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Pressure piles on Sweden to join Nato

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Nato and Swedish troops working together in Afghanistan in 2012. Photo: Mustafa Najafizada/TT
15:25 CET+01:00
Sweden is considering cooperating with Nato's centre for strategic communications in Latvia to battle an 'information war' with Russia, but the director of the centre says the Nordic country should consider becoming part of the defence alliance instead.
Sweden announced last October that it was mulling joining the Nato unit StratCom to boost its expertise in fighting propaganda wars in the social media world. The move came after neighbouring Finland entered the fold.
 
Now one of the centre's top bosses has come out and said that Sweden should stop thinking and start not just cooperating with the unit but instead work towards becoming a fully fledged member of Nato.
 
"It would be a wise thing to do in 2016 on the grounds that the only area where Russia is developing is the military," Janis Sarts told Swedish broadcaster SVT on Thursday.
 
He referred to recent incursions into Swedish airspace by Russian planes as well as missile deployment from Kalingrad, only 300km from Gotland, Sweden's most easterly large island. The director also suggested that Russia's nuclear strategy could also be a threat. Russia's President Vladimir Putin has recently spoken about keeping nuclear weapons close to the Baltic countries in order to force Nato troops away from the Russian border.
 
"Their nuclear weapons rhetoric has changed significantly. They often use this in arguments. This would never have happened, even during the Cold War. Tensions have increased," he added.
 
Sweden already cooperates closely with Nato but the StratCom boss argued strongly in favour of membership, something the current Social Democrat-Green coalition has ruled out. 
 
"The example of Ukraine has shown that it does not benefit anyone to stand outside the cooperation," Sarts told SVT.
 
Sweden's Security Service Säpo said last year that the biggest intelligence threat against Sweden in 2014 came from Russia. Its stern words are largely credited with sparking increased Nato support in the traditionally non-aligned Nordic country.
 
A poll released in October 2015 suggested that 41 percent of Swedes are in favour of seeking membership in the military defence alliance, 39 percent are against the idea and 20 percent are uncertain.

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Sweden's Defence Secretary Peter Hultqvist has previously argued that increased defence co-operation with Sweden's Nordic neighbours and other allies mitigates the need to join Nato.
 
He told The Local last year that the door to Nato membership was not open.
 
However he argued: "Partnerships with the Nordic countries are completely natural because they are our neighbouring countries and we are all part of Nordefco."

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