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'Sweden is not any closer to joining Danes in Nato'

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'Sweden is not any closer to joining Danes in Nato'
Sweden's Defence Minister Peter Hultqvist. Photo: Jonas Ekströmer/TT
11:47 CET+01:00
Sweden's new military co-operation agreement with Denmark should not be seen as a step closer to Nato membership, Defence Minister Peter Hultqvist has told The Local.

The new peacetime agreement, which was revealed on Friday, is set to be formally presented in March and comes just a few weeks after Sweden announced a similar defence deal with Finland.

“Deepened Nordic bilateral and multilateral co-operation will strengthen the national defence as well as the ability to conduct operations in our immediate area and beyond. A deeper co-operation with Denmark is a part of closer co-operation with our Nordic neighbours which strengthens security in our region,” Hultqvist told The Local on Tuesday.

Unlike the defence agreement with Finland, the new military co-operation deal with Nato member state Denmark applies to peacetime activity alone. Both partnerships are being run alongside the already existing Nordic defence co-operation areas Nordefco (Nordic Defence Co-operation).

“The focus of this partnership is the marine corps and the air force. The armed forces have been tasked with overseeing possible exchange of information, access to each other’s territorial waters and airspace,” added Hultqvist.

The move follows increased Russian airspace activity in the region, which has caused anger in both Sweden and Denmark.

In December a Russian military jet nearly collided with a SAS passenger plane out of Copenhagen. And in March last year another SAS plane was “just seconds” from crashing into a Russian plane, a pilot told the Dagens Nyheter newspaper.

“Of course the latest developments in the east play a part and have given us a reason to have a look at areas where we could extend our co-operation,” Denmark’s Defence Minister Nicolai Wammen told Danish news agency Ritzau on Monday.

Earlier this year an Ipsos poll for newspaper Dagens Nyheter suggested support for Nato membership has gone up in Sweden. Figures showed 33 percent of Swedes consider Nato membership to be a good idea, up from 28 percent in a similar survey in April last year.

Nato membership has been a long running debate in Sweden, largely favoured by the centre-right opposition but opposed by the ruling centre-left Social Democrat and Green Party coalition government. 

Swedish military expert Johanne Hildebrandt told The Local in February: "The strange thing is that the country still has a close relationship with Nato but as non-members we can't affect anything. It is as if we were a mistress who in spite of several proposals refuses to get married, despite the fact that it would be beneficial to us in many ways."

But in an email to The Local on Tuesday, Hultqvist said that increased defence co-operation with Sweden's Nordic neighbours does not open the door to Nato membership. 

“Partnerships with the Nordic countries are completely natural because they are our neighbouring countries and we are all part of Nordefco,” he said.

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