Think tank exposes Russia’s malign operations to hinder Sweden's NATO accession

Think tank exposes Russia’s malign operations to hinder Sweden's NATO accession

Following the official decision by the Swedish government to join NATO, political parties, public organizations, and other actors from May 2022 to January 2023 sharply intensified their efforts to undermine the move.

Such activities bear signs of Russian “active measures,” both due to the fact that it meets Russia’s strategic interests in countering Sweden and Finland’s entry into NATO, and because of the close ties of the actors involved with both the USSR and modern Russia, which therefore deserves special attention, according to a report by the Ukrainian-based Center for Defense Reforms, Guildhall reports, as seen by Ukrinform.

The latest example was the burning of the Quran outside the Turkish Embassy in Stockholm by the leader of the Danish far-right organization Hard Line, Rasmus Paladan. It is known that the action was paid for by Chang Frick, the host of a TV channel run by the right-wing party Swedish Democrats, who has been working for the Russian propaganda publication Russia Today, justifying the occupation of Crimea and calling for the deployment of Russian troops in Sweden.

Read also: RLI: Russian GRU’s effort to block Sweden's bid to join NATO

As a result of the stunt, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan issued a statement, condemning the move, adding that Sweden should not expect Turkish consent to join the Alliance.

One of the key subjects demanding that Sweden reverse its attempt to join NATO is the Swedish Left Party (the former Communist Party of Sweden), which in Soviet times was controlled and directly funded by the Communist Party of the USSR. On May 16, 2022, together with the Green Party, the Swedish Left Party held a protest against Sweden's intention to join NATO. After the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2014, the Left Party financed the separatist proxy organization, run by the Russian special services, called Borotba. It gained notoriety for the attempts to destabilize Odesa and taking part in trying to set up the “Kharkiv People’s Republic.”

On February 5, 2021, the Left Party co-organized a meeting with the Russian Ambassador to Sweden Viktor Tatarintsev on the topic: “The decisive importance of dialogue for peace.” On the eve of Russia's large-scale invasion of Ukraine, on February 18, it became the only party in the European Parliament to vote against boosting military assistance to Ukraine.

Another organization that systematically operates against Sweden's accession to NATO, which acted as a co-organizer of the action on May 16, is the National Association Against NATO. The association takes part in Russian malign influence operations, in particular, the Russo-Swedish anti-war camp “For Peace” on the Åland Islands, which was timed with the Swedish military exercises Aurora-17 in 2017. Finnish authorities then prevented the plan for the Russian sailing ship Kruzenshtern, carrying 150 military servicemen on board, to “visit” the camp.

Read also: Russian intelligence scrambles to conceal involvement in Stockholm provocation

The third participant in the action on May 16, systematically opposing Sweden's course toward NATO, was the Green Party. Since the late 1980s, the Swedish environmental movement has systematically criticized investment in nuclear energy, which has resulted in an increase in Sweden's dependence on Russian energy. It is worth noting that the Green Party, together with the Left Party, also co-organized a meeting with the Russian Ambassador on February 5, 2021, and also took part in the Swedish-Russian camp "For Peace" on the Åland Islands. In particular, three lawmakers with the Green Party, Annika Lillemets, Walter Mutt, and Karl Schliter, took part.

One of the key areas for undermining the process of Sweden's integration into NATO is the Swedish-Turkish relations. To try to spoil these relations, the large Kurdish community in Sweden, which is hostile to Turkey, has been used.

On January 12, 2023, the Kurdish organization Rojava Committee held a protest against NATO and Turkey. During the action, the Rojava Committee showcased an effigy of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, hanging it upside down. Rojava, or the Autonomous Administration of Northern and Eastern Syria, has close relations with the Russian Federation. Russia is a key international partner in the effort to legalize the autonomy of Rojava. In particular, the Russian Federation included the autonomous region in the draft of the new Constitution of Syria of 2016.

The Rojava Committee and the branch of the PKK in Sweden regularly hold anti-Turkish protests, in particular, over the past six months, such actions have taken place on July 9, August 12, September 11, and January 12 and 21, 2023.

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