23 MARCH 1918, Page 8


EVER since Sweden lost the Aaland Islands by the Peace of

Frederikshamn in 1809, Russia, until recently, had been looked upon by successive Swedish Governments as the national enemy. A glance at the map will show that the Russian danger was no imaginary one. It will be seen that the Aaland Islands are situated almost raid-way between Finland and the Swedish coast, slightly to the north of the fjord leading from the Baltic to the Swedish capital. When peace was proclaimed between the Western Powers and Russia in 1856 Sweden was able, through the natural interest of Great Britain for a free Baltic, to arrange that Russia should give a guarantee not to fortify the islands. This promise was kept until about ten years ago, and during the present war a Russian garrison was placed on the islands and fortifications were erected. This disregard of the terms of the Treaty of Paris not unnaturally alarmed the Swedish Government, and this tension was only relieved last year when, after the locking up of the Russian Fleet in the Gulf of Finland, it was seen that Russian activity in the Baltic was completely, or nearly completely, paralysed.

The Russian Revolution of 1917, and the consequent downfall of Russia as a military and naval Power, has completely altered the whole situation in the Baltic. The Russian danger has dis- appeared, temporarily at all events, leaving Sweden face to face with a more formidable peril. The aim of Swedish foreign policy must remain the same—viz., to avoid in the future the danger of the Aaland Islands again becoming, what they undoubtedly were before the coup d'etat in Russia, a menace to Swedish integrity.. The ques- tion at once arises to whom the Aaland Islands should properly belong, their recent owners being hors de combat. A deputation re- presenting the majority of the inhabitants—it is said ninety per cent. of the adult population—recently waited on the King of Sweden and expressed the hope that the Swedish Government would find the means, through an understanding with the indepen- dent State of Finland, to overcome the difficulties which might be in the way of the desire of the islanders to become Swedish subjects. King Gustaf made a gracious, but necessarily guarded, reply.

For the moment a state of civil war exists in Finland, and all that is known at present is that both the " White " and " Red Finnish Governments consider the Aaland Islands as part of Finland. That the Anarchist Government should do so is certainly illogical in view of their well-known doctrine of self-determination. The islanders have almost unanimously asked to be reunited to Sweden. They are mostly of Swedish descent and speak Swedish exclusively.

The situation during the last few weeks in the islands has been a strange one. The Russian garrison, like their comrades on the Eastern Front, after the abolition of discipline, rapidly degenerated into a baud of marauders. In accordance with Bolshevist ideals, they organized a reign of terror, pillaging and murdering the un- armed peasantry, who were at last compelled to appeal to Sweden for protection. To make matters worse, a detachment of " White " Guards arrived from Finland, and engaged in intermittent fighting with the Russian garrison. The Swedish Government ultimately despatched a gunboat and some five hundred men, and temporarily occupied the northern and southern parishes of the main islands.

Meanwhile the situation has been complicated, if not aggravated, by the action of Germany. The " White " Finnish Government, perhaps after they had failed to induce the Swedish Government to intervene in the civil war, asked Germany to come to their assistance. Germany at once accepted and acted with her usual vigour. After assuring the Swedish Government that her occupation of the Aaland Islands would be temporary and that Sweden was free to carry out her " humanitarian mission " of protecting the peasan- try from molestation, she despatched a relatively powerful squadron to Eckerii, where some two thousand men have been landed. The Russian garrison, yielding to Swedish persuasion, has mostly left for the Finnish mainland.

It is probable that German intervention, aided by chaos in Russia, must before long put an end to anarchy in Finland. The " White " Finnish Government will necessarily, for some time at all events, be bound by ties of interest and gratitude to Germany. Even to the slowest-witted Swede, the German game, stealthily played, while his pro-German compatriots were hypnotized by Germany's military power, must now be fairly apparent. Finland is to become the Northern wing of Mittel-Europa, while in the Baltic a Hanseatic League far more powerful than the Hansa of old days is to be setup. The same game is proceeding, by peaceful penetration, in Denmark and Norway.

Many Englishmen have been disappointed by the attitude of Sweden since 1914. But it must not be imagined that the nation as a whole is pro-German. The Court, nobility, bureaucracy, and Officers' Corps are intensely so, but the mass of the people side with those who are trying to make the world a reputable place to live in. Without being pro-German, many Swedes are greatly alarmed by the infiltration of Bolshevist ideas into their country. They love order, and view with natural repugnance the object-lessons in chaos and atrocity which arc being enacted almost at their doors. But the rapid march of events in the Baltic is causing profound uneasiness among thoughtful Swedes, who, as patriots, are well aware what German penetration, whether by espionage under the mask of trade as in Norway, or by armed force as in Finland, will eventually mean for the integrity of their country.

In considering the future of Sweden it should not be forgotten that Socialism—an extreme form of Socialism near akin to Bolshevism—has made rapid advance in the country of recent years. The new murrain raging in what was once the Russian Empire is, owing to food shortage and the discontent caused by the long-drawn-out war, distinctly spreading. In many countries at the present time only the national Army stands between society as now constituted and government according to the Smolny Institute. The Swedish Army is still loyal, but revolutionary infection spreads fast, especially among bodies of men, and the national food supply is, to say the least, precarious. Will its dis- cipline be proof against the Eastern madness ? Fortunately the government is in the hands of a Liberal-Socialist Cabinet, which is doing its best to observe strict neutrality, and which has hitherto wisely declined to be lured on to the paths of adventure. How Professor Eden will counter the German danger can only be sur- mised, but he must be only too painfully aware of the crisis through which his country is passing. Will the long-delayed and much- discussed Scandinavian Union, perhaps, furnish a solution of a problem which would have taxed to the utmost even the brain of