Report from Scandinavia

From: Bruce Gagnon and Dave Webb

February 3 - 13 2017



Our trip to Scandinavia started from a suggestion by Agneta Norberg that she should organise a conference in Stockholm on the occasion of her 80th birthday in early February. Agneta Following on from that a number of other events were organised by different groups in Sweden, Finland and Denmark and the following itinerary eventually unfolded:

February  2 - Arrive in Stockholm, Sweden;
February  3 - Bus Trip to Lovön Island;
February  4 - The conference: "The North- a Zone of Peace";
February  5 - Family Party for Agneta and off to Helsinki, Finland;
February  6 - Meeting at the Peace Station;
February  7 - Moving on to Gothenburg, Sweden;
February  8 - Meeting in Gothenburg;
February 9 - Moving on to HelsinGborg;
February 10 - Malmö;
February 11 - A Day out in Malmö;
February 12 - Copenhagen, Denmark.


 


Thursday February 2nd -Stockholm

Dave arrived in Stockholm in the afternoon of Thursday 2nd, took the airport bus to Stockholm bus Terminal and in the cafe there met Claes Engelbrand from the local No to Nato Group. They both then took about a 45 minute bus ride through cold Stockholm surrounds to Marilyn Barden’s house. Marilyn was kind enough to be our host for the next few days. Marliyn's house is about an hour outside of Stockholm in the Swedish countryside - a charming, quiet, wooded area of Värmdö.

Unfortunately Marilyn had hurt her leg in a fall ans so couldn't drive us around but she had a great network of friends and colleagues who chipped in and helped us out. Marilyn is, among many things, an international coordinator of Neva River Clearwater - an NGO which works around the Neva Riiver in St Petersburg. She is focused on environmental education ans employs illustrated stories for children which she and her late husband Berra Barden, a Swedish political cartoonist and life-long socialist who died in 2012. Marilyn has been involved in peace work in the Swedish Peace Committee and she showed us some of the amaing cartoons that Berra had published in the Swedish Peace and Solidarity journal.

 

Marilyn is also been involved in the international “Transition” movement in Sweden. The aim of the movement is to promote and lead a transition of the way of thinking and living from a modern consumer society and globalization processes to the local market, deliberate and responsible attitude towards nature, sustainable consumption and harmonious use of the local climate and landscape. Marilyn and other members of “Transition” movement in Varmdö have established a small permaculture garden where everybody can grow vegetables and herbs; they were allowed to use communal land for this purpose.
 


Friday February 3rd - Bus Trip to Lovön Island.

This morning was free and enabled a visit to the German church and the Nobel Museum in Old Stockholm.

  
The German Church (left) and the Nobel Museum (right), Stockholm

At 2pm a small group (about 25) of conference attendees (including GN Board member Reginal Hagen) started assembling at Slussen Station to go by metro and bus to the island of Lovön (where we would apparently find the world's third largest spystation, run by the Försvarets radioanstalt - the FRA, the Swedish equivalent of the US National Security Agency - the NSA). There was not much to see other than fences and a few buildings. It operates under the code name "Sardine", hence the banner ....

  
 

Our party visits the FRA at Lovön.

According to Wkipedia, Lovön is the headquarters of the FRA which was allocated SEK 860 million in the annual budget for the fiscal year of 2014. Until 2009 the FRA was

"limited to wireless communications intelligence (COMINT), including wireless phone and Internet signals, something that was also left largely unregulated."

Now, a change in legislation has created a new law, kown informally known as the "FRA law", which proposes changes to allow the FRA to monitor both wireless and cable bound signals passing the Swedish border without a court order. It was argued that this would enable Internet surveillance to be regulated and threats to national security (such as terrorism and serious international crime) to be dealt with more effectively. However, opponents have claimed that it enables mass surveillance and violates rights to privacy. After a heated debate and public protests, the law was passed and went into effect January 1, 2009.

Under Swedish legislation the transfer of data to other states is allowed if authorized by the Government and in 2013 documents provided to the media by Edward Snowden revealed that Sweden had indded provided the NSA with a "unique collection on high-priority Russian targets such as leadership, internal politics, and energy." Dave's presentation at the conference goes into more details on this and other related matters.

After the short visit to the FRA and a longer visit to a chinese resteraunt back near Shlussen, Dave returned to Marilyn's to find that Bruce had arrived, having been given permission to leave his trial early in order to travel to Sweden in time for the tour. 

