recall someone running in a Danish election in the early-mid-1970’s who proposed replacing the entire military establishment with an answering machine that said “We surrender” in Russian. Made sense to me, but he didn’t win.

    And as an Italo-Finnish American, I’m keeping track of the ethnic jokes. Just saying….

    • Gus says:

      It’s funny you should mention that. I grew up in Northern Minnesota, and we had “Finnlander” jokes like the rest of the country had Polack jokes. The rest of Minnesota has Ole and Lena jokes, but we had Eino and Toivo jokes.

      • expatchad says:

        Polack is not a joke. Just his artwork.

      • CJColucci says:

        My favorite Finnish joke:

        Mikko came over to Uurpo’s house one early summer morning bearing several bottles of schnapps. They sat out on the porch with the first bottle at around 9:00 and started drinking in silence.
        Around 10:30, Mikko said: “I’m going to get another bottle Uurpo.”
        They continued drinking, and, at around noon, Mikko got uop and said: “Another bottle.”
        So it went roughly every ninety minutes until the sun began to set. Mikko turned to Uurpo and said: “This has been a nice day, hasn’t it, Uurpo?”
        “Damn it, Mikko,” Uurpo snarled, “are we drinking or talking?”

  12. sam says:

    Any world leader planning to invade Sweden receives a “visit” from Lisbeth Salander, who is real.

    • Dave says:

      No, she’s some dead Swedish guy’s no. 1 top masturbation-fantasy. Which tells you a lot about what you have to do to get your rocks off in that kind of weather.

  13. actor212 says:

    Finns are never, ever to be trusted.

    That’s IT, Farley! Lutefisk at twelve paces!¹

    ¹ Of course, I’ll only take six. And I’ll be carrying a grenade launcher.

  14. Medrawt says:

    The Swedish military experts may be exaggerating for effect, but I feel like there’s kind of an interesting question here.

    I was born in the United States, in 1982. My life has been living in a nation that is vastly more powerful than its immediate neighbors, with which it is a close ally, protected by two oceans, in the world’s dominant economic and military power. The extreme version of overselling what our military needs to be capable of is something like “fight major land wars in two different foreign theaters simultaneously,” and I think that’s ridiculous. But “being prepared to successfully defend against an assault [however unlikely] from the world’s [other] premiere military powers” is both semi-rational (given that they’re our peers and therefore, in some unhappy future, our potential enemies) and, thanks to our geographic and resource advantages, fairly plausible.

    But what is a plausible defensive goal for Sweden, assuming it’s of a mindset that “we don’t want to get in a fight but we want to be ready if it happens” (which itself, might just be a ridiculous thing to think in the current political climate, but whatever). Should they aim for being able to repel an invasion from Norway or Finland? What about Russia? What about the EU? What’s the point at which it would make sense for them to shrug and say “yeah, [x] could roll into our capital and overthrow our government if they wanted to, but get ready for the wintry insurgency”?

    • Anon21 says:

      Given the overall geopolitical situation of Europe, I think their best bet would be to have a cheap, token military incapable of defending them against any external threat, and to assume (pretty safely) that the EU would not allow Finland or Russia to invade them.

    • actor212 says:

      Well, the proposal is to add….drumroll please….$700 million to the current annual expenditure of $6.1 billion (US equivalents, please note). So a twelve percent increase.

      Not surprisingly, the new coalition Swedish government is a center-right coalition. Some of this, perhaps most, is a military-industrial complex sham, to be sure.

      The nuance of this report is that the Swedes are fully capable of defending against what they call a localized attack, but that multipronged assaults on the nation would be indefensible.

      Could we just give them a few planes out of our reserves and be done with it?

    • Lurker says:

      In practice, Sweden and Finland have not had military contingency planning for a war against each other since early 1920s. Sweden did have, in late 1930s, a contigency plan which involved moving the bulk of the Swedish Army to Finland, but that assumed a Russian attack to Finland and Sweden, with subsequent common defence under the League of Nations.

      For Sweden, the threat scenario they seem to find likely (e.g. Swedish defence blogger Cornucopia) is an attack against Baltic countries by Russia, which is well within the realm of possibility. To perform a swift occupation of the three Baltic countries and to deter NATO counteraction afterwards, the Russians would need air superiority over Baltic. To get this, they would need to occupy Gotland, the largest island of the Baltic sea.

      By basing SAMs in Gotland, they would be able to prevent NATO freedom of action in the Baltic sea and to blackmail Sweden to remain neutral. After that, liberating Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia would require at least an army of 500,000 troops and a corresponding air component.

      As a result, NATO would need to decide between a full-scale air-land war (meaning total mobilization and a risk of nuclear escalation) and acquiescense. As far as I can tell, you Americans are not really so eager to commit 200,000 troops and 300 air planes for a land war in Europe, just for the sake of the Baltic states.

      • Another lurker says:

        Really? Russia attacking the Baltic states? With armed forces? And taking out Gotland as part of the scheme? If this is the most likely threat scenario, and you want me to cough up money to protect us from this, I have a nice tower of steel, conveniently located in Paris, to sell you.

        On a more serious note, Sweden has always fought the Russians to the last Finn, so no news here. Sweden’s armed forces consist of a seriously bloated air force (due to the fact that we design and build the damned planes ourselves), an actually sensible littoral navy, and a minuscule army corps (the size of a battalion, if my memory serves me right) for international action. There is mandatory national service for men, which is put on hold for now, and de facto replaced with voluntary service. I’d say that half of the budget is subsidies to the military-industrial complex (which is mostly aviation in Sweden), and the other half is a bribe to the ‘military interest’ (which is what our center-right prime minister explicitly calls them). There is no popular support for a bigger defense budget (see most likely threat scenario above to understand why), and everybody knows it. All of this is basically jockeying for position by the small parties in the ruling coalition, who all face the possibility of being eliminated from the parliament in the next election, and self-serving bullshit spread by the military-industrial complex.

    • Lurker says:

      but get ready for the wintry insurgency

      No sensible defence planner really wants to propose this option. While an insurgency warfare may be effective if combined with outside material, political and diplomatic support, it is catastrophic to the population. Even a short insurgency takes years to succeed, most people killed by both sides are your own civilians and an enormous amount of infrastructure is destroyed. Worst of all, almost all your social institutions either lose their legitimacy or are destroyed by the insurgents or the occupier.

      In almost any case, accepting occupation after losing a conventional war is a better choice than insurgency. The only exception is the case where the enemy has a clear aim to commit genocide against you.

  15. Doug says:

    Maybe the AT-AT walkers? The Scott Walkers?

  16. You scoff at the threat of the White Walkers, but can you imagine the domestic political freakout if Mance Rayder’s army of wildlings was marching on Stockholm?

  17. Warren Terra says:

    I can’t believe the thread has made it this far without singing along to Finland.

  18. Pseudonym says:

    If Sweden can’t even defend itself, what was the point of its wielding all those socialist death panels?

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