Is Something Rotten in Sweden, too?

The ratification of Sweden’s accession to NATO has been delayed repeatedly over this last year by the Hungarian Parliament.

Why is this so?  Is there anything wrong with Sweden? We know that something is, literarily speaking, ”rotten in Denmark.” Is then something rotten in Sweden too?  Do Hungarians have good reasons to withhold, hand in hand with Turkey, their consent to the timely accession of Sweden to NATO?  Hardly so.

Who among the Hungarian decision makers (to be sure there are only a handful) hold grudges against the Swedes?  No one, we venture to say.  This game must be about something else than against the very country from whom Hungary had procured SAAB Gripen fighters which make up the entire air force fleet of Hungary.  Yes, the whole Hungarian Air Force was manufactured in the country which the Hungarian Government does not see fit to join the NATO military alliance.  And yes, in September 2001, Minister Matolcsy (then Minister of Economy) and Defense Minister János Szabó (does anyone remember this military talent?) announced that Hungary was to purchase its fleet from SAAB in an offset program.

The United States grudgingly accepted this outcome: Martin Marietta’s F16s lost out.  It was a clear casus belli, but the United States responsibly refrained from declaring war on Hungary.  At that time the Czechs also purchased Gripen fighters, though corruption charges loomed around both the Hungarian and the Czech procurements.  In contrast, Poland purchased F16s from the United States.  Hungary extended the Gripen agreement in 2012 and does not intend to switch to F16s in the near future.

So, what is happening with this Swedish NATO accession?  The Hungarian reaction was very skeptical from the beginning since this decision was a clear strategic response to Russia’s aggression against Ukraine.  The Hungarian Government never shared the view that NATO membership of these Nordic countries is essential to hold off any Russian move in the Baltics and beyond.  As a matter of fact, Hungarian leaders (again they are only a handful) took a fairly clear pro-Russian stance in this conflict.  The opposition to the enlargement of NATO is driven, in part, by this pro-Russian leaning and bolstered by a few other collateral considerations.

(The Gripen fighter jet.)

One important rationale for the Hungarian Government is that they wish to move together with Turkey, and Turkey wants to elicit concessions from the European Union and the United States.  Hungary may want to extort different concessions, namely the release of EU funding withheld over rule-of-law deficits and corruption concerns.  This is, as all parties well know, not-so-thinly veiled blackmail.  But while Erdogan is a skilled dealer in Istanbul’ s Grand Bazar and has something to offer for a deal (like keeping Russia at bay and giving shelter to millions of refugees), Orban is a lousy horse trader who has nothing valuable to offer to EU decision makers.  The only thing the EU would accept would be a return to normalcy and a working democracy, but this is the only thing that Orban does not want to deliver.

Instead of giving a straightforward rationale for delaying ratification, the Hungarian Government announced a number of excuses, cheap justifications.  There are plenty of them, most voiced by hot-headed Foreign Minister Szíjjártó.  Sometimes we hear of fundamental disagreements with Sweden, then it is scaled back to technical obstacles (whatever this means in modern Hungarian parlance). Then again, we hear that Swedish lawmakers disparage and denigrate Hungarian (people’s) democracy, and that somehow these blatant lies manage to appear in Swedish school books.  Then again, we hear that there is a coordinated attack on Hungarian sovereignty masterminded by You-Know-Who (George Soros, the European Union, the international liberal cospiracy, or the Jewish plutocracy, or all of the at once), in which Swedes play a critical role.

But again, do Hungarians hold any grudges against the Swedes?  True grievances?  Hardly.

There is nothing in Hungarian historical memory similar to that of the German speaking folks, which has its roots in the Thirty Years’ War when Swedes did invade parts of Poland, rummaged through and ravaged German lands, and occupied Prague for a while in 1648.  Swedish atrocities are so much in the German psyche that a nursery rhyme, to the tune of Maikaefer flieg, is still alive and the lyrics of this song goes like this (sorry this is in German):

Bet´t Kinder, bet´t
Morgen kommt der Schwed´
Morgen kommt der Oxenstern
Wird die Kinder beten lern´n
Bet´t Kinder, bet´t

Die Schweden sind gekommen,
Haben alles mitgenommen,
Haben’s Fenster eingeschlagen,
Haben’s Blei davon getragen,
Haben Kugeln daraus gegossen
Und die Bauern erschossen.

For those who do not fully master the German language, like the author of this post, let’s just point out that the song is about the misdeeds of the Swedish army commanded by Axel Gustaf Oxenstierna (chancellor and diplomat), who came to German lands with his Protestant army and, as the song has it, they took everything that poor farmers possessed, shattered windows, smashed lead into live bodies out of which they prepared lead bullets which soldiers shot into the heads of the German farmer population.

Oddly enough nothing like this happened to Hungarians who faced Ottoman occupation for 145 years and during the time of the Thirty Years’ War.  The Hungarian nursery rhyme of this period goes like this: “poor stork, your foot is bleeding because the Turkish boy cut it and now the Hungarian boy heals it.”  If anything, recent Hungarian memory holds the story that it was the Soviet Red Army that came in 1945 and took everything, smashed windows, fired bullets, and did all those awful deeds recalled by the song.  The only things not registered in the song for the Swedes’ account were stolen watches and raped women, incidents associated with the occupation by the glorious Red Army.

            The last words about Hungarian recalcitrance to vote on Swedish accession return to the sovereignty tune.  We are told with a straight face by the Hungarian Parliamentary caucus leader, Máté Kocsis, that Hungary’s sovereignty is under pressure by You-Know-Who, (The same guys.). This is an all-out attack by dark forces now aiming to eradicate Hungary’s political, cultural and economic sovereignty.  But when simple Hungarians open their eyes, they only see that that the price of oil and gas imported from Russia is dictated by the Russian Brother, Hungary’s nuclear energy facility depends on Russian supplies, the new greenfield Chinese investments in battery production facilities for e-vehicles are dictated by Chinese managers who work together with senior level managers of German car manufacturers.  Hungary’s sovereignty is truly restricted to crying foul play.  This is Hungary’s sovereignty that must be upheld against our NATO allies, so we cannot afford to have Sweden join this powerful military alliance.  Makes a lot of sense in a rotten logic called propaganda.

            And the Swedes and most NATO members may rightfully ask the proverbial question: With allies like these who needs adversaries?

Andras Hanak

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *