Swedish government rules out NATO membership

The article was published in Opex360. The point of view expressed in this article is authorial and do not necessarily reflect BM`s editorial stance.

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PARIS, (BM) – Since joining the Partnership for Peace [PPP] program in 1994 and participating in the Planning and Review Process [PARP], Sweden has continued to strengthen its cooperation with NATO, without, however until accession.

Thus, this neutral country became a member of the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council in 1997 and was subsequently designated as a “partner – new opportunities” as part of the Interoperability Initiative. Finally, it adheres to NATO’s Concept of Operational Capabilities [OCC].

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However, since the annexation of Crimea by Russia and the intensification of Russian military activities in the Baltic region and the High North, the debate on a possible NATO membership has gained strength in Stockholm.

In the meantime, the Swedish government has reviewed its defense policy, which has resulted in particular in the remilitarization of Götland Island [the Baltic “aircraft carrier”], the reactivation of specific units, the return of the concept. Total defense or by a significant increase in military spending.

At the same time, Sweden has strengthened its military cooperation with its Nordic and Scandinavian neighbors [in particular with Finland] while drawing closer to the United States and the United Kingdom, via the Joint Expeditionary Force, JEF ] created by London and the 6th generation “Tempest” fighter aircraft program.

However, in December 2020, the Riksdag [Parliament] adopted a “NATO option”, paving the way for eventual Alliance membership. Only the Swedish left [social democrats and environmentalists], currently in power, opposed it.

For the promoters of this “NATO option”, it would be a question of allowing Sweden to join the Alliance if the security context should deteriorate further. And thus benefit from the collective defense clause defined by Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty.

However, article 42-7 of the Treaty on European Union [of which Sweden is a member] provides for a collective defense mechanism… but which is not binding… while being unclear on the means to be implemented. Case of aggression against one of the member countries. In 2018, President Macron proposed to modify it so that there was “almost automatic enhanced solidarity”. Without success. “Our desire is for Europe to assume its strategic autonomy and strengthen its solidarity in the field of defense,” he pleaded at the time.

Anyway, and while according to a survey by the Pew Research Center, 65% of Swedes say they have a positive outlook on the Atlantic Alliance, there is no question for their government to move towards membership in the ‘NATO. This is the message conveyed by Ann Linde and Peter Hultqvist, respectively foreign and defense ministers, published on April 6 by the daily Dagens Nyheter.

Thus, they write, there is no question of the Swedish minority government abandoning “its policy of non-alignment” by joining a military alliance like NATO.

“We live in a time when our choices are critical. They can determine our destiny and that of others in the short and long term. The world around us has changed, and we see more nationalism, belief in authoritarian systems, and divisions between nations and within nations. Democratic values ​​are being challenged in ways that would have been unimaginable just a few years ago. These are serious challenges,” the two ministers began by explaining.

Also, “In these uncertain times, we need stability, long-term prospects, and predictability in security policy. Failure to enter into military alliances gives Sweden the freedom to act in any situation that best contributes to detente and a peaceful outcome. And this guarantees Sweden its independence in matters of foreign policy. Therefore, the doctrine of government security policy remains unchanged,” Ms. Linde and Mr. Hultqvist then argued.

However, they stressed, this does not mean that Sweden is isolated insofar as it “promotes defense cooperation with neighboring countries as well as with NATO. “

“The transatlantic link with the United States is essential to the stability; the United Kingdom’s role is necessary. With our closest partner, Finland, we have developed joint operational planning […]. By developing synergy, i.e., working together, we create a basis for standard action […]. Joint exercises and the exchange of information are of decisive importance here,” they stressed.

Under these conditions, Mr. Hultqvist and Ms. Linde believe that it is up to the parties that voted for the “NATO option” to demonstrate how the latter could benefit Sweden. The fact remains that this question may well be one of the challenges of the next Swedish parliamentary elections, scheduled for September 2022.

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