Russia Behind Koran Burning That Blocked Sweden’s NATO Membership
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan reiterated on February 1 that Turkey will not let Sweden join the nato military alliance because the Nordic nation allowed a protester to publicly desecrate Islam’s holy book, the Koran. But the evidence suggests that it was actually Russia that engineered the inflammatory book burning for its own purposes.
- After decades of neutrality, both Sweden and Finland announced in May their intentions to join nato.
- The monumental shift was driven by fears of Russia’s expansionism, as evidenced by the invasion of Ukraine.
- Russia abhorred the decision; it views nato as an anti-Russia bloc and doesn’t want the alliance to add new members.
- Turkey is a nato member with veto power over which nations can join the alliance.
- In June, Turkey appeared to be removing its objections to the membership bids by Sweden and Finland.
But on January 21, far-right Danish politician Rasmus Paludan delivered a speech against Islam in front of the Turkish Embassy in Stockholm and concluded it by setting fire to a copy of the Koran.
The action infuriated Turkey’s overwhelmingly Islamic population and prompted Erdoğan to reverse course on his willingness to green-light Sweden’s nato bid.
Those who allow such blasphemy in front of our embassy can no longer expect our support for their nato membership.
—Recep Tayyip Erdoğan
Russian fingerprints: Russian authorities issued statements of outrage over the Koran burning, including a Foreign Ministry spokesman calling it a “shameful and provocative attack by radicals on Islam.” But it was a clear win for Russia since it could mean a weaker nato. And a closer look shows that despite Russia’s apparent outrage, it was likely behind the burning.
On January 27, Swedish national Chang Frick, who has worked for RT and other Russian propaganda outlets and who is a staunch supporter of Vladimir Putin, admitted that he paid for Paludan’s protest permit. And Paludan told local media that he carried the act out because “some Swedes would like me to burn a Koran in front of the Turkish Embassy.”
Moscow denies involvement in the Koran burning. But given Frick’s allegiance to the Kremlin and all that Moscow stood to gain from the incident, those denials ring hollow. Russia has a well-established history of prying open divisions among enemy nations and working to polarize those nations’ people with all manner of divide-and-conquer tactics.