Danish prime minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt called early elections on Wednesday, hoping to shore up support for her left-wing coalition. Opinion polls suggest the opposition liberals, supported by the conservatives and nationalist Danish People’s Party, are more likely to come back to power next month.
Thorning-Schmidt, a Social Democrat, had until September to call elections but said on Wednesday it was the “right time” to ask voters if they wanted to stay the course.
The news of a suspected foreign submarine in Swedish waters attracted massive media coverage last year. The Swedish Navy, a shadow of its former self after more than a decade of budget cuts, launched an intelligence-gathering operation to secure evidence of the intrusion. In November, the navy presented what it considered to be concrete proof of an intrusion by a foreign submarine. This included sonar tracks and a photograph, both of which had been subjected to detailed technical analysis and were made public.
Last week, the Swedish Navy said that another suspected submarine sighting, in late October, had been dismissed after extensive investigation which found that the suspected vessel was in fact a “workboat.” This second observation was made a full week after the original intelligence-gathering operation concluded and was treated by Swedish defense as a separate event. Read more “A Tale of Two Submarines”
With an election less than two weeks away, Finnish prime minister Alexander Stubb is turning on his left-wing coalition partners, saying governing with the Social Democrats has been a “traumatic experience.”
In an interview with the Financial Times, Stubb argued that his conservative National Coalition Party had been “bound by shackles coming from the left” and that there was no “team play” in the four-party coalition that also includes the Christian Democrats and the Swedish People’s Party.
Sweden will raise defense spending €680 million over the next five years and put troops back on the Baltic Sea island of Gotland, its defense minister announced on Thursday.
Peter Hultqvist said increased Russian military activity in and around the Baltic Sea was forcing the Scandinavian country’s armed forces to concentrate more on border defense than international operations.
Alarmed by Russian aggression in Eastern Europe, Finland and Sweden announced a new military cooperation agreement on Thursday that could see the two Scandinavian countries go to war together in the event of an attack.
Although the arrangement would seem to mimic the mutual defense charter of NATO, to which neither Finland nor Sweden belongs, Stockholm’s defense minister, Peter Hultqvist, said the cooperation was not a formal alliance.
“By planning for various crisis scenarios, we create preparations to use them in a given situation,” he told the Dagens Nyheter newspaper.
Whether or not we end up implementing these proposals is a decision that has to be made at government level in that situation and then confirmed by the parliaments in the two countries.
Hultqvist’s Finnish counterpart, Carl Haglund, similarly told the TT news agency, “This gives us a concrete ability to work together, first and foremost in peacetime but also in times of crisis should we choose to.”
New forms of cooperation may include increased communication and shared military bases.
Late last year, Finland and Sweden agreed with other Northern European countries, including neighboring Denmark and Norway, which are both members of NATO, to improve intelligence sharing and joint air force training in the face of renewed Russian threats.
Russia has played a cat-and-mouse game with its western neighbors since it occupied and annexed the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine last year. The incident, which came after a row with the European Union over the bloc’s improving relations with the former Soviet republic and the overthrow of a relatively pro-Russian president in Kiev, alarmed especially Eastern European nations about Russian revanchism.
Fighter jets from Scandinavian and NATO countries have regularly intercepted Russian strategic bombers and planes approaching their airspace through last year as tensions over the standoff in Ukraine mounted.
In October, Sweden scrambled its naval forces in search of a suspected Russian submarine in its waters.
Support for joining NATO surged in the wake of the incident. A Novus poll conducted for TV4 showed 37 percent of the traditionally neutral Swedes in favor of NATO membership against 36 percent who opposed joining the alliance. Earlier in the year, only 28 percent had been in favor against 56 percent opposed.
A majority of Fins still opposes NATO membership. Prime Minister Alexander Stubb is not among them. “We have to aim at maximising Finland’s national security and being part of decisionmaking and that happens best as a NATO member,” he told the Reuters news agency shortly before taking over as premier from Jyrki Katainen in June.
Sweden’s conservative and liberal opposition parties rejected overtures from Social Democratic Party prime minister Stefan Löfven on Tuesday night to support his minority government’s budget, saying it would vote for its own budget proposal instead. That could leave Löfven with little choice but to resign and call snap elections only two months after taking office.
“We were clear on that we would vote ‘yes’ to the Alliance proposal and we have seen nothing to change that,” the Moderate Party’s Anna Kinberg Batra told reporters after meeting with members of the government.
The Moderates are the biggest of the four parties in the Alliance bloc that governed Sweden until September when Löfven’s Social Democrats won a plurality of the seats in parliament with 31 percent support.