Ahead of the U.S. presidential election on Nov. 8, two letters were drafted for Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven to send to the eventual winner. One was addressed to Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee who enjoyed broad approval among Swedes. The other was to Republican Donald Trump, the upstart candidate who was viewed negatively by many in Sweden.
The letters were intended to congratulate the winner of the election.
Only one was ever sent.
Lofven’s office released parts of the letter sent to Trump last week, although considerable sections of it were censored under Sweden’s official secrets act. On Monday, the Expressen newspaper released what it said was a copy of the letter in its entirety.
Expressen simultaneously published what it said was the letter drafted for Lofven to send to Clinton if she won the election. As reporter Niklas Svensson noted, there was a “clear difference” in tone between the two letters.
Notably, in the letter to Clinton, the first paragraph says that “it is a pleasure” to congratulate the new president; it does not say the same in the letter to Trump. The letter then calls Clinton’s election a “milestone for the world.” Noting that Lofven leads what has been referred to as the world’s first “feminist government,” the letter says he is looking forward to working with the Clinton administration to “increase gender equality worldwide.”
Here’s that section in full:
“As the leader of Sweden’s – and the world’s – first feminist government, I attach great importance to the fact that you will be the first woman to take office as President of the United States. It is a milestone for the world. I am looking forward to cooperating with you and your administration on how to increase gender equality worldwide.”
The tone of the letter to Trump is markedly less warm, offering only congratulations and noting that Swedes “value the broad collaboration” between their country and the United States.
It then moves on to a more detailed discussion of policy – a section that Swedish authorities had initially censored. Some of this discussion appears in both letters – notably, the business ties between Sweden and the United States and the potential for a transatlantic free-trade agreement. However, the letter to Trump appears to emphasize the U.S. role in European security, including Sweden’s partnership with NATO and the country’s role in anti-terrorism efforts:
“Global and regional challenges require transatlantic cooperation. The United States’ engagement in Europe is central for both European and American security. Sweden is committed to the security situation in Europe and in our neighbourhood through partnership with Nato, bilateral security and defence cooperation with key countries such as the United States. The promotion of dialogue and reduction of tension are fundamental elements in our approach. Sweden also takes global responsibility for contributing to the anti-Daesh [Islamic State] coalition and by being one of the largest humanitarian donors in the world. We value our cooperation with the United States on anti-terrorism and on countering violent extremism.”
It is unclear from the Expressen’s report whether the letter to Clinton would have been edited further. It appears notably longer than the letter eventually sent to Trump – the version published by Expressen cuts off after the first page. Monica Enqvist, a press counselor at the Embassy of Sweden in Washington said that both letters published by Expressen were “early drafts, produced by civil servants before the elections.”
“The Prime Minister has never seen those drafts,” Enqvist wrote via email. “There is only one letter; the one that was sent to the incoming President.”
Lofven had made it clear ahead of the election that he was not enamored of Trump, suggesting in August that the Republican’s campaign was based on “fear.” The initial note released by his office after Trump’s win didn’t mention the president-elect by name, noting that it was “an election outcome that many people feel concerned about but that we have prepared for.” Lofven was later reported to have spoken by phone to Trump, with the American apparently inviting the Swedish prime minister for a meeting during an upcoming visit to the United States.
In a poll conducted by the Pew Research Center earlier this year, just 6 percent of Swedes were found to have confidence that the American businessman would do the right thing regarding global affairs, while 92 percent said they had no confidence. Meanwhile, Swedish respondents were widely supportive of Clinton, with 83 percent expressing confidence in her handling of world affairs and 14 percent saying they had no confidence.
(c) 2016, The Washington Post · Adam Taylor