29 September 2023

Sweden: A State on the Brink of Implosion

In my opinion, all the intelligent Swedes emigrated to North America in the 19th century, leaving only the brain-dead to breed.

From The European Conservative

By Sven R. Larson

Facing an overwhelming wave of organized crime, PM Kristersson has found no other solution than to rely on a state's last resort for asserting its monopoly of force: the military.

On September 28th, Mr. Ulf Kristersson, the Prime Minister of Sweden, gave an extraordinary speech to the nation. He opened with references to a recent series of bombings and shootings that have claimed many lives around the country. He exemplified with the execution-style killings of three young teenagers:

My thoughts are also with the three children, 13, 14, and 14 years old, who were found executed in wooded areas outside Stockholm. Their parents have been forced to live through a parent’s absolutely worst nightmare. 

The crimes that the prime minister referred to, are all allegedly part of a war between criminal gangs. Here is the record from just three days:

  • On Tuesday, September 26th, a bomb destroyed the facade of two apartments in an apartment building in Linköping; witnesses described the scene like a “war zone,” with the stairway to the upper floors “completely gone;”
  • On Wednesday, two gang members were shot to death in Stockholm; one of them was executed in public at a sports arena, in front of a large number of sports-practicing children;
  • On Thursday, a 25-year-old woman was killed by a bomb while sleeping in her townhouse in a small, peaceful subdivision north of Uppsala; the bomb was aimed at her neighbor.

According to a compilation of crime statistics published by Samnytt, criminal gangs have carried out 124 “detonations” in Sweden so far this year. Contrary to what the official crime-statistics label suggests, these are not incidents of irresponsible kids playing with fireworks. These are deliberate bombings aimed at competing crime organizations, at witnesses in criminal cases, or at business owners and government employees that are targeted for extortion.

The compilation also shows that there have been 261 gang-related shootings so far in 2023, resulting in 34 deaths and 71 wounded. 

This is happening in a country with 10 million residents. For American reference, Sweden is the size of Ohio. It is easy to imagine the law-enforcement response if criminal gangs in Ohio blew up cars, buildings, and people 3-4 times per week, month after month—year after year.

Yes, year after year. The violence by criminal gangs in Sweden is not at all a new phenomenon. The two previous prime ministers, who led a socialist coalition from 2014 to 2022, allowed this trend of violence to escalate. 

To his credit, Prime Minister Kristersson acknowledged this in his speech:

The fact of the matter is that there were many of us who saw this coming, and who warned about it. Serious, organized crime has emerged over a decade. In ten years, deadly gun-related violence has tripled. We have been brought to this point by political cluelessness and willful ignorance. We have come to where we are thanks to irresponsible immigration policies and failed integration. 

These are candid words, although the prime minister is not being entirely honest: having studied and (when I still lived there) been active in Swedish politics since the early 1980s, I can report that up until the past couple of years, Mr. Kristersson himself was outright hostile toward any connections between immigration and organized crime. Seeing in 2021 that his three-party, center-right coalition needed the parliamentary support of the Sweden Democrats in order to win the 2022 election, Mr. Kristersson aligned himself with the SD’s decades-long criticism of Swedish immigration policy.

Sometimes, a politician’s hunger for power benefits the country he aspires to lead. 

In a bold attempt to bring justice to the crime organizations behind the violence, the prime minister announced a series of changes to the country’s penal code. These changes aim to dramatically increase the length of prison sentences and to allow the government to expel foreign citizens for merely associating with known, gang-related criminals. 

All the reforms that the prime minister announced are, of course, welcome. The problem is that they will not make the material difference that he wants. One major reason for this is the ineptitude of the Swedish police—and the admissions thereof from inside police ranks. According to Samnytt, Carin Götblad, police commissioner with the bureau of national police operations,

has once again landed herself in hot waters, after having completely dismissed the “naive” view of her own organization and society in general, in terms of how to handle immigration-driven organized crime. 

Ms. Götblad is candid enough to admit that the Swedish police cannot stop organized crime. She points out that the problem was growing out of proportions already 20 years ago; since then it has only gotten worse. It is now of a magnitude and sophistication that the Swedish police cannot handle.

Her capitulation-laced attitude toward organized crime is shared by another police commissioner, Mr. Jale Poljarevius. On September 12th, after three shootings in Uppsala, where Mr. Poljarevius works as regional director of police intelligence, Mr. Polarevius expressed frustration at the serious lack of resources available to the police. 

In his city alone, which has less than 200,000 residents, there are over 550 active gang members that the police knows of. According to Mr. Poljarevius, the police do not even have the resources to “monitor” the most prominent 10% of those gang members—those who, according to the police commissioner, are the most likely to be targeted by rival gangs. 

Think about this for a second. The police in Uppsala—the fourth largest city in Sweden—cannot even “monitor” one tenth of the known, active gang members within their jurisdiction. How are they supposed to enforce the law against these crime organizations? 

The frustration that Mr. Poljarevius expresses at the local or regional level, is magnified and articulated by Ms. Götblad. What these two high-ranking police officers are saying is nothing short of sensational: the Swedish police have lost the fight against organized crime. 

