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Our Foolhardy Carl Bildt
Are we being kind?
STOCKHOLM/LANGLEY (Rixstep) — Henry Kissinger's special envoy and the CIA were both put in the loop by Carl Bildt regarding secret governmental deliberations before the people in Sweden learned of them. That's not nice - it's foolhardy, writes Lena Mellin.
Lena Mellin is a political commentator for Aftonbladet and was previously the paper's news editor. She won the Publicist Prize in 1996, then the Lukas Bonnier Journalist Prize two years later.
This is her take on the media sensation when Aftonbladet revealed that Carl Bildt had been working as a spy for the CIA.
She's being a bit kind.
Our Foolhardy Carl Bildt
It's the autumn of 1976.
Sweden's three right-wing parties have just won a national election for the first time in 44 years.
Deliberations are in full swing. And in just over a week, Thorbjörn Fälldin will announce the results of those deliberations before the parliament.
A fifth holiday week. Extended parental insurance. Female throne succession. A new school grading system. New legislation against gender discrimination.
And then a national referendum on nuclear energy. 'Further shall be clarified the possibility, if public opinion regarding the above mentioned parliamentary decision [about a new energy policy] is still strongly divided, to undertake an advisory national referendum.'
But whilst the Swedish people are still waiting to see how the new government will be and what that new government will do, Carl Bildt, then a young and promising colleague of party leader Gösta Bohman of the 'Moderates', shares this information with Henry Kissinger's special envoy in Europe, Ronald E Woods.
The idea to build a three party coalition was hardly going to be a surprise for the Swedish people or envoy Woods. That the government would solve the stalemate in the nuclear energy question was more interesting.
One needs a bit of history to understand why Carl Bildt's activities would, 37 years later, cause fury in Liberal Party leader Per Ahlmark.
We're in the midst of the Cold War. The US and the Soviet Union are escalating their arms race so they can destroy each other - and us - with their nuclear weapons. And we're relying on a 'balance of terror' - an equal number of weapons on either side - to stop them both from starting World War Three.
Sweden is a neutral country. We don't take sides in armed conflicts. But that also means we must not try to curry favour with the superpowers - with either of them. This could take on bizarre consequences, as when Swedish Right Party ('Moderate') leader Jarl Hjalmarson in 1959 was denied a position as a UN delegate because he'd criticised the Soviet Union's political system.
Sweden and the US had just calmed down their own relations. Things started getting bad in 1968 when Olof Palme demonstrated against the US invasion of Vietnam, marching side by side with the Vietnamese ambassador to Moscow. Kissinger and the rest of Washington were so enraged that they brought home their ambassador to Sweden and left the post unmanned for two years. In 1972, Washington informed Sweden that their ambassador Yngve Möller was no longer welcome. A year later they approved of Wilhelm Wachtmeister.
This was the context when Carl Bildt went to the US embassy to speak with Kissinger's special envoy. To tell him things even the Swedish people didn't know.
'Not nice' is one way of putting it. 'Foolhardy' another. Getting caught would have cost Carl Bildt more than he'd hoped to win by being such an obedient lapdog for the US in fetching that 'inside information'.
Not So Kind
The stellar Lars Schaff is not as keen to mince words.
'The best thing our government could do to preserve peace would be to order Carl Bildt to return from his never-ending flying trip and lock him up in his Stockholm office.'
But Schaff is writing about another time (now) when Bildt's gone on to make a career out of what he started nearly 40 years ago. The urgency is therefore all the more palatable.
This says more about the individual Carl Bildt than anything else. It's not OK to break agreements in my world. It's unbelievably embarrassing that he goes around yapping like that.
- Peter Eriksson, chairman, Swedish Constitutional Committee
Closed door sessions where the participants are in agreement to not leak any information: of course one doesn't speak to others.
- Urban Ahlin, social democrat MP
If one agrees that all we do is to be kept confidential, then it's to be kept confidential. And that holds for everyone.
- Torbjörn Fälldin, Swedish prime minister 1976-1978, leader of the closed door sessions
Every word was kept secret. Not just secret from foreign interests but secret even from our own party colleagues. We were very diligent to see that nothing at all leaked out.
- Per Ahlmark, Liberal Party leader 1976-1978, participant in the closed door sessions
The best thing our government could do to preserve peace would be to order Carl Bildt to return from his never-ending flying trip and lock him up in his Stockholm office.
- Lars Schaff
Postcards from Sweden: Sweden preparing for World War III
Carl Bildt: Secrets & Lies
What Carl Bildt Did for Iraq
Carl Bildt's in Carter's Cables
Carl Bildt: The Seeds of Betrayal
Carl Bildt's User-Friendly Memory
'Bildt Treats Us with Scorn and Arrogance'