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    Social Media Wars: Sweden Considering Reaching Out to NATO Propaganda Unit

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    Non-NATO member Sweden is the latest country considering calling out to the military alliance’s propaganda unit – the Strategic Communications Centre of Excellence - to help fight social media wars amid a government backlash against Russia, Swedish officials have said.

    Defence Minister Peter Hultqvist told Swedish public broadcasters that the country was thinking of reaching out to the Latvia-based center for strategic communication, also known as StratCom,  despite concerns over the factual accuracy of social media campaigns initiated by the organization. 

    "We need more competence and this is a new environment, a new arena, where a lot of things are happening to do with disinformation in various types of campaigns. You use this for different purposes to affect public opinion in other countries."

    "That's why we need to strengthen our competence but also participate in this environment with other countries," Hultqvist said. 

    Debate Over Propaganda 

    While NATO officials claim that StratCom’s aim is to merely present the alliance’s position on certain aspects of foreign policy, others are more critical, arguing that the StratCom plays a part in spreading NATO propaganda, with allegations of spreading false or misleading information. 

    Following the Ukraine crisis, many were critical of StratCom, arguing that the organization was running a social media campaign aimed at smearing Russia. 

    Despite concerns about StratCom creating NATO-driven narratives, Hultqvist said Sweden would only be interested in trying to disprove other forms of false information. He said:

    "We will not contribute to spreading falsehoods and disinformation. The most important thing is to uphold the truth." 

    Concerns Sweden Edging Closer to NATO 

    The acknowledgment that Sweden may seek the help of StratCom has been seen as another attempt to tighten the relationship between the country and NATO. 

    While Sweden is only an allied country, and not a member of the military alliance, there are many opposed to the strengthening of Swedish-NATO ties over a fear it will conflict with Sweden’s traditional neutrality. 

    Despite vowing not to join NATO, the Swedish government has been accused of stirring up NATO support over its criticism of Russia in recent times, with the country’s security service saying that the biggest intelligence threat in 2014 came from Moscow. 

    Despite these claims, recently released data from Sweden’s Armed Forces revealed that the US was responsible for the most Swedish territory violations over the past five years. 

    In April, Sweden, along with Finland, Norway, Denmark and Iceland announced plans for greater military cooperation, which Hultqvist described as "a direct response to aggressive Russian behavior". 

    The announcement also came amid media reports suggesting Sweden could become involved in a NATO-linked, UK-led expeditionary force to be deployed in the event of conflict in the Baltics.

    Russia has consistently denied claims that it is acting aggressively in European affairs and has pointed to the build-up of NATO forces in Eastern Europe as a factor contributing to tension across the continent. 

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    Tags:
    NATO, social media, national interests, foreign policy, intelligence, propaganda, security, StratCom, Sweden, Europe, Russia
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