Arne O. Holm says Are We Going To Be Silent Spectators of Donald Trump's Military March Into the Arctic?

Donald Trump

If Donald Trump wins the US election, he has secured controversial access to military bases in the Arctic. (Photo: Gage Skidmore)

Commentary: Europe's military rearmament parallels the post-Cold War disarmament. It happens nearly without debate, and we are all silent spectators.

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In a short time, nearly without debate, Sweden, Norway, and Finland have given Donald Trump free access to their military bases if he were to be elected president of the United States. The polls show that the US could choose a president who has encouraged Russia to attack NATO countries that did not meet the virtually religious target of spending two percent of the GDP on defense.

Sweden was not there

The other day, Sweden's accession to NATO was marked by a political summit in Alta in Finnmark, Northern Norway. After a tough battle with two of Europe's least democratic countries, Hungary and Turkey, Sweden's application for NATO membership was finally accepted.

Yet, as the flag was raised in the North during the Nordic Response military exercise, Norway's PM Jonas Gahr Støre stood alone with the recently elected Finnish President Alexander Stubb.

Their Swedish colleague, PM Ulf Kristersson, was in the US. In addition to providing necessary documents on the new NATO membership, Kristersson gave the Americans exclusive military rights to use Swedish fortifications, similar to the rights Norway and Finland have previously granted.

Sweden with no stance against nuclear weapons.

In one essential detail, Sweden goes further than its Nordic colleagues. Whereas Finland and Norway have refused to change their stances on the deployment of nuclear weapons, Sweden has not taken a stand.


In sum, the Nordic Arctic is opening 44 military bases to the American defense, 17 of which are in Sweden. To the degree this Americanization of the Nordic defense alliance has sparked debate, it has been linked to an exclusive American right to prosecute its own soldiers, in addition to civil personnel and their families, for crimes committed in the Nordic countries.

This agreement completely counters what is traditionally considered national legal privileges. 

Democratic ideals are set aside.

A historically successful Swedish and Finnish neutrality is not only quickly replaced by membership in the Western defense alliance but also a startlingly uncontroversial embrace of American military strategies.

The explanation is, of course, Russia's attack on Ukraine, that there is war in Europe, and that Sweden, together with Finland and Norway, needs the strongest possible defense against Putin's Russia.

Does the explanation hold up?

However, does that explanation hold up against a US that could be run by a president who has denied democratically elected leaders in just eight months? Who threatens to withdraw the US from NATO every other day, but not necessarily out of Sweden? Or Norway, for that matter?

The bilateral agreements between Nordic countries and the US are not connected to American membership in NATO. They stand independently, even after Donald Trump's possible win in the American election.

This is despite the fact that both the Swedish Armed Forces, in its perspective study from 2022, and the Swedish Defence Research Agency are apparently both aware of and critical of developments in the USA. Sweden is recommended to "prepare for a volatile and unpredictable American foreign and security policy, in which unilateralism, short-termism, and transaction orientation may become prominent features."

The extreme right is surging forward.

The peace movement being weakened during an ongoing war in Europe is almost a given.

It is more problematic that democratic ideals are set aside or lose elections.

The extreme right

State budgets are re-arranged on both sides of Russia's war against Ukraine. Both money and personnel for rearmament must be collected from somewhere.

This happens simultaneously as the extreme right surges forward, not just in the US but also in Europe. Most recently in Portugal, where a former sports commentator, often accused of racism, claims victory.

There are many explanations for the progress of the far-right parties, but a central one is the lack of housing and increased cost of living. Both are reinforced by national economies forced to increase their defense budgets, often at the expense of social reforms.

The Western defense of Ukraine is a battle for democracy in the face of violent dictatorships. Paradoxically, the price of this is that Western democracies are weakened by the advancement of anti-democratic parties, whether led by Donald Trump, Andrè Ventura, or Geert Wilders, to mention a few.

Russia's attack on a neighboring European country makes military rearmament necessary. It is needed precisely to defend our democratic ideals.

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