(UnitedVoice.com) – The Swedish defense ministry recently warned that the country needs to be prepared for war with Russia. It was a sensible statement about a very real threat — but many Swedes took it too literally and thought he meant the tanks were already rolling. The result was panic buying in stores across the country.
In 2022, after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Sweden abandoned its 120-year tradition of neutrality and applied to join NATO for protection against Vladimir Putin’s increasingly aggressive regime. Their application is being held up by opposition from Turkey and Hungary, but Sweden is working to prepare itself for the risk of a Russian attack.
On January 7, civil defense minister Carl-Oskar Bohlin told a conference that “There could be war in Sweden.” General Micael Byden (no relation), the commander in chief of Sweden’s military, backed up the warning, telling Swedes to mentally prepare themselves for the possibility of war.
Bohlin and Byden were making a general point, intended to remind Sweden that just because the country hasn’t fought a war since 1814 that doesn’t mean nobody will attack them. Unfortunately, a lot of Swedes seemed to think they meant a war was about to start, and they reacted with panic. Thousands apparently rushed to stores to stock up on food and other supplies. Meanwhile, a children’s rights organization complained that the government hadn’t prepared a message for children after a surge in worried kids calling its helpline.
The next day Sweden’s civil defense ministry tried to calm the situation, saying the government is already working to stockpile necessary supplies as part of “strengthening preparedness.” However, Defense Minister Pål Jonson stated that the warning was valid and “An armed attack against Sweden cannot be ruled out.”
Sweden has always taken its military seriously and has been sending troops on NATO-led peacekeeping missions for decades, but the reality of war seems to have faded from its citizens’ minds. Now they’re having to relearn it –- and it’s obviously confusing them.
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