Maybe the White Walkers?

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.

116 comments on this post.
  1. wjts:

    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.

  2. J. Otto Pohl:

    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:

    I’m pretty sure I have this board game.

  4. Patrick:

    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:

    Svalbard, obviously.

  6. Winchester:

    Maybe some muzzies?

  7. Substance McGravitas:

    If only you could get Italy kicked out of NATO.

  8. rea:

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

  9. Karate Bearfighter:

    I already have several projects in mind for Swedish forced labor.

    It’s no good; they can’t put together Ikea furniture, either.

  10. herr doktor bimler:

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

  11. rea:

    I understand the EU is planning to sell Greeks for debt, so the market for Swedes may be somewhat depressed.

  12. Njorl:

    People live there?

    What is their tourist slogan, “Come for the cold. Stay for the bleakness!”

  13. Malaclypse:

    Yes, but the Finnish Army is composed of Finns.

  14. bph:

    I had assumed he had in mind an army of ABBA cover bands.

  15. herr doktor bimler:

    Miners mainly.

  16. herr doktor bimler:

    Hey, it’s not really an invasion; they’re just trying to adjust the borders slightly and restore Finland’s access to the Arctic Ocean.

  17. wjts:

    And super-intelligent talking bears.

  18. RhZ:

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

  19. Njorl:

    They’d have to go through Norway for that.

  20. Bill Murray:

    refighting Waterloo?

  21. cpinva:

    stay for the lutefisk.

  22. cpinva:

    i understand the beaches there are lovely this time of year.

    “Hey, it’s not really an invasion; they’re just trying to adjust the borders slightly and restore Finland’s access to the Arctic Ocean.”

  23. cpinva:

    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.”

  24. Protagoras:

    Yes, the Winter War was impressive. But defense is usually easier than offense, and I’d be surprised if the modern Swedes had quite as many vehicles that can’t operate in extreme cold as the Soviets were distressed to discover they had.

  25. Davis X. Machina:

    Armored super-intelligent talking bears. How cool is that?

  26. herr doktor bimler:

    Sadly, Sweden and Finland both allow women in combat roles, so we will not learn how much that has degraded their armies’ performance.

  27. witless chum:

    Allegedly, during the 30 Years War, the Catholic Church instituted a special prayer to be said seeking deliverance from the terrible Finns, who made up part of the Swedish Army. Gustavus Adolphus pretty much formed Nordic Voltron.

  28. Charlie Sweatpants:

    I, too, was puzzled by that. Presumably selling bomber jackets over the internet fits into LGM’s long term plan for world conquest somewhere, but damned if I can find it.

  29. Anon21:

    I’ve seen this before on one of their older posts. Some “harmless” SEO for a pittance, or has their website been hacked to some obscure purpose?

  30. Keaaukane:

    That makes me pine for the fjords…

  31. herr doktor bimler:

    Can you hear the war-drums?

  32. CJColucci:

    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….

  33. sam:

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

  34. actor212:

    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.

  35. herr doktor bimler:

    Come now. They’re quite cheerful during the summer months.

  36. actor212:

    Don’t tell the Sami that.

  37. actor212:

    Spamdexing, more likely

  38. Njorl:

    Not as cool as cybernetically-enhanced, armored, super-intelligent, talking bears … armed with miniguns!

  39. MAJeff:

    You win already. I wouldn’t get within 12 miles, much less 12 paces, of that stuff.

  40. actor212:

    Bears are not nimble, and can easily be taken out with an ion cannon.

  41. Pestilence:

    gardening leave, in british parlance

  42. actor212:

    He’s just a Super Trouper.

  43. Pestilence:

    Dont forget Farley’s motto, Walk softly and carry a Big Battleship

  44. actor212:

    Beware Greeks bearing grift.

  45. Hogan:

    The winner takes it all.

  46. Doug:

    Trading for Turkey and future draft picks, as I have long maintained.

  47. Doug:

    So, not the AT-AT walkers either?

  48. Medrawt:

    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”?

  49. Doug:

    Maybe the AT-AT walkers? The Scott Walkers?

  50. actor212:

    Or as we Scandahoovians call them, “reindeer”

  51. actor212:

    I dunno. Ever actually *drive* a Saab?

  52. Anon21:

    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.

  53. sparks:

    I’ve had plenty of dishes with baccala and even I find lutefisk quite unpalatable.

  54. Njorl:

    The Sami have little to fear. If you’ve been following the thread on the battle of Hoth, you will be interested to learn that the Sami have developed a prototype AT-AT.

  55. Alan Tomlinson:

    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

  56. actor212:

    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?

  57. actor212:

    The most reasonable discussion I’ve seen grow out of this is a proposal for a Nordic version of NATO, where the Baltic nations would sign cross-defense pacts. Any nation large enough to cross swords with that would have long before attracted either Russian or American attention.

  58. actor212:

    Carrying lutefisk, I laugh at battleships.

  59. actor212:

    I had been. I missed that.

    And now I can’t stop laughing.

  60. Slartibartfast:

    I have always thought they give a “baroque” feel to a continent.

  61. herr doktor bimler:

    I cannot imagine Baba Yaga following any military doctrine or discipline.

  62. herr doktor bimler:

    Also too, Baba Yaga can be defeated by a Firebird.

  63. Gus:

    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.

  64. jdkbrown:

    I’m going to start lobbying Gustavus Adolphus College to change their mascot to the Nordic Voltrons.

  65. The Dark Avenger:

    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]

  66. The Dark Avenger:

    They have one small model that runs via burning wood pellets and the heat drives a Stirling engine which provides electrical power, I don’t know if there’s a military model available.

  67. The Dark Avenger:

    There’s the Golden Handshake, where you get a teacher to retire by giving them some sort of lump sum payout if they will NEVER TEACH AGAIN. It’s mainly done at community colleges and the like.

  68. expatchad:

    Is there a recognized treatment for this condition?

  69. expatchad:

    Uhm, dorsal or ventral?

  70. StevenAttewell:

    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?

  71. expatchad:

    Polack is not a joke. Just his artwork.

  72. rea:

    I don’t want to hear your darn Saab stories . . .

  73. Warren Terra:

    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.

  74. Warren Terra:

    I’ve always assumed that someplace in Sweden is the legendary female Volvo, a mighty beast of a vehicle indeed.

    (it’s a belief based on every Volvo I’ve seen having a male symbol on its hood).

  75. Oscar Goldman:

    They would come in the form of Norwegian heavy metal bands, which are both scary and hilarious.

  76. Warren Terra:

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

  77. efgoldman:

    stay for the lutefisk.

    Obviously the Swedes’ secret weapon. Didn’t Napoleon say something about an army living on its stomach? If he didn’t he should have.

  78. efgoldman:

    i’m guessing next will be an announcement, that he’s retiring

    Or in biz-speak, “to pursue other opportunities.”

  79. efgoldman:

    Also too, Baba Yaga can be defeated by a Firebird.

    Hah! Fooled me! I was looking for a link to either Stravinsky or a Pontiac.

  80. efgoldman:

    That makes me pine for the fjords…

    Are you singin’ in the bleedin’ choir invisible?

  81. Bill Murray:

    Lutefisk is the dwarf bread of Scandinavia. You smell it and you’re not hungry anymore. It’s like magic

  82. Bill Murray:

    or to spend the remainder of his life in quiet contemplation and prayer

  83. Bill Murray:

    or signs along the borer saying

    “Even Hitler didn’t invade us!”

  84. N__B:

    Kid, if you need help finding her Volvo, Valentine’s Day is not for you.

  85. Vance Maverick:

    I’m afraid to guess what its name might be.

  86. Warren Terra:

    There’s a “they have one small model that runs” joke in here someplace …

  87. John:

    Hohenzollern Castle is in Baden-Württemberg in southwest Germany. The Hohenzollern properties in Brandenburg would have been seized by the Communists after World War II.

  88. John:

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

  89. BKNinCanadia:


  90. MikeJake:

  91. cpinva:

    it was the lutefisk comment, i apologize.

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

  92. expatchad:

    Not as cool as cybernetically cryogenically-enhanced, armored, super-intelligent, talking bears … armed with miniguns!


  93. Lurker:

    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.

  94. Another lurker:

    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.

  95. Dave:

    “Titanic sinks. Local man saved.” Classic, innit?

  96. Dave:

    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.

  97. Lurker:

    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.

  98. Lurker:

    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.

  99. rea:

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

  100. rea:

    Mostly 18th Century, actually . . .

  101. rea:

    Or Poltava . . .

  102. John:

    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.

  103. John:

    I’d assume that, to the extent that there’s any logical comparison to a plausible real world foe going on here, that the planners are looking at the Russians as the potential threat. Certainly Russia has been Sweden’s primary potential enemy for a very long time, including during the Cold War.

  104. Halloween Jack:

    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.

  105. Halloween Jack:

    Well, you know, they’re always talking about the airplanes…

  106. rea:

    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?

  107. Vogon Pundit:

    Now I’m thinking of the old Diplomacy board– wasn’t Russia/England the killer pair ?

  108. CJColucci:

    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?”

  109. actor212:

    We….try not to speak of this.

  110. actor212:

    I’ve got to dig up and link (if I can, it’s a really old website) of the tales of an American ex-pat working in Helsinki.

    The tale goes something like “My co-worker would come in at 9, plop his hat on his desk, say ‘Huomentaa’ and never say another word to me until ‘hyvaa iltaa’.”

  111. actor212:

    Heh! I thought I had posted it at my blog. I don’t have a link to the original email, but….

  112. burritoboy:

    True, but some properties were returned to their pre-Communist owners. I don’t have any specifics about the Hohenzollerns, however.

  113. burritoboy:

    Didn’t Baba Yaga get shot in the head by Hellboy, or was I just hallucinating that?

  114. Pseudonym:

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

  115. Jay C:

    Shouldn’t that be “Beware of Greeks AS gifts”??

  116. Jay C:

    Even sadder, we’re also unlikely to learn if womens’ inclusion has improved their armies’ performance, either…

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