In 2022, it was a real shocker for Russia that Finland and Sweden applied to join NATO, which fully supported their aspirations at an unprecedentedly accelerated rate.
Unleashing a full-scale war against Ukraine and justifying it not only with some alleged “de-Nazification” and “demilitarization,” but also with the effort to prevent NATO from advancing to its borders, Russia is now facing the common border with the North Atlantic alliance, which would be several times longer – all thanks to the bid by two Scandinavian nation to join the bloc.
Not being able to impede this process politically, diplomatically, and even more so militarily, Russia opted for taking advantage of the complicated relations between NATO membership applicants and one of the Alliance member, Turkey. The move was to discredit Sweden in a religious context.
This year began with a daring provocation outside the Turkish embassy in Stockholm – a demonstrative burning of the Quran, triggering the Muslim part of the population, both in Sweden and abroad. But at the same time, this provocation was carried out very incompetently because the ears of Russian intelligence are sticking out really clearly.
First of all, the perpetrator who defiantly burned the Quran is Rasmus Paludan. The stunt was covered by journalist Chang Johannes Frick, the owner of the Nyheter idag the online publication and host of the SD Riks TV channel.
And now, some specifics.
Rasmus Paludan is an Islamophobe, who gained notoriety far beyond Sweden. He is the leader of an Islamophobic group and burned the Quran more than once – he did it in n France, Denmark, and Germany …
As for Chang Johannes Frick, he worked for (surprise!) Russia Today, reporting for its propaganda subsidiary Ruptly. Also, articles in his Nyheter idag outlet constantly echoed Russian narratives, as did his shows on SD Riks TV, which, by the way, is owned to the pro-Russian Swedish Social Democratic Party.
So, given a plethora of Russian elements in this provocation and the fact that their intelligence left such messy traces literally at every stage, a fair question arises: What do the Swedes have to do with it at all? We have a pro-Russian Islamophobe, pro-Russian journalist, and representative of a pro-Russian party… What is “Swedish” about this act of vandalism in the end?
It is obvious that Russia has intensified the involvement of its intelligence network in Sweden in order to create a wave of hostility towards the Swedes from the Muslim world. Partly, they succeeded because only a few media outlets covering the events in Stockholm focused on who pulled the strings of this provocation and who ultimately benefits from an escalation between Sweden and Turkey.
And therefore, the enemies of Islam are not in Stockholm, but in Moscow.