Sweden, Finland & The World Quietly Prepare For War

This is the kind of post I quite honestly hope I never have to write again. It’s not an attempt to scare anybody or stress anyone out. On the contrary, a little knowledge is an important step to long term security.

This is the kind of post I quite honestly hope I never have to write again. Consider it a reminder of how history repeats itself. I mean, it’s really bothersome that even today, with activism on all manner of social issues at an all-time high, with technology promising to lead us into a new age of free knowledge and prosperity for all, there’s still the prospect of something with the capability to send us back to the stone age – at least temporarily. Please don’t dismiss this as me being an alarmist. This is not be an attempt to scare anybody or stress anyone out. On the contrary, a little knowledge is an important step to long term security.

These are not the sort of tidings I savor bearing, particularly on a Monday, but that’s the sort of week it’s been. Last Wednesday, through a bit of word of mouth, I got to visit my local town’s first annual emergency preparedness meeting. It all seemed a bit impromptu and off the cuff, and I’ll just suggest that the majority of the all of 30 or so attendees weren’t exactly what you would call the type capable of organizing and carrying out large scale plans to secure the safety of an entire community. Outside of a handful of us, there was nary an able bodied young person to be seen. That concerned me slightly. But you know, these days, senior citizens are the only ones who have actually lived wartime, and know what it really means to daily life.

While I am not exactly a survivalist myself, I was raised by the tail end of that generation so intimately familiar with war on a global scale. That upbringing included sometimes harsh demonstrations of what must be done when our environment becomes less than favorable, and whether we want to face it or not. Before I continue along that train of thought, let me first hopefully drive home the point a little further how significant it is that Sweden, of all countries, is preparing for large scale conflict to erupt. You see, Sweden has maintained a position of neutrality in wartime for 200 years. It has hardly been a large military presence. Earlier this past decade, that presence was reduced even further, with mandatory conscription being abolished – but all that is set to change.

Sweden brings back military conscription in face of growing Russia threat

SverigesRadio: Local authorities told to get their crisis plans in order

DefenseNews: Sweden, upping military funding, seeks US cooperation

The situation in Finland is a bit more complex. Not only are Sweden and Finland facing drastically heightened immigration numbers reminiscent of pre-WWII as described in the following MigrationPolicy analysis piece, but there’s probably no better example of how history repeats itself than with the Ingrian situation described further down the article. One is reminded of recent happenings in Ukraine, but fewer know the similarity to the climate in the St Petersburg region in Western Russia circa the 1930s:

The Difficult Return of Ethnic Finns (MigrationPolicy)

To summarize the situation for you, in the 1990s, Finland began implemention of its new policy in regard to the return of ethnic Finnish people. Because of the historically poor treatment they received by the Soviet Union (and perhaps Finland as well), they were granted automatic right to migrate to Finland if they so chose – and tens of thousands did just that. In 2010, the right of return was put to an end. The article gives some clue as to a few factors behind this decision:

Although many repatriated Ingrian Finns have integrated well into Finnish culture, aided by a strong Finnish identity and good language skills, others are unable to fully integrate due to language and cultural barriers. This is in part due to the fact that many Ingrian Finns lack a sufficient Finnish identity since four-grandparent ancestry was not required for return migration from Russia. Additionally, the partly completed Soviet assimilation of the past has ensured that most of the young people of Ingrian-Finnish descent speak only Russian or Estonian.

Most Ingrians actually fled Russia in the 30s and 40s, fearing their lives, or were evacuated to Estonia by Axis forces, and eventually to other countries. But many thousands did remain, some in Gulags, and others were simply stubborn about staying in what they considered their home. They desired an independent nation. This did not happen, and decades later, their families are heavily integrated. So reading between the lines, we might extrapolate that Finland has some trust issues with people so heavily Russified residing within their borders, Finnish or not. A December 2016 YLE article would seem to confirm this:

According to a recent report on the possible implications of Nato membership, Russia might try to politically activate Russians living in Finland to pressure the government.

A perhaps far-fetched (but perhaps not) scenario might see Russia seeking to “liberate” their citizens. But Finland is not Ukraine, and the strategy for such an attempt is unclear. What is clear, is that potential aggressions have not only Finland, but its neighbor next door increasing preparedness, going as far to station permanent defense forces on the island of Gotland between the two countries.

My 2016 book Inger: Father & Son goes into greater detail in regard to how Ingrian Finns were considered politically unreliable in those days as well due to their position along the Karelian border and proximity to the important strategic location of St Petersburg, where many Soviet elite resided.

The other thing it discusses at length which I cannot help but reflect on again today, is a more “American tale” (or Canadian, as the case may be) of how despite his best efforts to get me, a young child at the time, to understand the value of preparedness, and despite my exposure to all manner of media related to war, I couldn’t process it. I had no basis to truly understand the weight of his lessons, except, he hoped, via his harshness. I was at the same time being sold the promise of a better future just the opposite of this backwards seeming world he came from. So I was a bit of an impossible student, and it only served to distance us further.

School, entertainment and children’s literature all taught a very different set of ideals and goals, ones I nearly universally preferred: fun, wonder, discovery. In first grade, exposure to computer technology already set me on a course toward game development; Science propaganda told me that we’d soon be colonizing other planets.

That was 30 years ago, but not much has changed; Kids are still aiming for careers in game development, and even pro careers in competitive gaming. We’re still told that we’ll be colonizing Mars within a few decades. And we’re still obsessed with war in our entertainment. You might say that war is in the DNA of our culture.

I only wonder: If my father, who lived through those horrors first hand, could not get me to understand until I finally re-explored his life well into adulthood, and after he had left this mortal coil and I only had a handful of his writings to scrape clues from – what hope do the the youth of today have to be able to cope with what soon may be a world very alien to them? Many of them are generations removed from that sort of reality, as are their parents, due to the 20th century trend of childbearing at younger and younger ages (which is reversing now, by the way.)

Is the planet about to go nuclear? We may be 2.5 minutes from midnight, but most experts would say probably not. Nevertheless, the elite have been building bunkers shown off on CNN while regular folks above ground wonder aloud to each other what all those strange loud rumbling noises are across America and select European nations. Either they’re super paranoid spending that kind of cash, or they know something.

How about technology’s role in a possible world war? Well, warfare is, to some degree at least, bound to be done differently in the 21st century, but ‘puters and teh interwebz are sure to be involved in a multitude of ways, either through their incorporation into political destabilization strategy and manufactured revolution, or by way of their sudden absence – a possibility many, myself included admittedly, find difficult to fully comprehend. No matter how many episodes we’ve seen of The Walking Dead. Whatever the scenario, none of it is good, and with that in mind, I would implore my friends and neighbors out there once more:

Live without fear, continue your life’s pursuits… but please. Study history, and prepare for anything.