Ashburton Guardian Magna est Veritas et Prævalebit. WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 11, 1914. SWEDEN'S DANGER.
The .crisis that seems inevitable; in Sweden has been gradually'unfolding since 1901, when the reorganisation of the, army, which is to have full effect this year, was begun. Apart from the political significance of the situation, which is freighted with almost as much menace to European peace as the trouble in the Balkans was, Britishers have ; a natural interest in Sweden's destiny on account of the heir to the throne having married Princess Margaret of Qonnaught, a granddaughter of the late Queen Victoria. General personal service has been adopted in the Swedish army, with one.year for service in the cavalry and artillery and eight months' for the infantry. There is an obligatory eight years of service provided for, an attempt in 1911 to increase it to 11 years being defeated by the Socialists, whom the cable yesterday informed us have demanded a reduction in war armaments. Fortunately for the well-being of the country, this element in its population is not sufficiently strong to make an effective reply to the practical patriotism of the 22,000 peasants who on Friday last petitioned King Gustavus to prosecute a vigorous, defence policy and to call upon them for any needed sacrifice. As the new scheme of deience provides^ for a war strength of 600,000 men, out of a total population of about 6,000,000, the extent of the country's willingness to fight -for it can be gauged. The spectre behind all-- these preparations for war is what has become known as the "'Russian danger," a menace somewhat less potent in European minds to-day than was the 1 case prior to her disastrous war with Japan. Finland has been thoroughly Russianised, and Sweden feels that as there is no buffer-State between her and Russia, her position is yearly becoming more difficult and dangerous. Dr Sven Hedin, the famous Swedish explorer, has been drawing the attention of his countrymen to the matter in the most pointed and direct fashion. "Since Sweden was forced to give up Finland," he declares, "our country has never at any time been overrun to such an extent by Russian . spies as is the case at present. What does this mean in time of deepest peace?" he asks; and his answer is "It means war!" He declares tha;t he has, at considerable sacrifice,, broken off all personal relations with Rxissia, )?o that he may be in a position to tell his own countrymen, "the whole bitter truth with regard to the intentions of Russia. He pleads for ~the strengthening of Swedish defence, as the country, in his opinion; might also be threatened by Norway. ."Politically," he goes on to say, "Norway is entirely dependent'"'on England, and Norway's"position, as far as foreign affairs are concerned, is diametrically opposed to that of Sweden. Sweden can only, therefore, regard Norway as she would an enemy. In"alliance with Russia Norway will be able to act against us, and we must not shut our eyes to that factor in the situation. Before .now Norway \ has stabbed us in the back at times when ■things were going , against us. ' Norway has an army j which can be mobilised quietly and quickly, so that sjie can help Russia in a manner which would be very dangerous to us. It must not, therefore, surprise us when, at the moment of Russian aggression, Norwegian troops act with her by attacking the Province of Jamteland (in the middle of Sweden). Many Norwegians harbour strong hopes of the reeonquest of that province, together with those of Harjedaln and Bolmslan. (All three provinces, once belonged to Norway). Russia has her eye on the ice-free ports of northern Norway/and she ,might obtain them by allowing' (Norway to compensate herself by
seizing the three provinces mentioned. If anyone says that Norway'would'not do such a thing, fthen I .reply: ' Have you forgotten j the events of 1905!' By; breaking the union, Norway did great harm to Sweden, and what guarantees have we that she will not liarm' us again?" Dr Hedin's bitter attack, on Norway is ot course strongly resented by Norwegians and the Norwegian Press, though the Swedish people, as a whole', do not regard the Norwegian "danger" as either menacing or immediate. But there cannot be any doubt that the country is anxious with regard to Russia's doings' in the north of Finland, where there is a considerable military force tor which new barracks were erected at Tornea in November last. Sweden naturally asks why soldiers are kept at such a spot, for there can ,be no question of _an attack on that part of the Russian Empire. Norway's connivance ■ m Russian aims can be actuated only by motives of self-preserva-tion, for she has nothing to.gain by Sweden's absorption into the i Czar's territory; and, strangely enough, she also is an object ot interest to England from the fact that King Haakon VII., the^present -roller, is a cousm or King George of England, whose sister he married. There are all the elements of international complications should Russia's intentions prove as militant as they appear to be.