Their admissions are welcome, because they unveil a reality that many Swedes have felt was there all along. Criminal structures within Swedish society can more or less go about their business as they please. 

The state no longer has the means to stop them. 

But wait—are these statements really what they seem to be? Are these two high-ranking police officers not just dispensing hyperbole to encourage the Swedish parliament to increase the police budget? 

The public-choice cynic in all of us could read the statements as such. There is just one catch. In his speech, Prime Minister Kristersson explained that he has initiated consultations with the commander-in-chief of the Swedish military on how they can be of help in fighting organized crime:

I have called in the national police commissioner and the commander in chief of the military for a meeting tomorrow, to explore how the armed forces can assist the police in fighting organized crime.

This statement came a good six minutes into a speech that was just over eight minutes long. Everything he said prior to this comment, was aimed at setting up the audience for this very point. 

The structure of his speech is significant. Swedish political rhetoric is quite different from what it is in many other countries, especially American. Where an American politician wants to make his points as early as possible in his speech in order to draw attention to it, a Swedish politician shares serious information only as a public duty. When he does, he wraps it in as much comforting language as the issue and circumstances permit; in this case, he first explained that the situation was very serious, and that his government was determined to do everything in its power.

Only then, when the audience had been reassured as far as possible, could he drop the bomb: it is necessary to engage the military in the fight against organized crime.

Up until now, any such deployment of the Swedish military has been unthinkable. Like other civilized countries, Sweden has had a legal prohibition against this very use of the armed forces. The law banning police-style operations by military units was reinforced after an incident in 1931 where an army unit opened fire on workers on strike in Ådalen in northern Sweden. 

The fact that Mr. Kristersson now wants to include the military in the state’s efforts to uphold law and order is nothing short of sensational. When viewed in the context of the statements by police commissioners Götblad and Poljarevius, the prime minister’s consultations with the commander in chief of the armed forces is a sign of desperation. 

His government came into power a year ago. Since then, they have apparently realized how deeply and thoroughly Mr. Kristersson’s predecessors allowed the problem of organized crime to slip out of their hands. 

After having looked at the problem from every angle, Mr. Kristersson and his government have found no other solution than to rely on a state’s last resort for asserting its monopoly of force: the military. 

The rest of Europe must understand the gravity of this situation. The government of Sweden no longer has a functioning monopoly of force within its borders. No sane government enrolls the military in fighting crime—organized or not—unless the civilian law enforcement functions have been gravely eroded, or been corrupted beyond reliability. (Mexico comes to mind.) Sweden has both these problems; as examples of corruption within law enforcement, 

  • An employee working for one of the largest courts in Sweden has been arrested on charges of leaking classified documents to a leader of one of the largest crime organizations in the country;
  • A prosecutor who was investigating one of the major crime networks in Sweden—led by people of Kurdish ethnic origin—was also the cousin of one of the network’s leaders.

Again: if these were isolated examples without any resonating context, they could be dismissed as sad misfires of integrity within the system of criminal justice. However, given the blatant admissions from police, and the prime minister’s desperate outreach to the military, we must consider these examples of corruption as representative of a trend within the Swedish law enforcement community. 

Many Swedes will meet their prime minister’s announcement with nods of approval. They will sigh with relief and assume that this will solve the problem. Unfortunately, it is almost certain that they will be disappointed, primarily because the Swedish military has no significant resources to add to the fight against organized crime. As of 2020, the Swedish military had 15,200 troops, including both sailors and army soldiers. 

The army, which would be the presumptive source of any assistance that the military could provide against organized crime, has two full and one ‘reduced’ brigade. As mentioned, these numbers are three years old, and assorted statements by the military suggest that they are actively trying to double their forces to four full brigades. Nevertheless, even with four full brigades at their disposal, the Swedish army would only be able to put 20,000 men into law enforcement operations.

Meanwhile, they would have to completely give up any pretense of being ready to defend the country against foreign enemies. They would also have to walk away from joint exercises and operations with other countries. 

According to Mr. Gunnar Strömmer, the minister of justice in Mr. Kristersson’s cabinet, the crime organizations in Sweden have a total of 30,000 members. In total, the Swedish police force has 22,000 employees. Many of them are non-police administrators, with some estimates placing the number of actual police officers at approximately 11,000. 

By and large, even if the Swedish government put all its police officers into fighting organized crime, they would be outnumbered 2:1. The government would have to add two full brigades from the military in order to match the gangs in terms of manpower. 

In reality, this is not how law enforcement operates; there will always be more criminals than cops out there. However, the 30,000 criminals mentioned by Mr. Strömmer only refer to members of criminal organizations, i.e., structures with extraordinary resources in terms of money, weapons, explosives, and so on. 

I can only draw one conclusion from all this: Sweden is a state in freefall. I reach this conclusion in part based on my assessment that whatever assistance the military can provide, will turn out to be inadequate. 

I hope and pray that I am wrong, because if I am correct, Sweden will gradually cease to exist as a cohesive nation state. The country will be Lebanized or Balkanized, depending on which analogy one prefers. The decline of the state will accelerate, and the country will be fragmented into territories controlled by non-state entities.

Am I crazy? Maybe. But I am not the first to make this prediction. Remember this book by Bruce Bawer?

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