Nordic nuclear free zone now seen as less likely

A recent poll shows that a high percentage of Swedes now consider the Soviet Union to be a threat to their freedom and Swedish neutrality has taken on a far more aggressive tone.

Among Scandinavians as a whole there is a greater awareness of the military threat posed by the Soviet Union following the Polish crisis and the submarine incident.

These events have taken the sting out of one of the main campaigns of the Scandinavian peace movement: a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Nordic area.

Banners calling for the nuclear-free zone are already tending to take second place to those demanding a ''nuclear-weapon-free Europe.'' This trend was quite noticeable at the torchlit marches held in Stockholm during the middle of December to mark Santa Lucia day, a national holiday that has also become a big annual event for the peace movement.

A recent peace demonstration in Skelleftea in the far north of Sweden saw a row develop between marchers who wanted to carry anti-Soviet banners and the organizers who wanted to keep the theme of the march against nuclear weapons in Europe.

The old guard carried the day on this occasion but as younger members start graduating to leadership positions such traditional standpoints are going to be harder to maintain.

The next big date in the Scandinavian peace movement's diary is May 15 next year. Then 50,000 delegates will assemble in Gothenburg, Sweden, to debate the twin issues of a nuclear-free zone in the Nordic area and the possibilities for European disarmament.

It is thought that this congress will see far more criticism of the Soviet Union and its nuclear ambitions than in the past.

As far as the Scandinavian peace movement is concerned, events in Poland and the grounding of a Soviet submarine armed with nuclear weapons off the Swedish coast this fall have not deterred the movement.

''We have always been as much against the stockpiling of nuclear weapons by Warsaw Pact countries as we are against the stockpiling of similar weapons by NATO,'' said Jean Anderson, of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, which has played an increasingly prominent role in the peace movement here.

Other factors, however, may limit the impact and effectiveness of the peace movement.

So far, the Swedish government gives small financial aid to seven major voluntary peace organizations within its borders and also supplies funds for the Stockholm Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) which each year publishes a yearbook detailing the arms race in both East and West.

How much longer such state aid will continue is problematical in view of the country's economic crisis.

Other Scandinavian countries which back peace organization efforts include Norway which supports the Oslo Peace and Research Institute (PRIO).

But a shadow hangs over these organizations as the result of spying charges brought against researchers by both host countries. The trial of New Zealand-born Owen Wilkes will soon be resumed in Stockholm. Wilkes, a SIPRI researcher who was convicted this year in the PRIO spy trial, is charged on a minor spy charge following a bicycle holiday in the vicinity of sensitive Swedish military establishments.

Critics of government policy in both Norway and Sweden say it is stupid to supply funds to organizations whose employees then spy on national military installations.

Denmark, with a more troubled economy than its two northern neighbors, has shown only token sympathy to the nuclear-free zone proposal.

One Scandinavian country that plays little part in the European peace movement is Iceland. This is a situation that Jean Anderson would like to see changed.

''There is a peace movement there and there have been protests against the NATO base in Iceland but we would like to see them playing a far more active role in the Scandinavian peace movement as a whole,'' she said.

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