Bruce had been on of 12 people arrested for protesting at the christening ceremony of the multi-billion dollar 'stealth' destroyer Zumwalt, built at Bath Iron Works in Maine. He had left before the jury's verdict was announced but found out in Stockholm that all 12 had been found guilty. He did not seems surprised and writes about the trial and his statement and much more on Bruce's blog.

That evening Marilyn ahd invited a number of friends and compatriots to join us for dinner which was a very pleasant and informative end to the day. 


Saturday February 4th - The conference: "The North- a Zone of Peace", ABF, Stockholm.

Details of the conference (including papers presented and video links) are given here:

The conference in Stockholm today was entitled 'The North - A Zone of Peace' and focused on US-NATO encirclement of Russia by using Norway and Sweden as space warfare technology bases.  The Nordic region is being massively militarized including Finland that even during the height of the Cold War stayed neutral in the big power push-and-shove that took the world to the nuclear brink.

 

If the audience today was any indication there is a strong interest in our analysis about US-NATO use of space technology to prepare for war with Russia (and China).  More than 80 activist leaders turned out from all over Sweden, Finland, Denmark, and Norway to hear us.

After the conference there was a party at The Solidarity House to celebrate the day and Agneta's birthday!

   
Agneta with Gun-Britt Mäkitalo, Bruce and Marilyn during the many wonderful speeches and presentations to honour Agneta

The Solidarity House is an amazing resource for peace, human rights and justice campaigning groups. There was a number of tributes to Agneta's incredible dedication, drive and passionate campaigning activities. Friends, colleagues and activists queued up to present their own personal recollections, reflections and appreciation. It is clear that Agneta is a force to be reckoned with and a source of inspiration to so many people. Following this there was a screening of the unfinished film made about a year in her life which will be released hopefully very soon.


Sunday February 5th - Family Party for Agneta and off to Helsinki

We (Bruce, Dave and Regina) were kindly invited to a small family gathering to celebrate Agneta by her son and it was a pleasure to meet her family who all (young and old!) are so musically talented!

Following our all too brief stay at the celebration we were driven to the local port to catch an overnight ferry to Helsinki.

 

Our two friends from the Finnish Peace Committee were also returning to Helsinki on the same boat and accompanied us to dinner during the evening voyage.



We arrived at about 10am and met with Teemu Matinpuro, executive director of Peace Defenders. He took us to lunch, just round the corner from his office where got to know about some of the activities of the group.

Later he showed us to our accommodation at the CheapSleep Hostel in the city centre, a clean and lively place - busy with young, friendly travellers.

 


Monday February 6th - Meeting at the Peace Station

The next day we moved on to the place for our meeting - the wonderful Peace Station House in the centre of Helsinki, close to Pasila railway station, the second busiest railway station in Finland. The old wooden Peace Station was, in fact, the first railway station at Pasila and was opened in 1862. In 1990 it was moved about 400 metres to its current location and is the home of the Peace Unions Office and a number of other associated organisations.

 
The Peace Station - Rauhanasema

An amazing resource for peace and human rights groups to share. It seems to be quite common in Scandinavia for groups to work together to establish and maintain this kind of common place to work from. Sometimes they are even provided, at least in part, by the local authorities.

Also speaking at the meeting was Tarja Cronberg the Finnish Green League politician who was a Member of the Finnish Parliament from 2003 to 2007 and from 2007 to 2009 she was Minister of Labour. She was then elected as a member of the European Parliament from 2011 until 2014 and became chair of the European Parliament delegation for relations with Iran and served on the Committee on Foreign Affairs and the Subcommittee on Security and Defence.

Around a dozen or so people turned up and took part in an interesting discussion and Q&A exchange.


Tuesday February 7th - Moving on to Gothenburg

The next morning Teemu picked us up from our accommodation in Helsinki (which sits on the Baltic Sea) and took us to the airport from where we flew to to Gothenburg, Sweden (on the North Sea).  Both these bodies of water are currently being militarized by the US-NATO war alliance.

We were met at the airport by Claudio, one of our local hosts, and taken to a high point overlooking the port city. Gothenburg is a major port and an industrial city where Volvo is headquartered (inside the airport there were a number of Volvo displays).  But for an industrial city it is clean and remarkably attractive.

  
Folkets Hus, Gothenburg and flyer for the Wednesday evening event

Claudio took us to the Folkets Hus, the local meeting place and specialist cinema run by the community. Here we met some of the people who would be helping set up the evening meeting. We then went to our accommodation - the Masthuggsterassens Vandrarhem Hostel - a very quiet, comfortable and well kept within easy walking distance of the city centre. Highly recommended! That evening we joined with some of our evening hosts for dinner.


Wednesday February 8th - Meeting in Gothenburg

The flyer advertising our evening event carried a photo of Donald Trump - we've seen his picture practically everywhere you turn since we arrived in Sweden and Finland days ago.  Needless to say people are still trying to figure out what Trump will do in the coming years.

The huge US-NATO aurora War game will be held around Gothenburg this coming August-September and will of course be aimed at Russia.  Like across much of the west Russia and Putin are being continually demonized in Sweden (and Finland) and one of our hosts reported that local police and other public institutions are being mandated to become part of the ‘total defense mobilization’ against the coming Russian invasion.  Non-stop fear mongering does have an impact on a public who are captives of corporate media! However, data from SIPRI about military spending in 2015 showing that the US spent 36% of the world’s military spending total and when you add the NATO member (and partner) states that figure jumps to well over 50%.  Russia spends 4% of the global total and in 2016 Moscow actually cut their military spending due to economic sanctions and dropping oil prices.  So the question remains - is Russia, with its huge land mass and many borders to protect from a NATO on steroids, really going to invade Europe and beyond?

Despite the propaganda, the people of Sweden and Finland remain unconvinced by the necessity of the increasing military exercises by the US and NATO. We were told that there is still a majority in both countries that feel they should keep out of NATO - although most do not realise how closely their country already works with NATO in the so called "Partnership for Peace" programme and beyond.

People are also mobilising to oppose the exercise and there have been attempts by the people of Gothenburg to prevent nuclear war ships from berthing at their port. This has been achieved in the past by the citizens of Kobe (declared a nuclear weapons free port in 1975) in Japan and the country of New Zealand (which barred nuclear powered or nuclear armed ships from using its ports in 1984) but proves to be more difficult in Sweden where the government says that the city cannot determine foreign policy in this way. However, the people are still trying and the local government have stated that they will not be providing any civic welcome or reception to foreign war ships.

In his blog, Bruce mentions how, after our talk in Gothenburg, an Iraqi military veteran told him that he agreed with a point that Bruce had made in his talk about the 1991 Persian Gulf War being the 'first space war'. The Pentagon had already identified Iraq's military targets using spy satellites and communication interceptions previous to the war starting and 95% of those targets were destroyed in the first 2-3 days of the war. Hence the war was essentially over at that point.  But the US dragged the war on for weeks, expending lots of weapons that needed to be replaced at military production facilities back home, as they 'field tested' the US space war fighting technology system.  The Iraqi soldier agreed, saying, "We felt the same way.  The war was a field test of US military space technology."



Thursday February 9th - Moving on to Helsingborg

Next day we travelled by train to Helsingborg. Claudio had provided us with the tickets and we had a pleasant journey through the Swedish countryside. We were met at the railway station in Helsingborg by Andre Brochu (an old friend of Bruce's who was originally from Massachusetts and came to Sweden as a draft resister during the Vietnam War).


Helsinborg

Andre took us to the venue for our talk that evening - a cosy cave-like basement second-hand bookstore which doubles as a meeting place for peace and human rights groups. Before our speaking event began one of the bookstore hosts approached us with an armload of books - all written in English.  "These don't sell well here, please take home what you'd like."  We both took two books each - Bruce wrote about one of his - entitled: PETE: The Story of Peter V. Cacchione, New York's First Communist Councilman - in his blog.

 

The meeting went well and afterwards we made our way to the train station and took the train south to Malmö where we were staying with our friend Andre who is originally from Maine, in the northeast of the US, but moved to Sweden during the Vietnam war as part of his draft resistance. He stayed there, raised a family, and worked as a librarian.

 
(Left) Andre's poster and (Right) Andre's photo of us after the meeting


Friday February 10th - Malmö

Andre had done his best to advertise our talk that evening in the ABF House but only a few people actually turned up. However, we did have a very interesting discussion .

As Bruce says in his blog:

While visiting Stockholm, Helsinki, Gothenburg, Helsingborg, and Malmö we’ve learned much about the drastic changes now underway in Scandinavia.  The US and NATO cultural and military colonization of this part of the world has been a constant theme in our discussions with local activists.

One woman at the Malmö meeting told us, “Our Swedish culture is being erased.”  She reported that about 80% of Swedish TV is American programming. I can attest to that fact as the one time I turned on a TV and surfed the available channels it was more than surprising to see program after program from the US.  Her husband remarked that people no longer go to meetings – they go to work and come home and turn on the TV.

We heard that virtually the entire nation had been programmed to root for Hillary Clinton during the last election.  When Trump surprisingly pulled off his electoral college victory mothers had to take their children aside and reassure them as the kids shook in fear of the new American president.

Another man there remarked, “Swedish leaders look to America but now with Trump in office they don’t know what to do.”  (It might be a good time for a course in corporate deprogramming….)

It turns out that subsequent Swedish governments have privatised many of the previously publicly owned apartments - so now people have to take out expensive personal loans to purchase their homes. The repayment times are long and many people feel they need to protect their ‘investment’ by voting for the conservative rather than socialist candidates.

As a consequence the once strong sense of community and civic participation is drying up and a young Swedish friend at one of our meetings described how the local pubs, that used to be filled with political activists and vigorous debate, have closed and been transformed into eating and meeting places for the new generation who have little interest in politics or current affairs.

Bruce commented:

"The public has been conditioned toward consumerism, info-tainment, depoliticization and a historical/political amnesia that ensures total bankster control.

Insert into this vacuum the current anti-Russia demonization by the corrupt forces that see Moscow and Beijing as primary obstacles to complete western (US-NATO) domination of the planet’s resources and economic system.  Thus, legions of people throughout the world are daily smothered with stories of a resurgent Russian bear bent of invading Europe to recreate the Soviet Union.

People with little interest in, or knowledge of, actual global affairs are shepherded like willing lambs into allowing their tax monies to be shifted into NATO coffers to buy more weapons to encircle a largely defensive Russia and China.  Moscow has a vast northern border and as the Arctic Sea melts western fossil fuel pirates drool over the thought of a potential gold mine from drilling in the region.

Thus, not only are the people of the Nordic nations being dumbed down they are being prepared for war with Russia to ensure the successful balkanization of the nation that Napoleon and Hitler failed to deliver to the western bankers. This time nuclear weapons are in the military mix but the desperate US imperial puppeteers seem willing to roll the dice anyway as they fear their own demise before the takedown of Moscow and Beijing can be delivered to Wall Street and London’s financial district."
 


Saturday February 11th - A Day Out in Malmö

Today was a free day in Malmö and Andre took us on a short walk around some of the sights of the lovely old city .

 

 
 


Sunday February 12th - Copenhagen

On the final day of our speaking tour in the Nordic nations we travelled by train to Copenhagen. On the journey we travelled over the famous bridge between the two cities and could clearly see the wind farm that stretched across the waters. This was a useful reminder of the kinds of technological industry that people, currently working on building military machines of death and destruction, could be better employed in.

In Copenhagen we made our way to the Verdens Kultur Centret where we had a good meeting on the 3rd floor of a former school that has been turned into a community meeting space. Public peace centres or community spaces with offices for progressive groups and rooms for meetings has been a feature of our visit to Scandinavia - although times have changed recently these wonderful resources have continued to be maintained by and serve the communities.

One of the big issues facing Denmark is the US pushing them to purchase the F-35 fighter plane that is getting lots of bad reviews for being a complicated and temperamental war plane.  Peace activists here are organizing a campaign to block their government from buying the planes – the US is even demanding they purchase spare parts up front which is not a real confidence builder in the quality of the plane.

The demonisation of Russia by NATO was once again at the forefront in our discussions. One Danish woman in the meeting said, “We’ve got to work together globally and do it around NATO which is at the centre of what is creating tensions.”

The next NATO Summit will be held in Brussels on May 24-25 and will be met by European-wide peace protests. Then in August and September NATO will be holding their Aurora war games in Gothenburg, Sweden and peace groups in the Nordic region are gearing up to organize protests there as well.

One man during the Copenhagen meeting talked about the cuts in social programs now being experienced as the US pushes members (and partners) to increase their military contributions to NATO. The US-based weapons industry wants NATO members to buy more weapons and that is being done by each country forcing more domestic austerity cuts on its citizens and putting that money in the NATO war chest.

The public transit system in Copenhagen (like in all Nordic nations) is impressive. So were the number of bicycles on Copenhagen streets. These countries are doing their part to help move away from addiction to fossil fuels. We both wished we could say the same about our home towns.

 


After our meeting Andre took us to the home of his friend Enid Riemenschneider who was kind enough to host us for the evening and provide wonderful conversation and a tasty dinner. Thanks very much Enid!



We would also like to thank all those who invited and hosted us during this trip.  We learned a great deal, made many new friends, and helped share our story about how space technology now directs all warfare on Earth. People were interested and receptive and hopefully we can spread the information more widely and mobilise more people to work with us to achieve a more sustainable and peaceful world. We have to - time is running out fast.
 



Home Page